“December? Really?” My sister looked over at me from her Stairmaster, next to the one I was climbing into nowhere myself.
She had met me at the gym that afternoon; if I raced out of school at dismissal, I had enough time to get in a fast workout before picking up Z at the after school program he attended. The need for the exercise as all the more important now, with a wedding in my future. I’d always worked out sporadically, but since R had moved in, I’d put on a few pounds with all of that bread and wine with dinner business. It was time to step it up.
“I’ve always loved the idea of a Christmas wedding,” I answered my sister, panting slightly as my heart rate increased. “All of the decorations at church, the red, the green you can use in the arrangements, the lights…I just think it will be beautiful. And since December isn’t a huge wedding season, the church was available.”
My sister raised an eyebrow at me. “But it will be cold, and possibly snowy. Don’t you want to wait until the spring? Or go earlier in the fall?” She had been married on a cool day in November, when the cloud bank was thick. I remembered at the time thinking she was crazy for planning a wedding then, when the sun never shone.
“Earlier? No way. It’ll be hard enough to plan a wedding in eight months as it is. And honestly, it will be harder to find availability in the spring even though it is further away, because everyone gets married in the spring. I really think it will be beautiful. That early in December, the snow really hasn’t kicked in yet, either.” I had booked the church for the first weekend in December; early enough that it wasn’t high Christmas party season, late enough that decorations would be up and in place everywhere.
“And R’s cool with that?”
I laughed. “He is. What is funny is that you’d think as a guy he wouldn’t care about all of the details. But he wants to be a part of everything; choosing the invitations, the flowers, the cake…all of it. Totally surprised me.”
“Yeah, my husband could have cared less,” my sister answered, kicking her Stairmaster up two notches while I adjusted mine down a level. She was hard to keep up with. “He let mom and me do the whole thing.”
I gulped. It wasn’t in the forefront of my head all of the time, but it bubbled just under the surface often, the words my mother had said in her last week of life: “I am so sorry I won’t be there for your wedding.” I bit my lip and looked forward.
“Sorry,” my sister said.
“That’s OK, I was just about done here anyway. I’m going to go do weights for a few,” I said, slowing down the machine until I could step off. I knew she would feel badly if I didn’t just shake it off, the comment about my mother, but I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t above feeling jealous that my mother had been alive for my sister’s wedding and wouldn’t be for my own. I wandered over to the free weights and started hunting for the five pounders.
“Is that you?” I heard as I plucked two of the shiny silver dumbbells off of the shelf. I looked up and saw Pat, looking back at me from across the mat. Pat, who was Zachary’s great aunt. Pat, who had told me in no uncertain terms that her nephew would never be a part of my son’s life.
“It is,” I said, my head reeling. I didn’t even have it in me to try for positive, or calm. When we had parted after our coffee meeting two years ago, Pat had said she would talk to her family and be in touch about where to go next in our awkward family connection. I’d never heard back from her. I supposed I could have called myself, but the whole situation was so uncomfortable. I’d reached out, and the reception I’d received was lukewarm at best. I wasn’t about to repeat the experience.
“I guess you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard from us,” she said, slowly walking towards me so the entire gym wouldn’t hear our conversation.
Suddenly, I was hit with a burst of anger mingled with confidence. “I assumed,” I said in my most dignified voice, “That it meant that you weren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with Zachary.”
She nodded, but tried to look sympathetic. Unfortunately, it fell a little short. “It just was such a strange situation. And Joe made it so clear that he wasn’t interested…”
I held my hand up. “You don’t need to say anything else. I get it.” I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation while wearing sweats and my old Corey Hart T shirt.
Her face twisted a little bit. “I know you must think we’re awful people. I probably would if I were you.”
I just didn’t have it in me to give her any sort of out. “You know, it’s fine. Zach and I are doing well; I’m still teaching and I actually am engaged now.” There was so much I could say: that at least my fiance wanted to be a part of my son’s life, that just because Joe was an ass didn’t mean the rest of the family had to be, that standing by watching an injustice was just as wrong as doing it yourself. But I didn’t. Instead, I kept pushing the five pound weights in my hands behind me, making it clear that the conversation was over.
“Well that’s great news,” Pat answered. “I’m happy for you. Maybe I’ll see you around the gym sometime.”
“Maybe,” I said as I switched to bicep curls. I watched as Pat waited for me to say something further, realized that I was done speaking, and slowly turned and walked away.
“What was that about?” my sister said, coming up behind me.
“Nothing,” I said through tight lips. “Nothing at all.”