This story is by Jessica Andersen and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As Julia sat with her planner open, looking at the beautiful autumn colors around her, but not taking them in, her mom came to her. Her mom was only in memory; she had passed a couple of years before. She wished her mom was here to see this day. Her mom and dad had lived a marriage to emulate, not that they never had troubles, but their love for each other always seemed to get them through. She hoped she and Bryan would be the same. She stirred from her reverie and took in the beautiful reds, oranges, and golds of the autumn leaves. Fall had always been her favorite, and she was so happy to be getting married surrounded by this symphony of nature.
She went for her last dress fitting, and it was perfect. Little hints of gold on the dress would reflect the abundance of color all around her while she exchanged her vows. Rita and Theresa came with her to the dress fitting. Rita being there was as close to having her own mom as she could get. Rita was Theresa’s mom, but the girls had spent so much time together through the years that she thought of Rita as a mom too. Rita helped adjust the skirt on her dress and Theresa brought the veil over to get the full effect. Rita had gotten divorced several years ago, but she and her ex-husband had remained friendly. So as hard as the divorce was on their girls, they didn’t have the extra stress of a real animosity between their parents. Julia hoped divorce wasn’t in the cards for her, but if it was, she hoped she could remain as genial with Bryan as Rita and Robert had been. Julia hugged Rita goodbye as they left the fitting and Theresa was waiting to go for lunch.
After being inseparable in junior high and high school, Julia and Theresa ended up a little busier and farther apart once they started college. But, when Julia would come home on weekends and breaks, she and Theresa would spend as much time together as Theresa’s work and school schedule would allow. Then they both moved to different states far from home, the phone calls got fewer and farther between, and they rarely saw each other. But, when they did get together it was like no time had passed in a way. There is something magical about that short hand you have with someone that you have spent so much time together. That shared history, especially during turbulent teen years is something that is hard to replace. Even now that they are adults, Theresa is the one she reaches out to in times of real crisis, and Theresa is always there. Looking around the cute little café while they were waiting for their food, Julia thinks back on all the other lunches, dinners, coffees she and Theresa have had.
“I’m so glad you were able to be here, Theresa! And Rita too of course, too bad she couldn’t come for lunch with us.”
“I wish we still lived close to each other like we used to,” Theresa said.
“I do too; I miss the weekly movies and the shopping. Window shopping with Bryan isn’t quite the same,” agreed Julia. “He likes to go in with his list, cross everything off and get out.”
“We didn’t always have the money to buy anything, but I think we knew everything that every store in the mall carried when we were teenagers,” mused Theresa.
“What time do you have to be to the airport, Julia?”
“In about an hour, I suppose I should get going. At least the trip to the airport is for a good cause. I’m so glad Grandma was able to make it, it’s such a long flight for her.”
“Ok, let me know what else you need help with! I’ll see you tomorrow!”
The two women hugged goodbye, and Julia gathered her things and headed to her car to drive the 30 minutes to the airport to pick up her grandmother. Her paternal grandmother raised four boys and kept her grandpa in check, no easy feat. Her house always felt like a cozy home; you just wanted to kick off your shoes and snuggle up on the couch, so that is usually what Julia did. Grandma had a routine, something for which Julia has still never gotten the knack. Julia regretted that she had lived with them at a time when she was finally exhibiting a little teenage rebellion. Her grandparents were early to bed early to rise kind of people, so Julia found a job working graveyard shift. It made her grandparent’s a little crazy that she kept such weird hours. She was enjoying the freedom of having the basement basically to herself, compared to the closet-sized bedroom at her parent’s house. She also appreciated the safety of feeling like she was on her own without really being out on her own.
Julia spotted her Grandma getting wheeled down to baggage claim and walked quickly to give her a big hug. Grandma was much frailer than she used to be, but as she’d had no daughters, Julia was the closest thing. Since her mom couldn’t be there, it made it all the more special to have Grandma there. Julia went to pull her car to curb and helped Grandma from the wheel chair into the car.
“I could have walked you know.”
“I know Grandma, but the uncles would never forgive me if anything happened to you on my watch.”
“I wouldn’t have missed your wedding for the world,” Grandma said.
Julia took Grandma to get her settled at Dad’s little house. He was still at work, but she made sure Grandma was comfortable.
“I remember when you used to travel with your grandpa and I. You would sit on the seat between us and chatter the whole long drive to visit your uncle.”
“I wish I had paid more attention to learning how to run a household when I had the chance, and managing children, and just everything. I don’t know if I could cope as well with everything that you had handed to you.”
“I think you’ll be fine, Julia. I am sure that you are every bit as tough as I am. It runs in the family,” Grandma smiled. “If you have questions, I’m here to answer.”
“Thank you, Grandma,” Julia hugged the small woman goodbye. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the wedding, enjoy your visit with Dad!”
It was a small wedding really, only about 50 people. Theresa stood up with Julia and Bryan’s brother stood up with him. They got married in front of a thicket of trees that were a riot of colors. It was a beautifully crisp fall day, but the sun kept it from feeling too cold. Well, the sun, Julia’s excitement and the couple glasses of champagne she, Theresa, and Rita had shared while getting dressed. As Julia walked down the aisle, she reflected on the women who helped shape her into the woman she is. She could see the love they had for her as they watched her walk down the aisle toward her future. She hoped she had been able to convey the love she had for all of them.
After the ceremony, at the small reception inside a tent in the park, she and Bryan danced and kissed and then started to make the rounds of all the guests. Later she saw Bryan sitting and talking to Grandma, Rita, and Theresa, and as she made her way over, she thought she smelled her mother’s lily of the valley perfume. Julia knew her mother was with her, and she felt so happy. And as the group at the table looked at her, she felt so loved.