I bustled Sally out of the salon, past the stares of the sales girls and the sidelong glances of the other brides-to-be and into the car. "Okay, Sally, please tell me what's going on. What has changed? Why don't you think you can marry Peter anymore? You are a far different child than the one I remember discussing flowers and cakes and dresses with just a couple of weeks ago. All those things you listed in the salon - school, kids, money, living situation - were all problems then, so what's changed. Why can't you marry him now?"
As a response, there was silence. Sally was peering out the window. "I'm not ready to talk yet Mom."
In my mind I let out a very loud scream filled with panic and frustration. It went something like this, "AhhhhHHHhhhhhhhhHHHhhhhhhhhhh!" But I kept it all to myself and just tightened my grip on the steering wheel and kept my mouth shut.
Sally turned to look at me and my heart broke a little to see the sadness in her eyes. She continued, "When we get home, okay?"
I wanted to drill her with questions but I knew I had to be quiet. I had to wait for her to tell me what was going on because until I could understand what she was thinking and what she really wanted to do, I could not figure out what I needed to do. Did she need a cheerleader in her corner so she could get married or did she need a handler so she could escape? I didn't know which hat to put on or what to do until she could tell me more, but I was willing to do either. I could wait until we got home. I just held onto the steering wheel and drove a little bit like a madwoman on a mission.
As I careened into the driveway, I opened the garage door and drove inside. As the door closed behind me, Sally turned to me and she was abnormally calm, for her. The fact that she hadn't said anything about my driving told me she hadn't really been paying attention but rather had been working out what to tell me. She said in the most mature voice I may have ever heard from her, "Mom, I've been thinking about this for the last couple of weeks. I can't marry Peter and it's not because I don't love him because I believe I do. I think that is part of what's making this so hard. I love him and I don't want to hurt him and I know if I don't marry him right now," her voice was drifting from mature to emotional with just a tinge of hysteria, "there's a real chance he will walk away from us and I may never see him again and that hurts, a lot." The tears started and I reached across the seats to give her a sideways hug. I wanted her to know I was there for her without interrupting.
Sally leaned into the hug and then continued, "But Mom, I also can understand why he might not want anything to do with me right now since I will be calling off marrying him. That could really hurt a guy but I just know I can't marry him because it's not the right thing for me to do right now. If it was a couple of years from now, I think I would marry him without any hesitation and that's what's making this sooooo hard. He's a wonderful man. I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to lose him. I just can't do this."
"Okay dear." I took a deep breath. I was trying to formulate what to say to Sally as I frantically sent prayers up above while wishing at the same time that during one of these crises, her father would actually be home to help us through them. "So you feel you can't marry him. I understand that, but is there something specific that has changed your mind. Some reason why you feel you can't marry him now that wasn't there before?" I wanted to make sure it was not cold feet that was keeping her from marrying Peter because, she is right, if she calls off this wedding it is probably the end of her and Peter. It is hard enough to make relationships work when all is going well but to make the relationship work after you have called off a wedding, just two weeks before the date, would be near impossible and that's only if Peter still wants anything to do with her after she does this.
"Mom, I was so excited when he asked me to marry him and I think I got caught up in the excitement of a wedding and love and a date every Friday night that I said yes without really thinking through the ramifications of what I was doing. I am not ready to be married to anyone at this point in my life. I realize now that you tried to talk to me about this but I was on cloud nine and you were so far away on earth that I couldn't hear you." Sally shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't want to hear you. I realize that now, now that it's a little late but it's not too late, is it Mom?"
"No dear, it's not too late. It's better you decide before the wedding that you're not ready to be married than for you to decide after the wedding. It's too late then. I guess I'm just worried now that you might regret this decision in the future, especially since you say you love Peter."
"I know Mom but I think I have to risk it. I need to grow up some more. I need to go away to school and live and grow and develop myself so that I am ready to be someone's wife when the time is right. I realize that teenagers get married all the time and that it works out for them and they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after and I think Peter and I could do the same. I think we could find our happily ever after, if it weren't for this pit of despair in my stomach. It's telling me to walk away from what could be right now for what might be in the future and I don't know if that will have anything to do with Peter or not but I have to follow this feeling."
"Oh, I know the stomach, the pit of despair. We have been friends for some time now, remember?" I asked. I sure did remember. At the age of eight, the pit of despair in her stomach had become a family friend. Sally had been invited to a friend's party that she really wanted to attend but the pit of despair in her stomach had started right before we were to go and so she had had to skip the party. I got to call the girl's mother and explain why my daughter would not be attending at the last minute. I called her "pit" a sickness. Sally found out on Monday that everyone had gotten food poisoning and been sick all weekend and that one girl had even been hospitalized due to illness. It was the first of many times the "pit" had saved her from all kinds of problems and awkward situations. At the age of 13, she had been asked to the eighth grade graduation dance by the boy of her dreams. She said yes, but then the pit of despair in her stomach had started up again. She called him and told him she couldn't go because she was sick. She stayed home that night and ate all kinds of junk food and watched old romantic movies with her mom, instead. She found out the next day that the boy of her dreams and his dad had gotten in a serious car accident on the way to the dance and were hospitalized. I took Sally to visit the boy in the hospital and was grateful for the "pit". At the age of 17, the pit of despair in her stomach was the reason we had had to get a different prom dress three days before her senior prom, even though we had a perfectly good one she had loved in the store. It turned out that three other girls had turned up at Prom wearing that same dress that had caused the pit of despair in her stomach. That pit of despair in her stomach had kept her safe physically and socially so many times in her life that it could no longer be ignored. I just had to hope it was steering her right this time. "I just wish that pit had spoken up a little earlier."
"I know Mom. I think it was trying but I was ignoring it. But, what do I do now?" asked Sally.
"Well, I guess you have to talk to Peter."
"I know. I was hoping to maybe write him a letter and you could deliver it."
"NO! I mean no dear. That is not an acceptable way to end an engagement, especially with someone you love and care for. You need to talk to him and explain what you are thinking and feeling. He needs to know, he deserves to know and he might even have a right to be a little bit upset. He might be hurt. You're going to have to deal with all of that and explain the best you can and see what happens," I said. This parenting thing never seems to get any easier.
"I know I have to talk to him. I was just hoping maybe I could do it in a letter. It would be so much easier that way."
"It would be easier for you but not for him. You have to think of him and don't forget to give him back his ring. If the engagement is over, it must be returned to him. And the sooner you do it the better. I'm going to have to get going on cancelling everything but I'm not going to start that until you've talked to Peter."
Sally looked down at her ring. It had been a symbol of their love and their future together. If she was going to turn that all down, she had to return the ring.
"I'll talk to Peter tomorrow morning. I'm going to take tonight to figure out how to tell him and to see if the pit of despair in my stomach goes away now that I've decided to call off the wedding. And Mom, I'll make sure to give him his ring back too. Thanks for listening and for the good advice. I'm so sorry to have put you through all this stuff only to cancel everything. And the money you and Dad spent. I'm so sorry!"
"Don't worry about the money and the work that went into the wedding, just remember next time to listen better to me and that stomach of yours. I'm not sure I can go through this again!"
"I will Mom and thanks for listening and believing in me," said Sally as she reached across the car and gave me a big hug.
"I've always believed in you and I always will," I said as I hugged her back.
Check back tomorrow to see how Peter takes the news.