My name is Vivienne Grace Cunningham. I’m almost 18 years old; but at barely five feet tall, I don’t look like a girl who just graduated from Magnolia Academy. To most folks I’m simply Little Grace or “Angel Baby” as Daddy calls me. I s’pose it’s a fitting nickname ‘cause, as Mama says, I have the childlike disposition of a cherub. Waves of auburn curls, belongin’ to my daddy caress, my heart-shaped face. Thank God I’ve got a pimple free complexion, sprinkled with freckles from layin’ poolside beneath Atlanta’s sun, shimmerin’ on me from head to toe. My golden skin gives way to the bright blue eyes of my mama. Above those sapphire peepers are thick lashes passed down from Daddy’s Cherokee ancestry, while my dainty nose and high cheeks belong to Mama’s French heritage. I get compliments a lot, even from strangers, and I hear words like “adorable”, “cute,” and “pretty.” When people talk ‘bout my big sister Macy, that’s when adjectives such as “gorgeous, “stunnn’,” and “hot” come out. Lord help our middle sister, Kate, because she just gets called smart.
In case y’all can’t tell, this is a story ‘bout my family. The whole Cunningham crew. You’ll get to know us really well, because I’m not gonna leave anything out. I could drag y’all through the lovely details of my childhood yet it’s neither here nor there. I’m choosin’ to begin this tale on the week that changed my life forever: when Macy married the son of Georgia’s governor.
On this particular mornin’ we were getting ready to depart from our big ole house in Atlanta. It was a Thursday and the start of Macy’s wedding weekend. The temperature at 8 a.m. was already 80 degrees and risin’. At least all I had to do that day was sit in our air-conditioned car for the five hour drive to Tybee Island Beach. But I just wasn’t ready to get out of bed.
My petite frame lazed on the fluffy white comforter on my queen-size mattress. The dawn cast a rosy glow on the pink walls of my childhood bedroom. Pictures of my friends, Mama, Daddy and my two sisters smiled at me from frames reflectin’ bright rays. Overhead a ceiling fan whirred blowing cool wind to combat the heat. The whole point of the summer break was to enjoy the luxury of sleepin’ in. Today – Mama wasn’t havin’ it.
“Vivienne Grace!” she called on the intercom. “Are you up? You better be because breakfast is ready and we gotta get on the road!”
“Pish posh,” I said to myself climbin’ out of bed. My feet with their teeny, pink manicured toenails padded across the white Berber carpet of my bedroom. I flung open my door to face the intercom unit in the hallway and punched the “Kitchen” button with my two pink-painted fingers to holler back. “I’m UP!”
“Good.” The intercom cracked. “Are your bags packed?”
“Even better. Go make sure your sisters are ready to roll too. Then get your cute butt downstairs ‘cause your eggs are already cold.”
“Yes Mama.” I sighed and started down the hall. I caught my reflection in the mirror hanging in between our bedrooms. My light brown curls were wild from bedhead. On my tiny body sagged an over-sized UGA t-shirt and on my bony hips rested black cotton shorts wrinkled from sleep. I padded down the hallway, passing dozens of family photos dotting the walls in gilded frames. I was still half in dreamland when she knocked on Kate’s door.
“Kaaaa-te,” I moaned. “You up?”
“Come in,” she called back. I opened the door to see my sibling seated on her bed. Our rooms were identical, except hers had light blue walls and overlooked the swimming pool in our backyard. A stack of blue-patterned Vera Bradley duffle bags were waiting to be taken downstairs. CNN was on the small TV in the corner. A talkin’ head remarked about the record temperatures in Atlanta for late May. Kate was watching the news, brushin’ her blonde hair cropped at her narrow shoulders. Us girls looked very much like sisters with the same petite frame and deep blue eyes. Although, Kate had white blonde hair like our mama and Macy. Plus she was far more pale because she was a recluse. Kate would hole up in her room for hours readin’. While advantageous to a young lady headin’ for Yale Law, her time of the sun left her skin quite fair. Her white, bony arms cradled the comb as she wrapped a rubber band from her wrist ‘round her hair. She was wearing a simple navy sundresses matchin’ our blue eyes. Kate’s dress wrapped in a halter ‘round her neck revealing her bony, flat chest. None of us Cunningham girls were blessed with much of a bosom. We had our mama to thank for that. Kate stopped brushin’ her hair to take in the disheveled appearance of me – her baby sister.
“Grace, did you just roll out of bed?”
“Can you tell?”
Kate shrugged and looked back to CNN.
“Aw, heck…I look like a hot mess.”
“Screw it,” Kate said. “You can shower after the car ride. No one from south Georgia knows you anyway.”
“Thank God for that. Did you hear Mama on the intercom?”
“Yeah, I’m ready. And unlike you, I already had my breakfast.”
“Pish posh! Why didn’t anyone wake me up until now?”
“We all know you like your sleep. Macy was up with the sunrise to go running and when I heard her rummaging around I just woke up too so I could start reading.”
“How many books are you bringin’ with you?”
“Only that one,” she pointed to a large volume of tort law laying open on the bed next to her. “But let’s face it, I’ll be lucky if I get any time to myself this weekend.”
“So the bride was up and at ‘em early?” I asked floppin’ down beside her on the bed. “I just want to go back to sleep.”
“You can nap in the car. I’ll go make sure Macy’s ready. You better get downstairs.” Kate nudged me in the thigh to scoot off. “I think there’s still some coffee left if you’re lucky.”
“Forget coffee. I only want sleep.”
“Now, now, sister, that’s no way for a lady to talk” Kate mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “We can’t have Governor Brayden or any of Macy’s future in-laws hearing that kind of language.”
“Kate, I have to be on my best behavior this weekend, and it’s gonna be nuts. Is it too much for a girl to ask for a little shut eye?”
“Meh.” Kate grumbled. “I’m trying to train myself to only need five hours so I’m ready for Yale.”
“I still can’t believe you’re gonna go to a Yankee school. Why couldn’t you have stayed at UGA at least another year to wait on me?”
“Oh please. I had my fill of Athens for four years. Besides, you should get to experience the magical world of college on your own.”
I sighed and rolled off the bed. “Want me to help you take those bags down?”
“Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” I said and pecked my older sister on the cheek.
I grabbed one of the largest duffles and headed back into the hallway. Kate exited behind me to go make sure the bride-to-be was ready.
“Maaaa-cyyyy!” Kate called. “Future Mrs. Brayden! Let’s go!”
“I’m comin’!” Macy screamed from behind the closed door of her boudoir. “Jesus, Kate!” she cried flingin’ open her door. She was wearin’ a white silk bathrobe, gaped open to reveal half of her left breast. Her blonde hair, highlighted in shades of honey and gold, was tucked up in rollers. All 5’8” of her tanned, toned body was bronze from the airbrushed tan she received the day before. “What’s the rush?”
“Nothing, you still got time. Mom wanted to make sure we were all up-and-at-’em.”
“Well, I am.” Macy snipped, her green eyes glowing with excitement. “Can’t the bride have a moment to herself? It’s my wedding week.”
“Your wedding weekend, you mean?”
“No, it’s my week. Get it straight. Or my hand to God I will throw out all 500 of those wedding programs where you’re listed as my Maid of Honor. And then, I’ll have new ones printed statin’ you’re out of the bridal party.”
“Christ, Macy. Give it a rest. Don’t get your panties in a wad.”
Macy’s green eyes widened with wrath. “All I want is a few minutes to look my best in case a photographer is waitin’ outside. How about that? Hmph.”
“Yes, because the paparazzi are so concerned with your wedding to Campbell.”
“Well he is the son of the governor. Not like you ever had a boyfriend.”
I stopped before going downstairs. The last thing I wanted was for my sisters to be at each other. It would only make the five hours in the car an even more tiring trip.This was gonna be a long enough weekend in-and-of-itself with Mama stressed out. I dropped Kate’s duffle with a loud thud to get Macy to notice me. She had such a short attention span I just needed to snap her out of a hissy fit.
“Do I need to go roll my hair too?” I called down the hallway. “I haven’t even showered.”
Macy’s hard face softened at the sight of me: her baby sister. “Oh, Grace, sorry, good mornin’. No, no…you’re fine. It’s only me worryin’.” She shoved Kate aside to move down the hall to give me a big hug. “You always look so pretty, Gracie. I wish I could be 17 again. There’s nothing better than to have youthful skin.”
“I told you to stay out of the tanning bed,” Kate scoffed. Macy unwrapped her arms from me and started to move in towards Kate. Her mouth formed into an angry grimace which gaped open to hurl another insult when Mama called on the intercom.
“Girls! I can hear y’all! Everyone, downstairs, now! Your daddy says we gotta beat the holiday traffic so let’s get a move on!”
I ran up behind Macy and flung my tiny arms around my oldest sister’s waist. “Please, y’all, don’t fight. I know y’all are stressed, and I’m tired too, but it’s gonna to be a long day in the car. Can’t we just get along?”
Macy hugged her little sibling back. “We’re all good, Gracie,” she replied patting my forearm with her French-manicured fingers. “At least for now. But Georgia Katherine Cunningham, I swear, you better act like my Maid of Honor for the next four days. I’ve got enough sorority sisters comin’ who are your size. I can stick one of them in your bridesmaid’s dress.”
“Go ahead.” Kate challenged. “I never looked good in that light yellow you chose. Who the hell picks ‘daffodil’ for their wedding color?”
“Y’all!” I shouted with my arms still around Macy’s waist. “Kate, you stop. Macy, I’m not lettin’ you go until we get into your bedroom. Now march.”
“Who’s supposed to be the mature one here?” Kate sighed. “Whatever, it’s not my wedding. I didn’t ask to be your Maid of Honor. Mom made you ask me.”
“Mama didn’t make me do anything,” Macy spat as I her walked back into her room. “I thought it was a nice gesture to have you and Grace stand beside me. I wanted y’all to be near Campbell as we made him part of our family. But if you don’t want to do it…”
“Macy!’ I cried. “Jesus! Please! Just finish getting ready.” I unfurled her arms around Macy’s waist, my auburn curls even messier from wrangling the bride-to-be. Macy turned to face me and ruffled my curls.
“You’re too cute, Gracie. Maybe you should’ve been my Maid of Honor but Mama said you were too young for the bachelorette party.”
“Yeah – woulda been pointless since I can’t even drink yet.”
“Well, maybe you can start this weekend. Kate – maybe you should have one now. Perhaps a cocktail would correct your bad attitude.” She stuck her tongue out at Kate before goin’ inside her bedroom and slammin’ the door.
“Even at 26 she’s still a brat.” Kate remarked.
“And you should know better, Miss Yale Law.” I sighed. “Come on, Kate, you know she’s stressed. I would be too if I was marryin’ the son of Georgia’s governor.”
“What’s that saying of yours, Grace…pish posh?”
“Pish posh, indeed. Be made of honor this weekend. Ladies don’t lash out at each other the way you and Macy carry on. Perhaps some of those manners Grand Mere and Mama are always preaching about will help you in court.”
“God love you, Grace.” Kate said pecking me on the forehead. “Now you really better get downstairs before Mom hollers on that damn intercom again.”
Editor’s Note: this is the 1st of 30 chapters in a working novel. Click here to read Chapter 2. All material belongs to the author and may not be republished or copied without written consent. Should you want to publish this story, well hell’s bells by all means please let me know! Any thoughts, feedback, likes, dislikes, please comment below and check back tomorrow for more from the Cunningham family.