Jodie pulled her sleeveless, old sundress out of the closet and began bracing herself, as she always did, for the agonizing hours she would have to spend in the company of the love of her life. She breathed deeply as she gathered her sensible sandals from the closet floor and set the ensemble on the bed. She willed herself to stay in the present, focusing on the cold dampness of her hair, the rough texture of the towel around her shoulders.
She rang the excess water out of her hair and imagined the day in front of her, the sheer joy, the laughter of her children, her grandchildren. She couldn't wait to kiss all those chubby cheeks and whirl her youngest grandson through the air to see his bright eyes light up.
She quickly donned her light undergarments and grabbed a robe from behind the door. Feeling anxious, she made her way down the hall to the kitchen where she could hear someone making breakfast.
"Morning, Connor," Jodie greeted her son with a smile. "How's my little Joshua?" She took the small boy from her son’s hip and gave Connor a kiss on the cheek.
"Sleep well?" Connor asked. "I've got bacon and scrambled eggs on the table and pancakes in the works."
"You're going to spoil everyone, and then every time they come back they'll expect it," Jodi warned.
"Let me worry about that. Watch out, he's got your hair."
"Relax, you used to grab fistfuls of my hair and yank," she admonished.
"Josh takes after me. Brandy swears she's going to go bald."
Jodi tickled the brown eyed boy cooing into her face, "You really did make the most adorable babies. Not that I don't love all my grand kids equally," she tickled Josh under the chin, "but he could be a model!"
"For diapers, maybe. It's those dimples," he indulged. "They suck you right in. That's how I got away with everything when I was a kid."
"You did not!" Jodi protested, but he was right. Conner had gotten away with a lot of things, as had his sisters. They hadn't exactly run a tight ship with their kids, but all three turned out just fine.
"Heard from Mellie?" she asked. "I should get dressed and head over there before she starts panicking. I would bring this little guy to help, but he might just throw up all over her dress. Wouldn't you, Josh?" she nuzzled his nose and he laughed. "It would be funny, for about two minutes. Then she'd kill me."
“Not a peep. Brandy should be dressed soon and you can drive over together if you want. I heard Chad get up with the girls about twenty minutes ago. They’ve been running around in the back yard. Ella’s pissed. Brandy won’t let her play with them because she doesn’t want Ella to ruin her dress.”
Jodi laughed and walked Josh over to the back door where she could hear distant shrieks and giggles. “Can I take this one?” she called.
“Promise not to give him back!”
Jodi opened the back door and made her way down the dewy lawn where her granddaughters were getting covered in green stains. “Morning, Chad!” she called to her son-in-law. “Krissy! Chloe!” She waved to the girls.
“Grandma!” they shouted exuberantly and almost barreled her over with hugs. “Can we play with Josh, please? Pretty, pretty please?”
“I’m almost eight, I’m old enough to hold him,” Krissy reasoned.
“He can walk,” Jodi laughed, “just each take a hand.” The girls, happy to have found a new toy, each latched onto a chubby hand and began prancing him around the yard.
“Morning, Jodi. God, every time I play with them for more than ten minutes I feel like my back pops out,” Chad remarked, hugging his mother-in-law.
“It’s called ‘getting old.’ Get used to it,” she smirked. “Glad you got in alright after that bachelor party. Heard from Kayla this morning?”
“About an hour ago. Mellie was up and freaking out,” he hedged.
“Ah,” Jodi winced. “I guess I should head over there.”
“Hey, Jodi?” Chad called after her. “Might want to put on some real clothes first.”
She glared at him indignantly and pulled her robe closer together as she trudged up the wet grass to the house. She snatched a piece of toast from the table and decided that would have to do as she began to sprinkle a little makeup here and there in a half-hearted attempt to make herself look younger. She gave up after a few swipes of mascara and called it good, pulling on her sundress and tucking a curling iron into her bag. I’ll make Kayla do my hair, she thought gleefully.
She shrugged on a light sweater and made sure her cell phone was fully charged before she tucked into her car and set off to the hotel where Mellie and Kayla spent the night. Outside the door to the hotel room stood a cart piled high with half eaten plates of food. Jodi could hear screaming through the wood and took a deep breath before she knocked.
“Mom!” Kayla toppled onto her in a relieved hug. “I’m so glad you’re here! Mellie is going crazy!” she whispered.
“You did, too,” Jodi mocked and pulled away, smiling. “Where’s my baby girl?”
“Mom?” Mellie whimpered. She was in a hotel desk chair, knees huddled to her chest. She looked like she’d been crying, and her hair stylist stood on the bed, brandishing a hairbrush like a sword in defense.
“Oh, Mellie,” Jodi couldn’t help but laugh and set her things down so she could hug her daughter. “You look like you’ve had a rough morning?” Mellie nodded and clenched her jaw. “Okay. Have you eaten? Showered? Shaved your legs? That one is important because Tyler will be expecting it.”
At the last one Mellie laughed and Kayla crashed back onto her bed with a sigh. “Yeah, I shaved,” she hedged.
“Alright. Everything is here because I brought it over yesterday. Today’s going to go off without a hitch. You love him, right?”
“Yeah,” Mellie smiled.
“And you want to hear him snore and rub your cold feet on him and watch movies with him and eat dinner with him for the rest of your life?”
“Yeah,” Mellie’s eyes crinkled.
“Then we have to get your hair done, babe, because if he sees you like this he might run away.”
Mellie cackled and the tension in the room lifted. Jodi felt Mellie grab her hand, “I love you, Mom. Thanks for being here.”
“Where else would I be? Plus, I need Kayla to do my hair.”
“I wasn’t sure if I should say something about that. It’s still sort of wet and crazy,” Kayla chimed in.
“Always say something,” Jodi advised. “Come plug my curling iron in. Tina, you can come down off the bed, Mellie won’t attack now.” The stylist jumped off the bed and slowly made her way to the now seemingly stable bride. Jodi pulled up a second chair and linked hands with Mellie as Kayla began to sort out the tangled, damp mess on her head and smiled at both of her girls.
The photographer popped in a short while later, taking pictures of the getting ready process while his partner was photographing the groom. In little more than an hour, Mellie was ready to go. After using the bathroom for the third time, Jodi was finally convinced Mellie could put on the big, fluffy wedding dress. It took all three of them to help Mellie step into it without ripping any of its many layers, and finally Kayla zipped up the back and let down the train. Kayla stepped back and threw an arm around Jodi’s shoulders.
“You look stunning,” Jodi smiled, trying not to cry.
“Yes, yes, gorgeous,” the photographer said, trying to find a good light. He took several photographs of the three of them, and Tina, and then followed them down the hall and into the back of Jodi’s rental car - shutter clicking all the way.
The wedding and reception were being held outdoor at a private garden, so they ushered Mellie into a conference room on the premises. The photographer wanted more pictures and Jodi began to feel underfoot.
“I’m going to make sure everything is on schedule. I’ll be back soon. Want me to deliver any messages?” she teased Mellie.
Mellie flushed. “Just tell him…Tell him I’m glad he’s human, and I’m human too.” Jodi raised an eyebrow but Mellie refused to explain. “He’ll get it.”
“O-kay, then,” she laughed and made her way through the grounds to where the chairs had been set up. There were quite a few people milling around even though the wedding was still almost 45 minutes away.
“Tyler!” she called to the pacing groom. She brought him into a motherly hug. “How are you feeling?” He was noticeably twitchy.
“Uh, fine. How’s Mellie?” he asked nervously.
“She told me to tell you she is glad you’re human and something about her being human too,” she looked at him expectantly as he grinned.
“Did she tell you what that meant?” Tyler’s brows furrowed.
“No, she said you’d know.”
“Okay, good.” He breathed and hugged Jodi fiercely. She patted him reluctantly but her ire was sparked. What the hell are all the secret messages about? She didn’t have time to puzzle over it as she caught sight of a couple arriving over Tyler’s shoulder. All the air left her lungs like she’d been sucker punched.
Angie looked gorgeous with a short, summer haircut shimmering in the morning sun. Her eyes seemed clear and piercing across the grass and she smiled widely at Brandy and Ella arguing in the front row. Phil was standing next to her, button up shirt and slacks, relaxed, friendly. Habit had her biting back tears quickly, before her eyes could redden.
Jodi hugged Tyler a little closer to her like a shield and took a quick moment to regain her mental footing before she let go. “You let me know if you need anything,” she told him, but her mind was still half on Angie. “You’re family now.”