This story is one of the May Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
The words are simple: I do.
So why am I so nervous? I stand, looking in the huge mirror propped against the wall of my dressing room.
Staring back at me is a woman, a beautiful woman. Too beautiful to be my own reflection. Yet she wears the white lace dress I picked out, the shoes I so carefully coordinated, and on her finger she wears the brilliant ring he put on my finger when he bent down on one knee so many weeks ago.
But she wears a sad, empty look on her face. It isn’t right. Today is her wedding day; shouldn’t the woman in the mirror look happy, glowing? Shouldn’t I be glowing? I should be glowing.
I’m not glowing. I’m not happy, because it isn’t right. I need my maid of honor. Today isn’t right if she’s not here, if Alice isn’t here.
“Alice,” I say her name out loud. It sounds wrong coming off of my lips, greeted with silence. Her name should be accompanied by laughter and smiles, by joy and fearlessness, because that’s the type of person my sister was. But she is gone, gone for only three weeks, yet it feels like an eternity has passed.
The woman in the mirror is crying now, black-stained tears running down her cheeks and onto her neck. She vanishes as I turn and run out of the small dressing room. I need to get out of there, out of the place where she should be. I run without a designated path, without care as to whether my dress is ruined. I run, tearing off my shoes and feeling the grass beneath my toes as I make it outside. I run, the wind whipping past my face, blowing my hair behind me. I can breathe now, better than ever.
Trees materialize around me as I enter the forest surrounding the property. The earth beneath my feet changes now; it is wet and soft. I stop, standing still, catching my breath.
“Alice,” I whisper. The word sounds better now, completely surrounded by the life in these woods. I look up, but what for? Is she in Heaven now? Is Heaven even real?
She would laugh if she could see me now, standing in a dirt-stained gown in the middle of the woods, my perfectly-done hair a mess, my flawless makeup smeared. She would think the irony of it all was funny, and she would laugh. I can picture her face when she laughs, dotted with freckles like stars in the night sky, her nose scrunched up. Her eyes are bright, full of life, full of her. I can see her more clearly now than ever before.
I lose sense of time. Tears spill from my eyes in a constant stream. I am on the ground now, but I don’t know how I got there.
A pair of arms enclose around me. I look up, and meet his eyes. He looks concerned, but nods, pulling me closer to his chest. I am safe now. I am okay. That’s what they told me to say, that I’m okay. I am okay.
He lifts me up and carries me like a baby back through the forest. I focus on the rhythm of his steps, the movement of his body.
“Goodbye, Alice,” I whisper into his chest.
I am okay.