Write a story that incorporates this sentence: Unfortunately, Peter has few friends in Tacoma.
I am unprepared for this sense of acceptance and completion that is rushing over me like a river, balm on my wounds of abuse and addiction.
I stand before a man who is talking about love and commitment, his neck fat wobbling and his eyes barely focused on us. I feel like laughing, not just because of his comic seriousness but because I am overflowing with joy.
Peter stands next to me and nods in sincere agreement as the justice of the peace goes on a little too long. He finally turns to me and his brown eyes glitter before he closes them for the kiss that will seal the deal. The spectators applaud and whoop; something I appreciate since (with the exception of my mom and dad) we are strangers to them.
My mother hugs me with tears in her eyes, maybe thinking that I am there, finally: my place of peace. Dad hugs me sideways before offering to take us all out to lunch as a celebration.
We trek through Seattle’s rainy streets, squealing because we have no umbrella. Peter holds my hand and puddle jumps in his Beatles boots with such joy I giggle. When we finally arrived undercover he pulls me against him, wet and laughing. Breathless against him, I am home.
“Where are you going for your honeymoon?” Mom asked once we have been seated at the café.
Peter and I smile each other. We have three precious days off before we each have to get back to work; we had been disagreeing where to spend them.
Peter wants a rainy beach in our tent: romantic and cozy and rugged. He wants to be lost in cheap seclusion with me – playing flashlight wars and eating granola from plastic bags. He is convincing, promising constant lovemaking to the sounds of rain just outside – a picture of how our marriage will be.
My idea of a honeymoon is to return to Tacoma, introduce him to my college mates that he has somehow never met. Peter and I went to the same University and didn’t run into each other at all. We didn’t meet until a year after graduation in Seattle, when we worked a project together for you know who.
“We’re not sure,” I say, settling against the warmth of Peter’s body.
“Your daughter wants to spend our honeymoon visiting college friends,” Peter says coyly. Mom raises her eyebrows like she always does when she doesn’t know why I arrive at decisions she thinks are impulsive or dangerous.
“In Tacoma?” Dad asks, echoing Mom’s concern.
“Not much of a honeymoon,” Mom says, almost under her breath.
“Thank you!” Peter says, hitting his palm against the table. It makes Mom jump; it makes me laugh.
Unfortunately, Peter has few friends in Tacoma. The ones that mattered to him left soon after graduation and the ones that are left there can only politely conjure up interest in his new marital status.
“I just don’t know why you want to relive those times,” Dad says, right before the waitress comes to take our order.
I can’t believe Dad has brought this up. It is almost enough to steal my joy. Almost.
My dark memories in college are of alcohol and days I can’t remember – failing my sophomore year and not knowing who to talk to. It wasn’t until I woke up with my mousy dorm-mate holding my head over the toilet and wiping my chin that I knew I had a problem.
“Maybe you should try a meeting,” Shyla said to me after I finished hurling; then crying; then shivering with feverish withdrawal.
I almost asked her to shut up. I would have if I had money in my wallet. Instead, I was broke and she was (as far as I could see) my only friend for miles. She went with me that afternoon to an on-campus meeting she somehow knew about. It was where we met Bea and reevaluated our lives. They were the first friends I ever had: dorky and skinny. They related to my ghosts; we all had the addiction swimming in us.
We un-partied together all the time.
In the past year they have seen every instagram of Peter. His morning hair and foggy glasses, his monkey face, his toned abs, his notes to me carved into the side of a banana and left my coffee mug. It’s time they meet him.
“I guess I’ll have the chicken salad,” I say, handing the waitress my menu and sipping my water self-consciously. Maybe lunch was a bad idea.
Dad clears his throat and looks at his watch.
“Will you keep the same apartment?” Mom asks, trying to change the subject. She is a pro at changing the subject.
“You bet!” Peter says for me. “Great location and there’s a bit of a shortage in this area.”
“Yeah, well….” Dad is still thinking that Tacoma is a bad idea. I can read it in the veins in his forehead.
“I should tell you,” I begin, bravely. “That I have been sober for four years and that Tacoma is not my trigger.” I feel the zipper in the back of my dress threatening to split down the middle. There is not a sound at the table.
Peter leans forward and looks at my face; I look into his eyes and remember that he is now my husband, and I get happy again. I have learned in every self-help class I have ever taken; in every meeting I have ever attended; in every episode of Oprah that you cannot have your emotional needs taken care of by a person.
Peter’s eyes disprove this theory that I have been fed to lower my expectations in life. His eyes tell me he gets me. Since Shyla and Bea he is the first person to get me.
“Well, just exactly what is your trigger, girl?” Dad says, glaring at me from across the table.
And I don’t have the guts to answer.