It was a day that looked almost like poetry sounds. It was the perfect morning for a wedding. The sun was just peeping through the yellow-orange trees in all her golden splendor. The birds were singing. The breeze blew in such a way that you felt wrapped up in its arms. The beauty of the day was not lost on Maura.. This is the perfect day. I just wish she were here with me, she thought. The biggest room in the house had long been abandoned, and looked as if no one had touched it in 20 years. Dust drifted through the sun streaks and settled on old, outdated furniture. Maura had rarely been allowed in this room, but on her wedding day her father decided to let her get ready here, after much convincing. He liked to keep this room and all its memories locked away.
Maura made her way to the grand chest sitting at the foot of the bed. She had always wondered what treasures were hidden inside. She felt as if opening it would be the realization of one of her childhood dreams. Dust flew in every direction as she opened up the creaky, old lid. Maura drank in the smell of cedar that flowed out from every crevice of the old chest. Maura’s eyes welled with tears as soon as she saw the picture placed on top. A simple portrait from the wedding of her parents. Why would he never show me this? Maura marvelled at how beautiful she had been. She had heard all her life how beautiful her mother was, and it was true. But somehow she wasn’t striking, and she didn’t seem the least bit proud. She was simple and pure and sweet, and that made her beautiful. The most beautiful thing about her was the joy shining out of her smiling eyes that day. Maura hoped she was making the right decision about Paul. She wasn’t sure she could look that happy on this day of days. She wanted to be exactly that happy when she married her sweetheart, but could anyone be as happy as her mother was on that day?
When she first met Paul she thought he was terribly obnoxious. She really couldn’t stand him even a little bit. But over time her opinion of him softened. She learned he was actually very kind and gentle, much like her own father, but still she sometimes wasn’t sure if this was right. Wasn’t it supposed to be easy with the right one? Surely you weren’t supposed to fuss and fight with the one you married. Surely her parents never did. They couldn’t have. They were too perfectly happy. Oh how I wish she was here to help me see things more clearly.
Maura rifled through some old papers until she came across an old journal dated 1897. Maura’s eyes again welled with tears as she flipped through the pages of her mother’s thoughts. She wanted to soak in every single word of this treasure she had uncovered. Maura quickly turned to the end to see if she might find anything about herself in her mother’s journal. Maybe she wrote something to me in those last few days...
December 16, 1897
My due date is quickly approaching. I can’t believe that these 9 months have flown so quickly. I wasn’t so sure I’d ever get through those first few weeks, but after that it is all a blur. I fear the doctor’s warnings about what may happen. I stay awake at night just thinking of things I need to prepare for Joel and baby girl in case the worst happens. I thought about writing her little letters to open when she gets older, but I don’t even know where to begin. It breaks my heart that I may not see her grow up, that I may not get to spend forever with Joel, that I may not be here in a few days. But I cannot think of that anymore. I have to be strong for everyone. Besides, I will probably be fine. They said there was such a low chance of anything happening that I shouldn’t even think about it. But still, that small chance worries me. I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of leaving behind everything I know and love.
Even still, I suppose some preparations need to be made just in case Joel and the baby come home alone. We still haven’t even chosen a name for this sweet baby girl. I think I need to see her little face and decide who she’s going to be first. I think she will tell us her name when she comes along. Something that is uniquely her.
I can’t believe that the person I hated so much in the world turned out to be the one who I love most. And I really can’t believe I am going to have a baby with Joel Davis. Of all people! Life does have a funny way of surprising you.
Maura could not contain her emotions as she finished reading this entry. She was overwhelmed with happiness, heartbreak, and confusion all wrapped into one. This was written the day before she was born. She flipped to the next page.
December 17, 1897
Well, faithful journal, my girl is here. She arrived early this morning. She is an absolute dream. Her blue eyes are swimmable, and her sweet face is perfectly round and kissable. She has loads of brown curls all over her round head, and her fingers are so long that she is destined to be a great piano player. Everyone says she is her father’s twin. I certainly hope she will inherit his kind, gentle spirit. I didn’t think it was possible to love Joel any more than I did, but something about fatherhood has made him even more perfect.
I am so grateful that I am here to experience the joy of holding this sweet baby. I was so fearful that something would happen during the delivery, but I see now that I was worried for nothing. She is here now, and I pray that we will never be separated. I just know we are going to be the best of friends.
I have decided on a name. I haven’t told Joel yet, but I have decided that I would like to call her Maura Jo. I knew as soon as I saw that sweet face it would suit her. Maura means bitter, and Jo is short for Joel. I know that “bitter” seems like a strange name for a baby, but this baby is my greatest joy, born out of my greatest bitterness.
I can still remember the nights I fumed over how much I hated her father and everything about him. I can never forget the bitterness I felt for him. Until something seemed to change. And then it was almost like a whirlwind. I can’t believe I could love someone I had hated so much. It all seems a dre…
The entry stopped abruptly there. That must have been when it happened. All Maura’s father had told her was that her mother became very sick right after she was born. They had a few blissful hours together, long enough for her mother to pick out a name, and then she was gone.
Maura’s heart ached for the friendship her mother spoke of in her journal.
But one thing stood out to Maura like a sore thumb. Why was her mother so bitter towards her father? Why had they hated each other? Her father rarely talked about her mother, so she hadn’t exactly heard the story of how they got together. All she knew was that they were desperately in love for the whole of their very short married life. She had never heard of any hatred or anger.
Maura flipped to the beginning of the book. Perhaps an answer lay between the pages of her mother’s deepest thoughts…
January 1, 1897
My father has a certain way of ruining everything that is good in the world. I was so looking forward to a great year. The family party last night was so fun. Harris had been planning on asking for my father’s blessing to marry me that night, since everyone would be so happy already. That way, when daddy said yes he could make a big show of asking me “officially” at midnight.
When Harris went to talk with my father at around 10:00, I didn’t see him again. He left a note under my door. “Sorry Mel, I don’t think we’re right for each other. See you around.” What kind of horrible person breaks up with their unofficial fiance in a note? Apparently the kind that dealt with my daddy.
Then, to make matters worse, I was told this morning that if I wished to see a penny of my inheritance that I would marry who my father picked out for me.
I don’t even know what is wrong with this man. Just because he has a lot of money he thinks he can tell everyone what to do. I simply will not do it.
January 10, 1897
Apparently my father has thought of nothing but his “little arrangement,” as he calls it, so far this year. I don’t know what kind of sick person he is. He told me that someone is coming to dinner tonight and that I need to be on my “best behavior” because this is “the one.”
How in the world he could have found someone in 10 days is beyond me. And what is wrong with this man that he would agree to such an archaic and ridiculous arrangement. I think I’ve stepped into some kind of time machine. I am surrounded by ghosts of the past.
January 12, 1897
Finally that wretched man has left our home. He was horrifying. His name was Joel Davis. He was pompous and arrogant. I felt like every word he spoke to me was condescending. He acted as if he’d already “won” me like I was some kind of toy at the fair. I already knew I would not like him, but when I met him I truly felt hatred for him.
And really, why DID he agree to this arrangement? Does he have nothing going for him? What is wrong with him and why does my father want to stick me with someone like this? I could never live a life like the one promised to me if I marry Joel. (just the very name makes me gag!)
January 15, 1897
I have made a decision. I have a plan to show my father just how much he can control me. I’m going to play along with this ridiculous charade. I can play the part of the perfect daughter and agree to marry Joel. On the day of the wedding, while everyone is distracted, I am going to run as far away from this place as humanly possible. They’ll never suspect a thing, and that will show all of them, even that terrible Joel.
He was here again yesterday. He and my father “talked business” for two hours. How could they talk about me like that? Joel has these beady brown eyes that stare at me like I’m not really here. I get the impression that he is “elsewhere” when I am talking, like it doesn’t really matter what I have to say. He has this curly, brown mop of hair on his head, and it looks ridiculous. We are going to have to get that taken care of before the “wedding.”
January 30, 1897
I have successfully convinced everyone that I am going to go along with this ridiculous “little arrangement.” My father is so happy because that means a future merger between his company and his greatest rival (Joel’s father) is in the works. He figures that they can’t be in-laws and still compete with each other. And at the very least, the companies would combine when Joel and I inherit them.
I am brimming over with joy about the arrangement as well since I know how it is all going to turn out.
I know that this is just my father’s way of showing me how much he loves me, but I can’t sit by and be a pawn in his game. I want to choose what happens in my life. I don’t even want Harris anymore, but I want freedom.
The wedding is set for Valentine’s day. Mother has made me a beautiful dress. I will take it with me so that I can wear it on my *real* wedding day. I hate that I will have to say my goodbyes to her. I know she wishes things could be different. But she is as much under daddy’s thumb as anyone.
February 10, 1897
The day is quickly approaching. I have packed my bags with as much as I can carry and hid them in my closet. I saved some of the money father has given me for my trousseau and have tucked it away for my travels and until I find a job.
I almost feel a little bit bad for Joel. He seems so lost. Someone is always telling him what to do, too. We’re really no different. He just doesn’t know how to stand up to them. I guess I really don’t either since I’m just running away from it. But at least I have sense enough to do that.
I hope he’ll find someone who will make him happy. I just know it can never be me. I could never love someone who is content to participate in something so ridiculous as an arranged marriage.
February 13, 1897
Tomorrow is the day! I can hardly sleep for being so excited! I feel like my life begins tomorrow. When I step onto the 1:00 train right as the music in the church will begin. I have had my doubts that I am doing the right thing, but how can it be right to stay?
February 14, 1897
Wonder of wonders, I have made it out of the house unnoticed. I am waiting at the train station. I almost feel bad about how giddy I feel knowing that the wedding will be starting in only a few minutes, but without me.
February 17, 1897
The last few days have been a whirlwind of twists and turns. I did it, I ran away and shall never look back. But I did something else, too. Right at 1:00 I looked down the platform and saw him. Joel. Apparently he had the same idea I did. What a turn of events!
Turns out, Joel is the opposite of what I thought. He is not rude or condescending, he is actually very kind and gentle. He is soft-spoken and sweet, and nothing at all like my father. He wants nothing to do with “family business” and he thought it terrible that my parents were content to marry me off for the sake of business profit.
We sat together and talked for the whole train ride. When we arrived at our stop we set off in opposite directions until it occurred to me! I realized what would make my father even more angry and teach him an even better lesson.
So we did it.
And I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.
Why did I spend so much time being angry and bitter towards this man? He is all I could have ever wanted in a husband! Neither of us will receive a penny of our inheritance, but I think we’ll do just fine.
I was so bitter and angry towards my father for picking out someone like Joel, and it turns out he did just fine. But I don’t think I’ll be telling him that anytime soon.
And I think I’ve decided I quite like Joel’s messy mop of brown curls. I think they suit him just fine.
Maura raced through the rest of the book, soaking up every bit of her mother that she could. She wondered why on earth her father never shared this story with her. But then again, she quite enjoyed hearing it straight from her mother.
All doubts about Paul had disappeared. She never hated Paul nearly as much as her mother hated her father. Life really does have a funny way of surprising you. Funnier still that she and her mother both fell for men they once despised. Oh how we would have laughed over this, mother. Maura began to tuck the journal and wedding picture back inside the chest. She had found everything she needed. As Maura placed the items back among the winter quilts she found her mother’s wedding dress at the bottom of the chest. The one crafted by her grandmother and worn by her mother in her happiest moment of defiance. Maura could think of nothing more perfect than to wear this dress on her special day.
As Maura descended the stairs from what was once her parents’ room, she walked as if on air. She had never been happier than she was at that moment. Her doubts about Paul had dissolved with her tears, and she felt like her mother was there with her after all. She was thankful for the bitterness all those years ago because on this day it brought her one of her greatest joys.
September 16, 1919
What a wonderful day. I have decided to write it all down, so I can remember how happy I was on this day forever.