This story is by Summer Newlin and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Tomorrow’s my wedding day and I’m more elated than I have been in ages. I finally become Mrs. Eila Reid. We are going to have a modest but beautiful fall wedding, filled with everything that we both love about this time of year. Pumpkins and leaves. Hay Bales for seating with flannel blankets to keep warm. And cozy fire to gather round and swap stories. I’m wearing a simple ivory gown with lace that flows down to my toes. My long ginger hair will be loosely braided with a crown of wildflowers placed atop. It’s going to be perfect. I can’t wait to marry Liam. But as time ticks by, getting closer to our happily ever after, I can’t help but think back to the single step that started it all.
Five years have passed since that fateful day, but it still seems quite fresh in my mind. It started out just like any other miserable day in the McGrath household. Colin was upset because the house wasn’t as clean as he required, so he was having a go at me. I never could do anything right to hear Colin tell it and I’d had enough. I spouted off knowing full well that he wouldn’t stand for it. I knew I had stepped out of my place and he’d be sure to put me back in it. Before I knew it, I was in a bloodied heap on the floor unable to move. That was my breaking point (why every other time wasn’t I don’t know). My head ached and my ears were ringing so that I barely heard him say that it was all my fault. I looked up in shock as he commanded to have it all cleaned up by the time he returned from the pub. Then he left. No half-hearted apology. No pleading with me to forgive him. He just left. That’s what sealed his fate; thinking that I wouldn’t tell anyone what he had done. Thinking that I’d cower in the corner like I had done every other time. I was in such pain both physically and emotionally, but I forced myself to my feet and, without hesitation, I called the authorities. They picked him up at the pub and took him away. He didn’t end up with the sentence he deserved, I blame the system for that. At least he served four years for what he put me through.
After Colin’s sentencing, when I could finally breath again, I decided to get as far from Dublin as possible. I thought of the last place on earth that he would look for me and immediately I knew where I needed to go; my Aunt Maeve’s in Cork. I had told Colin many times of my disdain for Maeve. I used to stay with her every Summer on holiday, but we had a huge falling out when I was 16 and I had never been back. I phoned her up and apologized for what had happened nearly 15 years prior. She reluctantly accepted my apology and agreed to let me come and stay with her. She lives in an old stone cottage with a thatch roof nestled in one of the valleys in the Shehy mountains. There’s one road in, and one road out, making it very challenging to find, which is why it was the perfect place for me to be.
Aunt Maeve wasn’t the most pleasant of people. She had a permanent scowl on her face and was forever telling ya what you did wrong, but as the old saying goes, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” right? I’m not saying that she’s a horse, but if the hoof fits. No, I’m only joking. To be honest we’ve grown much closer in the last five years than I ever could’ve imagined. She’s a lot more like my mom than I ever realized, to be sure. She became a dear friend to me, though we did have our arguments; most of which were about Liam. Maeve was stubborn as an old goat and wouldn’t listen when I told her I wasn’t ready to date. It was because of her that I went out with Liam in the first place. She kept pushing and nagging until I finally gave in just to shut her up. Looking back, I’m so glad I did.
I first met Liam at Reid’s bakery in Cork. Maeve would always have us stop in on our weekly trips to town, under the pretense that she couldn’t live without the pastries. It was his mother Tarah’s place that Liam took over after her passing. It was only later that I found out that Maeve and Tarah were the best of friends growing up. It had been Maeve’s brilliant plan all along to push us together. Thank you Maeve.
When I first started dating Liam, it was rough. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but compare him to Colin and wonder if they were one in the same. Liam was great though. He held doors for me, and intently listened when I would talk. He was every bit a gentlemen. Still, I couldn’t let my guard down. I was tainted by Colin. I told Liam that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to trust someone again. I told him that the abuse had scarred me and made me a bitter cynic. I reminded him many times that I would understand if he wanted to find someone else with less baggage. But Liam wouldn’t give up, bless him. He told me how brave he thought I was for leaving Colin. He said that he would spend the rest of his life proving to me that I could trust him because I deserved to be loved. Well, that did it. I was like putty in his hands after that. Slowly, but surely, he broke down every barrier and restored my faith in love.
The leaves are again turning the bright yellows, oranges and reds of fall. I think it’s so appropriate that they’ve been changing right along with me year after year. So here I am, hours before my wedding contemplating a lifetime of love. Looking back at the words on the tattered old pages of this journal and making sure to write down every new and wonderful memory from this day forward. Until then, Mrs. Eila Reid.”
Aunt Maeve closed the journal. That was the last entry Eila would ever write. Through his tears, Liam stared at the simple ivory gown hanging silently in the corner. Eila’s dream of love died that day. I guess Colin had finally put her in her place.