Authors: Emily Goodwin
Then Comes Marriage
2016 by Emily Goodwin
Photography by Kelsey Keeton
Cover Design and Formatting by Black Ink
Editing by Lindsay at Contagious Edits
Proofreading by Jessica Meigs
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or places is purely coincidental.
In memory of Mystery:
He gave me the wings I lacked.
“Rachel, he’s doing it again.”
I sigh and look across the nurses’ station at Stephanie. “Seriously?”
“Yeah. And Gina is watching.”
“Of course she is.”
“What should I do?” the nurse’s aide asks.
“Telling him he’s going to go blind if he doesn’t stop won’t help, so get Gina. I’ll handle the rest.” I plant my feet on the ground and push off, sending the rolling chair sliding away from the computer. So much for getting my charting done early. This just adds to it. I put on a smile, saying the mantra of the night (
I love being a nurse…I love being a nurse
) over and over in my head. And I
love being a nurse most times.
But right now, after my third double in a row…not so much.
“Eugene,” I say, not phased at all by the sight of the eighty-year old man standing at the end of the dim hall, hands down his pants just going to town. I only have a few years experience under my belt but man, I’ve seen it all. “Remember what we talked about?” I slow, hoping he’ll stop once he sees me. “It’s not appropriate to masturbate in the hallway.” I blink, shaking my head at the words I just said out loud. Sadly, it isn’t the first time, and I’m sure won’t be the last. I motion for him to follow me. “Come on, let’s go to your room.”
The old man gives me a blank stare but eventually removes his hand from his pants and follows me.
“That’s my boyfriend,” Gina tells me as I pass by the living room. Stephanie is scrambling to put on a movie and keep her occupied.
“No, he’s not. He has a wife,” I remind her.
“Well, where is she?” Gina cocks an eyebrow and puts a hand on her hip. It takes effort not to laugh. I shake my head, knowing explaining that both her and Eugene are on a memory care unit in a long term care facility is a moot point. She won’t remember anything I say in a few minutes anyway. Instead, I take her hand and lead her into the living room. We sit on the couch together and I ask her about her children. It’s like a whole new person is talking to me, and her face lights up when she tells me about her son Drew getting a medal from being in the army. We chat for a while before I retreat back to the nurses’ station to work on my charting while I can.
When seven AM rolls around, I’ve separated Gina and Eugene more times than I can count, dropped a urine sample on my shoes, and dealt with not one, but two, old lady cat-fights. Who knew getting the last cup of prune juice could cause such drama? Needless to say, I’m ready for a glass of wine when I pull into my driveway, regardless of the fact that the sun just came out on this hot, cloudless day in Dallas, Texas.
Yeah, most people are just getting up to start their day, but things are different when you go into work at 3 PM and leave after 7 AM the next freaking day. All I want right now is a hot shower, a glass (or two) of pink Moscato, the couch, and the TV remote.
I reach up, hitting the garage door opener that’s stuck on the visor of my old Ford Escape.
“Seriously?” I mutter when I see a shiny black Camaro parked in my spot. Travis, my fiancé, bought the sports car two weeks ago, without consulting me. It was our first big fight since moving in together, and he argued his money was still his, and only his, for the next few months until we joined forces and became one in marriage. I still go back and forth on the issue, but in the end, I like the car and decided to drop the issue. Pick your battles and all, right?
Parking outside isn’t bad either. Having only lived in Texas for about a year, the novelty of the warm weather and sunshine hasn’t worn off yet. Summers are warm in my hometown of Michigan, but winters are brutal. Getting into a car hot from sitting in the sun all day is better than getting into one that’s freezing cold. It’s a trade-off I can live with.
“Hey babe,” I say when I go into the house. Travis is sitting at the small island counter, eating cereal and watching TV. He’s looking good, dressed in black dress pants and a blue button up shirt. We met in collage, and are both from Michigan. It was a love-at-first-sight kind of meeting. I was dressed as an escaped convict at a frat house Halloween party, and he was wearing a cop costume. Fate can’t be more obvious than that, right?
He proposed the last year of college, and we made the decision to move here together when he got offered a job at a big pharmaceutical company. The pay and experience was something neither of us could pass up, even though it meant me losing out on the coveted RN position I had just gotten at the hospital. Nurses are in demand right now, though in the year I’ve been here I haven’t been able to get into a hospital nearby. That’s okay; I like long-term care. No, I’m not doing CPR and saving lives like I would be if I’d stayed in the ICU in Michigan, but you make sacrifices for the people you love, right?
I miss my family and friends of course, and still hold hope in my heart we’ll eventually move back to Michigan. Someday. Like when we decide to have kids. Both sets of grandparents are there, after all, and there are quite a few pharmaceutical companies scattered throughout the Wolverine State.
“Hey, how was work?” Travis tears his gaze away from the TV for a few seconds. “Rough night?” he asks before I can even respond.
I raise an eyebrow. “Is it that obvious?”
He smiles and shakes his head. “You look beautiful as always.”
“Thanks. I smell like pee, but thanks.”
“Why do you—never mind. I don’t want to know.” He turns back to the TV.
“Did I get a package in the mail yesterday afternoon?”
“Uh,” Travis starts. “I didn’t check it yet. What the hell did you buy now?”
“Nothing,” I snap without meaning to. If his money is still “just his”, then mine is “just mine” for now too, right? Ugh.
Stop thinking like that, Rachel.
Not a good way to start a marriage. “A new company is sending me a shirt to feature on my blog.” I smile just thinking about it. My fashion blog started as a hobby, something to pass the time while letting me indulge a little in things I love. It grew steadily for the first year, then really took off right before we moved to Dallas. The more I put in, the more I get out, and now I have the credibility to get free products to feature as well as get paid to do promo.
Travis rolls his eyes. He’s not the biggest fan of my blog and sees it as a silly hobby. Yeah…it’s a silly hobby all right that has paid for my “unnecessarily fancy” (in the words of my mother) wedding. But hey. It’s my wedding, one thing I’m willing to splurge a little on. I’ve dreamed of this day for so long. I want everything to be perfect.
“Damn,” I say. “Now I need to think of something else to post today.”
I get another eye roll. “You don’t have to post anything, you know.”
“I know I don’t
to. I want to. I like blogging. In fact,” I start, already knowing where the conversation is going, “if I blog more, I could probably make enough from it to do it full time.”
Travis shakes his head. “That’s not a safe career choice.”
“Playing it safe is no way to live. People say the things they regret most in life are the things they didn’t do, the chances they didn’t take. A missed opportunity can haunt you for the rest of your life, you know.”
“I don’t play it safe.” He takes another bite of breakfast. “You’re such an optimist, you know.”
“There are two sides to everything. I just prefer to stay on the positive one.” I smile then get a whiff of urine coming from my scrubs. “I’m gonna take a shower. You’ll probably be gone by the time I get out.” I kick off my shoes by the door, give Travis a quick kiss, and race off to the shower where I can wash away the remnants of a stressful sixteen-hour shift. I’m so tired by the time I’m out, I crash in bed, sleeping for five hours before waking up, naked with damp hair.
At quarter after five, my phone rings. I snatch it off the coffee table, expecting it to be Travis, telling me he got held up at work again and is on his way. That’s been happening a lot lately.
I’m not expecting an unknown number. My finger hovers over the decline button, but seeing the Michigan area code makes me think twice.
“Hello?” I say, voice neutral even though my head is running every worst case scenario through my mind.
“Rachel?” a deep, male voice rumbles through the phone.
“It’s Noah. Noah Wilson.”
“Oh,” I say. Why is my best friend’s boyfriend calling me? “Is Lauren okay? And Ella? Is she okay too?”
“Yeah, they’re all fine.”
“Why are you calling?” I blurt. I have an issue with speaking before I think. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that but, uh, why are you calling?”
Noah chuckles. “I need your help with something.”
“Okay. With what?”
“Picking out a ring.”
I squeal with excitement, jumping off the couch. “Wait, you do mean an engagement ring, right?”
“Of course. I’ve narrowed it down to three and can’t decide. Can I send you pictures and get your opinion?”
“Please do!” I exclaim. A minute later I’m looking at my phone with my mouth open, chaffed at the huge center stones in Noah’s top picks. Ella, Noah and Lauren’s daughter, cries in the background, and Noah hangs up to take care of her. I look over the rings a bit longer, so excited for Lauren, and make my pick, sending my choice back to Noah.
I call Travis, needing to tell someone the good news. His phone rings twice then goes to voicemail. I sigh and set my phone down. Poor guy is working nearly as many hours as I am, but doesn’t get paid overtime. I hate being an adult sometimes. Moving away and into our own house after college was supposed to be fun, not stressful. Money rules the world, and I never realized how expensive it was just to live until we ventured out on our own. If I pay off my student loans before I die, I’ll consider it a success.
It’s nearing 6 PM when Travis comes home.
“Someone else have a long day?” I ask, standing and going through the living room to him.
“You can say that again.” Travis takes off his shoes and untucks his shirt. “I need to shower,” he says. “I’ll be fast.”
“Okay,” I sigh and go back to the couch, flipping through the pictures Noah sent and start to second guess my choice in rings. Though, truth be told, Lauren will be happy with anything. After a rocky start to their relationship which was made complicated by a surprise pregnancy, those two are perfect together and deserve all the happiness in the world.