I wrote three. This is the first. I did not send this one in.
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. That was that, then: guestbook signed. She was committed to being here no matter how she felt about the day’s impending nuptials. Lingering a moment, she plucked a handful of butter mints from the candy dish and faded into the background like aways. Just because she decided to go through the archway, with its faded stained glass and ugly cherubs, didn’t mean she must right this minute.
Aunt Key shuffled past in her pastel pink Sunday best, her ankles wrapped in neon orange and green compression bandages. Among all the other guests, the elderly woman was the only one who looked pleased to be there, happy for the couple. She was the only one who noticed Marie.
Breaking away from her escort, she hobbled over to the niche between the sign-in table and the door and placed a hand on Marie’s arm.
“Not happy with his choice?”
“I love Kailey, but he could do so much better, Aunt Key.”
“Your brother made his bed, Marie.”
“But he’s the doing this for them, and they all hate it. He doesn’t have to prove anything to family. He doesn’t need a beard for us.”
The older woman reached passed Marie and picked up the guestbook. “They should be signing. Whether or not he and Kailey part ways later, they’ll want this signed by everyone.” She handed the book to Marie. “Would you take care of that, dear heart?”
“Why are we celebrating this mistake?”
“Because neither of them deserve our censure.”
Marie clutched the book to her chest, ignoring the curious looks of the guests as they filtered in. When she was ready, that’s when they would sign. Until then, she would hold the book hostage to her indecision. She was ready to support her brother, but- “I can’t agree to this.”
Mints crackled between Aunt Key’s dentures. “He doesn’t need your agreement. Just your good wishes for a bright future or something. Support him. Love him. Even when you think he’s stupid.”
“He’s going to be miserable.”
At this, Aunt Key dropped a mint back into the dish and rounded on Marie with one gnarled finger extended and a stern expression that caused her niece to shrink back. “And you know this how? How do you know? How can you know? Kailey is the best friend he’s ever had and she knows what she’s getting into. How can you be so cruel to expect this to be horrible for them? Not everyone marries for reasons you agree with. Those marriages don’t have to look like whatever nonsense you have in your head.” She paused for breath, wheezing and listing sideways enough to make Maire put out a steadying hand. “Treat Kailey like a queen. This is her day. They’re doing this in spite of all your stares and gossip and unhappiness, because they want to. Whatever reasons they have, they’re good enough to face you, so- so-” Overcome, she sputtered to an angry stop.
Marie whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Get over it.” Aunt Key didn’t bother with sympathy. She merely turned and wobbled away, demanding an arm to lean on, neon bandages so very bright.
Clutching the book to her chest, Marie took a deep breath and turned toward the chapel arch, the cherubs watching her with their beady little eyes. Finally, she decided to walk through the door.