To Have and to Hate by R.S. Grey


I stand out like a sore thumb. Even in New York City, people tend to opt for cream or white when it comes to bridal attire. I’m in neither. Even worse, my dress is shorter than I remember it being when I left my hotel room. The hem has lost inches on my walk to the courthouse. I like to think the cheetah print is subtle, but my black Doc Martens are not. I’ve had them for years. They’re my version of Dorothy’s slippers.

Another gust of wind blows up my dress and I shiver in my boots, looking up and down the street, waiting for him to show. I’m surprised by the number of blushing couples that rush past me, eager to get out of the cold and begin their wedded bliss with a ceremony inside the courthouse.

I’ll be one of them soon, I suppose. I look down at my naked ring finger and imagine how it will look with a fat diamond weighing it down, then I think back to the phone call I received last night.

My mom rarely calls me. In fact, I did a double take when I saw her name appear on the screen.

“Mom?” I asked after I answered, still wary of the odd turn of events. Part of me assumed the call was a mistake—a run-of-the-mill butt-dial—until she spoke. Her sharp tone sent a shiver down my spine.

“Elizabeth Brighton, where are you? All that background noise is dreadful.”

The music grew louder as the artists continued their performance in the center of the museum’s foyer.

“I’m at MoMA.”

She tsked as if she didn’t like the answer, and before she even had to ask, I walked away from the thick crowd of onlookers who’d gathered until I found a quiet corner.

“Can you hear me better now?” I asked, testing the waters.

“Yes. Thank goodness. Now, before I begin, you should know I don’t relish making this phone call.”

I puffed out a laugh, slightly taken aback by her candor.

“Thanks, Mom. It’s nice to hear from you too.”

“Don’t take that tone with me.”

I ticked my jaw, willing myself to bite my tongue and rein in my sarcasm, not wanting to make the situation any worse for myself. My mom and I have a strained relationship to say the least. If she had it her way, I’d fall in line with the rest of my siblings, move home to Connecticut, and follow right in her footsteps.

I assumed that was what the call would be about, actually. I thought it would follow the pattern of all the others: “Do you have to be so difficult? Do you truly think you can pay your bills with your doodles?” always leads into “Your father and I do not support this and we will not continue to fund this bohemian lifestyle you’re so hell-bent on achieving” which eventually dissolves into a teary “Elizabeth, I don’t understand how you could do this to us.”

When I was growing up, my mom loved my interest in art, but only because she assumed it would eventually dead-end into a career accepted by her and her high-society friends. It’s one thing to cultivate a gentle pursuit in art advising or collection management. It’s another to be an artist, down in the trenches with the masses.

I girded my loins for the same conversation we’d had a million times before, but then my mother sighed, deep and heavy. A long pause followed, and my heart sank in my chest. Something was off.

“Mom?” I asked hesitantly. “Is everything okay?”

“No,” she replied with a clipped tone. “As a matter of fact, it’s not. Your sister has run away with her driver.”

Now, I’m not proud of the fact that I laughed in this moment. It was just so unexpected! My sister has always perfectly fit the mold of my mom’s dreams for her. Popular in school—check. Classically beautiful—check. Just smart enough to get into an Ivy League but not so smart that she could be labeled as a stuffy intellectual—check. I’ve never seen her without a full face of makeup. I’ve never seen her not decked out in designer clothes. She was probably on track to marry some blue-blood prince, and now this. THIS. Running away with her driver?! It’s too good.

At least it felt that way until my mom started to cry over the phone.

My laughter dried up on the spot once I realized her overwhelmingly dramatic sobs weren’t going to stop anytime soon.

“Mom? Oh god. I’m sorry, okay? It’s going to be fine. So what if Charlotte ran away with her driver? At least she’s happy!”

“No, Elizabeth. It’s horrible. Horrible.”

I fought the urge to roll my eyes, knowing instinctively why my mom was having such a hard time with this. “Who cares what your friends think?”