Warning: a few cuss words are used.
I run to my closet, snapped out of the sleepy daze that had me locked into slow motion. The sun seeps through the curtains, blurring my vision. My arms swim about in front of me, searching for the clear bag covering the long gown I will soon drape over me.
And no, it is not me getting married today.
Today my little sister is getting married. Today, I join some of my closest friends — all of which have found their life partners — as my sister ties the knot with Liam. I’ll smile and be genuinely happy for her, but behind it will always be that intrusive thought: when will it be my turn?
I run into my living room with my maid-of-honor dress in tow, smiling broadly and pulling Lizzie into my arms for a big hug. She’s elated and glowing. I can’t help but draw in some of that excitement and anticipation for myself. It’s comforting, pushing my selfish insecurities and fears to the very back — where it belongs.
Following the bridal pictures, I find myself staring happily at the bride and groom as they take on the reception crowd hand in hand. They really did make a wonderfully vibrant couple.
My hand falters momentarily, and I’m snapped out of my daze by the shock of cold water embracing my hand and licking the left side of my dress.
“Ah, dammit.” I groan. Then I let out a sigh. Well, I guess it could be worse. At least it’s the side of my dress, not the front or back. That would be embarrassing.
A sparkle in the water catches my attention. And then another. And then hundreds more. A small reflection of the sun on several small copper pennies. It’s a wishing well water fountain. I laugh out loud in response.
“It’s my grandmother’s,” a soft voice sounded from the other side. I tip my head to the side to see where it came from, only to be embarrassed by how I must’ve looked. I snap back and nonchalantly move my whole body over to put a face to the sound. “She said this is the very fountain she put a penny in just before she and my grandfather fell deeply in love.”
“That’s…” I’ve lost the words just as they were leaving my lips. “fitting?” She laughs hard, and I find myself losing it too. “Sorry, I thought I had something better to say.”
“No, your right. It is. That’s why I decided to keep it here when they passed, and I turned this barn into a wedding venue.” She waves me off before I can apologize for her loss, shortening the distance between us and holding up a penny. “It’s not just for love. It’s good luck for anything.” She places the penny into my palm and closes my freshly pink-polished nails over it. “Just in case you need it.”
And with that, she’s walking away, and I’m contemplating the one wish that would change everything. The first that comes to mind is the first boy I ever fell in love with. I dumped him before I left for college hundreds of miles away.
I throw my wishes into the wishing well.
I go back 12 years to the day Adam’s head is slumped over and his shoulders are slouched, already upset about what he knows is about to come. I alter history by changing my mind, taking him by surprise, telling him I can’t see myself anywhere but here… With him. His smile brightens, and I watch my life flash before me.
I withdrew from Berkley and attended OSU. We would go on to spend several great years together.
I open my eyes 12 years later at my sister's wedding, and...
I’m standing next to the same wishing well, alone, penny in hand, ready to make a wish. It didn’t work out, and I’m still single at 30. It wasn’t because we didn’t have love for each other. We just stopped loving each other in that way.
Given another opportunity, I think of the girl in college I had a big crush on that I never told and throw my penny into the wishing well.
This time, I travel back to Mrs. Bailey’s college course, just nine years earlier. I was sitting next to Angela Brinkley — the most charismatic and friendly person I’ve ever met. Mrs. Bailey is telling us about our next big class project. A group project. We’re to gather into groups of four and start discussing the task ahead of us with the remaining class time.
Just as I’m about to walk away without even a look in her direction (nerves, sometimes they get the best of you) like I once did, I gather up just a pinch of confidence to turn my body towards her. “Partners?” she asks. I nod sheepishly under her spell. And then I’m thrown into a whirlwind of great times that lead me back to the same place.
I’m standing at the wishing well, alone, a little more confused now, and holding the same penny in my palm. I take a deep breath and think hard. Where was my missed opportunity?
The blind date my sister tried to set up for me just a year earlier comes to mind. I canceled just before. I tighten my lips and think maybe. And with that, I whisper, "Third times a charm" just before throwing the penny in the wishing well.
I find myself standing in front of the local hotspot, adjusting my skirt before pushing open the front door. He's sitting at a table by the front, his blue eyes moving to mine just in time for my cheeks to flush and my heart to flutter. Lizzie, he's gorgeous, I think to myself.
I spend the night telling him all about myself, all the while learning new and interesting things about him. We spend 10 months caught up in the newness of each other, pondering what's in our future. That's when I decided to take the leap to make it more official and ask him to be my date for my sister's wedding.
He smiles, clearly flattered, but then hesitates. It seems that while *I* was pondering our future, he was already considering a future with someone else.
And so, I'm right back at it, standing at the same fountain, harboring a new annoyance and frustration, and still holding the same damn penny in my palm.
It seems like every time I’m right there — so close to the companionship that I crave that I can taste the bittersweet bite of it on my tongue, it all falls through my fingertips like sand. What the hell?
“Are you going to just stand here all day, or can a girl get a dance before the DJ leaves?” I feel an army of chills crawl up my spine as the realization sinks in. She’s flirting with me.
I toss my penny into the wishing well and hope for the best. I intertwine my fingers into hers just in time for her to wisp me onto the dance floor.
As it turns out — and I only found out after we were married many years later — her grandfather used the same line and gesture at this wishing well fountain to start a conversation with her grandmother.
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It's a nice story, and I like the ending. It kind of stresses the difference between spending all your time reminiscing, and regretting, or living in the present and seizing an opportunity that comes up. The only thing I might consider changing is the opening. If you hit us with her noticing what day it is and that she's late ("SHIT!"), we have something eye catching immediately happening, and it still lets us see that she's spending her energy/life living for others, and missing out herself, as she scrambles to get ready. Not a critical c...
As always, I think that's great advice. Thank you so much!
There's a bittersweetness to how your narrator hopes and tries to make all these relationships work over the years with various people. She's making the effort and still not finding THE ONE. I love that the twist at the end is someone else putting themselves out there and trying for her, finally. My only editing note would be “No, your right. It is..." vs. No, you're right.