Home > The Wedding Gift

The Wedding Gift
Author: Carolyn Brown


Chapter 1



“How do you know you are marrying the right person, Granny?” Darla Marshall asked her grandmother.

Roxie leaned in so she could see her reflection better in the round mirror in the middle of the antique vanity. She hated putting on makeup these days, but some days a woman had to gussy up a little, and besides, it gave her a moment to think about what her youngest granddaughter had just asked. Her lipstick ran into the wrinkles around her mouth, and she only had a few gray eyelashes to even try to put mascara on. But makeup was secondary to answering her granddaughter’s question. Roxie had babysat Darla from the time she was six weeks old, so they had a close relationship, and she’d always tried to be there for the girl—to be honest with her even with difficult questions.

“Honey, you’d have to ask someone else that question,” Roxie said as she applied a little blush to her cheeks. “For the first year of my marriage, I didn’t think I had married the right person. There were times that I thought I’d married the devil himself.”

“But I always thought you and Gramps had the perfect marriage.” Darla plopped down on the bed behind Roxie. “How did you know he was your soulmate?”

Roxie stood up and crossed the room to her closet. She pulled off her gingham-checked snap-front duster and hung it up, took out her dress, and laid it on the end of the bed. “He was not my soulmate there at first, honey.”

“Then why did you marry him?” Darla asked.

“Because he was wild and dating him was exciting. Are you having second thoughts, child? Your mama and daddy are out a lot of money for you to be calling off the wedding.” Roxie’s eyes bored holes into Darla’s soul. “Are you going to need me to hide you from your mama? I’ve got some money put back to buy your wedding present, but if you need it to run away, we can use it for that. But only if you take me with you. I would far rather go to Hawaii or even to the beaches in Florida than to this damned old anniversary party.”

“Why would I hide from Mama?” Darla asked.

“Because she’s going to throw a pure old southern hissy fit if you pull one of them runaway-bride things. She told me last week that the wedding had already gone over the budget your dad gave her, and she hadn’t even paid the florist yet or the caterer,” Roxie answered as she pulled her mauve-colored dress over her head.

“Be careful not to muss up your hair. Mama would have a hissy fit over that too. I’m not planning on running away”—Darla squirmed a little at the lie because she never lied to her grandmother and the idea of calling off the wedding had crossed her mind—“but marriage is until death, and I just want to be sure I’m saying, ‘I do,’ to the right person.” She held up her engagement ring and stared at it for a while. “How do I know for absolute sure, Granny?”

“Gloria is good at hissy fits, but I got to admit, she’s been a wonderful daughter-in-law. She and Kevin gave me you three girls.” Roxie lowered her voice. “You do know you’re my favorite, don’t you?”

Darla giggled. “You tell that to all three of us sisters, but since you babysat me so much when I was little, we’ve kind of got a bond that Sarah and Marilyn don’t have with you. A bond”—Darla gave her the old stink eye—“that lets me know when you are evading my question because you don’t want to answer it.”

“Yes, we do have something special, and yes, I am beating around the bush, but not because I don’t want to answer. It’s because I’m not sure how to without going into a lot of detail. Would you zip me up, please?” Roxie turned around. “And you look more like me than the other two, so that makes you extra special.”

Darla hopped off the bed and zipped her grandmother’s dress. She loved it when folks told her that she looked like Roxie did when she was young. “You look beautiful today, Granny. I wish I’d gotten your red hair, and then we’d look even more alike. Did you have a big wedding when you and Gramps got married?”

“Lord, no!” Roxie went back to the vanity and fastened a strand of pearls around her neck. “We got married on the side of the road. My folks didn’t like Claud. The Marshall family lived up in the woods near the Red River just north of Powderly, Texas. They didn’t value education very much, and none of the ten boys in the family finished high school. They were Christian people—at least their mother was—and hardworking folks, but the daddy in the family liked his liquor and had a reputation for wasting money on poker games. Back in my younger days, and in my family, that was a bad thing.”

“But you fell in love with him even though he was a bad boy, right?” Darla handed Roxie the pearl earrings that matched her necklace.

“I thought I was in love with him,” Roxie answered. “There now, we’re ready to go to the church. I really do not want this damned party. I’m only going along with it for Kevin and Gloria’s sake. I wouldn’t let them do anything for our fiftieth anniversary, so when they came up with this idea, I agreed. I’d rather for me and you to go to the bank, clean out my savings account, and head south to Florida. We could be beach bums until the money runs out.”

“What do you mean, you thought you were in love with him? Didn’t you know for sure?” Darla asked.

“As you kids say, that’s a conversation for another day,” Roxie told her. “Claud is probably already pacing the living room floor, so we’d better get moving.”

The two of them walked down the hallway, across the foyer, and into the living room, where Darla’s grandfather Claud really was pacing back and forth from the window, around the sofa, and back to the window.

“Don’t Granny look beautiful today, Gramps?”

Her grandfather pointed at the clock. “We’re going to be late to this shindig if we don’t get going. Thank God it’s in the middle of the day and don’t mess up my television shows tonight.”

“Was Granny this pretty on your wedding day?” Darla asked.

“Honey, that was sixty years ago. I can barely remember who won the domino games down at the senior citizens’ place yesterday. I don’t know if she was as pretty then as she is now, but I imagine she was, or I wouldn’t have married her.” He headed outside. “Y’all best hurry, or this heat is going to melt the makeup right off your faces.”

“Well, that’s a romantic thing to say on your anniversary,” Darla fussed at him as she slid into the driver’s seat of her granny’s SUV, started the engine, and adjusted the air-conditioning.

“Honey, sometimes romance takes a back burner to plain old common sense. It’s hotter ’n Lucifer’s pitchfork. Turn up that air-conditioning so we can cool off and not go to the party all sweaty,” he said.

“Gramps, tell me about your wedding day.” Darla was determined to get him talking about the past. “Granny said y’all got married on the side of the road. Why would you do that?”

Claud chuckled. “Her folks lived in Paris, right in the middle of town in a little white house with a picket fence, and they went to church every Sunday. The family even had Sunday dinner where they all gathered around the table and passed the food proper like.”

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