Today was supposed to be the happiest day in Tanith’s life — her wedding day. But it was still three hours to the wedding, and Tanith had already had her fill of the chaos. She slipped out of the dressing room while everyone else oohed and ahhed and giggled and squealed over how beautiful Vicki’s hair was, studded with several dozen rhinestones. They’d glimmer even through her veil.
Most brides selected their home church for their wedding, but Tanith hadn’t been home in years. Vicki didn’t have a home church either, so they’d settled on this little non-denominational chapel in the middle of the woods. Tanith headed for a small clearing she and Vicki had found behind the church when they first visited. It was tranquil outside, still an hour or more before the first guests would be arriving. She could get a few minutes of peace and then head back in for the final touches on her dress, makeup, and hair.
The last thing she expected to see in the clearing was a door.
Her breath caught in her throat. This was not just any door. It was the door to her parent’s house, halfway across the country. There was no mistaking the bold brick-red paint, nor the carved doorjamb that surrounded it. She ran her fingers over the wood, finding the places where she and her siblings had defaced the doorjamb in the subtlest of ways — adding an extra line here, a hole there, leaving their mark on the family home.
She was still touching the doorjamb when the door flew open, her father standing within. “What are you doing, Tanith? Come in from the cold.”
It wasn’t cold where she was standing, but her father was bundled up in a sweater and wool slacks. It would be cold where he was. But how could he be here, or she be there?
Tanith glanced back toward the chapel, then looked at her father. “How?”
He shrugged. “Haven’t a clue. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Come in and say hello to everyone.”
She peered past her father. Pots and pans clanged in the kitchen; her mother was an apparition in the cloud of steam hovering at the kitchen door. Some of her nieces and nephews played a card game on the living room floor. Her brother Davis had fallen asleep stretched out on the couch, while her sister-in-law, Nora, knitted nearby. The others were probably in the backyard, in spite of the cold.
The aroma of chili wafted over her, and her mouth watered. One of her nieces — April, Tanith thought, though she’d only seen the girl in photos — waved her cards in Tanith’s direction.
Home, with the smells and the memories. Her heart ached. She wanted to share it with the woman who’d won her heart.
“Let me go get Vicki.”
“No time.” Her father grabbed her by the wrist, gripping it tight.
Tanith jerked away. “No, she should come too. I mean, we’re getting married today. She’s part of the family.”
Her father crossed his arms over his chest, and Tanith shuddered. This was too unreal, and yet too real. Her father managed to express his disapproval across time and space, his glare making her feel ten years old again, when he had lectured her that kissing other girls wasn’t what nice young ladies did.
“You don’t want to see her. You just want to pull me away,” Tanith said, shaking her head. “Figures.”
“We just want you to come home, Tanith.”
Tanith took a deep breath. She’d endure the chaos of the wedding preparation to not be here right now. “Too bad. I don’t want to come home.” She took a step backward. “Tell the family I said hello, if you would. I miss them.”
“And me?” her father asked.
Tanith shrugged. “A little bit. But not enough to deny my heart. We hope you’ll come around someday.”
She didn’t give him an opportunity to respond, turning and running back into the dressing room.
Vicki looked up when Tanith entered. “Where’ve you been, love?”
Tanith leaned down and kissed Vicki’s shoulder where it met her neck, avoiding the makeup and hairspray. “I thought I needed some fresh air. Didn’t help, though. Maybe some water, instead.”
Vicki caught Tanith’s hand and kissed it, leaving a brick-red lipstick print there, the same color as the door to Tanith’s childhood home. “Somebody got a pair of earbuds Tanith can use?” She smiled at Tanith. “Marge can work her magic while you relax.”
Tanith smiled back and clutched the hand with the lipstick print to her heart. It might look ridiculous in the wedding photos, but she wasn’t going to let anyone clean it off her hand.
It was all the love she needed.
Dawn Vogel is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. Her steampunk series, Brass and Glass, is being published by Razorgirl Press. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, where they publish Mad Scientist Journal and are ruled over by their herd of cats. Visit her at http://historythatneverwas.com or on Twitter @historyneverwas.