This was worse than she had imagined — Ren Felman
This was worse than she had imagined
Dina watched her sister float down the aisle. Her shoulder blades poking out from the top of her strapless gown and her spine curving up to an engineering feat of curls, weaved in a curious Escher-like pattern. Dina was transfixed by the hair arrangement. Was there some structural support under the extraordinary bun/waterfall? What miraculous hairpins could hold hair like that? Rachel had asked Dina to help her prepare for the ceremony, but the dressing room had been crowded with sorority sisters and female members of the groom’s family, and Rachel had slipped out when the hairdresser arrived with her kit of curling and flat irons, shellacs and mousses and, apparently, magic.
It was dark in the church, despite the many candles and lanterns, and the white of Rachel’s dress made her glow. She was walking a little too quickly, not quite in time with the music (live, but with a tinny PA that belied the human musicians). Dina was willing her to slow down when Rachel tripped, a strappy sandal catching on the hem of her ridiculous train. Their father caught Rachel before she fell and he tried to steady her as she approached the steps to the altar. The minister made an off-color joke about the bride’s haste to get to her wedding night, and Rachel’s fiance, universally accepted as a decent guy, stood there grinning like a monkey. Dina wondered if the minister was a pedaphile, and if Rachel’s fiance had once been the object of his affections.
The ceremony was long and full of trite aphorisms and mild sexual innuendo.
“May your marriage be like a kitchen table…four bare legs and no drawers!”
Gina looked around at the young, smiling people in the pews, then back up at Rachel. She looked beautiful, but also a little too animated. She nodded her head enthusiastically at each of the minister’s comments and it looked to Gina that one of her false eyelashes had come loose. Gina wondered to herself if all the people here were part of the minister’s cult, and if Rachel were about to be initiated.
And then Rachel fell down the stairs.
No one moved for what seemed to be several minutes, and then Gina noticed herself sprinting up the aisle. Her patent leather pumps click-clacking on the slate floor.
“Get out of my way. That’s my sister! Out of the way, please!”
Gina ran past two 20-year olds in blazers and skinny jeans, pushing one into the other as they stepped forward to help.
“Don’t touch her!”
The minister was startled and pulled his hand back from Rachel’s collarbone, almost falling himself from his precarious perch on the last step.
“I thought I should check her pulse…” he mumbled.
Gina leaned over her sister, “Rachel, Rachel, can you hear me? RACHEL!!”
“Call an ambulance, can’t you?” she yelled up at the fiance, who had finally snapped out of shock and was fiddling with his phone.
Gina’s mom was at her side on the floor, holding Rachel’s hand.
“I think we should pray,” she said, tears streaming down her face, “please, Lord, this was going to be Rachel’s perfect day.”
“Shut up, Mom. She’s probably just fainted from how tight this dress is.”
“Oh, and I bet she hasn’t eaten today. I told her she needed to eat something. Oh Lord, please keep my baby safe!”
Gina couldn’t see her dad anywhere, or anyone who might help. With Rachel supine on the floor, her strapless dress had shifted sideways and Gina felt an overwhelming need to get her away from the minister’s gaze. Away from all of these people crowding around. Rachel’s chest moved ever so slightly as her lungs inflated.
“Back up, people. She needs air!”
Gina pulled the sequined cardigan sweater from her mom’s shoulders and wrapped it as best she could around Rachel. Then, after looking around once more for her father, she shoved her arms under Rachel’s torso and legs and stood up. Why was she wearing these ridiculous shoes? Gina kicked them off and started walking, barefoot and with Rachel in her arms, back down the aisle.
For some reason, the musicians deemed it appropriate to resume playing (were they high?) and Gina let the Pachelbel Canon guide her wobbly steps. Rachel was thinner but taller than Gina, and Gina wasn’t sure how far she could manage to carry her. But she kept walking, between the rows of pews and out through the narthex, the church doors, and into the cool night air.
“Gina, where are you going?”
“The ambulance is coming. They’ll be here soon!”
A Ford Torino pulled up just as Gina stepped off the sidewalk, and the passenger door swung open.
“Get in, quick,” said her father. “Let’s get Rachel the hell out of here.”