The sunlight was filtering through the window as Elizabeth stood, staring blankly outside. She was wearing her grandmother’s wedding dress, heavily redesigned and re-sewn for her upcoming nuptials.
She was the bride. She had wanted to be the bride, long before the day she had played ‘House’ with her big brother and told her mother, “I wanna be the Mommy! I wanna ‘tay home an’ make supper for Michael!”
Where had that little girl gone? That little girl who had been so independent? Who knew what she wanted and wouldn’t let anyone tell her otherwise? Surely she couldn’t be the same woman standing in the dressing room, waiting to marry the boy her parents approved of. The boy who grew into a divorced man who collected stamps and ironed his socks? The man who she knew she couldn’t and didn’t love as more than a friend?
Her mind wandered to last night and the phone call she had never expected to receive…
It was Liz’s last night as a single woman. She hadn’t had a bachelorette party; it had been ok for Michael to have a bachelor party, but her parents and Anthony had been set against hers. ‘Partying’ was for American hootchies like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, not good girls like Liz.
Liz hadn’t wanted to go out to a club, wearing no panties with a Red Bull Vodka Slammer in one hand and a Toostie Pop in the other. She had just wanted a nice dinner at Applebee’s with her bridesmaids and her sister. But as soon as the word ‘bachelorette’ came out of her mouth, the other three people at the kitchen table had vetoed the idea. She didn’t even bother to argue; frankly, her spirit just wasn’t up for a debate. Besides, she was almost, sort of, positively certain that her parents and fiancé knew better than she did.
Now she was just lying down on the couch, watching a CSI episode she’d seen a dozen times; she already knew that the lady who’d brought her kid to work did it.
The phone rang and Liz groaned. It was probably Anthony, calling to wish her a goodnight or something.
Pushing Shiisma off her stomach, Liz stood up and dragged her sleeping legs to the kitchen. “Hello?” She said into the receiver.
There was silence at the other end, and Liz was just about to hang up, when a deep male voice said, “Elizabeth? I’m sorry, it’s just been so long since I heard your voice, I was…How are you?”
Liz gripped the receiver. This wasn’t Anthony; Anthony had a stuffed up sounding voice that occasionally started whistling through his nose. The voice she heard now was smooth and deep.
“Paul?” Why did her heart leap? She and Paul had broken up two years ago. There was no reason for her to be excited to hear his voice.
“Hi, Liz. I…heard you were getting married and I wanted to congratulate you.” He said awkwardly.
“Thanks Paul. That’s sweet of you.”
“Well, I never wanted anything but the best for you.”
Liz pulled up a chair. “How are you doing?”
“Ok. I’ve been promoted. With the raise I was able to get my own place! No more roommate!”
“Susan’s not living with you?” Liz asked, walking on eggshells as she spoke.
“No,” said Paul. “Not now, not ever.”
“Oh,” was all Elizabeth could think to say. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“I’m not,” said Paul. He sighed. “I never got to talk to you after you and I broke up, Liz. And I really wanted to. I really, really wanted to.
“Because I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing.” In her mind, she could picture him shrugging. “And as it turned out, I didn’t.”
Liz’s stomach did a flip-flop.
“When I started dating Susan, it wasn’t because I loved her or because I pictured spending my life with her. She was just a friend from my childhood, but it seemed to everyone that we should be together, so they pushed us, especially my parents. So eventually we gave in. I did, anyway. She’d been wanting to date me for years it seems.”
Liz had a feeling of Déjà vu.
“Not to mention, I was pretty lonely,” he admitted. “And I had heard through the grapevine that you were spending time with another guy. One your parents liked, one they’d accept in a way they’d never accept me.
“I broke it off with Susan a few months ago. I wanted you back, Liz, but then we picked up Warren Blackwood for crashing while DUI. Broke his arm and needed a neck brace. Anyway, he wasn’t making a lot of sense, but he said he’d gone to visit you…and you were engaged to the guy your parents liked.”
That must have been after I showed him the ring! Liz thought panicky. It’s my fault!
“Calm down, Liz, it’s not your fault,” said Paul automatically. Liz frowned. How could he still do that after two years apart? “Anyway, I heard about your wedding tomorrow and…”
“And?” Liz repeated, half-hoping, half terrified of what he would say.
“I know,” he said quickly. “I know it’s not fair for me to say this right before you’re married, but if it doesn’t work out with this guy, I will always be there…because I love you, Elizabeth. In every way you can imagine.”
The same thing Warren had said, almost. But from Paul it somehow meant more.
“Elizabeth?” He said. “Good luck. I hope he can make you happy.”
So why wasn’t she happy? Today was her most important day of her life, and yet she felt as exhilarated as she would playing ‘Candy Land.’ Not even nervous. Just empty.
“There’s my little girl!” Said a voice. Elizabeth turned to see her mother, who grabbed her for a hug. “But you’re not a little girl anymore! You’re all grown up! Today, you’re a true woman!”
What was I before? A cantaloupe? Liz thought somewhat bitterly. Am I just a woman because I’m getting married?
There was a soft knock on the door. “Mom?” Said a voice.
Elly turned. “April! You’re supposed to watching the little kids!” She scolded. “What are you doing here?”
“Ok,” April turned. “I’ll just tell Weed that he was right and all the photos should be in sepia…”
“Sepia?” Cried Elly. “Oh no!” She rushed past April.
April stood by Liz, who was staring hollowly out the window again. “How are you?”
“It’s the most extraordinary day of my life,” Liz monotoned automatically. She felt as though she had a pull string that made her say the same things over and over. “I’m so happy. I guess I knew that someday I’d marry Anthony.”
“Or Mom and Dad knew,” said April. “And they made sure of it.”
Liz looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Nothing.” There was quiet for a few moments, then April said, “You don’t have to do it.”
“You don’t have to go through with the wedding,” said April. “There’s no shame in calling it off now.”
“How could you say that?” Liz heard herself say. “I love Anthony!”
April looked at her blandly. “No you don’t. And you shouldn’t say you do, just because Mom and Dad are so desperate for you to wind up with him.”
Elizabeth was flabbergasted. She didn’t know how to react.
April turned back to the window. “Besides, just because he’s your childhood sweetheart doesn’t mean he’s the right one for you. People change as they grow up. Sometimes, childhood sweethearts are meant to be, sometimes they’re not. And that’s ok. Do you honestly think I’m going to end up with that obnoxious puke, Gerald?”
April picked up her skirt and headed toward the door. “Do what you think is right, Liz. But,” and she turned. “Don’t do what you think is right for Mom, Dad, Anthony, or Francie. Do what is right for Elizabeth.”
As she left, Liz picked up her bouquet. She stared into the flowers for a moment, then she smiled. Then she opened the window and hurled the flowers outside.
The wedding march was starting to play. Anthony stood at the altar, looking impatiently down the aisle. In the front, Elly was dabbing her eyes.
The music stalled. Everyone turned looking to see the bride. The doors remained empty.
There was whispering in the crowd. April, holding Francie’s hand, just smiled. Well done, Lizard Breath.
Her grandmother’s wedding dress was sticking out of the door a little as Elizabeth peeled out of the parking.
Mtigwaki, here I come!
Somewhere in Corbeil:
Lynn Johnston finished reading the last strip. She looked up at the young artist sitting on the chair across from her. She smiled. “Well? I think it’s my best work! This’ll be the biggest comic strip ending since Calvin and Hobbes slid down the hill!”
A minute later, the studio doors opened and the artist flew outside. She landed headfirst into a snow bank.
Pulling her frosted face out of the snow, she yelled as the doors slammed, “Yeah, same to you, you washed up old hack!”