Fiction | Short Story
Allie arrived at the church early, wearing faded denim jeans and a wear-softened Oxford-cloth shirt that belonged to her husband. The dress, strawberry satin and tulle, was slung over her shoulder, still wrapped in its protective plastic sheathe. Allie had packed everything else into a bright orange nylon tote: black peau de soie pumps, curling iron, brush, bustier, girdle, extra pairs of pantyhose, cologne, deodorant, eyeliner, blush, lip stain and gloss, mascara, jewelry, camera — she felt a little like Houdini as she pulled each item out of the bag and wondered how she got it all in there in the first place. She dumped the tote by the bride’s room door and went back outside for a cigarette.
At 42, Allie was still a handsome woman. Elegant, even, when she chose to be. But as she imagined herself surrounded by much younger women, all dressed alike, she began to wonder why she’d allowed herself to answer “yes” when Olivia asked her to be a bridesmaid six weeks ago. Standing outside the church, Allie lit her cigarette and took a deep drag. The smoke did nothing to calm her nerves. God, she hadn’t been this nervous on her own wedding day.
In fact, her photographer had pulled her mother aside and whispered, “I’m worried about your daughter. She’s too calm. I’ve never seen a bride so calm, just minutes before the wedding!” She and her mother had had a good laugh over that. She spent the evening smiling serenely at the photographer and stayed so long at her own reception that he had to photograph her and Jim leaving in the dark. “We’re losing the light,” he whined. “Are they leaving soon?” Her mother just shushed him and reminded him he was being paid by the hour.
When Allie walked into the bridal chamber, she found Olivia seated on the floor with her voluminous petticoats swirling around her. Three other bridesmaids hovered around her, conspicuously available yet doing nothing so much as resembling a small flock of flustered pink birds. The bride looked gorgeous, even without the wedding gown. Her golden blonde hair hung in soft waves over her shoulders, the sides caught up and braided in a coronet around her head. Her blue eyes sparkled as she added the last details of eyeliner and lipstick to her radiant face. Her mother’s pearls graced her throat, their golden hues blending…