April 13, 2020, 1:30 p.m.
Jessica: A Zoom wedding
A text from Hanna flashes on my phone while I’m deep in conversation with Claire about my story. I’ve been working for her for nearly a month and I still can’t figure out what she wants. I get the stories—all except that one where none of the sources would talk to me—and I get them done on time—except the one that was late, but not too late, when Lori couldn’t figure out her math assignment, the truth is, neither could I.
My thumbs fly on the keys as I listen to Claire drone on via speakerphone. “Call you ASAP. Busy with boss now.”
Something makes me think this text might be about the wedding. She and Matt are supposed to get married this Saturday. It was going to be beautiful, a late afternoon wedding on a mountain side beside a babbling brook. The setting sun would have gilded the budding trees and the faces of the bride and groom as they said their vows to one another. It was the most romantic wedding plan I ever heard.
Then, as the pandemic stay-at-home orders got more and more restricted, it was canceled. Their wedding website already has the new date on it: April 18, 2021. It broke my heart to see the change.
I realize I’ve stopped listening to Claire explain to me my tendency to use the same word too often. “You need to re-read your stories and make sure you don’t send them until you’ve considered your word choice.”
My high school English teacher used to say the same thing.
I’ll concede because I can’t wait to get back to Hanna. “All right. I see your point.”
She exhales, a sound that makes me worry she’s about to embark on yet another criticism.
“What else? Oh yes. Are you working on that soup kitchen story with Rashima?”
“We have our calls set up for early tomorrow.” And do I mean early. One is at seven-thirty.
“Good. What are you doing this afternoon?”
I pause. I thought I was working on reading, language arts, Spanish and science with Lori—not that I can tell Claire that. My sweet precious daughter has managed to behave herself every single time my boss has called.
“I thought I’d make some calls and get my files in order. I haven’t had a moment to put together a decent calendar or contact list. And then—”
“OK. OK. I get it. Time for a little organization. I got more calls to make. Talk to you at the meeting tomorrow.”
Files and calendars and contacts, oh my! Forget that. I’ve got to call Hanna.
She calls before I can finish I can even call up my contacts.
“I couldn’t wait. I figured you had gotten busy with Lori or something and had forgotten.”
Hanna’s breathless, like she’s been running up ten flights of stairs.
“We figured it out, chica. We’re getting married.”
“What? How can you?” My mood, blue a minute ago, soars toward the heavens at the news.
“We can! I found a licensing office in Pennsylvania that will give us a marriage license. Matt and I already filled out all the paperwork and sent our birth certificates and all the other stuff. We have an appointment tomorrow morning. We’re going to finalize everything online.” She sighs a big, fat, excited sigh. “We’re going to get married on Saturday, just as we planned.”
“In Pennsylvania?” This is all so sudden. I’m thrilled but confused, too, as question after question tumbles through my brain.
“Yes. Unfortunately, or maybe not so unfortunately, we have to get married in Pennsylvania.”
“Chica! Let me finish. Desmond said we could have our ceremony just as we planned on Saturday afternoon—we can’t have it at sunset, unfortunately, so we’re going to have it around two o’clock. Then we’ll drive over the state line and restate our vows for the legal part.”
“We have a call into the minister to make sure he can still make it. We talked to him last week and he was still on board. The only thing is…”
Here it comes, I’ve been waiting for Hanna to tell her maid of honor what her role is.
“Jess, we can’t have any of the wedding party there. Not even our parents. Just Matt and me. And the minister and Desmond. We’re going to put it all on zoom and invite everybody to come. Will that be okay?”
“Will that be okay! Hanna, this is your wedding, on the very day you planned. I’ll be happy to watch online.” I’m slightly relieved, though I won’t say that. I was worried about what I’d do about Lori.
“I’m so glad. I was afraid you might be disappointed.”
“I would be if your wedding day passed and you hadn’t gotten married. This is wonderful. I’m so happy for you.”
Lori appears at my elbow.
“Lori, Tia Hanna is getting married on Saturday.”
My daughter does just what I want to do. She jumps up and down, her brown ponytail bouncing behind her. “Tia Hanna’s getting married. Tia Hanna’s getting married,” she sings.
Hanna and I laugh as I hold out the phone so she can hear her goddaughter. “I love living in a musical.”
“Are you wearing your dress?”
“Of course I am. With my white and silver cowboy boots.”
“Oh I forgot about those.”
“It’s really happening, Jess!” Then she quiets down for a moment. “I’m sorry you can’t be there. My best friend in the world and you won’t be there.”
“I know. I always thought we would be, just like you were at mine. But, well, these things happen. And you’re getting married.”
“Matt and I plan to have our first anniversary at the inn. Save the date.”
“I already have.”
Hanna signs off and her excitement hangs in the air.
“Are we going to the wedding, Mommy?” Lori’s face glows from all her dancing.
“Even better. We get to watch it on TV!”
Her eyes light up. Is anything as special as an event on television? “Ooooohhhhh,” she coos.
Am I disappointed? Maybe a little but not as much as if Saturday came and went just like any other plain, old Saturday. This will always be a special day for Hanna and Matt.
I put down the phone, my heart still fluttering from the news, and a thought strikes me. What a romantic thing it is that Hanna found a way to get married when everywhere she turned was a sign she shouldn’t or couldn’t or it wasn’t allowed. She is so ready for marriage that she has combed the countryside looking for some way to begin their married life together.
If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. I can’t stop the smile tugging at my lips as I sit down at the dining room for an hour of first grade homework.
Next Monday: CHAPTER 14—Jessica: Bad news first
Coming on Wednesday, the next audio chapter, Chapter 11— Dan: APRIL SHOWERS
Dan and Jessica’s story needs your ideas.
Every Monday I’ll post a new chapter until Dan and Jessica find love, lose it and, we hope, find their happily-ever-after. Do you have an idea, torn from your own pandemic stay-at-home saga, that might help them? (PS–This is torn from real life, for sure. Someday I’ll share the story. It’s wonderful.)
If you have a suggestion for #what happens next, send it along with your name and hometown to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Copy and paste the address, please.) Or comment below.
Together we can write a great story to remember the lockdown of 2020.
Ⓒ2020 MARY K. TILGHMAN