I woke with a start, the troubling dream already a memory. I was marrying the man of my dreams today! Rain was drumming a staccato on the window as I opened the curtains to welcome the glorious day. ‘So much for letting in some sunshine’, I thought ruefully to the drab sky. I looked over at the soft grey wing chair in the corner, delighted when my accessories still glistened and called to me from exactly where I’d left them as they waited patiently to be donned for my big day.
“The first day of the rest of your life”. I whispered devilishly to the reflection in the mirror on the dresser.
Walking closer, I posed primly and smiled sweetly, the way I expected a perfect wife would. As I experimented with my facial expression, I allowed myself to imagine what the rest of my life would be like as Mrs. Kevin Blunt. Me, not her. Me. I turned away after giving myself a smugly satisfied look for winning. The memories of finding that woman in our room on Wednesday when I arrived had already faded almost entirely from my mind and I was blissfully happy to be heading down the aisle today. To marry him. I was so lucky, I told myself.
So lucky indeed. The same man who had asked both of us to marry him an annoying little voice protested. What was it had he said to make me forgive him so easily again? Darn it, I really shouldn’t be focusing on the negatives like this, it was a happy day, the happiest!
Nervous with eager expectation, I wanted so much to go ahead and put on my dress and veil. But I knew Kevin wouldn’t like it if I got it dirty so I was willing to wait until a little later. Our appointment with the Justice of the Peace was at 3:00 at the West Edmonton courthouse. It was only 8 am now, so I had a few hours to waste between now and then. I did what any bride would do on her wedding day: I called my best friend and went shopping!
Ann Marie and I headed to West Edmonton Mall just as the stores would be opening, with our checkbooks in hand. In 1988 the ATM was merely a dream, and most retailers still gladly accepted a personal check to pay for a purchase, especially with only 10 shopping days until Christmas. I didn’t have a lot of money in my account, but I knew there would be enough to get a new compact and mascara to glam me up later today.
While we shopped, we giggled endlessly about my wedding night like the very young ladies we were. I made sure to throw my left hand around as much as possible in the event the complete stranger at the other side of the hall hadn’t overheard our conversation about me getting married later today. After all, it was imperative that they see how grown up I was and not think I was just any 19 year old girl out for a silly shopping trip – I actually mattered!
As we travelled, stores welcomed us into their warmth with holiday music, lively decorations and friendly greeters handing out samples. We narrowly missed the perfume girls as we entered Eaton’s, sidestepping into the children’s wear department in order to escape the holstered pungency they hocked.
“You gonna have kids, you think?” Anne Marie asked me. I had just allowed my eyes to wander over a rack of tiny little pea coats and must have melted a bit for her to have caught me at it.
“Of course!” I said. “Isn’t that what married women do?”
I had been dreaming of being a mom for a long time. I had even chosen the names for my 2 perfect little children in my millionaire family: Penelope Pryce and Hayden Alexander. And, off course, what millionaire family is complete without a Collie named Molly. With baby names and wedding bells on our minds, we headed up the escalator to the cafeteria for some early lunch.
Judy was behind the counter. Though I’d never worked here, I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time here with my mom who worked in Human Resources for the department store. Given the nature of her position, she was always greeted with friendly smiles throughout, and as a byproduct of my mother, so was I.
Today they had a hot turkey special on the menu, so Ann Marie and I each ordered the special and placed them on our tray to take to the cashier. I stopped briefly at the tea station to pour myself a cup and had a quick conversation with Betty who was making more coffee and filling the creamers.
“Today the big day, kiddo?” Betty asked me with her crooked smile? I always wondered what had happened to Betty’s teeth. They were the colour of a chocolate covered caramel, with dark gaps where her wicked little pink tongue would occasionally peekaboo and taste the air like a snake.
“Yes ma’am, today at 3” I replied “Just a few last minute items to pick up before I have to start getting ready”
“3? And you’re still at this hell-hole? Good lord, girl, you should be at home getting’ ready. If you’re late he won’t be happy, that one”
I knew she was only being a mother hen. Kevin wouldn’t care if I were a couple of minutes late, it was our wedding day, for goodness sake. Maybe it was her way of saying he’d be anxious for our wedding night. She didn’t need to know he’d been given a sneak preview of what to expect long before now.
Kevin and I had hooked up at work, though had attended the same high school for two glorious years until I was a sophomore. Now, I was a dispatcher at the trucking company my dad had worked for before he passed away. I think they may have felt a little sorry for our family. After all, the heart attack had been so sudden and what would mom have done with two kids at home and taking care of everything all by herself.
We lived in an apartment building and rented our place, so there was no big insurance payoff when Dad died and no big mortgage-free house with a big yard and white picket fence. It was nice enough; for an apartment. We had to take the elevator to the 20th floor, which was the best part to my little brother.
But working as little more than a secretary for a department store just didn’t pay the big bucks, but mom was scared of leaving for another job. She didn’t want to lose the security her seniority gave her. I didn’t understand that at all. Why wouldn’t you just jump ship for a better opportunity? That made no sense to me at all.
So, I took the job they offered her. I was making almost $300 per week – a lot of money for an 18 year old – and so I used it to help make ends meet. Since I was working full time, we called it room and board. That way mom could keep her pride and so could I.
When Kevin asked me to marry him, I almost said no because I wasn’t sure how mom and David would survive without my money. But mom had told me not to be so silly, that they’d be just fine on their own. So after having taken the night, I said yes.
I wonder if it was because I had taken a night to think it over that he had asked the other girl too. Never mind, I fluffed the thoughts away, it didn’t matter now, I told myself.
The hot turkey lunch was lukewarm, as expected. The gravy, overly salty but since that’s the way I like it I didn’t mind. After eating most of the lumpy mashed potato and stuffing, I picked at the corn and peas on the side along with the dry turkey. Even with the dressing, the turkey was too desiccated for me. I was worried it would get caught in my throat and I’d choke to death on the biggest day of my life.
My mother would have told me to be grateful there was food in front of me. I guess she’d be right, she usually was. She’d also tell me not to eat too much or I’d be too heavy for my dress. I guessed she’d be right about that too. So I pushed my plate away with only half gone.
“Too dry?” Ann Marie asked.
“Nah, just don’t want to eat too much in case it makes me queasy later” I replied.
“If you don’t eat you’ll probably get queasy. For God sakes, Tara, eat! You’re wasting away to nothing in front of my eyes.” She smiled at me to cajole me and show me she was sincere. I knew she worried about how little I was eating lately. She just didn’t’ understand what it was like to be heavy like I did. I’d been a size 12 most of my adult life. I knew if I just worked hard at it, I could be an 8. Even Kevin would poke at my soft belly and tease me when I’d eat sweets. “Better watch your girlish figure Tar.” And he’d give me that mock warning look.
I knew his real warning look. I’d seen him give it to Mike, his best friend when he’d come back from a run one time. Kevin had been so scary when he glared like that at Mike, I was grateful I’d never been on the other end of that look.
For me, Kevin only had loving looks and words. And it was so cute when he’d get jealous of other men and act the tough guy.
“He’s looking at you like you’re dinner. Doesn’t he see me right here? I ought to go make him see me!” He’d tug me in the other direction. He made me feel like every guy wanted me. I smiled at the memory.
“What’s so funny?” Ann Marie asked me. I had completely lost track of where I was.
“Sorry,” I smiled, “Just thinking of how lucky I am to marry Kevin, I guess.”
“Yeah. Lucky.” She said. I detected that note of irony in her tone and ignored it. I figured she was just jealous I was getting married and she wasn’t. It’s not a topic we ever discussed and I cautiously avoided it now. I backed down from the tension and changed the subject, cheerily, I hoped.
“So, what do you say we go get our nails done?” I said smiling brightly. “I know you’d love to show off your gorgeous nails with some funky nail polish”
“Okay,” she said a little more enthusiastically, “but you’ve got to do something funky too. A little flair for the occasion.”
“What about sapphire blue?” I said as we gathered our things, cleared our trays and headed back into the mallway and the nail salon downstairs.
When I got back to the apartment, with my newly manicured sapphire blue enameled nails, I took a long hot shower to calm my growing nerves. It was only half past noon when I emerged and started to apply a light layer of makeup. Kevin said I was prettier without all that crap caked on my face and it was his day today too. I thought that it would be a sweet gesture to start our new life giving him the fresh faced me. I had been fortunate to have avoided the awkward acne stage all through high school and my luck seemed to be holding still. I just wished I could have gotten rid of these annoying freckles. With my curly auburn hair, they made me look like a little girl.
I added some mousse to my hair and tried to fluff up the curls as attractively and maturely as possible. With the rain, my hair was going to need all the help it could get to stop the impending frizzdom. There was no point trying to brush through the permatangles either. Yuck. I hated my hair. Mom always said I got this unruly mop from my father, but he’d been shaving his head as long as I could remember, so I never had anything to compare it to. Maybe I should shave my head again like I had in Grade 10, I was 15. That’s when I had met Kevin, he was a senior. He told me he thought it was cool for a girl like me to shave her head. Brave, even. I melted for him there and then. I shook myself out of my reverie.
I stuck my tongue out at my reflection and picked up my compact. I applied some powder to cover the dreaded freckles. Why did they have to be so bloody dark anyway. I was so pale otherwise. Looking at them as I applied the powder I was getting irritated that they just wouldn’t disappear. The more powder I applied, the worse they seemed to get. And I really didn’t want them showing in the photos. By the time I was done, I looked like a clown, with a slightly orange glow to my face. Damn Cover Girl! I started to cry.
Ann Marie came running into the bathroom when she heard me, though I had tried to keep quiet. When she saw my tear-stained, orange face, she didn’t make a sound, just grabbed some toilet paper and started wiping away at my face. I let her. I felt suddenly so helpless it was nice to have someone there to take care of me.
That little disaster had wasted 15 minutes and now I really had to hop to get ready in time for Mike to pick me up. Ann Marie went back to the other bedroom to get dressed and finish her hair and makeup. I had told her I would probably be able to calm myself a little better if I could finish getting ready alone. You know, self talk myself back to my happy place, instead of focusing on how ugly I looked.
I hoped Kevin wouldn’t notice my slightly puffy eyes. I ran into the kitchen, hoping I had some cucumber I could slice and put on them to try to reduce it. It must be my lucky day, I thought as I pulled half and English cuke from the drawer. I tilted my head back and place two thin slices on my eyes. Thin, so they wouldn’t ruin the effect of my makeup too much. I hadn’t put on any mascara so I wasn’t worried about that running, at least.
I glanced at the clock, shocked so much time had passed. I had only 15 minutes to get dressed and ready to run out the door. I yanked the cucumbers off my eyes and raced to my room to finish.
When I emerged 17 minutes later, Mike was standing in the entry tapping his foot and watch impatiently. He stopped short when he saw me. That made me feel so good. I couldn’t wait to see Kevin at the end of the aisle the moment he sees me. I’d dreamed of that moment since that first chance comment from him in grade 10. My dreams were really coming true.
“Ready?” asked Mike.
I took a deep breath and said, “as I’ll ever be!” and we all headed out the door.