Two Women, Two Weddings, One Heart

“100% money back guarantee? Well, that’s more than I can say about my first marriage,” Mariel said under her breath. She quickly scolded herself for being so cynical, and continued browsing through the stunning choices available on the jewellery website.

Mariel was struggling, both with planning her own wedding, and helping her daughter Alaina plan hers. Never in a million years would she have expected to be getting married, for the second time, at her age. Ever since the divorce from Alaina’s dad several years ago, her life had been anything but predictable. She went through all the “typical” stages of divorce: shock, grief, despair, anger and, finally, acceptance. Mariel realized that the past five years had not only been the most challenging of her life; they had also given her the best opportunity to rediscover herself and what she wanted.

Then she met Alex, and the world seemed to stop for just a moment. Introduced through mutual friends, their courtship was fun, fast and passionate, and they knew they had found something truly special in each other. To mark their first month of dating, Alex had surprised Mariel with a lovely single pearl on the slenderest silver chain. It was exquisite, and she had worn it every day since. When she asked him where he purchased the necklace, she was surprised yet again when Alex told her that he purchased it at an online jewellery site.

Alex spent great deal of time working online managing his import/export business, so he was much more comfortable shopping and buying online than Mariel. To her, who only just now was getting comfortable using Facebook, buying online still seemed risky. She worried about the quality being up to par, or receiving the wrong items. She had also heard the usual horror stories from people who had placed an order, and never received their merchandise. Alex listened patiently to her fears, then calmly explained how he determines what sites will get his business.

First, he only buys from vendors who use a secure payment gateway and offer an iron-clad 100% money back guarantee. Secondly, he makes sure that the site gives good contact information, including emails and phone numbers, of their customer service department. Finally, he makes sure to read online reviews and customer testimonials to hear real-world experiences from actual customers.

Alex was a good businessman, and not one to take undue risks. He liked the greater choices and variety he had through online shopping, and was able to find many items that were not available elsewhere in Malaysia. Add to this the higher quality available, and he was hooked on online shopping.

It made sense to Mariel, but still she was unsure. Finally, at Alex’s urging, she purchased a high-end purse from an online store; she was absolutely delighted at the volume and variety of inexpensive branded goods she found, and her purse arrived as promised just a few days later. So she wasn’t surprised to find herself browsing this site today, hoping to find just the right piece of jewellery for her daughter’s wedding. Alex was right, the quality and variety of choices were great! She had a feeling she’d be able to find the perfect gift of jewellery.

It was more than simply a wedding gift she was after; it was a peace offering too. She and her daughter had been bickering for what seemed like months, marring what should have been a lovely and exciting time for both of them. The trouble started back in late fall, when Alaina and her fiance announced their plans to be married. Mariel thought they were far too young, and already saddled with huge student loans from college. Neither one of them was firmly launched in their new careers, and they still looked (and sometimes acted) like silly college kids. She gave them her (unsolicited) opinion, which didn’t go over well.

In fact, it was weeks before Alaina would even answer the phone. When she finally did, her tone was icy.

“Mom, if you’re calling to tell me, again, what a bad idea this is, save your breath. We are getting married, like it or not. I hope you’ll be a part of it and support us, but if not, that’s your choice,” she said, measuring her words carefully and trying her best to keep the emotion out of her voice.

Mariel was taken aback by this new, strong daughter. She had always had a close and happy relationship with Alaina; they could share their dreams, their struggles and their hopes. Then everything changed when Mariel divorced. Since then, there was a gulf between them; they remained generally polite, but there were wounds on both sides that needed time to heal. True, she didn’t think the marriage was a good idea, but now that she knew Alaina’s fiance a bit better, she couldn’t tell whether it was their marriage, or bad memories of her own first marriage at such a young age, that troubled her.

“I didn’t call to take back what I said, or to apologize. I also didn’t call to criticize, or give any more of my opinion. I called to give you some news.”

The few seconds of thick silence hung between them.

“What is it? Is it Dad? Is everything okay?” Mariel could hear a softening in her voice; it reminded her of years ago, when they would share breathless tales of schoolyard crushes and spiteful friends over lemonade on the back porch.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” she rushed to assure her daughter. “In fact, it’s happy news. At least I hope you’ll think it is.” She paused, waiting, and then plunged ahead. “Alex has proposed, and we are going to be married.”

She heard a sharp intake of breath, then a silence that hung between them like a heavy blanket. When Alaina finally broke the standoff, she did so with one simple word. “When?”

This was the part Mariel had been dreading. She and Alex wanted a very simple, small and private wedding, without a lot of planning or waiting. They wanted to be married in two months, just a couple of weeks before Alaina’s. Alex was going to be traveling for most of the summer, and he wanted Mariel to join him, as his wife. Aside from being able to take an extended honeymoon combined with his business trip, it would make it easier for visas and customs if they were married. Plus, why wait? They both knew what they wanted, and they weren’t getting any younger.

“The first weekend of May.”

“Mom, I cannot believe you are doing this! Why can’t you wait until after my wedding? This is supposed to be my time, not yours!”

Mariel was saddened, but not surprised, by Alaina’s reaction. Being an only child, she had been lavished with attention by both parents since her arrival 23 years ago. Not spoiled, but certainly the center of attention, especially when her parents’ marriage began to fail. They poured out the love they couldn’t give to each other onto Alaina, and she became used to being in the spotlight.

Quietly, Mariel explained, “We are going to have a very simple wedding. Just the two of us, on the beach near Alex’s house, with just the local minister and some close friends. It won’t take anything away from your day, I promise.”

More silence. Finally, after what seemed like ages, Alaina asked, “Are you happy, Mom?”

“Very much.”

“Then I’m happy for you. I have to run, really, I am.” She hung up abruptly, and Mariel thought she heard her daughter’s voice catch and break, as if she was on the verge of tears.

Since then, both women had been busy making plans, moving, and getting their new lives organized. While they had talked quite a bit over the past several weeks, their usual closeness was still not fully back. Mariel knew she had stepped over a line with her criticism of her daughter’s life and love, and she was determined to keep her big mouth shut and just support her daughter in any way she could. Alaina, for her part, seemed to be trying to find a balance between being happy for her mother, and wanting everything to be perfect for her own day.

This is where things had been on the day Mariel found herself browsing for Alaina’s gift. Her daughter had purchased a stunning ivory gown for her big day, embellished with tiny seed pearls that glistened in the light. Mariel was browsing the huge variety of quality pearl necklaces, hoping to find just the right one to set off the shoulder-sweeping silhouette of her daughter’s gown.

“Alex is right; there really are greater choices and variety online,” she thought to herself. She had put a lot of miles on the car the past two weeks, driving to every jewellery store in sight, only to find herself more confused trying to compare prices and quality at several different places all over town. Being able to see everything in one place like this, and clearly explore the higher quality pieces, really helped. Many of these items were exquisite, in styles just not found elsewhere in Malaysia. She really was having fun.

Finally, Mariel decided on the perfect necklace. The necklace had three fine silver strands of different lengths, and was strung with pearls in the loveliest shade of cream. Mixed in with the ivory beauties was a sprinkling of jet black pearls. She could imagine how beautifully these would set off her daughter’s dark hair.

It was funny, even with all the things they differed on, they shared the same striking, dark good looks. Yes, there was no denying that girl was her daughter, she thought with a quiet laugh.

Mariel added the necklace to her shopping cart. Before hitting the “checkout” button, she carefully read the company’s website, looking for the things Alex had taught her. Yes, they used a secured payment gateway, which definitely set her mind at ease. Yes, they offered a 100% money back guarantee if for any reason the necklace did not live up to her expectation. Yes, they had a phone number and an email prominently displayed, and a note that encouraged customers to call with any questions or concerns.

She was ready. As she completed the transaction, which took only a few minutes and went very smoothly, she imagined how delighted her daughter would be to receive the gift. She truly hoped they could start fresh, both as newly married women, and begin a new chapter of friendship and family. She trusted that their relationship was solid, underneath the stress of the past few months, and envisioned happy times with their growing family.

The doorbell interrupted her pleasant day dream. She glanced at the clock; 3:30 in the afternoon. She wasn’t expecting anyone, and the mail usually came later in the day. Curious, she looked out the window and saw the Fed Ex truck in her driveway.

Opening the door, she signed for the small package and wished the driver a good day. She assumed it was another wedding gift, as her friends and far-flung family had been sending her and Alex gifts since hearing about the wedding.

She got quite a start when she saw return address on the box; it was from Classic Creation, the same online jewellery company from which she just ordered her daughter’s necklace! “Well, that was fast,” she said wryly, astonished at the coincidence.

Mariel took the package inside, and opened it carefully. She read the enclosed gift card.

“Dear Mom,

I love you, and I wish you all the happiness you deserve. Enjoy your wedding day.

Alaina”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized this was a peace offering from her daughter. With shaking fingers she opened the lid on the velvet jewel case. Inside lay a necklace; three fine silver strands strung with pearls in the loveliest shade of cream, with a sprinkling of lovely jet black pearls. She laughed, and could just imagine how these would set off her formerly dark hair, now shot through with silvery gray. Even with the distance, and the difficulties of the fallout from the divorce, Mariel and her daughter still shared so much in common, from their beautiful looks to their taste in clothing and jewellery.

The happy tears flowed, and she imagined how her daughter would feel in a few days when she opened her own package. Mariel knew, without a doubt, that these gifts were truly from the heart, and would become lasting symbols of their new relationship.

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