Yes, it has been forever. I don't even want to think about it. But I finally made myself sit down and finish, because next week I have to start studying for my three AP exams and I wouldn't update for another month. Oh my god, AP exams....
"You look perfect. Now stand up and walk in a straight line."
I look at Kathy. I've come to understand that everything makes sense in her head, but she doesn't provide enough detail for it to make sense to other people, and this is one of those circumstances. "What?"
She sighs at me in exasperation, like she has been a lot lately. Maybe it's a wedding thing- I seem to fail to comprehend the basic wedding precepts that she knows so fundamentally as a wedding planner and lover of all things nuptial. Iris doesn't look like she understands any better than I do, though, and Iris has had a wedding before.
"After hearing about how hung-over the entire wedding party was at her-" she points at Iris accusingly- "wedding, I demand that you prove that you are not under the influence of anything."
I roll my eyes but Iris helps me get the dress out of the way enough that I can stand as Bailey pulls on Kathy's skirt.
"Mommy, what does 'hung-over' mean?" Kathy blushes and smoothes Bailey's blonde hair. "It's what adults feel after they do a lot of mature things. It's like after you have a lot of sugar and play with all your friends and then just sort of crash."
I prepare to walk in a straight line, which shouldn't be hard, considering I've only been drunk once before in my entire life, and was the only completely sober and not hung-over person at Iris's infamous wedding.
"But how do you get hung over?" Bailey persists.
Kathy looks at me over Bailey's little blonde head for help; there's only so much false information you can give to a nine year old without being afraid they'll tell all their friends, who will tell their parents.
"I always get hung-over after I pay taxes," Iris supplies.
"Bailey, will you go ask your dad how long they need to get ready?" I ask.
"Okay," she skips off and Kathy looks at me. "Walk now," she demands.
I walk carefully with the strange added weight of the dress. After I cross the room twice, she grabs my chin and pulls my face to hers and looks into my eyes.
"She's not drunk, Kathy," Iris insists. "Her pupils won't be unnaturally dilated or blood-shot. Her eyes could follow your finger. She could tell you her name or recite the alphabet without slurring her words. There's nothing wrong with her."
"Coffee and advil are just for me, then, I guess," she says, and pulls my head forward to kiss my forehead before releasing me.
"Aren't you the one who's definitely not supposed to drink before the wedding?" Iris asks.
Kathy makes a face. "Yeah, that was the plan, and then my lovely husband and I had a particularly pleasant fight about having children last night on our way back from the florist's and caterer's and alterer's, and he decided he would pick up Bailey from your apartment by himself- thanks again for babysitting her, by the way- and I went to the bar at the hotel and had a few cocktails and then by the time I got back up to the room, he was asleep, so I went back down and had another drink. But don't tell John, because he's nearly convinced I'm an alcoholic."
I know that Kathy loves Bailey but wants at least one child of her own, and that Andrew doesn't want any more children, but I didn't realize that the issue had resurfaced after Bailey's biological mother popped out of nowhere demanding full custody, and then disappeared back to wherever just as quickly. That was their worst fight, I think; it drove Kathy to leave their new home in New York and take the train to Boston, where she arrived at our door at three in the morning, sobbing and wondering how he could possibly even consider letting that awful woman so much as write a letter to her sweet daughter, much less be an active member of her life. If Bailey's biological mother had actually fought for custody like she had said she would, she would have won, and Kathy wouldn't be mommy anymore.
I'm halfway through asking if she's okay when the door bursts open again, and the white-gowned angel that is Bailey bounds back into the room, followed by her father. He's annoyed.
"Kathy, why were you telling her about being hung-over? And the caterers got part of the order wrong, even though we went by yesterday to verify everything—can you come talk to them?" he looks at me and adds as an afterthought, "Lorelei, you look lovely."
"Thank you." Stop fighting with your wife.
Kathy glares at her husband but allows him to take her hand and lead her out of the room to yell at the caterers. This may not be exactly the wedding I pictured, but having her to yell at people for me is worth it. Plus, her ideas are usually better than mine, as they should be, considering she does this for a living.
"I'm sorry I didn't yell at people for you at your wedding," I tell Iris suddenly, because I probably should have, and if I had been more like the version of myself I am now, I would have. "If you and Peter have another wedding, I'll yell at people for you."
Iris laughs. "After the first wedding, there definitely will be no second wedding. It's a miracle we got married at all; getting married twice would push our luck too much. And if you had yelled at people for screwing things up at my wedding, you wouldn't have been able to talk for weeks. Anyway, it would have been more helpful if you'd made me take a straight line test and then loaded me up with coffee and bread and advil when I didn't pass it."
I laugh, because it's very true, and have to ask why she got that drunk in the first place. I realize too late that I shouldn't have said that with Bailey in the room, but she's got earphones in now, so I doubt she heard.
Iris shrugs. "Because I'm Irish."
With her upcoming trip to Ireland, that's been her answer for nearly everything. She and Peter decided to spend the summer in Dublin and then come home two months before the baby is born. She's going to meet her mother's family, and Peter's come to realize that knowing more about her mother doesn't mean she's going to go insane—he's the one who found her grandparents in the first place—and she's come to realize that she has to draw a line.
"I do expect you to call me all the time and send plenty of pictures," I tell her. "And if you happened to move somewhere a little closer when you get back so I can watch my favorite little nephew and niece grow up firsthand, I really wouldn't mind."
She smiles. "You'll get pictures galore; you're lucky he hasn't developed the same aversion to photographs that his father had at that age—did I tell you his mother once found him shredding his baby pictures?—and even I can work the digital camera with the computer so I can send the pictures. Although I'm not making any promises about moving here though."
"You'd always have a babysitter." I touch her five-month-pregnant stomach. "Who better to watch little Lorelei than big Lorelei?"
She laughs. "Lorelei? I was thinking more like Judith, after my dear favorite aunt."
I snort-laugh, and she guffaws in an equally unrefined manner, when the door bangs open again.
"Mommy, Daddy can't get it." Sean tugs at his tie as he toddles towards Iris, his arms outstretched. He has Peter's honey-sandy hair, but his mother's bright green eyes, and he's one of the sweetest toddlers I've ever met, and he's walking and talking better than I would have ever imagined. If Iris's daughter turns out to be anything like him, they'll all be one happy little family that gets more sleep than they probably should.
"You're such a baby," Bailey tells him, and even though his mother's arms are open to him, Bailey gets their first and tries to put his bow tie on correctly.
"Don't touch me," he says, and tries to step back, but he trips and then hits Bailey, who goes running, and he toddles after her as quickly as he can. "You're mean," he cries as he chases her down the hall.
"Sean!" Iris pulls up the skirt of her green dress and waddles after her son, and I'd move but I'm fettered by my dress.
The door's still open as I stand in the Sunday school room, listening to the fading screams, when Peter's head pops in. "Where's everyone?" He asks.
"Kathy's yelling at people, Sean is chasing Bailey, and Iris is chasing Sean—why?"
He looks back in the hall and then steps in and swiftly shuts the door behind him.
"I did something bad."
I blink and try to imagine what he just said, because it can't be what I thought, because Peter does not do bad things, and Peter would not tell me if he did. "What?" He wouldn't have cheated on her, would he? No, of course not, because he couldn't expect me not to tell her if he told me something like that, right?
"I stole a hair sample from you, and one from Iris, and took them to the lab at the hospital."
I think I know what he's getting at, but I don't want to jump to conclusions, though these conclusions are more innocuous. "Okay…"
"Unless you and Iris just happen to have parents that are freakishly alike, the DNA matches at nearly exactly 50%, which means Damien really is her father, and you're her sister."
Oh my god. I smile and throw my arms around him and kiss his forehead in a manner that echoes Kathy's, but with less emphatically. "That is the best bad thing you could have done," I tell him and he smiles too.
"I know you said it didn't matter, you both said it didn't matter, but it does, doesn't it?"
I nod. It's a conclusion I've come to reach after lots of time spent mulling over the issue. I know it shouldn't matter if we're blood related or not, because I'd love her like a sister anyway, but it does. Friends you can ignore, or write off, and not spend the holidays with; sisters are forever—sisters, you are stuck with.
He kisses my forehead and rubs his thumb across the skin. "Been kissed on the forehead a lot lately?" I nod. "I'm glad you're my sister-in-law, and that things are working out for you."
He looks at me a second with one of those looks that makes it obvious he's not really looking, that his mind is whirling a thousand miles away. "I better get back to your husband's room, and find that son of mine somewhere. See you at the end of the aisle."
He turns at the door. "You look beautiful, by the way." I smile as he leaves and this is almost it: I'm about to get married. I'm nervous, but in a happy way, and I need someone to come back so I can freak out with them.
Right on cue, Kathy walks in, but she doesn't look like someone who is very up to freaking out with me. She collapses into the rocking chair in the corner of the room and looks at me. "I get it," she says slowly. "I get that Bailey's biological mother screwed him up and left him convinced that the women he loves will leave him, but he married me, didn't he? And he lets Bailey call me 'mommy' and we're a family, and a pretty decent family, and I know I shouldn't leave after we fight, but it's not like he gives me a choice; when we fight, it's like he shuts me out revokes my right to be his wife and Bailey's mother and I refuse to sleep on the couch, but I always come back in the morning. And I know he wants kids, to some degree, just like I do, and I know Bailey wants siblings, and so I don't know why he's so adamantly opposed to the idea, and it's not like we have to have kids now, but if we keep waiting, Bailey's going to basically grow up as an only child anyway and she won't really be part of the family, you know? and god, I get that he's scared to have kids again, after the way Bailey's biological mother abandoned them, but I'm not like that, and why can't he see that?"
"Kathy…" I wish I knew the perfect thing to say, but I don't, and it's much more likely that I'll say precisely the wrong thing. "He loves you, and you love him; you will get through this together."
She sighs and the teary shine that had haunted her eyes begins to dissipate. "Yeah, I know… I just wish it were easier." She wipes her dry eyes, furthering banishing unwanted tears, and then looks up at me. "Anyway, this day is supposed to be about you- you're getting married! Are you excited?" She doesn't pause so I can answer before adding, "you better be, because you're marrying my brother, and if you plan on leaving him at the altar, lie for my benefit and tell me you're excited so I don't have a cow sooner than necessary."
I smile. "I'm really excited, I promise."
I didn't feel this way about Pearce; there was none of this nervous energy. Now I feel nervous but excited and happy and it feels like the end of one chapter of my life, and it's kind of melancholy, but the next chapter is better, and the next chapter has really already begun. And to think, it all started one drunken night at a bar.
Oh my god, the bar.
I pick up the skirt of the dress—the only part of the wedding where I really put my foot down and refused to wear the frilly affair Kathy picked in favor of my original dress, because Iris was right, and I did want it back—and start for the door. It shouldn't take more than 45 minutes, and we have about an hour before the ceremony, which means we should have enough time to fix everything afterwards. And even if we are a little late, it's not like wedding's are notoriously on-time, and anyway, Sarah, the last bridesmaid, still hasn't shown up. It's a miracle she agreed to be a bridesmaid in the first place, given how much I ignored and avoided her and all my other friends after Pearce passed away, so I really can't be angry with her for being late.
"Where are you going?" Kathy asks, her eyes suddenly wide.
"I'll be right back," I swear. "Don't worry about it." She stands anyway, though, and the material of her dress cascades down to her ankles in a graceful gesture I would envy if I had the time.
The door shuts
I pass Iris in the hall. She's leading a sullen Bailey back to the room and carrying her puffy-cheeked son on her hip.
"Where are you going?"
"I'll be right back,"
I turn the corner and keep going without hearing the end of the sentence and then get to the other side of the Sunday school hall to John's room without seeing anyone else. I knock on the door and John's cousin Simon opens the door.
"Lore? What are you doing?"
"I need to talk to John." It comes out more breathlessly than I intended, but nearly sprinting across the church in my heels with a dress that weighs me down more than it should does that to me. The vague thought that wedding dresses are only really big to keep the bride from running away flits through my mind.
"Lore?" Oh my god, he looks gorgeous. If I didn't already want to marry him, I would want to now. I throw my arms around his neck because I simply can't help myself and then pull away.
"Hey, what's wrong?" He asks softly.
"We can't get married right now," I spurt off quickly, and his face falls even though he struggles to seem happy.
"Ok. It's okay. I shouldn't have rushed this—I knew you'd need time, but we kind of rushed things, and I was ready to wait a long time for you to be ready to do this and it's only been three years-"
I kiss him quickly to shut him up and feel awful for letting him assume the wrong thing, and so I amend myself. "We're still getting married today," I promise. "But we forgot to invite Marty! We can't get married without him!"
He looks relieved but confused. "Who's Marty?" He asks.
I roll my eyes at his forgetfulness and begin to pull him out the door. The other best men just stare at us. "Remember, Marty, from the bar? On the night we met and got married for the first time?"
He blinks and stares at me as I pull him down the hall. "Oh!" He says suddenly as the epiphany hits him. "Oh!"
And then he's running with me which is good because I need both hands to lift the hem of my dress, and so holding his hand made things rather difficult.
The cab driver looks at us like we're crazy. If this were a movie, he'd be the same cab driver that took us to city hall, except neither of us remember him anyway, not that he would remember us.
It takes a while to figure out where we're going. I remember the general vicinity of the place and John remembers better than I do, but there are quite a few bars and we can't remember which is ours. We also realize how crazy it is that we've never been back, because even though neither of us are really bar people, this is where we met. It's kind of important.
We finally realize, after driving up and down the block, that the bar very likely changed names or appearances. It's then that John remembers we're on the wrong street.
On the next street over, we finally pull over because he's convinced we've found the place. That's a rather logical assumption, given that the name of the place is Marty's.
We give the driver instructions to wait on the street and then get out to bang on the door. It's not supposed to open for another half an hour, but someone should be there, right?
Marty answers the door looking angry. I don't even know how it's Marty, but I do.
"Do I even want to know why you're here?" He asks. He looks exactly the same.
"You're Marty!" I say, and I probably sound like an idiot but I'm rather excited. "You're the reason we got married!"
"Do you remember a night a few years ago when she walked in and got very drunk and then explained to you that she was supposed to get married? And then you asked who wanted to marry her? And we walked out together?"
He looks at us blankly. "I was just kidding." Of course the bartender was joking, that doesn't mean we didn't take him seriously.
"Yes, well, we were drunk and took you seriously and got married and now we're having an actual wedding and it doesn't seem right to get married without you—it just wouldn't come full circle," I explain.
Thinking about how we met, though, it just seems so serendipitous, like a long strand of fortuitous events that just happened to work out perfectly for us. If something in the very beginning had gone wrong, if one of us had gone to a different bar, we wouldn't be here. We were lucky, despite how unlucky we felt during the process. It's strange and perfect.
Marty just stands and stares at us a moment. I begin to think that it would have been okay if we didn't try to come full circle.
"OH MY GOD!!!" He yells after a moment, and both John and I flinch at the decibel. "I do remember you!"
And then he hugs us both and it's surprising but nice. I've never been hugged by a big bartender before.
"So you're inviting me to your wedding!?" He asks.
I nod and I swear he squeals. There's definitely a child buried under that mound of skin and fat that constitutes a brusque man. We all get back in the taxi and high tail it back to the church.
A very annoyed looking Kathy stands on the steps with her cousin, waiting for us. He looks relieved to see us again, and I don't doubt that Kathy has given him hell for letting us leave in the first place.
Kathy rushes to meet the taxi as it pulls up and then pulls me very forcibly from the vehicle.
"You," she begins emphatically, "are an idiot. We have fifteen minutes and you weren't supposed to show him your dress—it's bad luck! Go inside and I'll meet you to fix your hair and makeup and if you got anything on your dress, I will kill you." She turns to her brother. "And you—what were you thinking? You nearly gave me a panic attack! And who is this guy you brought back with you? And for god's sake, pay the driver before he runs over all of us!"
John smiles slyly at me as I stand behind his crazy sister and then I go back inside where she proceeds to scream at me more. "Whoever your friend Marty is, he better be worth it!" She concludes as she vindictively jabs the wand into the mascara tube.
"Marty is the bartender that sort of set John and I up," I explain. I still kind of wish I could remember more of that night, but I've given up on improving my memory.
Kathy looks nonplussed. "Oh. Well, that's actually kind of cute. I'm going to go find him a seat."
She leaves and Iris comes in and locks the door behind her. "We need a signal," she tells me. "Because for the five minutes between when I saw you leaving and I realized he had left with you, I was convinced you were leaving him. So if you really do want to get out of this, we need a signal."
I shake my head. "No, it's fine, we don't need one." I grin and grab her hands. "Iris, I'm getting married!"
She smiles too. "I know!"
She stands up and we squeal in unison and do a bit of jumping too, and then Kathy begins to pound on the door, annoyed that it's locked.
Ten minutes later, the music has started and we all stand in order at the back of the church. Kathy pushes Bailey down the aisle and then it's Sarah's turn, then hers, then Irises, then mine.
Sarah, who arrived sometimes while I was gone and apparently also got an earful from Kathy, gives me a smile before she leaves, and then Kathy gives me a look that says "I better see you at the end of this aisle because you are not going to stand up my brother". Then it's just Iris and my dad and I.
He clings to both of our hand and gives us a paternal look. "I love both of you," he says quickly before Iris has to leave, "but thank God neither of you is getting married again. I don't think I could survive another wedding."
We hug awkwardly in our stiff clothes and then Iris kisses my forehead and it's just my dad and I.
"If you don't want to do this, you don't have to."
"I do, daddy. I want to marry him."
"Okay. But just because he's about to be your husband doesn't mean you can't send your old man to beat him up if he hurts you."
And then it's our cue. I'm not sure who's supporting who as we walk down the aisle and I can barely breathe but I don't think he is either. I catch the eye of my mother as we walk past her and for once, she looks like she's feeling something maternal. Colleen is next to her and they both smile at me, but they're both crying, and I've come to realize how lucky and blessed I am because I may not have Dona Reed as my mother, but I wouldn't have wanted that anyway, and I have two maternal figures who love me. My mother-in-law is even reasonably fond of me; I didn't know it was possible to be that lucky.
John stands at the altar and when our eyes meet, he smiles and I stop feeling so nauseous.
Our marriage may not have had the most auspicious start, but it brought me to him, and him to me, and we helped heal each other, and it brought us to today, and for the first time, I have no regrets.
Eh. I'm not thrilled. I think I meant to add more that I forgot. I may redo this. Comments welcome.