“Chamomile” I told my mother. “Ask them if they have any chamomile tea.”
It was the day before the first day of the rest of my life, and my stomach was far more uneasy than it’d ever been before. I sat uneasily in the Hotel’s firm white cushion chair of the musty room my bridal party was staying in. Chamomile tea was a home remedy my mother always used for my sisters and I whenever we felt sick as little girls. “You’ll feel better before you can say onomatopoeia” she’d say. Which was almost always true, considering none of us could pronounce the word.
“They’re just pre-wedding jitters” said my older sister Evelyn. “She’s gonna be fine.”
“No she’s not. She shouldn’t be doing this.” My younger sister Sam argued.
My sisters never did really get along. I always played the role of the mediator between us 3, being the middle child. Their differences varied upon almost every matter, I always thought it had everything to do with their ages. Sam was 8 years Evelyn’s junior, only 4 years my junior.
Sam and Evelyn were real smart too, they both went to college on full ride scholarships. By the time Sam had graduated university, Evelyn had already finished medical school. Even though their senseless banter was expected, I’d hope they would put their dissimilarities aside. After all, it would be my wedding day in only a few hours.
Sam, Evelyn and & I were just 3 small town girls from Beaufoft, South Carolina. We never had much growing up, well, we never had much at all. My mother spent her every last dime to pay for my wedding, so there was a lot riding on this. For me, & my family.
Evelyn uncrossed her arms and came over to me to embrace me with a hug and back pat, “Vanessa, don’t worry. You’re doing the right, age appropriate, adult thing.” She said snarling at Sam. “Unlike this one who’s still finger painting.”
“You don’t even love Richard!” Sam retaliated. “And it’s called Acrylic, and it’s how I make a living thank you very much. Why must you always ruin a good time!” They continued bickering on, but I drowned them out and turned them into background noise as I fiddled with my poorly painted french tip nails. I had gotten them done earlier with the rest of the bridal party. As I fiddled, my mind took me to the place I had been avoiding all day.
I was marrying Richard. By the end of tomorrow, I was to be Mrs. Richard Carter. But for some reason, every time I closed my eyes, the only thing I could see was Thomas.
Thomas and I had been best friends ever since my 10th grade year of high school when he tracked me down in the library for a book he wanted to read. Together we sat at a table, reading “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison at the same time. Ever since then we’d been inseparable.
There weren’t a lot of boys like Thomas in my little town. Most of the guys at my school were jocks, and only wanted one thing. But not Thomas, he wanted to get out of Beaufort, and move to the big city. That was our dream, we were going to both get out. He did real well in school and encouraged me to do the same. We even went out a couple of times as boyfriend and girlfriend but for some reason, it always ended up just not working out. When I told him I was engaged to Richard, he didn’t speak to me for two months. When he finally did, it was to tell me that he would be in attendance to the wedding. The last words he spoke to me before he got off the phone were “I just hope you make the right decision Ness.” I knew he was angry.
He had always tried to warn me how he didn’t think Richard was the right guy for me. “I don’t like his hair.” He’d nitpick. “You can tell a person’s whole personality by the way they wear their hair”
I must admit, Richard’s hair could be considered quite unsightly. All black and slicked back with one silvery grey streak. My mother didn’t like it either. As for the grey streak, well it speaks for itself. Richard was older. 41 this year, meanwhile I was only 27. He came from old money and was fabulously rich.
There was the sensitive side of Richard. The side that nobody saw but me. The one who believed that love doesn’t have an age, and that we would be married for years.
I looked around the beige colored hotel room, the champagne stained carpet, at all my bridesmaids chatting about in thick southern belle accents, at my sisters still arguing, and suddenly I felt claustrophobic.
“Hey everyone,” I said. The chatter stopped. “Can I just have a moment alone for a second?” They looked at me bewildered. “Why don’t I meet you guys down at the bar in maybe 15 minutes?” We’d planned to go down all together anyway for the ceremony rehearsal. Everyone was already dressed. And just as they all congregated out, my mother returned with the tea. “Here honey, they had chamomile.” She said handing me a mug of hot water as she tore open the tea bag wrapper.
As she prepared it for me, I watched her. I knew that she would be able to give me good advice if I told her about the doubts I was having. “Mom,” I started, as she poured two sugar packets into the water. “Yes dear?” she said as she stirred in the sugar until it dissolved.
“I don’t wanna marry Richard.” I blabbed, like the words had been on the tip of my tongue the moment we arrived at the hotel. She stopped stirring the sugar and slowly looked up at me with a ghostly look on her face.
“Oh no.” she waved her hands and began to pace. “No no no Vanessa you are not doing this. I don’t even want to hear it.”
“I mean it mom, I truly mean it. I love Thomas.” I stood up and followed her. “I should be marrying Thom”— she cut me off.
“Now Vanessa, Richard is a good man. He can take care of you.”
“But mo”— I tried to intervene.
“Now I know you love Thomas, and you always will. But he is not”—
“Mom!” I tried one more time.
“Now I won’t tell you who to love, but somebody You will be getting married tomorrow, to somebody. You just better make sure when you get on that alter you are making a wise decision. Make the right choice.” She said sternly looking me in the eye before swiftly closing the door behind her, as if she didn’t want to tell me what her opinion on the matter was.
I sat on the hotel bed thinking, for a long time after she left. I didn’t love Richard as much as I’d thought I did. In the midst of all the wedding preparation stuff, maybe I thought I did, but I never really did. The words “Make the right choice” kept ringing out in my head. Now the more I thought about marrying Richard tomorrow, the more I felt sick to my stomach.
The next morning, I woke up to all my bridesmaids jumping on my bed in excitement that the day was finally here. They were far more excited than I was.
I got dressed and ready with them, just as a proper bride should. As I looked in the mirror at my perfectly powdered face one last time. “You’re beautiful.” My mother said standing behind me, as a tear rolled down her cheek.
When the time finally came to walk down the aisle, such doubt and apprehension had never been so heavy on my heart. I could hear it pounding out of my chest. “Show time” my dad said as we locked arms. While we walked, I put on a fake smile. Every eye in the room was on me, all dressed in my puffy white gown and veil.
It felt like an eternity had passed by the time the pastor had gotten around to saying the words
“Does anyone object to this marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace?”
I thought about objecting myself, but then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a tall lengthy figure slide in through the church doors and take a seat in the last pew.
It was Thomas.
I gasped silently and nearly fainted, then returned my focus back to the ceremony.
“Richard Carter, do you take Vanessa Townsend to be your lawfully wedded wife?” said the pastor. Richard said that he did.
“Vanessa Townsend, do you take Richard”— but before he could finish, the words “No, I don’t” spilled off my tongue like water off a waterfall.
The entire church gasped with surprise. “What?” Richard whispered gripping my hands a little tighter. At that moment, Thomas stood up in the back. “Vanessa!” He shouted as he started to make his way towards me. I let go of Richards hands and walked towards him too.
“I’ve been in love with you since the first day I saw you and We’re the ones who should be getting married” he said, his pace faster now.
Our guests gasped a second time. A few of Richards groomsmen tried to hold Thomas back, but he fought past them all until I was in his arms.
“I love you Thomas. I wanna marry you!”
In the very first pews I noticed my sisters, Sam cheering and jumping up and down as Evelyn stomped and shook her head in disappointment. My mother standing up watching us, not gasping, not clapping, a relieved smirk on her face.