“Please, don’t do it,” he shouted from the last pew. Everyone’s heads turned to the back of the room, and gasps filled the air. She threw her veil back and turned to the voice that had just interrupted the best day of her life. “Please, Layla…don’t say it.”
Layla locks eyes with him as he begins his way down the aisle toward her. “What are you doing, Wyatt?”
“I think the real question is, what are you doing?”
Her mind goes silent as she looks around the room, and everyone's eyes are on her. Layla glances down at her Aunt in the first row with her hands clasped against her heart, her dad with confusion in his eyes, and her brother with a smirk that she desperately wants to smack off.
Brandon stands in front of her in his navy tux and squeezes her hands tighter. He whispers, “Honey, what is he doing here?”
Layla’s eyes search Brandon’s face trying to come up with an answer for her soon-to-be husband as to why her first love was crashing their wedding, but she looks back at Wyatt in his stupid flannel shirt and has no idea what to say.
Layla finds herself back to the first time she met Wyatt. Layla had just turned seventeen and spent the summer in Folly Beach with her Aunt Hope. Her dad suggested to her it may be best to have a change of scenery after losing her mom earlier that year, but she didn’t know this place would not only give her a fresh start but the chance to fall in love.
It was the first week of summer, and Layla was lounging on the beach reading a book when she was interrupted by cries from the ocean. Layla stopped mid-sentence to glance up from her page and saw a little girl engulfed by the giant waves that had suddenly appeared. Layla turned to the lifeguard stand to see if anyone else had noticed the girl in trouble, but the tall blonde lifeguard was too busy talking to the long-legged girl camped out next to his post the last few days.
Layla jumped into action, dropped her book, and started running towards the ocean. With the hot sand burning her feet with every step, she runs into the water and dives through the first two waves until she gets to the little girl.
“Take my hand!” Layla screams, reaching out for her as they are getting pulled apart by the strong current. The little girl's head continues to bob up and down with the tide. Her bleach blonde hair made her easy to see through the waves, and finally, one of her hands wrapped around Layla’s arm so she could scoop her up. “We are not out of the clear yet,” Layla screamed over the roar of the waves, wiping her own eyes from the salt and taking a deep breath, “get ready to hold your breath again! I got you!”
The little girl nodded while wiping her salty tears away. Layla could feel the pull of the next wave coming up behind them,
“Here we go, you ready?” she asked.
“Yeah, I just want to go home,” the little girl said between sobs.
“Okay, let’s get you there! One, two, three!” They swiftly dunked their heads under the wave and were pushed closer to shore, but they still had ten feet to get to the beach. “One more time! One, two, there!” they ducked under the next wave and were close enough that Layla could walk them onto the beach.
Layla places the little girl down on the sand and searches her face for any signs of injuries. “Are you okay?” she said frantically.
“Mhmm, I thought I could do it,” the little girl said as she began to cry again,” but the waves got huge.”
“It is okay, you are okay,” Layla said, smiling, pushing the little girl’s hair behind her ears. As they both catch their breath, the little girl’s parents and the lifeguard sprinted toward them. The little girl ran to her parent's open arms, and they wrapped her in a pink flamingo towel.
“Hey,” the lifeguard shouted, “What was going through your head? You could have gotten hurt!”
Layla was taken back by the lifeguard and his rude tone. She said, “I think you are looking for the words ‘Thank You’ because I did your job for you. If you could have your manager call me with my paycheck.”
He steps in line behind her and reaches for her hand to spin her back around to face him, “You are right, that was out of line,” he sighs, “I am sorry, and thank you for reaching her so fast.” He slowly removes his glasses with one swoop revealing his green eyes, “My name is Wyatt, and for the record, I was not flirting, but I guess I deserved that.”
She rolls her eyes again, turns back towards her blanket, and mumbles, “You deserve more than that.” Layla wipes off her face with her t-shirt, picks up her book, and places it into her tote bag.
“So… are you okay?” he asks.
Layla dropped her head back with a laugh, “Oh, so now you are asking me that?” She scoffs, throws her bag over her shoulder, and takes two strides to her bike when she notices he is not leaving.
“Well, what is your name? I need it for my incident report I will have to make, and I will also need your phone number.”
Layla’s eyebrow shoots up, questioning his bad attempt to hit on her. She shakes her head, places her bag in her bike basket, and swings her feet onto the pedals.
Wyatt jumps in front of her, “Hey! Okay, there isn’t an incident report, but I wouldn’t mind using your number to make it up to you. What are you doing tonight?”
“I think the real question is, what are you doing?” she glances back at him, “clearly not your job… again.” Looking him up and down, she couldn’t help but wonder why he was wearing a plaid flannel when it was ninety-degree outside. Is he cold out here on the beach, or is he weather confused?
He grabbed ahold of the handlebars on her bike, “Look, I am sorry again…I was distracted earlier… but only because a beautiful girl who was drowning in a book had all of my attention. She has had all my attention the last three days she has been out here.”
Layla suddenly becomes fully aware that her heart rate has sped up and can feel her face turning red.
Wyatt continued as he stepped back from her bike and looked off towards to beach, “I wasn’t flirting with those girls… I was asking them about you. Then when I turned around to steal a peek at you, you weren’t there. That is when I saw you sprinting towards my sister,” Wyatt took a deep breath before continuing, “Not only have you made me lose all ability to focus and crowd my thoughts, but you saved the other most beautiful girl on the beach. My job is the least concern right now because I think I may drown if I do not know all of you.”
Layla stood silent as her breath was taken away for the second time that day. Staring at Wyatt’s lips, she wondered if they tasted as salty as hers. After they stared into each other’s eyes for what felt like five minutes, she cleared her throat and said, “My name is Layla, and can you ask me that question again….”
Wyatt’s full lips turned into a smile as he took her hand in his, “Which one?”
“Ask me what I am doing or, I guess now… what we are doing tonight.”
Layla looked up into his deep green eyes, and suddenly, she realized those green eyes she had always thought about were five feet away from her in the middle of her childhood church, telling her not to marry Brandon.
“Layla, what is going on?” Brandon asked, letting go of her hands. She looked between Wyatt and Brandon, who now had beads of sweat running down his face.
“I, um, just need a moment,” she stepped between Wyatt and Brandon, picked up her dress, stepped out of her heels, and ran back down the aisle. She kept running until she was back in her dressing room, slamming the door closed behind her and falling to the floor. She could hear whispers coming from the hallway and steps getting closer.
Her Aunt Hope and Dad opened the door slowly, and Layla was disappointed it was them.
“We can’t imagine what is going through her head right now, but do you want us to get anyone for you or punch anyone for you?” her dad said while kissing her head.
Layla let out a little laugh, “No, I just want….” She couldn’t admit out loud that she just wanted the day to be over and to go home.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, followed by Brandon entering the room. Her Dad gave her one last reassuring look and whispered, “If your mom was here, I know she would be a bit better in this situation, but I think she would tell you to lead with your heart and remember that you deserve the best out of life. That includes the man who will make you better and the happiest version of yourself.” He gave her one last kiss on the head and headed back out into the hallway.
“Layla? Why is he here?” Brandon asked softly.
She took a deep breath, “Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t spoken with Wyatt in two years, and I am just as surprised as you are.” Layla moves closer to him, but he takes a step back.
“You expect me to believe that? You two will always be connected, but he isn’t good for you, Layla. I thought we got through this years ago, but I can't ignore how you lit up today when he appeared.”
Layla began pacing the room, “I don’t know what to say, Brandon. I do love you–”
“But not as much as you love him.” Brandon interrupted.
Layla stopped pacing and looked at Brandon as tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want to love him, but it hurts without him.”
He walks back towards the door, saying, “Good luck, Layla. I hope he doesn’t hurt you next time.” He opens the door and leaves without looking back.
Layla gasped for air when Brandon was finally off the premises, and she could feel a weight lifted off her shoulders. She quickly steps out of her wedding dress before it suffocates her again and slips into her old college t-shirt and shorts. When she leaves her dressing room, she finds her Dad there, car keys in hand, ready to escape.
“Mom would be proud of you, Layla, but I am afraid you are not done yet,” he said, nodding towards the big Magnolia tree behind the church. Wyatt appeared from behind the tree with a soft smile on his face.
“Dad,” she paused, looking over at Wyatt with a little smile, “I think I will save that wave for another day. I just want to go home.”
A few months after the almost wedding, Layla found herself at the Folly Beach Pier, recounting the changes since she last saw Wyatt. She thought about what would happen if Wyatt didn’t crash her wedding, and she also couldn’t help but wonder where Wyatt was at this very moment.
Since the wedding, Layla bought her own little beach house in Folly Beach to be closer to her Aunt Hope. She adopted a goofy black lab named Banjo that chews up everything in sight and, most importantly, found the happiness she has always been searching for within herself.
As Layla and Banjo walked along the shore looking for seashells and chasing crabs, she heard a scream from the ocean that sounded very familiar. As she turned to follow the cries, she saw a lifeguard with her bright bleach blonde hair running into the waves to help a little boy caught in the current. After the lifeguard got him back to shore, Layla couldn’t shake the feeling of Deja Vu.
As she looked out into the distance, trying to figure out what she was feeling, she heard someone yelling her name. All of a sudden, she sees Wyatt walking toward her.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Wyatt asked.
“I, um, was just out for a walk with Banjo,” she said, looking down at her dog covered in sand, “and then wanted to make sure the little boy who just got trapped out in the wave was okay. What are you doing here?”
He lifts a plastic bag in his hand, “I am here to bring my sister some dinner, but I see she is busy saving that little boy’s life.”
After a beat, Layla's mouth drops open. “Wow, that’s your sister? She is amazing. The best lifeguard I have ever seen on this beach,” Layla teased.
Wyatt elbowed Layla in the side and said, “She is that way because of what you did for her all those years ago. She wanted to make sure that someone was there to be able to bring those little kids home when they were helpless.”
They sat down on the warm sand and caught up for hours. Layla and Wyatt covered most about everything that has happened in their lives in the last few years, up to how Aunt Hope sent Wyatt an invitation to Layla’s wedding.
When they broke up a few years ago, Layla had just started college, and they were drifting apart. After being together for two years, Wyatt was uncertain if he ever saw marriage in his future, which scared Layla. Layla knew after their first spat on the beach that she wanted to fight with him forever.
Wyatt apologized for standing up in the middle of her big day, “When I got the invitation from your Aunt, I had to show up to make sure you were actually in love. After we broke up, I realized that you were it for me, but I knew I messed up too much to come back to you. I was too stupid to see it then, but I couldn’t let you settle. If you were going to marry someone other than me, then I wanted to see how you looked at him,” Wyatt reached for Layla's hand, “when you walked down that aisle, you didn’t even glance at Brandon. You walked down the aisle like you were running from something. I was too scared to fight for you back then, but I am ready now.”
“You pulled me out of my tidal wave that day. You were finally on duty when I needed you the most,” Layla laughed as she felt a tear roll down her cheek.
He said, “Layla, what are we doing tonight and every night after?”
A smile grew across Layla’s face as her eyes wandered down to Wyatt’s lips. She reached into the pocket of his flannel shirt and said, “I was wondering if you still only wore these flannels for the handy pocket to keep your chapstick in.”
“Hey, I always have to be prepared if I need to kiss the love of my life. I know she loves the cherry flavor, and lucky for her, I just happen to have it on right now,” he said, smacking his lips together and slipping his hand behind her head. Layla leaned into his pull, finally feeling like she was where she was supposed to be.