The Goodbye Bride

By: Denise Hunter

“Thanks, Mom. It won’t be the fastest boat out there, but the race is handicapped, so I have a good shot.”

“She can’t swim, Jo.”

“That’s what life vests are for, Daddy,” PJ said gently.

Dad’s lips thinned. He was torn, Madison knew. Between wanting to support her and being afraid for her.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll take every precaution. I’m getting lessons, aren’t I?”

“Let me know if I can help,” Ryan said. “I can, you know, crew or whatever.”

PJ nudged him with her shoulder. “You wouldn’t know a sail from a bath sheet.”

“Oh, and you would?”

“Children. Eat your supper.”

A few minutes later PJ launched into a story about a soufflé disaster, lifting the mood. By the time Mom set the apple pie on the table, Dad’s expression had lightened, though Madison noticed that Daniel was quiet tonight. She caught him casting a look at the empty seat next to her. She understood. It seemed strange without Jade there.

After supper, Madison helped her mother with the dishes while the others played HORSE. She scrubbed the burger platter while Mom loaded the old brown dishwasher.

Madison loved the little house she rented—which until two weeks ago Jade had shared—but there was something comforting about her parents’ home. Something about the predictable squeaks in the old wood floor, the hourly chime from the grandfather clock, and the familiar scents of lemon and spray starch. She rinsed the platter. Even the ancient spray hose, which was more trickle than spray.

After the dishwasher had whirred into action, Mom leaned against the sink ledge. The pendant lights illuminated her face, settled into the laugh lines around her eyes.

“Are you sleeping okay, honey? You look tired lately.”

“I’m fine.” Madison had never told Mom about the nightmares, and she wasn’t about to worry her with them now.

Her mom gave her a long, knowing look. The kind that made Madison realize that she could shutter off her heart to the outside world, but Mom would still see right through.

“You know, Madison . . . if it’s peace you’re looking for, you won’t find it on the regatta course.”

Madison put the platter away, the old cupboard giving a familiar creak. Was that what she was after? Peace? Did a person ever find such a thing after losing someone they loved so much? Someone so innocent and undeserving of death?

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