Monday, June 13, 2016

Click. by Julia Johnson

(The character Elizabeth is based off of the photographer Anne Rearick).


Day One
I fly from Boston to Iceland to Paris. The stop in Iceland is fantastic. I have never been there before. As we pass over the land, all I see is green. Green. Green Green. There aren’t many houses taking up space. I’m exhausted and hungry but excited for this journey. My Nikon D3330 sits in the seat next to me, acting as my travel companion. The sun’s rising right now, and the vibrancy of the colors reminds me of the beauty in life. Bright pink, deep purple, burnt orange. The colors cascade across the sky, intertwining together, forming something new and unexpected. I take in every second of it.
I hear the pilot speak over the intercom “Folks, we have just begun our descent into the Klfavík International Airport. We will be arriving at the terminal in about ten minutes. The local time is 8 Am. Thank you for flying Iceland Air.”
I make sure my seat belt's buckled and prepare for landing. I prefer landing to taking off. It’s less stressful. I’ve gotten used to flying on planes by now, but sometimes it isn’t very fun. I watch the clouds drift up and up, even though really I’m going down and down.
Five minutes later, I walk off the plane, heading into the airport. My next flight leaves in an hour, but I have to find my gate first. Twenty-two. I pass by a cute cafe, but I don’t have time to stop unfortunately. Eventually I figure out where I’m supposed to be, and by the time I get there, they’re already starting to board the plane. Well, it was nice seeing Iceland. I take a quick snapshot of my surroundings.
The cute cafe to my left. Click. The gentleman sipping his espresso at the table in front of the counter. Click.
The souvenir shop selling these strange figurines. Click.
It’s my turn in line. I hand the woman my boarding pass, and she waves me through. I feel like I’ve been traveling for days. I’ve never been able to sleep anywhere besides my own bed. But oddly enough, I fall asleep right away when I take my seat. Maybe it’s because I’m in first class or maybe it’s because I’ve never been more exhausted in my life, but I have a nice rest.

Day Two
I’m on my way to dinner right now. Tomorrow I’m traveling to the Basque region, but for tonight, I’m in Paris. I make a pit stop at the Eiffel Tower. Even though it’s one of the most touristy spots probably in the world, I still feel the need to go there. It’s absolutely magnificent. Since it’s nighttime, the lights are on. Click. Click. Click. I capture the structure along with the variety of people who come to visit it.
A man comes up to me, asking “Excusez-moi? Madame? Voudriez-vous acheter une chaîne eiffel clé de la tour. Ils sont seulement trois euros.” (Excuse me? Madam? Would you like to buy an Eiffel Tower key chain. They're only three euros).
I consider it for a moment, but I say “Non merci” because I forgot to exchange my U.S. dollars for euros, which then makes me realize that I have to go to the bank before I go to dinner. I’m planning on going to L'Atelier Etoile de Joël Robuchon on the Champs Elysees. Then after that I’m going to stop in Laduree for some macarons. You can’t go to Paris without buying macarons. It would be a crime. My favorite flavor is salted caramel.
As I’m strolling down the street, heading towards the nearest bank, I take in all people. Mostly everyone here has impeccable fashion taste. Of course everyone can afford designer clothing here, but they all also look like models. It’s insane. I whip out my camera, but I don’t place the viewfinder against my eye, instead I keep my camera balanced on my hip. When photographing on the street, you have to be careful. Not everyone likes to be photographed, and there are always a few crazy people. I’ve heard many stories of my fellow photographers being chased down the street, mostly by homeless people, just because they took their picture.
Everyone feels so alive here. It might be the exhaustion talking, but it feels like the French understand that we only have one life to live, so why not make the most of it. I believe that’s one of the most important ideas to remember. I try to remind myself everyday of it. My world is surrounded by a plethora of people and getting to know them all is a pleasure. Learning of others life stories is quite amazing. There’s nothing quite like delving deeper into someone else’s life and becoming a part of one of their chapters and them becoming a part of yours.
I capture the man on the sidewalk, holding on to his golden retriever and sharing a blanket. They’re both smiling.

Day Three
Choo. Choo. The train leaves the station, and I’m headed for the Basque region. It’s south of Paris. I travel there often, documenting the people of that area. I strive to bring to light the beauty of all humanity, rather than seeking to reveal to the world all the poverty and violence that lives within it. As I get closer to the countryside, the train whizzes by whitewashed farmhouses. It’s a very different lifestyle here than that of Paris. When people think of the Basques, their minds generally go to Spain, but the French side is just as prominent. The Spanish section is an uncontrolled region with a Basque government whereas the French section belongs to the central government in Paris. There is a strong independence movement on the Spanish side at the moment, willing to be separate country, but there a very few people in France who are ready for that.
As we arrive in the heartland, it begins to rain. I can hear the pitter patter, pitter patter on the roof of the train car. Water droplets race down my window; I watch to see which one wins. It seems to be a tie. The older people either don’t speak French or Spanish but instead the Basque language of Euskara. These people have acquire a reputation for being closed off and distrustful, but this is not the case at all.
I have worked with these people for years. I have gotten to know them beyond a professional level, learning about their lives and their families, and they have gotten to know me as well. I can even recall the first time I ever traveled to the Basque region. It was raining, just like it is today, and I was in St. Jean Pied de Port. I went to look for shelter, and the closest thing I found was a little house belonging to an elderly woman. She had a face that made me think of my grandmother. The woman, whose name was Madame Hatoig, invited me in for tea. She gave me a slippers while the water was boiling. We chatted for hours, and when we had finished, it was sunny outside, and I was dry. Madame Hatoig’s kindness and generosity got me through the first day. The reputation these people previously had disappeared from my mind. The characteristics of Madame was apparent in many of the other people I came into contact with.
I am welcomed into this world time and time again, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The train stops at the station, and I collected my luggage. I’m in one of the first carts, so I am also one of the first to get off. I walk down to the village I’m staying at and see familiar faces.
I take my camera out and immediately begin photographing.
There’s a cafe owner placing the open sign on the door. Click.
There are students milling around the town, heading to their next class. Click.
The postman is delivering the mail for the day. Click.
The farmers wave to me as I pass by them. Click.
A red barn stands at the end of the pathway. Click. It acts as a beacon, leading the townspeople to it.
The little children play in the grass, chasing after pigs and chickens. Click.
The pigs squeal and the chickens flap their wings. Click.
The children laugh with delight. They are happy. They aren’t aware of the negatives in life. They don’t need to be.
I feel at home here.

Day Four
The red barn door swings open, and I step inside. The aroma of the hay engulfs my nose, and then the manure hits me. The scent is like a tidal wave crashing over me. It’s strong and violent. I scrunch my nose and try not to pinch it because that would be rude. I haven’t visited a barn in a some time, so I forgot about the intensity of all the smells. One of the farmers brings his horse in.
I heard the sounds of the horse’s hooves clicking against the ground.
Click. Click. Click.
The horse has a beautiful chestnut brown coat. It’s mane is pure white though, and its eyes, surprisingly, are hazelnut colored. It neighs, and the farmer runs a hand along its back. Smoothing its fur. The horse calms down.
The farmer hears the sound of my shutter speed, and I bring my camera away from my face. “Salut parlez-vous français?” I ask. (Hi, do you speak French?).
“Oui. Je suis Antoine, et qui êtes-vous?” he responds. (Yes. I am Antoine, and who are you?).
“Elizabeth --”
He stops me after I say my first name. “Oh! Vous devez connaître mon grand-père puis, Patrice Campbell ? Il m'a dit beaucoup de choses sur vous. Vous êtes un photographe professionnel, non?" (You must know my grandad then, Patrice Campbell? He has told me a lot about you. You're a professional photographer, no?).
“Oui , je suis, et je connais votre grand-père. Il est un homme merveilleux. Ça vous dérange si je photographie votre travail?” (Yes, I am, and I do know your grandfather. He's a wonderful man. Do you mind if I photograph your work?).
“Non non. Aller de l'avant. Faites tout ce que vous devez faire.” (No, no. Go ahead. Do whatever it is you need to do).
“Merci,” I say, smiling graciously at him.
He smiles back at me, and I notice a slight gap between his two front teeth. I feel my fingers getting into position.
He watches his horse, so he doesn’t notice me. Then, Antoine goes back to work, completely forgetting that I’m here at all. This works in my favor though. It makes him feel less conscious about what he’s doing, and it allows me to capture raw moments.
The border collie herds the sheep into their pen. Click.
The sheep don’t move. Click.
Eventually they begin to waltz into their pen. Click.
The border collie jumps around them, practically toppling over a few. Click.
I observe Antoine as he leans against his shovel, watching his animals do their jobs. Click.
He laughs as the mother pig rungs up to the cow, and they exchange what appears to be a silent conversation. Click.
I vanish into the background, capturing these precious instances of a single life. Antoine isn’t aware of the love radiating between him and his farm. It reminds me of the wedding I just shot for Lauren and Penn. I portray this love as literal stops in time. Click. And I smile. This journey has just begun.

Click. Click. by Julia Johnson

(The character Elizabeth is based off of the photographer Anne Rearick).

Click. Click.

The sun seeps through the drapes in my bedroom. I can feel the start of a new day permeating through the air. I stretch my arms overhead and step one foot slowly on the ground. Then I place my other foot next to it, already missing the warmth of my comforter. I descend down the stairs and head straight towards the coffee machine. As it brews, I sit down and read the Gloucester Daily Times. My husband must’ve brought it inside already on his way to the gym. The smell of coffee fills my nose, and I inhale deeply, absorbing the strong scent.
I pour myself a cup into my favorite mug from France. It’s the one I always use, except when it’s in the dishwasher. It’s a white mug with an image of a Pentax K-1000, an older camera. I bought it the first time I photographed in the country. The clock strikes eight o’clock, and I realize that I have to meet with the bride and groom soon. I’m photographing their wedding today, and we have to go over a few more things before they start to get ready. They’re a lovely couple, but the bride is a bit of a worry wart. I can’t blame her though; planning a wedding is a difficult task, and it can cause serious anxiety.
After I shower and change into my dress for the event--a simple but elegant black dress paired with black heels--I drive down to the Annisquam Yacht Club. Annisquam is one of my favorite areas in Gloucester. It’s absolutely gorgeous with all the boats scattered across the water, some near the footbridge, some docked elsewhere. There’s always people walking through the village, chatting with their neighbors, walking their dogs, taking the time to enjoy the day, to enjoy the small moments in life. It’s a small, close-knit community within the city, and that’s why I love it. Besides the beauty in the nature, there’s beauty in the people as well.
I have to take several side streets to get to the yacht club because many of the roads in this area are one way. As I park, I see that the couple, Lauren and Penn, are standing on the walkway. They’re holding hands and talking to one another. I can feel the love between them even standing from a faraway distance. I always keep my Nikon camera on me, so I pick it up and discreetly take a photo of them. My lens is very long, which makes it easier to remain hidden. Click. Penn brushes a strand of hair away from Lauren’s face. Click. She smiles up at him. I haven’t seen her so relaxed this entire process. Click. Lauren turns her head and sees me. She waves and starts walking in my direction. “Hey Elizabeth!”
“Hi Lauren,” I say. “Hi Penn. How are you guys?”
“We’re good,” Penn responds. “Ready to be married.”
Penn kisses the top of Lauren’s head, and it seems like it’s almost an instinct for him to do that. He doesn’t think about appearances when he’s with her. She wraps an arm around his waist, and I notice this wedding glow illuminating off her. I want to take out my camera again, but I have to wait.
“I’m so happy for you guys,” I tell them. “So there’s just a few things left we should go over.”
“Alright, let’s go inside,” Lauren says.
Penn and I follow her as she leads us into the yacht club. We sit down at one of the table, and I take out my wedding folder. “Okay, so everything should be all set. I’m bringing several different lenses, and I don’t believe I’ll need any additional lighting.”
They nod along.
I look through my notes. “We covered mostly everything within these last few months. But do you have any questions for me?”
They look at each other.
“I don’t think we do,” Lauren answers. “We trust you Elizabeth. Thank you for meeting with us this early.”
“Of course. I’ll come back around noon, so we can start with the family wedding photos.”
“That sounds good,” Penn says. “A few of our relatives are flying in this morning, but they should be here around the time we start.”
“Perfect,” I say, standing up. “I’ll leave you two to get ready then,”
“Thank you again Elizabeth,” Lauren gives me a quick hug goodbye.
I walk back to my car, grabbing my camera once more, and snapping a photo of the two of them saying goodbye as they part ways to their separate rooms. Lauren places a hand on Penn’s cheek as she says something to him. Click. They turn away from each other, but as Lauren continues to walk to her dressing room, Penn looks back at her. Click. He’s gazing at her with this unexplainable love. When I first met them, they told me the story of how they met.
She was studying abroad in Paris her junior year of college at Columbia University, and he had just graduated from New York University and was backpacking through Europe. They might’ve found each other eventually in Manhattan, but it was Paris that brought them together. Lauren went to this cute cafe called Carette and was order an espresso when the person behind her in line was shoved and bumped into her. She was about to tell him off when she saw how attractive he was. Instead of screaming a bunch of swears at him in French, she said “Salut, vous êtes d'accord?”
He looked at her like she was speaking another language, and of course she was, but she thought she had completely butchered the pronunciations of the words. “Désolé, je suis de l'Amérique.”
Again, he just stared at her, and then he finally said, “Hi, I’m Penn. Sorry, I don’t speak French. I’m actually from the States even though I’m part French myself.”
Lauren smiled. “I’m from America too. I thought I was saying the words wrong.”
“What’s your name?”
And the rest, as the cliche goes, was history.
I spend the next few hours doing errands, and when I return to Annisquam, it’s a completely different environment. Lauren is freaking out. The calm and collected girl I had taken photos of this morning is gone. She has left the building. Her sister, Jen, had come to get me because she wasn’t allowing Lauren to leave the room out of fear of Penn seeing her in her wedding dress. I didn’t think Lauren was the superstitious type, so maybe Jen was.
When I walk into the room, Lauren’s sitting on a velvet chair, looking out the window. The lighting is amazing! The sun is shining through the windows at just the right amount. It’s not overpowering but it’s not too dim. Lauren looks amazing as well. She’s wearing this gorgeous Vera Wang dress. She showed it to me during one of our meetings when Pen had to work. The bodice of the dress is lace with a series of tiny pearls mixed in. The bottom of the dress is tulle, so even though it’s not filled with any extra designs, it is still one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen.
Lauren turns her head at the sound of the shutter speed opening and closing. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” I say. “The lighting is awesome in here.”
“That’s okay,” she says, faking a smile. “How’s everything out there?”
“It’s going according to plan. We’re ready to go.”
“Good, good.”
“How are you feeling?” I asks, taking a seat on the other velvet chair in the room. Wow, it’s so comfortable. I’ll have to get one of these for my house.
“I’m…” she pauses. I can practically see the inner workings of her mind thinking about what to say next. “I’m excited to finally be married to Penn. He’s my best friend, and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else.”
“But…” I try to get her to say what needs to be said. Sometimes people just need a little push to really know what they’re thinking.
“I keep worrying that something bad is going to happen,” she says.
“Why do you think that?”
“I don’t know. This day just feels ominous to me, and I can’t relax.”
I think about what she says, forming a good response that will help ease her nerves. As we sit in silence, I see her starting to relax. It’s like she needed to think through the chaos in her mind and find a sense of stability. I figure out what I believe Lauren has to hear right now. “On my wedding day,” I begin. “I was feeling the exact same way. I was anxious and scared and it seemed like everything bad that could happen was happening. But then I remembered that I was marrying the love of my life and that seemed to be enough to relax my nerves. I understand that you want everything to be perfect, but life isn’t perfect.”
She looks at me with a somewhat blank stare, but then I see her blue eyes clear, and it’s like she’s been opened to this new light. I feel my fingers reach toward my camera. Then, she says, “You’re right. I’ve just been so caught up in all the wedding planning that it’s making me feel crazy.”
“Why don’t you go for a quick walk outside? I’ll make sure Penn stays in his room.” I suggest. Then, I remember Jen’s superstitiousness. “I know how your sister feels about tradition.”
“Thank you,” Lauren says, laughing about my comment about her sister. “I mean it. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you here.”
“Thank you, dear. Now go along. The weather is perfect today, and I think a walk will help you clear your head.”
Lauren leaves the room, and I trail behind her because I feel like it would be strange if I just stayed in here without anyone else with me. I snap a picture of her as she walks out the door. As I bring my camera away from my face, I notice Penn standing outside of his door. He’s watching her. I can’t help but take a photograph of him as well. I think they both will appreciate these single fleeting moments that they don’t see. They don’t realize the amount of love that passes between them with every single look and touch. Then I remember that I’m supposed to keep Penn from seeing Lauren in her wedding dress, so I walk over to him.
“Penn!” I whisper-shout. “You aren’t supposed to Lauren before the ceremony. Get back in your room!”
“Oops, sorry,” he says, sheepish. “She looks beautiful though.”
Aw, I feel my heart melt a little. “That’s very sweet, but if Jen catches you out here, she’ll have a fit.”
That gets his attention. “Right, I’ll just step back in my room.”
I nod. “That’s a good idea.”
He looks at her one more time as she steps outside. “Wait, where’s she going?” Penn asks, pushing the door back open. He looks a bit panicked. I probably should’ve told him where she was going in the first place.
“Oh, I told her to go for a walk to clear her head. She’s stressed out right now.”
His forehead creases, showing worry in his face. “Stressed?” he asks, sounding far away.
“Not about you,” I quickly reassure him. “Just wedding stuff. She’s afraid something’s going to go wrong today.”
He releases the tension in his forehead but only a touch. “Alright,” he says, sounding unsure. But he does go back to his room.
I let out a sigh. Sometimes I forget about all the drama that comes with weddings. I love it though. Then, I realize that since we are doing the family photos before the ceremony, Penn will see Lauren in her dress anyways. There’s a little bit of time before the family photos are supposed to start, so I walk around the yacht club.
There are many people milling around: friends, family, plus ones. I capture the interactions between and every one of them. There’s a little boy clinging to the legs of his mother who is pregnant with another child. Her husband walks over to her with a glass of water. He kisses her. Click. Then, he picks up his son. Click. I see Lauren’s sister next. She’s with her boyfriend. They’re sitting with Lauren and Jen’s parents, just talking. Click. They’re all very comfortable with one another. Jen’s boyfriend keeps a hand on the back of her chair the whole time. Click. I continue walking around the clusters of people.
No one notices me in the background. I’ve gotten quite good at blending into the scenery. It allows me to photograph these candid moments. Some people change when they’re in front of a lens, acting happier than they might be. And then there are the people who are the polar opposite, always hiding behind others when they see a camera pointed in their direction.
I aim to capture everyone at the wedding. They all tell a different story, and I want to uncover each one. Soon the families gather together and we begin to set up the different combinations of people for the photographs. It runs pretty much seamlessly. Everyone is more or less cooperative and patient.
We finish with a half hour to spare before the ceremony starts. I grab a bottle of water from the bar. I’ve learned that drinking on the job is never a good idea. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way. I find a place to sit down, taking a breather. Then, before I realize it, it’s time for the wedding to commence. All the guests begin to trickle outside, finding good seats. The minister is outside talking to the fathers of the bride and groom. Penn’s outside too, chatting with his groomsmen. HIs hands are in his pockets, and he looks incredibly calm. Click. But he probably is. Men usually don’t take as much part in the wedding planning as women do.
I step back inside before Lauren makes her entrance. When I open the door, I see Lauren standing to the side. She’s waiting for her dad since he’s the one giving her away. We have a quick conversation before I have to go outside. I find a different exit to get there because people might think Lauren’s about to come out if I open the door first. It would make sense for me to go outside after her, but I’m the one who has to photograph her entrance. It’s one of the most crucial moments in the wedding photo collection.
I stand to the side of the bride’s family and friends with my camera at the ready. Then, the piano begins to play. The doors open and Lauren steps out. I can see the nervousness in her facial expression: slightly pursed lips with a crease, similar to the one Penn wore earlier, along her forehead. After a moment, she looks up at Penn, and it’s like everything else suddenly disappears. Click. She smiles so brightly at him. It’s like she can’t contain this light shining inside of her. She has to let it out. Click. It pours out of her in waves, and Penn looks at her with just as much light.
When she reaches him, he takes hold of one of her hands as she uses the other to give her a dad a hug. Her dad gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before letting her go to Penn. I observe the crowd and see that Lauren’s mom has already started to cry.
The minister begins to speak: “We are gathered here today to witness and celebrate the union of Lauren Russell and Penn Brown in marriage.”
As the minister talks, I notice Penn and Lauren exchanging “I love yous.” Click. Then they say their vows. I take this moment to photograph the reactions of the audience. Everyone’s either crying softly, sobbing, or has tears in their eyes. I feel a tear making its way down my own cheek. I brush it away and continue shooting.
Penn takes Lauren in his arms and kisses her, dipping her in the process.
This moment is frozen in time. It’s been captured for a lifetime. Something never to be forgotten. There’s nothing better than the feeling of pure happiness, of this light living inside of you, illuminating your whole being. And all because of another person. Capturing the emotions of this day is by far my favorite part of this business.

Click. Click. Click. by Julia Johnson

(The character Elizabeth is based off of the photographer Anne Rearick).

Click. Click. Click.

Something old. My mother’s locket. Check.
Something new. My pearl earrings. Check.
Something borrowed. My best friend’s anklet. Check.
Something blue. The ribbon to tie around my dress. Check.
I peer into the little blue box that holds these four precious items. They’re all here, and I can breathe again. Slightly. The florist just arrived. All of my flowers are intact and alive. The photographer is on her way. I tell myself she will be here soon. I inhale. Everything is falling into place. It’s all going to work out. I exhale.
I hear a knock on my door. “Laur, it’s me. Can I come in?” my sister Jen says.
“Yes,” I say, trying to hold everything together.
The door opens, and Jen walks in wearing her blue bridesmaid dress. I don’t think the dresses are that hideous, but they definitely could be more attractive. My mom wanted them to be uglier, but I stopped her just in time. I didn’t want to put my best friends and my sisters through that. It would be just plain cruel.
“I just wanted to let you know that Elizabeth’s here,” Jen says. Elizabeth is the photographer. She’s amazing. Everyone we know recommends her.
“Oh thank god,” I say. “I’m going to go talk to her quickly.”
As I make my way towards the door, Jen practically attacks me. “Wait! No! No! You can’t leave the room! What if Penn sees you by accident? It’s bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress, you know that!”
“Jen, you know I’m not superstitious,” I tell her this very slowly to make sure she understands.
“But I am!” she exclaims. “Stay put. I’ll get her.”
I sigh. “Fine.” I know there’s no point in arguing with her. She’s relentless. I take a seat in the red velvet chair as Jen scurries out of the room. She pauses before closing the door, saying, “I’m serious Lauren Grace. Do not leave.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I know she’s serious when she uses my full name and my middle name together.
Jen makes sure I’m sitting down before she finally closes the door. I can’t believe I’m getting married today. And at the Annisquam Yacht Club. My fiance and I didn’t think we would be able to book it for a June wedding, but there was a last minute cancellation, and we were the first couple on the waitlist. It was a good omen to start our marriage. I just hope everything else runs smoothly.
As I’m looking out the window, staring at the water, I hear a click. Then, I hear it again.  Click. Click. I turn my head towards the noise and see Elizabeth standing in the doorway, camera pressed up to her face. Click. Click. Click. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” she says. “The lighting is awesome in here.”
“That’s okay,” I smile. “How’s everything out there?”
“It’s going according to plan. We’re ready to go.”
“Good, good.”
“How are you feeling?” Elizabeth asks, sitting in the velvet chair opposite of mine.
“I’m…” I pause. “I’m excited to finally be married to Penn. He’s my best friend, and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else.”
“But…” Elizabeth presses, knowing there’s more to that statement. She’s right.
“I keep worrying that something bad is going to happen,” I finally say out loud.
“Why do you think that?”
“I don’t know. This day just feels ominous to me, and I can’t relax.”
Elizabeth doesn’t respond right away. We sit in silence. It’s not awkward though. It’s comfortable. It’s the kind of silence that requires years of familiarity with a person. But I’ve only known Elizabeth for a few months. It’s nice to know that some people just have a calming presence. This is the least tense I’ve felt all day. I close my eyes, letting the moment wash over me, listening to the sounds emanating from the ocean. I focus on my breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
“On my wedding day,” Elizabeth begins to speak again. “I was feeling the exact same way. I was anxious and scared and it seemed like everything bad that could happen was happening. But then I remembered that I was marrying the love of my life and that seemed to be enough to relax my nerves. I understand that you want everything to be perfect, but life isn’t perfect.”
I look at her, absorbing her words. “You’re right. I’ve just been so caught up in all the wedding planning that it’s making me feel crazy.”
“Why don’t you go for a quick walk outside? I’ll make sure Penn stays in his room.” Elizabeth skillfully adds this sentence. “I know how your sister feels about tradition.”
I laugh. Something I feel like I haven’t done in ages. But it’s probably only been about twenty-four hours. “Thank you,” I tell her, starting to stand up. “I mean it. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you here.”
She blushes. “Thank you, dear. Now go along. The weather is perfect today, and I think a walk will help you clear your head.”
I nod and walk out the door. I already feel a hundred times better. I hear a click behind me, but this time I don’t turn my head. Breathe Laur. You’ve got this. I stroll down the path leading towards the docks. It is gorgeous out here. The sun is shining, the water is clear and blue, the birds are singing, and I’m going to be married in two short hours.
I’m going to be married.
Saying these words in my head makes me feel better. I’m not afraid of forever with Penn. I inhale. I hear a faint sound of clicks behind me. Click. Click. Click. I exhale. I point my face towards the sun, allowing the warmth to spread across my cheeks. After another moment, I turn around and walk back inside. My sister doesn’t know I’m out of the room, Penn hasn’t left his room, and Elizabeth was right, my head is cleared.
I slip back into my dressing room area, listening to my heart beat to a steady rhythm. Thump. Thump. Thump. A second after I grab a glass of lemon water, the door creaks open. “Hey Laur, you almost ready?” Jen pokes her head through the opening.
I take another sip of water. “Yes,” I say.
Jen smiles. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” I say, going over to give her a hug. “I can’t believe we finally made it.”
“I didn’t doubt it for a second. You two are meant to be together.”
“I think so too.”
“Everyone’s all set outside,” Jen tells me. “I’m going to let them know that you’re coming.”
“I’ll see you out there.”
I nod as Jen leaves the room. I glance at myself once more in the full length mirror. My dress is white with a sweetheart neckline. The top half is lace with little pearls embedded in it, but the bottom is plain, fanning out from my stomach down. It couldn’t be more perfect. I just have to add one more thing: the blue ribbon. I go over to grab the little blue box and pull out the ribbon first. It’s the same shade of blue as the hydrangeas in my bouquet. I wrap it tightly around my waist. Next I put my best friend Lily’s anklet on. She’s one of my bridesmaids today. Then I put on my pearl earrings. When I saw my dress on display in Vera Wang, I knew that my something new had to be the pearl earrings I saw at Tiffany’s. Lastly, I take out my mom’s locket. There’s a picture of her with my grandmother inside. She has been such a large part of my life that I felt this need to carry a piece of her on my person today. I make sure everything’s in place before I walk down to the docks again.
My dad’s waiting for my by the door leading outside. When he sees me, he smiles immediately. “Pumpkin, you look gorgeous,” he says. “Are you ready to do this?”
“Yes,” I respond, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Good, but if you’re having any doubts about this, I will whisk you away right now.”
“Alright, alright. I’m just checking.”
“You don’t have to worry about anything. I’ve known Penn was the one for a while.”
“I know, sweetie. He’s a good man.”
“Thank you.”
I didn’t realize Elizabeth was in the room with us until I heard a series of rapid clicks. “Oh Elizabeth,” I say. “I didn’t see you there.”
She laughs. “I get that a lot.”
I feel my cheeks warm. “Sorry,” I mumble.
“Oh that’s okay,” she reassures me. “Everyone’s just caught up in their own lives to worry about me in the periphery.”
“Well I should get out there.” I nod towards the crowd of people waiting for my entrance.
“I’ll see you out there,” Elizabeth says, stepping outside from another door.
I breathe in. “Okay dad, let’s go.” I breathe out.
He turns the handle, and we walk. I place my hand in the crook of his arm. An overwhelming sense of calm passes over me.
Click. Click. Click.
Penn is the only thing I notice as I walk down the aisle, which is just technically the deck outside of the building. Everyone’s standing up, staring at me, but I don’t care. I’m happy. When I finally reach Penn, I give my dad another kiss on the cheek, as Penn extends his hand to me. I take it, giving him a squeeze. “Hi,” I mouth.
“Hi,” he mouths back, smiling wider than I’ve ever seen. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Click. Click. Click.
These small but significant moments are being captured for a lifetime, and I don’t have anyone to thank but Elizabeth.
Click. Click. Click.