Over an early dinner at Keefer’s, Julie tried yet again to explain her vision of The Dress to her mother, but Connie interrupted with an idea for a trip to New York to continue their search. Julie let her drone on as she half-heartedly grazed on her salad. Julie would have ordered the house specialty prime rib—spending time with her mother was emotionally and physically exhausting and she could really work up an appetite—but she knew her mother would have eventually made some reference to her figure. Sometimes it was just easier to go along with her mom. Once they were home and out of her mother’s view, she’d grab something a little heartier.
Julie gratefully left her mother in the foyer and made her way to her bedroom in the penthouse she was temporarily sharing with her parents while biding her time before the wedding. She’d given up the apartment she’d rented with her two friends upon graduating the year before. She flopped onto the bed and sighed dramatically, her palms rubbing deep into her eyes. How was a wedding that was supposed to celebrate so much joy becoming so depressing? She wished she could snap her fingers and have the wedding arrive tomorrow. At the thought, Julie sat bolt upright on the bed.
Would elopement be a forgivable offense as far as her mother was concerned? She knew Nathan would be up for it. He listened to all the wedding plans with a bemused smile. He didn’t care about the wedding so much as he did about Julie. Julie weighed the positives and negatives in her mind. On the bright side, she would have Nathan as her husband right away instead of waiting another nine months. Although she’d dreamed of her wedding like most girls, Julie was certainly more interested in the lifetime marriage than in the one day wedding. Every decision would be entirely hers (or hers and Nathan’s, hurray!). And the number of decisions would be so much smaller anyway. No caterer, no florist, no venue to fit 200 guests, no seating arrangements, no six tiered cake. There would be no need to monitor Scooter (Nathan’s college buddy and, in Julie’s private opinion, questionable choice for a best man) to see how much booze he had consumed prior to attempting a toast. And no first dance put on for the benefit of Chicago’s elite with all her mother’s friends, acquaintances, and rivals judging her footwork and designer dress.
Julie’s spirit felt buoyant as the thought of either going to battle or conceding to her mother on every aspect of the wedding fell off her shoulders.
She forced herself to examine the negatives before she escaped her parents’ penthouse that instant. If they eloped, she and Nathan would be trading in opulence for a bare bones ceremony. For starters, they would miss out on the presents. Julie tried, but couldn’t really make herself feel sad about that one. All her mother’s friends tried to outdo themselves with beautiful, but relatively useless gifts. How many cut crystal champagne buckets could one couple use anyway?
A huge, huge negative would be no family. As much as Connie stressed her out and didn’t seem to get her, she was still her mother and she loved her. Was it right to deny the mother-of-the-bride a wedding? And Julie and her dad had a fun, loving relationship. Would he be okay with not walking her down the aisle?
Nathan’s mother had passed away years ago. His father was in a care facility for people with early onset Alzheimer’s. She knew that considering how to include him in the wedding was a big stressor for Nathan. Nathan was the youngest of four brothers, but they were all pretty low-key. Julie suddenly remembered that Patricia, one of Nathan’s sisters-in-law had told them that her father had offered her $20,000 cash if she and Nathan’s brother Andrew would just elope and they had seriously considered it. Julie had laughed at the time, wondering why anyone would give up their once in a lifetime dream wedding. It was looking pretty reasonable right about now.
Julie continued contemplating. A final negative. Was sacrificing her vision of The Dress worth freeing herself from her mother’s grip?
Julie pushed The Dress to the back of her mind and phoned for a taxi. She would surprise Nathan when she got to his place. She dumped her workout gear onto the floor of the closet and started stuffing items into its zippered mouth. She grabbed her cosmetics bag too and then stuck her head back into the closet for a final check. She walked to the back and ran her hand over the special occasion dresses covered in drycleaner bags. Her hands paused on the simple pale blue sheath dress that she had worn the day Nathan and she had first met at the Russos’ garden party. Making her decision, she pulled the dress off the hanger and then grabbed a pair of fun strappy sandals and stuffed them into the bag. Too late, she realized she should have just started out with her regular suitcase, but it was stored downstairs and she’d have to walk by her mother and her questions to retrieve it. Julie snuck into the hall and then felt silly. She was 23 and a grown woman making a grown-up decision to elope, not a 13 year old running away from home. She’d just march downstairs and tell her parents what was what.
Julie resolutely made her way down the stairs, her gym bag in tow. Just as she was about to seek out her mother, she heard Connie’s steely voice from the kitchen questioning Carlotta about some aspect of housekeeping. Julie lost her nerve and dropped behind the couch. She commando-crawled out the front door.