A.N- So this story is partially based off of my next door neighbour. I thought that it was an interesting concept that really showcases how important family is and also the importance of moving forward. I think she has a lot of courage and I hope that this story also enlightens you on how courage and bravery (in a sense of facing fear in any form it may appear) are in the everyday people too. Also I haven't taken Spanish since grade 10 so my apologies if the wording is wrong. I did use google translate to verify the few Spanish bits I did use, but there is no 100% with Google Translate. The Spanish parts are next to none so if you don't know Spanish you won't really be missing out; you will probably get an understanding of what the word means anyway.
Is That Alright With You?
"The invitations are sent out. I know you didn't physically get one, but they are nice. A nice floral pattern. You don't need one though, I know you will be there." Silence. Not even a gust of wind, a whisper, as a reply. She thought that perhaps he was angry. The wind always danced around her when she spoke; never before and never after. She took as a reply, an answer, to her. This silence was cutting to her core like a proverbial knife. She thought that he was indeed angry because this news, news that was a long time coming, was the final nail in his coffin that is buried deep below. She has spent the better part of the past two months avoiding him, as if that would help erase the pain burrowed deep in her bones, but she knew it was foolish to think that erasing his existence was possible. She didn't really want to either. She had visited him once a week since December, but once February came she stopped. She didn't want to have this conversation with him. It was the ultimate betrayal in her eyes because it wasn't supposed to be like this. This was not how it was supposed to go. Every time she came here the guilt seeped into her veins and coursed through her like it was all that she was, but she always felt the calmness of familiarity and peace as the wind danced through her hair as well. He felt like home, a broken home. One cannot live in a home with shattered windows and torn floor boards. She understood that all too well.
"Mother?" She turned to see her daughter, Valerie, walking down the rubble path towards her. "Are you ready to go?" Valerie was standing tall and tan as her blue eyes focused on her mother kneeling on the ground.
"Yes," she replied. Valerie smiled down at her mother and walked over to help her mother up. "Thank you." Her knees weren't doing so well and her doctor said once she turned 60 they would get a replacement. She could hardly believe that was only five years away. She glanced over at her daughter who had her hand resting on the top of the grave.
"Te quiero, papá. Te veré mañana."
"This is so exciting!" Exclaimed Josephine, her granddaughter, from the back seat. "It will be so neat seeing you in a dress, abuelita!"
"I am glad you are so excited, dear," she replied. Valerie tossed her a sidelong glance from the drivers side; a silent warning. She knew that her daughter could sense her trepidation, it smothered the air like Luisa's perform, and was trying her best to raise her mother's spirits. She appreciated having a daughter that cared so much that it was almost detrimental.
"My dress is going to be the one she chooses," Luisa chimed in. She glanced at her elderly mother in law, ex mother in law, in the rearview mirror. For an 86 year old woman she had a young playful face and an exuberant energy. Their relationship was fluid and honest, and honestly Luisa was considered her mother above anything else; a role that the elderly woman embraced without hesitation.
"We're here," Valerie announced as she pulled into the wedding boutique.
"I'm here for my appointment."
"Britta Reyes," she answered, the surname stinging her tongue as it rolled off. The name felt so foreign to her now. She had avoided saying it since the doctor had told her there was no chance of full recovery after the incident, but she didn't have the heart to change back to her maiden name. How could she? Her daughter carried the Reyes name and so did her granddaughter; it would be an insult to change it back. The name did not seem to fit her anymore. She looked of European descent with her blonde hair and fair skin and Reyes did not fit her description. She had carried the name proudly when she was his wife, it had fit her like a glove then, but now the glove didn't fit. Was it ever supposed to?
"She's mine," called a young woman as she rushed down to greet the awaiting client. The young woman pulled her in for a hug and flashed an overly enthusiastic smile. "I'm Caroline and I will be helping you today. So what kind of dress are you looking for?"
"I don't know."
"Something with lace!"
"Something that fits!"
"Well," Caroline laughed, "It seems that your entourage has some suggestions." She forced herself to smile at the young lady who was only doing her job. "Who do you have with you?"
"I'm Josephine, her granddaughter. This is my mother, Valerie, and bisabuela, Luisa, and let's get shopping!" Her smile turned genuine as she heard her granddaughter speak with such enthusiasm.
"Let's get to it," Caroline smiled.
"I like this one!" Valerie exclaimed. The dress was a mermaid lace gown, and also the complete opposite of her first wedding gown.
"Do a twirl, dear," Luisa commented. She obliged. She twirled as best she could in the form fitting constrictions and smiled to please her glowing granddaughter. The young girl was smiling and whispering something to her mother; if you were a bystander you would guess they were sisters gossiping because of their spitting images of each other and Valerie looking more like a freshman twenty year old as opposed to her 33 years of age.
"This one is nice," she stated and sombrely made her way back to the dressing room leaving a confused Caroline in the dust.
"Hmm, I feel like I am not doing my job right."
"You are, dear," Luisa corrected, "let me speak with her."
"Britta, love." She looked up at the soft voice calling to her. Her eyes met with warm dark ones and she quickly glanced back down at the carpeting; she knew what was coming. Luisa placed an aging hand on her shoulder and whispered, as if the information was top secret, "it is okay to be happy."
"Is it? I feel like a traitor."
"A traitor to who, my dear?"
"You know that isn't true." She felt the tears threaten to leave her eyes. "The only one you are hurting is yourself." Luisa grabbed her face, therefore forcing her to look and listen to the elderly woman's speech. "Jose would want this, I know, and you better stop telling yourself otherwise. I know his soul is with us now and everyday since his death I thank God for taking him to the better place. Jose was not living for the past 15 years. His heart was beating but he was spoon fed and didn't remember anything about his life. I know my son, and I know when we visited him that wasn't him; that was a carcass of the man he used to be. The accident was not your fault; he fell down the stairs. And Douglas! That man is the closest thing to a saint. I love that man, you know? His patience and care throughout the years amazes me. This wedding is for him, not for you, but so he can finally call you his wife. You were already basically married except for in paper. So tell me why now? Why the overwhelming guilt now?"
"Because it is real now. Jose is not here anymore."
"The real Jose has been gone for 15."
"I know, I…know."
"And Douglas has been here for 10."
"Don't. You love Douglas, correct?"
"Valerie and Josephine considered him family, correct?"
"Then let go. Do not forget, but move on." The elderly woman got up onto her feet. "Now, let us go show this dress again. I know this is the one because it was the one I picked out."
The ground was cold and hard, a constant reminder of just where she was, and she shifted herself to get comfortable. It has been another two months since she has visited. The guilt in her veins had receded to a barely throbbing pulse. The decorations were bought and the catering arranged. The lace mermaid dress hung lonely in her closet. The 50 people that were invited have already RSVP'd and all that remained was the ticking of the clock countdown; 2 weeks. The time moved at an surreal pace; everything moved so fast. It did though, there was no denying it, because of the event was small; it was nothing to fancy or formal, but simply necessary. It was the bare minimal of weddings, but it would be nice. She did not doubt for a minute that her and Douglas' wedding would be nice and quaint. "Sorry I haven't been around." The wind rustled violently. "I won't give any excuses or justifications, but I am sorry." The pad of paper felt like bricks in her hands; it was weighing her down. The sense of dread that accompanied those innocent pieces of paper was unnatural. She was only writing vows. It should be easy writing down her love for Douglas on a piece of paper. It didn't have to be long or elaborate, but just enough to showcase how she felt. All she felt though was a knotting her stomach that wouldn't leave her alone. "I thought you might be able to help me. I am having trouble getting it started and you were always much better with words than I was." The wind calmed down to a gentle breeze; she took it as a sign that he was with her again in serenity. "Alright, thank you." The stared directly at the haunting tombstone as she brought up the pad of paper and a pen. "This is what I have: Douglas, you are my saviour; the light that shines in the darkness. Without you finding me I would still be lost. You turned my world around when I most needed and I will be forever thankful to you…that isn't too cheesy, right?" The wind blew gently, like a whisper solely for her own ears, and she understood that he was in agreement. "And I will love you, to the best of my abilities, for as long as I have left in this world." She took a deep breath in and said nothing as the wind died down. She never thought that silence could echo, but it did. In her mind the silence bounced back and forth creating a treacherous echo. Emotional drainage isn't something that comes quick and out of nowhere; it is a steady build up waiting to combust. As the sky slowly started to become overcast she exploded; dropping the notepad on the ground and covering her face as tears streamed down her face. Heaving breaths got caught in her throat as she struggled for air. Single rain droplets fell upon her head and she screamed, "I'm sorry". The world was not a terribly unkind place; it was not a prison for the living, but at this moment she felt caged. The bars holding her back were labelled clearly for all to see: Jose. How could she break those bars when she had held them for so dear for so long? They helped shaped her, they held her as she grew, and now they trap her as she struggles. "I'm sorry, Jose. I'm sorry that I moved onto somebody new, but you were gone. You were not who you were, and Douglas is good to me. He is good to Valerie and Josephine. I'm sorry that he is not you, and he could never be you. I guess I really came here to ask you if this is alright? I should have done it earlier, but I didn't have the strength." The sun struggled to beam through the clouds. "It wasn't like us, Jose. Douglas and I. You and me were quick, electric, and we took chances. I fell hard for you, but with Douglas it was slow. It was steady and I can't tell you when I fell in love with him, but I can with you. When you were working in my father's field and you helped my father fix his tractor, I knew then. Everything is different. You and me. Douglas and I. It is all different. I just want to know it is alright with you." The warm rays of sunshine warmed her skin as they peaked through the grey clouds. The bars that caged her in didn't have to be broken to let her out, but alternatively they were bent allowing her to move on. "Thank you." Deep down she always knew that he was pushing her, encouraging her to love Douglas like she loved him. Their daughter echoed his pleas with encouragement; after all Valerie was more like him. She knew all along. She was scared of moving on. She was scared that this marriage would require the removal of Jose from her life.
"Abuelita?" Josephine's soft voice called.
"Mama was worried about you being out in the storm."
"I don't think it is going to storm anymore." Josephine nodded slowly.
"I'll just wait back in the car."
"No, dear. How about you help us?" Josephine cocked a dark eyebrow up but agreed. "Alright, he doesn't think this is cheesy, so I will move onto the next part. How does this sound to you?" She handed the notepad to her granddaughter.
She examined herself in the mirror and had to admit that she didn't look shabby for a middle aged woman. Her blond hair was up tightly in a bun that didn't distract from her veil. Her daughter was in her eggplant maiden dress, as well as her granddaughter, and their dark hair spilled nicely over their shoulders in ringlet curls. Louisa opened the door and peeked her head in. "Britta," she sighed. She could hear the admiration in Louisa's tone. "Are you ready, my dear?" She nodded and grabbed her bouquet. The doors to the chapel opened and she felt a thrill run through. An excitement that could not be tamed. And she thought to herself, to him, 'is that alright with you?'