She wore white, of course. And she didn't have to feel guilty about it. She had behaved herself, acting only as a lady should for all of her 19 years. She had seen those other girls with their lips sparkling like candy and their strappy shoes. She saw how those girls tied their uniform blouses at the waist and pinned up the hems of their skirts and convinced herself that she was disgusted. She had heard them snicker as she walked by them in high school, her sensible leather loafers squeaking out her every flaw. She had even tried on some of that pink lipstick once when some popular girl took pity on her, but she wiped it off on some toilet paper before anyone saw her.
The morning of her wedding day was fair and clear. It was mid June, just as she had always imagined. It was warm, yet tolerable and every cloud seemed to have been strategically placed to ensure a magnificent sunset. The perfect backdrop for the beginning of happiness, her little sister had said.
In a matter of hours, she would be Mrs. Grant Hudson. Grant was from a well to do dairy farming family, hard working and forthright. He was the second oldest of five boys, the most business minded, and the least attractive. She knew he would be a good provider. He had a strong back, a keen mind, and a sharp tongue. He could protect her, assuming that he wanted to.
Grant, his money, his mind were all so foreign. Her father was an electrician and a devout believer in handshakes in lieu of contracts. What he lacked in prosperity, he made up in reputation. Throughout the county, he was famous for being able to drink the fraternity boys under the table and find a suitable Bible verse for any situation, often simultaneously. Most of his clients were friends, calling him out to rewire a dispose-all then putting down a fifth of whiskey. The few good bids that he managed to attract ended abruptly and usually in small claims court. Her mother, on the other hand, was a devout Catholic and was as liberal with whaps from her metal spatula as she was razor criticism against anything that might offend baby Jesus. Her list included most forms of laughter, hair cut above the shoulder, speaking out of turn, breasts, interest in art, any music other than gospel, and anyone who acted as if life was supposed to be fun. The woman knew nothing of fun. She had four girls, each beautiful. A mother's curse. She had invested countless hours scouring bedrooms for cosmetics and curling irons, destroyed over a dozen skirts that fell above the knee, and knitted countless shapeless sweaters. Between ensuring that her daughters' beauty flew under the radar of society, cleaning houses and taking in sewing to afford the mortgage, and swallowing her embarrassment at her husband's antics, she had no time for frivolity. Though her mother was only 42, her face was drawn tightly into deep lines, as if it were trying to wrap itself around her numerous disappointments, hiding them from the surface.
The good bride sat at an antique table in the back of the church. She painted her fingernails a pale pink, hoping her mother wouldn't notice the color or the fact that she had grown them out for the occasion. Outside the window, a young woman strolled with her beau. They laughed into each other's eyes and shared an ice cream cone. A little boy rode his bike on and off the curb, giving a little shout each time he was thumped by the ground. An old red car blasted music to a grinding, almost vulgar beat. She sat and stared as the people went by, all seemingly unconcerned, all full of vibrance.
She forced herself to avert her eyes and fix them upon her surroundings. She looked at the room and its muted sunlight. For the first time, she realized that the table was dusty. She turned to the old mirror and saw a plain girl in a white lace dress that buttoned up the back. The sleeves were long and the neckline was high. The face, that blank canvas, was pale with sunken eyes and no expression. Her long hair, delicately pinned back beneath a veil, was as compliant as ever, the color of pine sap, and poker straight. No part of this girl, this image in the mirror, expected what its master would do.
Grant paced nervously about the entry to the church. No one could get her to come out or even respond. The guests had been seated an hour ago and his future father in law had already quoted Psalm 27 about fifteen times. "Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord!" the old man slurred again and again, each time with greater animation and enthusiasm.
"Well, I might wait on the Lord," shouted Grant, his hand grasping the sinewy skin between the old man's shoulder and neck, "but I sure as hell ain't waiting on my wife any longer!"
With that, the strong young man bounded across the church, into the back hall, and broke the down door to his fiance's chamber with one crack of his large fist. The crowd that gathered to see the bride instead saw only the dress and veil, clawed to ribbons that blew in the gentle breeze of the open window.
At precisely sunset, a young woman in a white slip dress looked at herself in the rear view mirror of an old red car. Her hair blew in her face, amber and glistening, her eyes flashed a gorgeous hazel, and the pink sunset seemed to glisten on her pink lips. A young man known only to her as J.T. had his hand on her thigh and his tongue in her ear. She decided that her sister had been right about the sunset.