In Times of Flood
The car moved along at highway speeds toward Tyler’s Landing, the county seat and largest area town. Only days earlier the highway had been covered with racing overflow from the tiny Cary Creek.
Amazing how destructive floodwaters can be to the countryside, the houses of the village of Carytown, and the lives of the residents. The only way the inhabitants had of avoiding the flood was to run away as quickly as they could. Casey noted the residue of the flash flood—the weeds and tree branches caught in the barbed wire fence. The residue was covered in gray silt. The way it collected reminded her of a procession of gray hooded medieval pilgrims heading for some far-off shrine.
Casey shook her head and silently thanked whoever was listening that the flood had occurred ten miles away from her home. Now, her thoughts shifted to her plans for the day. She had her last fitting of the odious bridesmaid dress. The lavender sateen selected by her once best friend made her skin look sallow and the ridiculous wide-brimmed straw hat with the trailing lavender ribbons hid her face. “I wonder what kind of bouquet I’ll have to carry?” She said aloud to the empty car, “Probably marigolds!” She laughed at her own joke thinking of her sneezing fit around those little yellow sneeze makers.
Casey and Sarah had been close friends throughout the final years of high school. Currently, their careers had taken them to different towns and in many different directions. Casey had been so surprised to get the phone call from Sarah.
“Casey, oh, Casey!” Sarah gushed. “I have the best news!”
“Sarah?” Casey asked.
“I’m getting married and I want you to be my bridesmaid. My sister will be my matron of honor, you understand? But you just have to be there too. You will, won’t you? I just can’t see myself getting married without you, and I have the cutest dress picked out for you. I can send the fabric and pattern. You do have someone to sew for you? I know you are way too busy……..”
“Wait a minute,” Casey interrupted, “when and where is this wedding to take place?”
“Oh, I thought I told you. I’m all nerves already! It’s in two weeks in Tucson, Arizona. That’s where I’m calling from. Isn’t it unreal? But it’s on a Saturday so you won’t have to miss work.”
“Don’t say no,” Sarah pleaded. “Just check your mail and call me back.” Sarah recited her phone number and completed the call.
Casey couldn’t believe she hadn’t even asked who the groom was or how long the two had known each other. She had already decided that going just for curiosity was a plan. Then she checked her mail and looked at the large box waiting on her front porch. It contained the lavender fabric, straw hat, matching shoe dye, and a round-trip plane ticket. The plane ticket was for late Friday night before the wedding with an equally early arrival time Saturday morning. “I’ll look awful!” Casey groaned. The return trip was for Sunday afternoon. There was nothing to do except phone Sarah.
Wouldn’t you know, an answering machine. Casey left a message to say she would be there dressed appropriately but where would she stay?
Sarah had not returned the call, but newly adventurous Casey thought, “I can surely find someplace or maybe sleep in the airport one night.” So now the quickly planned weekend was on the calendar, the dress should be done today, only the final packing to be done.
Casey returned from the dressmaker’s with the completed dress packed in tissue paper to try to prevent too many wrinkles. There would be no time to iron. Casey drove by those same pilgrims. The collected debris was facing the opposite direction as she wondered if she were heading in the right direction.
She still wondered that as she supervised the flight attendant in hanging up her garment bag. The attendant told Casey with a tired smile that she’d do her best to keep it from being crushed.
The airport Casey deplaned into was empty except for a few people sitting near the gate across a hallway. She had not checked a bag since she could fit everything into that garment bag so she just started following the crowd toward the exit. Was she supposed to call a cab? That direction wasn’t given. She kept on walking. She shoved through the doors and saw a large white sign with black letters saying, “Casey.” She breathed a long sigh; she was being collected.
“Casey! Casey! Over here!” came shouts from behind the sign.
“I hope I’m the right Casey,” she answered since she did not recognize the two young men who were holding the sign and shouting.
They identified themselves as the best man and groomsman. One of which would be Casey’s partner at the wedding later that afternoon. They kept up a steady chatter between themselves as they drove off into the gray early morning light. Casey seemed to doze off briefly before the car stopped in the driveway of the Spanish rancho-style house. The young men explained that it was the home of Sarah’s older married sister. Casey searched her memory for her name as she lifted the heavy brass door knocker.
“Hi, Casey,” the sister greeted. She was dressed in a white terry robe with her hair wrapped in a pink towel. “It’s been years since I’ve seen you. I’ll bet you never thought when Sarah moved here she’d be getting married so soon.”
“No, I didn’t,” Casey admitted. Actually she didn’t even know Sarah had moved since they had stopped communicating.
“I think you’d like a snack before we set out to do the ‘get beautiful’ thing.”
Casey followed her to the kitchen where an assortment of fruit and granola bars were laid out.
“Help yourself,” she was advised as the older woman left.
Casey poured a mug of hot tea for herself and unwrapped a granola bar. She was wondering again about Sarah.
“Hey, traveler,” Sarah’s sister brought Casey out of her reverie. “I’ll show you where you can get dressed.”
Casey followed her to a guest room that had a bathroom attached. Casey longed for a soak in the tub, but opted for a quick shower. Then it was a cursory make-up job and into that awful dress. Ordinarily Casey preferred little make-up, but since she was tired she chose a bit more to hide those dark circles under her eyes. Casey took a final brush through her hair when Sarah’s sister came in again. She was carrying a navy blue velvet box.
“Sarah told me to give this to you before we left for the park.”
Casey opened the box and was surprised to find a fine gold chain with a small gold circle pendant. “How thoughtful,” Casey said. “It’s symbolic of a wedding. I’ll wear it today.” She fastened the clasp.
“Let’s hit the road. Be sure to get your headgear.” Sarah’s sister was referring to the straw hat chosen for the wedding.
Sarah’s brother-in-law drove the two women to the park where the wedding was to be held and dropped them off at the white tent that held the female wedding party. Casey ducked through the open tent flap. Immediately she saw her fiend, adjusting a filmy veil. Sarah had her back to the door. Casey admired the gown. There were clouds of tulle studded with crystals that seemed to form twinkling stars. She suddenly turned with a big smile. “Now, I can get married!” she exclaimed. “Are you ready for this?”
“You look beautiful, Casey stated truthfully. “So who’s the guy you’ll leave the single life for?”
“I know it’s soon and all, but you know that career girl was never me. I need someone to take care of me. Promise you won’t be mad.”
“Why would I be?” Casey asked.
“Well, you do know him, sort of anyway. Remember our eighth grade government teacher? He left at the semester and ended up in Tucson. I ran into him at a little league baseball game. The rest is history, I guess.”
“But, he’s so much older…” Casey started to protest but stopped when she noticed the grimace on Sarah’s face. “Oh, what does it matter when love and all that is involved?”
Sarah hugged her friend, adjusted the veil again, and started listening for the music.
The wedding proceeded in the time-honored fashion. Casey seemed to be dream walking through the ceremony and reception. She was glad for the wide brimmed hat that hid her face. As soon as possible she cornered the groomsman, her partner in the ceremony. Begging him to return her to Sarah’s sister’s house to take medication for a severe headache, she left the celebration. The groomsman was eager to return to the evening dance and late supper. He didn’t mind leaving Casey.
Casey stripped off that awful dress, threw on her jeans and sweater, and packed her bag. The cab she had called to the airport arrived in less than fifteen minutes.
Luckily the airline could change the flight to one that evening. Casey went to the ladies’ room where she scrubbed her face, and unpacked that lavender dress. She thought of taking her dyed shoes to be redone at home, but then said, “Oh, what of it, I don’t need this,” and left the shoes near the dress on a bench.
Safely on the plane, all those eighth grade memories came flooding back. The flood earlier that year had been prophetic. It was the Cary Creek that left its banks; it was Cary Stresser whom Sarah had chosen to marry. Sarah must not have known that Mr. Stresser did not just leave in the middle of the year. He was fired for sexual harassment of several girls in his class. Casey knew, she knew.
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