One Too Many Hands in the Bowl

Submitted into Contest #57 in response to: Write a story about someone breaking a long family tradition.... view prompt

61 comments

Funny Drama Romance

Do you ever just get that urge to smash something? The feeling that you simply have to grab the nearest breakable object and send it careening towards the hardest available surface with as much force as you can possibly muster? You imagine it colliding violently with the floor, the wall, the counter; you see it shatter into a million tiny fragments, destroyed beyond any hope of repair. 

No? That’s alright. My mother wouldn’t have understood it either, which is why I was forced to resort to some very desperate measures after I became the first Winslow woman to literally break family tradition. 

In my defence, it was three days before my wedding. Theoretically, this should have been a happy time, but between my mother and his mother and somehow even his very particular father, our modest ceremony had been blow so out of proportion that it got to the point where I often thought someone else’s wedding was being discussed. First, it was the venue. Then, it was the dresses, then the food, then the napkins. Every argument became more absurd than the last and the most ridiculous part of it all was that it wasn’t even my fiancée or I arguing them. It was the parents, his sister, my aunt who I haven’t seen in five years. Without either of us ever once granting permission for this sort of involvement, it seemed like everyone and the neighbour just had to have their hand in the bowl. 

I hadn’t even gotten out of bed that morning when my Uncle George was tapping at the door uncomfortably to ask if I had an opinion on doilies. I asked Uncle George if I looked like the kind of person who had an opinion on doilies and he just sighed and stood in my doorway until I finally pointed at the one in his left hand. I heard him calling out my answer to my mother, who made a disgusted sound in reply. I guess it had come down to a vote and she was on the opposing side. 

I held a pillow over my head and tried to fall asleep again, but with over 50 members of my immediate and extended family all sharing the top floor of this outrageous hotel, I would have needed a lot more than a pillow to get some peace. I swear I could even hear his mother, although my fiancée’s family had reserved the first floor.

Suddenly I started to feel smothered by it all, so I got up, splashed some water on my face in the lavish ensuite, threw a baggy sweater over my t-shirt, and poked my head out into the hallway before darting across to the elevator. I smashed the button until the door finally deigned to open and jumped in before anyone had the chance to stop me. It would have been a clean get away had I not run straight into someone on my way through the door to the gardens. I stepped back quickly, pulling at my sweater to keep it closed. 

“Isa?” 

Only one person called me that.

“Thomas.” My fiancée.

We both cast furtive glances around to see if anyone had heard us before he grabbed my hand and pulled me further into the gardens. Only once we were properly shielded by a tall willow did I get a proper breath of air. 

“So you’ve been hiding out here too?” I asked. 

“Quite possibly,” he said. He looked as though he had more to say, but didn’t know how to say it. 

“What?” I asked. “What have they done now?” 

“Okay, well, here’s the thing,” he started. 

“Oh no,” I laughed. Thomas joined in, recognizing his habitual phrasing just as I had.

“Okay, okay. Your mom was trying to convince me to wear the suit again, but this time she took it a step further,” he said.

I groaned. My mother has always been really big on traditions and this particular detail was one she had fought hard over from the very beginning; it was a fight that she just wasn’t going to win. I would happily marry on a Wednesday, put a silver sixpence in my shoe and accept the heirloom wedding bowl, but the suit in question was nothing short of ancient. The last time I spoke to her about it, my mother insisted it wasn’t out-of-date, only traditional. In that case, I told her, the thing is so “traditional”, that it looks as though it’s from another era. 

“What is it this time?” I asked. 

“She’s resorted to bribery,” Thomas replied. 

“No!”

“Yes. And completely unfair bribery too, might I add. It started out with the usual; she’d cover the cost of an additional chocolate fountain, she would let me pick my shoes. But then she really got desperate. Isa, I’m not even joking, your mom offered to buy us a car. And a nice car too,” he said. 

“Tell me you didn’t say yes,” I pleaded.

“Of course not. But a car? Isa, this is getting crazy.”

“I know. I’m so sorry,” I said. 

Thomas waved it off. “It’s not your fault. My mom’s just as bad. Her and my father got in this huge argument about flowers and it’s gotten so bad that they’ve started hiding utensils from each other,” he said. 

I stared at him in stunned silence, but I hardly doubted his claims. This whole thing had gotten so out of hand, it was going to drive everyone insane. I could feel the colour rising to my cheeks as I thought of my mother confronting my soon-to-be-husband for what had to be the millionth time. 

“Hey, it’s alright,” Thomas said. “Just a few more days.” He smiled reassuringly and I felt some of my anger melt away. My mother had always said I had a temper, but Thomas always managed to rein it in. For her sake, it was quite a good thing that I was marrying him and not someone more hotheaded like myself. 

“Um … hi?” 

I spun around to see Brady shuffling his feet awkwardly in the dirt. Somehow, I must have been so engrossed in my mother’s latest schemes that I hadn’t even noticed that my little brother had made it within a few feet of where we stood. 

“Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked. 

“Sure,” I sighed. “Let’s sneak back up to my room.” 

I gave Thomas a final look before leaving with Brady, trying to promise with my eyes that I’d find him again soon. Normally, I would’ve just sent Brady inside, but he looked genuinely upset about something, which was an odd expression on his usually care-free face. 

“What’s up?” I asked as soon as we cleared the hallway. 

Brady stood quietly for a second, before whispering “calculus.” 

Of course. Brady’s never been the best at math, but he’s always tried so hard. While I knew it pained him to ask our mother for help with his homework as a high school senior, he had been suffering through each of her lengthy explanations and practice questions to save his grades for the past two months. It seemed that this whole wedding fiasco had completely derailed that. 

“There was a test. I took it online, but no one had the time to review any of it with me before. I tried my best, but I totally blew it. Isabella, I f —” 

Brady’s eyes welled with tears as he held up his phone to display the failed test. I didn’t bother trying to hug him, knowing that acknowledging how hurt he was would only be adding salt to his wounded pride. Instead, I took him over to the drawing table by my window before he had the chance to utter the dreaded f-word. We spent at least an hour reviewing that test and carefully worked through each problem until I could finally see the word “derivative” being met with more than a glassy stare. Meanwhile, my blood boiled. All in a single morning my mother had made Uncle George run around the hotel with doilies, scared my fiancée out into the garden and nearly made a 17-year-old boy cry. It was too much. 

As soon as Brady left the room, my vision tunnelled and I searched for the nearest thing to destroy. There! Before I had even consciously decided to do it, the bowl had been smashed against the wall and rained down on the carpet in pretty, painted pieces. As is the way with these things, it took only seconds before the triumph turned to dread. That bowl wasn’t just any bowl. To make matters worse, Brady hadn’t gotten far enough away and was already poking his head back in the door. 

“Isabella? Are you … oh,” he said. 

I risked opening one of my tightly shut eyes to take a peek at the wreckage. “That was the wedding bowl, wasn’t it?” I asked. 

“Mmhmm,” said Brady. 

“Right.” My mother was going to flip. This bowl had been passed down to the first daughter of my mother’s family on her wedding day for as many generations back as could be traced. Personally, I didn’t think there was anything special about it, but my mother certainly did and if she realized I had broken it before I was even technically supposed to have it … well, it wouldn’t be pretty. It was only in my room in the first place because my mother had wanted to show it to me before the big day. She had every intention of taking it back so she could properly gift it to me later. Which meant there was only one possible course of action. We had to fix the bowl before she found out.

“Brady, you have to keep mom out of this room, okay?” I said. I was already on the floor gathering up the pieces and depositing them into an empty shoebox. Thankfully, the mess was somewhat less glorious in reality than it had been in my mind and the extent of the bowl’s destruction had left it in about ten pieces. Brady nodded and ran out of the room to fulfill his task without hesitation. Maybe he felt like he owed me from the tutoring session. 

He must have headed off in the wrong direction though, because I had hardly made it two steps before my mother came around a bend in the hall and looked me up and down with the most disapproving scowl I had ever seen. 

“Where have you been?” she asked. 

“I —”

“Never mind! The cousins are a fashion disaster. None of them match!” she said. “What’s that?” 

I gulped. “Oh, this? These are Molly’s shoes,” I said. 

“That box is huge. She’s four,” she replied. 

“I know right! That shoe store. Seriously, who’s even in charge down there?”

My mother gave me an odd look, but then shook her head like she couldn’t be bothered. “Go give them to her, then hurry up and get back to the meeting room!” 

I watched her rush away, resisting the urge to sigh in relief as she went. Once she was out of sight, I left the building and went down to the garage to get my car. It was an old piece of junk with a broken air conditioner and a trunk that never closed, but the radio was great and it was cheap, so I suppose it still checked the most important boxes. It’s too bad that it’s ability to hold boxes was another matter entirely. 

I had only been driving to the nearest (and only) hardware store on the island for a few minutes when I became aware that the breeze was a lot more intense than it should have been. I realized with a feeling of horror that my trunk had come wide open while I drove. I pulled over, got out and started searching frantically for the shoebox. It wasn’t in the trunk where I had left it, so I locked the car and started walking back down the road, looking for any sign of it. It wasn’t until I heard a violent “smash!” that I spotted it lying in the middle of the road with at least a dozen different tire tracks through it. I rushed onto the street to pick it up, narrowly dodging a car myself. I hardly needed to open the box to confirm my suspicions, but when I did, my heart sank a little further. There was hardly anything more left of it than dust.

I called Brady as soon as I got back into my car. 

“Isabella?”

“Hey Brady. Did you bring paint?”

“Yeah, of course.” 

Thank goodness for my brother, the artist.

“Okay. I’m going to try to buy a new bowl. Find an old one in the hotel and paint it though. Just in case I can’t get anything close enough. Remember what it looked like?” 

“Uh, sort of.”

“Great! I’ll be back soon.”

I tried not to question this new plan as I changed course. I had no idea where to find a quality ceramic bowl on this island, so I drove straight to the Walmart, hoping they had something suitable. 

I got a few angry looks from drivers on the way, but there was nothing I could do about it. My mother was probably already scouring the hotel for me, so I didn’t have any time to waste. 

As luck would have it, I spotted an almost perfect replica just as I set foot in the store. The only problem was that this nearly perfect replica was being wheeled towards the exit in someone else’s cart. I didn’t bother with smalltalk as I approached the guy steering it and just got right to the point. 

“I really need your bowl. But I’ll pay you,” I said. 

The guy raised his eyebrows so high he looked a bit like one of those cartoon characters whose eyebrows have the ability to move right off of their faces. “You need my bowl?” he asked. 

“Yes. How much was it?” I asked. I was fishing for my wallet as he shook his head. 

“I’m not selling the bowl,” he replied. He looked like he was contemplating the best way to try to keep pushing his cart with me standing in front of it. 

“Look. I know there’s no way for you to possibly understand this, but I really, really need that bowl,” I said. 

He paused for a second. “You really need it?” 

“Yes.” 

“Like, so badly you would trade me your shoes?”

“What could you possibly want with my shoes?” I asked. 

The guy sighed. “I happen to be in a slightly desperate situation myself. It’s my anniversary with my girlfriend tonight and I’ve completely dropped the ball. No present, no nothing. I don’t even have the car. So here’s the deal — did you drive here?”

“Um, yes,” I replied. 

“Okay, perfect. You give me your car keys and your shoes - they're the exact kind she’s been asking for - and I’ll give you this bowl and get your phone number so I can call you when I’m done with the car,” he said.

“What? That’s completely ridiculous. I can’t just give you my —” 

The guy shrugged as if to suggest it was my loss and looked like he was thinking about how best to run me over with that cart again. 

“Okay fine! Fine,” I said. 

So I handed him my shoes, my keys and wrote my phone number on his hand with a pen from my purse. 

As I was walking home, shoeless and car-less, but with a very perfectly ugly bowl, it occurred to me that I had probably made a very poor decision. That was precisely the moment in which it started to rain. It was also in the same moment that Brady called me. 

“Hey,” he said. He sounded so dejected I knew it could only mean one thing. 

“She found out, didn’t she?” 

“Isabella!” I heard my mother’s shriek before Brady even had a chance to answer. “Why on Earth is your brother painting the family heirloom? What do you have to say?” she asked.  

I laughed, as I realized my mother had no idea the bowl was broken and had just assumed that Brady was painting over the original. 

“This is no laughing matter,” she said.

“Mom, listen. Do you have the phone? Good. I’ve been meaning to talk to you. I just wanted it to be my tradition. I asked Brady to just paint my initials, but from the sounds of it he got a little carried away. But mom, honestly, this wedding isn’t just about you. You’ve hardly paid attention to either of us in the last week and you would’ve known that I wanted to make this more personal if you had ever bothered to ask. I’m sorry it happened like this, but this was just my way of trying to add a little of myself to it all,” I said.

My mother was quiet for a good while, before she let out a very long sigh. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now. I suppose it’s having the bowl that matters, no matter what state it’s in.” 

I took that moment to think of what state the bowl was truly in. 

“But honey? Please tell me beforehand next time you’re thinking of bending tradition.” 

Bending? I realized in that moment that there was no way my mother could ever find out her tradition hadn’t just been bent, but utterly obliterated. I also hoped she was serious about offering my fiancée a car because I had the sinking suspicion we were going to need it. 

September 04, 2020 14:38

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61 comments

Rhondalise Mitza
02:15 Sep 06, 2020

This was so good and funny! The pacing of the action and dialogue was excellent.

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Lyn M
02:46 Sep 06, 2020

Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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Jena Shah
06:46 Sep 06, 2020

Wow....this was a really good story.....keep writing!😊

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Lyn M
13:25 Sep 06, 2020

Thank you!! Will do!

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Jena Shah
14:27 Sep 06, 2020

Would you mind checking out my story?

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Lyn M
14:36 Sep 06, 2020

I just did! Great work, I really enjoyed it!

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Jena Shah
04:44 Sep 07, 2020

Thank you

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Lani Lane
06:29 Sep 06, 2020

As someone currently planning a wedding... I get this. 'I asked Uncle George if I looked like the kind of person who had an opinion on doilies and he just sighed and stood in my doorway until I finally pointed at the one in his left hand.' What a great sentence! This really showed your voice and tone well. Overall, an enjoyable and funny read. Great job! Just a tiny note (perhaps more of a fun fact since so many people get it wrong): when a couple gets engaged, the man is the fiancé (one accented 'e') and the woman is the fiancée (one acc...

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Lyn M
13:22 Sep 06, 2020

Haha yes, it's so true of me too. I'm not married, but if I ever did get married I'm definitely not the kind of person who would want all of the fanfare, so I think Isabella is like that, but to the extreme. Thanks for letting me know. I don't think I can edit this at this point, but I had no idea there were two different ways to spell that!

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Lani Lane
15:45 Sep 06, 2020

Exactly! Because of COVID, we're postponing the big wedding and just eloping with the two of us this year... might be more excited for the elopement than the wedding.... A TON of people get it wrong (classic French language), no worries! Just wanted to share. :)

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Lyn M
16:39 Sep 06, 2020

Yeah I understand that, COVID has definitely required a lot of rearrangements. Congratulations though! I'm actually trying very hard to learn French right now and yes, it's pretty confusing!

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John Del Rio
04:23 Sep 05, 2020

Isabella obliterated her family tradition. good thing that Thomas is so level headed. i can see the chaos in that hotel as the big day arrives. i see the McAllister household on the eve of their big trip where they end up leaving Kevin home alone. it calls to mind an image of one of those absurdly complex machines where one thing after another happens and influences the next. mother, uncle, brother with calculus problems, or problems with calculus. i am glad that Isabella was able to convince her mother that she merely changed the traditio...

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Lyn M
22:08 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you! I really appreciate the interest and the feedback; it means a lot! I absolutely love that scene from Home Alone, I think it's probably a subconscious influence whenever I write about big families.

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Clara D Berry
20:49 Sep 06, 2020

You mean Rube Goldberg machines? I love those!

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John Del Rio
01:44 Sep 07, 2020

hell Clara, you are correct. i couldn't think of the name.

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Yolanda Wu
06:25 Sep 12, 2020

Wow, this was a wonderful story to read. Your first paragraph just grabbed me, and you had my attention right until the very end. The humour throughout was brilliant, and it felt like I was experiencing everything Isabella was, I felt that frustration at the beginning. Amazing work, Lyn!

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Lyn M
12:11 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you!!

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Indra Hatpins
12:33 Sep 10, 2020

Hey, Lyn! Loved how everything tied up beautifully in the end, especially regarding the car. I would suggest revising the beginning paragraphs as they have very long sentences, and it's mostly in the form of 'tell' instead of 'show'. Hope you find this constructive. Cheers! P.S. please do check out my piece. Thanks!

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Lyn M
14:23 Sep 10, 2020

Thank you! Yes! I always appreciate constructive feedback.

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Marissa Tuazon
04:37 Sep 10, 2020

A marvelous write Lyn! Kudos!

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Lyn M
14:34 Sep 10, 2020

Thanks!

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Marissa Tuazon
14:42 Sep 10, 2020

You are welcome Lyn.😊

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Jade Young
00:44 Sep 10, 2020

OMIGOSH THIS STORY IS AMAZING😂😂😂😂❤❤ I'm absolutely in love with it. Like all of it. You had me hooked from beginning to end. This is officially my favourite story on the site. The pacing is good, the hunour is priceless, the mother-daughter dynamic is relatable (since I'm a troublemaker daughter myself) and the relationships between the characters in general is so well written that the characters literally pop off the page. Like I love this story so much that I'm not even sure my describing why is doing it justice😂💔 but out of 10, I would...

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Lyn M
03:14 Sep 10, 2020

Wow!! Thank you! You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

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Jade Young
08:29 Sep 10, 2020

I'd say you're welcome, Lyn, but the pleasure is honestly all mine for reading this story. Keep up the amazing writing! I look forward to reading more from you in future😊❤

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HA! I loved this story so much. It was really funny at times, and I love how you didn’t have one straightforward plot: your story was all over the place, in an AWESOME way. Isa at her wedding, Brady and his flunked test, then the shoes and the bowl. Oh, and the beginning? YUP. I often want to smash stuff. Anyways, greeeeeat job! Hope you win! Keep writing!

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Lyn M
03:12 Sep 10, 2020

Thank you so much! That means a lot to me! I’m really glad you liked it!

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😄😄😄😄

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Patricia Adele
19:42 Sep 09, 2020

This story brought back all the times my brother and I had to cover up accidents from our parents. One time in particular was when I was pitching to him and we weren't far enough apart from eac other. Hard ball straight to the nose! He snuck me in the house with ablood trailing behind us. Ah the times we thought we were being so clever! Thanks for the memories!

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Lyn M
20:23 Sep 09, 2020

Ouch! I'm so glad you liked the story! I would be lying if I said my experiences with my own siblings didn't inspire some of this.

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E. Jude
17:24 Sep 07, 2020

Haha! Nice story! I like how u write plus your language. This story was creative, funny, and a day-brightener!!! I would love it if you could check out my stories too!!! XElsa

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Lyn M
19:05 Sep 07, 2020

I'm glad you liked it! I just read a couple of yours and you have a lot of great ideas too.

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Clara D Berry
20:52 Sep 06, 2020

I wish I could give this story at least 3 likes, but I guess I'll just upvote a few extra comments instead. I loved the detail about the shoebox. She was in a hotel, so she wouldn't have so many places to hide things, but it makes a lot of sense that she would have a shoebox lying around if she was preparing for a wedding. I also love the way you describe why she breaks the bowl and the whole encounter with the stranger in Walmart.

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Lyn M
21:54 Sep 06, 2020

Aw, thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

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Clara D Berry
02:51 Sep 07, 2020

You're welcome. Oh, and I also loved your title. It really fits and it grabbed my attention right away.

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D. Jaymz
18:26 Sep 06, 2020

A professionally written story 👏 ~~~~~~ Suggestion ~~~~~~ In the sentence, 'Every argument became more absurd than the last and the most ridiculous part of it all was that it wasn’t even my fiancée or I arguing them.'. I believe you meant, 'Every argument became more absurd than the last and the most ridiculous part of it all was that it wasn’t even my fiancée or I arguing with them.'. 'with' needs to be added, I believe. ~~~~~~ A great story 😊

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Lyn M
21:53 Sep 06, 2020

Thank you!! Ah ok, I see what you mean. What I was trying to say was that while all these arguments were happening, we weren't the ones arguing them (them as in the arguments). The phrasing is a little clunky though for sure, so if I'm ever editing this more I'll change the wording there. Thank you for the feedback, I appreciate it!

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D. Jaymz
22:48 Sep 06, 2020

You're welcome 😊 Your writing is excellent. I'll be reading more of your stories, for sure 🤗

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Ola Hotchpotch
14:50 Sep 06, 2020

Your story made me smile as well as sigh. Marriages are made into big fanfare with relatives you haven't met except in another marriage, all coming together with their likes and dislikes, can make you feel claustrophobic. But all in all, if you have the stamina, traditional marriages can be great fun. Families are getting smaller day by day and you can see the difference in the way you enjoyed your childhood playing with cousins and your children are growing up alone.

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Lyn M
16:36 Sep 06, 2020

Yes, I completely agree. I think any big social/family event comes with a little stress, but also a lot of enjoyment when it's all said and done. I'm glad you enjoyed the story!

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Mila Van Niekerk
06:31 Sep 06, 2020

That was great!

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Lyn M
13:19 Sep 06, 2020

Thanks!

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Charles Stucker
06:09 Sep 06, 2020

I think I saw this wedding before. Not mine, I eloped, but one of my friends. This was pretty funny and a little sardonic at the same time. So, naturally it appealed to me. I saw one typo, but lost track because I couldn't pull myself away from the story and now can't find it. Since it's past it's edit by date, I'm gonna call it a wash. Not many can grip me enough to keep from putting it down, so kudos on the accomplishment.

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Lyn M
13:23 Sep 06, 2020

That's amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to read it.

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Alishba Khan
06:02 Sep 06, 2020

Wow...Nice story! Please check out my story

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Lyn M
13:24 Sep 06, 2020

Thanks! Yeah, sure!

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<Inactive> .
04:31 Sep 06, 2020

Aaaaaa I LOVED THIS SO MUCH You're absolutely nailing action and realistic characters, Lyn! Also, you're kind of new to Reedsy, right? Welcome! We're all a big family, so if you ever need anything, you can ask!

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Lyn M
13:23 Sep 06, 2020

Thank you! I am! I've only been on here for a couple of weeks. I'll definitely keep that in mind!

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<Inactive> .
04:26 Sep 07, 2020

^ - ^ Big virtual hugs coming your way!

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18:16 Sep 20, 2020

Hey, Lyn would be kind to watch the first video it's on Harry potter. https://youtu.be/KxfnREWgN14 Sorry for asking your time, I would ready your story

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☆ Ariadne ☆
21:41 Sep 19, 2020

I relate to Isabella so so much - and I love how you incorporated ironic humor into your realistic approach to the story. Excellent work! Brady is hands-down the best sibling ever!! ;P ~Adrienne P.S. I don't mean to be annoying, but it would mean a lot if you could review my story! Thanks a bunch! :)

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