Authors: Sarah Daltry
Tags: #romance, #contemporary women, #sarah daltry, #series, #teen and young adult, #jack and lily, #coming of age, #marriage, #wedding, #college, #flowering, #new adult, #growing up, #contemporary romance
“Awesome. So, bachelor party,” Dave repeats.
“The weekend before,” I suggest. “There’s so much left to do and Lily’s graduation before then. And I’ll be out of town that week, but we can have it then.”
“No strippers,” Alana tells Dave.
He shakes his head. “No need,” he replies. “Right, Jack?”
“I’m over all that. Besides, I don’t feel like explaining to Jon why I’m looking at some girl’s ass. Some girl who isn’t his sister.”
Lily laughs. “He’d probably be more upset if you were looking at
Alana’s fairly quiet during dinner, and I feel bad because I’m afraid there’s something she isn’t telling me. I haven’t been much of a friend and I promise myself, once this is over, I’ll make it up to her. I know we’re all busy and our lives are going off in so many directions, but she’s always been there. As much as my past seems to be slipping off of me as I get older, there are certain parts that I want to keep close. Alana is at the top of that list.
When we finish dinner, I pull her aside before we all head out. “I’m sorry I’ve been distant,” I tell her. “I promise, it’s physical. As in logistic. I’ll call more. And once the wedding plans are over-”
She interrupts me, kissing me lightly. “You’re not getting rid of me this easily. I get it. I do. It isn’t you or Lily or the wedding or even Dave. It’s just that this is both so familiar and yet so new that I can’t figure out how I feel about it all. Dave, you, and me. It’s like we’re sitting around in his house after school, studying and drinking, but then someone mentions work or the wedding and it’s like watching other people play us in a movie. That sounds crazy as fuck, doesn’t it?”
I look at her and nod, slowly. “I have no idea what you’re saying. Are you sure you’re okay?”
She smacks me on the arm. “Fuck you.”
I hug her close to me. “I love you. You’re not crazy. Life is fucking crazy, but you’re not. After the wedding, we’ll try to figure it all out.”
She moves away and smiles. “You’re an ass, Jack. But thanks.”
“For?” I ask.
“Everything? For forcing me to get over you and fix this with Dave. For falling in love and showing me that even we could do that. For being my friend, now and then. For staying alive. Thanks for making me a little less lonely.”
“Are you pregnant?”
“You’re being such a girl,” I tease her.
Dave comes over to get her, taking her hand, and we make plans to figure out his tux and arrange for the bachelor party before they leave, and Lily and I walk in the city for a while. We stop and get ice cream, because I like holding her hand and I don’t want the night to end and I’m enjoying the spring and spending time with her. Eventually, we have to head back, though, because we both have to get up in the morning. And it’s just another pleasant night that gets washed away.
our years ago, I did this whole affair for high school, and it was terrifying. I spent the night before with Abby, freaking out because Jon was bringing Derek and I had such a crush on him, and I was so nervous about what college would bring. And now, I’m trying to fix my stupid tassel in the mirror, waiting for Jack to finish showering in our apartment, and I spent last night sending out resumes and reviewing my mom’s notes to make sure we have completed all our wedding tasks. We’re two weeks away from getting married and four years ago, I thought life would be so different.
Jack comes out of the shower, into the bedroom, naked and toweling his hair. “Put some damn clothes on,” I tell him. “My parents are going to be here any minute.”
He comes up behind me and holds me, almost immediately getting aroused against my back. “How much time do we have?”
I spin around. “None. God, put that thing away. Please?”
He sighs, but heads over to the clothes I picked out. As I watch him dress, I can’t help but feel a little like I’m turning into my mother.
“What?” Jack asks.
“You don’t have to wear that,” I tell him. “I mean, you can wear whatever you want.”
He looks down at his outfit. “What’s wrong with this?”
“Nothing. I just, I mean...”
He kisses me. “You’re not becoming your mom. Stop it. I don’t know what to wear to these things. I was half drunk in high school and I skipped my college one. Remember? That was the day I asked you to marry me.”
“Right here,” I say.
“Right here. Remember what we did next?”
“What’s wrong with you?” I ask.
He shrugs. “I don’t know. I’m feeling a little weird about leaving tomorrow.”
He follows me downstairs, to wait for my parents, talking as we go. “You realize that, since we began this, we have basically not spent more than a day or two apart. And in two years, we have seen each other every single night. I’m gonna miss you. Is that lame?”
“Super lame,” I tell him, looking up as I put on my shoes.
He fixes his tie, poorly, and waits for me to help. As I adjust it, he kisses my forehead. “I’m lame. You have made me the lamest man alive. But I hate thinking about you sleeping alone.”
“I won’t be alone,” I tell him.
“I already lined up a lovely list of suitors to snuggle me nightly. You don’t mind, do you?” I ask.
“Unless your suitors come in a box and require batteries, I’m gonna have to hurt someone.”
My parents show up, though, ruining the moment a little, although it’s good in some ways. I’m sad about Jack being gone, too, because he’s right. I spend every night with him. I don’t even know how to fall asleep without him beside me. I’ve never been in the apartment alone at night.
We don’t have time to talk more, because the day is chaotic. And long. There are a lot of graduates. And what seems like even more speeches. Hours pass and I can only hear so many people talk about the future before I start looking around and contemplating the various shades of green in the lawn. Since Jack skipped his graduation, I had no idea what to expect, but I would have skipped mine if I had known. Well, I would have pleaded with my parents to let me skip it, eventually ending up here anyway.
My grandparents all came together, since my parents grew up near each other, and the eight of us head to dinner after the interminable ceremony ends. We apparently are joining the entire graduating class of my college at the restaurant and we send my father in to put our name in for a table. He comes back outside a few minutes later. We’re all seated on the benches along the restaurant wall and my mom and my grandmother try to make room for him to sit.
“It’s a ninety-minute wait,” he says.
I like Italian food. Quite a bit. But I do not like it enough to wait all day for it, but we do anyway. My mom somehow manages to fill almost two hours with talk of the wedding. Between the rest of us, we get out perhaps three complete sentences. Even I hate the wedding by the time our little buzzer goes off.
“So, Lily, you’re going to Paris?” my grandmother asks after we order, which is surprisingly quick given the wait for a table.
I nod. “We are. We’re really excited.”
“You have to visit the Latin Quarter,” she says. “It’s very romantic. Your grandfather and I went to Paris, once, when we were much younger. We haven’t traveled in many years, but it’s beautiful.”
“It’s on the list,” I tell her. I actually bought a book about Hemingway’s Paris and have been notating my copy of
A Movable Feast
. Jack has no idea what he’s in for.
“Actually,” my mom announces, “that reminds me.” She leans over and pulls out a gift bag, handing it across the table to me. “This is a small graduation gift from Dad and me. We’re sorry it’s not bigger, but the wedding...”
“You guys are doing too much already,” I say.
I open the bag. In the card is a picture of luggage that was cut from a catalog, and an attached note.
It’s in the car. We’ll bring it in when we get back to your place.
There is also a stack of three hundred euros, for the honeymoon.
“Mom, Dad,” I start, but my dad shakes his head. I don’t say anything else, because you don’t argue with my parents when they want to do things. It gets you nowhere and also, it just makes other people uncomfortable.
There are also two boxes in the bag. I open the first, which contains a travel guide to Paris and a travel journal. My mom has highlighted, dog-eared, and noted several pages in the guide, and half of the journal is already complete. There’s an itinerary clipped to the front page of the journal. Not one of those flights and hotel contact itineraries, but a day-by-day hourly itinerary and plan of what Jack and I will be doing for every minute of our honeymoon. I’m tempted to ask when we get to fuck, but my grandparents are here. So I just thank my parents. They also bought us tickets to several things, including the Moulin Rouge, so I’ll follow those parts of the itinerary, but as for the rest... well.
The second box has a collage in it. It’s framed and is mostly made up of pictures of me at various ages. However, somehow, my mom also managed to get a few pictures of Jack, back when he was young, and I have no idea how she did that. They range from him as a toddler to him all the way through high school. There are also several blank spots and she added a note.
For you – and Jack – to keep a record of all that you have to remember.
“How did you...?” Jack asks.
My mom smiles. “Alana, mostly. I’m sure you have more, but you can swap them out if you want.”
“It’s perfect,” I whisper. “Thank you.”
I try really hard not to cry, in public, in a busy restaurant, but it’s beautiful. It’s not just that she did it, or that it’s thoughtful, or that she left room for pictures to be added through the years. The biggest thing is the fact that she tracked down pictures of Jack, that she included him, that she is openly accepting how much of a part of my life and my journey he is. When I look up at her, I see that she might cry, too, but it passes when the waiter comes, and we don’t mention it again.
can’t believe I’m sitting here, missing her, but I’ve been gone nearly a week and I stumbled in late last night, to find her already asleep. She woke up briefly when I got into bed, but then we barely had time to say hello this morning and shower before the guys “kidnapped” me for this. I want to enjoy it, but I feel like a real bitch right now, missing Lily. At least I’m sure she’s missing me, too. In fact, I bet the girls are just sitting around, braiding each other’s hair and drinking tea and whining about how it’s no fun without us.
“Hey,” Dave growls at me. “Focus.”
They decided on paintball, and I’m sitting here, moping. The meeting was fine, but I was a loser and I called Lily every night from the hotel to listen to her fall asleep before I could. I really need to stop being so ridiculous.
“I got your back,” I reply. “Calm down.”
We are competing with a bunch of Boy Scouts. I’ve been having a hard time not swearing at them, because they’re maybe eleven. Of course, Jon got taken out almost immediately. By a kid who looks like that kid in
A Christmas Story
“These kids are fucking intense, man,” Dave says. “I think some of them have a long career ahead of them in the Marines.”
“Shut up,” Owen tells us. “One is over there. He keeps peeking around the tree. I feel like it’s a trap, though.”
“Fucking campers,” I bitch. “I hate that shit.” I stand up and head toward the random metal thing that I guess is supposed to serve as cover. “How many are left? Did we get any of them?”
Dave shakes his head. “No. They’re like little ninjas.”
“This was supposed to be fun,” Jon grumbles. He’s sitting by the wall, but he can’t play since he’s been out since the match started. “I can’t believe they got such a lucky shot.”
“You were standing in the middle of the course,” I point out. “Not exactly stealthy.”
“Still. They’re not
“You guys aren’t helping. Give me a minute,” Owen says. “Then, I’m heading out. I need you to cover me. You got it.
Dave laughs. “I’m a soldier, man.”
“You’re a soldier hiding behind scrap metal.”
Owen rummages through his bag and takes out a grenade. “Fuck this,” he says.
“You packed grenades?” I ask.
“Let’s see how prepared these bitches are.”
He stands up, pulls the pin, and moves maybe two yards before the kid behind the tree takes him out. The grenade goes off at Owen’s feet. He walks back to us, pissed. “Fucking Boy Scouts.”
“Guess they were prepared,” I say.
“We’re screwed,” Dave whines. Needless to say, it doesn’t make me feel better that the guy who just returned from several tours of duty in Afghanistan is giving up against a pack of Webelos.
“Screw it. Let’s just rush them,” I say. “I’ll be happy to get one at this point.”
So we do. We both run out at the same time and aim for the tree. The kid waits until we both miss and then he – and his friend in a nearby bush – take us both out. We lose and that’s that.
Owen packs his stuff, Jon glares at the kid taunting us from the bush, and we head to the bar.
“Well, here’s to a game well.... lost,” Owen toasts. I drink my whiskey, and Jon and Dave start playing pool. It’s a little awkward, because we’re not really friends, but no one really cares, because we’re at a bar and there’s pool and it’s a weekend. I just wish I wasn’t missing my damn girlfriend. What is wrong with me?
“How’s work?” Owen asks.
“So that’s it then, huh?”
“We’re those guys now? We sit around in a bar, talking about work?”
“Okay, how’s...” He’s got nothing, though, because he’s married to Alana’s mom and all he really knows about me is that Alana and I are complicated, and that he used to check in on me after I got out of the hospital for trying to off myself. It’s not like we have a lot of topics to go to for conversation.
“Dave’s a good guy. He talked to me recently about marrying Alana, you know,” he tells me.