Maybe for our first dance, though.
Each night after Mama and Daddy put us all to bed, I’d hear music playing downstairs in the living room. It was the same song every single time: Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me”—their first dance song. Tiptoeing out of my room, I went to the top of the staircase and looked downstairs. The lights were dimmed, Daddy took Mama’s hand and asked her a question. “Dance with me?” he asked her every night before they started to dance. Daddy was spinning Mama around in circles, both of them giggling like they were kids. Mama had a glass of wine in her hand, and as Daddy swayed her, the wine flew from the glass and onto the white carpet. They giggled even more at the mess and pulled each other closer. Mama’s head rested against Daddy’s chest as he whispered into her ear, and they danced so slow.
That’s what true love meant to me.
True love meant you could laugh at mistakes.
True love meant you could whisper secrets.
True love meant you never had to dance alone.
The next morning, I woke ready for the day ahead of me. “Today is the rehearsal for my wedding day!” I shouted, stretching my arms out and jumping up and down on my bed. “It’s my rehearsal! It’s my rehearsal day!”
Calvin stumbled into my bedroom, rubbing his hands over his sleepy eyes. “Gosh, Maggie, can you shut it? It’s three in the morning,” he griped, yawning.
I smirked. “It doesn’t matter, because it’s my rehearsal day, Calvin!”
He grumbled some more and called me a name, but I didn’t care.
Daddy stumbled into my room almost exactly how my brother had, rubbing his eyes and yawning. He walked over to my bed, and I wrapped my arms around his neck, forcing him to hold me up in the air.
“Daddy, guess what? Guess what?” I shrieked with excitement.
“Let me guess, you’re having your wedding rehearsal today?”
I nodded quickly and laughed as he tiredly spun me around in a circle. “How did you know?”
He smirked. “Lucky guess.”
“Can you make her stop yelling so we can go back to bed?” Calvin groaned. “It’s not even a real wedding!”
I gasped and went to sass him for his lies, but Daddy stopped me, whispering, “Someone’s not a morning person. How about we all go back to bed for a few hours, and then I’ll cook you a day-before-wedding-day breakfast?”
“Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream?”
“And sprinkles!” He smiled.
Calvin stomped his grumpy butt back to his room, and Daddy laid me back down on my bed, giving me Eskimo kisses. “Try to get a few more hours of sleep, okay, honey? You have a big day ahead of you.” He tucked me in, the same way he did each and every night.
“And, Maggie May?”
“The world keeps spinning because your heartbeats exist.” He’d said those words to me every single day, as long as I could remember.
When he left the room, he shut the light off, and I lay in bed, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark star stickers on my ceiling, smiling wide with my hands over my chest, where I felt each and every one of my heartbeats that kept the world spinning.
I knew I was supposed to be sleeping, but I couldn’t, because it was the day before my wedding day, and I was about to marry a boy who didn’t know it yet, but was going to be my best friend once we made it to our ten-year anniversary.
He’d probably need those ten years to realize he did indeed want to be my husband.
And we’d obviously live happily ever after.
When morning came, I was the first one up, waiting downstairs for my waffles. Daddy and Mama were still sleeping when I creeped into their bedroom.
“Hey, you guys awake?” I whispered. Nothing. Poking Daddy in the cheek, I repeated myself. “Hey, you awake, Daddy?”
“Maggie May, it’s not time to get up yet,” he murmured.
“But, you said you’d make waffles!” I whined.
“In the morning.”
“It is morning,” I groaned and walked over to their windows, pulling back the drapes. “See? The sun is out.”
“The sun is a liar, that’s why God created curtains,” Mama yawned, rolling on her side. She opened her eyes and glanced at the clock on her nightstand. “Five-thirty a.m. on a Saturday is not the morning, Maggie May. Now get back to bed, and we’ll come wake you up.”
They didn’t wake me until eight in the morning—but surprisingly I was already up. The day went slower than I wanted it to, and my parents made me go watch Cheryl’s dance recital, which lasted longer than it should’ve, but once we got home, I was ready to head out to Brooks.
Mama told me I could only go off to play if I took Cheryl with me, but even after I apologized to her, she still didn’t want to be my maid of honor, so I had to sneak off on my own to go meet Brooks in the woods. I skipped down the streets of the neighborhood, taking in the perfectly mowed lawns and perfectly planted flowers. Harper County was a small town where everyone knew everyone, so it wouldn’t be long before Mama got a call saying so-and-so saw me skipping down the street alone. Therefore, I had to be quick.
Just not too quick, because I always had to stop on the corner of my block, look both ways down the road, then cross the street to Mrs. Boone’s house. Mrs. Boone’s lawn was the complete opposite of everyone else’s. She had flowers growing everywhere, with no kind of order at all. Yellow roses, lavender, poppies—you named a flower, and it was probably growing in Mrs. Boone’s yard.
Nobody ever bothered stopping by the old lady’s house. Everyone called her rude, grumpy, and standoffish. Mostly she sat alone on her front porch, swaying back and forth in her rocker, mumbling to herself as her cat, Muffins, rolled around in the yard.
My favorite time of the day was when Mrs. Boone went inside to make herself some tea. She drank more tea than anyone I’d ever seen. One day Cheryl and I watched her from across the street and were blown away by the number of times Mrs. Boone left her rocker and came back with a cup of tea.
Whenever she disappeared into the house, I’d sneak into her front yard, which was guarded by a white picket fence. I’d smell as many flowers as possible then roll around in the high grass with Muffins.
That night, I hurried into her yard, because I didn’t have much time before I had to meet Brooks.