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Thursday, June 16, 2011

MakeTheDevilPale

It was something of a surprise when the man showed up at the door.
If this was the same man, the same policeman, the boyfriend of the bridesmaid who had already pulled her aside during the extreme bridal shower and told her that she had cheated on her current boyfriend. Cheated when they were on a “break”. Cheated but he did not know it. He was still her boyfriend, after all. Today, here at the wedding, he was her boyfriend. But then there he was at the wedding, left alone at the crucial time between the church and the reception… and he was on the hunt. And she was alone because she was not a bridesmaid.

She did not know why she was not a bridesmaid. She suspected it was one of two reasons. One, there were already a perfect square of four girls and four boys available for her impeding nuptials. Or Two, - and this is the reason she believed in her heart, as if the first reason wasn’t bad enough – that she was bad luck, the black death of marriage. She had never herself been married. It was merely that she had been included in two weddings previously, as a maid of honour and a bridesmaid respectively, both of which had not gone forward. Two broken engagements with the only thing in common being she, herself, Elle. As such, she did not blame the current bride for not including her in the sacred bridal shower. She was delighted in her sad way to be asked to do a reading and nothing more was ever said of the fact.

The cheating bridesmaid's boyfriend was handsome in a suit.  He complained that he had not even met his girlfriend’s parents. Elle silently nodded to herself. He mentioned that they had been dating two years and still no parents. He didn’t know it yet, but there would be no point in meeting her father. The girlfriends’ father was a Muslim man and expected his daughter to marry the same. The boyfriend started to ask what type of relationship disallowed meeting the girls’ parents, mystified, more talking to himself in the bright light of the wedding hall. Elle shook her head, still silent. When he asked her what kind of man she was interested in, she asked if he would like to sit down. Mostly to reduce the spectacle of this tall gorgeous man in a well cut suit talking with her. She couldn’t remember why she had started talking to him in the first place, except that he had looked lonely without his bridesmaid girlfriend busy doing sacred bridesmaid things. Now Elle felt she had overstepped some border and was deeply embarrassed. It was doubly ironic that they sat down next to her own mother who required an introduction. Now, he had effectively met Elle’s parents since her father was dead. In the space of a few minutes, she had exceeded the familiararity that the girlfriend and boyfriend had not been able to bridge in two years and the conversation lagged as her face turned red.

A month later, Elle was in the kitchen with a friend when the man knocked on the door. From the kitchen window she saw the broad shoulders, high and tight haircut and official-looking blue uniform of the tall man. Immediately she slid to the floor.
“Oh, shoot! It’s the guy from the wedding! Go answer the door”, she giggled.
“What? Why?”
“Just go answer the door,” she wheezed in desperation, “and if he asks for me, tell him I have moved away”.
Her friend angled her neck to get a view out the window, but started toward the door when the doorbell rang.
“Moved where?” said the friend. She knew this wouldn’t work.
“Tell him I enlisted in the Reserves and went to Afganistan” Elle shrieked as she raced upstairs.
The door opened and the man’s anxious eyes searched her face. He was much older than she had expected. Perhaps by as much as twenty years. Her throat tightened. Something was wrong here.
“Hello?” she said.
The man did not find in her face what he had been looking for and he straightened up. A veil fell over his face that made her friend want to run upstairs and grab Elle and drag her to the door, if only to ease his suffering.
“Hello. Is Elle here?” he wanted to say more but censored himself.
“No, I’m sorry, she moved away”
“Moved away?” he repeated and started looking at the house in total, above and to the sides, as thought there would be some sort of obvious structural reason for a move.
“Well, not moved away. Yes, she…enlisted in the Reserves and went to Afganistan”
This was a mistake immediately. This was an enormous mistake.
His face froze and looked stricken. He searched her eyes for truth but his eyes were glassy and not really looking at all.
She wanted to speak, to correct this lie but he was far too quick for her. He whispered a word of thanks and turned on his heel, beret in hand, and marched to his car.
From the bedroom, Elle heard the car. There was no mistaking it, the outrageous engine that sounded like a Harley. She rushed to the window but she didn’t catch a look at it. She stayed at the window for a moment, lost in thought. Thinking of him…
Elle came down stairs slowly and smiled at her friend. The friend smiled back.
“What did he say?” asked Elle lightly, her mind in the past, grateful to be rid of a potentially embarrassing situation in the here and now.
“Oh, nothing. He seemed surprised… but he just left”.
“Good.” said Elle.
It was not until later, after the friend had said her goodbyes and left, that her mind was called back to that moment when the man straightened up, when she noticed that his uniform, while official, was not a police officer’s uniform at all. That on his left breast, he had a small board of metals. He wore a beret, not a hat. That he was a soldier.

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