About a Year Later

I stood alone in the dressing room, slipping into my expensive gown, and thinking about my life. I was twenty-two years old, and already I'd had an eventful existence.

As I was preparing to start my second and final year of grad school, I had already had one successful independent film release. Celeste had hit theaters about three months ago after receiving the audience award for best drama and picking up a film company to back it. I had never expected that kind of reaction to my first film, but I was incredibly excited about it. Opening weekend pulled in something like ten million dollars for the studio. I knew I wouldn't see much of the money, but I didn't care, something I'd made was successful.

Hannah, who had recently announced to the press that she and Bruce were expecting their first child, got quite a bit of publicity out of the film, even though she didn't make any money by actually making it. She was happy for me, and I couldn't be happier about the idea of becoming an aunt. I knew that Hannah and Bruce had always planned to have children, and they would make great parents.

My mom was excited about the news, but she kept saying she wished our father could be there to see it. I knew that she missed Dad, we all did, but I hoped she would get over his death soon. It seemed to me that for an entire year she'd talked about almost nothing else. I was starting to worry about her. As much as I wanted Dad to be here today, I hadn't thought of him too much recently. I prayed for his soul a lot, but I tried not to imagine how my life would be different if he'd lived. I knew that it would only make me depressed to think of him.

There was a knock on the door, and I pulled it open to let Hannah, Nina, Avery, and Blossom in. Nina was carrying her nine-month-old daughter, Sierra, on her hip, and the little girl bounced up and down as she walked. Hannah kept looking down at her and I could tell that she was daydreaming about having her own child soon.

"You look beautiful, sis," Hannah said, as she zipped the back of my dress.

"So do you." I hugged each of them, and bent down next to Sierra, careful not to mess up my dress. "Hey there, cutie, you just get more adorable every time I see you." The girl smiled, showing her perfect dimples, before reaching out and grabbing my nose with her chubby little hand.

"She looks like her father," Nina said. She was still a little bitter about her divorce, but we all knew that she loved Sierra more than anything in the world.

Blossom ran a comb through her short hair and looked back at us. "I think she's perfect," she said. "Maybe when they grow up, she and Troy will even get married."

"Don't count on it," Nina said, "My little girl's not even allowed to think about marriage until she's thirty-five."

I laughed as I wrapped the gold chain around my neck and clasped it in the back. Greg had given me the piece of jewelry the day I told him I wanted to start going to church. It had a large diamond cross charm on it.

Hannah came up behind me, and forced me to turn and face her. "I got you a surprise," she said as she attached a jeweled tiara to my hair. My white lace veil was attached to the back of it so that it fit around the loose bun on the top of my head.

"You shouldn't have done that," I said as I looked at myself in the mirror.

"Why not? Every girl should be a princess on her wedding day."

"It's beautiful, Han, thank you."

"No problem."

Sierra, who had barely learned to walk, hobbled over toward us, and Hannah picked her up. I could see her maternal instincts go into overdrive as she looked at the little girl. She placed a ring of flowers around the girl's head before giving her back to her mother.

"Now she looks like a flower girl," Nina laughed. Sierra pulled the ring off her head and played with it on the floor while we all watched.

"Little kids are so wonderful," Avery said, with a smile. I hadn't seen much of my friend since graduation, but I knew that she and Cain had found happiness in each other. I looked forward to going to her wedding in the not-so-distant future, regardless of the fact she refused to admit that she ever wanted to get married.

"You wouldn't say that if you had one," Blossom said. After she'd convinced her dad to let her bring Meghan and Troy to the family reunion, she'd claimed the boy as her own. "Troy can be such a handful sometimes."

"Tell me about it," Nina said, "You and Meghan are lucky to have each other to help out. Sometimes I don't think I can do it."

"Don't say that," Hannah said, and we could all see the fear on her face.

"You and Bruce will be fine," I insisted, "You know he'll be there to help you out whenever he can."

"But he's as busy as I am."

"Han, take a deep breath and understand that you are going to be just fine. Even if you and Bruce are both busy, Mom is always willing to help while you're at work. And I'll help out whenever I can. You're going to be a great mother, so stop worrying."

"You're right. I'll be fine."

The door to the dressing room swung open again, and my mom came in, carrying a box of bouquets. "I can't believe this is happening again," she cried.

"Mom, we've been over this, I'm not going anywhere."

"I know, but you're my baby. I just can't believe you've grown up so fast."

I hugged her as she put down the box. "I'm not that old."

"But you are a woman now, and I have trouble seeing that sometimes."

"You know that we'll always be your little girls," Hannah said.

"Yeah, Mom, we love you."

"I know, and I'm lucky to have such loving daughters." She opened the box, and handed out the flowers. We each took a bouquet, and Nina handed a basket to Sierra, who played with the flowers with a bubbly smile.

We headed into the hallway, and lined up as the organ began to play. The doors to the church opened, and Nina grabbed her daughter's hand and led her down the aisle.

My mom slipped her left arm through my right elbow. "It's time, honey. Are you ready to start your new life?"

"I can't wait."

"I just wish that your father could be here."

"He is, Mom. He's watching from heaven. I know he is."

"You're right. He loved you very much. I'm sure he'd enjoy seeing how much Greg loves you now."

"I know he would." I felt tears at the corners of my eyes, and I wiped them away, hoping that my makeup didn't smear.

My mom tightened her grip on my arm as the music changed to Here Comes the Bride. My lips curled into a smile as I walked out of the shadows of the hallway and into the well lit aisle of the church toward Greg and my new life.

A/N: So that's it. Let me know what you think.