Through All the Dust
Chapter Seven: A Change in Expectations
“Don’t be stupid,” Brian laughed.
I protested, “I’m not being stupid. I’m trying to be sensitive.”
“You’re being stupid,” Brian insisted.
“Given everything that’s going on,” I explained again. “You don’t need to feel like you have to come with me. I can go on my own.”
Brian raised an eyebrow, “Is it that you don’t think I need to come or that you don’t want me to come?”
“Bri,” I smiled, cupping his face in my hands. “I want you to come with me everywhere. But if you’re not feeling up to the trip…”
“Just book me a seat, crazy lady,” Brian smirked, giving me a quick kiss on the forehead before disappearing into the back of the house.
He’d been acting more and more like himself and was adamant that he’d be joining me in Massachusetts.
My aunt had never come for a visit like she’d said she would. We hardly spoke, but when we did it was definitely more civil than it had ever been in the past. That, however, did not mean I was ready to subject my grieving Brian to her negativity. I wasn’t anticipating a positive reaction to news of our betrothal.
Regardless, the next morning Brian was on the plane with me. He was cracking jokes about my constant snoring—but found it strange that it was only on planes, never at home.
“I don’t fucking snore!” I hissed louder than I meant to.
He widened his eyes with a particularly amused sort of grin, “No need to yell at me.”
“Shut up,” I whined.
To my relief, Brian spent most of the flight deep inside his headphones. He said he’d been given instructions from Matt to listen to a couple of demos he’d put together. Brian—err, Syn—was supposed to weigh in with suggestions and thoughts the second we touched back down in California.
“Enjoy the time away with your almost wife,” Matt had smiled. “You deserve it.”
I’d only wished we were going somewhere more exotic…more relaxing.
As Brian worked, I decided I should work too. Mine was less audio-based, though. I’d been scribbling lyrics into my notebook for hours. I’d almost gotten them perfect when the flight attendant announced we were arriving.
We collected our bags from the baggage claim and took it upon ourselves to rent a car. No more convenient way to escape awkward situations than being able to drive away.
“Who should we hit first?” I asked as Brian drove us away from the airport.
He smiled pleasantly at me, “Whoever you want.”
“Carolyn,” I sighed. “Get that over with.”
I directed Brian as he drove, running through what I was going to say to her over and over again. She was going to ruin it for me—and I needed to be prepared for that. I could handle it.
As Brian pulled over just outside her house, I started to panic a little. I hadn’t even been this nervous when I’d told her I was leaving to make the move to California.
I knocked at the door and my heart pumped into my ears as we waited.
To my surprise, a man opened the door. He looked at me the way I was looking at him, like who the fuck are you?
“Uh—hi,” I said awkwardly. “Is…Is Carolyn here?”
“Just one second,” he smiled before slamming the door shut in my face.
Brian smirked, “Who the fuck was that?”
I shrugged, “Beats me.”
Within a few seconds, my aunt appeared at the door. She looked almost disheveled—I think it was the first time I’d ever seen her hair down. It dangled in loose curls just passed her shoulders. She looked really nice.
“Blair?” she gasped when she saw me. “You know, they have invented this device called the telephone…”
I grinned, “But just showing up is so much more fun.”
“Come in,” she said sternly, opening the door wider for Brian and I.
“Brian,” she forced a smile. “It’s nice to see you again.
“You too,” Brian replied suspiciously.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” she asked as she led us down the hall and into the kitchen.
The man was in there. He was sitting at the little wooden, informal kitchen table that my aunt had tucked away into the corner when I was still little. I’d never seen her sit at it.
But she did. With a cup of coffee.
“Have some news,” I said absently, my mind busy trying to process what I was seeing.
“Good or bad?” she asked flatly.
“Who’s this?” I finally asked when the information wasn’t volunteered.
Carolyn shifted in her seat, “This is Richard.”
He stood, extending his hand to me. I took it—but I was still stunned. I’d never, in my entire life, seen my aunt have a man in the house. Ever.
“Blair,” I smiled pleasantly. “This is Brian.”
“I’ve heard so much about you,” Richard said to me.
I squinted at him.
“Your aunt talks on and on about you,” he told me.
My aunt waved at him to sit down quickly, “Oh, you’re exaggerating.”
“On and on, huh?” I teased.
“You said you had news,” Carolyn demanded politely.
Obviously she wasn’t ready to divulge the nature of this relationship to me yet.
Brian and I stood awkwardly, exchanging nervous glances. I prepared myself for a lecture.
“Well,” I said slowly, “Brian and I have decided…to get married.”
She was blank for a second before violently shoving her chair backward to get up. I readied myself.
But she pulled me into a tight embrace. I stood there unmoving—completely and utterly stunned.
“That’s wonderful news,” she said into my hair.
As she pulled away, I couldn’t hide my confusion.
But she disregarded it and went straight for Brian. He looked at me for help as she squeezed him.
“I don’t know,” I mouthed at him.
She took a deep, deep breath as she looked between us, “Sit, sit. I want to hear all about it.”
My knees felt like they might buckle, so I sat.
“Have you recently suffered a stroke?” was all I could think to ask.
She laughed—what was happening.
“So when’s the big day?” her, I assumed boyfriend, asked me.
“We haven’t picked a day.”
“I can’t believe you’re getting married,” my aunt gushed. “Ring?”
I proudly extended my left hand to her, the jewels catching the light just right. She looked impressed.
“It’s certainly unique,” she commented. “You have nice taste, Brian.”
He looked as confused as I felt, “Thanks…”
“Your parents would have been so pleased,” she smiled at me fondly, patting my hand with hers.
I just nodded.
She looked at Brian seriously, “Perhaps you and I didn’t get off on the right foot. But make no mistake, it’s obvious to me that you make my niece very happy. So long as she’s content, I’m content.”
This little verbal piece of affection made me really warm inside. It was nice to hear cutesy things from my pseudo-parent. I’d never really had it…I was happy to have it now.
Better late than never, right?
“You’ll have to give me fair warning,” she said, looking back to me. “California is quite the jaunt and I’ll need to book time away from work.”
“I’ll give you ample warning,” I assured her.
“Have you given any thought as to who you’d like to have walk you down the aisle?” she asked curiously.
I mean…I had. But I hadn’t reached any logical conclusions yet. It would have been Tyler—which was a little plague I couldn’t seem to shake. But since that wasn’t an option, I hadn’t come up with any back-up plans yet.
“You know who it should be,” Carolyn said knowingly.
I furrowed my brows, “Who?”
She just kind of smiled, taking a sip of her coffee, “You know.”
Considered writing the next piece into one long chapter but have decided against it.
Mostly because the last line of this chapter begs the question who do you think it'll be?