It was the night of their engagement party. All of their nearest and dearest had been invited, which wasn't that many, but they were all the people she cared about the most and that was all that mattered to her.
A few she'd invited hadn't come but it wasn't surprising. Her mother being one. They hadn't spoken since she'd told her she was pregnant. Claire had still sent her an invitation though, seeing as she was her mother after all. She hadn't held her breath for a reply, which was a good thing. She hadn't received one.
She didn't have a current address for her brother but she'd sent an invitation to the last known address she had for him, and put a little letter inside explaining everything that had happened in her life in the last few years. It came back a week later, Return To Sender stamped across the front. A handwritten note slipped inside the card, "Hello dear, my name is Mary Johnson-Jones. I have owned this house since it was built in 1960 and have taken in those who have lost their way since that time. I remember the name of every wandering soul that has ever passed my door and no such person by the name you seek has come this way. I am sorry. I do hope you find who you are looking for. All the best and remember, whatever happens, never lose hope". Claire had smiled when she read it, her eyes filling with tears at the last sentence. At least there were still some good people in the world.
The party had been in full swing for over an hour, everyone enjoying themselves, congratulating Cyran and Claire. Drinks were flowing, bellies were full. Claire had never been so happy. "Oh sweetie, I'm so proud of you" Bessie whispered pulling Claire in for a quick squeeze. "He's a keeper" she winked mischievously, making Claire laugh out loud. Bessie always had a naughty twinkle in her eye. She'd been a stunning when she was younger, and you could still tell when you looked at her. Buster had been a charmer himself and Claire was sure he was lucky to have her, but she knew Bessie would vehemently deny this and say it was the other way around.
Geoffrey laughed loudly, genuinely happy for his long time best friend, and even happier that he'd just been asked to be his best man. "Dude, Congratulations! Finally joining the ranks of married men. Who would've thought, Cyran the Highway Man settl-" Cyran cut him off quickly, "Woah, dude, shut up!" he hissed, eyes wide looking around to make sure no one heard his nickname.
Geoffrey looked confused and then realization dawned on him and he burst out laughing again, "What, You haven't told her about your playboy ways?" he whispered, still laughing.
"No I have not and I have no intention of doing so either, she doesn't need to know that, its in the past. And you're not gonna tell her either" he threatened jokingly. He'd earned the name during their friendship in college, when he'd discovered sex, and that he was good at it. Girls talked. Word got around fast, and his phone would be ringing every night with a different female subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, asking him for help with their 'homework'. He didn't go all of the time. He was a bit of a nerd, but apparently he was a 'hot' one. Geoffrey had always been the jock and he was happy to help anyone with anything. The college had been huge and the students and Lecturers had nicknamed the paths 'highways'. It took you forever to get where you were going. Apparently, Cyran knew short cuts to the girls dorms, which earned him the nickname the Highway Man in their circle of friends. They teased him about hitting the highway again whenever he went to meet a girl. It stuck.
"Okay, okay, but, hey, I cant vouch for Nancy, you know they are as thick as thieves now. Don't look at me like that, just saying" he held his hands up and took a step back as if to say, not my problem, an innocent expression on his face. Cyran playfully punched his in arm, "Dude shut up, lets go get a drink".
"Oh My God you're getting married!" Nancy squealed for the umpteenth time since she'd been there. Claire laughed and shook her head, barely believing it herself. She still found herself touching her ring to make sure it was still there.
"Have you started making plans yet, or are you still basking in the 'engagement' glow?" Nancy asked. Claire shook her head. "We've started making plans already, we don't want a big wedding, just a small gathering with our closest friends and family, which reminds me, will you be my maid of honor?" Claire didn't think Nancy's eyes could get any wider. But they did. "What? Me! YES!!!!" she shouted, pulling Claire in for death defying squeeze. They both laughed and cried at the same time. Claire had been trying to decide between Nancy and one of her old school friends, but the last time they'd spoken, Claire told her she was getting married, she noticed a change in her friend, she'd rushed off of the phone, making Claire feel like she wasn't all too happy that Claire's life was changing for the better. It was at that moment that Claire knew she'd asked the right person. It was perfect.
The next few weeks flew by and before Cyran knew it, it was the night of his stag-do. Geoffrey had organised it so Cyran had no clue what was about to happen. He wasn't sure he wanted to. Geoffrey had given his speech and then proposed a toast. "To Cyran, and his beautiful future wife Claire, May you both have a long, happy and prosperous marriage. No more highway roaming for you!" he'd laughed and then grabbed a bottle of champagne, a devilish glint in his eye. "Dude, what are you, what? wait NO" Cyran had screamed but it was too late. Geoffrey drenched him as all his friends stood around laughing hard.
"Oh my God dude, really?" he laughed good naturedly as he stood wringing his shirt out. "Its alright, I bought you another one" Geoffrey grinned, running out to his car to get it. "Here, you wimp" he threw it at him as he came back in and managed to dodge a punch from Cyran. He watched a Cyran made his way to gents bathroom. He was genuinely happy for his friend, but he couldn't help wondering where his own marriage had gone so wrong. Deep down he knew,and he was just bidding his time until he could expose their marriage for what it was. A fake.
Before Kaci knew it, it was the day of the wedding, she stood looking at herself in the bedroom mirror. Butterflies dancing around in her stomach. Cyran had sent a hair and make-up artist to the house that morning along with a bouquet of roses for each of them, pink for Kaci, white for her mom. The lady had finished Kaci and she was now in her moms room making her look beautiful. Kaci could hear them chatting away like they were old friends. She smiled to herself, a let out a deep breath. Everything would be fine. She just knew it.
Across town, Cyran was in the bathroom of his hotel suite feeling more nervous by the second. He couldn't eat, he felt like he might throw up. He looked in the mirror and practiced his speech for the thousandth time. He'd had so many congratulatory calls that morning he hadn't been able to get all the way through it once. In less than three hours, he would be at the church marrying the woman of his dreams. Taking a deep breathe, he closed his eyes and started again.