And I was sweating all over him.
I wrapped him in the edges of my skirt, hoping that he wouldn't absorb too much sweat; he wouldn't be easy to wash. I held him loosely in my hand by the paw and looked up to see Jessica walking into the treeline from the parking lot. She looked amazing, and I smiled broadly. The founder of Sigma Mu, my college sorority, she looked regal and beautiful, decked from head to toe in white. The graceful fall of her dress was interrupted by a corset, and she wore a cloak. She carried the weight of the fabrics in the heat with more grace that I was managing.
She was getting married today and she didn't look nervous at all. Her eyes trained forward, in the direction of where she knew her soon-to-be-husband would be waiting. Tim was a great guy, and I couldn't help but smile for them. She held a stuffed dragon to her chest, absently running a finger over the top of its head.
"I love the stuffed animal idea," her mother stood next to her, fidgeting nervously with Jessica's hair, her cloak, her makeup. Jessica bore it all with dignity, letting her mother poke and prod an already perfect woman. "Saved us money on bouquets for sure!" She giggled nervously, and one of the other bridesmaids rolled her eyes. I turned to Liz, my old roommate from college, hoping to keep her mother from seeing me laugh at her. Laura stood beside her, grinning ear to ear, a shine in her eyes like she was suppressing laughter.
The core of Sigma Mu was together for the first time in six years, and it was as though nothing had changed.
The music began, and we started down the aisle, walking among the trees at the state park. Rough-made benches sat along the path, trickling down the hill to form an amphitheater. Trees were in bloom, their leaves offering shade and shivering in the tiny bits of wind that managed to slip into the forest. The priest waited for us at the bottom of the hill, lit by the sun on the tiny, wooden stage. The lake flowed nearby, cooling the air just a little and adding the calming sound of trickling water.
I shuffled my way down the hill, nervous, hoping I wouldn't trip over my skirt. When I looked up, Tim was waiting, his gaze locked forward, his eyes gleaming. I knew Jessica was not far behind me, holding the arm of her father, looking brilliant and ethereal in the speckles of light falling through the branches and leaves. I knew what he was seeing, and I saw love light up his eyes.
In the years since we retired Sigma Mu and began our post-college lives separately, we had all grown apart a little. Jessica and Liz had moved to Northern Virginia, Laura to Maryland. I was still in Richmond, Virginia, the furthest away. The phone calls had stopped after a year or so, the visits became less and less frequent. Emails, texts, and Facebook messages had become our main method of communication, the conversations dwindled to almost impersonal questions about their health and the weather.
But in the months leading up to the wedding, we had been planning together, calling, and visiting. We talked about everything, catching up from several years in just a few days. Now, it seemed like nothing had changed. I had met Tim for the first time, and he had embraced me as a friend without hesitation. A beautiful soul.
Everything was perfect.
Jessica reached the alter, and Tim's face was aglow, his eyes dappled with tears, deeply in love as he began to recited his vows. There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd as Jessica began to read her vows.
Ever since that day, I have tried to make more time for my Sigma Mu girls, the girls that I studied with, played video games, watched movies with, cried with, and grew with. And I hope to never lose that ever again.