A Bride Is Minutes Away from Being Married
|"Sasha, you look gorgeous!" exclaimed my sister Demetria, nicknamed Meme. I barely recognized my image in the mirror after she worked her magic with brushes, sponges and palette of assorted cosmetics. A tear made its way down my cheek. The Victorian styled wedding gown I wore felt as if it weighed a ton.
"Don't cry; you'll ruin your make-up," admonished Mama, gently patting my cheek with a facial tissue. "This will be one of the happiest days of your life, smile!" I managed a half-hearted smile. She continued, "I had lost faith that this day would ever come." She held my hands. "Daymon is a good catch. He's a lawyer, he's handsome, wealthy and comes from a good family; it's a miracle you two met. This is your chance for a good life." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Meme shake her head as she packed her gear. One daughter already disappointed her; I wasn't sure Mama could handle another.
After they left, I sat by the window of a classroom in the church Daddy pastored for thirty years. I looked up at the broken panes of blue and green stained glass, then through the transparent panes at the cars passing by outside. After all these years, the window was never repaired nor had anyone known how it came to be that way. Mama accused Sawyer Stefanson; however, Daddy came to his defense and nothing further was said about it.
Sawyer came to our church with his mother Tonya one cold, wintry New Year's Eve during the beginning of our watchnight service five years ago. We were singing a rollicking version of Hail Jesus, You're My King, with Mama at the piano, singing and leading the congregation and choir. As I stood in the choir loft, I saw them come in, shake the snow off as Daddy greeted them warmly. They took their seats in the middle section of the sanctuary. Sawyer had a mop of curly light brown hair and an "anywhere else but here" scowl on his face. Tonya wore dyed auburn dreadlocks and she had a pierced nose; she enthusiastically joined in with the singing. Later, Sawyer seemed to come alive during the testimony and sharing time, giving each person speaking his rapt attention, laughing whenever someone said something funny, then looking concerned whenever someone shared something solemn. Just before the time came to count down to the new year, I helped hand out small cups of sparkling apple cider to the congregation. I handed my next to the last cup to him, saving one for myself, then clicked my cup against his. "Happy New Year!" I said to him, cheerfully. He mumbled, "Thanks." He took a sip of the cider.
"I'm Sawyer. Nice to meet you," he answered and smiled, showing off his deep dimples and mesmerizing hazel eyes.
"So, what brings you here?"
"It's a long story."
"Tell me; I have time."
"I'll give you the short version: My folks divorced, my mom became born again and decided we needed to start going to church and this is the fourth place we've visited."
"Sorry about your parents' divorce. It must have been hard."
"Not really. My sperm donor was a real asshole."
I choked on my cider, trying unsuccessfully to keep from laughing. He also laughed and patted my back to ease my coughing. After that day, the Stefansons showed up each Sunday for worship, eventually becoming members. Gradually, my friendship with Sawyer evolved into a romantic one. I had hoped that we would be married someday; however, it wasn't meant to be. When Sawyer turned eighteen, Tonya was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She fought the good fight, but succumbed two months before his twentieth birthday. Her last words to me were, "Promise me you'll never give up on my boy." I guess I broke that promise. After Tonya's death, Sawyer went away without telling anyone his whereabouts for about a year. I realized it was best I moved on.
One evening I was at a party with Meme; while there, I met Daymon Shaw, a young, brash attorney who talked mostly about politics and himself, thus boring me to tears. Two weeks later, he called to ask me to be his plus one to a colleague's wedding. Initially, I was taken aback because I hadn't given him my number, but I was flattered that he made the effort to contact me. I agreed to go; it wasn't like I had anything else better to do. His friend was the son of a former U.S. Senator. While I didn't care much for Daymon, I became enthralled with his lifestyle. We went to expensive restaurants, got into exclusive clubs, and attended parties and events with influential people. It was the life Mama prayed her daughters would have.
Sometimes, Daymon would casually say things to me like, "I wonder what you look like with longer hair" or "I'd like to see you in more dresses, rather than jeans." Soon, I began wearing hair extensions, kept my face made up and wore more miniskirts because it was what he preferred. One day, he invited me to a Cowboys game. We flew on a private jet, arrived at the stadium via limo and sat in the stands. I wondered why we weren't in the luxury box; soon I saw why: He proposed to me with the world watching on the jumbotron! I didn't remember saying yes; in fact, I don't even remember saying anything at all. He put the ring on my finger, kissed me and pandemonium erupted. That's pretty much how my life has gone for the past year: a whirlwind of wedding planning, engagement parties, photo shoots, bridal showers, bridal teas, gown fittings, the bachelorette parties; it was all so overwhelming! Whenever I would make a decision, Mama would change it to something she felt was more suitable. You'd think she was the one getting married.
"Hello? Earth to Sasha."
"Oh, sorry, Meme. I was just thinking."
"I hope you're thinking about getting up outta here."
"Like you did?"
"As time went on, Nathaniel and I had become strangers to each other. At first, we didn't feel like strangers when we met, but as the wedding day drew closer, I realized I really didn't know him as well as a wife should know her husband and what I did know, I didn't want."
"Well, you never really know someone until after you're married to them."
"And, whatever you have now, you'll have more of after you marry. Do you ever think about Sawyer?"
"What about him? He's gone."
"He reached out to you; but you never answered his letters. What you had with Sawyer was real; you loved each other. I can't believe this is what you want." With that, she picked up her maid of honor bouquet and left. I was left alone with my thoughts again, but only for a short while. There was a soft knock at the door.
"Hey, Princess, is it safe to come in?"
He slowly opened the door, "Oh, look at my beautiful baby girl!"
He lifted my veil, then kissed my cheek. "Are you ready?"
"I know your secret," he replied, looking up at the window and the holes in the stained-glass panes.
"The broken window, I saw you throwing the rocks."
"And you never said anything until now?"
"I waited for you to tell me."
"It was so stupid," I whispered, shaking my head. "Sawyer and I were walking home from a party. When we were passing by the church, he made some joke about me being a goody two shoes. He tried to stop me; but I kept on. When we heard the police sirens, he told me to run, so I did. I'm sorry Daddy."
"All's forgiven. I know firsthand that being a preacher's kid isn't easy. I'm proud of the women my girls have become. You already know there's no shame in leaving someone at the altar; it sure beats getting a divorce." He patted my shoulder before he left. I could hear the strains of Pachelbel's Canon in D, which meant the ceremony was starting. In about an hour, I would be Mrs. Daymon Reynolds Shaw III. I stood, checked my reflection one last time, took a deep breath and picked up the bouquet of my favorite lilies. At least Mama didn't change that. When I turned around, Sawyer stood before me, wearing a Marines dress blue uniform, his sandy curls completely shorn, looking handsome as ever. My heart felt like it was going to jump right out of my chest.
"I can't believe you really want to become Sasha Shaw," he said, incredulously.