"Don't cry, for heaven's sake. You'll ruin your makeup!"
Caitlin couldn't help herself. "This is supposed to be the happiest day of my life. I can't believe this!" She held a tissue to her eyes.
Her mother smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead. "You look beautiful. And this is the happiest day of your life. The gardeners will start looking for the ring right after the ceremony. They'll rent some metal detectors if they need to. Anyway, you know Rob couldn't have put that ring on your finger; it needed to be sized."
Caitlin looked down at her thin hands. "If we can just get the ring past my knuckle, it'll be fine. Of course, I won't be able to take it off anymore, but I won't want to anyway."
Caitlin hugged her mom. "Oh well, I guess the real ring ceremony will be at the bathroom sink with a bar of soap. But poor Tommy. He must feel terrible about losing it. I shouldn't have had a four-year-old be the ring bearer. What's wrong with me?"
Sue patted her daughter's shoulder. "Now, now. Tommy will be all right. Just powder your nose and come downstairs. Your bridegroom and all the guests are waiting!"
Caitlin nodded and Sue slipped out of the room to let Caitlin compose herself. She saw Caitlin's aunt in the hallway. "What's Tommy doing?"
"Last time I saw him, he was in the balcony of the hotel's Grand Ballroom, throwing ice cubes down at the guests."
"Did you tell his mother?" Sue asked.
Sue's sister shrugged. "Not really. If she stops him, he'll just start doing something worse."
Sue made a face and nodded. "So, what happened with the ring?"
"Tommy was out on the verandah that overlooks the woods. He was teasing that black cat that's been coming around."
"The stray Caitlin wants to adopt?"
"I think so. Anyway, I saw Tommy put his nice white bowtie on the cat. I called to him to stop that, and he got angry and threw the ring down into the woods. Then the cat ran away wearing Tommy's tie."
"They'll never get that ring back."
Her sister sighed.
* * *
Caitlin and Rob stood before the minister, and despite the problems with the ring, it was the happiest day of both their lives. As they began their vows, a red-faced boy stomped up the aisle carrying an elaborate box. Rob had already been warned that the ring box was empty and that he'd have to pantomime.
Rob opened the box and turned to Caitlin.
"With this ring, I thee--" Suddenly a yowl rang through the ballroom. All eyes turned to Tommy, but he was staring quietly at the door. Everyone gasped as a black cat wearing a white silk bowtie yowled again. Pine needles clung to his coat and his tie was crooked, but he walked up to the couple as if he were part of the wedding party. He sat down next to Rob.
Rob regarded him for a moment, then decided to ignore the interruption. He turned again to Caitlin.
"With this ring, I thee--"
Rob broke off as a rhythmic hacking sound erupted from the cat's throat. Everyone watched in horror as the cat vomited up a hairball. The videographer swore into the silence.
Rob looked around and cleared his throat. He straightened his tie.
"With this ring--" Caitlin and Rob looked at each other for a second. Then, in the same instant, two bodies moving as one, they turned to the cat and saw the flash of gold in the mess he had made. Caitlin nearly cried from relief. The ring was found! Now the ceremony could proceed with the ring just as she had always imagined. Rob picked it up, then drew his silk handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the ring off as well as he could. He turned to his bride and smiled.
The ring slipped easily onto her finger, never to come off again.
"With this ring, I thee wed."
About the Author: Christina Hugh is an attorney and aspiring novelist. She lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and two cats. Her blog is ChrisHugh.blogspot.com. To read the story of how Caitlin and Rob met, please click here.