Kate stared into the church mirror and recited the name once more. “Mrs. Paul Anderson.” She’d tried on the name many times, and in less than an hour it would truly be hers. This all felt like a dream. She’d thought she’d lost him. And now she was about to become Paul’s wife. She turned to the side and smoothed her floor-length gown.
Her dear friend, Muriel Stevens, had convinced her to use a little extra makeup, and she’d made sure her hair was perfectly coiffed. Still, she looked like Kate Evans --- tall and athletic, her auburn hair peeking out from beneath a veil and hazel eyes vibrant with anticipation. “Kate Anderson. Mrs. Paul Anderson.”
February 26, 1938, would draw a line in Kate’s history, one that stated she’d never be the same. She’d still be Kate the bush pilot who loved a challenge, but she’d also be Paul’s wife . . . She’d be better because he shared her life, but she was a little frightened. She didn’t know how to be someone’s wife. Kate smiled at her image and almost giggled. Poor Paul. It wouldn’t be easy on him while she learned to relinquish some of her independence.
Kate glanced at the clock --- thirty minutes. Nerves skittered up and down her spine, tickled her arms, and made her stomach flip. What kind of wife would she be? Kate thought of her mother. She was strong and supportive, always thinking of others. She knew how to do all the wifely things. She could sew up a dress in a day if needed and the food on her table was always delicious. Kate knew she’d never be that kind of wife. She barely knew how to cook and Paul was better at sewing than she was. Plus being submissive wasn’t something that came naturally. Paul knew that and he wanted to marry her anyway.
A swell of joy rose up inside Kate. It wouldn’t be long now. She let out a sigh. If only her parents could be here. Over the years she and her mother had talked about what her wedding would be like. Kate had always imagined that her parents would be part of this momentous day. Poor apple sales had put a stranglehold on their budget and drained most of their savings. There was no extra money for a trip to Alaska. Albert Towns, one of her first friends in the territory, would walk her down the aisle. He was as close to a father as she had here in Alaska.
The bangs Muriel had carefully combed to the side fell into Kate’s eyes. She pushed them back in place and considered using one of the pins that held the tiny flowers in her veil to clip them.
She folded her arms over her chest. No. She was still plain Kate, a pilot who didn’t care about what her bangs were doing. She envisioned Paul --- tall and broad shouldered, with coffee-colored hair and serious brown eyes. When he laughed, they’d brighten, and when he looked at her, they gentled.
She loved to hear him laugh. Wonder engulfed her. She was about to marry the most amazing man in the world. But he was a man with a secret. She felt a quiver of uncertainty, but brushed it aside. She loved him. Questions and answers were for another day.
She turned her back to the mirror so she could see if the ribbon hung properly. The gown swept slightly longer in back than the front. She smoothed the soft peach lace that lay over the satin taffeta slip lining. Muriel and Helen had tried to talk her into a white gown, but Kate wanted something different.
She’d never considered herself beautiful, but this gown made the most of her features and her figure. She imagined Paul’s expression when he saw her and a breath caught in her throat.
“Oh, how I love you,” she whispered, feeling happiness she’d never known. They would work out their differences. It might not be easy but they’d find a way. He was still afraid of losing her in a flying accident, but he’d said she could fly when and where she wanted, no strings. Kate knew she’d have to make some compromises. After today she’d never be just Kate, a woman who made her own choices and didn’t answer to anyone, except God. She and Paul would be forever bonded and what affected one would affect the other.
Again, her bangs dropped into her eyes. She removed a pin from her veil and secured them. She picked up her bouquet made of daisies, white asters, and tiny pink roses, then stepped back and studied herself in the full-length mirror.
Today she was beautiful.
She glanced at the clock. It was nearly time.
The door opened and Muriel stepped in. She beamed.“You look absolutely stunning.”
Kate made a small twirl. “You think so?”
“Absolutely.” She smiled, but there was hesitation in her blue eyes.
“Is everything all right?” Kate asked.
“Of course.” Muriel compressed her lips.
“How is Paul? Is he nervous?”
Muriel glanced at the door. With a small shrug, she said, “I’m . . . not sure. I mean, how can you tell, really?”
Kate knew Muriel was keeping something from her. Apprehension stirred in her heart. “You haven’t talked to him?”
Muriel moved to Kate and placed her hands on Kate’s shoulders. “Now, don’t get upset, I’m sure there’s an explanation.”
“Upset about what? An explanation for what?” Apprehension exploded into fear.
“Well . . . Paul’s not here yet.”
“What? But the ceremony begins in a few minutes. He has to be here. Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Again Muriel’s eyes wandered toward the door.
“It’s snowing hard. I’m sure he’s on his way. It’s the weather. That’s all.”
“He’s only coming from the hotel. That’s not more than fifteen minutes’ drive.”
Muriel pressed her hands together and changed the subject.
“Everything else is ready. The church looks absolutely gorgeous.
Mrs. Simpson did a wonderful job with the flowers. Bless her for donating flowers from her hothouse.” She lifted her brows and smiled playfully. “And in spite of my mother and Sassa’s differences about decorating the reception room, they managed to come to agreement and everything looks lovely.”
Kate didn’t care about the decorations. She needed to know what had happened to Paul. Where was he?
“Wait until you see the cake. It’s gorgeous. The church is packed --- ”
“Paul should be here.” Kate moved to the door, opened it slightly, and looked down the short hallway that led to the church foyer. The murmur of voices carried from the vestibule. “Did he call?”
“Not that I know of.” Muriel’s hand fluttered over her lace collar. “Don’t worry, Kate. He’ll be here.”
Not worry? How could she not worry? “What if something happened?”
“I’m sure we would have heard.”
If he was safe, then what had happened? As long as Kate had known Paul he’d been afraid to love anyone. It had been nearly seven years since his wife’s death, and since then he’d held his heart in check . . . until now. Maybe he’d changed his mind. Kate turned and looked at Muriel. Her voice tight, she asked, “What if he doesn’t want to get married?”
“Of course he does,” Muriel twittered. “He loves you.”
“I know . . . but he’s had trouble . . . you know, with my flying and the loss of his wife.”
“That’s all behind him.” Muriel sounded too cheerful.
“I’m sure it’s this terrible weather. Why, it’s nearly a blizzard out there.”
“You said the church is full. Everyone else managed to get here.” Kate paced. “A little wind and snow wouldn’t keep him away.”
“Well, whatever it is, I’m sure he has a good reason.” Muriel glanced at the clock. “It’s not quite time yet.”
“He should have been here thirty minutes ago.” Kate could hear the strident tone in her voice and hated that she’d allowed her distress to show. She pressed her hands together and took a deep breath. Instead of achieving calm, her mind returned to how she’d called off her wedding to Richard three years ago, one week before they were to be married. If she’d done it, Paul might. People changed their minds about things every day. But he loves me. I know it.
The door opened and Muriel’s mother, Helen, and Paul’s native neighbor, Sassa, stepped into the room. Sassa ambled across the floor, her face aglow. She pressed chubby hands on Kate’s cheeks. “You are beautiful!”
Helen gazed at her. “You’re stunning, dear.”
“Thank you. Is Paul here yet?”
The two women glanced at each other. “No. Not yet. But I’m sure he’s on his way,” Helen said.
Kate walked to the door, opened it, and looked out. “He’s not coming. I know it. He’s changed his mind.”
Helen stepped up to Kate, encircled an arm around her waist, and closed the door. Her voice calm, she said, “You wouldn’t want him to see you before the wedding. He’ll be here. I’m certain of it. He’d never change his mind.” She took Kate’s hands. “He loves you.”
“He does, but you know how hard he’s struggled to allow himself to care. Ever since his wife --- ”
Helen put a finger to Kate’s lips. “Now, no more of that. You’re about to marry Paul. You’ve got to have faith in him. He’ll do the right thing. He’d never desert you. Never.” She led Kate to the mirror. “How could he resist you?” She smiled, her eyes alight.
Kate wished she possessed Helen’s serenity. “What if something’s happened to him? What if he’s been in an accident?”
“Albert and Patrick have gone out to check the roads, but I’m sure he’s fine.”
Sassa picked up Kate’s bouquet and handed it to her. “Let’s see how you look.” She stepped back. “Perfect.” She smiled. Kate fought tears. No matter how much her friends tried to encourage her, she knew --- Paul had changed his mind.