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Posted:|| May 3, 2020 Views: 15|
Chapter 17 of the book People Like Us
Donny and Krissy didn't have a big wedding; Donny had told me that Krissy didn't have much family to speak of, and most of our relatives lived in other states and couldn't be bothered to travel that far.
They were married in the same tiny chapel that Dad and Ma had gotten married in, and it was so small that even though there were hardly any people there, it still felt crowded.
I'd never seen Donny that happy before. I don't think he stopped smiling the whole ceremony. Krissy smiled the whole time too, but she was also crying, and dabbing her eyes that way girls do when they don't want to mess up their makeup.
My dad was sitting next to me. It felt weird because I hadn't seen him in so long, and when he came in there wasn't a lot of time to talk before the ceremony, so all he had time to say was 'hi'. And he looked different then I remembered too; he had a beard and his hair had started going gray around his ears. Every once in a while I'd glance down at his hands; they were thick and calloused, from working on bikes I guessed. I could still see the light band of skin around his finger where his wedding ring used to be, like it was a scar that never healed. And when Donny and Krissy kissed and everyone clapped, he pressed his palms together like he was saying a prayer.
The reception was in the veteran's hall across the street, a low building that smelled like coffee and cigarettes and old linoleum. Like I said, there weren't a lot of people there -- but from the noise and the dancing and the laughter you would have thought there were hundreds.
"Come here, Gabe! Get in the picture!" Krissy called to me, holding out her hand as she and Donny posed for the photographer for the millionth time. I took her hand and she put her arm around my shoulder as the camera clicked.
I hadn't wanted to like Krissy. When Donny first told me he was getting married, I already had a grudge against the girl who was going to take away my brother and my best friend. But Krissy wasn't the kind of person you could be mad at. She wasn't just pretty -- but believe me, she was pretty. She had long blond hair like Farah Fawcett and the bluest eyes I'd ever seen, that seemed even bluer because of her dark, Texas-sun skin.
"I'm so glad I got to meet you," she said, squeezing me as the photographer walked away, "I always wanted a little brother! That's what I told Donny when he first told me about you, right Donny?"
That was why no one could be mad at Krissy. She was honestly the nicest girl I'd ever met, and she had a way of making you feel like you were important just by looking at you. She laughed a lot, but she always meant it when she laughed. She didn't have to pretend to be nice to you, because she just was nice. She was a lot like Donny.
My uncle Emil joined us, staggering over with a half-empty glass of wine in his hand. He slung his arm around Donny's neck and kissed him on the cheek.
"I canna believe it," he slurred, his accent thicker the drunker he got, "one day I'm holding my sister's little baby, the next day...ey! You got yourself a finna lady there, Donny. You taka good care of her, tu mi capisci?"
"Capisco." Donny answered.
"Bene, bene," Emil replied, "and whaddabou you, Gabriel? When are you gonna finda you a girl?"
"I don't know," I answered, "when I'm Donny's age, I guess."
"When you're Donny's age? Dai! I mighta not even be alive by then. But still," he paused for a minute, just long enough to down the last of his glass, "still I'ma gonna come to your wedding."
"I love your family," Krissy told Donny, as Emil stumbled off to get more wine.
"See if you still feel that way next year," Donny joked.
"My grandma's waving me down," Krissy said, waving back to the old lady at the other end of the hall, "I'll be back in a minute."
Donny watched her go, like he couldn't stand for her to be away for even that long.
"Geez, I love her so much." he said under his breath.
"I hope so," I joked, "ya got married to her."
He laughed, then looked at me seriously.
"You're gonna be ok, right?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean with things being different now...I'm gonna be a lot busier, you know. If I can't talk to you or visit as much, it doesn't mean I don't care."
"I know, Donny. I'll be ok."
Donny nodded, looking around the place.
"You talk to dad at all?" he asked. I shook my head.
"I didn't really get a chance," I said, "I don't know if he wants to talk to me."
"He does," Donny said quickly, "I know Ma talks him down a lot, but he wants to get to know you. He just...doesn't know how sometimes. You should go talk to him."
Dad was at the other end of the hall, talking to one of his friends. I waited until his friend left before I went over and stood next to him.
He was skinnier than he had been when he left us. His hair was longer too, and he had it pulled back and tied with a black silk ribbon.
"Hi dad," I said.
"Hi Gabe," he replied. I didn't know what I was supposed to say after that.
"You got taller," he told me.
"How...how's school been?" He asked.
"It's been ok." I knew I wasn't adding much to the conversation -- but I wasn't any better at this than he was.
"You make any friends?"
"A couple." I said.
He looked around, like maybe he could find a conversation tangled in the fairy lights along the wall. Eventually another one of his friends came by, and I went away to find Julia.
"Did you say goodbye to your brother?" Ma asked as we headed out to the car. The stars were out, and every time the wind blew, a whirl of leaves spun across the parking lot.
"Yeah, I did," I told her. Donny and Krissy were standing in the golden glow of the doorway, saying goodbye to everyone as they left the hall. It was cold, and Krissy was wearing Donny's jacket which was so big that she almost disappeared - but she still looked like some kind of angel. I saw my dad coming outside to smoke. He saw me too and smiled, waved at me from behind the red glare of his lighter.
I waved back, but I wanted to run to him. I wanted to throw my arms around him and crush my face into his chest and tell him I loved him, I loved him even if he had to leave us and even if he didn't know how to tell me he loved me back, I loved him even if he had already given up.
Ma walked up to him instead.
"You never answered me about the bill." She said to him. He sighed, a cloud of smoke obscuring his face.
"Well, are you gonna help me pay it?" she asked. Dad rubbed his eyes.
"Yeah. I am," he said, "do you really have to talk about this now?"
"You didn't want to talk about it any other time!" she said back, throwing her hands in the air, "do you even care? You even care that your daughter almost died? You even care I lost my job, and all my money's going to the school, and her medication...and then I ask for help for one hospital bill and you ignore me."
"I'll send the money, Marian." He said, his eyes looking somewhere above her, like he was talking to the stars. Ma just shook her head, her fist clenched.
"Damn right you will," she said, turning on her heels and heading back to the car, "come on kids, we're going home."
Dad was still staring at the sky as we drove away. I would have waved goodbye, but he wouldn't have seen me anyway.
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