Cheryl Swanson is a photographer for all special occasions, but weddings are her favorite of all events to capture.
It was mid-July, and the sun was beating down upon the bridal party as they crossed Floral Gardens, a popular location for wedding photographs. Iris flowers bloomed in brilliant purple, blue, and yellow around a small waterfall that was situated in the background between two weeping willow trees. This was one of the locations the bride and groom had chosen for their wedding photos, and Cheryl was pleased. The lighting between the trees was perfect.
Always prepared, Cheryl removed a roll of white paper towels from her backpack and offered a sheet to each of the bridal party to dab the sweat from their brows. She did not want it showing up in the pictures.
Realizing that the temperature was making everyone uncomfortable, she quickly posed everyone with precision then ran back to her camera to adjust the shot. *CLICK*. She was certain the first capture was near perfection, but she snapped off several more before moving on to the next shot.
In one of the photos, Cheryl had the bride stand with her back against the trunk of a tree. Her veil blew in the breeze and snagged on a branch. The bride attempted to pull away, but Cheryl stopped her before it was too late. Using a portable stool that she carried with her on shoots, Cheryl climbed up and released the veil from its wooden captor without causing any harm. The bride was eternally grateful.
The final shot was of the bride and groom exchanging a kiss in front of a pond with white swans gliding gracefully upon the water behind them. As they kissed, Cheryl had almost missed the moment as she pictured herself as the bride.
For years, she had been taking photographs of all these happy couples, yet she had nobody in her life to love or receive love from. All the pictures she had taken in the last five years of herself, only included her best friend, Samantha, or her dog, Rex.
The last meaningful relationship she had was just over five years ago with a man named, Paul. In the beginning, things were great between the two of them, but as the months passed, Cheryl began to see a side of Paul that she had not seen before, and she got out of the relationship before it escaladed into something worse.
From that point on, she focused on her passion for photography and built a thriving business out of what started as a hobby. She had no need to advertise, because with every happy customer, she received referrals for more jobs. Before long, she was turning away work.
Out of her most recent photo shoot, Cheryl was given the number for a man that was in the process of organizing a high school reunion. He was interested in hiring her to take photos of all the alumni and their guests.
The man’s name was Jake Lassiter, and she was to meet him at a gallery on the other side of town to discuss the details. When she arrived and walked inside, she found herself surrounded by collections of paintings, sculptures, and photographs. A woman stood at the front desk and asked if she could be of assistance, so Cheryl let her know that she had an appointment with Jake.
The woman picked the phone and pressed the button for one of the extensions. Seconds later, Cheryl heard a door opening, and out walked a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman who was impeccably dressed in a black silk suit. He reached out a hand and Cheryl took it in hers while introducing herself. He led her back into his office where they could talk privately.
Cheryl couldn’t help but be distracted by not only his good looks, but the cologne he wore drove her senses crazy. She suddenly felt nervous and began to sweat slightly but reminded herself to stay professional and get hold of her emotions.
After regaining her composure, Cheryl asked Jake what moments he wished to capture at the reunion. After filling her in on his thoughts, she took out her laptop, opened a file folder, and spun the laptop around to face Jake. She then stood up from her seat and circled the desk, leaning over beside him while scrolling through some sample photos. She soon realized that their bodies were close enough together, that she could feel the silk from his jacket brush against her skin.
She glanced over at him, and he must have sensed it, for he glanced back at her and smiled. Cheryl felt her face turning warm and she knew that her cheeks were likely red with embarrassment. She quickly stood up and walked back around to the opposite side of the desk and sat back down, leaving Jake to scroll through the photos by himself.
He scrolled through a few more photographs then closed the laptop before asking Cheryl if she had eaten dinner yet. She hadn’t so he offered to discuss the photographs more over dinner, his treat. She happily accepted his offer.
Over dinner, there was little discussed about the reunion. Instead, Jake was more interested in finding out more about Cheryl as a person. They found out that they shared several interests, one of which was what brought them to their first date. Jake picked Cheryl up at her home and they drove to an indoor rock-climbing facility. Cheryl admitted that she was no expert when it came to climbing, so Jake gave her step-by-step pointers as they scaled the twenty-foot wall.
This was the first time in several years that Cheryl had let her guard down enough to let another man get close to her. In the back of her mind, she still had uncertainties, but presently, she was happy and having fun. Jake treated her like a true gentleman, opening doors and making sure she got home safely. She began to wonder if she were living in a dream and would wake up alone any moment.
At the next wedding photo shoot she attended, she began to picture herself as the bride again, but this time, the groom was Jake. The photographs she was taking, were becoming more impressive as if she were capturing the essence of their love with each click of the camera.
Jake sat with Cheryl as she sorted through and edited some of her captures from the wedding, and he asked her something that caught her off guard. He wanted Cheryl to get permission from the bride and groom to use a few of their pictures to hang in his gallery, and in return, whatever money was made from the sales, he would give half to them as a wedding gift.
The bride and groom accepted and six of Cheryl’s photos were displayed in Jake’s gallery for a party of his friends in the art world. They were all black and white and beautifully framed and matted. Cheryl stood back and watched as several of the party guests hovered around her photographs, many pointing and commenting. At the end of the night, all six were sold. Each one selling for more than what Cheryl makes for a day of photographing weddings. She was ecstatic and could not wait to share the wedding gift with the newlyweds.
After the word got out about Cheryl’s photographs, there was a demand for more, so Jake put up the offer to Cheryl’s future clients as well, and many of them accepted. This business merger between Cheryl and Jake was becoming profitable to both, but the money was not why Cheryl wanted to continue. She was already doing well for herself; all she wanted was to spend more time with Jake.
One weekend when neither of them had clients to deal with, Jake and Cheryl decided to get away for a couple of days to a cabin that Jake had at a lake a few hours away. They packed up everything they would need and headed off for some rest and relaxation.
The cabin was made from logs and had a cherry-colored stain to it. Jake kept referring to it as a “shack,” but in fact, it was a three-bedroom home with a wood-burning fireplace that sat against the back wall of the living room. Its stone hearth and mantle accented the rustic feel of the cabin. It was not without its modern conveniences, however. Jake had satellite television, stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, and a workout room with elliptical machines, treadmills, rowing machines, and various dumbbells.
Outside, you could see a view of the crystal blue lake that shimmered in the sunlight. Sitting at the dock, was a three-seater Sea-Doo personal watercraft, and a Bayliner AXIS T22 boat matching the color of the Sea-Doo.
After getting unpacked, they spent a good part of the day on the water, enjoying the sunshine as the cool water splashed up into their faces. Other boaters who passed waved as if they were old friends. Cheryl was having the time of her life.
Back at the cabin, Jake prepared a fire in the fireplace as Cheryl changed back into dry clothes. He then got changed as well and said that he had made reservations for dinner at a place in town that he wanted her to try.
When they arrived at the restaurant, the maître d escorted them to their table and said that the waiter would be by shortly to take their order. Jake excused himself to use the restroom while waiting. When he returned, the waiter was already there taking Cheryl’s order. She asked for a few more minutes to look over the order, but Jake asked him to bring two glasses of water for now and two glasses of their finest champagne with dinner.
The food arrived twenty minutes later with two glasses of Louis Roederer champagne and some crackers to cleanse their palates. Jake had ordered a filet mignon steak, while Cheryl had the smoked salmon.
They were nearly finished their meal when a trio of violinists wandered into the room and approached their table. Cheryl recognized the tune they were playing as Serenade in G Major by Mozart. She was so enveloped by the elegantly played composition, that she failed to notice that Jake was now kneeling on the floor beside her.
The minstrels slowly walked away but continued to play quietly as Jake took Cheryl’s hand in his. When she realized what was happening, she began to get choked up and her eyes began to water.
Jake said, “Cheryl, I realize that we have not known each other for very long, but I cannot go another day without knowing that you will be with me every morning when we wake up and every night when we close our eyes. You have made me happier than I have ever been, and I have never been surer about any decision I had ever made in my life. Cheryl Swanson, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Once she was able to get over the shock, Cheryl gazed at the petite solitaire diamond on the white gold band that Jake held between his finger and thumb awaiting a response. The restaurant went silent as all staff and patrons waited for the deciding moment. Cheryl began to nod her head vigorously and said, “YES! Most definitely, yes!”
The room filled with clapping and whistles as Jake slipped the band onto Cheryl’s ring finger. They both stood up, embraced, and kissed passionately which brought on louder cheers. The manager of the restaurant stopped past the table and told them that the meal was on the house. Jake left the waiter and substantial tip before they thanked everyone in the room and headed back to the cabin. Cheryl’s dog, Rex, greeted them at the door when they arrived.
Two months later, Jake and Cheryl were married in a beautiful white church with all their friends and family. The bridal party met back at Floral Gardens for the photos. Cheryl critiqued nearly everything the photographer suggested. Jake was almost expecting her to set up the shots herself and set the timer then run back to her place in the photo, but after some convincing from her Maid of Honor, Samantha, she let the photographer do the job he was hired to do.
When she saw the results from the photo shoot, she had to admit that they were excellent and apologized to the photographer. One of the pictures was hung in the gallery, but this time, it was not for sale. Jake hung it on the wall in his office so he could stare at it all day.
Cheryl and Jake began to clear one hour for lunch every day so they could spend time together. She moved her business to the same street as his gallery, so no time was lost. When she walked into his office and stared at their wedding photo, she still couldn’t believe it. The woman who watched couples fall in love every day, had finally found the perfect picture of love.