Fiction | Short Story | Relationships
If You’re Willing To Look
Fortified by a huge morning after breakfast and several pots of coffee, they set out for the park in the center of town.
When they arrived, Rick left her with Mrs. B. and went to meet the rest of the wedding party. The best man had certain duties to fulfill and he wanted to check on the groom.
Alicia stood quietly and admired the setting; rows of chairs covered in white with big pink bows tied in the back were set up in front of the gazebo, where the wedding party was gathering. The choice of pink and white gave the setting a delicate feel and she filed the idea away for the future.
She kept running into old friends.
Alicia was surprised at how many still lived there. Small towns had a certain charm, she supposed. There was the added advantage of the connections you built over the years.
When she was growing up, she felt smothered by everyone knowing your business, but now that she’d lived in the city she realized she missed that closeness.
The gazebo was covered in long strings of white and pink paper flowers that the bridesmaids had carefully strung together and they swayed lightly in the soft breeze. There was music playing quietly in the background. As she walked closer she could hear the notes drifting in the air.
“It’s a perfect day,” she said to no one in particular.
“Yes, it is lovely,” said Mrs. B.
Alicia had been so lost in her thoughts she’d forgotten she was there.
“Makes you think about your own wedding, doesn’t it?”
“Mmhm,” said Alicia, “That’s not happening for me anytime soon.”
“It’s a pity,” said Mrs. B. “There’s nothing like a life connection with someone you love. My Stanley was the best thing that ever happened to me. There’ll never be anyone like him again.”
“How long were you married?”
“Thirty four wonderful years. And when he died I told him I’d never love another man the same way.”
“That’s a long time. It must have been hard sometimes.”
“Yes, it wasn’t all roses. Sometimes I wanted to send him packing.”
“ How did you stay together so long?”
“In my day, that’s what you did. None of this divorce nonsense; — When it started getting hard we didn’t give up on each other, like they do nowadays. “
“What did you do in the hard times?”
“You just hung in there. You were kind to each other but you mostly kept away from each other unless you had to. You got involved in the community, helped other people out. The bumpy roads always smoothed out again.”
“Wow,” said Alicia, “that must have taken a lot of patience.”
“I always say, as long as you respect each other and treat each other well, there will be a way back to the love you had at the beginning.” Mrs. B. leaned over and patted Alicia’s hand. “It has to be there at the beginning though, the love, I mean.”
They could see the ceremony was about to begin so they found their seats. The groom and the pastor were in position at one side of the altar and Alicia thought Gary looked handsome and confident in his simple grey suit.
She glanced around the room. There were so many old friends in the crowd. They looked all grown up in their fancy dresses.A
Alicia felt a pang as she remembered how it was when they were younger. ‘So much has changed,’ she thought. ‘yet a lot has stayed the same, especially in this town.’
Once everyone was seated, the music shifted to a familiar traditional song — she thought it was Pachelbel. She could feel a shift in the air; a buzz of excitement as two little flower girls in light pink dresses proudly started walking down the aisle. They each held a basket, filled with white rose petals and they tossed them randomly as they proceeded to the gazebo.
She and Mrs. B. stood as they could see the bridesmaids were next, escorted by the groomsmen. Bonnie looked lovely in her light pink dress with little cap sleeves and a long slit up the side. “Penny sewed the dresses”, whispered Mrs. B. “She’s so talented.”
Alicia scolded herself for the pang of jealousy that welled up at the comment.
Then she gasped out loud when she saw Rick and Penny, arm in arm.
The soft pink of Penny’s dress made her skin glow and when she smiled up at Rick; Alicia could see the bond that still existed between them.
‘Of course,’ she thought, ‘the best man and the maid of honor would be together. I should have expected this.’
She wondered if Rick was fine with it or if he’d hesitated at all. At that moment, Alicia realized she could say something later or stuff her feelings yet again.
She closed her eyes as she fought the panic and anger rising from her stomach. ‘Let it go, it’s over,’ she thought. ‘It’s all in the past.
They both apologized for what they did.’
She made herself smile as she watched them walk together to the front of the church where they moved to separate sides of the altar. Once Rick was settled into place beside the groom, he turned and when he found her in the audience he smiled.
Next was the bride, beautiful in a traditional white dress with a small train and a tiara in her hair. She carried a bouquet of pink roses and was glowing as she walked to the altar on her father’s arm.
“I wonder who would give me away,” thought Alicia, wishing her father was still in her life.
The ceremony was short and when the moment came to say their vows, the bride and groom spoke clearly. Everyone could hear the words they had written for each other.
The groom’s were especially touching:
“I want you to know that from the moment I laid eyes on you I knew you were going to be in my life forever. From that day, my heart belonged to you.
As we continue to grow together, I promise to speak my heart and to sit beside you in times of silence, to pick you up if you are down and to love you always. I will care for you and our loved ones, I’ll be your adventure partner and will always keep your needs first so you know that deep in my soul, we will always find our way back to one another. This is just the beginning.”
Alicia wiped at her eyes and and Mrs. B. pulled a kleenex out of her purse and handed it to her. There were very few dry eyes in the congregation as the pastor pronounced them ‘husband and wife.’
The reception was to be held at the community hall after a break for photos. Alicia drove Mrs. B home to freshen up. Rick remained behind.
The community hall was filling up quickly when they arrived, and once she had settled Mrs. B into her seat, she went to find Rick. He was outside, beer in hand, catching up with some old buddies.
“You looked so handsome walking down the aisle, “she told him, taking his arm. Penny was beautiful too, don’t you think?”
“I guess so,” he said, staying non committal.
“I have to say it made me just a little bit jealous, seeing you two together like that.” It was important to let him know how she felt.
“You know I only have eyes for you.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek, giving her a reassuring hug. He finished the last of his beer and went to set the bottle down on a nearby table. For a minute, he stood there, lost in thought.
She followed his gaze and saw Penny looking toward him. Penny smiled and flicked her hand in a small wave.
“I’ve got to go sit at the head table now. After the toasts, I’ll come find you,” said Rick.
— — — —
The bride and groom were holding court, like royalty. The excited crowd tapped their glasses until they stood and kissed. After several rounds of this, the bride whispered to Penny and she stood up.
“I have an announcement from the bride,” Penny said. “In the interests of giving them half a chance to eat some of this delicious looking dinner, there are a few rules. If you’d like them to stand and kiss, you have to stand and either sing or recite a poem about love or marriage. You can do it alone or in a group.”
Hilarity ensued as individuals and groups from different tables stood and sang off key. It was a good idea. It slowed things down and let them catch their breath.
“I’d like to make a toast to my good friend Gary, “said Rick. “Gary and I have known each other for a long time and I have some great stories. I promise not to tell too many of his secrets.
Alicia sat up straight and tried to catch his eye. She knew some of the secrets and this was not the time.
“One time when we were in our late teens, let’s say we were sixteen, for the sake of any possible legal questions. We went out snowmobiling together with our girlfriends of the time and he brought a mickey of southern comfort.
We stopped at old Proctor’s barn, out in the woods and made a fire to get warmed up. Well, after everyone had a few drinks, things were warming up.”
The groom stood up and whispered in his ear.
“Ok folks, I’m going to make it short and give you the PG version of events.
— So things were warming up and I ended up drinking too much. Needless to say, I can’t even look at a southern comfort label to this day.”
“To the groom,” he said, raising his glass.
“To the groom,” said the audience, raising their glasses in response.
After the bride and groom cut the cake, the call went out for single girls to line up. “Get up there Alicia,” said Mrs. B.
“I’m not exactly single am I,” said Alicia.
“Well you’re not exactly married are you?”
Alicia rose and reluctantly and went to stand with the other single women. She kept to the back of the group. The bride turned around and counted down from three — two — one and then threw her bouquet over her head. It tumbled end to end over the outstretched arms, bounced off Penny’s hands and flew directly into Alicia’s. The crowd clapped and called out as she stood there blushing.
The next day, they got up early to drive home. They both had to work the next day and wanted time to get back into their routine. As they drove, Alicia chatted excitedly about how much fun it was to see old friends.
“I didn’t think I’d like the feeling of a small town again, but I think I miss it,” said Alicia. “I can see myself living there again.”
“It wasn’t such a big deal to me.” said Rick.
“It was so much fun, catching up with so many old friends.”
“I hated that part. People know your business all the time. It makes me nervous.”
“Really,?” she laughed. “You must have some deep dark secrets to hide.” She saw him flushing nervously and blurted.
“It was a great weekend. I loved it. What do you think? Would you ever move back?”
“Not a chance, I think they’re all a bunch of losers.”
Alicia sighed and turned to watch the traffic as they rode in silence.
So much had changed in such a short time.
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