September 27th, 2008
Greg and Lizzie were supposed to be married today. That’s what the invitations say, and that’s why the men have knotted silk ties around their fat necks, and why the women have squeezed their ugly toes into shoes that may have fit once, but don’t anymore. It’s why they are all sitting on the hard benches, fanning themselves and admiring the Bird of Paradise at the altar.  Some of them carry tissues, because they always cry at weddings. Others would rather be home watching the game. They talk quietly among themselves. A child yells, “I’m bored!” and falls to his knees beneath the pew, pouting. 

10:00 am
The church bells ring ten times.  The bride is not here yet. Her mother paces up and down  in her gauzy purple outfit.  Her neck is flushed, and her eyes are watery. Her husband pats her hand, attempting to console her. She pulls her hand away, and turns her back to him.

My son is standing at the altar.  He looks so handsome in his tuxedo. He has his father’s long curly lashes and high cheekbones, may he rest in peace.   His perfect white teeth are frozen in a wide smile, but his eyes are darting back and forth, searching for her. He swallows a lot, and wipes his forehead with the lavender silk handkerchief that matches the bridesmaids’ dresses.  My heart aches for him.

They met two years ago today, September 27th.  She was cleaning out cages at the zoo, and he was there to see the new lion exhibit. Somehow, they started talking, and he asked her out for coffee. Ever since then, it’s been, Lizzie this, Lizzie that. I tried to be happy for them both, but my son deserves better--- a  doctor, a lawyer, maybe even a teacher. A woman who cleans up animal waste for a living is not acceptable. 

The Zoo
He proposed exactly one year after the day that they met.  He spoke with someone at her zoo and got Lizzie’s favorite chimpanzee to bring her the ring while she was preparing his mid-morning snack. My beautiful son stepped out from behind a cement elephant, took the ring from the chimp, dropped to his knees, and proposed. She said yes. It was the worst day of my life.

Answered Prayers
Her mother, on the other hand, was thrilled. And why wouldn’t she be? Her daughter, who dropped out of college to follow The Dead, and who appeared to have no ambition beyond cleaning animal cages, was marrying a surgeon at one of the top hospitals in the state. I’m sure the moment she heard the news, she pictured herself driving to the Cape on weekends to visit her daughter, son in law, and 2.5 grandchildren at their beach house. My beach house.

The Preparations
Oh, I oohd and ahhd over the wedding gown. She got it off the rack for $300.00 during that outrageous Running of the Brides at Filene’s Basement: Floor-length, train, lace veil, beaded bodice. I admired the photographs in the cruise brochure: the towering mountains, the crystalline lakes, the honeymoon suite with champagne and hot-tub. I wrote a check.

She helped me pick out my dress for the wedding. I took her out for a ladies’ luncheon, and we giggled together like sisters. I gave her a copy of my chocolate chip cookie recipe (he’ll love you forever) and she confided that she was scared of clowns and allergic to walnuts.   I dyed my shoes a pale forest green to match the dress. I hosted the rehearsal dinner last night at the fanciest place in town. I made a speech welcoming her to the family, and even cried a few tears.  I sent everyone home with a box of homemade chocolates shaped like chimps.  

10:30 am.
The bells chime once. She still has not arrived. People are starting to whisper and fidget. The bridesmaids are flirting with the groomsmen and smoking cigarettes on the lawn. Some of Lizzie’s relatives approach me and extend their congratulations, giggling nervously about how the bride must have gotten cold feet.  They glance furtively at the church door, willing the bagpipers to start playing. I look up at the frescos on the ceiling, and smile. I say thank you so much for coming.

Chaos Descending
The mother of the bride has tears streaming down her face, and has sent her husband to the altar to distract the guests and thank them for coming.  He recruits the ring bearer, the bride’s spoiled brat nephew, to lead them all in a few choruses of “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” The bride is not answering her phone.

Mother Knows Best
It is 10:40 am. Lizzie is still not here. My son is sitting down by the altar now, holding his head in his hands. His face is blotchy, but he is too proud, and still too hopeful, to cry. I wish that I could kiss all his troubles away, like I could when he was little. “Boo Boo, Mommy,” he would say. “Let me kiss it--- all gone,” I would say, and he would run off and play. But I can’t kiss his pain away this time. It’s too late. And just for a moment, I regret what I did. But only for a moment.

Alexandra N. Kontes lives in Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in kill author and in The Legendary, and is forthcoming in Fractured West.

People are always searching for the root cause of an evil act, trying to make sense of it. I am fascinated by the idea that sometimes, whether we like it or not, there is no acceptable or justifiable reason for evil.   I also enjoy writing about offbeat characters, and frequently juxtapose horror and humor in my work.



Copyright 2009