The envelope slips to the bottom of Tami's tote bag and gets caught between a couple of books, so it doesn't come up when she tugs out the rest of the mail and dumps it on the kitchen table. Eric has practice tonight, so dinner's just the two of them. Tami reheats some tuna noodle casserole, drizzles a bag of greens with Newman's dressing. They talk about the challenges of fourth grade, computer class, Gracie's science teacher, spring snow. After dinner, Gracie goes to her room to fill out her social studies workbook chapters for the night, and Tami settles in to watch tv.
Midway through her medical show Eric texts her that he's going out for a beer with Doug. Some things never change, no matter where you live. But she doesn't mind. Doug isn't a bad guy, as high school trustees go, and Eric's been cultivating him to get more involved with the team. "SEE YOU LATE," she texts back, and pours herself a glass of pinot grigio.
At nine she turns off the tube, leans into Gracie's room to kiss her good night, then pads up the stairs to read in bed. She brings the tote with her; it has her library books and the issue of the New Yorker she borrowed from work. She's rooting around for the magazine when her fingers connect with the envelope.
How did she miss this before?
It's big and thick, soft cream-colored paper. Nice calligraphy: "Coach Eric and Mrs. Tami Taylor, 24 Bellflower Way, Philadelphia PA, 19134." A fancy stamp, two swans with intertwined necks shaping a heart. She turns it over to see the return address; it's from Ms. Angela Collette. Tami's heart catches in her throat. She knows what it has to be. The only question is whose name is going to be inside after Tyra's.
She hasn't kept up with Tyra. Not since early in Tyra's time at UT. Once they moved to Philly, it got harder to stay in touch with the kids they'd known. There's something a little bit painful in it, if she's honest with herself. They moved, and they don't see those kids when they come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas anymore, and their lives are so busy and so full that she mostly doesn't miss the kids they knew. Except when she does. Except for times like now.
"Hey," Eric says softly, entering their bedroom and closing the door behind him. "Sorry I'm late, Doug and I got caught up--"
Tami just holds it up, wordlessly.
"Is that -- is somebody gettin' married?" Eric crosses the room and sits beside her on the bed.
"Tyra Collette," Tami says simply.
"You gonna open it?" His eyes are crinkled in a smile.
"I was waiting for you," she says, working her finger into the envelope flap and prying it free.
Your dad and I just got the invitation to Tyra and Tim's wedding. I cannot believe it. After all these years! Did you see this coming?
Subject: Re: Tyra!
Hi mom. Yeah, we knew they were together again. She posts on Facebook about going back and forth to Dillon most weekends. She seems happy, so I'm happy for them.
Honestly I'm kind of surprised they didn't just elope. Then again, Mindy would have been furious if she didn't give the twins the chance to be flower girls.
We're hoping to go. Since we didn't make it for our reunions or anything.
Subject: Re: Re: Tyra!
I think we're going too. We should get rooms at the same motel!
It would be so much fun!
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Tyra!
Mom. Stop emailing me. I'm calling you right now.
ps: same motel, sure; next to each other, no way. Motels have thin walls. There are things we just don't need to know about each other.
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tyra!
JULIE TAYLOR YOU DID NOT.
You'd better be calling me right now. I have to tell you how I'm the luckiest mom in the world. As soon as I stop laughing.
The third time Matt stands in front of the closet and stares into it, Julie looks up from the story she's editing. "What?"
"My suits are boring."
"They're suits." They're supposed to be boring, is the subtext of that, though it doesn't seem to be what Matt's looking to hear.
"I don't want to show up at Riggins' wedding, boring."
"I'm not even sure you need a suit," Julie says, closing her laptop and walking over.
"It's a morning wedding," Matt argues. "In Texas. Tim's gonna be in a morning suit."
"Yeah, well, he's the groom," Julie points out. "You and my dad wore tuxes at our wedding, and Landry wore one--" She has to stifle a giggle, remembering his ridiculous pink cummerbund. "But nobody else did."
"Yeah, okay." Matt chews on that for a moment. "Actually, I wouldn't put it past Riggins to wear tails over bluejeans and boots."
"That would be very Texas," Julie agrees.
"Girls have it easier," Matt grumbles, selecting a dress shirt and tie.
"We are not having this conversation again," Julie informs him, and presses a kiss to his shoulderblade and goes back to her computer.
She feels him standing behind her, a few minutes later, and lets herself lean back into his body, closing her eyes.
"I'm really glad for them," Julie says, after a long moment.
"Yeah," Matt agrees.
This isn't really about their wardrobe choices, and she's pretty sure they both know it. "Y'know, nobody really cares what we wear."
"I know." Matt presses a kiss to the top of her head. "I just always felt like, if we went back, we'd want to be able to say that we'd made it."
"We are making it," Julie says.
"I'm...not always sure what we're making," Matt admits.
"Me neither! But whatever it is, we're making it together."
"Making it together, huh?" Matt sounds amused, and suddenly Julie notices the innuendo in what she just said.
"Well..." she says, drawing it out, as though she were weighing whether or not to be interested. "If you want to."
"Get up here," Matt says, tugging on her, and she pushes back from the table and stands up so they can kiss.
"Okay, hon, I'm heading out." Tyra stands up, stretches the kinks out of her neck a little, picks up her briefcase.
"Off to spend the weekend with your fiancé," Marcela drawls, with a smile.
"No, I thought I'd go up to Oklahoma, do some gambling," Tyra says, almost managing to keep a straight face.
"Say hi to Tim," Marcela says, with a sigh, returning to her case files.
Tyra pauses by the door, her suit jacket draped over her arm. She's washed by a wave of surprising nostalgia. This is the only law office she's ever worked in; leaving is going to feel weird.
"Y'know, I think I'm going to miss you," she says.
Marcela looks up again. "You're only going away for two days."
"I mean, after the wedding."
"If you can't convince your big hunky husband to enjoy the glories of Dallas..." Marcela's voice trails off.
"You can make the case at the reception," Tyra suggests. "See how that goes for you."
"See you Monday," Marcela says, not rising to the bait, and Tyra nods. She knows Marcela's kidding about talking Tim into moving. She's shown her pictures of the ranch, of the house Tim and Billy built; no way they could afford anything like that in the Dallas metro area.
And anyway, she has a political campaign to put together. If she intends to be mayor of Dillon by the time she's forty, she'd better get on it.
The spring air feels good on her skin. She turns on the car, cranks up the air, and pulls out her phone to send Tim a text.
ON MY WAY
She's about to put the car in reverse when her phone chirps to tell her there's a reply.
I'LL LEAVE THE LIGHT ON FOR YOU
Tyra grins, slides a cd in, and begins to drive.
"I'm going to cry," Tami whispers.
"I told you, honey, I have Kleenex in my pocket for this very purpose," Eric whispers back.
The Baptist church is packed to the rafters. Everywhere they look, Eric sees familiar faces. Matt and Julie sitting with Landry and his wife. Tinker with his wife and baby. Buddy Garrity beaming so big you'd think it was his own daughter getting married again. Billy Riggins -- best man -- standing at the front of the room, a bit older and stouter than he used to be but looking so proud he could bust. And Mindy -- matron of honor -- clutching her bouquet as though it were in danger of flying away.
"Mind if I join you?" Smash Williams is standing in the aisle next to Tami.
"Of course not! Oh my goodness," Tami says. "Y'all are all so grown up, I can't hardly stand it."
Eric reaches out and clasps his hand as Smash squeezes past him to sit in the pew a bit further down. "Brian," he says. "That was some mighty nice play last Sunday." He doesn't watch every Titans game, but he always catches the highlights, because Brian Williams used to be one of his boys.
"The NFL's been good to me," Smash says, ducking his head a little.
"Modesty? From Smash Williams?" Eric gives him a sidelong glance.
There's the brilliant brash smile he remembers. A bit mitigated by age and experience, but it's still there. "Or maybe I've been good to the NFL."
"Shhhh," Tami says. The music is changing.
Tim walks down the aisle by himself. He looks tall and proud. He's grown into the man Eric always knew he could be. He gets to the front of the church, gives everyone a wry smile, and then stands there with his hands loose at his sides, the receiver waiting to catch the pass of a lifetime.
Tyra walks down the aisle on her mama's arm. Angie's made up to the nines; it's a little bit of a Tammy Faye Bakker look, but it suits her. Tyra's wearing something simple and white. Tami could probably explain why it makes her look so gorgeous, but all Eric knows is, it's reminding him of Julie and Matt's wedding, and he's feeling suspiciously choked-up, himself.
Angie kisses Tyra on the cheek and sits down. Tyra turns to Tim and even from the back of the church, Eric can feel the intensity of the way they look at each other, the easy comfort in their smiles.
"I'll take that Kleenex," Tami whispers.
When he presses it into her hand, it means I love you. Best part is, he's pretty sure she knows.