This story is by Jacquelyn Langley and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Her ring finger was itchy. She kept scratching it, not fully aware, the skin was swelling to a reddened pucker with each rake from her overly manicured tips. It was an important day, a big day. The lace sleeves that wrapped around her arms and fell in a delicate, royal cascade around her wrists with a Victorian flare, the intricacy of the white stitching against her olive skin had been flattering when she had first tried it on, but now her skin was red and irritated by the ornate fabric.
It was too tight. It was all too tight.
Her dress wasn’t fitting like she had envisioned. She didn’t think she had gained any weight since her fitting, but the fabric of her dress groaned with reproach. The tiers of cream and ivory colored satin beneath the top layer of lace started from her natural waist and cupcaked around her in an opposing flourish, with a french style bustle for even extra volume. Standing there, on her wedding day, she felt how heavy that dress was.
“Denise!” Her sister called from the other room.
“In a minute!” She called out, knowing the anxiousness dripped from her voice.
There was an impatient huff from the other side of the solid oak door. “You literally don’t have a minute! Get your ass out here now! Everyone is already moving down the aisle!”
Denise felt her throat clog, she couldn’t catch her breath. Her face was hot and flushed bright pink in the side-eye glances she gave the dressing room mirror, careful to never catch her own gaze. Her skin was still itching, and she couldn’t breathe in that infernal dress; the sweetheart corset was squeezing her like she was an almost empty tube of toothpaste. She asked herself why did she ever go with a corset bodice, telling herself that they were tacky and common, but Denise couldn’t discount that her figure was pulled taut in a “Monroe-esque” hourglass and she looked good.
The door banged with hollow thuds, “Jesus, Denise! Unlock the fucking door!”
“Goddamn it Syd! Just a sec!” Denise screamed, her tone sounded harsh to even her own ears, if not a little breathy. “I’m sorry… I just…“ There were no words, they stuck on her tongue and melted away like bitter candy.
Denise was pacing back and forth in the too small dressing room, her gown billowed around her in a cloud of fluff leaving no visible space for much else. The table side lamp swayed with every turn of her own personal roundabout; on its own path of destruction and unable to change course.
It had gone quiet, only the sound of Denise’s own shallow breathing and the unmistakable squish of her own cheap flip-flops filled her ears. Her diamond studded pumps were in the corner, with heels that were canine sharp. Her feet recoiled from that long walk down to the altar in those things.
There was a light tapping on the door outside.
“Neece…” Sydney’s voice was soft and muffled.
There was hesitation, “…Can I come in?”
Unceremoniously grabbing armfuls of satin, Denise made her way to the door, her flip flops squishing in her wake.
A strange chill traveled up her spine as she grabbed the door knob. Denise took a deep breath, unlocked the door and let her sister into the room.
Syd’s eyes were too wide for her face and had those furrowed brows that never quite left her expression. She was the worrying type, and she looked worried now.
“What do you need me to do?” Her voice was hushed but firm.
“What are you talking about?” Denise asked, coating her voice in mock-shock and denial.
“Jeez Neece…:” Her hands raked through her hair. After a long pause, “Do you want to go? If you don’t want to go through with this, you don’t have to.”
Denise didn’t know how to answer. She could only stand there in her big cupcake dress and flip flops she got at Walmart for $3.99.
“Neece, talk to me. What’s wrong?” To Denise, Syd’s eyes were unflinching and without judgment.
Denise felt her knees give way like they were made of undercooked spaghetti and she folded to the floor in a big heap. There was an immense weight bearing down on her chest, and it kept her down. She was a drowning victim tied to an anchor who had just let out her last breath of air and took a large gulp of bitter cold sea water.
Before Denise could even process it, she had begun to sob, and words were blubbering out of her mouth, “I… I… Just don’t… I don’t know. I don’t…. know…. what I… want. What do I want?… I can’t lose…you… Mom… everyone… What would I be without…” A hysterical hiccup caught in her throat and stopped her mid thought. Denise looked up to see that her sister had knelt down beside her, arms enveloping Denise’s shoulders. Syd was warm, she was always warm. It was comforting. Denise could feel her body relax a little.
Syd gave Denise a tight squeeze, “You will never lose us, Mom and I. We will always be your family, no matter what. I can’t get rid of you and, as you know, planning your murder would require way too much start up cash and the illegal acquisition of a lama. And I’m broke as fuck and lamas are bitches. Guess we are all just stuck with each other.” Denise felt the ghost of a smirk on her lips.
“You are Neece. You are the same Neece that shared a room with me for over 19 years, making forts out of our bunkbeds and playing Pokemon, the same Neece who I played Charmed with as we fought invisible demons, and you will be same Neece after today, no matter the last name or where you live. You will always be you. But I’m not going to lay any bullshit coating hun. Fuck cold feet. Fuck it right up the ass!” Syd proclaimed, throwing her fist up in an obscene gesture. It made Denise snort, and she couldn’t believe it.
“For real though. Stop being such a goddamn cliche.” The sisters locked eyes and burst into hysterical laughter so intense it burned their bellies and left tears in the corners of their eyes.
Once the laughter died, silence plagued the room once more. Denise looked down at her hands and studied the intricate lace detail wrapping around her wrists. She could almost see the leaves outlined in the patterns of the fabric: which would befit her Autumn wedding, orange, yellow and brown leaves had even been scattered along the edges of the main aisle, everything was intentional. She had planned it all perfectly. This was a big moment in her life, a big decision to make, she would become a new person, no longer a sister and daughter, but a wife. The word hung over her head like a cloud, blotting out the others. She could see a whole new path open before her, and Denise wasn’t sure she was ready to go. There was a dull ache in her cheekbones from laughing so hard. She felt far from laughing now.
Syd was quiet, waiting.
Denise exhaled and took a deep preparatory breath. “What if I can’t handle all of this?”
Syd chuffed with quick derision, “Guuurrrl, in sixth grade Mom gave you those awful Xena bangs and you made that work; you can make this work.” Her eyes danced with familiar devilish glee and her voice dripped with her trademark sass.
Denise could feel her throat slowly unclench as breathing became easier to handle. The smile on her face had gotten bigger, and she could think clearer. “You are so fucking ridiculous,” and Denise couldn’t help the maniacal giggle that slipped out.
“I know, but you love me,” Syd declared as she helped Denise from her position on the floor. In an instant, the pearl fabric transformed from inflated lily pad back to everyone’s favorite familiar pastry.
“So, if you want to go and walk down that aisle like the boss you are, or if you want to run out into the street screaming at the top of your lungs, I’ll always be there to never let you live it down.” Giving her sister one last troublesome smirk, Syd pulled her sister in and hugged her tight.
Denise could smell Syd’s recognizable papaya scented body butter, and she melted into the embrace of her tenacious little sister. She didn’t need to say anything else, her sister had already known.
Giving herself one last look to check her makeup, Denise opened the door. Syd handed over the bouquet of white irises and orchids, all wrapped in a thick orange ribbon and smiled. As Denise stepped through the door, she felt her sister giver her abnormally large ass a spank through the layers of satin, and crinoline. “Let’s get this show on the road!”