Chapter 39: Marry You
"Hack it all off. I don't even care," I said waving my hand dramatically. I just went ahead and made another impulsive decision for the first time in a while. It was the day of my parents' vow renewal and when I rolled over that morning, it was in a matted mess from milk that had leaked from one of Fauna's bottles. I was in a panic. As much as I tried to wash it, brush it, and run a flat iron over it, I still didn't have any luck. It didn't even look halfway decent. It took everything in me not to shatter the mirror with my fist when I came to the realization that as long as my hair flowed down my back, almost to my waist, the more likely I was to wake up to this on a daily basis. It reminded me of all the mornings I would wake up to a headache because someone had to pull my hair into a tight bun the night before just so it wouldn't be covered in puke. That thought made me even angrier. Correlating the two events is what drove me to wanting to get rid of it all.
I sat in front of the vanity mirror in my moms bathroom with Jada standing over me, nervously clutching a pair of scissors in her hand. "You sure?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. She ran her fingers through my thick locks for a few minutes and then sighed. "Absolutely. It's more trouble than it's worth," I replied. "I'd have to blow half a stack to get weave even remotely close to being this long and thick," she said, sounding defeated.
I needed a new look. I loved my hair, but it was time for a change. It had to go. For most of my life, my mom had been the one taking care of my hair and that's probably the only reason why it had such incredible length to it. She would never allow me to cut it or dye it. I would only ever straighten it and pull it up in a bun on top of my head and left it at that. It was surprising that it hadn't started breaking off by now.
"A little black girl is somewhere crying," she said as she snipped away. "Too bad. I want this shit
gone," I said before she could make me regret it. I wanted to feel brand new.
"It won't be too bad, I suppose. Your parents are doing this outside and the heat would be insane if you didn't cut it." Thankfully, she was finally beginning to agree with me. Jada and I didn't fight as much as she and Danny did. She was very persuasive, but I was very firm. Our personalities clashed. I knew that that would happen from the very beginning. She walked around like there were paparazzi hiding in the bushes and I would roll out of bed and throw on whatever wasn't stained. Even before becoming a mom, that's how I was. I was usually trying to avoid attention and she fed off of it.
When it came to Fauna and what she would wear, Jada would fight with me about it. She'd show up to our house with shopping bags and I'm pretty sure that at this point, Fauna had to have had a dress or romper for every day of the year. Her closet was completely packed and I would secretly pass bags of clothes with the tags still on them to Rachel. She was a baby. She didn't need to be dressed like she was getting ready for a photo shoot. It was nearly impossible sometimes because like most babies, she would spit up and after an outfit change or two, she was content with hanging out in just her diaper.
I was grateful that she cared so much and would buy her anything she laid her eyes on and we would compromise, but the giant bows that were bigger than her head were completely out of the question. Sometimes, she would want me and Fauna both to wear flashy clothes and would try to push me into wearing high heels all the time for absolutely no reason. I didn't have anybody to impress, so it was pointless. Again, she didn't try to fight with me. Ever since graduation, she and I had gotten pretty close. Most of my friends were about to take off and I didn't have any hard feelings about it, but I still felt lonely. Jada usually came over to spend the day with Fauna and I and we ended up hitting it off.
I knew that she had been lonely too. She even took to spending time with me and my mom. The two of them were made for each other. They were crazy about detail and going above and beyond with whatever they set their hearts on. It was like Jada was the older sister and other daughter that Mom and I always wanted. Jada never really came out and said it, but I knew that she was growing attached to us because of the way she parted ways with her parents and all of the bullshit they put her through.
"What the hell is a vow renewal anyway?" she asked. "I don't know. I thought it was a way for couples to start over after they've cheated on each other," I said sarcastically. She gasped, her mouth hanging open for a second. "I'm joking! It's just something they do after they've been married for a while. It's like taking a walk down memory lane." The expression on her face was more calm and she went back to snipping the ends of my hair.
"Done!" She said cheerfully. I pulled myself back to reality and stared blankly into the mirror at my reflection. Instead of freaking out because I didn't look like myself, my heart felt like it was about to burst because I saw this as a clean slate.
Now, my hair rested slightly above my shoulders, perfectly framing my face. It was still thick, but I shook my head a little, excited because it felt so much lighter. "It could use a little color, but you can curl it, pull it up, whatever you want. It just won't get in the way now." I was still lost in my appearance. I looked like a completely different person. It made my face look a little more slim and I swear that it made my eyes look slightly wider. I actually looked my age when before, my hair usually made me look like I was twelve. I had never changed my hair before, so people always looked at me the same. I would often feel like a child and some people would treat me that way. "You never know what the power of a good haircut can do," she said with a smile. I was still speechless.
I ran my fingers through it, still obsessed with the weight and fluffed it out a few times. "How does it make me look?" I asked, hoping that I didn't look stupid to anyone else. "Striking. You look older. At least twenty," she said honestly. Jada may have been the one to do the job, but she was still going to be honest with me. I knew that she would speak up and tell me if I looked like shit. "You really look all grown up now," she said proudly.
I could hear footsteps coming up the stairs. "Syd, which dress is the baby wearing?" I heard Tess call out as she approached the door. I couldn't wait to see everyone's reaction when they saw my new hair. This was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of what was to come.
"No idea. Come here for a second," I said anxiously. Her footsteps continued and she was holding up two fluffy white dresses on clothes hangers. She looked up and stood dead in her tracks, staring at me as her eyes grew wider. Her eyes darted from my head to the pile of black hair around the chair I was sitting in. "MISSY!!!!" she wailed. I couldn't help but burst into laughter. I looked over and Jada was holding her ears in horror.
"Mom! What the hell is wrong with you?!" Aunt Lily yelled as she came bounding up the stairs. She entered the bathroom and froze. Her eyes were glued to my head and her jaw dropped, nearly hitting the floor. "MISSY!!!!" she shrieked.
"What the hell is going on!" Mom shouted over the two of them as she pushed her way into the bathroom. Her eyes first landed on the pile of hair and then she looked up and stared at me. Her mouth hung open and I was hoping that she wasn't about to start screaming too.
She took a few steps closer to me and immediately ran her fingers through my hair. "Lord, child. What have you done?" she said slowly as she continued to fluff it out with her hands. "I dunno. I thought I needed something new," I said. I was getting nervous. Whenever I did something wild and impulsive in the past, Mom would fly off the handle. I learned that she could throw some pretty wicked punches and a dinner plate or two. I was worried about the haircut making me look stupid, but right now I was worried about getting my ass beat.
The two of us stared into the mirror at my hair as a smile slowly crept across her lips. "I love it." She smiled widely at me. "Really?" I almost screamed from the relief. "It's bittersweet. You look older, but you're not a baby anymore. The cut fits the part. Now, we've got about two more hours to finish getting ready and we don't need Maw maw having a heart attack before we get started," she said happily.
I looked at Jada again, she had been holding her breath. She actually looked more relieved than I did. "Come on. You two looked like you got caught red handed stirring up some trouble." With the way that Tess and Aunt Lily reacted, I thought we had stirred up enough trouble to last a life time. "Today is the day for new beginnings. Let's get this show on the road," Mom said as she clapped her hands together dramatically. "Ya'll damn kids are gonna put me in an early grave," Tess said as she marched out of the room and back downstairs. Jada and I couldn't hold back our laughter. That was definitely a moment for the books.
I took one final look in the mirror with a smile. That was all I needed to fall completely in love with the idea of starting over.
"Tell me again what possessed you to chop off all of your hair?" Danny said with a smirk. I rested my head on his shoulder as we swayed to the music. "I just needed a change," I shrugged. "Well, it's not much for me to pull on anymore, but I can get used to it." I chuckled. Today had been filled with more emotions than the entire past year. Seeing Danny all cleaned up in a suit and tie was a first and it definitely left me with the dilemma of falling all over him and gushing over how good he looked or pushing him into the nearest room with a lock on the door to show him how I really felt about it.
I looked up at him with a smirk. "Well, if you decide to take to wearing ties more often, I can get used to having something to pull on too," I said with a wink. "Calm down," he said with a chuckle. "I can't! Seeing you like this makes me want to get out of this dress," I said, flirting with you even more. His hand drifted from the small of my back and he palmed my ass. "You'll be out of it soon enough, but you have to be good for now," he said with a sneaky grin. A familiar fire was growing inside me and I was hoping that he wasn't just being a tease.
Tess took to hanging onto Fauna as much as she could. She was extremely proud of the fact that she was a great-grandmother. As soon as she laid eyes on her, she stole her heart. Fauna had that effect on a lot of people. She even volunteered to take her off of our hands for the night. Danny agreed to it before I could even ponder the idea. I let Jada have her way and she slapped a gigantic white bow on top of her head that matched perfectly with a dress that made her look like an elegantly decorated cupcake with white ruffle socks on. I drew the line with shoes. I refused to spend the rest of the night keeping up with a tiny pair of shoes that were still a little too big for her to keep on her feet.
A lot of my cousins and other distant relatives were shocked by how much I had changed. It had been years since I had seen any of them, but that was the Whitherspoon way. We only came together for weddings and funerals. They knew that they would have to feel Missy's wrath if they didn't show up. Dad's family were the ones to always show up to events dressed to kill. They all loved to make an appearance even though they could be rough around the edges.
Mom and Dad were as happy as newlyweds. We couldn't separate them from each other. "They look so happy," I said softly. I was amazed. My parents gave me hope when it came to being married some day. It was rocky there for a while and both of them made mistakes, but they were able to learn from it and make it work. I was especially happy for Mom. She'd made me proud by owning up to how badly she had fucked up. Their marriage could have went down the drain and that could have pushed me even further from the two of them, but she actually wanted to fix it. Seeing the two of them together was the only thing I knew for most of my life. They had been married for two years by the time I came along. I had seen them fight and I'd seen both of them shed a few tears, but I was thankful that I was able to see the two of them pull things back together.
I always thought that seeing the two of them at their worst was what made me dysfunctional when it came to relationships, but I learned to be forgiving and go on through life with your significant other as the center of your world. They shared twenty years together with a daughter and a granddaughter to show for it. Most people my age didn't get married and only stayed in shitty relationships simply because they had kids together and refused to have children with anyone else. They stayed miserable just because they worried about just another stupid stigma that came with living in Welch.
If I would have stuck with that shit, I would have never parted ways with Dean and who knows where I could have ended up. It may not have seemed like it, but my parents gave me hope. Things can be shitty for a while if you let it and I didn't to live that way. "Twenty years down and forever to go," Danny said happily. I smiled and wrapped my arms around him tighter. Hearing those words come from his mouth made me even more hopeful.
"Missy, time to toss the bouquet!" Aunt Lily shouted over the music. The song quickly changed and the tune of Marry You by Bruno Mars came rolling out of the speakers, changing the atmosphere.
Danny stepped away from me, waving as I was whisked into the crowd of women with Candace on one arm and Kyla on the other practically dragging me. "Hell no!" I shouted, trying to object. I tried to put my feet down to keep them from pulling me along any further, but they were getting tangled and my cousins were the only reason why I didn't fall and bust my ass in the heels I was wearing. "Hell yes! You're not getting out of this!" Candace cackled. Kyla giggled as they pulled me to the center of the dance floor. "I swear to God! I'm going to kill you bitches!" I said, panicking when I noticed that all eyes were on me. The two of them scurried into the crowd around me.
"Throw it hard Missy!" my great Aunt Deb yelled. Aunt Lily and Tess stood with the men and kids, watching all of us as they held back their laughter. I locked eyes with Danny who was only a few feet away from me, also enjoying the show. "Help! I can't catch! I've got butter fingers for Christ's sake!" I shouted frantically. "Nope, you're not getting out of this!" Mom objected. Bouquet tosses could get pretty brutal. I'd seen women tackling and diving on top of each other for it because of the Old Wives' Tale that if you caught it, you would be the next to get married. In my family, you could almost bank on seeing a few women throwing punches.
Mom turned her back to the crowd, tightly holding the bouquet of light pink roses in her hand. Oh fuck me, I thought. There had been a reason why I never played any sports that involved catching anything. I didn't have an ounce of coordination. Please don't knock me in the head, I said to myself as I panicked even more.
"One, two," she counted loudly as she raised the bouquet over her head, preparing to toss it. "Three!" she finally shouted. She turned on her heels and stepped toward me, extending the flowers out for me to grab. What the hell?
She laughed uncontrollably at my expression. "What the fuck?" I mouthed. She forced the flowers in my hands and grabbed the tops of my shoulders to make me turn around. My head was swimming and my heart raced from being completely lost.
I found Danny, down on one knee, holding a tiny white box and couldn't help but to let out a scream. "Oh my God!" I doubled over, grabbing my stomach and I couldn't hold back the laughter or hide the smile on my face. The crowd erupted around us and we were surrounded by the flashes of what seemed like a thousand cameras.
Now I understood the song choice. "I can't believe you! I already said yes!" I said, continuing to laugh. He chuckled. "You know me better than that. I had to do it right and you know your mom." He hinted at the fact that Mom wanted it to be over the top and she wanted to be there to see the shock on my face. I should have known that I wasn't getting off that easy. She lived for surprising people and I was beginning to think the same thing about Danny.
Any other time, I would have been furious and embarrassed. I hated surprises. But I could only kick off my shoes and dive into his arms, throwing my arms around his neck and never want to let go. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" I screamed quickly. My make up wouldn't have survived a big elaborate speech. Just like with Danny, having Fauna had made me soft and I could cry at the drop of a hat. "Don't say a word! Just kiss me!" I grabbed his face with both hands and kissed him, forgetting that we were surrounded by friends and family. He knew that I had become a cry baby and that would have just been more entertainment for him and all of the guests. I knew that today would send my emotions all over the place, but they got me. I definitely didn't expect this.
I grabbed his hands and we got back onto our feet. He pulled the ring out of the box and slipped it onto my finger. It was much more than I would have ever imagined. It was gold with two small diamonds on each side with a larger one sitting in the middle. It was the most breath taking piece of jewelry I'd ever laid my eyes on and it actually meant something. The ring was the key to our forever and happily ever after.
The crowd settled down as the song came to a close. Mom and Aunt Lily were at my side when Danny stepped away to find our daughter for pictures. "He got you good," Mom said. My eyes stayed locked on my ring. "Ya'll weren't slick!" I shouted, still surprised. Tess approached us and gave her congratulations and well wishes. "You were right. You're not a baby anymore. I remember changing you little girls' little butts. Now you're getting married," she said with tears in her eyes. I could tell that her words were sincere and I was finally able to let down my wall that was always up when she was around. A part of my heart was sad that we had spent so many years at each others' necks, but another part was hopeful and looking forward to making up for it.
I was beginning to wonder what was taking Danny so long. I whipped my head around and found him huddled up with Candace, Reggie, and Rachel with Fauna cradled into his arms. Reggie rubbed his forehead and the expressions on Candace and Rachel's faces didn't match the mood around us. Danny stood with his jaw clenched. Something was wrong. I could see it all over his face.
"I'll catch up with you guys later," I said, pulling away from my family to slip my shoes back on. I glided across the room to the three of them. "What's up? Why do ya'll look so pissed off?" Rachel and Candace stared at me with wide eyes. They looked like they were panicking on the inside and their lips remained sealed. "Well?" I asked, sounding annoyed. I turned to Reggie and he refused to look me in the eye. "Reg, what the hell is going on?" He didn't speak. The three of them were getting paler by they minute and I was getting frustrated.
Danny turned and locked eyes with my mom. She stormed over with her dress bunched up in her arms. "Grab the baby, please." His voice was shaky and he started to break out in a sweat. Mom raised an eyebrow and she was as confused as I was. "Ya'll look like you've seen a ghost," she said with a chuckle, trying to lighten the mood.
Jada stormed over, just as pale as they were and whatever it was that they were keeping from me, I knew that she wouldn't hold back. "Jada, what's going on?" I asked desperately. Her eyes looked over at Danny. He gulped and nodded.
"They found Dean," she said slowly, taking both of my hands and holding them in hers. The expression in her eyes was scaring me. "Okay?" I said seriously. The suspense was killing me and I couldn't piece it all together based on the little bit of information that she had given me. I needed someone to actually put into words what I was beginning to suspect.
I didn't think it was possible, but I was fearing the worst. "Go ahead, Jada. Say it." I was shaking and getting lightheaded. Danny stood behind me with his hand on my hip. I knew that he was afraid that I was going to pass out. I started hyperventilating after feeling my heart drop. She paused for a moment, pressing her lips together to prepare to spit it out.
My knees gave out, hitting the floor with all of my weight. I knew that they would be bruised by the next morning, but that was the least of my worries. I had to focus on holding myself together, but I didn't think I was going to have the strength to do it. He sent me through hell and back for two years and I couldn't believe that I was acting this way. Death had a way of sending you spiraling out of control, making you question your strength when it was someone you knew. It was even worse when it was someone you thought you'd never see yourself without. Just that thought caused everything to stop around me. I wrapped my arms around my torso as I gasped in an attempt to catch my breath.
There it was. All I needed was that validation to send me spiraling into a full blown breakdown. "I-I-I just talked to him. I told him goodbye. It's my fault," I rambled. I had no control over what I was saying. My mind was flooding with guilt and I could feel myself coming apart at the seams.
Danny and Reggie pulled me from the floor and as soon as I was able to regain the strength in my legs, I buried my face in Danny's chest. He didn't say a word and he wasn't angry that I was falling apart over someone that could have killed me. He kept his hand on my back as I continued to sob. Everyone around me faded into nothing and it felt like I was fading away from reality.