Sometimes love brings more than romance.
by Vivian Gilbert Zabel
Trina stared at the rows of lace, satin, tulle, and other filmy, shiny, or flowing dresses. A strong desire to run shot through her as she struggled to swallow an unknown panic. I can do this, she silently insisted. Even if Mom doesn't have time, has more... more important things... no, I won't cry. I can do this. She heaved a deep sigh.
"Trina, are you all right?" Marie Kampton, Trina's mother-in-law-to-be, asked.
"I... I think so. Maybe we should have eaten lunch first." With a pale smile, the bride-to-be squared her shoulders and started toward the nearest rack of wedding dresses. The other two women drifted behind her.
"Mom, I don't think Trina really wants to be here," Marie's daughter, Karri, whispered, her blond head bowed to hide her frowning face.
"She doesn't seem happy; that's for sure." The older woman's gray eyes followed Trina's hands as they aimlessly pushed hangers along the rack. "Karri, I don't know what to do."
"Should I ask her if she wants to go home? I don't know either." Karri moved to Trina's side, touching the taller woman's shoulder. "Trina, do you want to leave, have lunch, and forget shopping today?"
Dark blue eyes framed by thick, black lashes turned to search the face of her friend. "That apparent, huh?"
"I don't know what the problem is, dear, but if you don't want to look for a dress today, we'll go another day," Marie replied as she searched the clouded blue eyes. "Maybe another time your mother can go with you."
"I would really like to forget finding a dress, but I want to get this over with." Trina's harsh murmer surprised the others. "And, my mom would never find the time to shop with me."
"Trina, what's wrong? Do you want to forget the wedding? Is that it?" Karri asked, concern deepening her frown.
"No, no, I want to marry Rich more than anything in the world." Dropping her head, Trina breathed a deep sigh. "I don't know what's wrong, exactly. I'm not happy with anything I've seen. I feel... I don't know... dissatisfied. Yes, dissatisfied."
Marie slid close to the now tearful woman. Slipping her hand under Trina's chin, she gently turned the troubled face toward hers. "Trina, I wish your mother were here. I'm sorry you only have me as a substitute."
Grabbing Marie in a hug, Trina corrected her, "No, no, you're more than a substitute. I want you to help me find the perfect dress. I just wish... yes, I want my mom here, too. I keep hoping that she'll..." Sniffing, she stepped back to wipe tears from her cheeks. "I keep hoping, dreaming, but I know she doesn't care, and never will. Her bridge game is more important than me." Trina shook her head in denial, confusion. "I'm sorry. I... I still want her to notice me."
Your mother is a fool! Marie thought as she clinched her teeth. She dug a tissue from her purse and handed it to Trina.
"All right, we need to regroup," Karri retorted. "What do you say we go have some lunch, settle down, and then look some more after we all feel better?"
"That sounds fine." Trina blew her nose before looking over her shoulder at the lines of dresses standing at attention in rows of glamor. "These all seem like dresses to wear to a dance, to a prom not... not to a wedding."
A few minutes later, the three sat around a table at a restaurant in the same shopping center as the bridal shop. Once their order had been taken by the waiter, they sat and sipped water or coffee. Trina's face, usually smiling, settled into downward-sloping lines as her fingers played with the spoon lying on the table.
"Trina, what kind of dress do you want?" Marie broke the silence.
Her eyes never leaving the tapping, twirling spoon, Trina answered, "I want a more traditional gown than I've seen so far. I don't want a strapless, or partially strapless dress. I... I want satin and lace, with... with a, uh, neckline that's... oh, I don't know, I guess more modest than provocative." She raised her head as a wan smile appeared. "You know what Rich told me? He said he could hardly wait to see my black hair against the white lace of my wedding gown." She nibbled on her bottom lip as her focus left the others and became dreamy. "I... I need a dress with white lace."
Marie patted the hand now quiet on the table beside the spoon. "Then we will find you the dress you want. If we can't find one, we'll make it."
With a chuckle, Trina replied, "Make one? We? With my 'talent' in sewing, 'we' won't make a hanky."
"Well, I can," Karri replied. "Less than two months doesn't give me much time, but I can do it. If we can't find something you like, then we'll find a pattern you do."
After lunch, the three women returned to the bridal shop. When they entered this time, a saleswoman greeted them. "May I help you with something?"
"Do you have something less modern than these?" Marie nodded toward the closest racks.
"Oh, we have some old-fashioned types toward the back." The clerk led them to the rear of the shop, where she pointed to a rack of billowing wedding gowns, many which were lace-covered satin.
Trina breathed a soft, "Oh, yes." A bemused smile brightened her face as she started rummaging through the dozen or so dresses. Finally, she paused before lifting a hanger off the rod.
"Here, this one," she sighed. "It... it has to fit. It just has to." She held the gown to her as she gazed at the mirror's reflection. "I'll try it on, okay?"
"Do you want me to help you?" Karri offered.
"Would you? Please, I'd like that."
Marie watched the two enter the dressing room section as she mused, I hope it fits or is close enough that Karri can alter it. Trina's face... she looked so... so satisfied.
Karri came out of the dressing room first. "She looks beautiful."
Trina stepped from behind Karri. The sweetheart neckline and black hair framed her slender neck and oval face. The lace covered the satin underdress, and each long sleeve ended in a vee on top of her hands. The bodice hugged her torso before flaring out at her waist.
The sales clerk gasped, "You do look beautiful. That dress looks like it was made for you."
With a dreamy smile, Trina twirled in front of the full-length mirrors. "It's just what I wanted." She glanced at the clerk. "How much?"
"That style's being discontinued, so it's $200 this week."
"That"s all?" Trina turned to face the woman. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." The clerk moved closer. "You'll need some alterations, and we can do that, too."
"How much would that be?" Trina brushed her fingertips along the neckline and down the sleeves. "This I want to pay for myself."
"That's free, part of our service."
"And when could it be ready? The wedding's just two months away." With another peek at the mirror, Trina smiled with wonder.
"I'll get the seamstress, and she can tell you." The sales clerk moved toward a door beside the dressing rooms.
Thirty minutes later the three women left the bridal shop pleased with the results of their day. No longer glum, Trina bubbled with happiness.
"I can't believe I found just the dress I wanted, and it'll be ready in two weeks." She stared out the car window for a few minutes. "Do you think Rich will like it?" she asked finally.
"My son will think you make any dress look gorgeous," Marie replied.
Reaching over to touch Marie's hand, Trina blew a held breath of air through her pursed lips. "Thank you. You know just what to say."
Two weeks passed. Marie arrived home from work to find Trina sitting in the living room. "Trina, I didn't expect you until day after tomorrow, when you get your dress." Spotting the tear tracks on the young woman's cheeks, she asked, "Something's wrong, isn't it?" She opened her arms.
Trina jumped from the sofa to be held closely by her fiancé's mother. "My mom... my mom said..." she gulped. "She said I'd better find the money for this wedding. She's... she's not going to help." After another sob, she added, "Dad said they couldn't afford... anything."
"They just told you this, after insisting on all the expensive... Never mind, we'll work things out." Marie stroked the soft hair away from Trina's face. "We may have to scale down some things, but you'll have a nice wedding, and you already have your dress paid for."
"Trina, Mom, what's wrong?" Rich stood in the doorway, his face and voice reflecting concern and confusion. "What's going on?" When Trina turned from Marie's to his arms, he touched his lips briefly to hers. "Now, sweetheart, tell me what's happened."
With a puzzled shake of her head, Marie left Trina to explain the problem to Rich while she went to the phone. After a short conversation, she returned to where the couple sat huddled together on the sofa. "Okay, kids, we need to talk. Tammy will help us, but we have to decide what you absolutely want and where we can cut."
"Tammy?" Trina repeated.
"Mom's friend, the wedding organizer." Rich held Trina's hand in his.
"Oh, can we afford her now?"
Marie laughed. "Happily, we don't have to. She's volunteered. She'll be here in a few minutes; so let's start talking." She picked up a tablet and a pen. "Now, what do you want exactly as you've dreamed. We'll start with the one or two things that are important and then trim from the things that aren't."
"Well, the one thing I wanted was my own dress, and I have that. The rest was mainly my mother's idea." Trina finished drying her face with a tissue. "I don't need a limousine or live exotic flowers." A tiny grin teased the edges of her lips. "I have my dress and Rich. What more could I want or need?" The tears still brimming in her eyes mocked her brave words.
Rich brushed the back of his knuckles along Trina's cheek. "I hate to bring this up, but, uh, are your folks going to be at the wedding?"
After staring at her hands knoted in her lap, she raised eyes still filled with tears to look at him. Shaking her head, she admitted, "Who knows? I surely don't. I've never known if they'll be at anything for me. They arrived at my high school graduation late. Didn't make my college commencement. Why should my wedding be any different?" She touched his lips with her finger tips. "As long as you'll be there..."
"You know I will. All I care about is you, dress or no dress."
"Rich!" Trina playfully slapped his shoulder while struggling to muffle a laugh.
"Um, that didn't come out quite right, but..." He dipped his head to kiss her. "Now, then, I know that no matter what you say, you still want your parents to be at the wedding."
With a wan smile, Trina nodded. "I just keep hoping... hoping that someday I'll matter, but..." She buried her head against his chest. "I'm afraid to expect anything from them, but I still do. I still do."
The wedding day arrived. Light from the stained glass windows reflected over the pews as bride, groom, mother of the groom, sister of the groom, and friend of the mother decorated with silk flowers and greenery. Just as they finished, the bride's parents breezed in the back of the sanctuary.
"Oh, there you are, Trina. I thought you'd be at the motel to welcome us," Trina's mother, Marsha Mays, trilled.
"I've been a little busy, Mom," Trina replied as she remained standing beside Rich, clinging to his hand.
"Well, come on now. You just have to see our new car." Marsha whirled on her heel, starting back through the door.
"New car?" Trina mumbled half to herself.
"Yes, didn't we tell you?" her father asked. "I'm sure we did. We picked it up and drove here for your wedding."
"You bought a new car," Trina repeated in a monotone.
"Hey, the one we had was nearly five years old," the balding man stated. "Come on and take a look. We got a Caddy, paid cash." Pride filled his voice. "Well, are you coming?"
"I'll... I'll take a look later. I... I..." she stammered, looking at Rich in confusion.
"Mr. Mays, Trina needs to help me in the family center. We have a couple of things to do for the reception." Marie motioned with her hand for Rich to take Trina away and for Karri and Tammy to leave.
John frowned before demanding, "What could be so important it can't wait?"
Gritting her teeth, Marie silently admonished herself, No, don't make things harder on Trina. "Well, Mr. Mays, we have so little time to finish before Trina has to dress for the wedding. She'll look at your new car later."
As she left John Mays standing in the chapel, Marie dug her nails into her palms, muttering as she hurried from the sanctuary, "So now we know why they couldn't, or wouldn't, help with the wedding. A new car, a Cadillac no less. How in the world could they do that to their daughter? How?"
When she reached the family center where the reception would be held, Marie found Rich holding Trina in his arms, her head on his shoulder. Noticing that Karri and Tammy worked at a counter to one side of the kitchen area, Marie strode to the couple, her lips pressed together.
"Trina, I'm so sorry." Marie laid her hand on the young woman's shoulder, expecting to see tears and to hear sobs.
Turning dry eyes toward the older woman, Trina admitted, "I should have known something like this would happen. And you shouldn't be sorry. You haven't done anything except be the mother that my mother never has been." Pulling from Rich's arms, she hugged Marie. "Thank you for helping me, loving me, for being you. Thank you so much." She kissed Marie's cheek. "Now, I'm going to get ready for my wedding." With shoulders back and head held high, Trina smiled at Rich and his mother before marching toward the door leading to the room where her wedding gown waited.
The chapel glimmered in candle light as the organist started The Wedding March. Rich stood at the bottom of the steps leading to the platform where the minister waited. After the attendants in their blue gowns reached the front of the sanctuary, everyone turned to watch the bride glide down the aisle on her father's arm. A bemused smile found its way across Rich's face as he gazed at his bride's black hair against the white lace. She's as lovely as I imagined.
Trina returned her husband-to-be's smile with one glowing with love. Behind the smile, contentment filled her. I may hold my father's arm for the trip to the altar, but soon I'll leave him behind with Mom and new cars and bridge and all the other whatevers. A new family, acceptance, and love waited only a few steps away.