Work, as usual, was tiring. Being a nurse, I always had something to do, but on nights like this, I worked myself to the bone. I worked hard, until I was exhausted, and I still had to keep going.
The end of my shift seemed like such a long way away, but once it was time for me to clock out, I was reluctant, because I had several days off planned. Now, usually, this would be something to look forward to, because it meant I could get some rest, but I had prior engagements that I wouldn't have minded getting out of.
"Hey, Julia. You're off now too, huh?"
I turned around to see a fellow nurse and friend, Patty, coming up behind me. She looked about as exhausted as I felt, and I remembered we had most of the same shifts this week.
"Yeah. I'm about ready to drop," I admitted. I patted down my blond hair, twisted into a French braid, and knew it probably showed signs of how my day had gone.
She chuckled. "It's the price we have to pay to do our jobs. You have a bunch of free days coming up, right? You said you'd be going on a trip?"
My mood wasn't high, to begin with, but at the reminder, it dropped. Still, I managed a strained smile that probably didn't reach my blue eyes.
"It's for a family thing," I said with a shrug. "It's not like I'm going for a relaxing vacation."
"Still, I'm so damn jealous," she grumbled. "I use up my free days when I have them, so I won't be getting time off until next weekend, and only for one day!"
Honestly, I would have preferred that route. On bad days, I had to work like a dog from the moment I stepped into the clinic until I left. Having a free day here or there to rest up was nice but piling them up just meant I kept working non-stop.
If only mom wasn't so insistent on me being there so early! She was getting married, so as her daughter, of course, I had to attend to support her. I didn't hate my mom; we were actually quite close, we just had some disagreements here and there. There was no way I could work up any sort of enthusiasm on this wedding, though.
"I guess I'll see you when you get back," Patty said once we were outside of the clinic.
"Later Patty," I said back with a wave.
She went home, as did I. After a very long day today, I wanted to go to sleep, but Mom had reminded me before I went to my shift that she expected to see me early tomorrow, so I needed to finish packing. After I managed that I'd only have a few hours of sleep if I didn't want to be late...
Why do I even have to go, I grumbled to myself.
I didn't want to go to this wedding, but I knew I had to. So, I just wanted to get through Mom's 'big day' without making an absolute fool of myself. I wasn't as enthusiastic about this as I should be for good reason. I already thought the wedding was a lost cause. This was Mom's third marriage and I had a feeling it was going to be just as disastrous as her first two. I just knew it. Mom wasn't any better with relationships than I was, I already knew this, but it cemented it for me when I found out the first man she married wasn't even my real Dad.
The only difference between us was that I didn't try to find a husband because I knew it was a waste of time.
My phone vibrated as I waited at the bus stop. It was a bit late at night, but not too late, so there were a few other people at the bus stop as well. I pulled my phone out and grumbled to myself when I noticed it was a message from Mom. I almost didn't open the text, because I knew it was just another reminder not to be late.
Sure enough, it was.
It's annoying already, so stop trying to show me how impatient you are for this wedding to happen, Mom! You'll only be disappointed in the end, anyway. It was a snide thought, but I couldn't help it.
This time, especially, I was almost certain it was going to be a disaster. A wealthy man had swept Mom off her feet and proposed in a matter of months. Now, their wedding was taking place in the heat of a sultry Louisiana night, and I was to meet my new stepfather and stepbrother for the first time.
I wasn't looking forward to the humidity or the wedding.
This time, it was way worse than the hell that was her first marriage, that had only held on so long because of me. I had been optimistic for her during marriage number two since I'd been in studying for my nursing degree then, but that was when I learned about the secret behind my birth father. Husband number three, I sort of knew, and that was the part that bothered me.
The whole thing had been an accident. If I had known it would lead to this, I wouldn't have let them meet in the first place. I had nothing against my mom pursuing happiness just because marriage wasn't my idea of being happy, but I was the one she went to when she was having trouble, and I hated to see her cry. It had happened way too much during her second marriage, and the progression this time had been too fast.
Sure, they were both getting on in years, but they had barely known each other for a full year.
Without replying to Mom, I put my phone back into my purse. The bus had arrived, at last, so I could get off my feet. Once I got inside, I found a seat with a window and leaned my head against it, staring outside as my mind overran with thoughts of the upcoming week.
I'd moved down to Louisiana from North Carolina to fulfill the only romantic dream I'd ever had, to live near the bayou. Mom had been down for a visit and came to see me at the spinal injury clinic I worked at when Paul had come in to visit one of the doctor's in the office.
That was how the two of them met. It happened in passing since I needed to talk to the same doctor Mom did when she came in, so I took her with me to find him. I found him together with Paul. Then, because I was in the middle of work, I left Mom behind to leave on her own. The doctor, who was also busy, went his own way as well, leaving Mom and Paul together. The rest was history, and a few months later, Mom was calling me up telling me Paul had proposed to her.
She'd sounded so happy. She was practically speaking to herself, she didn't even give me time to say anything. I was stunned through the whole call, aside from hello and bye I don't think I said a damn word.
That had been my chance, and I missed it. The chance to talk some sense into my carefree mother, and I lost it. A month later, after a short engagement, Mom told me they had a date set for the wedding. It had been a week since that call, and the big day was only a few days away.
While I was familiar with Paul, I couldn't say I knew him. All I knew about him was that he visited my workplace sometimes, but I'd never even spoken to him. I hadn't really met him properly. I would meet him just before the wedding, though this introduction between the families should have happened a lot earlier than this. Or, never. I wouldn't have minded either way, since I wasn't going to have much contact with my new stepdad and stepbrother if I could help it.
Sure, I was curious about them. They were going to be my family, through marriage, and they'd have an influence on my mom. At least for her sake, I had to worry about what they would be like. But Mom had her life, and she let me have mine. We talked just fine on the phone and met up a few times a month, but while she had quite a bit of free time, I had very little, and it just worked for us.
Introducing more people to the mix was going to make it messy, and I didn't like messy.
At twenty-six years old, I was finally at peace with my life. I owned my own apartment, I was a professional, and I took care of myself. I wasn't going to let anything, even new family, get in the way of that.
Mom really had tried her best for me, but I'd grown up in a rough environment. We weren't poor, but while a lot of kids breezed their way through school like it was a chore, there were times when I knew I was lucky to make it into my nursing program. I had worked hard to get scholarships in both high school and university. When I had the chance to improve my life on my own, I had taken it. I put myself through nursing school since Mom was newly divorced and just barely managing herself.
I worked even harder to get where I was at now, with a job that gave me good money. While I put in a lot of hours and effort to work, I didn't feel like any of it was wasted. There were times I felt differently, but I loved doing what I do, and I had a good enough social life as well.
The only negative thing people had to say about my life, was my lack of relationships. Mom,,in particular,had, asked me plenty of times when I planned on finding a boyfriend. I was no stranger to sex, but I was a 'love them and leave them' kind of girl, so while I'd never dated, I'd actually met plenty of guys. I just wouldn't tell my mom that, or she'd start in on the lecturing.
I was different from Mom, different from a lot of the general population. I didn't want a home and family, that white picket fence dream more people than I realized seemed to have. I'd told one of my friends back in college about how I felt about romantic relationships, and she'd looked at me with this expression like she felt sorry for me, and I never bothered to tell anyone about it again.
It was completely fine with me, though. All I wanted in life was peace, with the occasional partner to satisfy the occasional urge. I didn't need a boyfriend, or a husband, to make me feel fulfilled like Mom felt I should. I was content as things were.
I just wasn't sure why Mom was even marrying again. It was silly, really.
With the current state of the world we lived in, nothing was guaranteed. Sure, I could find a man that treated me like I was his world one day, but there was no guarantee it wouldn't change. I'd watched my mom, and so many other people in relationships that ended in heartbreak beat themselves up over why things didn't seem to work out, when they were just fine.
I never wanted to bother with that.
The bus finally made it to my stop. It was a block away from my apartment building, but my neighborhood was pretty safe, not to mention well-lit with security cameras all over the place, so I never had to worry about walking around at night.
I arrived at my apartment, with no one there to wait for me. If I wanted, I could always get a pet, but they needed too much effort to look after, and that wouldn't mesh with the peaceful life I wanted at all. I pictured having a partner needing the same kind of effort, and the whole idea just turned me off.
After locking up, I stopped by my kitchen for a drink of water. I'd eaten at the cafeteria by the clinic, so I wasn't hungry. I went back to my room and I finished packing up what I would need. I was all ready to leave early tomorrow morning.
I changed into a pair of pajamas, and turned off the lights with a tired sigh. I was happy when I fell into my bed and felt my muscles begin to relax at last. It was just to bad I went to sleep dreading tomorrow.