Tremendously Classy

by Jessica Cripps

She had agonized over her outfit for the past week. The night before, she had tried on every possible combination of skirts, blouses, and pumps, finally settling on the olive green pencil skirt with an off-white blouse that fastened at the throat. Modest, yet flattering. The cut of the skirt accentuated her trim waist and kept her hips in check, and the blouse fit just snugly enough to complement her figure without looking trashy. Class, that's what she was going for, tremendous class. Gracious. Demure. Yes.

Still, the color of the blouse troubled her. Oh, it suited her complexion perfectly, and it coordinated exceptionally well with the skirt; that was a nonissue. But, was it acceptable to wear off-white to another woman's wedding? Of course, she knew better than to wear white, but how close to white was too close? It was awful enough that she had even agreed to attend Jake's wedding, but in no way could she appear to upstage the bride. This was her opportunity to publicly write herself out of the story, to bow out gracefully.

She elegantly smoothed her stockings over her ankles, one at a time. The ones with the backseam made her legs look longer, and they added an element of vintage couture to her ensemble. Just as she was about to step into her chocolate suede pumps, she thought better of it: save those for last. There was no call torture her feet any longer than necessary. A limp made tremendous class an impossibility.

Okay, now, hair. Neatly pinned and coiffed, or rough-and-tumble sexy? The copper-tinged golden cloud was by far her most striking feature, and she hated to downplay it. Classy. Sophisticated and simple and, above all, classy. Fine. Neatly pinned and coiffed, it was. She compromised by artfully selecting a few wispy tendrils to frame her face, as though they couldn't possibly be coaxed into submission. Perfect.

Mascara: the volumizing or the waterproof? She felt that the fifties look called for as much lash volume as possible, but the thought of her destination made her reconsider. You're an adult, damn it. You will not cry at Jake's wedding. Why should you, anyway? He was never yours to begin with. He's been Maddie's from the start, and you know that. You know. Crying will just make you look weak and guilty. She sighed. Waterproof, then.

Jacket, check. Gift from the registry with a tasteful card, check. Wallet, check. Car keys, check. Nerves of steel, check. Confidence, check. Tissues, check. Out the door, then. Today was no day to be fashionably late.

She pulled into the church parking lot at one thirty-five. The ceremony was due to start at two. A shell pink-clad bridesmaid scurried over to the side entrance, covertly clutching a pack of cigarettes. For Maddie, no doubt. She says she quit, but honestly, who ever quits? And it's her day. If the bride wants a damn cigarette, she gets a damn cigarette. Actually, that doesn't seem like a bad idea. She fished through her handbag, feeling victorious when her fingers finally closed around the small rectangle of cardboard and cellophane. Success. As she drew the lighter close to her face, she noticed that the flame was quivering. No, strike that, not just the flame; both hands were trembling, unwelcomely displaying the apprehension she had commanded herself not to feel. Oh, Jesus, already?

She sucked greedily on the end of the cigarette, trying to extract every trace of the tranquility it surely contained. When she had siphoned out the absolute last shred of nicotine, she exhaled in a determined stream and performed a quick once-over on herself. Lipstick touch-up, check. Breath mint, check. Cologne spritz, check. Deep breath. Showtime.

The inside of the church was decorated with breathtaking elegance. A single slender calla lily graced the end of every pew. Real lilies, not silk. Sunlight poured through the stained glass windows, just softly enough to suggest romance, but bright enough to refute the idea of intimacy. Even the air smelled fresh and virginal. Talk about tremendous class. Well, that's what you get when the bride has rich parents and a sharp eye for aesthetics, I suppose.

"Bride or groom?"


"Miss, should I seat you on the side of the bride or the groom?" The young man couldn't have been much older than twenty, and something in the shape of his jaw seemed almost unsettlingly familiar. That must be Carson, she realized. I've only ever seen him in pictures.

"I'm sorry, groom, please." Oh, come on, don't make an idiot of yourself already.

"Oh, you know Jake? I'm his brother, Carson." I know. "How do you two know each other?" Carson smiled amiably and offered an elbow.

"We're. . . friends." She faltered slightly. "We graduated together. I think I might have met you then, but that was. . . wow, eight years ago. I'm Angela."

"It's a pleasure to meet you. Right here's fine." He gestured for her to be seated in the fifth pew back.

"Thank you," she managed, doing her best not to appear frantic. I don't know anyone here. I should have brought a date. Any date. Hell, even Travis would have been better than no one. Damn it. Don't panic.

She sat down and crossed her legs, smoothing her skirt over her thighs. After a few seconds of deliberation, she uncrossed her legs, making sure to keep her ankles neatly together. Proper. Aloof. Tremendously classy. She inspected her manicured nails with feigned interest. Don't bite them. Don't bite them. Do not bite them. Glancing casually around the room, she scanned the crowd of faces for a familiar one. No dice. She returned her attention to her hands, examining them with a critical eye. At least they weren't sweaty.

Jake's really getting married. This is really happening. I can't believe this is really happening. She closed her eyes and struggled to quell the wave of vivid memory that flooded her consciousness. Everything returned with startling clarity.

"I'm closer to you than anyone, Ange." Nose kiss. "Nobody knows me like you do. You just, I don't know, you get me." Neck kiss. "Why didn't we ever talk in high school? I'd be engaged to you right now, I know I would." Neck kiss.

Sharp inhale, turn away. "Jake, don't. You're my best friend. I would drop whatever I was doing, no matter how important it was, if you needed anything. Ever. I care about you so much. I mean that. So much." Turn back. Face in shoulder. Shudder. Sigh.

Chin lift. Eye contact. Glisten. Spill. "Ange, I love you." Mouth kiss.

"Jake, I. . . I mean, I think I--" Mouth kiss.

A chord sounded from the organ at the front of the room, jolting her into the present. Her eyes flew open and she turned instinctively to face the aisle. The flower girl, probably somebody's niece, drifted shyly toward the altar, occasionally remembering to strew a handful of petals from her delicate pink basket.

"Oh, how precious," a nearby voice whispered.

The bridesmaids paraded down the aisle next, each with impeccable posture and each escorted by a debonair-looking groomsman. Doesn't she even have one ugly friend? No, no, I suppose she doesn't, and even if she did, that friend would ruin the pictures. Everything is perfect. Of course everything is perfect.

The music shifted, and the only sound was a collective intake of breath as all eyes were magnetically drawn to the back of the room. Look at her. You have to look at her. You owe her that much. She looked. Maddie was positively radiant, the very picture of elegance and poise. Everything about her was immaculate. She could have been a paper doll. That dress must have cost a fortune. And are those real diamonds? I bet they are. Of course they are.

Maddie glided down the aisle on the arm of a man who looked too old to be her father, but who undoubtedly was. Don't cry. Do not cry. Don't, don't, don't.

"We are gathered here today, in the sight of God, and in the presence of family and friends, to celebrate the joining together of Jacob Dalton Mackenzie and Madeleine Grace Lydon." Oh, God. Stop it. Stop it stop it stop it.

"The bride has selected the following poem to be read at the ceremony." Sonnet Eighteen. Sonnet Eighteen. I bet it's Sonnet Eighteen.

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Score. I knew it. Jake always told me how predictably bland her taste in literature was. I would have chosen. . . well, it's so hard to choose. Definitely not Sonnet Eighteen. Jake and I would have chosen something together. It would be our day, not my day. When do they get to the part where they ask if anyone objects? Do they even still do that? Probably not. No! Stop it stop it stop it!

"Do you, Jacob, take Madeleine to be your lawfully wedded wife. . ."

You don't. You can't! Look over here! Just once, look! Please! You can't!

"I do."

No. Nonononono! Deep breath. Composure. It's a beautiful wedding. People cry at beautiful weddings. Breathe. Thank God I went with the waterproof.

"You may kiss the bride."

Like it's your job. Because everyone's watching. Because it's expected. That's not how you kiss me. You kiss me because you mean it. You don't mean this. You can't. Like it's your job.

"I present to you, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Dalton Mackenzie."

She stood in line to be received by the newlyweds, brushing her eyes and fervently hoping that her foundation hid what was surely her tomato-red complexion. She felt lightheaded and feverish. She was burning up.

"You look so beautiful. Congratulations." She kissed the air next to Maddie's cheek. You win.

"Ange, I'm so glad you came. It means a lot. Really." Eye contact. She lifted her own chin this time, making a valiant effort to maintain a respectable distance.

"Are you kidding, Jake? I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Take care of this one. She's a keeper." Wink. Handshake. Deep breath.

"Thanks, Ange. I'll see you at the reception?"

"Sure, Jake. Open bar? I'm so there." She forced a grin and moved toward the exit. Once outside, she shakily lit another cigarette. Inhaling luxuriously, she let the breeze caress her face. Her cheeks and forehead felt sunburned, and her eyes were dry and prickly. She checked to be sure no one was paying attention, and strode decisively over to her car. Reception? She could just as easily drink at home, where there was no chance of making a spectacle of herself. What this day called for was a bottle of wine all to herself, a bubble bath, and a good read. Maybe Chopin or Millay. She would apologize later. Jake would understand.

© 2010 by Jessica Cripps


About the Author

Jessica Cripps is a college student working toward a degree in English Literature. Most of the time she doesn't spend at work or at school is occupied by reading and scavenging thrift stores. Her work appears in The Legendary and is forthcoming in The Hedge Apple. She can be contacted at cripps[dot]js[at]gmail[dot]com and welcomes any and all comments, questions, or general salutations.



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