This is our adventure, right? Our weddings. We’ve never been afraid before. Let’s not start now. Like you said, the future begins today.
May arrived with a heat wave. The lowcountry shot from spring to summer. By the end of the month the trees had exploded with color, flowers overflowed their boxes, residents caught short were racing to plant their gardens, and local children were crossing off days on calendars till the school doors opened and they were set free. Talk on the streets was of how warm the waters were already, always a predictor of hurricanes. Some thought the sea-turtles season would begin early. Folks were selecting programs for the upcoming Spoleto Festival.
At Sea Breeze, however, the only thing on the ladies’ minds were the impending weddings.
Outside Sea Breeze, large tents were being erected for the rehearsal dinner the following night. Mamaw was standing on the deck at a safe distance overseeing the workmen. She didn’t have any directions to give them, per se, but felt they needed watching nonetheless. The house would not be open to guests, but a crew was inside buffing the floors and washing the windows until they sparkled in the sunshine. The porch had been transformed. The wicker table and chairs had been removed, to God only knew where, and replaced with a handsome bar and several long tables that a woman was now covering with a pile of silvery linens. Men were delivering potted plants, and three women in green butcher aprons emblazoned with WILDFLOWERS INC. were hanging lush ivy, greenery, and flowers from a poled framework over the porch. All this under the direction of a bubbly, talkative, happy-go-lucky woman with the eye of an eagle.
Dora, her blue eyes bright with excitement, came to join Mamaw on the deck. Dora was dressed to work in white pedal pushers and a blue T-shirt that had SEA BREEZE BRIDES in script across her breast. The girls had ordered T-shirts for all of them, but Mamaw couldn’t bring herself to wear hers.
“Mamaw!” Dora exclaimed. “There you are. Isn’t this exciting? It’s all beginning. It’s wedding time!” Her enthusiasm could not be contained.
“I might get excited once I see the tent securely up. There’s mud back there.” Mamaw shook her head. “I hope it will hold.”
“Don’t worry, Mamaw, these guys know what they’re doing. What can I do to help?”
“Thank heavens you’re here. Would you supervise what’s going on in the living room? I can’t be in two places at once. Carson is inside talking to the Legares. Cru Catering hasn’t received the shrimp from the Captain yet. I know they’ve been culling the best shrimp from the crop and I’m grateful, but they have to get a move on. You can’t make a Lowcountry Boil without shrimp!” Mamaw brought her handkerchief up to dab at her brow and upper lip. “Is it just me or is it hotter’n Hades out here?”
“It’s hot. Don’t get flustered, now, Mamaw. Harper’s given everyone a time line with strict instructions to follow it. We all know where to be when.”
Mamaw fanned herself with her clipboard. “Let’s hope so. Harper doesn’t want any surprises.”
Harper was in her office finishing wrapping up the cookbooks she had created from Lucille’s recipes. She was proud of the project. When she’d blithely come up with the idea, she had no idea of the number of hours of concentrated labor all the testing of recipes would take. Just deciphering the yellowed and stained cards and scraps of paper she’d found with Lucille’s chicken scratch all over them was a labor of love. Harper had made what she called “loving changes” to the recipes, partly because she didn’t want to cook with bacon fat or lard and partly because she couldn’t read the writing. But she was finally done. She stood back and admired the wrapped books with pride. She was giving them to her sisters, as well as all the ladies in the family, tonight as wedding gifts.
Taylor’s voice boomed through the house. He was in the attic working on his project. She smiled, thinking of him up there doing what he needed to do to make this house feel like his own. Although, she thought with a sigh, why he had to start the project right before their wedding was beyond her.
She hurried to the hall in time to see his head pop out from the attic. “What is it, honey?”
“You’d better come up and take a look at this.”
Something in his tone told her not to waste any time arguing. She hurried to the pull-down stairs and climbed monkey-style up into the attic.
Taylor took her hand and helped her climb up at the top. The air in the attic was thick with dust motes shaken up from all Taylor’s hammering and moving things around. It was nearly empty now. Mamaw had cleared the attic of all her belongings when she’d moved out the previous fall. They’d had quite a party sorting through the boxes of memorabilia. Only a few unwanted pieces of furniture had remained. These Taylor had shoved out of the way of his labors until he could get help moving them out. Some of them were immense, which was the reason they’d remained in the attic.
Taylor led her to the far left end of the attic. “Careful where you walk,” he called out.
“Oh, look at that!” she exclaimed, mesmerized by the small fort that had been constructed in the corner. It was shabbily built of miscellaneous pieces of wood nailed together. Its door opening was so small that an adult would have to crawl through to get inside. Most arresting, however, were the letters—large, malformed, and crudely written—and drawings in paint. There was a sun, a moon, stars. A rough sketch of a skull and crossbones, and a long grassy mound that looked like a mole’s tunnel.
“I found it behind the bookcase when I moved it,” Taylor told her. “That thing was heavy as hell. Hadn’t budged in years. Was this your playhouse?”
“No.” She shook her head in wonder. “At least not mine. I don’t know about Carson and Dora. But I doubt it.” She pointed. “It says NO GIRLS ALLOWED.” She clutched Taylor’s arm. “Oh my God, Taylor. It must’ve been my father’s.”
She bent at the waist to peer in. Its window was grimy with dirt, but some light peered through, giving her a glimpse of the space. Someone had constructed a wood floor and painted more drawings on the inside. There were words, too, that stood alone—COURAGE, MAGIC, BELIEVE, HEART, PERSEVERE. These were written in a neater, more mature script. Other than a ratty-looking red blanket piled in a corner, it was empty.