The celebration of a lifetown—lifetime, rather. Michael McClane’s entire family flew out to West Merrimack for his and Bonnie’s wedding. His father James entered the banquet hall with his eyes raised at the chandeliers. The size of small cars, they were, made of what looked like sharpened ice. James wondered if they were real crystals. He wondered how much it cost. Probably less than the flight.
Michael stood at the altar, shifting in his shoes, searching his side of the church for something to comfort him. His family was busy talking about the beautiful chandelier and the lack of stained glass, the lot of them disappointed at the secular affair. There was Aunt Mary, her blonde dreadlocks piled like spaghetti on top of her head. Uncle Ernest, Uncle Bradley, there was grandma, there was mom and dad in the front, mom dabbing at the corners of her eyes every time she looked at her son. There was Sue Anne, too, hair grown out to her chin. He caught her eye and smiled. She smiled back, mouthed “Good luck.”
“I always said I’d be at your wedding,” she told him when calling to RSVP. “Either in the audience or the aisle.”
Well, she was honest, if nothing else.
Then it began, a parade of their closest friends and family. Cousins, high school friends and mutual friends from college, matching dresses, matching ties. Craig Wu, Bonnie’s married friend from home. He and Michael had played cards together once, and now he was in his wedding. Well, a wedding is for two people, Michael thought. He was so busy watching the paired couples he nearly missed Bonnie’s appearance. She was gorgeous. All in white, wearing only one color for perhaps the first time in her life.
After the ceremony and photos was the reception, the part they’d all been waiting for. Michael and Bonnie had their first dance, reminiscing about how they met. She spun, but her hair was too neatly pinned to flutter against his chest.
After their dance they barely saw each other the whole night—they were whisked away to dance with fathers and mothers and little children, to change into smaller dresses and kiss elderly relatives goodnight. They ate briefly, laughed at the toasts, sipped cocktails when they had a spare moment.
Cut the cake? They whispered greetings to each other, giggled about the craziness of the wedding, ate the cake, and were pulled away from one another yet again.
Quixotic. Colors, flowers, smiles, sounds, songs, everything tailored exactly to them, the newest and youngest Mr. and Mrs. McClane.
Symbiotic. Bonnie shivered all night, hopping from space to space. Her high heels hurt her feet, her hair was getting in her mouth. She couldn’t find the bartender, and needed to order a drink for her grandmother, who was allergic to so-and-so and couldn’t stomach such-and-such. Craig saw her worry lines from a room away, as Michelle chittered on about the centerpieces.
“One sec,” he whispered to his wife, kissing her cheek. “Bonnie needs help.”
Michelle responded by finishing Craig’s drink and slamming the empty glass on the tablecloth. She went to the bar to get another.
“Hey,” Craig said, placing a hand on Bonnie’s back.
“Oh, so nice to see you,” Bonnie said, hugging him. She was acting on anxious routine, the phrase and hug programmed into her wedding dress.
“I’m here to help,” Craig said. She smelled like rose perfume, hairspray, and sweat, but it was the sweat that made him feel faint. It smelled like their long summers, like their short recesses in elementary school, like her skateboard tricks and her—damn. Here she was, wearing a wedding dress. And here he was, wearing a wedding ring that didn’t match hers. He wanted to feel something, but he didn’t. He needed to help grandma with a drink.
“Thank you so much, Craig,” Bonnie said, then immediately had to run, to dance, to find her new husband. Craig found the perfect drink at the bar, without so-and-so or such-and-such, and returned to his wife, wondering if he was missing jealousy or happiness, wondering why he couldn’t decide.
Erotic. Michael was at his sixth drink and was dancing with his beautiful Bonnie. Bonnie McClane. That night was spent in a little hotel room, tousled under the sheets, cycling between two or three different sets of lingerie Bonnie was given at her bachelorette party.
Exotic. The island, the trees, the heat, the salt water. The McClanes, busy, happy, hearty. Exploring like children, sunning like lizards, sleeping like rabbits, they spent their two-week honeymoon in inexplicable happiness.
Neurotic. I’m happy, Bonnie told herself in the mirror. Quixotic. “I’m so happy,” she told Michael in the kitchen. “I’m really happy,” she told Craig over the phone.
Five years into what Bonnie told herself was a happy life, she found a gray hair. She pressed her lips closed and plucked it.