The Girl with the Red Scarf by Murray Dunlap

This is one of the February Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.


I gave my wife a red scarf for her birthday. That was before we married, and everything seemed promising. I gave it to her with a note that said to wear it with the benefit of the maximum density of my love.

Then we dealt with the wedding itself. Our hearts were pulled in many different directions. Who to invite? Where to have the ceremony? What color is this? What material is that? How many can attend? Where do we have the rehearsal dinner? What do we say to the priest? Where do we go, and when?

The strange placement of events and the expense of it all was overwhelming. But in stepped the girl with the red scarf, and her impossibly competent parents. Her father directed the funding. Her mother orchestrated the timing and placement of events. As groom, I accomplished little. I watched, mesmerized, as her parents did it all. My family was also great in planning, but the girl with the red scarf and her inexhaustible parents were a sight to behold.

As nuptial couple, my wife and I did as we were told. I thought of how my life was being dictated by people other than myself.  But, I knew my limitations, smiled and nodded, and reached out to hold my wife’s hand.

My limitations were greater than I liked to admit. I had been wounded in a car crash that permanently compromised my brain. I was often confused. Can I do this? Can I do that? Am I handling this correctly?

With few words, the girl with the red scarf nodded, smiled, and gave me directions. It would be the direction of our life together. I was hesitant, but embraced the correct direction in which my life was moving. Is there a maximum density of love?

The girl with the red scarf’s father seemed to understand my brain. He reached out a hand to me when I faltered. He started calling me son. I responded by calling him Dad. My own father had died years ago, and things fit.

The wedding itself was remarkable. The chapel, called All Saints, was grand. A cousin was our photographer and clicked candid moments into our forever memory. A beautiful place with beautiful people, all gathered for a beautiful event. Watching the girl with the red scarf walk down the aisle to take my hand for the rest of our lives brought tears to my eyes.

After my brother and his wife made their walk out, I gave my brother (and best friend) a high-five, caught in a photograph I love. I gave his wife a hug and their children, my nieces, hurried to hug me on their exit.

A close friend was our priest, and took the time to give us a toy camera before exchanging rings and say we should take the time to remember our beautiful lives together.  His words would ring true for the rest of our lives.

I returned to walk back down the aisle afterward to collect my mother in a public display of gratitude and affection. My mother had been my rock and as she adored the girl with the red scarf, all was in place. A terrific moment, walking her back down the aisle, followed by warm applause.

The girl with the red scarf and I had our first dance after the ceremony. I had been in a wheelchair following the car wreck, and that moment, for me, was an impressive feat of determination, at last realized.

We danced to Ray Lamontagne, whose music had summoned me from a coma. We stared in each other’s eyes in awe and affection. We knew we would never be alone again. Ray confirmed that the girl with the red scarf was the ‘the best thing, ever happened to me.’   

Months after it all, my wife put on her red scarf for a night out. I looked at her with an affection I had not known possible. Our families were meeting us out, including our brothers, and we would see the connections linking us solidify. As we were seated around a large round table, I silently acknowledged that there was no such thing as a maximum density of love.

With a flip of the red scarf, and without exception, my wife proved that fact.



Murray Dunlap
Murray Dunlap
Murray Dunlap's work has appeared in countless magazines and journals. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, as well as to Best New American Voices. His new book, Fires, is a collection of short stories interspersed with non-fiction about Dunlap's difficult recovery. Fires will be published by The Ardent Writer Press on June 7, 2015.


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