Chapter One – Decisions
“Aurora, haven’t you decided yet?”
It was impossible not to hear my mother half-shouting at me from
across the room, and I sighed. I knew her voice well enough to hear the sour
impatience under the strain of forced sweetness. The two of us along with my
Grandma Ruby had been at my wedding planner’s office since my dismal
bowl of raisin bran had long worn off. It was only the early afternoon, but it
had already been such a long day.
And to my mother’s great dismay, I had failed to make a single
Nonetheless, I realized that if I chose to answer her question truthfully,
there was a very good possibility that she might strangle me. As I examined
her, it was clear to me that the optimism she had originally possessed this
morning had withered away, much like my breakfast, and was now replaced
with a forced smile and a tempestuous tone that she couldn’t hide well.
I sighed again. It was involuntary. In all my twenty years, my mother
Evelyn and I had somewhat contentious relationship. She liked to exercise
dominion over almost everything and everyone, including me.
My mother’s glare sharpened and interrupted my thoughts.
She had asked me a question and was clearly beyond frustrated that I
wasn’t even pretending to scramble up a reply as far as she could tell. I knew
it was better to give her a response she wanted to hear.
“Yes, Momma. I think these invitations are nice,” I started, and cleared
my throat to continue when I realized my response plainly lacked the proper
enthusiasm I knew she was seeking. “Very pretty! And I like the design.”
I forced a tight smile of my own and tried to give my best impression of
a cheerful bride to be. I glanced at my Grandma Ruby who was seated
silently in the corner. I knew by her face that my poor façade had not
persuaded her. The old sage knew me better than the back of her own hand
and fooling her was never an easy feat.
Still determined, I smiled wider and stifled another sigh. Thankfully my
mother broke the tense silence.
“Well darling these are wonderful! These will do just fine. I only wish
that you had made this choice hours ago, when the invitation samples were
first laid out for you to choose from, but well – that’s fine. Now we only have
about a hundred other decisions to make before your wedding day.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I was sure I witnessed Grandma Ruby roll
her eyes. I was sure she had picked up on my mother attaching herself to the
responsibility of the wedding decisions.
“Evelyn,” Grandma began, “will you quit badgering her? She will pick
what she likes, and she has more than enough time to be choosy.”
Her tone alone challenged my mother to say another word. Grandma
Ruby was the indisputable matriarch of our family, and she rarely held her
tongue. It was widely respected that she was not to be crossed or trifled with
in any fashion. She spoke plainly, and she was always willing to let you
know when she thought you were out of line.
For a moment I thought I saw my mother open her mouth to reply, but
she thought better of it.
I turned to look around the room. Shayla Andrews was my wedding
planner. Her office was chicly decorated and contained samples of nearly any
wedding-related items you could imagine. My fiancé James had hired Shayla
a week after I accepted his proposal last month, at his mother’s insistence.
James had proposed to me at a dinner in front of both of our families.
News of our engagement had not surprised anyone.
We had known each other practically all our lives, and it seemed a
widely accepted fact that it would happen. While I loved James, the concept
of this foregone conclusion had begun to bother me. Our mothers, Evelyn and
Shirley, were schemers. They had been good friends for years and could not
imagine anything better than marrying their children off to one another. The
old hens were pushing for a spring wedding. They wanted lilacs, orchids, and
freesias. They wanted lavender bridesmaids’ gowns, and nine of them to
boot. They wanted a 200-person guest list comprised mostly of people I
barely knew. They wanted a raspberry crème cake with vanilla bean fondant.
They wanted me in an ivory Monique Lhuillier with a hand-beaded train.
I wanted to scream. This past month had been such a whirlwind.
I could not seem to free myself from wedding conversations. I was
inundated with questions too frequently for my liking.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been a time marked with
the giddiness of pre-marital bliss. Instead I found myself increasingly agitated
and prone to feigning enthusiasm that was lackluster at best.
“Alright, is anyone else hungry?” I asked, eager for a shift in scenery.
I spoke briefly with Shayla about the invitations I had rather hastily
chosen. I gave her a flimsy excuse for why I could not book a dress fitting
before I was able to escape the office. Grandma Ruby was waiting for me in
her Lincoln with a knowing expression. I climbed into her car and shut the
door. She studied my face wordlessly.
“What?” I managed.
“Alright…. Then I guess we won’t talk about it yet,” she replied as we
entered the roadway.
“I didn’t know there was anything to talk about,” I responded
Grandma Ruby gave me a quick glance out of her peripheral vision, her
left eyebrow arched so severely it almost reached her hairline. “Aurora, don’t
try to bullshit a bullshitter. Now you know that I know what’s really been
I made no effort to respond. She continued driving in silence and I was
thankful. When she parked her car in front of her favorite Italian restaurant, I
giggled softly to myself. Grandma Ruby was most assuredly a creature of
habit, and that didn’t just pertain to restaurants. This was a woman who had
used the same shade of Clairol hair color since 1972. Occasionally for kicks,
someone would tell her the company was planning to discontinue R72
Autumn Sunrise and wait for the fireworks to ensue.
Grandma Ruby was indeed something special. She never hesitated to
lay a good cussing on someone who deserved it, unless it was a Sunday.
While she was only about 5’1, her feisty personality made up for it by a wide
margin. She had a stronger Southern accent than the rest of us, and she
frequently added a mild mispronunciation to a few of her words, but it was
always wise not to correct her.
I checked the visor mirror before stepping out of the car and did my best
to smooth my strawberry blonde hair against the formidable opponent that
was Florida’s humidity. As I closed the car door, I heard my mother, who had
reunited with my grandma at the front door, bickering over her restaurant
“All I’m saying is we always come here!” my mother complained. “It
might be nice to try something different for a change. If you are so set on
Italian food, we could try that new bistro that just opened. It’s much more
“Dammit Evelyn- this is authentic enough for me!” Grandma Ruby
countered as she brushed past my mother with full authority.
I barely contained my laughter. Grandma Ruby had pronounced the
word authentic with a contempt that overtly emphasized her accent. Yes, it
was more than apparent that my mother and grandmother had clearly spent
too much time in each other’s company today.
As we were seated at the table, I felt relief wash through me. I didn’t
want to think of color schemes, flowers, dresses, or any other wedding
nonsense. I only wanted to concentrate on pasta. I knew my mother would
likely derail both desires. In addition to the wedding inquisition, she was also
fixated on dieting currently – an obsession that she was also projecting onto
me. She had been peddling rice cakes and Lean Cuisines on me incessantly
lately. Defiantly, I eyed the linguine in white wine sauce.
“Aurora, have you given any more thought to gowns? I know Monique
Lhuillier’s spring collection was exquisite. You would be stunning in a
classic A-Line,” my mother stated with a smile.
There it was. If I was being honest, I was only surprised she had taken
so long to begin.
“The Lhuillier dresses are nice,” I replied blandly. I was patient, but I
was losing the will to placate her. Grandma Ruby followed my lead.
“I’ll have the steak marsala,” Grandma Ruby announced a bit too soon
to the approaching waiter, who fumbled for his notepad to write down her
order. Next, he looked to my mother.
“I will have the spring mix garden salad with the lite dressing on the
side and no cheese,” she informed him. She glanced at me. “Aurora, would
you like the same?”
“No thank you, Momma. I’ll have the linguine in white wine sauce.”
As the waiter scurried off with our order, my mother’s sharp grey eyes
shot daggers at me from across the table.
Usually I could tolerate my mother very well. I would rather simply
catch whatever curve ball she was throwing than listen to the consequential
But occasionally, I felt like throwing that curveball right back at her.
“Momma,” I began with a hopeful smile, “I love you, but I don’t want
to talk about wedding plans. I just want to relax and enjoy our meal.”
“Aurora if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you didn’t want to marry
James. You’re lacking in excitement over this special occasion, and frankly
I’m at a loss for why.”
“Momma, it’s – no it’s not James. I just – “
“What then?” she interrupted shrewdly. The flush of her skin held a
stark contrast against her flaxen hair.
Could she really not see what was so painfully obvious? My mother was
a smart lady. The only ignorance she could be associated with was the willful
type. But if she wanted to pretend she did not realize what was going on, I
was willing to be the one to fill her in. My temper edged precariously close to
the boundary of containment.
“Is it so hard for you to understand that I don’t want to talk about the
wedding? Have you been paying attention to me at all lately? What about
what I want? Or have you been too focused on what you want?”
She gave me a stern look – the one I knew from childhood that
translated to ‘don’t embarrass me,’ and sipped her iced tea before she
responded. “Young lady… I did not raise you to speak to me this way, and I
don’t know where you got that attitude from. I just don’t understand you,
“I’m not surprised!” I half-shouted as I impulsively arose from my chair
and stormed out. As I made my way to the front door, I heard the beginning
of another argument between my mother and my grandma.
A quick scan of the parking lot for my own car proved useless when I
remembered I did not drive myself here. I lamented over that decision,
knowing I was stuck there until Grandma Ruby finished her meal inside. I
sulked in my own turmoil and plopped down to let myself melt on a hard
metal chair outside the entrance. My anxiety flared as my mind poured over
the restaurant scene. I shook my head as if to shake the unpleasant thoughts
away. My mother may have been wrong in her approach, but she was
oblivious to my wedding aversion because it did not make sense to her. She
had always been so set on James and I living happily ever after that she
hadn’t noticed I had been doing the happily ever after thing just fine all on
I sighed deeply and realized I was still hungry.