For as long as she could remember, Piper Hart had wanted to know who her father was. Her mother had always been rather tight-lipped on the subject, and her aunts Riley and Isadora seemed to be on the same page.
Now that she was engaged, though, finding her father had become a bit of a personal mission. She’d confessed her dream of him walking her down the aisle to her fiancé, but he’d come from a two-parent home, and therefore didn’t fully understand the need for another parent the way someone in her situation would. She’d been mostly content with the fact that her search wouldn’t be done in time for her wedding, and that would be that.
But then she found her mother’s diary.
She hadn’t planned on reading it, but she didn’t recognize the book she’d come across while looking for something else and had opened it, only to gasp when she saw the date: it was May of the year her mother had been pregnant with her, starting with her moving to Europe to study art. It had quickly become her secret obsession, and through it she discovered some rather interesting information.
Within the span of less than two weeks, her mother had had sex with three different men.
Nine months later, Piper was born.
She’d stopped reading after that revelation, too awestruck by what she’d found. She had full names and some description for her three possible fathers and it was overwhelming.
So, she’d done the only thing she could think of:
She’d invited all three of them to her wedding without telling a soul, and, somewhat unsurprisingly considering she’d signed her mother’s name to all three invitations, they were all coming.
She would know her father on sight, she was sure of it. It kept her up at nights, really. Would it be Farkle Minkus, the fiercely intelligent and loyal man who had been her mother’s closest companion for most of the summer? Or perhaps Josh Matthews, the sauve architect from Philadelphia, several years older than her mother, who seemed to have some sort of relation to her aunt RIley? Or maybe Lucas Friar, the cowboy who was about to go to vet school, that had left her mother crushed and heartbroken when he’d told her he was engaged to another woman.
Now, it was the day before her wedding, and they would surely be arriving any minute. She could barely contain herself. Her best friends, Finley and Josie, would be arriving on the nine o’clock ferry, and her mother had mentioned Riley and Isadora arriving on the ten or eleven. The last ferry to Kalokairi, the small Greek island her grandmother had built the family hotel on twenty years ago, was at noon. By then, her father would be on the island.
She stood at the docks, eyeing the ferry for Finley and Josie, and saw the two of them waving furiously at her before grabbing their stuff and rushing over to greet her with hugs and smiles. She hadn’t seen either of them in ages; Josie was studying at St. Andrew’s, so she had last seen her on her spring vacation, meanwhile Finley had a job in London that she rarely got away from. But now it was summer, and it was her wedding, and her dad was going to be here, and her two best friends were here, and she couldn’t ask for much more.
“I have to tell you something,” she confessed as they began to walk up the cliffs to the Villa Katia, all of their arms around each other, “And you have to promise not to tell anyone, not even Connor.”
“Oh my God, Pipes!” Finley said, immediately moving her hand to Piper’s stomach, “Are you-”
“No, no!” she said, batting her friend’s hand away. “No, I- I invited my dad. To the wedding.”
“You found him?” Josie demanded. “Who is he?”
“Well, that’s where it gets complicated. I found this diary of my mom’s and, well… There’s three possibilities.”
“What?!” both girls screamed at the same time, staring at her in shock. She laughed, not sure what else to do.
“Yeah! There was this guy, Lucas, and my mom fell for him, they were together for a couple weeks and then she found out he was engaged and he left to go get married, and she was pretty heartbroken and she’d met this guy, Josh, through my fake aunt somehow, and they just kind of… Well, you know, and then not long at all after that her and her friend Farkle... and then nine months later, baby!”
“Then who did you invite?” Finley said. Piper looked down at her shoes.
“And how many of them are coming?” Josie asked. Piper didn’t look up.
“Oh. My. God,” Finley and Josie said in tandem, collapsing down into one of the benches at the top of the villa. Piper squealed in excitement.
“What’s going on out here?” a voice called, and Piper turned to see her mother in the doorway, white paint smeared across her face and a tired smile on her face. “Hi, girls.”
“Maya!” Finley and Josie chorused, rushing forward to hug her mom.
“Have you been painting?” Josie asked, and Maya sighed, shaking her head.
“Not unless you count retouching the walls. I swear, my mother picked a real clunker to erect her dream on,” she said with a laugh. “You sound like you’re having fun already.”
“We are, Mom,” Piper said, sharing a conspiring glance that almost sent Finley into fits.
“I used to have fun,” Maya sighed as she walked away.
“Oh, we know!” Finley said, almost breathless, and Maya’s head snapped their direction, which Piper took as a sign to drag them upstairs to her room before Finley or Josie could say anything else that would give anything away.
“Your mother has no idea that you’ve invited three of her former lovers to your wedding and that they’re all coming? And neither does Connor?” Josie said the second the door had closed behind them.
“Mom would be mad at me and Connor would just try to talk me out of it. But I have to do this. Besides, Mom will be happy once they’re here! I don’t want her to think I’m not grateful for everything she did for me, because I am. But I need to know who I am and where I come from. And that’s where my dad comes in.”
“If you’re sure…” Josie said, trailing off, and Piper nodded, resolute.
“We are happy for you, Pipes,” Finley said, “Don’t think that we’re not. We just worry.”
“I know. And I thank you for that, but… I can do this. Now,” she said, walking over to her armoire and pulling open the doors, “Who’s ready to try on dresses?”
Maya was stressed.
When she’d made the decision to take over her mother’s hotel, it had been a difficult one. Piper had just turned five, and while she’d been living at Villa Katia for almost five and a half years at that point, she’d never pictured herself running the place one day. Owning a hotel had always been her mother’s dream that she’d put on the backburner for so many years in order to raise her, and because the hotel was profitable enough then, she’d decided she needed to do the same for Piper. She deserved something steady, and a barely beginning, very slow going art career wasn’t going to be that. It was the same decision she’d made when she told her mom about the property on Kalokairi in the first place, and for Piper, she would make it a thousand times over.
But things had sort of dried up over the years, with international financial difficulties. Oh, sure, they had still had customers and got great reviews, even if one did cheerily note that "the owner always seemed to be rushing off to fix something for one of us!”, but the place was practically falling apart, and there was only so much she could do to fix it.
Plus, there was her daughter’s wedding.
She was happy, of course, for Piper and Connor, all grown up and ready to take on the world, but honestly, she was stressed. She’d been young and reckless at age twenty, had had a baby by twenty-three, and it terrified her that her baby girl was making basically the same large commitment at the same young age.
Not, of course, that she could say any of this to Piper, because it would only make her stubborn, stubborn daughter more convinced to do it.
Like many of her daughter’s traits, she wondered where it came from. So many had called her stubborn, but could it have been from Lucas? And her eyes, were they Farkle’s blue or hers? The shape of her face and the goodness in her, was that the signature Matthews features?
She didn’t like to dwell on these things, but the big milestones always made her think about it. Would Farkle have helped her with her science project? (Yes, and she would’ve gotten first instead of second even though she’d made hers mostly herself with only minimal help, while Genevieve’s mother had done most of hers.) Would Josh have been able to make heads and tails of her math homework? (Yes, and he would have made sure he was the loudest one when she got her first honor roll after finally bringing her math grade up after a years’ worth of agonizing over it.) Would Lucas have taught her how to ride a horse? (Yes, and they would have ridden all over the island by now, and probably elsewhere, too.)
She was broken out of her thoughts by Riley’s shouted and gleeful cry of “Peaches!” She and Smackle ran off the boat together, and Riley practically launched herself into Maya’s arms.
“Hi, honey,” she said, setting Riley down. “Hi, Smackle.”
“Hello. I would prefer not to be hugged, if that is alright,” Smackle said, but her smile was bright and welcoming.
“Of course. How’s the research going?” She reached down to pick up her two best friends’ bags and lead them over to the jeep she used to go around the island. Piper and her friends may love hiking around the island, but she was getting too old to keep doing that. Plus Riley would complain the entire time if they had to walk.
“Oh, excellent! We’re discovering crucial things in regards to the future of stem cell usage for treating autoimmune diseases,” Smackle replied, climbing up and into the car. Once they were all safely settled, Maya started it up and began the drive up, both friends immediately gripping the dash for dear life.
“Oh, live a little!”
“I could say the same to you!” Riley said with a smile. “Have you done anything other than stress these past couple of weeks, peaches?”
“I’m fine, Riles,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “If Piper thinks she’s ready for this, then I support her. What do I really know of marriage? Maybe it’s easier than it looks!”
“It’s not,” Riley said with a sad smile, twisting the wedding ring on the chain around her neck sadly. Riley’s husband, Evan, had died of a brain tumor just about two years ago now, and it had been a slow adjustment to her. Their eight year old daughter, Chloe, was on her annual summer trip with his parents this week, which had been planned well in advance of Piper’s wedding and thus deemed by Chloe too important to miss. She knew Riley was missing her terribly, but at least they were on the same continent this year, with Chloe, her cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all visiting France.
“I know,” she said, squeezing her friends’ thigh, “But still. They want to see the world. That’s what I think they should do, toughen up. That’s what I did and it worked out great.”
“You wound up single and pregnant,” Smackle said.
“Well I would hope she doesn’t do that ,” Maya laughed, “But for the two years I’ve known him, that’s all he’s ever talked about, and you know Piper’s been fascinated by other cultures since she could walk. If she doesn’t want to travel she should at least go off and study antro-an- whatever it’s called.”
“Anthropology, the social science of humans and societies, closely related to sociology, the science of societal changes and interactions,” Smackle announced as if reading from a encyclopedia.
“Yes, exactly,” Maya said, and she put the jeep into park and helped the two girls out. Piper happened to be standing up there with Connor, and she turned at the noise.
“Auntie Riley!” she called, and she raced forward to embrace the girl.
“Hi darling!” Riley replied, hugging her. Piper stepped away and grinned at Smackle.
“Auntie Isadora, of course I remember you!” She went in to hug her, causing Smackle to flinch and Piper to stop in her tracks. “Right, no hugging. Not right away, at least.”
“Thank you. And this fine young man must be Connor?”
“Yes, Professor Smackle,” Connor said with a grin. “That’s your title, right?”
“Yes, but I believe, as you are to be family, you may call me either ‘Isadora’ or simply, ‘Smackle.’ ‘Izzy’ or ‘Dora’ is prohibited,” she replied. Connor nodded.
“It’s good to see you again, Riley, and under better circumstances,” he said. “Is Chloe here?”
“No, she’s with Evan’s family in France. I believe they’re visiting a bunch of castles today, so she’s probably running around in her princess dress trying to find a princess as if it were Disneyland,” Riley grinned. “It’s what I would have done at her age, after all.”
“Mom, Connor’s gonna go work on the website in your office, is that alright?” Piper asked.
“Yeah, sure, go ahead,” Maya replied. Connor flashed her a smile, kissed Piper on the forehead, and then headed inside. “You’ve started your chores?”
“Mom. I’m getting married tomorrow,” Piper said, grinning at her.
“And that’s exactly why this place needs to look nice, let’s go,” Maya said, pushing her towards the door. Piper groaned, but went and did as instructed.
“She’s so good, Maya,” Riley said. “You’ve done a really good job with her.”
“I hope so,” she sighed, watching her daughter disappear down the path back towards the docks. “Alright, so, we need to talk about the toilets in your room.”
Lucas was having a lot of trouble keeping the butterflies in his stomach to a minimum, and he didn’t think it was because of the boat they were on.
It probably, actually, had a little bit to do with that.
Maya’s invitation had been light on the personal details, but he was pretty positive her inviting him to her daughter’s wedding was crossing some sort of line. Also, how old was her daughter? He didn’t remember that. Maybe they’d both been lying to each other, though he wasn’t sure he could begrudge her that. He and Missy had been divorced for six years, and she’d kept her current boyfriend, Billy, hidden from Holden and Andrew for almost a year even though they’d both been sixteen at the time. Bringing up kids on dates at their age now was more commonplace than it had been than at age twenty-four.
His traveling companions were nice, though. Josh owned the boat and was currently attempting to show Farkle, a self-professed science genius, how to steer it. Both were American, and both headed to Kalokairi, and were about his age, so he assumed they were friends of Maya’s rather than the daughter’s. Josh was an architect and Farkle a professor, unsurprisingly. His vet gig had been met with less enthusiasm, which he figured was fair. Any medical profession that wasn’t like “head trauma surgeon” was never met with much acclaim, in his opinion.
Farkle spotted the island first, and Josh practically whooped as they prepared to dock. The butterflies, however, only increased on land. Maya had told him, once she learned about Missy, that she never wanted to see him again. It had been an agonizing twenty-one years away from her, and it was hard to believe he would be seeing her very, very soon.
They got off of Josh’s boat and followed the signs towards the Villa Katia, which seemed to have taken over a large amount of the island. Nobody seemed to glance their direction until they reached the top, Farkle panting heavily, when a girl, probably fresh out of college, with long blonde hair and startling blue eyes, set down a basket of apples as they approached.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“We’re here for the wedding,” Josh said. “Josh Matthews.”
“Minkus. Farkle Minkus,” Farkle said.
“Lucas Friar,” he said.
“Oh my God,” the girl said, staring at all of them in shock.
Lucas felt faint himself. Those eyes, that hair, that nose…
This was Maya’s daughter.