Anna had tried to call her sister multiple times since she broke the news about her engagement. She expected that Mattie would not have been happy, but she did not anticipate the ice cold shoulder that she was receiving. Truthfully, she hadn’t expected or wanted to keep her relationship secret, but every time Anna would think about talking about it, she was reminded of how miserable Mattie was. On some level, she felt guilty for being so happy. On another she felt pissed off.
It had been two weeks since they spoke and they had missed two of their Sunday night dinners. There was nothing but radio silence from Mattie and Anna was past the point of frustration.
“When do you think she’ll talk to me again?”
“Have you tried calling her?” Chris asked. They had gone to look at flower options for the ceremony. Even though the wedding was not going to be happening for a while, Anna wanted to get an idea of what kind of flowers she wanted to help her craft her vision for the big day. She was happy that Chris had come with her. She had been hopeful that her partner would be someone who desired to be part of this process and, even if he secretly didn’t, he at least made it seem like he cared about planning the actual event. Anna was thankful for that because it made her feel like she had someone along for the ride. She had always imagined that it would be her sister. She grabbed the stem of a gerber daisy in a tall vase and pulled, freeing it from its friends. She smelled it and handed the flower to Chris.
“What do you think of these?” He laughed and tilted his head forward to sniff the daisy. He watched Anna continue walking down the aisle of flowers, touching some occasionally and likely considering what they might look like at their wedding. He knew her well enough to know that she was avoiding the question and pretending to be distracted by the task at hand.
“Why aren’t you answering my question?” He had gotten closer to her and his hands had found the small of her back. She took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of wet earth and fertilizer. Her eyes closed and she leaned her head back against Chris’s shoulder. His arms wrapped around her middle and he gave her a light hug.
“Because I’ve called her so many times and I don’t want to admit how frustrated I am that she won’t answer,” she admitted, “I even called her boss.”
“What? You called Joan?” Chris had heard Anna speak about Mattie so much that he had become familiar with the characters in Mattie’s life. Anna spoke pretty highly of her sister’s commitment to her work and her dedication to Joan, but other than that Chris didn’t know too much about his future sister-in-law. Unfortunately, their introduction at dinner had not been successful. Some time after Anna dropped the bomb and before the waiter had time to come back to ask them for their drink orders, Mattie had stormed out of the restaurant. Chris understood why Mattie would have been upset, but he was blown away that she wouldn’t even have the conversation with her sister to discuss why things happened in that way.
“Chris, I had to. I have been desperate to get through to her and I don’t know what else to do.”
“Maybe you should go to her house again and try to talk? Replace the tzatziki sauce that she spilled all over her carpet?” he suggested.
Anna let out a loud laugh, startling an older woman in the next walkway. The couple earned a dirty look from her and both started giggling. They moved onto the roses and skimmed their options, glancing back at the disgruntled damsel, now looking for someone to help her move a vase of lilies to her cart.
“Maybe you’re right.”
“I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes that can happen,” Chris replied. Anna rolled her eyes and swatted at him with a rose.
“I don’t think we will be using these for our big day. I don’t really like roses.”
“What do you see us using then?”
“Well,” Anna started while twirling the rose in her fingers, “I think that I would like a lot of green. Maybe use some succulents for the center pieces so they are low. I want people to be able to see each other when they are sitting for dinner.”
“Yeah, I don’t really like the tall vases in the center. They feel ostentatious.”
“Well, I have a pretty good idea of the direction that I want to go in. What do you think?” she asked Chris.
“I like it too. It sounds earthy and laidback. I just want to make sure we don’t get caught up in too many details and we get to enjoy this process,” he grabbed her hand and squeezed, “so far, I think that we are hitting the mark.” He kissed the back of her hand and they head back to Chris’s car to head back to Anna’s apartment.
When they arrived, they were surprised to see Mattie sitting on the steps outside the front door. She held a to-go cup of coffee in her hands and she was looking at the grown with her brows furrowed. She seemed to be contemplating something with intensity and it made her look very angry. Because of this, Anna approached her sister with a healthy amount of trepidation.
Her sister looked up and their eyes met for a long moment. Mattie took a deep breath and pulled her gaze away from Anna to look behind and see that Chris was following her up the stairs. She successfully tried to keep herself from rolling her eyes and walking away, but took a second to remind herself why she was there. She had to try and patch things up a bit so that they could talk about the money that their dad had saved for them. It didn’t mean she had to let go of her anger just yet, but it did mean she had to be civil.
“Hey. Hi, Chris.”
“Uhm...Hi, Mattie,” Chris looked between the sisters for a moment before excusing himself, “Anna, I think I’m going to head home. Why don’t you give me a call later?” He took a second to kiss her cheek before turning to leave. “It was nice to see you, Mattie.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Both sisters watched Chris get into his car and back out of his parking spot. He put the car in gear, gave a last, light wave and then drove down the road. Neither Mattie nor Anna spoke until well after his brake lights had disappeared. When Anna finally found words, they were soft and light.
“So, how have you been?”
“I’m good. Busy with work.”
“How is the bakery?”
“Good. Lots of cakes to make,” Mattie nodded, taking a sip of her coffee, “how have you been?”
“Not bad. Also busy. Planning the wedding and everything,” Anna played nervously with her house key before asking, “do you want to come inside?” Mattie bobbed her head and stood up, dusting off her jeans. When Anna had the door unlocked, both girls made their way inside, took off their shoes, and went to the living room. Mattie sat on the couch and Anna stood, shuffling from foot to foot.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“No, I’m good,” Mattie replied, holding up her coffee.
Anna sat down on the other end of the couch and looked toward her sister. She covered the ring on her hand, hoping that it wouldn’t provoke an argument.
“So, what’s going on?” Anna ventured.
“Dad asked me to touch base with you about some stuff.”
Anna’s eyes widened in surprise. She chuckled a little before asking, “so you don’t speak to me for almost three weeks and then Dad gets you to? I’ve gotta say Mattie, you’ve taken me a bit off guard.”
“Look, I’m not here to argue. I just want to talk to you about some things and then I’ll head out.”
Anna gestured with her hand indicating that she would like her sister to continue and then leaned back against the couch.
“Dad reached out to me the other day about you and Chris and the wedding. He said he wanted me to help you with it because mom can’t.” Mattie watched her sister’s eyes drop and stare at the glass coffee table. Her home aesthetic was a bit different than Mattie’s and consisted of more modern patterns of dark gray and white that were lightly accented by gold. Mattie’s toes scrunched up in the soft, white, faux fur area rug under the table and continued, “he wants to give you $20,000.”
Anna’s head snapped up and her eyebrows almost touched her hairline. The color seemed to drain out of her face, but was quickly replaced with a bright flush and an uncertain smile.
“Does he want anything in exchange?” Mattie smiled at her sister’s question, understanding her hesitancy.
“I don’t think so,” she answered, “maybe just to be left out of the process? Except for walking you down the aisle, of course.”
“So why did he tell you about this and not me?”
“I think he fully intends on telling you. As a matter of fact, I probably ruined the surprise, but he called me because he knew we weren’t talking and wanted to get me on board.”
“Ha! Who would have thought that Dad, of all people, would be trying to fix us.”
“Definitely not me.”
They laughed for a moment before settling into an awkward silence. Anna spoke first.
“So, did he...fix us?”
“I don’t know.”
Anna looked back at the table and sighed. She bit her lip and her knee began to bounce. She took a deep breath and let it out before speaking, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, Mattie.”
“I just don’t get why you didn’t tell me.”
“I’m not entirely sure either. I know it wasn’t right, but I convinced myself it was okay. I know that I haven’t been the easiest over the years and I’ve put you in a position to take care of me a lot, but I wanted to be able to do this on my own.”
“So, hiding it from me and lying to me was the better option?”
“I didn’t lie about it.”
“Yes, you did. By omission at least.”
Anna lifted a hand to wipe a tear from her cheek that had escaped. “I just...feel like...I don’t know.”
“No. Please, continue.”
“I just feel like you would have thought it was another thing that I was getting myself into without thinking. I felt like you were going to judge me. Like you were going to support me in public to show you cared and then go home thinking about how I failed again,” Anna stopped speaking and looked up at her sister, “that’s how it felt in college. Every time I had to call you, I felt like I was disappointing you.”
Mattie looked around the living room because it was easier than looking at Anna. She saw some photos that were next to her sister’s television and realized that Chris was in the one that was on the left. Opposite that photo was a picture of Mattie and Anna from Anna’s graduation ceremony.
“How long have you both been together?”
“About six months. I know it’s fast, but it’s real, Mattie.”
“What if I end up like Mom and Dad?” Mattie nodded her head. “I’ve thought about that a lot. So has Chris. His parents are divorced too. They’re a bit closer that ours ever were post-divorce, though.”
“Well, what if you end up getting divorced? Six months isn’t exactly a long time to get to know someone.”
“I know that. I think that is what makes some of it so exciting, though,” Anna smiled, “we keep getting to know each other and, even though I know it’s fast and that we still have a lot to learn, I know that he is right for me and that this is going to work.”
“I just need you to trust me, Mattie.”
Trust was not something that Mattie doled out often. Truthfully, she really only trusted herself. The only other person she came close to trusting was Joan and that was because she never felt lied to by her boss. Even when Anna called, Joan hadn’t kept the information a secret and made it a point to let Mattie know. Joan consistently demonstrated what it meant to be honest, despite the honesty sometimes knocking the wind out of Matie. Trusting her sister to make the best decisions for her own life was not something Mattie was prepared to do, but she had no choice but to take a leap and hope that a net would appear*.
“Fine, I can try. I just hope that this is what’s right for you.”
Anna seemed to let out a breath that she did know she had been holding. “It is, Mattie. I know it is.”