I found this while cleaning out my Dropbox today. No part of this appears in Coming Home. This was written when I was deciding how to start the book and got completely scrapped before it went anywhere near my editor. It's pretty rough. And apparently Corey used to smoke? Who knew. :D
It’s 9.59 a.m. and I should have picked her up.
The clock on the wall ticks the minutes by, and I jiggle my right leg, my nerves on a razor’s edge.
Today’s my wedding day.
Lily had this thing about me not seeing her before the wedding. I guess given that we were eighteen years old and marrying against our parent’s wishes, she just didn’t want to risk any bad luck.
Dad’s hand lands on my shoulder as that final minute goes by. The registry office is booked for ten and there’s no sign of my bride.
“It’s tradition for the bride to be late. Didn’t you say Lily had a thing for tradition?” He smiles, but I can’t help the nervous tic in my stomach. The one that’s twitching like there’s no tomorrow.
“She’ll be here, son. One thing I do know is that Lily loves you.”
It’s reassuring, but I still have the nagging feeling that she’s not going to show.
I saw her yesterday. Her plan was to tell her mother last night. She put it off as long as possible not knowing how she’d take it.
The clock ticks and ticks, and at 10.15 a.m., that tic in my stomach turns into something more substantial. She’s not coming.
“You’ve got the room until 10.30 a.m. Let’s just see how this goes.” Dad, eternally patient and quiet still sits beside me.
All I ever wanted was to be with Lily, to love her the rest of my life. Once the wedding’s over, we’ll go straight to the city where I’ve got an apprenticeship with a garage, and a little apartment lined up.
“She’ll be here,” I say.
“Of course she will,” he replies, though his tone tells me he’s just saying the words to make me feel better.
When that damn clock ticks over to 10.30 a.m. I release the tears I’ve been fighting so hard to hold in. I’d spoken to Lily on the phone before she went to bed last night. She sounded tired, but she was happy. Her mother hadn’t taken it well at first, but Lily had talked her around.
The court clerk walks toward me. His expression screams of his boredom, and I’m only holding up whatever he’s going to do for the afternoon. If it’s not busy, this place is only open half a day.
“The next couple are due. You’ll need to reschedule.”
“Son.” Dad places his hand on my shoulder. His eyes tell me what he’s thinking, that Lily’s stood me up. “Maybe her mother wasn’t happy about it and Lily’s still with her.”
I pull away from Dad. Lily’s house isn’t far from here, I could walk if I had to. I just need to talk to her, find out what’s wrong. There must be something.
“Let’s get over to her place,” he says. I’m grateful that Dad’s here. Hanging around outside are my brothers. Corey, Drew and Owen. The only one missing other than Mum is six-year-old James.
We walk out of the building. My eldest brother stubs out his cigarette, and tries to cover, but Dad’s seen. He always sees. He just never speaks.
“Where’s Lily?” Corey asks.
I shrug. “Dad and I are going to her place to see what’s going on.”
“Want some company?”
I shake my head. “We’ll take care of it. Go back to Mum and Dad’s place and we’ll call you if we need you to come back.”
He nods. “You sure?”
“She can’t be that far away. Cold feet maybe?”
Corey grins. “I don’t know how you get cold feet when you’d walk over hot coals to get to today.”
I jump in my car, Dad right behind me, and we take off down the road toward Lily’s. Shaking a little as I open the door, I don’t know if I want the answer. Maybe she just had a last minute wardrobe crisis. I don’t care what she wears as long as she’s there.
We approach the old house. Lily’s mum has a bit of a reputation around town for being a bit crazy, and the appearance of this place doesn’t help. The house itself is built against a hill, and the garden is overgrown, the trees not being trimmed in I don’t know how long.
Lily’s mother comes to the door when we knock. She’s tall and slim, like Lily, but that’s where the similarity ends. Where Lily’s fair, her mother’s dark, where Lily has blue eyes, her mother has green.
“Hi, is Lily here?”
She blanks. “I thought she was with you. Weren’t you getting married at ten?”
My stomach clenches. “Are you sure she’s not here?”
“She left early this morning.”
I don’t believe her, can’t, and despite my father calling to me from behind, I push past her and start searching rooms. The living room, the kitchen, and then upstairs toward her bedroom.
“She’s not here.” Lily’s mother calls.
The drawers in her room are open, and everything’s gone. She’s packed as we planned.
“Where did she go?”
Lily’s mother appears in the doorway, squeezing her hands together like she’s anxious. I guess she is if she thought Lily was with me.
“I don’t know. I just know she left.”
Something doesn’t feel right. I don’t know if I believe her. I push past her again and head toward her own bedroom, pushing open the door.
“Adam, if you don’t leave I’m going to call the police. You can’t just search my house.”
I shoot her a filthy look, but I know I’m done for. I can’t poke and prod around and all evidence points to Lily just having gone.
Irritated, I run my hand through my hair. “Did she say anything?”
She shakes her head. “Last night she told me what you had planned, and we argued a little. But we were good. I knew she had some doubts, but I thought …”
My insides melt. “She had doubts?”
The nervous woman in front of me swallows. “She didn’t seem sure that she would go through with it. When she left, I assumed …”
In that moment, my entire world crumbles. These past few years have been about her, and I’ve never doubted us for a second. Lily never voiced any doubts to me, but would she?
Maybe she did get cold feet and take off.
“Thanks, Mrs Parker.” I traipse down the stairs. She’s gone and there’s no sign of her. She didn’t even have the guts to face up to me and call it off.
My heart shatters into a million pieces and I don’t have a clue what to do, and how to get hold of her to demand answers.
She owes me that much.