Story by Jillvie Nguyen

When I was a little girl, my dad used to take me to the ice cream shop and tell me stories about his life. When I was younger, I always wanted to afford fancy clothes. When I was younger, I never thought I’d be in America. When I was younger, I never knew I’d have a daughter like you.

I was eight.

He was forty-four.

Time flies by.

I’m getting married tomorrow at a quaint, little chapel overlooking the ocean. In exactly eight hours and twenty-two minutes, I’ll be walking down the aisle in front of ninety-nine people. Ninety-nine and missing one person—my dad.

My friends say that marriage is all about the future. But the past haunts me. I wipe tears from my eyes and reach over to the nightstand. The lights flick off.

One hour and eight minutes.

Everyone probably thinks I’m leaving the groom at the altar, but I’m not. I’m sitting at the ice cream shop in my wedding dress with a coconut flavored ice-cream cone in hand. My dad’s voice flashes back to me. All of a sudden, I feel like I’m eight years old with my dad chattering beside me:

Hot sun, blazing down. That’s Kansas for you. It’s hot and dry and there’s nothing there.

“Then why were you there?”

“I’m getting to that part, kiddo.”

My entire family immigrated to America from Vietnam. We all ended up smack dab in the middle of Kansas. That’s why I was there. That was my new home.

For a place with nothing it did have one thing—

“What?”

“If you keep interrupting, I’m never gonna get there.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay, kiddo.”

One thing—a woman so beautiful I couldn’t stay away. I didn’t know I loved her. I don’t even think she knew she loved me. Until one day, she asked me to leave Kansas and make a life somewhere else with her. She was my new home. Vietnam, Kansas, and now her.

We sold everything and bought a brand new car. Then drove to California. It was the best decision of my life because it all led to you.

Fifty-nine minutes.

I’m almost done with my ice cream so I go to buy another. I can hear my dad already. What are you doing, Brea? You’re in love.

“Thank you,” I whisper.

I finish my ice cream cone. Put ten dollars into the tip jar. And dash out the door.  

Four minutes.

I’m standing outside the chapel doors with no bouquet in my hands. Only a framed photo of my dad rests in between my fingers.

Eight hours and twenty-two minutes ago, only ninety-nine people were going to be here for my wedding day. But now—as the doors open and the music starts—there are a hundred people here with me. I look down at the photo in my hands. My dad smiles up to me. Together, we walk down the aisle.