It’s going to be a small ceremony, small and sweet her Mother had explained at one point during the planning process. She had told this to Paloma, but they both knew that it wasn’t a decision. Decisions require a choice, and with Grandma gone there just wasn’t anyone else to invite. There was none but Eva and her two daughters, that was all that was left. Eva had two sisters at one time, there was no reason why her wedding day should be full of empty seats.
Paloma had called to be sure the extra seats were removed, it would be a painful reminder to see rows up on rows of empty chairs, with their minds filling in the happy faces that should have been there.
All morning she has been chanting to herself in the mirror. “I am happy, I am happy.” But truth of the matter was that as happy as she was for her Mother, she was violently ill with selfishness for herself. She would never admit it, but that chilly, summer vacation had stirred a dream within her. When her Mom had announced over breakfast that she was getting married, it was the birth of a dream for her and Oliver to share the same announcement one day. Perhaps he would have whispered in her ear on the dance floor, and asked her to be his wife, in a subdued way to as not detract from her Mom’s day. She felt like a dumb girl just remembering this hope. A stupid girl.
She felt that way often these days, slipping up on latte orders at work, or running into Oliver at his Mom’s house. He’d be graduating this spring, she knew he already had a job offer, this would have been the perfect time to propose. Paloma was free, she wasn’t waiting to accomplish anything, she just wanted a day like this for herself. A lifetime with that special someone. What was she supposed to do in the meantime?
She breathed in deeply, putting her focus on the ceremony that was beginning now. Smile until you face hurts, she willed herself to show nothing but happiness for her mother and Gideon. She had to be the role model for Linny, she had to put on her part of the show for the guests. And she was happy, exceedingly happy for her Mother.
Her mother deserved this moment, and Paloma was not going to ruin it, she would not slip up or make a single mistake on this day. She might cry though, she realized, as her mother approached. As much as she wanted this moment for herself, she was just as happy for her Mother, raising her and Linny without a husband had never been easy.
“She’s like a princess,” there’s an awed whisper from the crowd. It’s Bea, the only people in the crowd is the Woodfolk family, and they are here for Gideon. There is only Paloma and Linny here for the bride, and they are both in the wedding party.
Hazel whispers back that she can’t talk through the ceremony, and Bea asks why, all the while Monroe and Roman are staring forward quietly.
The Bride and Groom are unaware of anything going on around them, there is a train that whistles a few city blocks down, but none of it is realized by them.
Eva is remembering years ago, when she met Gideon and felt he was much too young for her. That people would judge her for being with him, she’d let that stop her from seeking him out. She could have lost him, never had this moment, never had this privilege to stake a claim on him.
His mind is reeling with the news that Eva shared that morning. They hadn’t slept in separate beds, or gotten ready in different rooms. In fact they had drove together to ceremony in her jalopy, and he’d been in the bedroom when he heard her through the door in the bathroom. He’d gone in to check on her, and had originally felt anxious but wasn’t certain why.
It wasn’t until she held her stomach that the idea occurred to him. They’d bought their new house, and decided to start trying for a family. They didn’t want to waste precious moments waiting for a wedding, it didn’t mean anything for them at this stage in life. The doctors said that Eva had a better chance of winning the lottery then getting pregnant, but Eva was standing in front of him that morning, and confirming that their dreams just might all come true. He just might be on his way to fatherhood, something he’d given up on when he’d decided to commit to Eva.
He’s imagining this future, the promise of a child that is a piece of each of them, a new house, a new chance to take back their lives and make it better together. He’s never been as happy as he is in this moment, with no loss or creditors in his past, he can only envision sunshine with Eva at his side.
Just like that, a few thoughts later, and the ceremony was complete. She’d told him before that he was like a prince to her, and that his last name was more fitting then could be imagined. Even still, she had asked that he take her late husband’s last name, not for any correlation to him, but for her daughter Linny. She couldn’t handle the thought of leaving her as the last Barthelet.
He had felt hurt at the request in the start, but the more he grew to know Linny, the more he wanted to be in her family too. He didn’t want to start a new family with Eva, and leave Linny on her own, he wanted to join Eva’s family.
As such they became Mr and Mrs. Barthelet, and little Monroe was feeling pleased to shake Gideon’s hand like his Dad had done.
The catering company had come at the perfect time. Gideon had splurged on this part of the day, and purchased a mexican feast. He didn’t want to think of their mortgage or their lackluster jobs, he was still trying to make it in his field, and shortly he was going to have another mouth to feed. But today, he would have a middle class wedding feast, and enjoy it with his family and friends.
Linny is here, watching and listening, and eating her food, all the while wondering why her Mom allowed a man to pick the food. She’s certain she’ll ruin her dress, and then they won’t be able to sell it to the consignment store. She likes Gideon, but she can’t force a smile like Paloma, and laugh everything off. A piece of her has found the day to be a sad reminder that she never knew her own Dad.
She knows about the new baby, she had walked in and heard the end of their excitement. She only needed help pinning back her hair, she hadn’t meant to intrude, and that’s how it had felt. It was alright to think of Gideon as a Dad, but now, it felt sort of like he was this new baby’s Dad, and that she didn’t fit right anymore.
Linny didn’t share any of this with her sister, if she had, they might have found a peace in being sisters who didn’t quite know their place in this changing world. They’d had furniture stolen, and taken back by creditors, they’d had rough grades, and times of hunger, but in all of that, there was this unspoken promise that they’d stick together. They were a family of strong women, and now it felt like a betrayal to bring Gideon into the family.
It didn’t matter how nice he was, he was not one of them, and their Mother was becoming like him. Molding into a new person, she was happier, and that almost made it worse, like salt in a wound.
There was cake though, and Linny was only ten, and could be distracted by things like cake, even when she felt alone in the world, at least for a little while.
Eva knew her daughters weren’t adjusting as well as they pretended. Gideon didn’t know, he was oblivious to the workings of her daughters, but she wasn’t. She cut the cake, and enjoyed her moment, because she knew that real life began the very next day, and this was a day to look back on with fondness and memory.
She’d devote time to each of them after this, right now, she wanted to feel young and carefree and let the love sweep her away. Gideon made it easy, his smile at the ready, and one hundred percent genuine, unlike Paloma’s sad eyes and phony smile.
Eva smiled contentedly watching the kids rush the cake table, this is my wedding day, she couldn’t help but sigh with happiness. She heard Paloma cough to cover her scoff, but Eva refused to give her any attention. She knew that Paloma would have been embarrassed if Eva had made any comment on it, she knew it hurt to be here, for reasons that were obvious, and others she didn’t quite grasp, and she did appreciate Paloma’s effort.
She wished it didn’t have to be so hard for her children, and hoped that with Gideon at her side, they might be able to make things easier for them, at least Linny since she still had a childhood left. She would not allow herself to worry about raising a new baby, this time it would be different, Gideon was not going anywhere, and neither was she.
“Come back to me,” he whispered into her ear, the hairs tickling her ear from his breath.
She lowered her head, “Sorry, my mind gets away from me sometimes. I’m here now though.” She smiles up at him, and without thought he returns the smile.
The music seems melancholy under the lantern light, she can’t help the overwhelming feeling to cry. She pulls herself close to him to avoid him seeing, embarrassed by the emotion that has come over her. All day she’s been forcing her mind to enjoy this moment, and to think of her daughters, but she hadn’t allowed herself to think of her own Mom. But here in the dark, with his arms around her, she can’t help but notice the person that shouldn’t be absent.
She slyly wipes her eyes, and bites down on her tongue to bring back control. She blames the pregnancy hormones that have begun racing through her body. She’s grateful she only got sick this morning and not since.
He pulls her off of him, and inspects her face, suspicious that she’s hiding an emotion from him. He can see a trace of sadness on her brow, but chooses to ignore it. He doesn’t think she’d want to dive into that dark seat tonight, not on the dance floor.
Paloma’s at the bar, no man at her side, and it makes her more painfully aware of his absence. He knew when the wedding was, and her Mother had invited the McCarthy’s. It had been a desperate attempt to fill chairs, and they were both relieved that they hadn’t come, and yet, Paloma had hoped that Oliver might surprise her after all.
Dave is here alone, he knows they’re fourteen years apart, he knows this because Gideon had shared with him the age of his new step daughter. He can’t say that he’s trying to spark a conversation here at the bar with her, out of some paternal extinct. He has no kids, he doesn’t feel that way towards people yet. He sees a hurt kid and he feels the basic care for a stranger as he would if the child were an elder.
But Paloma, he feels something differently. He sees the tears in the corners of her eyes, and the way she orders her drinks, and it’s the same thoughts that are running through him. Loneliness.
She keeps watching her Mother on the dance floor, and he can see that Eva is hardly holding herself together from the enormity of the day. It’s these good observations, that make him invite Paloma on a walk over the park grounds. He’s surprised when she agrees, but she’s had some drinks and her reserve is waning.
They find themselves sitting in the seats that Hazel had been in earlier in the day, everything is covered in shadow with the fluorescent lights from the city peaking through the trees leaves. Crickets sing their songs for new love, while two frogs converse across the lake to the side of them.
He’s awkward now that he’s gotten her to talk with him, he’s been admiring her all day, with her brilliant fake smile. He wants to see a real one, and set forth to do just that, but now that they are here, he feels like a fool. He’s certain that she sees him as her new step-dad’s friend, an old man, even if he is only thirty-five, that’s worlds apart from twenty-one, no matter how you splice it.
She’s the one that starts talking. It’s the blanket of darkness, the warm drinks in her stomach that have her let go, her Mom is safe from view, happy in her moment, and the burden feels heavy, too heavy now, and she starts talking to Dave. At first she was planning to just share something small, but it spills out like a mug forgotten under the faucet.
She can’t stop herself, even as her cheeks blush, she admits that she’d wanted Oliver to propose on this night. But it’s not that loss of a dream that hurts, not the most. It’s the fact that he knew her better then anyone, and for years, nearly as long as her own mother, and he just decided that he didn’t love her anymore, that she wasn’t good enough.
“How do you get past that?” She asks him, but Dave has no answers. He’d love a girl himself once, and she’d found him wanting.
“You will.” He tries to sound reassuring, he thinks of Violet-Adele, and after a moment, he’s certain that he truly is over her.
“How?” Her large blue eyes look at him innocently, and he wants to touch her face, but can’t find even a stray hair to push back.
“You just do.” He can see that she doesn’t believe him, he doesn’t know how to make her see, only that he might be able to show her one day if she weren’t disturbed by his age.
They sit silently again. The music carries hauntingly from the dance floor, and the lights in the distance. It’s not far, but in the concealing shadows, with the sounds of nature around them, it could be a world away.
A new song is beginning, and he sees her feet move slightly to the rhythm, brushing lightly against the grass. “Would you do me the honor and dance with me?” She’s nervous, on the verge of saying no, he can see it flash across her face, and his stomach clenches. She reads that on his face, the anxiety, and decides to just go for the dance.
“You’re beautiful, you’ll find someone.”
“I look the most like my Father.” She blurts it out, not wanting to hear about finding love again. She’s wary of believing, of finding hope and holding onto it tight, to end up alone. Or perhaps like her Mother, in her forties finally finding love again.
Dave chuckles, but his eyes are steady, and she bites her lip. “I figured you did, you don’t exactly look like your Mom.”
“Oh.” She’s not used to guys who have met her Mom, of course he’d have figured that out on his own. It just seems that in this day her Dad should have a nod towards him. “I feel like he’d be happy that Mom found someone, I know people always say that, but he was a good man. I really think he would be glad.”
Dave only nods, his mind racing as the song is beginning to end. They can’t stay under the willow tree all night, at some point they need to return to the bar, and socialization. “Paloma… could I…” He moves closer to her, his arm reaching behind her back in a new way, as if preparing to anchor her weight against his chest.
She has a choice, there was none when it came to the wedding size, but here and now, she has a choice she can make. She allows herself to kiss him back, his arms confident, and experienced. He’s nothing like Oliver, or even the other young man from the bar, this is wholly a new type of man. He’s not eager with his kiss, it’s not hungry for a selfish need, but slow, and confident.
In the distance she can hear her Mom laugh, they must have taken a break from dancing, and grouped off to enjoy a conversation. Until Gideon it’d been years since she heard that sound, before she’d been tired, and exasperated and at her wits end with Paloma herself.
“I can’t…” she awakens from the kiss, pushing back against him. “I can’t do this, it’s all wrong.” He responds quickly, listening to her words. “I have to go, I’m sorry, I just can’t.”
She can’t have Oliver, but she can help make her Mom’s wedding a special day. She wasn’t going to give herself away to this man, and cause shame to her Mother. She’d caused enough grief as a teenager, and had the power to not do that, not on this night.
Notes: I don’t know where to start! First, I suppose is Paloma. She’s really screwed up right now, has wants for Oliver primarily, having a baby, and then Brandon (the ROS guy) and Dave both have a little nod towards them now too. She might be impulsive and have a small daddy-loss issue, but she’s not Annie… and she is maturing when it comes to behavior. I had planned on Oliver proposing around this time, or immediately after, so it could have happened for her if Oliver had still loved her.
Next, I didn’t really want Eva and Gideon to have a baby. And then I sort of really fell hard over the idea of them being parents together. I blame Carla with her wicked awesome house she decorated, Paloma’s room would be perfect for a new baby. And then I thought she’d never get pregnant, I allowed them to TFB while unmarried and it just wasn’t popping up. Then lo, she rolled the lowest (I thought 1 was, buy I was mistaken!). Baby Barthelet is due in January.
The first thing I did when I moved them into Carla’s house, is send Eva’s sister packing! While Abby kept all her families urns at home, Eva is OVER the ghost that killed her first husband. Here’s a sneak peak of her sister who never made it to the blog while alive. She was killed by the super flu, along with Eva’s Dad.
Onto the posed wedding portraits.
The wedding party, Linnea, Paloma, Eva, Gideon, Jude, and Dave. (Gideon and Dave were Jude’s best men at his wedding).
A few of the happy couple.
Gideon is so good to Eva, I’m glad that she changed her mind to date him seriously.
Eva with her daughters.
They were married at Carla’s Benton Park, with the addition of the Gazebo.
Thanks for reading!