I wish Tina hadn’t come to my wedding. Mother made me invite her, but I wish she hadn’t come.
“She’s your oldest friend,” Mother had said, waddling across the kitchen burdened with a roast beef – an entire roast, though there were only two of us eating. “You have to invite her, she’ll be offended.”
I knew she wouldn’t be offended. Tina never gave a darn about stuff like that. “No, Mother,” I said firmly. “I haven’t seen her for years, and she’ll have other plans.”
“She doesn’t,” Mother replied, then coyly clapped a hand over her mouth as if she had let slip a secret. She was mocking me; she’d obviously already asked Tina. I admit that for a moment I was too startled and angry to speak. I am very good at controlling my feelings, but this tested my limits.
“Carla is your bridesmaid,” Mother reminded me before I had time to speak. “Jasmine is Carla’s sister, and Tina and Jasmine are always together, they’re best friends. I asked if they wanted to come together. We have enough places for them.”
Best friends! I had to turn my face towards the refrigerator so Mother wouldn’t see the color rising up in my cheeks. Now that Tina had been invited, I knew she’d come if only because she wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings. She was pretty thoughtful, considering what she was.
Tina and I were real best friends when we were kids, but probably just because we lived across the street from each other and there weren’t many other kids around. Then, when we were seventeen, her parents moved into the new subdivision a couple of blocks away. I rarely saw her after that. She must be a terrible snob. And besides, she started trying to kiss me once.
I couldn’t tell Mother any of this. Mother didn’t even know that Tina was… wasn’t like us. If I’d told her, she would have whooped in surprise, and said something nauseating and nosy like, “Let’s have all the gory details.”
Or she might have started thinking about all the time we spent together, and I couldn’t stand to have her wondering about it. And then she might have guessed about Jasmine, and that would make Carla mad, too. Mother couldn’t keep a secret at all, especially one about s-e-x.
Anyway, the time that I kissed Tina, it didn’t really mean anything. We were just a couple of kids. After I thought about it for a while, I came to my senses and I never let it happen again. I just needed a boyfriend, that’s all. We didn’t know many boys.
So now here I am on my wedding day, in my beautiful white dress. I have been keeping myself for my Bryan, so the dress is bright, sparkling white like snow or arctic fur.
All of Bryan’s friends are here, too. He is in politics, so some of them are very important people. We have had a telegram from the Prime Minister and from the Premier as well, and from many other names well known in the public domain. We have an open bar, so nobody can think we’re cheap.
Later tonight during the speeches my Bryan will make a surprise announcement and resign from politics. I asked him to do it, because I can’t stand to have people staring at him all the time, wondering about him and wanting to know about our lives. He finally said he would do it just to please me. I don’t want to live in the public eye, I like to live quietly.
My Bryan and I will live in a nice house in a good neighborhood, and sleep in the bed that he refinished with his own hands. We found it at an antique store and I begged him to take it on as a project, because I knew it would be perfect for us. He’s refinishing it as a surprise wedding gift for me. He had a very funny look on his face when I asked him to do it as a surprise. I think he has no idea what it takes to be romantic.
I used to only have a single bed, so when Tina came for sleepovers we used to sleep on the pullout in the rec room. The springs were very uncomfortable. Now Mother is laughing too loud and eating too much, and I am stiff with terror that Tina will come over and want to kiss me again, for extra good luck on my wedding day. Some people think that kissing brides is lucky.
Between the ceremony and the reception we had a receiving line, and she came right up to me and said, “I hope you’ll be very happy,” and leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. I kept myself as stiff as I could, and I could feel my face so brittle and cold my smile felt like plastic.
I used my most warm and graceful voice when I thanked her for her good wishes and I positioned my hands beautifully around my bridal bouquet. I couldn’t even smile at her properly. I felt like saying, You can’t kiss me now, this is my wedding and I’m normal. I turned to the next person almost right away.
I should tell you about my bridal bouquet. I have two of them actually; the one I have now is a special one just for carrying around; the formal one that I carried down the aisle was too heavy to keep on holding. A caterer in a tuxedo has put it at the head table, among the crystal and silver. Soon I will sit behind it, like a jewel in a sea of flowers.
Last night a big piece of our fence blew over in the storm.
I heard the rotting posts snap off about three o’clock in the morning, breaking where the wind hit strongest, funneled towards that single panel by the currents forming around the garage and the house.
I am a little afraid of storms because they make me restless. I long to stretch my arms and feel the wind pick me up by the armpits and hurl me through the air like a cedar bough snapped off from a tree. I had a similar feeling once at the top of a large waterfall, with gravity beckoning me onto the rocks far below. The reckless part of me wants to know what it would be like, to soar through the air.
The certain knowledge that I cannot soar without crashing is all that keeps me on the ground.
After a quick peek to see that the fence had truly come down, I pulled a sweatshirt on over my pajamas and crept into the basement to find my gardening boots. I eased myself out the back door into the storm.
The night was black and cold, and full of flying debris. A grocery bag went looping by under the streetlight, as exotic and beautiful as a dancer. I felt my heart pick up as the wind whipped around the corner of the garage and dove under the black plastic I keep weighted down over the vegetable garden to prevent weeds. The edges rattled in the wind, transformed into the oscillations of a six hundred square foot amoeba.
I could hear the cedar boughs in the hedge behind me, and I turned around to see them stiff with ecstasy, streaming in the wind. The hedge ebbed and flowed like an ocean in heat. With every gust, each branch turned to follow the current, then floated back exhausted when the wind paused to draw another breath.
The fence panel lay in the grass over the embankment, where the wind had dropped it. I couldn’t pick it up against the wind that still gusted without risking that it would again become airborne and crash into the neighbor’s van, so I left it where it was and wandered around the side of the house.
Moonlight appeared sporadically from behind the whipping clouds. I stood alone in the street in my pajamas and sweater, standing in a puddle of light from the street lamp filtered by maples. Leaves from trees up the street drifted into the lee of the house, resting from the wind.
The wind ran in mumbles, building like an incantation. In the lull between gusts, I could stand in the stillness and hear the pressure building down the block. The wind came directly from the ocean, pouring up the hill on all the streets at once. Standing on my corner I could hear it approach, then feel it hit forcefully on my skin and in my bones.
I walked back around to the vegetable garden, and stood again in the tidy concrete of my yard. A flap from the cover over the garden worked loose and tore itself up from the bed, twenty feet of wet black plastic covered in leaf mold rearing up into the night with a snap. It cavorted over the roof of the garage, anchored only at one end. I grappled with a corner, trying to step on it so my weight would pull it down to where I could grab it.
The plastic bucked and twisted under my foot, slapping at my arms and trying to cover my eyes. I cornered enough of it to pull it back into the lee of the garage, and dragged a garbage can over the bulk of it to hold it until morning.
Wet and cold from my battle with the tarp, I went back inside to bed. I opened the venetian blinds in our bedroom window and lay awake for another hour in the striped light, listening to the storm.
She awoke slowly from her warm nap-time cocoon to the buzz of a fly circling around her yellow walls and over her flowered carpet, looking for the way back to fresh air. The fly circled endlessly, touring the room again and again, always visiting the same places where some mysterious signal indicated the exit might be.
She lay on the couch and watched the dark shape, a small thick body flying around the room, now up at the ceiling, now just inches above the carpet. The fly was careful and meticulous, hovering over every surface, disappearing behind chairs and around pictures, searching in an organized fashion for the exit that must be there. Several times, seized by intuition, the fly flew straight into the window, bouncing off the glass with a thud like a grape. The buzzing would cease while the fly collected itself for another fruitless turn of the room.
After a while she threw back the cover and sat up, slowly, pushing up on one elbow and sweeping the phone aside from where it lay on the floor so she could roll over onto her knees.
“It’s there,” she admonished, pointing to the open window. The fly flew along her outstretched arm but veered off before discovering the opening. “How can I help you if you won’t listen to me?” Freedom beckoned from beyond the glass. The buzzing seemed to drop a note, as though its tiny battery was running low.
Dragging herself to her feet, she stretched out her back and waited for the fly to settle. At last the fly landed at another window, this one still closed but not shielded by a curtain, and she opened the screen and guided the creature outside.
When she had finished, she looked around feeling strangely proud of herself. A pleasant room, a nice nap, a life saved. A sense of accomplishment often eluded her these days, but she was pleased by the happy ending for the fly.
She crept upstairs to see if she had any new email.