Vision In White - By Nora Roberts
BY THE TIME SHE WAS EIGHT, MACKENSIE ELLIOT HAD BEEN married fourteen times. She’d married each of her three best friends—as both bride and groom—her best friend’s brother (under his protest), two dogs, three cats, and a rabbit.
She’d served at countless other weddings as maid of honor, bridesmaid, groomsman, best man, and officiant.
Though the dissolutions were invariably amicable, none of the marriages lasted beyond an afternoon. The transitory aspect of marriage came as no surprise to Mac, as her own parents boasted two each—so far.
Wedding Day wasn’t her favorite game, but she kind of liked being the priest or the reverend or the justice of the peace. Or, after attending her father’s second wife’s nephew’s bar mitzvah, the rabbi.
Plus, she enjoyed the cupcakes or fancy cookies and fizzy lemonade always served at the reception.
It was Parker’s favorite game, and Wedding Day always took place on the Brown Estate, with its expansive gardens, pretty groves, and silvery pond. In the cold Connecticut winters, the ceremony might take place in front of one of the roaring fires inside the big house.
They had simple weddings and elaborate affairs. Royal weddings, star-crossed elopements, circus themes, and pirate ships. All ideas were seriously considered and voted upon, and no theme or costume too outrageous.
Still, with fourteen marriages under her belt, Mac grew a bit weary of Wedding Day.
Until she experienced her seminal moment.
For her eighth birthday Mackensie’s charming and mostly absent father sent her a Nikon camera. She’d never expressed any interest in photography, and initially pushed it away with the other odd gifts he’d given or sent since the divorce. But Mac’s mother told her mother, and Grandma muttered and complained about “feckless, useless Geoffrey Elliot” and the inappropriate gift of an adult camera for a young girl who’d be better off with a Barbie doll.
As she habitually disagreed with her grandmother on principle, Mac’s interest in the camera piqued. To annoy Grandma—who was visiting for the summer instead of being in her retirement community in Scottsdale, where Mac strongly believed she belonged—Mac hauled the Nikon around with her. She toyed with it, experimented. She took pictures of her room, of her feet, of her friends. Shots that were blurry and dark, or fuzzy and washed out. With her lack of success, and her mother’s impending divorce from her stepfather, Mac’s interest in the Nikon began to wane. Even years later she couldn’t say what prompted her to bring it along to Parker’s that pretty summer afternoon for Wedding Day.
Every detail of the traditional garden wedding had been planned. Emmaline as the bride and Laurel as groom would exchange their vows beneath the rose arbor. Emma would wear the lace veil and train Parker’s mother had made out of an old tablecloth, while Harold, Parker’s aging and affable golden retriever walked her down the garden path to give her away.
A selection of Barbies, Kens, and Cabbage Patch Kids, along with a variety of stuffed animals lined the path as guests.
“It’s a very private ceremony,” Parker relayed as she fussed with Emma’s veil. “With a small patio reception to follow. Now, where’s the best man?”
Laurel, her knee recently skinned, shoved through a trio of hydrangeas. “He ran away, and went up a tree after a squirrel. I can’t get him to come down.”
Parker rolled her eyes. “I’ll get him. You’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck. Mac, you need to fix Emma’s veil and get her bouquet. Laurel and I’ll get Mr. Fish out of the tree.”
“I’d rather go swimming,” Mac said as she gave Emma’s veil an absent tug.
“We can go after I get married.”
“I guess. Aren’t you tired of getting married?”
“Oh, I don’t mind. And it smells so good out here. Everything’s so pretty.”
Mac gave Emma the clutch of dandelions and wild violets they were allowed to pick. “You look pretty.”
It was invariably true. Emma’s dark, shiny hair tumbled under the white lace. Her eyes sparkled a deep, deep brown as she sniffed the weed bouquet. She was tanned, sort of all golden, Mac thought, and scowled at her own milk white skin.
The curse of a redhead, her mother said, as she got her carroty hair from her father. At eight, Mac was tall for her age and skinny as a stick, with teeth already trapped in hated braces.
She thought that, beside her, Emmaline looked like a gypsy princess.
Parker and Laurel came back, giggling with the feline best man clutched in Parker’s arms. “Everybody has to take their