Jewel Eliese | Terri Kelleher
The church was decorated to perfection with pink roses and cream candles in preparation for the biggest moment of her life. Both their family members were in attendance. His demanding Mother and gentle Father sat stiff like statues in the front row. There was her Mother, Janine, whose meticulous hair was ruffled and even Grandma Vicky with her overlarge purple hat and tear-filled floral handkerchief.
Arielle waited for her groom in her, until now, never-worn white-laced wedding dress. Her audience chatted in the pews. Her older brother told embarrassing childhood stories.
“You remember the first time Arielle got drunk, Mom?” he asked.
A flicker of a smile appeared. “How could I forget? She was only two.”
Grandma Vicky gasped. “Good heavens,” she whispered with one purple gloved hand over her mouth.
Janine smirked, but her eyes remained tired.
“It was kinda my fault,” Arielle’s brother continued. “I was three and thought it was cool to spy in Mom and Dad’s room.” He chuckled.
“Annoying Arielle decided to follow. She found the perfume bottle and thought it was pretty, so I dared her to drink it.”
“So you finally admit it,” said Janine then shot a glance at the bride.
He looked down in shame, but his lips twisted. “Yep, it was all my fault. She was as innocent as ever.”
“We took turns drinking, seeing who could chug more of the rose-flavored liquid. She won. She used to tell me that all she could remember was falling off the coffee table and thinking it was the funniest thing ever.”
“Yea,” Janine said, “but I remember driving you two to the hospital holding the steering wheel in one hand and the puking bucket in the other.”
Only a few chuckles rippled throughout the spacious church as drinking stories had lost their humor.
Silence fell. The guests waited as candle flames fluttered, their soft light waltzing on the walls. The service would start soon.
Her Mother, to distract herself from tears, started another story.
“Arielle’s favorite toys were Barbie’s. She would dress them all in formal attire, and have a Barbie wedding. She couldn’t wait for her own.” At last, the tears spilled over the rim of her eyes. The dam had broken and sobs poured out of her soul.
The large doors in the back of the church creaked opened, echoing to all that the groom had arrived. He staggered in, his black suit was wrinkled, his white shirt untucked, and brown hair tousled.
He gazed at his fiancé elevated for all to see. Arielle looked beautiful. In her crossed arms lay her pink bouquet. With her golden hair tucked with care behind a white veil, she looked like the princess she always wanted to be.
A tear crawled over his afternoon beard. “Arielle.” He sighed and took the last couple blundering steps down the aisle to his bride, waiting for him.
He stared down at her, unmoving and doll-like. He leaned downward for a kiss but, before his lips touched hers, he whispered, “I do.”
Arielle’s mouth was cold, and the kiss didn’t break the spell; his sleeping beauty would never wake. She would forever, never, be a bride. He looked at his love one last time…and then took his seat.
After they buried his life, he took from his bride’s grave her favorite flower, one meant for their wedding. A blushing rose. Wilting, but still lovely, he held it tight to his chest.