The Newlyweds - Arianne Richmonde


In the cold clarity of hindsight, I would not have married Ashton Buchanan.

I thought I had my life under control, that I was the architect of my future.

I was wrong.

On the day of our wedding, I questioned everything. But the wheels were in motion and it was too late to turn back. I could not let go of my dream. The painstaking plans that had kept me up at night and every waking hour for all this time were finally happening. My wish had come true.

Ashton and I were getting married.

It was a fantasy wedding beyond anything I could have hoped for. The sort of wedding you design in your head from the age of six, a make-believe princess’s fairy tale. Grand and elegant: the big white dress, the something-borrowed-something-blue gifts, the ever after speeches.

Distant Island, where Ashton’s family house had stood for nearly two hundred years, and where our wedding was set, could not have looked more beautiful. Glorious in its antebellum magnificence, the mansion, Distant Sands, presided over the coastal waterfront and its private dock, reflecting the pale blue, late April sky. As if it knew my secret, as if it held our history in the eyes of every windowpane, the limbs of every door. Watching us.

Watching me as I moved ahead with my mistake.

There was no stopping me now.

Huge white marquees on the lawn and tables dressed with the finest linen, and silverware—real, not plate—shimmered in the afternoon sun, while guests chatted and laughed, sipping champagne from crystal glasses, throwing back their heads in abandon, and toasting the happiest couple in the world. Waitstaff weaved between the throngs, carrying canapés and trays with drink refills, as children circled and skipped between grownups’ knees and elbows, and dogs in bow ties barked happily on the gleaming green spread of lawn.

Everything was perfect.

Except… it wasn’t.

I couldn’t believe I had actually gone through with this, but I had, and you would never have known from the smile on my face what I felt deep down inside, because, despite my reservations… despite myself, I did feel like the luckiest girl in the universe.

“Honey, are you all right? Everything okay?” Ashton, his face brimming with consternation, swept a tendril of hair from my brow—careful not to dislodge my perfect hairdo, styled and fussed over all morning by South Carolina’s top hairdresser. Ashton looked like the perfect Southern gentleman in his tailored tails, the rosebud buttonhole he sported, the shiny black shoes polished to within an inch of their lives. His sandy hair—that turned blondish in summer and back to brown in winter—flopped over his liquid brown, multi-century eyes. Observing Ashton did make you believe in reincarnation. As though he’d lived so many lives already. His wise, heavy brow that told you he had it covered, that he could fix any problem. The strength of his jawline spoke of quiet determination and justice, but even a hint of his boyish smile took all that away. The paradox of him confused me. Ashton was so much more than just my husband. He was—

“Vivien, honey, are you all right?”

Teary-eyed, I fixed him a smile and said, “Ashton, it couldn’t be more beautiful, I only wish I could have shared all this with my parents.”

“I know, sweetheart, but I swear I’ll make up for what you’ve lost. I’ll make you so happy, you’ll see.”

Ashton had extraordinary self-belief. Something I so admired about him. He was a fixer—not just because of his job as one of the best neurosurgeons in the South—but because of his unwavering confidence in himself. Why shouldn’t he be confident? Full scholarship to the best medical school in the country, Johns Hopkins, top of his class. Board certified neurosurgeon before he’d reached thirty. Had written papers on this and that, published in science journals, lectured all over the world. Respect was a word that came to mind. And awe. People were in awe of him.

I was in awe of him. And that was the truth. But not the whole truth.

I mulled over what he’d said: “Make up for what you’ve lost.”

I clung onto that belief.

The wedding spilled into the evening, until the inky gold of the sun dipped below the skyline, and guests ventured—some of them, the more adventurous ones—into waiting sailboats. They took off across the smooth water, the white sails looking like pretty handkerchiefs against the horizon, until the first stars twinkled in the Carolina sky. I didn’t take a boat ride myself but chatted with the other guests, my smile a