“Well, we got lucky, sweetheart; the rain held off. Ella, are you ready? The musicians are waiting for my signal.”
I could hear the sound of my dad’s voice but his words were garbled like I was under water and my thoughts were being carried away by the current. When I didn’t answer, my dad motioned for one of the musicians and told him to “just keep playing”.
My dad and I were always close, even more after my mom passed away last year. He knew me better than anyone; when I didn’t answer his question, he stood silently by my side waiting patiently. I knew he was concerned and I loved him more than ever for not pushing me.
We were standing at the doorway to my future. A hundred or so guests sat far enough away so that I could not see them nor could they see me. The top of a white tent far down the pathway on the left side was barely visible – the tent where my groom James was waiting.
We fell in love with the view of this breathtaking winery after attending a wine tasting with friends. All we could talk about for weeks afterwards was how lush and green everything looked; James said he couldn’t think of a more beautiful spot to get married. Next thing I knew we were engaged and now, at the worst possible moment, I was having doubts.
My relationship with James was meteoric; we met at a bar where we were both plastered. I had just split with my long-term boyfriend and on the same day learned that my mother had pancreatic cancer. James’ fiancé had just broken off their engagement after learning she was pregnant by some other guy and was going to marry her baby daddy. Needless to say we were both miserable; even in a drunken state our antennae went up and we found each other, commiserated, got even more drunk, went back to his place and had sex.
What should have been a one-night stand turned into a relationship and in record time we were “a thing”. James is a doctor which impressed the hell out of my mother and she fell instantly in love with him. He was wonderful to her; that’s something I will never deny. Mom kept saying what a great catch he was, how I shouldn’t let him get away. Her dying wish was for us to be married.
And why not? We weren’t kids, we both had great jobs, we wanted the same things in life and we were in love. But shortly after my mom passed away, I began to feel not so much in love with James as I thought I was. Sweeping away the detritus of negative thoughts from my head, we set a date for the wedding. How could I break a promise to my mother? How could I ignore my commitment to James? My heart told me one thing while my brain told me another. I shut out the voices in my head and they were quiet for a while. Today, on my wedding day, my brain was screaming at me.
The pathway leading to the tent seemed incredibly long and I could easily imagine myself escaping down one of the side paths between the hedges. What kind of thought was that for a bride on her wedding day? I was not one for fanciful imaginings; what I was feeling was very real. My knees buckled slightly and my dad steadied me.
“Talk to me, kiddo.”
I turned to face my dad. “Daddy” was all I managed to eke out before the tears started. I hadn’t called my father Daddy in years.
Dad magically produced a handkerchief. “What’s going on, honey?”
“This doesn’t feel right, Dad. I’m about to marry James because of a promise I made to Mom.”
“Ella, if you want to back out, I’ll stand by whatever decision you make. But it’s best for everyone if you do it now, not after you’re married.”
My dad’s love for me was boundless and all I could manage to say was “But you spent so much money to make this day perfect.”
Dad put his hands on my shoulders. “Damn the money and damn the promises. All I want is for you to be happy. If you think this is a mistake, say the word. My car is parked right outside.”
“What about James?” I asked biting my bottom lip.
“I’ll talk to him privately, Ella. Don’t worry about that.”
I looked at my dad and quickly nodded. He reached into his pocket and handed me the keys to his car.
“Go on now. I have some explaining to do.” He kissed my cheek and took off down the aisle.
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