“Let me get a picture,” Momma said.
It was the night of the dreaded Father-Daughter Dance. I was wearing a dress that matched Abby, Jaci, and Megan’s. Momma had come up with the idea. Jaci had been working nonstop for the past week (with a little help from Mrs. Stewart) making the dresses. The dresses were pretty, but I felt miserable in them. Not because my psoriasis was showing but because I was going to this dance. I ached to be with my father. I had just come from crying. I tried to make myself look happy but my eyes were still puffy.
“Smile,” Momma said. “Stinky feet!”
“Stinky feet!” Mr. Steve, Jaci, Abby, and Megan laughed. I just smiled.
“Are my girls ready?” Mr. Steve asked. We nodded and walked out the door.
My heart was beating so fast as we drove to the dance hall. When we arrived I almost threw up. I wished I had. I would have just told Mr. Steve that my strep throat was still lingering and he would have taken me home.
I saw that mostly everybody was already there. Emily was dancing with Zach, and Virginia and Mr. Hank were eating and laughing. Mr. Rivers and Sean were eating and making conversation.
Dinner was awful. The rest of the group talked and I of course said something every now and then but I couldn’t hide that there were tears in my voice.
After dinner Jaci and Mr. Steve started to dance. I knew tears were about to spill out of my eyes so I rushed off to the bathroom. I walked into a stall and started to cry my eyes out.
How dare my father ask me to make Mr. Steve my ‘father’. He would never be that to me. Virginia was dead wrong about him loving me. He was just doing this to make suffer. He didn’t care about me. He only cared about hurting me. He knew how much my heart was breaking at this moment and he did nothing to stop it.
I started to cry harder and stopped when I heard the bathroom door open.
“Natalie,” Abby’s voice said. “I know you’re in here.”
“Go away,” I cried. “I don’t want to talk to anyone.”
“What’s wrong?” Abby asked.
I might as well just tell her.
“My father was going to take me to a Father-Daughter Dance, but he died the day before,” I cried.
“Oh, Natalie,” Abby said. “I’m so sorry.”
I just cried.
“Does Dad know?” Abby asked.
“I don’t know,” I cried.
“Do you want me to tell him?” Abby asked.
“No!” I cried walking out of the stall. “What does he care?”
“Natalie, Dad loves you,” Abby said. “He knew that when he proposed to your mother that you were part of the deal. Mixing families is hard but love conquers all.”
“He doesn’t love me!” I cried. “He doesn’t care about me! If he really cared about me he wouldn’t have taken me to this dance!”
“Natalie,” Abby said getting angry. “Dad is not a mind reader. You just said that you don’t he knew about your father dying before the dance. How is he supposed to know what’s bothering you if you don’t tell him?”
I stared at her and cried.
“You don’t understand!” I cried.
“I understand perfectly!” Abby cried.
“No you don’t!” I cried.
“Yes, I do! You’re lying to yourself! You’re lying to yourself so you can keep one hurting Dad! Well, I thought you were more than that, Natalie!” Abby shouted. She walked out of the bathroom.
I looked in the mirror. I was a wreck. I just couldn’t believe Mr. Steve wasn’t trying to hurt me. Tears followed down. Why did my mom have to marry him?
“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said walking into the bathroom.
“What do you want?” I barked.
“Abby just told me…I’m sorry,” Mr. Steve said.
“No, you’re not!” I cried. Mr. Steve was taken aback.
“Natalie, I..I really am sorry,” Mr. Steve said.
“No, you aren’t!” I cried
“I know you’re upset right now,” Mr. Steve said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that you’re my daughter and that I’m your father.”
“You are not my father! And just because a piece of paper says that I am your daughter doesn’t make it so!” I cried. I walked into a stall and slammed the door.
“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said with tears in his voice.
“Go away,” I interrupted.
“Fine,” Mr. Steve said walking out of the bathroom.
I stayed in there for the rest of the night and just cried.
“Natalie,” Momma said the next day. She was helping me into my bridesmaids dress.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said knowing that she was going to say something about last night.
“We have to talk about it,” Momma said. “I know that this is been hard on you, but you can’t talk to your father like that.”
“Oh, what does he care?” I asked.
“A lot more than you could ever imagine,” Momma said. I shook my head.
“We have to do something about this,” Momma said.
“Can we talk about this some other day?” I asked. “It’s Abby’s wedding day.”
“Fine,” Momma said zipping up my dress.
I walked out of the room and down the steps.
“What happened to you last night?” Virginia asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said picking up a banana.
“Well if you ever want to talk about,” Virginia said. “You know that I’m here for you. Regina, Sean, and even Emily are here for you. If you ever want to talk to us, we’re here for you.”
I nodded and smiled. I had the best friends in the world. I gave Virginia a hug.
“Pretty!” Megan cried. I walked into the family room to find Abby in her wedding dress.
“Am I silly for getting married in the backyard?” Abby asked. I shook my head no.
“I’m so nervous,” Abby said. “What if I flub the vows?”
“Then it will be something funny to show your kids,” Ms. Donna said. Abby smiled.
“I’m ready,” Abby said.
“But Zach is not,” Mr. Steve said walking into the room. “He’s a mess. He sweated his shirt out!”
Abby laughed. Mr. Steve looked at me and then looked away.
“All the guest are here,” Jaci said walking into the house. “And Zach has changed his shirt.”
Jaci handed Abby her bouquet and Abby smiled.
“Here goes nothing,” Abby smiled.
The wedding party walked down the aisle and then Abby and Mr. Steve walked down the aisle. Zach beamed. Abby really did look pretty in the dress. Jaci smiled even though she was still just a tiny bit upset about not being able to make the dress.
I looked up and saw that Mr. Stewart was there. He wasn’t looking at Zach, but at Momma. I felt a little uneasy. Why in the world would he be looking at Momma?
“We are gathered here today to witness the union of Zach Stewart Davis and Abby Abigail Matthews. This town has watched the two of them grow up and this town is extremely proud of them both,” Pastor David said. “The couple has forgone the usually ‘I Do’s’ and they each have created a mash-up of vows.”
“Abby, I love you. Today is a very special day. Long ago you were just a dream and a prayer. This day like a dream come true the Lord Himself has answered that prayer. For today I promise to care for you, honor and protect you so long as we both shall live,” Zach promised.
“Zach, I love you. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. Through the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future I promise to be faithful to you. I will love, serve, and obey you as long as we both are alive,” Abby promised.
“The rings,” Pastor David smiled.
Darcy walked up with a pillow in his hand. I tried not to laugh.
“Abby, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live,” Zach said putting the ring on Abby’s figure.
“Zach, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my husband: to have and to hold, from this day forward. For better, for worse, for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; to have and to cherish, as long as we both shall live,” Abby said putting the ring on Zach’s finger.
“I know pronounce you man and wife,” Pastor David said. “Zach, you may kiss your bride.”
Zach removed Abby’s veil and kissed her.
Momma gave me the que to throw rose petals. Virginia, Regina, Emily, and I started to throw rose petals at Abby while Darcy, Timmy, Ned, and Nelson threw rice at Zach.
Abby and Zach laughed as Abby’s side of the aisle threw rose petals and Zach’s side threw rice while they were walking towards the house.
When they walked into the house everyone got up out of their chairs and walked into the house for the reception.
It was around ten o’clock. Most of the wedding guests were still here, just hanging out. Abby had changed from her wedding dress into a more comfortable reception dress.
I walked towards the kitchen to get a fork for my third piece of cake but stopped when I heard voices.
“Why should I tell you? It’s kept your mouth shut for seventeen years well mostly. You know their next on the list. You wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to them?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.
“You would never hurt them,” Momma voice said. Her voice was fearful but tender.
“Ok, probably not. But what about Natalie? Steve? Abby? Jaci? Megan? You wouldn’t want anything to happen to them would you?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.
“They don’t have to know the full story,” Momma’s voice cried.
“As much as I hate to hear you cry, no, Riley, darling, it’s what’s best,” Mr. Stewart’s voice said.
“Don’t call me darling,” Momma’s voice snapped. Mr. Stewart laughed.
I walked into the kitchen just as Mr. Stewart was walking out.
Momma looked shaken up. There was a bruise on her arm and tears in her eyes.
“Are you all right?” I asked. “What did Mr. Stewart want?”
“Nothing, just a fork,” Momma lied. I bit my tongue.
“Did you fall?” I asked.
“Yes, I fell,” Momma said.
“I also came for a fork. There aren’t any on the refreshment table,” I said.
“Oh, here,” Momma said handing me a fork. “I better go put some on the table.”
Momma quickly walked out of the kitchen. I stood there wondering what that was all about. What had Mr. Stewart and Momma been talking about? Did he give her that bruise and why in the world did he call her darling?