The first time one of your friends gets engaged

Wow! Pow! Kazam! One of my good friends is engaged. Wasn’t I just on here like, yesterday saying I felt old? Well. I continue to feel old.

Here’s the thing. Weddings are in the air, I’ve been saying it for weeks now. My aunt is getting married, and as a bridesmaid (and my mother is the maid of honor) I’ve been pretty involved, doing all the necessary swooning and dress testing that is required of me. Thinking about weddings so much had inspired my boyfriend and I to start speculating seriously, for the first time, getting married ourselves. In a few years, of course, after we graduate and live together for a bit.

But now–now! My 21-year-old friend is engaged, and has set a date–for June!!! He’s getting married in three months. She’s not even pregnant. This is just what they want to do, and the thing is, we all support him. He’s not even being so crazy. He’s graduating in May, why not, right?

Marriage doesn’t mean much nowadays, so why not just do it for the benefits? If you’re planning on long term anyway, and love each other anyway, and are living together anyway, and own a cat together (like they do) anyway…

 

How am I so old that getting married seems like a normal thing to do? A bit early, sure, but nothing crazy. What!?

 

I’m happy for him. I really am. How surreal. How surreal.

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Belie: Short Fic Friday

The bells are shining, round and bubble-shaped. The bells are huge, they hurt my head. The tower is tall, we walk right underneath. The aisle is…

My dress is white, my dad is shaking, my shoes hurt my feet but they look so nice. My flowers are wrong. I wanted lilies. Lilies mean death, apparently. Inappropriate for a wedding. I beg to differ.

I’ve always liked lilies.

My shoes still hurt. The bridesmaids float like angels. Their dresses are blue, with pink sashes. My husband, no, my fiance stands like a statue. The grotesque crucifix hangs on the wall behind him. So graphic. The nails.

The priest. I wanted an old one, he’s so young. The people line up. The little girl, with the flowers. The boy, with the rings. What’s his name? Who knows.

My dad’s still shaking. Maybe now crying. I want to smile. I don’t feel a thing.

He says, “let’s go.”

We take a step, and the aisle falls in steps like an opening handheld fan and it’s a staircase,  covered in red. My dress is long, we fall. We float, like angels, downward. We float in time to the music. I hear a string quartet, I hear a beehive. I hear the bells, ringing ominous and dark. Lilies mean death, do the bells they ring at funerals? Are there special wedding bells, did I miss them?

The aisle is so long. Fiance waiting, sweating. The flowers are wrong.

My father says, “don’t worry, I’ll stop this aisle from being stairs.”

People stare.

 

I blink. My reflection blinks, too. What a pretty mirror, such a nice frame. I suppose the hotel could afford it.

“Well,” I tell myself, returning to my makeup. “No matter what happens, at least it won’t be that.”

I paint my cheeks, my eyes. I’m in sweatpants, my dress hanging in the closet. I’d kicked my fiance out. How soon is “before the wedding?” How long were we supposed to spend apart?

Of course it was a dream. Can you dream while awake? Daydream, I guess. I was young, then. I pull my skin back at the temples. What kind of person gets married for the first time at 50, anyhow? I sigh, drop my blush brush to rest on the vanity tabletop.

Big wedding. Had to have a big wedding. Couldn’t have lilies. Headache.

Bells? Out the window, bells? Morning mass.

I raise the brush to my cheek again. Well, here we go.

A to Q: Quixotic

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.

A to D: Defrost

Michelle Wu’s high heels made tracks like a baby stroller through the dusting of snow. “Can’t we just go?” she asked, her voice garbled with two shots of vodka, an old-fashioned, and three hard ciders.

Her darling, Craig Wu, led her to his car, the black frame of it shining dimly in the streetlights. The parking lot was scattered with cars being slowly swallowed by the silent snow, and his was no exception. “I have to brush off the snow,” he said. “Turn on the windshield defrost.”

He opened the door for her and helped her inside. Her heels and bare feet brought a few shoefulls of snow into the car, but a little wetness wouldn’t ruin the interior. Craig unlocked the trunk, and the dimmed lights flared through the covering of snow.

It was light snow, and fell off the windshield easily. He cleared the windows as well, and when he cleared the passenger window he saw Michelle’s face appear, a third at a time. She stuck her tongue out at him. He pressed his lips together.

God, it was cold, but it was a welcome change from the hotness of the reception. The newlyweds had candles as centerpieces and Craig swore the fire ate up the oxygen in the room. He got drunker to feel calmer. Eventually his competitive-drinker wife was dancing a touch too wildly, and being near midnight he decided it was late enough to begin leaving.

Craig threw the snowbrush in the trunk again and slid into the driver seat, banging his dress shoes together to keep at least one side of the carpeting dry. He shut the door, and noticed the silence.

“I told you to put the defrost on,” he said.

“Oh…sorry,” she said. “It’s not that frosty. We can probably just go.”

Craig started the car and cranked the defroster to the highest setting. He stared out his window, which was slowly refilling with snowflakes, at the parking lot dotted with yellow lamp light. Once he and Michelle had danced in the same reception hall, but she had been the one in the white dress. Sleeveless. Snowless. They had left that night for Jamaica.

“Remember Jamaica?” Craig whispered at the window. His breath made a puff of moisture on the glass.

Michelle began laughing. “Yeah…it was a lot of fun. You know, I love you so much. I love you as much as when we were in Jamaica. I don’t think a lot of couples can say that.”

Craig stared past the snowflakes to the stars. They looked identical. He rested his forehead against the door.

“Are you okay to drive?” Michelle asked, placing an unsteady hand on his thigh.

He met her drooping eyes. The white specks on the shoulders of her coat melded together into a flowing veil. He lifted her fingers to his lips. They were like ice.

“You’re freezing,” he said. He switched the dial from defrost to heat, and put her pinking fingers against the warming vents. “Here. We’ve defrosted enough.”

He put the car in drive.