It was my wedding day and I was eighteen years old. I'm standing in the bride's room, upstairs of the church, and I am alone with the exception of the four black girls, ranging from seventeen to twenty-five, that are helping me get dressed. My mother is absent; she is downstairs, talking to my father and the people who are arriving early. Even my grandmother, who passed on in April 1998, is there, and they're all dressed beautifully, wearing expensive clothing that looks as if it is from the early twentieth century.
I cannot see the exactness of my dress in the mirror but I know that it is beautiful. I place my hands on my waist and stare at my reflection, seeing not the woman with red hair tied up in a French twist with curls framing my face and my neck, but the long legged, skinny girl that I once was. I look around the room for my brothers or my sisters and no one is there. One of the girls berate me for turning around.
The over-all activity of the dream is vague. It is as if I am reviewing what has happened and all I really remember is the overwhelming sense of fear. My mother used to tell me that if you feel any doubt, whatsoever, on your wedding day, then you should not marry the man. I feel no doubt, just fear, and I want to throw up - my stomach hurts that bad. I feel as if I would be making a mistake if I go through with the wedding and tears make my eyes sting so badly that I have to shut them. I want to talk to my groom (whose name I do not know, but I think is Jason), and I want to see what he thinks about my feelings.
When I go to the groom's room, where he is getting dressed, his mother stops me from entering. She is a short woman, about 5'3, and overweight to the point that you can see three bulges beneath her soft pink dress. She wears a pink carnation-type flower over her left breast and her hair is short - chin length - and softly curled. It's a blondish-red color, more blonde than red, and she has dark-blue/brown eyes. I feel that I like her as a person but find her extremely irritating. She tells me that I cannot see her son, that I will ruin everything if I do, that we cannot see each other before our wedding. I tell her I must, that I have to talk to him.
At this point in time, I realize that I have been betrothed to this boy. I do like him - I love him, in fact, but I am not ready for marriage. His family and my family are both extremely wealthy and our marriage is a wonderful thing, if unnecessary. We've been friends for awhile and I long to have his arms around me, even while I am thinking of a different boy, a boy that I have not seen in several months. My fiancé, Jason, is also eighteen years old. He's several months older than me, seven or eight, I imagine, and he has a heart of gold. That much, I know. He is the perfect guy, the one that I have always dreamed of marrying, but I am not in love with him. He does not challenge me.
Jason's father comes into the room that his mother and I are arguing in. He is a tall man, about 6'3, and I can't see what color of hair he has because a cowboy hat is covering it all. It's a straw hat, leading me to believe that the month is April, for I know that the air outside is hot and humid, but not so hot that it could be summertime yet. His father tells me to run along, that I will be fine and Jason will come see me as soon as he is finished getting ready. After arguing briefly with him, I agree, and I leave. Jason's mother's voice follows me out the doorway as she tells her husband, "Jase will have his hands full with that one."
Back in the bride's room, I feel lonelier than ever. My best friend, Lindsay, has finally arrived from Atlanta, where she lives, and she's wearing a light purple, almost lavender, dress. It's floor length and loose, with a bow that ties at her lower back, pulling it so that it frames her waist. Her brown hair is halfway between her chin and her shoulders and curled. It is held back with a two small, purple barrettes. Seeing her, I want to burst into tears and have her hug me and tell me that everything will be okay, that my fears are typical.
She touches my cheeks and smiles into my eyes. "You look beautiful," she says and, for some reason, meeting her eyes cause me to feel as if I have to be brave and strong. Putting up such a wall causes me to want to break down but I hold on as strong as I can and give her one of my typical, "yeah right" smiles.
"Thanks, I feel like an idiot," I answer. "Can you believe I'm getting married?"
"No! But at least it's to a good man." She laughing but it doesn't seem real and I can't help feel that we won't be as connected as we used to be once I am married. I wonder if the distance between us is already beginning to grow.
"Yes… Jason's adorable, isn't he? I'm lucky." I know that I sound as if I am happy but I'm not and I can't figure out why. Part of me says that it is just the fear of dependence, of having someone with me everyday for the rest of my life, of giving up so much freedom. I know I could do worse than to marry Jason so I say nothing.
"Yeah, he's great. You are lucky. Don't forget that. Here, want me to fix your train?" It's a long train - Jason's mother had insisted on one.
I hear footsteps coming up the stairs next to the bride's room. From the way the church is set up, it is two stories in the front. Upon entering the front doors, there is a wide room and, on each side, a winding staircase leading to the second story. On the left, is the groom's area. On the right, the bride's, and they connect via a passage way on the back of the church, behind where the choir stands.
I tear out of the room, causing one of the black girls to stab her finger with a safety pin that she has been using on my dress. My other best friend, Gina, is walking up the stairs, but she stops on the landing when she sees me on the top. Three steps from the top, I throw my arms around her, knocking both of us down, and burst into tears. I haven't seen Gina for two months, since I left my college in Boston for the summer, and I now realize how much I have missed her.
As Lindsay had, she touches my cheek and brushes away the tears that aren't there. I feel like an idiot for crying in front of her; I always feel like an idiot when I cry.
"Most people don't cry on their wedding day, Mis," she tells me. I shrug.
Lindsay appears on the top of the stairs and looks at us. There's something in her eyes - I don't know what. Jealousy or anger, I assume, but I can't see the reason for the previous so I can only think that she is mad at me for deserting her. I am getting married, growing up, becoming an adult, and I am the youngest of my little "group". Lindsay is nearly twenty and Gina just turned nineteen. I've been eighteen for a month.
"She's been acting strange since I got here," Lindsay tells Gina. She sits one step up from us and my two friends hug. I get the feeling that I'm not supposed to be seeing or hearing it.
"She always acts strange," Gina returns, laughing once again. She reaches over and pats my leg. "You're wrinkling your dress."
"I know," I answer. "I should stand." I'm tired; my eyes threaten to shut on me and the tears are coming back again. I blink them away.
"So, why don't you?" Lindsay prompts, which is funny because it is a question that Gina would usually ask. Lindsay's usual comment would be somewhere along the lines of, "But you won't."
"I don't want to get married, Guys," I finally say. At this point in time, five minutes of conversation has passed between us. My mother has come and said that we have an hour left before the ceremony begins and she has told me to finish getting ready while she helps people get seated. I glare at her as she goes back downstairs. Why is she not helping me get ready, as she helped my sister at her wedding in 1996? My grandmother has come upstairs and glared at my friends but said nothing, which surprises me, because my grandmother has always been one to say exactly what she thinks. She is a wealthy woman, and well known around Houston, Texas, where we live. She can enter Neiman Marcus and all the salespeople know who she is.
"It's kinda too late to decide that," Gina tells me, looking almost exasperated. I know that it's just the stress of the day that is doing it, though.
"Why didn't you decide that earlier?" Lindsay asks, watching me closely, trying to see something that I won't let her see.
"I don't know…" My stomach hurts to the point that I am doubled over and whimpering. I want to cry, I want to put my head in my hands and sob, but I can't. I still feel no doubt but my stomach still hurts bad. Lindsay leaves to go get ready; she will be a bridesmaid.
"What's wrong, my Missy?" Gina asks. She puts her hand on my back, to rub it gently, and I shake my head, unable to say anything. "Talk to me."
"I don't want to marry Jason."
"I don't know." How can I tell her that I still like the other guy, the guy who I know will never like me? (I do not know who this guy is.)
She can see right through me. "Yes, you do."
"Well… I won't be able to hang out with you anymore," I say. We've been quite dependent on each other since we first met. We were supposed to go to school together in the fall, to be roommates, and I would constantly ask her if Jes had sent in her resignation from the school yet. (Jes was scheduled to be her roommate but since she won't be returning, I will be it. However, Jes has yet to send in her withdrawal papers.)
"We'll still hang out. Have you decided where you guys are going to live yet?" She sounds reassuring and I wonder if she, like my mother, is glad that I am getting married and getting out of their hair. Jason will have to deal with me for forever, not them.
"I think he wants to go to Virginia or North Carolina. Gina, you know those states make me sick."
"Well, you'll have to deal with it," she tells me. She gives me a smile but I hear an edge in her voice that I don't know if it is there or if I have made it up.
"And what about tonight? You're going to go home and go to the diner and I won't be there." Gina's from Connecticut and we are both addicted to this small Greek diner that is there. All of her friends hang out there and I adore the group.
She laughs. "Well, Mis, you'll be on your honeymoon. You can come hang out tomorrow night, okay? I'll save you a seat."
I sigh. It's a compromise, one that I don't want, but I agree to it anyway. "And what then? I won't be able to go to Alex's dad's with you guys afterwards. I'll be married. I can't flirt with him anymore. I can't flirt with anyone!" I'm not crying but my voice sounds like it.
We talk for a few more minutes and she tries to make me feel better but she can't. I don't know if it is my fault or hers. We stand up to go back to the bride's room when Jason appears at the landing. It's an odd place for him to be because if he had come from the groom's room, he would have appeared behind us. Apparently, he's been downstairs.
My heart swells with love when I see him and I stand up, tripping over the front of my dress as I do so. He catches me, which is strange because, at 5'8, I'm not exactly the type of girl that a guy can "catch". He gives me a hug and kisses my forehead, tucking a tendril behind my ear and straightening another curl. He looks at me and I see love in his eyes, but there's something around the edges.
"I heard you were a bit upset," he says. "Actually, I heard you and mom arguing but my brothers wouldn't let me leave the room. Are you okay?"
I nod and, for the moment, I am. His arms are around me so I am fine.
Gina steps down to where we are and smiles. "You guys aren't supposed to see each other before the wedding," she gently chastises us, knowing that it is just superstition and not true. She tries to give one last word of encouragement before she, too, has to go get dressed. It doesn't take Gina long to get ready, though; it never has. "You're just nervous, Missy. You'll be fine and we'll go listen to Rent at the reception, okay? Cheer up." She kisses my cheek and is gone.
I collapse against Jason and he hugs me, then pushes me away and smiles. "Are you as nervous as I am?" he prompts. I nod.
"What makes you so nervous?"
I sniffle and, feeling pathetic, look up at him. He has brown eyes and they're nice looking, but I like Alex's eyes better. They're grey and they turn blue when he's happy, or something like that. "I just feel like my life is over," I say sheepishly. I cringe and wait for him to yell, to be mad and take it personally, as my ex, Tim, would have done.
Jason just smiles. "Missy, your life isn't over," he tells me, as if quoting from his mother. "It's just beginning. We'll have a fun married life. Parties every Friday and Saturday nights… You know, there's a new law out that says married people, or rather, married guys, can buy alcohol, no matter what their age. So we'll get drunk every weekend. We'll go on vacations. It'll be fun. I'll take you to Paris." He knows that I've always wanted to go to Paris.
"But I don't want to go to Paris," I argue. For some reason, I'm wearing my glasses suddenly and I push them up on my forehead. I am no longer wearing my wedding dress but a white terry cloth robe and I tighten the top so that he can't see down it then feel stupid because, in another hour, he will be my husband. Just the thought makes me long for my friends and not him. "I want to go to the diner tonight."
"Well…" He bites his bottom lip then sighs thoughtfully, trying to figure out how to work that out. "I guess we could go."
I shake my head. "No, you don't understand. I want to go. Alone. With Gina. Not with you. And I want Lindsay to come."
"Oh." There is disappointment in his word. "Well, you can do that… but will you make the ship by nine in the morning? That's when we're taking off." We're going on a cruise of the Caribbean for our honeymoon.
"No, I can't," I argue back. "It's my wedding night. I'm supposed to want to be with you. I'm supposed to want to make love to you. But I don't. I mean… I do, but I don't. I want to be with my friends. And I mean… you're my friend but…"
He quiets me by kissing his fingers and pressing them to my lips. At his touch, I close my eyes and kiss him. "Tell you what," he says gently, drawing me close to him. I rest my head against his chest, for he is quite a bit taller than me, but does not appear to be too tall, and I hope I don't get makeup on his tuxedo. Then, I know, we would be in trouble. "Go get dressed, get your make-up on, do your hair, and all that stuff. We'll go through with the ceremony and if you still don't feel any doubt, then we'll get married. If you feel some, just let me know and I'll cancel the wedding. It's no big deal." I haven't told him that I feel no doubt but I guess our thoughts have crossed and that is how he knew. Either that, or I told him and I don’t remember that I told him.
I nod and draw in a deep breath. Again, I am tired, but I no longer feel like crying. I feel all cried out. "Thank you," I tell him, and I kiss his neck. He smiled and touches my cheek gingerly; I can feel his love in his touch. He does love me and I am happy at that because, in the dream, I don't feel as if I have ever been loved. But I do feel as if I only love him as a friend. Someone is behind me, tugging at my arm, telling me to go upstairs and finish getting ready. Our arms become outstretched as we hold on to each other's hands as we are pulled apart. I tell him, "I love you!" before disappearing around the corner and into my dressing room.
In the next scene of the dream, I am walking down the aisle. The church is beautiful and the colors of my wedding are purple, pink, and light blue. I hold roses in my hands and no one walks me down the aisle. My father is there but he has opted not to do it. Jason's five brothers are his groomsmen; my two sisters, Lindsay, Gina, and friend, Ashley, are my bridesmaids. Jason's niece and nephew are our ring-bearer and flower girl, due to his mother's insistence, and I am mad because I wanted my niece and nephew, whom I help raise to do it. I feel as if I have no control.
The wedding is large and beautiful. I know that I look stunning and I can hear the sharp intact of people's breaths as I appear in the back of the church. My face burns red and I want to look at the ground but I can hear my mother's voice hissing at me to look up, smile, and be beautiful. I oblige her.
We go through our vows and the appropriate words for the ceremony. When the pastor says, "Is there anyone here who has a reason why these two should not wed?" I hold my breath and search Jason's eyes as he searches mine. I have reasons why we should not marry; I do not love him like that; but I will not back down. I could not handle the embarrassment, not in front of my friends and family. Jason's eyes tell me nothing except that he would understand if I back out.
"I have a reason."
The voice comes from the back of the room and everyone swings around. Gina laughs, Lindsay's mouth falls open, and Ashley snickers. My sisters' eyes widen and Amy, my twenty-three year old sister, snickers. Jennifer, the oldest, covers her mouth. Jason's groomsmen groan. Our parents look stricken. Jason laughs. I turn red.
"What are you doing here?" I ask. It is the guy that I like, the one that I said earlier would never like me back. In my dream, it is my friend, Alex (also mentioned earlier). That is strange because, in real life, I have no feelings for him. In the dream, however, I do.
"Gina brought me," he says, looking at my friend, who shrugs.
"I figured it'd be a good present," she says. When we look at each other, I can see that that is why she acted that way earlier, on the stairwell. I think that she knew what would happen.
"Well…" I'm at a loss for words.
Jason steps forward to Alex, who has walked up the aisle to us. He holds his hand out to him. "Hey, you must be Alex. I'm Jason."
"Yep. How'd you know?" he asks. Jason motions to me.
"The look on her face," he explains, and both guys nod and talk for a moment about knowing what I think and feel through my looks.
"Alex, what are you doing here?" I ask again, almost fiercely this time. I don't dare look around.
Jason's mother stands up. "This is ridiculous," she says, glaring at my parents. "What is your daughter doing?"
My mother shakes her head. "Melissa," she tells me. "Have your friend sit back down. You can discuss this later."
"No, they should discuss this now," the pastor tells my mother, lifting a hand to silence everyone. He looks at Alex. "What are you doing here?" He repeats my question.
"I'd love to get down on one knee," Alex tells me, looking at me. He's not dressed up and I have to smile. Alex doesn't strike me as the type to dress up for anything. "and propose to you but I don't want to marry you." The people gasp at his honesty; Jason and I smile. I feel a little disappointed.
"Why don't you think these two should be wed?" the pastor interrupts.
Alex looks at him. "Excuse me, I'm talking to her, not you," he says, almost rudely, before looking back. "I love you," he tells me. "Don't marry him. Go out with me."
"I… uh…" I look at Jason for permission, wondering what to do. He shrugs.
"Your game plan," he says, crossing his arms across his chest. This entire thing amuses him, I can tell, and I love him more for that, but at the same time, I am curious as to why he is not upset. However, his acceptance of the situation makes it easier for me to tell Alex yes.
"Cool," he answers, nodding. Turning, he sits down in the second row, pushing aside my mother's parents, who glare at him for stopping the wedding.
My eyes are wide and I look around. Everyone looks shocked - some look upset, some look amused, some look disappointed. I look back at Jason, who holds his hand out to me and we turn back to the pastor.
"Okay," I say. "We're ready. Proceed. Go on."
The pastor gets just one sentence out before Jason interrupts him. "Wait," he says, laughing. "We can't get married. You're dating him." He points to Alex. My mouth drops open.
"Oh, yeah. Oops." Everyone laughs.
"Well, hey…" Jason's voice sounds tentative. He takes my hands and kisses the tip of my nose. "Since you're going out with Alex, mind if I ask Lindsay out?" he asks. Jason's mother shrieks and passes out. My mother laughs and the rest of my family looks angry.
I turn and look towards Lindsay, realizing by the look on her face that she has liked Jason all along. Biting my lip, I smile past my giggles and nod. "Sure, go for it," I tell him. "But, treat her wrong, and you die."
We walk down the aisle together - Alex and me, Jason and Lindsay, then Gina and some guy that she has met at my wedding. Nothing more happens at the church but, in the next scene, the five of us (minus the guy Gina met) are standing on the edge of the cruise ship. It is the next morning and we spent the evening in Connecticut, at the diner. We have yet to see our parents, yet to talk to them. Jason and Lindsay stand on the side of the ship, his arm around her waist, and she's gripping the railing. Gina is flirting with a new boy, a brunette wearing a pair of blue jean shorts and a baggy Tommy shirt, and she looks really happy. Alex has his hands on my waist, standing beside me. We have all gone on the honeymoon cruise.