This story has been published in both The Front Porch Review and The Greensilk Journal
The Bride to Beat
As the organ started to play “The Wedding March,” I turned and saw that bitch in taffeta gaining on me. I growled through gritted teeth and pushed myself harder, burning through the last of my abilities. Mouth dry, nostrils flared, my hair matted and stringy in a hurricane inspired upsweep, I pumped my arms harder, willing my legs to do the same. After three days of grueling competition, I was not about to yield my lead. Hearing the music, I knew I was in the final stretch of this beastly bridal battle.
“Taffeta?” I thought with a smirk, sneaking a glance downward at the dress I’d chosen for the competition. It had been a comfortable off-white, A-line, tea length satin number, selected for grace, agility and movement. Now it was a tattered mess. I had dressed for the race. A lot of contestants preferred dresses that were “pretty” or flattered their figures — for the television viewing audience. I had long forgotten about the cameras, the cheering bystanders, and my appearance. I had my eye on the prize, my Dream Wedding. I was so close I could taste it. Or maybe that was just the remnants of icing slicked to the roof of my mouth from the cake decorating portion of the race.
The click, click of heels on pavement lulled me into a comfortable rhythm. My mind receded over the past few days. It was hard to believe all I had endured, physically and mentally, in less than 72 hours. “What a great opportunity for you,” I heard my mother’s voice in my head, teased nasal by my mood. “You are such a great competitor,” she continued, “You know your father and I would love to pay for your wedding, but well, with Daddy’s gambling debts…”
I shook my head to interrupt the inner loop. To be fair, I had thought it sounded kind of fun. Reality TV for me. Three days in tropical Hawaii, all expenses paid, food, fun, adventure — all with a wedding theme! And the Grand Prize was a “Dream Wedding.” Seeing as I had been researching, and saving up for, the perfect wedding for nearly three years, I couldn’t fail! I wouldn’t fail. My mother was right, I am competitive.
I believe my research paid off. After selecting an outfit and shoes, which were to be worn for the duration of the 3 day event, including the mandatory six hour recoup times from 11 pm to 5 am, the first trial was to order flowers for sixty 10-person round tables. There were a variety of breeds and displays available and the top 50% of contestants closest to, but not over, the budget price of $1800 continued onto the next round. At $1794.89, I not only set the tables, I set the bar. Over three hundred women were cut. Those calla lilies will get you every time.
The next test consisted of hand addressing 600 invitations. I did not know I was ambidextrous until envelope 409. We were judged on speed as well as overall legibility, because, it was stressed, “Your guests need to believe that this is a special day for them as well as you.” I was not as ‘first’ as I like to be, but I was far from the bottom forty percent, to whom we said good-bye.
To rest our swollen hands, the next task was “easy.” Or not. In the tradition of wedding pictures, we were all to strike a pose and hold it. That was it. That was hard. I distracted myself with childhood memories and pretended I was playing ‘statue tag.’ I out-stood all but four ladies. And we were down to the final 100 candidates.
Then it got hard. Tediously, we had to color coordinate a seating chart for 600 that took into consideration that blues hated reds and yellows had slept with greens in college. I never thought I’d be thankful for having a family full of reds and blues, and honestly I’m not, but it certainly helped with this task.
Between missions, we were a parade of formally attired gals traipsing from one locale to another. Through fields and meadows, over gravel, pavement, and wood chips, all the time with heads held high while alternating waves that either emphasized left hands clad with a garish display of gem and plastic fitted snuggly over thousands of dollars of engagement rings, or waving politely to our admirers with a dainty right hand.
Several other tasks came and went, and I survived each one. I am not sure which I detested more, the climbing of 300 stairs in heels, or the descending of 300 stairs in heels. Thankfully the congealing blood from my ruined feet created an effective adhesive that held my shoes in place.
Our numbers were dwindling quickly. Having to style our two-day dirty hair with only a pencil and twisty ties was quite a feat. By the time we got to the three-layer cake that was to be frosted with real icing solely using our tongues, I was one of only 20 women that remained.
And now, as I dashed “to catch my plane to paradise,” with a 22 lb. carry-on strapped to my back, I realized just how close I was to winning.
A loud crack and piercing expletive-laced scream shot through my reverie. I looked back to see my nearest competition sprawled on the blacktop, her high-heeled foot jutting at an angle foreign to her ankle. It seems Ms. Taffeta will be hobbling down the aisle in her non-dream wedding.
The “Wedding March” continued to play as I approached the tulle decorated Bridal Aisle. I was so tired… bruised, battered, and dirty. And then I saw my fiancé. With a sudden surge of love inspired verve, I crossed the line and collapsed into his waiting arms.
The cameras encircled us, the crowd tossed confetti and streamers; buzzing with excitement and cheers. The host interrupted our embrace to congratulate me and enthusiastically ask, “You’ve just become America’s Bride to Beat, what are you going to do now?”
With a contented smile I sighed and said, “Elope.”