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
“We have a theme?” I ask her.
“It’s important to balance your meals, to include a variety for your guests,” she says, and I get the impression she’s been reading too many of her mom’s articles.
want for the dinner?”
She shrugs. “A hot dog?”
I laugh. “I’ll sneak you out during the reception.”
The actual meals are amazing, though, and we can’t decide. I love the salmon, admittedly, but I’m not sure about seafood during the wedding. Sure, we are getting married near the ocean, but people are weird. Lily’s family members have already been emailing and calling her dad to complain about how far the castle is, as if they have better things to do on a random Saturday than drive a few hours for a party. She’s gotten to the point where she usually suggests they don’t come if it’s such a problem, since we have to limit the guest list to less than 150 anyway. I knew it was a challenge when we picked the location, but she’s a princess. Where else would she get married?
“We can have three choices,” she suggests. “You can be the only one with salmon if it comes to that.”
“I don’t think they’re going to make me a special meal,” I argue.
“Um, for the amount of money my dad is spending, they will make you whatever you want. Besides, you’re kinda critical to this whole event. They want to keep you happy.”
“Okay, salmon then. What are the other two?” I ask.
She laughs. “Chicken and pasta primavera.”
he cake tasting at the end is my favorite part, but for all the fancy combinations, we end up with chocolate and vanilla. It’s a cake. It’s going to look beautiful and my mom found us a topper with a castle made of seashells, but really, as much as I would love lemon or blueberry, my poor father is already becoming the voice of reason to a family who loves to find fault with every detail. We chose a location that’s too far. The hotels are too expensive. It’s going to be too muggy by the water in June. 6:30 is really late to start a wedding. And on and on. I figure I can give them a chocolate cake. I love my family, despite their complaining, and cake flavors are a small concession.
We scheduled our meeting with the minister a little tight, but luckily, traffic is light for a Sunday. Jack picked a poem for the ceremony, but he hasn’t said what it is yet. He wants it to be a surprise. Otherwise, we ended up compromising on the passages and found some more traditional options in the files the minister emailed us, without going to the Bible. My mom will have to be happy we’re not reading novels and just deal with the fact that it’s a little out of the ordinary.
I knew, even before we got here, that I would like Laura, our minister. On the phone, she’s been so easy to talk to, and she seemed to understand what I tried to explain without me having to go into too much detail. I’m prepared this time. After the DJ incident, I called her in advance and made sure she knew what she needed to know about Jack’s family. Still, when we actually meet her in person, it’s perfect. She comes to the door in a long skirt and tank top and she’s carrying two kittens in her arms.
“Lily!” she says, as if we have known each other for years. “Hold on. Huginn and Muninn need to eat and they’re not hearing reason.” She kicks the door open with her bare foot and carries the kittens off, presumably to feed them, and Jack and I stand in the foyer, taking it in.
In my experiences with church, ministers and priests live in church buildings, but this is an old Victorian and it looks like it belongs to a reclusive, and probably eccentric, artist. There is art on all the walls, but nothing matches. I don’t see any dust, but it feels dusty in a way that old houses often do, even when they’re scrubbed clean.
“Your mom would lose her mind,” Jack says and I laugh. She really would. There are newspapers and shoes and a random golden urn and a bike all on the stairs leading up to the second floor. The coat rack is full, but not with coats. Instead, it’s full of umbrellas and purses and some kind of potted plants. It is the most nonsensical place I have ever been – and I am absolutely thrilled this woman is marrying us. It might seem strange, but she’s weird and extraordinary and she doesn’t fit into any ideas I had of her and those are all the things I feel with Jack.
“Anyway,” Laura says, coming back, with the kittens now running over her feet as she walks. “Follow me.”
She leads us into an office that looks a lot like most of my professors’ offices. She pushes a stack of papers off a tattered armchair for me and then hands Jack a wooden folding chair. We sit and she joins us on her own folding chair, after taking out a binder from an old, roll-top desk.
“Okay, I have everything basically noted, but I just wanted to make sure we had the passages and we need to talk about your vows and then we just need to talk a little about marriage in principle.”
“I want this to be read,” Jack says, and he hands her a folded slip of paper that I assume is the poem. “But Lily can’t hear it until the wedding.”
Laura nods. “Will do. Do you have people assigned to each reading?”
“My grandmother and brother, and Jack’s...” I trail off. What
“Friend,” Jack finishes.
“Friend,” I confirm.
“Great,” she says and then she reviews our selections, talks to us about the ring ceremony, and explains the logistics for getting the license completed. “Are you writing your own vows?”
I nod. We decided we wanted to, but neither of us has really started. “Do you need to see them first?”
“No, I just wanted to make sure I blocked it off for the timeline. If something comes up, just let me know, and we can swap something in,” she says.
“Why would something come up?” Jack asks.
“It’s a lot of pressure and I find couples sometimes get overwhelmed by it and, at the last minute, decide nothing they write says what they want to say. It’s not always easy to express. For example, why are you getting married?”
“I love her,” Jack says simply, which makes me smile.
“People love lots of things, but marriage,” Laura starts, but he shakes his head.
“No. I love her. I love Lily and that’s it. There is no option other than marrying her.”
Laura smiles. “That’s sweet. I love weddings, because there’s something so uplifting about helping young people set themselves up for something beautiful like marriage. But a lot of people don’t really understand
they want to be married, just that it’s the next step on a series of steps that you go through as you age. What about you, Lily?” she asks. “Are you ready? Why are you sure this is the next step?”
There’s so much pressure in that question. What if I say the wrong thing? Can someone else say that we aren’t ready? Would she refuse to marry us if she thought so? Will Jack feel like I don’t love him as much as I do, or as much as he loves me, just because I can’t express what I feel?
I pause, trying to find the right words, and he reaches over and takes my hand. I look up to meet his eyes, which have the answer written in them.
“Because he looks at me like that,” I reply.
just dropped Lily off at her parents’ house and I’m supposed to be heading out to get soda, which I supposedly forgot, but she’s really heading to her shower and I have to kill time all afternoon. I wish her shower was next week, since Dave will be home, but it’s not and I debate about what to do, finally ending up at the café for some reason. I haven’t been here for a long time and I don’t know anyone working. I don’t even know anyone who still works here at all, never mind this afternoon. They also changed the napkin dispensers and I can’t even get through the menu before I realize that I need to get out.
I know it’s a shitty restaurant and it doesn’t matter, but I don’t like seeing the world change. Everything changes, and although I guess it’s better than nothing changing about what my life used to be, I still tend to feel like the world always changes for the worse. The café has a fucking Facebook page now. Why? It’s a hole in the wall, but already, I can see that they’re starting to cater to college kids more and trying to appeal to a new demographic. It’s such a dumb thing to upset me, but I guess I just wish that the good things in the world could stay that way.
Maybe it’s the weather or the café or just boredom, but I soon find myself at the prison. It has been a few years now. I don’t even know if he’s still here. I don’t know what brought me here, but as soon as I pull into the lot, I know it’s a mistake. I don’t even want to know if he’s alive. I don’t want to know anything. I want to imagine a life where he somehow faded into some bad dream and that’s all.
When I saw him last, I told him that I was done with him – and as I sit here, wondering why I’m here, I know I made a choice to let it go. If the café makes me resent growing up and the way things change, being here makes me want to embrace it. I’m just not this guy anymore.
Sure, there are probably people who would tell me that I should forgive him, that we should try to salvage what we had, but they don’t know. They didn’t listen to my mom beg for her life. They didn’t hear the things he called her as he took her from me. For most of my high school and college years, I felt like I had to bear this burden, that I needed to escape his shadow – but I’m coming to terms with the fact that my father’s actions were his alone. My mom fucked up and I’m always going to be a mess because of losing her and because she wasn’t much of a mom anyway, but I don’t have to accept what my father did.
Instead of going in, I leave and end up at the cemetery. I visit with both my mom and my grandmother, and I feel a little shame about how long it’s been since I was here last. Probably more so about my grandmother. I’ve been only a handful of times since I lost her. I sit longer by her grave, but after a while, it’s just one more place, isn’t it?
As I grew up, I thought I would never get out of this circle – home, prison, the graveyard – but now, I find myself creating excuses to stay away. I don’t know that running away is really the same as acceptance, but it does seems strange now how overwhelming of a feeling being trapped was for so many years. And now, it’s just ground and trees and roads and places that used to be one thing and are now something else.
I have time to waste, but there’s just nothing left for me here anymore, so I head up to Lily’s parents’ area and drive around. Eventually, I sit in the parking lot of the high school and listen to music. All I ever wanted was to move forward, but now that I’m here, I can’t make sense of how distant it all feels.
y father gives it away immediately. He just keeps emphasizing how important the soda is and Jack leaves to go get it, but first of all, my parents don’t drink soda and secondly, he winks at Jack when he says it. As if I can’t see him. I try not to laugh, because it’s cute and I knew the shower was coming, but he is just so bad at keeping secrets.
“That’s right. Lily, I just realized I need to pick up some rolls as well,” my mom says casually, dressed up as if she always wears pearls to the grocery store.
“Oh, I can text Jack. He can grab them with the soda,” I offer.
She blinks several times. “Um...” This is the cover story they came up with. Soda and rolls. My father comes over and coughs a few times, but he has no additional information to offer. I guess he hopes his cough will provide a distraction.
“Okay, Mom,” I say. “Do you want me to go get them?”
Relief passes over both of them and she smiles. “Why don’t we go together, honey? We can catch up.” Again, there is a hole in the story. We don’t “catch up.” Especially not during roll shopping.
“Definitely. That’s great. I love buying rolls.”
My dad shakes his head. It was too much. He knows I know, but my mom’s smile is plastered on so thick that I can’t tell if she doesn’t know or if she just refuses to believe I would mess it up. I run through all my lessons from that one acting class I took back in high school to remember how to act surprised, and I follow her out to the car.
She has no plan for explaining why we’re getting rolls at the country club, but by now, it’s pointless anyway. Also, Abby is walking up the drive with a gift in her hands. She sees our car pull up, makes eye contact with me, visually gasps, and ducks, complete with giant box of God knows what, behind a bush.
“Just need to run in for a minute,” my mom says.
“Should I wait here or...?” I ask.
“It might be a while. Why don’t you come in? Ellen would love to see you.” Ellen is yet another of my parents’ endless stream of friends. I don’t know which one she is, but she apparently runs the country club. Or something. I vaguely recall a woman with blonde hair, but that could also be Jean, Bonnie, or Darlene. You really never can tell.
There are more women in the function room than I think are invited to my wedding. Kristen is mingling, Alana is sitting in a chair and texting, and Abby sneaks in behind us, smiling at me sheepishly after everyone yells, “Surprise!” Some woman, who isn’t Ellen because she doesn’t even look at me, brings over a plush pink armchair and forces me down into it and then my mother, Abby, Alana, and Kristen start piling boxes in front of me. I don’t even get to say hello.
“Wait,” I tell them. “Can we eat first?”
My mom and the woman who carried the chair look at each other. I can tell they’re telepathically trying to figure out if it’s worse to deviate from the day’s schedule or to piss off the bride. Finally, chair lady says, “I’ll see how the chef is doing with the meal.”
Fortunately, the slight feeling of panic that settles over the room is quickly fixed when Not Ellen returns, with bottles of wine and the news that the meal will begin shortly. I think most of the women in my family would be just fine with the wine by itself, but either way, it takes the attention off of me and helps me settle in.
My mom explains the entire process for the shower, which is really complex. Opening gifts just should not be this complex. The girls are in an assembly line of sorts. My mom will hand the gift to Kristen, who will take off the bows for my rehearsal bouquet.