The pressure of Pierce's fingers on hers surprised Tallie. She knew speculation about the two of them had been raging through town since Pierce showed up the night Halo exploded. Fitting, it seemed, since his arrival and the news he was Marly's biological father had rocked the foundation of her world.
Events continued to unfold at a rapid pace, including the whirlwind courtship and marriage of her oldest son, Collin, and local cafˆ© owner, Beth Boulanger. Tallie already loved Beth like a daughter, though she had questioned Collin about the haste of their wedding.
However, Beth glowed with innocent love as she walked down the aisle toward Collin. And Tallie had never seen her oldest son as happy as when he took Beth's hand and tucked it under his arm, then turned to face his brother, Patrick, who was performing the ceremony.
What a difference the packed church was to the intimate setting when Tallie had married Bernie. Just the minister, his wife, and Bernie's uncle, along with Collin and Patrick, who were still wary little boys not believing they might actually have a loving home of their own.
Collin is so handsome. Just like Bernie was.
Tallie dabbed at her tears with a tissue. Bernie had worn a navy blue suit and starched white shirt. Tallie wore the new dress he insisted on buying for her and carried a bouquet of flowers--real ones--from the florist fifty miles away. The two boys were self-consciously silent in their borrowed suits and slicked-down hair.
"This will be a real marriage." Bernie had told her when he proposed a union so the boys would have both an adoptive father and mother. "You decide when you're ready to be physically intimate. But I'll always be faithful to you."
Tallie touched the wedding ring still circling the third finger of her left hand. A ring that had belonged to Bernie's grandmother.
When they married, Bernie spoke his vows clearly and looked directly at her. In all their years of marriage, Tallie knew without a doubt Bernie had indeed been true to her. He never gave her reason to think anything else.
You would be so proud of your children, Bernie.
As she dabbed at her tears again, Pierce took Tallie's hand and smiled at her. What would her life have been if she had married Pierce? She would have missed out on all her children, as well as the courage that came with being part of Bernie's legacy. She might have become as bitter as Portia Stratford.
She had loved Pierce with a deep physical passion--in a different way than she loved Bernie. She and Bernie were partners, with a love that grew from shared respect and purpose. No matter the past and whatever the future might hold, Tallie was grateful she had her marriage with Bernie and the blessings of all her children.
Only time would tell if her relationship with Pierce would become more than being parents to Marly. Today, Tallie simply cherished this beautiful time of her oldest son marrying the woman he now gazed at with total devotion and love.