Tuesday seems like as good a day as any to do some #WIPfire-ing. A little self-indulgent, perhaps, but I feel like sharing today. It's a wedding and a funeral. More specifically, a wedding with a funeral flashback courtesy our protagonist, Graylyn Stephens.
|Mock-up cover, for fun and inspiration|
For reference, here's the twitter pitch for my unpublished manuscript, COULD BE WORSE:
An unlucky quality assurance rep, tired of landing in pot holes & hospital beds, turns to x-sports to prove her bad luck is gone for good.
Amyson is nothing if not a hopelessly corny romantic. The snow-draped conifers wear white just for her. She makes her entrance up the milky walkway as guests sit in fabric-covered metal chairs on either side, open to the biting breezes. Natural pine fragrance tickles my nose, and fresh air fills my thirsty lungs. I almost forget the cold.
A sweet bridal smile graces Amyson’s face. Completing the moment, two men on either side of her release ivory-winged doves, which I am fairly certain are taking the opportunity to escape their handlers and fly south for the winter. They rise up, up, up, vanishing into the last snowfall of the season.
Standing fourth down in a line of bridesmaids, I shiver through the organ music. (Really, how did they get that pipe organ out here?) But when the vows begin, I listen faithfully and force my bare arms to stay still at my sides. Amyson holds the lily bouquet to her heart, frail arms covered in white gloves up to her bicep, white faux fur trimming the sleeves so that no space remains exposed. The same trim curves round her neck, topped with pearls that glow in the winter sun. She is the princess of the forest. A dark, snow-covered veil of trees spreads out at her back forever. I won’t say I feel like one of her subjects. I mean, at least I am not sitting on the metal chairs. At the very least I am a member of her inner circle.
Jeff does sit, squirming on a metal chair in the fifth row back. I find his eyes and lift my eyebrows to him. My unspoken question is answered with a wrinkle of his nose and a wink. He’s taking his discomfort with good humor.
As Henderson and my sister exchange magical, binding words on this March morning, I wish I could say my heart flutters or that I suddenly become open again to adventure and romance. In spite of the adventures I’ve already had in the past two days, my heart feels tighter than ever. I can feel myself cocooning.
Jeff came to the wedding on a whim, almost on a dare. I see it in his eyes sometimes, this playfulness that promises only reckless endangerment. What have I gotten myself into? When we go back to Chicago, him to his busy law firm and me to the Classifieds, will I be forgotten? Am I his vacation from a life he means to continue without me?
This is why my mom said never to attend a wedding with a casual date. It brings up thoughts and feelings of commitment prematurely. And that can ruin a good thing before it has a chance to get off the ground.
Get off the ground. Perhaps that’s a bad metaphor for a couple who jumped out of an airplane on their first date.
I have to remind myself I barely know Jeff, all our talk of years-in-a-day notwithstanding.
The expression of peace and wholeness on Amyson’s face tugs at my tightly closed heart. Shivers run up my arms. Her breezy happiness touches parts of my soul that haven’t been aired out in a decade.
The luncheon passes in a blur of old friends and distant relatives whom I haven’t seen since my parents’ funeral. Just seeing their faces brings back the darkness of that week:
Amyson has locked herself in her room again, refusing to see anybody but me. It’s more than awkward facing my great aunt and uncle, strangers to me, and answering their questions, bearing their unsolicited advice as they judge every action I take on my parents’ behalf. I know I’m doing something wrong, forgetting some crucial bit of etiquette in funeral planning. To own the truth, I don’t care a bit.
“You need to have the flowers sent to the reception hall after the graveside service, so people can take them home,” Aunt Lisa says.
“Okay,” I say, wiping cracker crumbs from the kitchen counter. I’ve already seen the out-of-date will and my parents’ accounts, and I know this will be our last week living in our house. Funeral flowers are the last thing on my mind.
“Leave the poor girl alone, Lisa,” Uncle Fate tells her. “We’re here to help in any way you need it, Gray.”
“It’s Lyn,” I snap. “And we’re fine. I can take care of everything.” I know he’s trying to be kind, but I can’t bear sympathy from strangers who seem to think they have a say in what happens to my parents’ bodies. Bodies. Ashes.
“You don’t have to do everything, child,” Uncle Fate protests. “That’s why we’re here. You’re young. You’ve barely begun school. We can take Amy in until she’s an adult.”
“No!” My forehead feels hot. I wipe it with the back of my hand and shake the crumbs from the rag into a spotless sink. I’ve been cleaning nonstop since…
“Maybe this isn’t the best time to talk about this,” Aunt Lisa says. “We can come back in a week.”
“We won’t be here in a week,” I say. “I’m taking Amyson to my apartment in the city. We can’t afford to keep the house, and I already have the apartment anyway. Amyson needs me right now, not…” I trail off. It’s a miracle my frazzled mind retains any semblance of courtesy, but I stop myself before I say outright what I’m thinking. WE DON’T NEED YOU. GO AWAY.
Despite my restraint, my great aunt and uncle get the point. They’re gone the day after the funeral, flowers in hand. I hate them for leaving my parents’ funeral with a souvenir, a memento, like we were a stop on their tour of the Great Lakes. I hate them for offering to help when nothing anybody could do would ever make it right. I hate them for abandoning me to go it alone. Totally alone.
I knock on Amyson’s door. “Sweetie, please open up. Everybody’s gone. I need to see your face. Please.”
Her sniffles pause, and for a moment I think she might just open the door and let me in. Then a whimper takes over where the sniffles left off, and she’s muffling her sobs into the pillow once more. I turn around and sink to the floor, the door at my back.
Whipping out my cell phone, I dial the only number I know will bring my baby sister back to me. I call Charlie.