Her gut screwed tight in remembrance. Even the smells were the same - a blossoming magnolia tree sang boldly, while the sharp scent of fresh grass cuttings wafted from her feet. Had time shifted directions?
The building stood unchanged. If the stone facade had eyes it would have not have recognized her. Time was kinder to rock than to flesh.
Theresa sighed. And as she inhaled deeply, the memories did indeed roll backwards.
A spring day and a feeling of great anticipation, of budding plans ready to burst into flower. Brightly clothed folks scampered around the lawn, milling in and out of the wide, ornate doors.
Theresa’s father climbed stoically from of his long, rusty Ford. Turning back, he gazed down his nose and raised thick eyebrows.
“This is it, Terry. No going back.”
Not the happy words a dad usually delivers on his daughter’s wedding day. But Theresa knew her father wasn’t the happy type. Not since Mom had walked away from them, leaving nothing but debts and gossip. I thought he might smile today.
“I know Dad. And I’m not going anywhere but up that aisle.” She grabbed his capable hand, hoisting her mushroom shaped figure out. Wedding dresses were not truly designed for graceful movement.
“Humpf.” He shrugged and closed the door.
Theresa spotted a few stray guests pushing into the sanctuary.
Her sister would be inside. She had helped with the dress that morning, before scurrying home to get her baby cleaned up. So Theresa arrived at the church with only Dad, ready to embark on a new life. Ready and almost willing.
A knot the size of old Nessie’s hoof sat in the pit of her stomach.
Theresa had been over this with the Lord. Carl was a good man. He courted her and said how pretty she was when she blushed. What else could a girl like her hope for? A man to give her children, to take over the farm for Dad. A man who came to church and sang loudly. That sort of man was sent by the Lord Himself and you should never turn away God’s blessings. Theresa knew it had to be true.
The hem of her white dress rubbed the newly cut grass, staining it a deep green. Dad held her with a strange tightness, almost dragging back as they walked.
Maybe it was the hurt Theresa knew Dad still felt over their mother. Maybe it was the idea of giving away the only woman he had left in the world. It couldn’t be anything else, could it?
A deep rumbling assaulted them as they stepped into the foyer, the rich carpets dampening any sound of their footsteps.
Guests were craning their necks, pointing towards the side doors. No one had noticed the father of the bride and his daughter enter. Up front, Father Doyle stood wringing his hands in priestly robes. His stilled as he caught sight of Theresa.
Suddenly the guests noticed as well. Silence fell like fog. Wide eyes all around her fastened, willing her to step back, blanketing her with sympathy.
“Dad?” she whispered. Her heart hadn’t told her head what it knew.
“Humpf.” The grunt was soft, almost thoughtful. “I think you had better sit down Terry.” And he led her to a dark bench tucked in a corner, sitting down beside her to await the news.
Father Doyle staggered towards them. “Theresa, my dear child. I.... I don’t know what to say. Carl was here, he came in just before you did. But... he left. And... he isn’t coming back Theresa.”
It was all so long ago, she thought. Yet the smell of magnolia and the scent of cut grass could still transport her.
“Auntie Terry?” A soft, shrill voice floated up beside her. “Why are you crying? Did you get an ow?” Her great niece looked in concern at the path around them, searching for the danger.
Theresa shook her head, clearing the ghosts of spring from her thoughts. “No, dear. But I did get an ow here once, years ago.”
“Did you have a bandaid Auntie Terry? Mommy always has bandaids when I get hurt.”
Theresa chuckled, looking high up the stone to a cross reaching for the clouds. “Jesus gave me a bandaid. He healed the ow in my heart.”
“Then why are you crying?” A simple question.
“Tears of gratitude, sweet girl. Every time I see this place again, I remember that God knows best.”
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