4 comments

Romance

“I’m not wearing white.”

“You don’t have to wear white,” he told me. His head was on my chest, cheek to breast, nothing between us but skin and the sweat we worked up together.

I was playing with his hair, combing my fingers through tangled black curls. “Maybe I won’t even wear a dress.”

He kissed my nipple and said, “Maybe I will.”

“Should I wear a suit?”

“You should wear whatever you want, love.” 

“Am I even a bride if I don’t wear a white dress?”

He lifted his head to look at me, digging his chin into my sternum. “That’s your mother talking.”

“And yours,” I pointed out.

“That’s why they’re not invited.”

I smiled, but my heart beat faster just thinking about it. 

He knew. He could feel it. “You’re a bride because you’re getting married,” he told me. “That’s the only requirement.”

I picked up his hand and kissed it, feeling the cool metal of the engagement ring I’d given him a year ago. It hugged his middle finger, inconspicuous. To anyone else, it was an innocuous piece of jewelry. We were good at that, hiding ourselves by not quite telling the whole truth. Lies by omission. Lies were the only way for us to have the truth.

I proposed to him. I gave him a ring. He put it on his middle finger and wore it for a month before he bought me one to match. He bought me a diamond, the largest one he could afford, which is to say, a very very small diamond, but I wore it with pride. I wore it on my ring finger, and we told everyone. And everyone was thrilled, my parents and his, my siblings and his. 

Our mothers got together within a fortnight, ready to start planning, and plan they did. 

Our parents, his parents and his parents’ parents, my parents and my parents’ parents, they were all married in churches, married by priests in the eyes of God. His brother got married in a church. My sister got married in a church. The wedding that was being planned for us, it was going to take place in a church. 

We met in a building next to a church, and we were the same. Everyone in that building was the same. We sat in a circle of chairs and had stale donuts and bad coffee and shared stories of the ways we felt broken and unnatural. He had pink hair and I had a girlfriend. I had a belly full of shame and he wore purple polish on his fingernails. He was the nicest guy I’d ever met. 

My girlfriend broke up with me. She told me I was confused, that I was too scared to be the lesbian I was supposed to be, and she couldn’t be happy with someone who hated herself.

His hair didn’t stay pink, but we stayed friends. He went on a date with a man with arm tattoos and I pretended I wasn’t jealous. Afterwards he told me he was thinking about someone else the whole time. I asked him if it was me and he said yes, and from then on we were together. 

Together, we had the truth. We didn’t keep secrets from each other, only from everyone else. 

When his mother and mine started planning a wedding, his hair wasn’t pink anymore. I wasn’t ashamed of the same things I was when he came into my life, but I was still ashamed.

When his mother and mine started planning a wedding, my insides turned rotten. They were planning a church wedding, one in which I’d wear a white dress and he’d wear a black suit and my father would give me away to him like I was only as good as the man who was looking after me. The man who was ruling me. 

Everyone was happy for us, and no one knew the truth. No one knew that if things were a little different, if I’d met a girl with pink hair instead of a boy, I could be asking for a wedding that wasn’t welcome in a church. If he’d been thinking of the man with tattooed arms instead of me, he could have been getting a groom instead of a bride. Those parts of us were still true. They didn’t go away just because we fell in love with each other. 

Suddenly, our lies by omission felt shameful to me. It felt like lying to myself.

I took off my ring one night and left it on the bathroom counter next to the sink. I drew a bath that smelled like peaches and cried until the water went cold. That’s how he found me, shivering with red rimmed eyes, ring finger as naked as the rest of me. 

“I can’t do it,” I said.

He knelt beside the tub and put his hand on my knee.

He asked, “Do you love me?”

I said, “Yes.”

He got up and took my ring off the counter. He got down on his knee beside the bathtub and looked me in the eye and asked, “Will you marry me?”

I said, “Not in a church.”

“We don’t need a church.”

I said, “I won’t take your name.”

“You’ve already got one.”

At first I thought he was too good, too soft, too ready to give me what I wanted at the expense of his own desires. But then I saw that he was smiling. He looked lighter, like something heavy had been lifted off his shoulders and I remembered: we were the same. We were bent in the same ways. Our desires were the same, queer and secret and beautiful. 

He slid the ring onto my finger and pulled me out of the tub. He wrapped me in a towel and we went to bed. He opened himself to me, let me inside, and we rode the high of a second engagement in the ways we both wanted, queer and secret and beautiful. 

Afterwards, we lay tangled up together, his cheek on my breast, my fingers in his hair, and I told him I wouldn’t wear white. 

August 31, 2020 02:29

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

15:25 Sep 06, 2020

This story did not go the way I expected it to from the first few lines, and I loved it. Your interpretation of the prompt is really interesting - on the surface, the broken tradition is the narrator's refusal to wear a white dress. But then you introduce these other broken traditions like the proposal, rings, and church, and ultimately explore how two queer people can be in a "straight" relationship without erasing their identities. I also like how it loops back around to the beginning at the end, to keep the focus on this one moment in tim...

Reply

Sarah Firth
15:28 Sep 06, 2020

oh man, two queer people in a ‘straight’ relationship without erasing their identities.. you totally got it :’) thank you thank you for this comment.

Reply

18:17 Sep 06, 2020

you’re welcome! thank *you* for the story, I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mandy Stevenson
17:03 Sep 04, 2020

"queer and secret and beautiful" is the whole vibe of this story and i love it

Reply

Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.