Cinderella Dances

332646
None of this was supposed to happen.

Accomplished spinal surgeon Dr. Li feels that about a complete stranger, Elaine Crowley. When she arrives in his operating room after being hit by a car, his world is turned over as he races to see her well again in the hopes that, one day, Elaine could stand up and dance.

Author's note

The polished story will be available on Wattpad starting in the next few months, with plans to have paperback and ebook publications, as well. I'll be keeping readers updated as I know more!
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18. Encore

  I straightened my tie nervously, checking the time again.  Not much longer until the wedding.  I was just glad that Annette had finally settled on a date!

  "Are the girls ready yet?" wondered Mark, his stress bleeding into his voice.

  I looked him over, nodding in approval. "Perfect.  I'm sure they're almost ready.  Besides, it's still fifteen minutes until the wedding!"

  "Do weddings ever start on-time, though, Li?"  Mark fidgeted with his cuff-links anxiously. "How long now?"

  I checked my watch. "Still fifteen minutes."

  "What's taking so long?!" he grumbled, beginning to pace.

  "I'll go check on them," I offered, heading for the door.

  Mark panicked, "No, wait!  We can't see the bride before--!"

  "That's just you, Mark, I'm only the best man," I corrected him. "So, I'm going to go check on the girls.  I'll be back in a minute."

  "Okay.  Okay.  Hey, wait, how much--"

  "Fourteen minutes, Mark!"

  I left our room of the church, making my way across the length of the building and through the maze of halls.  I was glad that most of the guests were in the main chapel already.  It saved me having to dodge people along the way to the decorated door of the brides' dressing room.

  I knocked once, grinning when Elaine opened the door.  Her opalescent aquamarine gown looked like it would have been over the top on anyone else, but her dancer's grace lent her the confidence the outfit needed.

  "You're not supposed to see the bride before the wedding," she teased with a smirk.

  "Are you asking me something?" I replied, winking playfully.  I loved that I could still make her blush. "Anyway, I'm here to check on you ladies, on behalf of a very excited Mark."

  "He's panicking, isn't he?" she guessed in a whisper.

  "Oh, yeah, he's panicking."  I nodded, laughing at it all.  I still couldn't believe that Mark was marrying Annette.  But it turned out that they'd gotten to know each other over the years of helping Elaine come to terms with my absence.  I couldn't be upset about any of it these days.  Annette had offered me a remarkable opportunity working at her father's medical clinics.  Along with company shares to apologize for the retracted marriage plans.

  Not that I'd expected such generosity.  I had been ready to lose everything if it meant a chance to have more than "just coffee" with Elaine.

  "I'm ready!" cheered Annette gleefully from somewhere deeper in the room.

  "That's my cue to go calm the groom down and drag him to the altar," I hummed, making Elaine giggle.  She shifted her stance with a visible wince. "I'll have your chair ready on the sidelines for you, Ellie.  Between the wedding and your recent tour, you haven't had time to rest properly."

  She smiled, ducking out of the room enough to give me a peck on the cheek. "Thank you, Da.  You know how to treat a girl."

  "I know how to treat you," I contradicted, turning on my heel to fetch Mark. "I'll send a text when we're heading to the chapel!"

  "'Kay!"

  Checking my watch again, I gaped at the time before sprinting down the halls.  Now we were running late!  As long as Mark hadn't had a total breakdown, we could still be fashionable about everything.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I approached.  He was waiting in the hall already.

  "You ready?" I panted, stopping to catch my breath.

  Mark nodded jerkily. "I-I think so."

  "Good.  We need to go.  Oh!"  As we started back toward the chapel, let the girls know we were on our way with one hand, fishing a chess piece from my pocket with the other.  I handed Mark the kind with a smile. "For good luck, and as your wedding present."

  He laughed at the gesture, pocketing the king with a grin. "I knew I'd get it someday."

  "Enjoy it now," I told him, steering us toward the chapel doors.  We came out just behind the altar, taking our places quickly.  I couldn't resist the impulse to scan the crowd, disappointed more than I should have been.

  "It's alright,Li, your family will come around eventually," whispered Mark when he saw my smile break slightly.  "And even if they don't, you've always got us and The Canary."

  "You're right," I agreed quietly.  Our hushed conversation was interrupted by the organ roaring to life to announce the bride's approach.  While everyone else was watching for Annette, I couldn't take my eyes off of Elaine.  The bridesmaids all walked alone, as per Annette's demands.  We still hadn't heard the end of how awkward it would look for only one of her party to be walked by me, and Mark didn't have anyone else he wanted to stand by him.

  It was all still beautiful, and Mark still cried.  Annette cried.  The guests cried.  I only held out until I finally glanced at Elaine in her gorgeous gown, thinking of one day, when she was ready for more than "just coffee"...I cried, too.

  Everything rushed by, and before I knew it we'd made it to the reception.  Mark and Annette's first dance was beautiful, but I was busy helping Elaine settle into her chair.  She really had been overextending herself lately, and every time I'd seen her this last month she'd been in some sort of discomfort.

Leaning down, I spoke quietly beside her ear, "Is there anything I can get you, Ellie?"

  "Mm, I don't think so.  It's been awhile since you came with a morphine drip," she replied with a playful smile.  She looked up at me. "I'm okay, really.  I'm taking the next couple of weeks off, for personal reasons."

  "Maybe you can help me move my girlfriend in with me?" I offered jokingly.

  "Maybe.  I've got time."

  I stopped short in surprise. "That's a bit more than coffee, Ellie."

  She grinned at my reaction. "I think I'm ready for more than coffee, Da."

  I couldn't stop my giddy laugh.  The first dance was ending, other guests meandering onto the dance floor now. "May I have this dance to celebrate?"

  Elaine looked down with a sad sigh. "Li..."

  Setting my hands on her shoulders, I swayed in place behind her.  Realizing what I was doing, her face lit up.  She placed her hands atop mine, swaying her head in time with me.

  "You really don't mind?" she asked self-consciously.

  "Not at all, Elaine," I reassured her happily.  My family may have still been denying me, but Mark was right--I had The Canary, Elaine's extended family.  As much as I missed my family's weekly dinners, I hadn't felt alone in the slightest anymore.  It was such a relief.  Leaning down again, I murmured, "This might be a bit forward, Ellie, but I think this is a good venue to tell you...I really like you."

  "Oh, that's very forward," she laughed. "But I like you, too.  Like like."

  I gave her a peck on the cheek in reply, enjoying it all today.  It was perfect.  It wasn't even my wedding, and I thought it was absolutely perfect.  I couldn't be anything but happy when I got to dance with Elaine.

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