‘Repeat after me.’
The flashlight of your cousin’s cheap camera blinds me for a moment as we stand in front of the registrar. I’ve asked you to tell your guests not to get in our photographer’s way and spare us their underexposed and unflattering excuses of photos, but I guess, they didn’t get the memo. Despite my annoyance, for a split second I relish in the world’s disappearance into the white light, before it is back again with the overwhelming decor of fairytale lies and our crowd, a mix of human cupcakes and classy, victorian gentlemen, and you, standing there still, with your perfectly curled hair, feigning innocence in frilly white satin. My picture perfect bride. After the many weddings I have captured through my lenses, after all I have seen I thought no matter what goes down during ours, I cannot be caught off guard. Truly, I’ve seen it all: the bride tackling the mother in law at dinner, the groom running off with the best man into the sunset, the flower girl stepping onto the bride's train and ripping off her whole skirt and their old priest collapsing in a heart attack, and all the drama about getting the wrong cake or the wrong flowers delivered and the DJ not turning up, and the spectacle of bridesmaids locking a drunken uncle into a food cupboard.
Your family tells me I should feel very lucky marrying you, but this isn’t how I imagined it, being on the other side of the lens.
We should be happy now.
Our hearts, our eyes should be overflowing with love as your gaze meets mine, but my eyes are dry and sore, and my makeup had to be fixed a dozen times already. We are going to hate the photos, and I feel stupid. I have seen how the tables can turn, how the presumed daydream can reveal itself to be a nightmare. Naively, I still wished to enjoy this day. After all, it was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives and I finally didn’t have to be the one taking the pictures. But how can I enjoy knowing we are about to do something we'll regret?
You repeat the words like it is the most certain thing in the world that we should, wearing your lovely, confident smile and that low cut mermaid style dress with the sparkly belt I could never pull off. I thought I would be anxious to match your beauty, trying my best to compete, to not look any less stunning than you would. Not like I stood a chance, you were always the one with the right curves, always the one with an approachable smile, always the one everyone loved and fell for. Even now, when you are choosing me, I’m losing: you are a better woman than I.
But I don’t care to one up you now.
Are you a better woman than I? Others may look at us and see just what you show them, your perfectly happy smile on your pink lips, and my awkward, blank face, but I know you better by now. I know you enough to see behind your bright smile, and see the hardness in your eyes, and your slightly raised eyebrows, reproaching me for not looking the part. Why aren’t you smiling? This is no time for a meltdown, you are ruining the pictures. Please, don’t make a stupid scene!
But I cannot erase my frown, you are a better liar than I.
Remind me, why should I stay silent now?
‘I, Helen Claire Brown, take thee Evie Rose Taylor–’ you repeat after the registrar with a smile, but why? Why do you take me, when so many others want you? Craig from high school. You manager, Ted. Your best friend and maid of honour: Lou. Surely, you want her too.
My phone digs into my thigh, strapped under my ivory organza skirt, reminding me of the picture your brother, the only person in your family with a spine, has sent me. An image so very well exposed despite the awful lighting: sharp and clear with your betrayal. I opened it this morning, when I was having my hair pulled up into an updo. To everyone else, I said I was crying because it was too tight, but I confronted you.
You refused to kick her out of the wedding, refused to pick someone else for your maid of honour. You refused to admit you did anything wrong at all. “I didn’t cheat,” you rolled your eyes. “Yes, I kissed her. So what? It’s not a big deal, no need to make a fuss.”
I wish we could skip taking the pictures, jump to the image processing stage and just dodge this whole wedding.
You should’ve apologised by now.
Of course Lou was always a point of conflict because she never hid she loved you, and I always suspected you had something going on between the two of you. How many times have I asked? How many times have you lied? Yet, on your lips is my name, replacing her kiss from the night before as you carry on with the script: “to be my lawful, wedded wife.”
I love you, but I cannot stand you right now.
The confidence you have in my answer makes my blood boil. You should be scared that I might jilt you. Right? But I suppose you know me too well, you must know I would hate it the most if you were to fall into Lou’s arms straight away and I would be the only one left alone, feeling miserable. I would be the one to blame for ruining the day, even though you cheated, and I would be the one to look like a fool. I wish I didn’t mind. I wish I could make a scene.
I take a deep breath, I should calm down now.
‘Evie.’ you hiss, because it’s my turn and I am spacing out. Maybe you are finally scared of me saying no. I stare at you in silence for a long enough time to make you and our guests feel uncomfortable, and then a little bit longer. I don’t want to say it. I don’t want to say it, but if I don’t marry you now, Lou wins. I won’t give her that.
And so, I repeat my lines after the registrar.
'I, Evie Rose Taylor… take thee Helen Claire Brown…' The words leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, but you still keep that smile of yours on, until you hear “You may kiss the bride.” That’s when it melts off your face, because you know when I’m mad, I do not want to be touched and you don’t want to be rejected in front of everyone.
“Evie…” you whisper my name pleading, when I don’t move.
I could just not kiss you now.
I could be petty and ask why don’t you kiss Lou, but that would make me the bad guy. I bite my tongue. Knowing we will still argue later, but maybe we can avoid all of our friends jumping for each other's throats if I just comply, I step forward. I might as well get comfortable in the prison we locked ourselves in, a marriage in which I don’t know if I can continue loving you. I might be a photoshop wizard, but even I can’t edit out the past, can’t forget an exposed lie. A short kiss is all I bear to give you, and after, I am watching Lou. Lookin at your faces, at least it’s clear: I’m not the only one left feeling miserable. It’s my win, and I force a smile for the camera.
It’s my win, and we are all losing.
Should I feel lucky now?