The bride strolled down the aisle of the packed chapel alone, smiling from ear-to-ear. Her father sat in the first row, eyes moist with tears, holding the hand of her mother. The groom stood at the front fidgeting as he waited for her to reach him. It was a disquieting scene.
Attractive, accomplished and financially stable, Paul and Sam (short for Samantha) looked like the perfect Barbie and Ken couple. To the outside world, marriage seemed the next logical step for them.
But, I knew the truth behind the veil. Her four thousand dollar gown covered the bruises well and the hurtful words he hurled at her, earlier in the week, forgotten in the pomp and circumstance of the day. I cautioned her, even asked her to delay the wedding but with her window for having children getting shorter by the day, she refused.
“It’s difficult to find a good man anymore,” she said, toyed with the napkin under her coffee. “Besides, Paul’s a good catch, good looking, makes an excellent salary, and we have a lot in common.”
I pointed to her arm, “Like the bruises?”
Irritation and sadness crossed her face as she tugged on the sleeve of her sweater. “You don’t understand, he isn’t always like that.”
Sarcasm dripped from my lips. “I can tell.”
She scowled in annoyance. ”He didn’t mean to hurt me. He was just trying to make a point.”
“Looks as if he made it. And, the last time or the time before that?”
“Stop.” The tone of her voice lowered to pleading. “It was an accident. He loves me, tells me every day.”
I placed my hand on top of hers and squeezed. The status diamond, he’d given her, cut into my palm. “Sam, he doesn’t love you. Not the way you should be loved. He talks down to you as if you’re stupid.”
“He does not, “she said pulling on her hand. I held tight.
“Yes, he does. He hurts you, look in the mirror. You deserve better. I’m asking you, please postpone things. If you’re determined, at least go to couples counseling.”
Her face hardened, and she pulled free. “You are my dearest and longest friend, Mel. I respect you, but you’re wrong. You don’t know him like I do. Either you can support me, be happy for me, or don’t bother coming.” She pushed from the table and stood. “I will pretend this conversation never happened. You should too. I want you at my wedding, you’re my best friend, but if you decide not to come, I’ll understand. Either way, I am going to marry Paul.” She turned on her heels and walked out of the coffee shop.
I listened as they repeated vows of honor, obedience, and fidelity until death, and cringed. My gut twisted as the pastor pronounced them man and wife. Paul’s long and passionate kiss sent ripples of uncomfortable laughter through the guests, releasing her when the preacher cleared his throat.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Mr. & Mrs. Paul Connors.” Applause echoed through the chapel as the new couple made their way up the aisle. Our eyes met, her smile broadened, and she blew me a kiss. Paul’s mouth stretched into a thin line of tension as he searched for the recipient of his wife’s air kiss. I waved not wanting anything to ruin her day. He grinned when he saw me, wrapped his arm tighter around Sam and escorted her through the door.
I couldn’t change her mind, but I would be there for when she needed me. I took a deep breath, plastered a smile on my face and headed for the reception hall. The least I could do was wish them luck.
She was gonna need it.