Part 3 of 4 short stories written by our writer, Marissa.  To see the last installment, click here.

April: the story of a 22 year old woman who is questioning her future as a married woman.

Here’s what I know. Trevor made me believe in the fairytale. High school sweethearts bound for the same college, but since we once we arrived on campus my mind and eyes were open to a host of possibilities for my future I never thought about previously. This wasn’t the same for him, he was Mr. Popular in high school, but when we started college, he never seemed to hit his stride, so it didn’t surprise me when he enlisted.  What did surprise me is when he decided he wanted me to come along for the ride and proposed.

I love him. It’s always been us even before we were US. Our families have known each other since we were kids. So naturally, I said yes…and then the floor fell out. For the past two months, my life has been on a tailspin. Who knew that a simple two-word response would mark a litany of to-dos and checklists.  All these choices for a single moment in time, a moment that will serve as a lifelong milestone.

Staring at myself in this mirror, propped up on a pedestal I reminisce about the music boxes my mother used to buy me, the type with the twirling ballerina dressed in white. Perfectly positioned going round and round.  Now here I stand at age of 22, under layers of silk and tulle, anything but perfect, but expected to make all the right decisions for my future.  If I am honest, I am only allowed to make ‘this or that’ decisions. All the major decisions have already been made for me; I am only asked to choose between two heavily curated options both of which have already met my mother’s approval.

“You look beautiful” I can hear my mother’s voice in the background, validating the 20th dress (of her choosing) I’ve tried on today. She means well, but she’s not helping. I turn away from her voice back to the mirror and let my mind wander. Is this the dress? Is this the dress I will wear when my life changes? When I trade my father’s name for his? Become ‘his’ wife and enter into ‘our’ life together? Is this dress the last dress I wear as a single woman? I wasn’t sure what dress that was, but I was sure this wasn’t it.

So, I strip. Right there in the middle of the bridal shop and I stand there in my bridal lingerie. I let the dress slip down my shoulders and around my waist. Looking at myself nearly naked and I think – “hey you, there you are”.  I stand there a moment allowing myself a few seconds of quiet amongst the insanity, relishing the few moments alone with myself. Until the phone rings.

I ignore the call as I step over the $4,000 pooled around my ankles and sit down. Here I am weeks away from my wedding and I find myself wondering if I am ready to give up on a life I have yet to start to build another with someone else.  What would my life look like if I opted to pursue my interests? Is this selfish of me to even consider this close to my wedding date? Or maybe my life will begin again when we are alone stationed miles away?

I sat staring at my ring.

My mother steps into my field of vision and asks, “Have you made a choice”? I open my lips slightly, half hoping she had somehow read my mind and was prompting me to say what was just out of reach. Yet, I knew she was talking about the dress. I nod. Quickly, as if afraid I’d change my mind, she turns and walks to the cashier to close the deal.

It’s not my style, it’s entirely overpriced, but it fits perfectly, and we don’t have time for alterations, so why not. Even with the tight timeline of Trevor’s deployment date, my mother demanded that we have a ‘proper wedding’.  I know this is my mother’s fairytale.  She had two daughters and I am her last chance. She didn’t get to give my sister the big wedding she always planned when my older sister opted to elope a few years ago.  Part of me feels I am the recipient of recycled choices made for her.

My big sister. She’s always been in control of her life. She seemed to know what she wanted from day one and has never let anyone tell her otherwise. I found myself envying her now. She’s six years older and in ways we sometimes we couldn’t be any more different, but still, I find myself wondering what would she say if I told her how I was feeling? Would she condemn me or comfort me?

I step into the dressing room and return the call I ignored just moments earlier. Two rings and my sister’s voice meet mine in unison as we both manically scream “I need to talk to you! “.