A work of fiction featuring a window into Sophie’s wedding, a drama wracked affair where waffles, chocolate sauce, and culinary delights attempt to pacify hangovers, broken hearts, and a very public humiliation…

by: Linda McMullen

My phone alarm goes off precisely at 4:35 a.m., tearing me from my slumber and three things immediately flash before my mind:

  1. I am not in my own hotel room.
  2. That’s Tyler’s back next to me.
  3. Lizzo plus bachelorette party equals fabulous. “Good As Hell” as wake-up music plus Flaming Lemon Drop aftershocks equals purgatory.

I slap my phone, but it persists like Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor. I do my hair toss — check my nails twice — before I successfully smother my alarm. Tyler rolls over toward me, a dreamy smile still teasing his lips. My stomach lurches. Twelve years after rocking my pubescent daydreams as Judas in Howe Middle School’s production of Jesus Christ, Superstar…he opens his eyes, gazes at me intently, and murmurs — “Shit.”

My heart disintegrates; I breathe shallowly. Yet my conscience reminds me he too may have endured a predawn jolt or two, including a recollection that, mere days ago, he proposed to my best friend, Emily.  

That she accepted.  

But still.

I’ve adored this man for over a decade. I manage: “Hey. Not cool.”

Tyler lets his head sink back against the pillow.

I take the road less traveled, gathering up my bachelorette party kit with silent, injured dignity. I “borrow” his hotel robe for a barefoot “scurry of shame” directly into the shower. In five minutes flat, I’m ibuprofen-reinforced and freshly scrubbed.

“Today’s the day, Sophie!” We hug.

My sister’s marrying Oliver, a good and  devoted man. That same sister that held me as I sobbed for days after Emily brandished her engagement ring. Today, she’s marrying Oliver. She deserves a beautiful, drama free wedding for the ages. 

Sophie tilts her head. “Are you really okay, Bella?”

“Yes!” I insist. I muster some enthusiasm. “Yes. I’m so excited for you.” I conjure a mischievous smile. “Nervous?”

Sophie, with her ineffable Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice serenity, shakes her head. “Happy.  Oliver is —” she begins, apparently seeking one adjective to rule them all — “humane.”   

We should all be so lucky, my brain whimpers.  

“I’ve never met a couple so well suited,” I smile, turning my suddenly blurry eye away as her friend Amanda arrives sporting a bandolier of eco-friendly hair products.

I don my maid-of-honor gown, a muted bronze/gold the catalogue touted as “vintage champagne” and I call “used glitter.” Sophie chose the dress and that is all that matters. I help Sophie arrange her garter/veil/Mona Lisa expression, wish her luck, and take my place in the vestibule behind the flower girl and ring bearer…next to Tyler.

“You’re not going to tell Emily,” he hisses.

“Thanks, you look great, too,” I reply, straightening the ring bearer’s collar and suppressing a billowing sob.

“Can you please be cool about this?”

“You should really pin on your boutonniere.”

“I mean it, Bella.”

“I think you should tell Emily,” I say. The organist strikes up “Ode to Joy.” I lovingly shove the miniature wedding-party members forward. Tyler unleashes a strange brew of imprecations and pleadings which fail to bubble up to the surface of my mind. Inwardly, I’m chanting Sophie, Sophie, Sophie, while trying to avoid a meltdown.  

“Bella, seriously —” 

“Can this wait?” I ask, gesturing him forward. We process down the aisle, as he vows to make my life a living hell if I ever

The organist finishes her piece, and in the momentary hush under the whispering gallery dome, Tyler’s voice carries with spectacular efficiency.

“I wish I’d never slept with you!”

The entire assembly freezes, like the accursed denizens of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and with as little chance to rearrange their faces. Tyler resembles a caught fish, mouth agape, eyes bulging. Emily offers a lethal expression, outraged tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. Somewhere in the church, my mother has a death-grip on her single strand of pearls.

But this is Sophie’s wedding. I will end this, here and now. Before it blossoms into anything that could disrupt her moment.

“I feel the same,” I return, sympathetically. “I’ve had better.”

I snap forwards again, lace my arm through his, and march Tyler toward the altar. We take our places just in time to see Oliver and Sophie, beaming, walking arm-in-arm.

At the brunch reception (string quartet, white linen, myrtles), my first thought involves making for the waffle bar and keeping my head down. Despite its cowardice and infeasibility, this plan has one redeeming quality: waffles and chocolate sauce hold hangovers, broken hearts, and public humiliation at bay.  

I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Predictably, fate, in the form of a Sturm-und-Drang revenge-wraith named Emily, intervenes. She delivers a hissed bitch-and-slut-and-how-could-you oration — every word of which I deserve — and then tosses a crystal champagne flute’s worth of orange juice and prosecco in my face for good measure. 

I say, “You’re right, and I’m sorry.”  

I escape to the bathroom, correctly predicting that the citric acid and mascara would create near-cinematic effects.  

Thereafter I run the parental reproach gauntlet and the disapproving acquaintances hurdles, order an adult beverage, and station myself at the door to greet Sophie and Oliver as they enter, post-licensing. I lead the applause, settle them in their seats, and furiously signal to Tyler to begin his speech. I set my mouth, applaud dutifully, and rise to deliver my own remarks.  

I wax eloquent about l’amour, l’amour, concluding with, “Sophie and Oliver are ‘couple goals’. To the bride and groom!”

I raise my mimosa glass.

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