THE ESCAPE ROUTE
A CLAIRE MONTGOMERY STORY
PUBLISHED BY CLAIRE MONTGOMERY AT Shakespir
COPYRIGHT 2016 CLAIRE MONTGOMERY
The old chapel looked fragile. Even with the obviously fresh coat of paint, the dilapidated and fracturing wood that formed the century-worn structure could not be masked.
“Isn’t it gorgeous!” Melody exclaimed, delicately running her hands over the wood, as if she were afraid that the slightest pressure would send the frame crumbling on top of itself.
“It was erected in 1894! You can just feel the history oozing out around us. Just think, how many happy couples have stood in this gorgeous building and then started gorgeous lives together. You could be one of them!”
“It just doesn’t feel like us,” I mumbled.
“It’s not a chapel anymore!” Melody insisted. “You get the beautiful, historical appearance without any religious overtones, which I know you hate!”
I slowly ran my fingers over the disintegrating wood and stared blankly at Melody. Her dark hair harshly framed her pale face and made her chestnut brown eyes appear even fiercer.
“What do you think, babe?” I asked hesitantly.
“Uh, it’s nice,” Adrian replied timidly.
“Just take it in for a moment, please?” Melody begged. “It would mean so much to me.”
I began to slowly walk around the former chapel with my fingers continuing to graze over its flaking exterior. Step by step, I distanced myself from Melody.
“Ouch,” I mumbled, yanking my hand away from the chapel to examine the splintering shard that was now sticking from my finger.
As if he knew I was losing control of my frustrations, Adrian rushed to my side.
“Babe, if you don’t like it, we can cancel. Our venue flooded, no one would blame us for not being able to pull a new party together in less than twelve hours,” he whispered, stress emanating from his skin as he cradled my hands.
“Are you going to be the one that tells her that?” I asked quietly, digging the splinter from my fingertip.
“Yes,” he replied unconvincingly.
His light green eyes met mine and I could see his desire to avoid confrontation.
“I just… This whole thing doesn’t feel right and I’m afraid if we let her do this we’ll be setting the standard of her taking everything over for the rest of our lives. I’m more afraid of that than an engagement party I hate,” I said quietly.
“Maybe there’s a compromise?” Adrian asked meekly.
“Maybe…” I replied, glancing to the chapel. “Oh, no, she’s coming.”
“So, we’ll obviously have to have the groundskeeper tend to this mess of a lawn before this evening,” Melody joked, slowly and awkwardly stumbling across the unmown lawn like a pelican on ice-skates. With each step I watched her five-inch stiletto heels puncture the earth and my spine.
“Mum, I’m not sure this place is for us. It’s pretty and historical and all,” Adrian said calmly, staring at the chapel to avoid his mother’s guilt-filled gaze. “But it just doesn’t feel like us.”
“Now, dear,” Melody began, using her perfect, prestigious, private school teacher voice that I could only imagine irritating her class of seven year olds as much as it irritated me. “I know it’s not what you had planned but where else will we find a venue on such short notice? The party is tonight! I know this night is about the two of you, but it’s also about me and I’d really hate to cancel when we don’t absolutely have to.”
The familiar look of intense guilt flashed across Adrian’s face and Melody leapt at the opportunity to push her version of our engagement party into reality.
“I know this isn’t what you planned and I’m sorry this is what it has come to, Callie. But tonight could still be wonderful,” Melody carefully articulated with faux sympathy. “This garden looks magical, enchanted even, so you can take beautiful photographs and make memories that will last forever. Oh, Callie, I know this isn’t what you pictured, but please don’t cancel.”
I looked up slowly from the ground. Melody’s intense glare had morphed into the pleading, neglected eyes of a Labrador.
“Babe?” Adrian whispered. “What do you want to do?”
Adrian’s question forced me into the palm of her hand and I began silently cursing those who had erected the structure with pride. I found myself hoping the chapel would somehow transform into an escape route from the evening I knew now lay in waiting or the steel grip Melody seemed to have on our future. I glanced back to the undeniably beautiful setting. Still no escape route.[
__]“I guess, but–” I began reluctantly.
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Callie! You won’t regret it! I’ll take care of everything, I’ll call the caterers and have the food redirected here, I’ll call the guests, oh and of course the owners to let them know we’re taking it! I don’t have time to get into the city to pick up your decorations but I’ll get new ones. Don’t you worry about a thing, just be here at 7pm!” Melody interjected, rushing to her car before I had a chance to negotiate any terms.
“Babe, that was really sweet.”
“You hung me out to dry!” I whispered angrily, turning sharply to walk back to our car.
“What?!” Adrian whispered back. “I told you, whatever–”
“In front of her! I told you this isn’t what I wanted and you said you’d tell her. Now she’s taken over the whole thing, from decorations to catering!” I replied.
“Babe, wait, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” Adrian started, reaching for my hands.
“I know. I know,” I said, pushing his hands away. “You never mean to, but you’re letting her walk all over us!”
“She just wants to be helpful. It’s because she likes you so much, she wants to welcome you to the family properly,” Adrian replied, trying to be comforting.
“No, she wants to put on a show like she always does. If she doesn’t hate me, she likes torturing me. If you heard the way she talks to me when you’re not here, you’d understand.”
Adrian firmly placed his hands on my shoulders, looking worryingly into my eyes. The sunlight made his gorgeous green eyes glow.
“Babe, she likes you, okay? I think you’re reading too much into things because you’re stressed out and this is a sensitive–”
“I’m not reading too much into it. I’m not overreacting. I’m not imagining things. She doesn’t like me and she hides it from you. I’ll do this, but I’m doing it for you,” I interjected bluntly. “And we’re eating dinner before we come, I can’t risk that she’s poisoned the food.”
“Babe, come on! Here’s an idea… Ride back with her? It’ll give you two a chance to talk.”
“Mum? MUM!” Adrian yelled.
Melody turned around, her joyful smile for my defeat still beaming.
“Can Callie ride back with you? I just have to go into work to sign some contracts.”
“Of course, darling,” Melody cooed, waving me over.
I glared at Adrian.
“You’ll be great, it’ll be fun, you’ll see babe. She really does like you, I promise!”
I could feel my face burning red as I awkwardly got into her car, clutching my phone like a five-year-old with a safety blanket. The over-powering scent of Chanel No. 5 was seeping deep into my pores while the hostile silence seemed to echo around me.
“Callie, I just want to say how much I appreciate you doing this for Adrian and I. I really think you’ll love tonight. I had Eloise, my personal caterer, create a custom menu just for you and Adrian,” she said, almost sneering.
“I liked the menu we picked,” I said quietly, fighting the urge to cry.
“You’ll like this one too!”
“But that’s not what I wanted,” I started. “I mean, it’s not what we wanted. Melody, please, you’re completely taking over.”
“I’m helping you! I thought you’d appreciate me saving your engagement party,” Melody retorted. “I’ve tried very hard to be nice to you, Callie, but it’s like you don’t want us to get along. I’m doing something nice for you and this is how you’re repaying me.”
“Melody, I do appreciate that you want to, I mean, that you’re trying to help. I do want us to get along,” I stammered.
“Good. So do I. For that to happen I need you to show me some appreciation. I am Adrian’s mother after all!” Melody exclaimed.
“There are things I need too, Melody,” I stammered reluctantly.
“Like throwing you an engagement party isn’t enough?!” Melody chuckled.
“I understand you just want to help, but sometimes I feel that what I like, what I want… Well, like it doesn’t matter and that makes me feel–”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Melody huffed, cutting me off again. “Everything I’ve done has made sure tonight will be better, you should appreciate that.”
“In your opinion.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Melody snarled.
“It’s better in your opinion. It’s about what you think, what you want,” I paused. “As I was trying to say before, it makes me feel like my opinion doesn’t matter and that I’m not important.”
“Are you trying to get under my skin?” Melody snarled.
“You know, I knew it the moment I met you that you were going to be trouble. I knew you were a gold-digging, selfish little girl that was trying to sink her filthy claws into my son.”
“I have a degree, I have a job, I’m–” I replied, illogically trying to defend myself for lack of any other appropriate response.
“He’s finishing his MBA, he works at one of the top law firms, you teach kindergarten at a low socio-economic public school! If you really loved him you’d let him be with someone more appropriate, someone he could really have a future with.”
Adrian clicked the pause button on my iPhone’s Memo app. Another awkward silence echoed around me.
“Babe, I am so, so sorry,” Adrian said, dropping his head into his hands. “I’ll talk to her, I’ll make her apologise.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to ambush–”
“And obviously tonight is completely off. Don’t worry, I’ll handle everything, I prom–”
“No, you were right earlier. I think there is a compromise.”
“What do you mean?” Adrian asked.
“Let her have tonight. I want the wedding.”
A look of confusion swept across Adrian’s face.
“I want to elope. Just you, me and a beautiful destination,” I said anxiously. “It’s the perfect escape route from all this drama repeating itself again.”
“Are you being serious?” Adrian asked, a smile flickering across his face.
I smiled as Adrian entwined his fingers with mine and nodded.
“Adrian Michael Reynolds, will you run away with me?”