I drag my trunk through the cool sunset orange water of the lake. The golden tassels dangling over both sides spread out on the surface like the legs of waterbugs. I swing left and right. The bug legs scurry in formation, like humans on parade.
I jerk my trunk up and flecks of water fly over the sand, darkening where they land like blood drops. As usual Gavith is standing near the line of stinging flesh on my side; he has a stick. He's my handler and has been for three years, I see him everyday and he hits me everyday. What is unusual is that today, instead of wearing a t-shirt and shorts, he is dressed in a beautiful red suit. Gavith would be handsome tonight if he weren't scowling like a spoiled toddler denied a treat from behind his immaculate shaved beard.
"Don't touch the water, you'll make the paint run." He scolds. I lift my trunk and look at the tip. The ornately patterned drawings there have started to smear. He smacks me again to encourage me to move from the water. I step back, careful not to knock him over, like he wants.
A woman in white who is dripping pearls runs towards us. Her long lacy gown catches on the corner of a chair and she is stopped, snagged. She stops, takes in a breath, and calmly untangles herself. Another woman, much older, comes to help. This second woman is almost invisible, however. The bride glows, dimming everyone else. Torch lights bounce off of the ropes of pearls in her hair, the large discs of gold in ears and nose, the many layers of necklaces drooping towards her breasts, the bangles running from elbows to wrists, the studding of her belt, and the pearls swirling on her high heels. Eventually, she frees herself and stomps over to my handler and I.
"No, no, none of that!" She hits Gavith, though only with her soft small hands and not a stick. The diamond ring they put on her during the ceremony earlier glints in the setting sun. "This is a day for love!"
"Apologies, Kashula." He steps away from me. Kashula walks to me and unfastens the tassels. It isn't easy with her long, press-on nails but she is determined, and so the decoration falls away. She tosses them to the grassy sand.
"We are almost done anyway," she leans in and whispers in my ear. "I just snuck away to use the bathroom."
Even though her make-up is thick, I can see the hours of celebration have worn her down from how much lower her shoulders hang than they did this morning. Singing and dancing is still raging behind us. There are so many pretty brocaded costumes with so many textures, but I know I cannot touch them. I may try to steal a beaded hat if I see one on the ground without its master.
Kashula turns and heads back into the halo of light cast by the many lanterns. Her silky train drags on the ground, flowing from her shoulder blades. If I squint, they look like two wings folded together. I try to follow, but when she joins her husband she is focused again on ceremony. A fence of people form between us in a single breath.
She pours tea with him; steam rolls off of it in serene clouds.
I stand in the chilling night.
I want that.
Earlier we were the highlight of the ceremony and every guest leaned on, petted, climbed, or fed us while snapping thousands of photos. None of them were truly interested, though, the second someone holding a phone would shout 'looks good' my tiny play mates would walk away from me and never look back. In the old days, children at least would keep us company the whole ceremony. Now, they are huddled, gaping at their phones. Nothing, not the sea or the monkeys in tiny suits or the gourmet spread of food or I, is more important than bricks of light clutched in their tiny hands.
Humans are fickle; they barely love each other much less any other animal. I turn from the bright center where applause rings up once again. I approach another elephant. This one is female like me.
Not a groom for me to be a bride to.
It's okay, we'll be two brides. Or maybe two bridesmaids, the ones dressed in red instead of white. Still beautiful but without all of the eyes on us.
That may suit my purposes better anyway.
The clasp that holds our hats in place is located on a part of our backs we cannot reach with our trunks. At least our own trunks. I approach the other beauty and I fiddle with hers. She eyes me from beneath long lashes and doesn't move, curious about what I am doing. After a few minutes, the straps go limp. She doesn't shake the hat off, even though she notices. Instead, she sidles next to me. She undoes my clasp.
The lake is big. The shore on the other side is a glimmer of treetops.
The laughter of the wedding behind us rolls through the air.
I undo her saddle. She undoes mine. We balance them as we sneak towards the water.
"Hey!" Gavith yells. I bolt down the beach. I am up to my knees before Gavith catches up with me. He thwacks me once. I kick against the muck, propelling myself forward. My feet no longer touch the silty surface of the lakebed. I imagine Gavith, so short, bobbing around in my wake like a child's toy in the bath. My companion splashes a few yards away.
Laughter and shouts of outrage flutter towards us from the shore.
I have it. The paint and the tassels couldn't get it for me, but this could. Flecks of rainbow seep off of my skin and into the water as I swim. Soon I will be my nude color again, a boring gray elephant, but they will still look at me.
Maybe I owe the bride an apology.
It's rude to steal the spotlight on her wedding day.