Flash Fiction Fridays: Let the Free-For-All Begin
No themes. No word count. Open prompt. Are you ready? The Flash Fiction Fridays Free-for-All will run from now through September, beginning with this fantastic piece by Mary Langer Thompson. Enjoy.
By Mary Langer Thompson
The wedding soloist sings, “Wither Thou Goest, I Will Go.”
Third row. Perfect. I’m tired after the flight from California. There wasn’t much time to spruce up in the hotel. The green on this Oregon hilltop is calming. I see a covered bridge from here.
There are white roses on a front row chair to honor Dee. After all these years. Well, she was Molly, the bride’s, mother. And my best friend. In eternal time, it hasn’t been that long. In real time, twenty-five years. Bridesmaids are wearing blue, Dee’s color. The color we buried her in.
I hear “Procession of Joy.”
“Here she comes, Tom.” I elbow my husband, and we stand.
Molly’s beauty takes my breath away. She has Dee’s smile and eyes, but dark hair, not blonde. Thirty years ago, I was in Dee’s ceremony and she in mine. We had a date to be little old ladies together.
There’s Reggie, Molly’s father, on her arm. Still rakishly handsome, and today in a tuxedo. Like a young Johnny Cash, but with a touch of gray in his hair. He sees me and gives me a wide grin. It’s his doing they all live here.
After the funeral that long ago August, he sold their house and moved with Molly, age six. He wrote me the following February. He was remarrying on Valentine’s Day. Too soon. Too soon.
“Her mother and I do.”
Dee’s replacement was a teacher, like she was. She was Molly’s first grade teacher, and Molly introduced her father to her on a hot Back to School Night. Odd, but her birthday’s the same as Dee’s. Same strange religion, too. I remember hoping if Priscilla used Dee’s lesson plans, she gave Dee credit.
Several years passed before Tom and I met Priscilla. We hadn’t said we were coming, and arrived on Molly’s thirteenth birthday. Priscilla baked a cake and set extra places at the table.
Reggie was a successful realtor, and they lived in a large house on a huge lot. By then, Dee’s mother was living with them. She’s sitting next to Priscilla. Still pretty. How old must she be now?
“For richer or for poorer,”
That day, Reggie took me to see the far end of their property with the swing he had hung from a tree for the girls. He said, “She’s a good woman, but she isn’t Dee.”
“In sickness and in health,”
After Dee’s death, I got emotional one day on the way to work in my 1969 Karmann Ghia, the car Dee said looked like me from the back. All the songs we used to listen to jolted me, especially “You Are So Beautiful to Me.” Heart palpitations sent me to the nearest emergency room. A doctor said, sort of nastily, “What were you doing driving a car?” Another younger doctor asked if I was stressed. I told him how I had lost my best friend. He said, “You look it.” I finally get to talk to a professional and I meet House before he’s famous.
I told him Dee and I had grown up next door to each other since I was in the fifth grade and she in the seventh, our bedroom windows across from each other, only side yards separating us. I used to wait for her light to come on at night, Noxzema smeared on my face, and whistle across to get news of a date. Now there’s only silence between those side yards.
“For better or for worse,”
I was better, after that talk, although there have been crazy dreams where I run after her to ask her where she’s been. She can still run fast. I remember that P.E. teacher in high school that made her cry when she forgot her gym clothes. That teacher’s now teaching remedial reading.
One day I visited Dee’s grave. Only the years were on the stone, not the actual dates when she was born and died. Details, details. And getting to the spot? The woman at the gate told me to go to the first trash can and turn right.
“For as long as we both shall live.”
When Molly was sixteen, she wrote me a letter. Reggie had left Priscilla for another woman. He was not providing support. Priscilla adopted Molly. I wonder if Reggie brought the new woman today. Did he marry her, or is it over?
“Kevin, you may kiss your bride.”
Soon, a letter from Priscilla. She wrote, “When one door closes, another opens.” Sure, but look to see there’s a floor on the other side. She was dating Dee’s divorced brother, Harry. Harry who used to scream at me to shut up when I practiced my trumpet. He’s sitting next to her in the front row. If Priscilla marries Harry, Molly can call him “Dunkle,” Dad/Uncle for short.
“And now I introduce to you, Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Smyth.”
“That was a short ceremony,” I tell Tom as the newlyweds go down the aisle. Dee would have liked the groom, his clean-cut, handsome looks.
“Not so short,” says Tom. “What did you think of those hocus pocus vows? I wonder where they found that minister?”
I should have paid closer attention. Tom hands me a tissue.
“Thank you for flying United. Relax, and enjoy the flight.”
“Tom, did you take your medications this morning?” I have to make sure he takes them. His meds keep his condition stable. Getting old isn’t for sissies.
Tom and I should sell those plots we bought in Hollywood Hills and move closer to Dee and my dad into the Glendale Forest Lawn. Except there’s that trash receptacle issue.
Priscilla promised she’d update me regularly on what’s going on. Who’d have thought she’d be my bridge to Dee’s family?
Tom and I join hands across the aisle as the plane takes off. We always join hands for take-offs and landings.
Mary Langer Thompson's articles, short stories, and poems have been in numerous anthologies and journals, most recently J Journal, Silk Road, Potshots, and Quill and Parchment. She lives in Apple Valley, California, where she moved six years ago to open a new school as principal. She likes to spend time in Big Bear Lake with her husband, Dave, and is a proud member of the High Desert branch of the California Writer's Club. To learn more about Mary, please visit her website.