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Bourbon and Branch Water: Hardy’s “Wedding Belles”

Friday from the Archives: “Wedding Belles” fiction by Melissa Hardy from NCLR Issue 12 (2003)

Clad in a flame azalea organdy leftover bridesmaid dress from her older sister’s wedding, Julia Snow (of the Chapel Hill Snows) is attending her college roommate Muffin’s wedding in Charlotte. Julia thought she, like Muffin, like her sisters, like many other women of her time, would have gotten an MRS degree along with her Music BA. As it turns out, she didn’t and is now pondering what, and who, her future holds.

Melissa Hardy’s short story is filled with characters, places, and situations instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up in North Carolina during the last century. From the mother shelling peas on the front porch to the gaggle of women at the wedding wondering how long the marriage will last, there are some vignettes that easily translate across time and space. A little more uncomfortable now are the depictions of the mountain-dwelling family and the two African American individuals. Reading a story written twenty years ago (although no time is specifically stated in the story itself) reminds us both how far we have come and how far we still have to go to respect our fellow Carolinians.

Hardy grew up in Chapel Hill, but spent a lot of her time in Cherokee, where her parents, William and Martha Nell Hardy, were producers/directors/sometimes actors for the symphonic drama “Unto These Hills,” about the forced removal of the Cherokee from the Appalachians. This time inspired her first published collection of short stories, Constant Fire (1995), which is set in the Qualla Boundary.

Read more about the Qualla Boundary, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and more “Native American Literature of North Carolina” in our 2023 issue, coming this summer.

Read the whole story when you order the 2003 issue for your collection.