The mirror regards me coolly, telling me bluntly what I already know:
The dress is too big.
Nevertheless I push on, determined to look somewhat tasteful on my impromptu wedding day, and continue stuffing crumpled towels from the dispenser into the bodice that was cut too generously for someone my size.
My friend, who was not selected as a bridesmaid and will be sitting in the crowd, finally declares that unless I want the horror of wearing a bra under my strapless dress I should plaster my arms to my sides and just get on with the whole mess.
I agree with her, and pause only once to glance at the card that reminds me that You, Karen, are the bride, before I'm exiting the room and parading down to my carpet-and-stained glass venue where my groom will be.
But I am not the only one garbed in silk and favoritism today; there is another bride. And lucky for her, her dress has straps.
Upon seeing me my bridal escort offers congratulations, compliments, and confused glances--two brides?--but no seeded questions have time to sprout answers, as the music bursts forth and the troops tromp out to the front lines. I am last, and alone, because Bride B took the fatherly escort.
I lock eyes with the groom, my boyfriend, who was too indecisive to pick just one girl to vow himself to. Oh, and those dastardly vows--I expected to be repeating the standards ones but suddenly I'm fumbling over something improvised, so embarrassed that I find my eyes wavering more towards the view outside of the stained glass rather than the man I'm supposed to be vowing myself to. The moment my lips falter can't seem to come soon enough, and inwardly I'm grateful when his vows seem as awkward as mine.
We kiss--something that stirs our audience and minister--before the process repeats with a different woman in white. Their vows are only sealed with a hug, and for a brief moment my title as Bride A seems secured.
Then we had pictures done while guests migrated towards the food. We assembled quite well, our bride-groom-bride sandwich, balanced in tiers on the steps up to the venue that were flanked by stout brick planters.
I believe that to be that last sane moment of my wedding.
My groom began to flirt voraciously with every woman, I had no seat at the bridal table to eat, the father-daughter dance was really no more than a horrid three person imitation of ring around the rosy, where one of the three dancers was constantly plagued by the looming threat of loosing ones grip on ones bodice and effectively marring all guests by the sight of the topless bride and the cascading paper towels that once served to hold the dress aloft.
My period of solitary confinement, forlorn and placid at the edge of the dance floor, is only interrupted once when the friend who once helped me stuff my dress now offers a dance out of sympathy. My fate, as far as I was concerned, was utterly and irrevocably sealed as the Martha of my new marriage to Mary and Jesus.
The groom is suddenly wearing nothing more than boxers as pale as my ivory silk blotted by crimson hearts; an omen of the roguish color that was to be my demise in spreading across my gown.
We cut the cake--and by we, I mean Bride A and the groom; Bride B was busy sitting on the dance floor wasted.
We three newlyweds finally get on with our first dance, even as the groom would constantly interchange his brides for other women who came to spectate, not get hitched.
Bride B suddenly starts wandering off with another man, making me question everything this wedding was to stand for. Did the groom want his brides? Did the brides even want the groom? Who knows! Who cares! There was cake and alcohol and that's all that mattered!
Well, there was a gun too.
Bride B, her mystery man, and the groom immerse themselves in an argument that makes even the poor, drunken minister put down her seventh drink to listen. And yet, it wasn't one of those three instigators that tasted the tart note of repercussion upon their lips as a consequence of their dispute. No, it was me.
That stupid, wasted, stunt double of a bride shot me.
I could so clearly see the scarlet stains searing themselves into my expensive one day only flesh as I laid prone and destitute on the floor. I can only speculate to how pathetic the whole ordeal must have appeared to any passing bachelor or bachelorette.
Through the haze that was my fading consciousness I could hear the wedding-goers, almost all paired up with someone else (somehow that list included that bridely father and mother who somehow managed to get a divorce between dinner courses), making their way past the brick planters and towards the door that ushered me a mortifyingly short marriage the minute I stepped through.
I was horridly alone, or so I thought, until I heard the laugh of someone who had yet to speak throughout the entire ceremony. She was laughing at the sight of me bleeding out on the floor, which, if you ask me, is a pretty rude thing to do.
"Class is almost over," my theater teacher tells me, bidding me to resurrect myself and shed the imaginary mortal wound. She had a look in her eyes that spoke to how proud she was of the cast she selected--from her card proclaiming You, Karen, are the bride, to her wicked selection of both groom and secondary bride.
And as I swapped back into clothes designed for someone my size, thinking of perhaps the day some years ahead when my boyfriend and I would return as bride and groom (this time, for real), I couldn't help but laugh at the new private joke my teacher had given to me, one that would allow me to start my next set of vows with the words,
Second time's a charm . . .
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