A/N: I’ve been off this a while writing new pieces to post. This piece has actually been finished for a long time, but I submitted it as part of my AH folio, and couldn’t post it until I received my grade for it. It’s probably one of my favourite pieces I’ve written.
Never a bridesmaid, never a bride
White and gold.
White and gold.
I always knew he was one for grandeur, but I thought she’d be able to reel him in just a bit. We used to laugh when people picked gold over silver, yet here were the pews, the altar – Christ even the doorway – draped and drowning in waves of white lace and gold ribbon. Even on the short walk to the very back pew, the glitter and gems on the floor catch under my shoes, crunching and cracking like the bones I longed to snap. The piper was playing such a pained lament, and I had to bite back a snide comment about it being like a funeral. It would be all too easy to turn around and bolt, but I owed her this much. It was supposed to be me, so the least I could do was show up and sit in the back row. Moisture built up on my palms as I checked my makeup, praying that the thick layers weren’t smudged. At the very least, I had to look presentable.
Two hours max at this ceremony. Then I could use the sickness I’d been feeling for months to fake my way out of the reception. The sickness that seeped through my veins – up to my head and around my chest. Adrenaline spiked blood pounded through my skull, making my mouth dry and my head spin, yet I hadn’t even cracked the seal on my hipflask yet. It already felt like I was going to need something stronger.
As comforting as the thoughts of fleeing were, they couldn’t banish the ghastly sight of this church from my mind. I didn’t know much about God, but I figured that someone who could throw together a semi-decent planet in less than seven days would not be impressed by the way this church was currently decorated. Everything about it was far too extravagant, and I pushed my trainer-clad feet under the pew, away from judgemental eyes. They were only half hidden when I was met with resistance, and I inwardly cursed this church for being so constricting and claustrophobic. My chest was already heaving at the lack of air, and the décor was only making it worse.
Between squeezing my legs into the tiny pew, and my current contemplating, the lilies arranged at the top of the pulpit had spewed out a cloud of pollen, which was now tightening its grip around my throat. At least any tears I shed from now on could be excused as an allergic reaction. I wanted to question the choice of lilies; both she and I knew that they were the worst type of flower, especially at an ever so classy white and gold wedding. The putrid orange pollen clung to and stained everything it touched. But I knew that he must have chosen the flowers too – so clingy, annoying lilies seemed perfectly appropriate.
Just as that realisation forced me to suppress a hysteric giggle that was quickly rising out of my chest, he walked in. In my head, I had compared him to every jack-ass jock, in every American film I could think of. None of them were even close to his level of malice.
Looking at him now, with his ridiculous white tux and – oh for the love of God – gold tie, he was every bit the arrogant school heart throb at prom. This might have well been a school cafeteria, with him and his posse of too-good-for-you groomsmen staring down at geeks and theatre kids assembled in the pews.
But unlike Andrew in The Breakfast Club, or Billy Nolan in Carrie, I knew he didn’t have a tragic backstory to justify his actions, nor did he have a horrific ending coming for him. He had a beautiful bride-to-be, a steady income with a suburban home, and the prospect of even more little jack-ass jocks running around in the future. That wasn’t how the story was supposed to play out.
Him and his minion of a best man stood at the altar – chests puffed and stupid smirks on their faces. They spent most of their time with their hands smoothing over their ridiculously slicked back hair, sniggering and whispering to each other. It was infuriating.
It was supposed to be me.
He was constantly putting on an act for her, and if she heard some of the things he said about her when he was drinking at the bar – snippets of conversations that drifted to my ears in the midst of pulling pints – she would not be with him now. I had that much faith left in her pride; left in our relationship.
“She’s fucking useless at cleaning, but I’ll get her trained soon boys…”
“Her voice gets so fucking annoying when she’s mad. But I mean have you seen how tight her body is? It’s worth the trade; like those tits…”
I’d had to take my break early that night – before my fist met his face.
Recalling the memory had left finger-shaped indents in the hymn book I was clutching. Fumbling, I grasped for the smooth leather-wrapped metal that was burrowed in the inside pocket of my coat, ducking down for a drink. Working at a bar tended to put you off alcohol; hell, one night serving groom-to-be Prince Charming could do that. But I needed a burn to pull me through; something to take the edge off the God-awful glint of gold and stench of lilies.
I had a high tolerance – both for alcohol and self-inflicted pain, it would seem – so I didn’t have worry about passing out. At best I would be slightly tipsy, and at worst, completely sober and coherent.
But even with this recognition of emotions, and alcohol doused attempts to sort them out, I still couldn’t answer the blaringly obvious question that had been haunting me for months.
Why didn’t I just tell her? Tell her that her boyfriend was the biggest twat I’d ever had the privilege to know.
She was my best friend, and I knew she would’ve listened. But I couldn’t, and for all the thinking and stressing I did over the issue, each time I arrived at the simultaneously sensible and terrifying answer. And I couldn’t deal with the mess that answer left.
Unfortunately, thanks to my horrendous luck and apparent inability to control my facial expressions, her surprisingly intuitive boyfriend figured out the answer to my problems at the same time I did. This wouldn’t have been an issue, had he not been the complete dickhead that he was.
“I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not normal. You so much as mention it to her, and I’ll tell everyone.”
The way he had said it was so horrid that copper had seeped into my mouth from where my teeth met my cheek. I didn’t want this; I didn’t ask for it. But at the same time, I couldn’t see how I could avoid it. She was just so gorgeous – always had been. And it wasn’t just her looks – God no. It was the knowing smile she’d give me when an inside joke came up. It was the vice tight grip of her hugs and the softness of her voice when she was upset. Hell, it was even the way she ate like a child – dropping crumbs everywhere and kicking them under her chair thinking no one could see. Thirteen years had left her deeply engraved on my soul, and I was completely screwed.
And although I knew what I felt for her, it was all I was sure of. Labels swirled around my brain; names and definitions causing a hammering in my skull. I didn’t know what I was. Besides, being forced to figure out how you feel by your best friend’s fiancé isn’t exactly the best way to do it.
So I didn’t.
“Will you be my bridesmaid? I need you with me through this.”
“I…I can’t. I’m sorry.”
I kept my mouth shut; pretended my tears at the engagement party were ones of happiness, and bit my tongue for fear of saying too much. Texts were typed but remained unsent; numbers dialled but never rang. I couldn’t do this. Because even if I had no qualms about being outed, I would still embarrass myself in front of my best friend. She loved a rich, intelligent guy, with a steady job as an engineer. I was an aspiring writer who waited on tables in order to get by. Oh, and I was a girl. Completely and utterly female.
“I need you with me through this.”
If only she knew how much I needed her. Needed her to know, to understand.
It was supposed to be me.
A single C chord was all it took to yank me back to the present. Shoving the hip flask back in my pocket, I began looking at the hymn book on my lap as if I’d never seen one before. Somewhere in my brain I had a snarky comment to make about how clichéd “Here Comes the Bride” was, but I was prevented from doing so by the panic rising up through my chest, clawing at my throat. I was no stranger to panic attacks, but this felt far different from anything I’d ever experienced before. Because usually when my heart hammered and my chest heaved, my first reaction was to run as my life depended on it.
Sometimes it felt as if it did.
This was different, for better or worse, and rather than fleeing, I found that I couldn’t move. The wooden back of the pew stuck to me like the lump stuck in my throat, and even the incessant trembling of my hands had ceased. The pollen from the lilies had crept even closer; its hand curling round my neck, restricting my air and forcing tears out of my eyes. My mask was slipping, mascara running, and I began to wonder if I was fated to spend the entire ceremony in this state.
She snapped me out of it.
Somehow, in my hyperaware state, I’d missed what was perhaps the most important part of the moment. The doors at the back of the church had swung open, and there she was. The most strikingly beautiful girl I had ever seen. Everything was on her now. The dress that was so completely her blocked all of the horrible gold from my sight. The god awful scent of the lilies was inexplicably washed away by her perfume – the same one I had bought her as a teen, and the one she had worn ever since. Before I knew it the stinging in my eyes wasn’t from the lilies, but from something far more instinctual. And then, as her eyes turned and caught mine, the numbness fled my body. Tears flowed, my chest heaved, and before I knew it I was standing on shaky legs.
I had to leave, and I had to leave now.
“You’ll always be my best friend, you know. No matter what happens, it’ll always be you and me.”
My chest ached, and I couldn’t understand why.
For all the love I had for her, and for all the longing I had for her to be happy, I still couldn’t do this. I could have her happy like this. She was meant to be with me for fucks sake – she had been since we were fifteen. He had ruined it for me, for us. If he hadn’t stood there, threatening to out me and looking at me like I was a piece of shit, then maybe we wouldn’t be in the position after all. Maybe I’d be the one waiting at the altar, with silver ribbon instead of gold, and the scent of roses filling the air rather than the awful stench of lilies.
It was meant to be me.
And maybe my anger wasn’t rational, but none of that mattered anymore. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me now, including hers, and my head neared combustion. I hadn’t said anything yet, and it would be best if it stayed that way. My inner monologue was good for keeping me occupied and all, but I’d wager that it wouldn’t be too entertaining for those in this church to hear.
On what seemed to be their own accord, my legs began to move, letting me scramble out of the pew whilst the air of confusion kept everyone silent. The longing I felt to look at her once more – to have a lasting image of that gorgeous girl in the wedding dress – was so overwhelming that I faltered on the way to the door. I was always like this with her – masochistically picking at the wound so it could never properly heal.
But I had to see her – really see her – one more time.
The thought of having to look her in the eyes almost put me off, but hell, this was probably the last time I’d ever see her.
So it was it that thought that I let my eyes wonder, seeing for the first time how the white lace clung to her chest, tickling her collarbone. How the golden waves of hair caught and glinted in the light. And finally, those sparkling green eyes – the same ones that could convince me to do almost anything when they went all soft and pleading. Much like everyone else’s, they too were wide in shock, but they still retained the lingering softness that forever made my heart swell. A flicker of something else crossed her eyes too – realisation, or something else I couldn’t quite name.
Then it was gone.
Or more specifically, I was gone.
My legs carried me out, stumbling and accidentally knocking over some of the flower displays. I’d ruined enough already that a few smashed vases didn’t matter.
My heart thundered in my ears and my stomach dropped a thousand stories, but it was almost over.
I was half way down the stairs at the front of the church, my feet tripping over each other, when I heard it – falling through the air like the confetti that was waiting to be thrown.
My name, ringing through and piercing the thumping that had muffled my hearing; softly spoken yet demanding in one word.
Footsteps thundered down behind mine – and God damn this girl – because I couldn’t go anywhere now.
Maybe this was how the story was meant to end.
And maybe that was okay.