This story is by Maria Elharaoui and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sam stepped off the scale and frowned. The damn thing had to be broken. She decided to try again. She placed one foot tenderly on top of the scale and then the other, trying to feel as light as possible. She waited a few seconds and braced herself before looking down at the number in front of her feet.
“Shit!” she said, exasperated. She got off the scale and placed it back in the closet.
Two weeks of non-stop dieting and somehow she was up a whole pound. How did that even happen? The wedding was in just three days, and she knew her dress was at least 10 pounds away from fitting.
“You alright?” Sam’s fiance Cal asked from outside the door.
“Fine!” Sam tried to make it sound like everything was okay. But inside she knew everything was not okay.
When Sam arrived at the office that morning, her best friend Nadine was waiting for her.
“Well?” she asked before Sam had even taken off her coat.
“A whole pound,” Sam said. Nadine’s face lit up with excitement, but before she could say anything, Sam said, “Up.” Nadine frowned.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. I weighed myself like six times but it was the same every time.” Sam flopped down into her chair and turned her computer on.
“Well, it must be like water weight or something,” Nadine said. “Are you on your period?”
“No,” Sam said in frustration. “I just can’t believe this is happening. That dress is never going to fit and this whole wedding is going to be a disaster.” She could feel the tears welling up but she didn’t want to cry in front of the entire office.
Nadine took her hand. “Just breathe,” she said. “We’ll figure this out. What did Cal say when you told him about the dress?”
Sam turned away and started fiddling with the papers at her desk. “Nothing,” she said.
“You mean you still haven’t told him?” Nadine asked.
“No,” Sam admitted, turning back to Nadine. “There’s just been so much going on. I don’t want to worry him.”
“Sam. You have to tell him.” Sam sighed.
“You’re right. I’ll talk to him tonight.”
As Sam walked through the hallway of her apartment building that night, she caught the smell of tomato sauce wafting through the door. Pasta night, she thought and smiled.
She opened the door, and Cal turned from the stove, where he was stirring a big pot of red sauce.
“Hey baby,” he said. He put the spoon down and came over to give her a kiss. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” Sam said, kissing him back. “Pasta? What’s the occasion?”
“Well,” Cal said, returning to his spot in front of the stove. “You seemed a bit distracted this morning so I thought this would cheer you up. I know you’ve been stressed about this wedding.” Sam squealed internally. He knew her so well. Pasta was her favorite.
“You’re so sweet,” she said, smiling as she sat down on the stool in front of the breakfast bar. She loved sitting there and watching him cook. Then, she remembered the dress and felt her stomach drop. Pasta would not get her into a size six dress by Saturday.
“Actually, I’m not feeling very hungry. I’m sorry.” She slid off the stool and went into the bedroom, but Cal followed her. He looked confused.
“What’s going on, Sam? You never turn down pasta. Is everything okay?”
Sam turned away as she took off her earrings and placed them on the dresser. In her mind, she remembered what Nadine had told her. She had to come clean.
“Cal, I need to tell you something.” She turned to face him. “I can’t go through with this wedding.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. His face had fallen. “You don’t want to marry me?”
“No, that’s not it. It’s just this wedding. I can’t do it.”
“But Sam. The wedding is in three days. We can’t cancel now.”
“Well I can’t do this!” She was raising her voice, and she wasn’t sure why, but she couldn’t control it.
“So what do you want me to do? Call all our friends and family and tell them the wedding is off? Send all your gifts back. Cancel your flights. No wedding here.” Now he was getting angry.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly.
“That’s just great, Sam. You can’t even tell me why?” Sam hesitated. She tried to open her mouth and tell him what was going on, but she was frozen in place.
“I need some air,” Cal said. He turned and marched out of the room before Sam could say anything.
“Cal, wait!” But Cal was already grabbing his keys and his coat. He slammed the door and he was gone.
Sam stood there stunned. Everything had been fine, and now she’d made a huge mess of things. And the wedding in three days! What was she going to do now?
Just then, the smoke detector started going off. The sauce! When Sam got to the kitchen, the sauce was boiling over and splattering everywhere. She turned the burner off and sank down to the floor and cried.
When she woke up the next morning, Cal’s side of the bed was still empty. He hadn’t returned any of her calls the night before, and now Sam was getting worried that this wedding really wasn’t going to happen.
With just two days to go until the wedding, she knew she had to do something drastic. She decided to call in sick to work, and scribbled a note for Cal and left it on the kitchen counter.
Meet me at the park on Sycamore St. at 7.
We need to talk.
When Cal got to the park that night, there was no sign of Sam. Her car wasn’t anywhere in sight and from what he could see, the entire place was empty. It was starting to get dark too.
“Hello?” he called out. “Sam? Are you here?”
“Cal!” he heard a distant voice cry out. “I’m here!” That’s when Cal saw it. Tucked between two trees was what looked like a collapsing camping tent – and Sam jumping up and down and waving next to it.
“What the hell is this, Sam?” He said as he approached her, and Sam could still sense the anger and hurt in his voice.
“We’re camping,” she said, gesturing to the blob of tarp behind her. Cal raised his eyebrows at her.
“Camping?” he asked. “But you hate camping.” It was true. Cal had taken Sam camping only once before, and it had been a disaster.
“Yes, but you love it,” she said. “Cal, I know you’re upset with me. But I didn’t tell you the truth.” Cal didn’t say anything. Sam grabbed his hands and looked into his eyes. “I want to marry you. I’m serious. I love you and I can’t wait to be your wife. But I have a problem with this wedding.”
“A problem?” he asked. Sam paused and looked at her feet.
“It’s my dress, “she said. “It’s not going to fit.” When she looked back at Cal, she had tears in her eyes.
“That’s what this is about?” Cal asked. The muscles in his face relaxed. Then he burst out laughing. “I’m so relieved!”
“It’s not funny,” Sam said as a tear fell down her cheek. “What am I going to do?” Cal sighed and pulled her to his chest, kissing the top of her head.
“Well, let’s think. Have you tried it on recently?”
Back at their apartment, Sam pulled the white dress out of the closet, while Cal waited in the hallway. She laid it out on the bed and gazed at it dreamily. It was truly beautiful.
“Well?” Cal called from the hallway.
“I’m getting into it now,” Sam said as she took off her jeans and t-shirt and removed the dress from the hanger. She stepped into the bodice and pulled the dress over her hips. So far so good, she thought.
Then, she reached behind her and maneuvered the zipper up her back with surprising ease. It fit! She couldn’t believe it. She smiled. Everything was going to be okay.