|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Married.||Rowena Gets Ready, Part 8|
Rowena made a neat checkmark on her Wedding Things Mom Is Allowed To Help With list, which for the sake of peace bore no actual heading, and then looked at her watch. “Okay,” she told her mother, showing her the list, “that's done. Now we have, let's see, an hour and fifteen minutes before I go to see Aunt Glad. So would you rather do the—”
“An hour and fifteen minutes!” cried her mother. “What can we do in an hour and fifteen minutes?”
Rowena closed her eyes. “Mother. Remember what we agreed? Remember?”
Her mother must have remembered, because instead of arguing per se, she tried her wheedling tone. “It's nice of you to visit your great-aunt, especially since she's all alone now and everything, but—”
“But?” asked Rowena darkly. She knew what was coming next.
“But this is your future! The rest of your life!”
“Haven't we had this conversation before?” asked Rowena. “It's not my ‘future.’ It's my wedding. The rest of my life is what happens after that.”
“Rowena, don't you want—”
“I want a nice wedding,” Rowena said, “and a nice reception to celebrate it. But if the wedding doesn't go well it won't ruin my entire—”
“And the nicest wedding in the world isn't going to guarantee that the rest of my marriage is happy, let alone the rest of my life.”
“Well, it's true. I could name examples.” Aunt Glad herself, for one, the way she'd lost her vitality and just about everything else when her husband died; how could a fancy wedding prevent that? In fact, the end of her aunt's happy marriage had been bothering Rowena as she prepared to start her own. “Look,” she continued. “Here's the to-do list. Which of these things—these here—Which of these should we look into?”
Rowena settled herself by her Aunt Glad's bed. “Sorry I couldn't come sooner,” she said. “I had some errands to do.” Her mother thought she'd left off ridiculously early, but the home's visiting hours were mostly over. She'd sacrificed much of her visit as it was.
“Preparing for the big day?” asked her aunt, smiling. Rowena closed her eyes, half laughing and half groaning.
“There's so much to do!” she said. “And my mother is still ‘helping.’”
Aunt Glad laughed. She knew all about Rowena's mother, all about her ‘helpfulness,’ all about her obsession with Rowena's upcoming wedding. “Don't let her get to you,” she said, not for the first time. Her eyes twinkled. “She's only young, after all.”
Now it was Rowena's turn to laugh. “Compared to me?” she asked.
“In her own way; yes, of course.”
Rowena was not inclined to argue.
Aunt Glad shifted the subject from Rowena's wedding to her own, which she still remembered as clearly as she had a week after it happened. “Which isn't saying much,” she remarked. “I was in such a state at the time; I think most brides are.” Rowena was trying to come up with a response to this when her aunt said, “Your Aunt Charlotte had such a lovely wedding. Just lovely. You know,” she said suddenly, “it's her birthday today.”
“She would have been seventy-seven,” Aunt Glad said. She sighed and shook her head. “Seventy-seven.”
Rowena wasn't sure whether her aunt was musing about the fact that her little sister would now have been almost eighty, or about Charlotte's sad and comparatively early death. She said nothing.
Aunt Glad told her about Charlotte's wedding, which seemed to involve huge masses of flowers, flowers everywhere. She told about the happy years of Charlotte's life, before her husband's accident. The parties she gave. Her children.
“So many good things,” Aunt Glad said. “But then the bad times; and then people forget. They think, Poor Charlotte. Such a sad life; such a hard one.”
Rowena looked at her. She had always thought the same thing. “I know,” Aunt Glad said, watching her. “But you were pretty young when all that started. You would mostly remember her bad times. But that was only part of her life.”
Rowena was silent a moment. “I remember going to the park with her,” she said. “We fed the ducks and she told me a story about a duck princess. I think she made it up on the spot.”
Aunt Glad nodded. “Probably. I'm not the least bit surprised.”
“For the longest time I couldn't look at a duck without thinking of that story. Even though the duck princess had nicer manners than any duck I've ever seen.”
They laughed. And then Rowena found herself remembering Charlotte's wonderful desserts and her beautiful garden, and all the photographs of her children and grandchildren which she displayed in her house.
And she remembered; yes, she remembered Charlotte laughing.
Back home, Rowena first brought Sammy up to date on the wedding plans, all of which, not surprisingly, he approved. She prepared a simple dinner, musing as she did so on her visit with Aunt Glad. But she didn't mention it to Sammy until they were eating.
“I've been feeling kind of awkward about it,” she confessed, “telling her about my wedding. I mean, it always seemed so sad, how her husband died and everything changed for her . . . and Aunt Charlotte, all she went through the last several years, while her husband was . . . was dying, really . . . And then I wonder what'll happen to us.”
Sammy patted her hand. Before he said anything Rowena went on, “But it isn't like that. She isn't—I don't know, it's not that it isn't sad at all but—there's more to it than that.”
“She had happy times,” Sammy said. “And she still has things she enjoys. Like you.” He squeezed her hand. “And she wants you to be happy,” he added. “She wants to hear about your plans and to go on being a part of your life.”
Rowena gave him a brief smile, but she wasn't finished. “I always thought Aunt Charlotte had such a terrible life but now I just don't know. I can't know; I only saw a little bit of it.” Rowena paused. “And as for us . . . well, I still don't know what's going to happen, but . . .”
“The best thing we can do is live our lives,” Sammy said. “And love each other. Right?”
His hand was still on hers. Rowena took it and squeezed it. “Right,” she said.
Volume III: Rowena Gets Married.
Book 8: Rowena Gets Ready.
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