A Wedding Invitation
Trying to dislodge a folded newspaper from its narrow space, my knuckle caught on the inside lip of our metal mailbox. A few seconds later, metal collided with unyielding cement, sounding like fifty pots and pans dropping onto ceramic tile flooring. I closed my eyes, thinking it would lessen the attack on my ears.
The contents littered the steps. The invisible fingers of a passing breeze lifted a few sheets of unfolded newspaper, grasping the creased corners. Three plain white envelopes and a folded sheet of pink neon paper stuck out from underneath the heel of my sneaker.
The neon paper felt smooth and substantial between my thumb and fingers. It looked like one of those three panel brochures. A gold foil heart sealed the overlapping sections together. Decorative text in black ink stretched across the area above the seal. A Wedding Invitation.
The front door creaked open from the inside.
My daughter stood at the entrance, comfortable in her polka dot pyjamas. Her dampened hair smelled of our new herbal shampoo.
“I heard a loud noise,” she said, “Like the door fell off or something.”
“The mailbox came loose again.”
I held the invitation out to her. Her red polished nails stood out against the bright colour.
“Who would send us a wedding invitation, printed on hot pink paper?” I asked.
“Liz,” she answered.
“I didn’t know Liz was getting married.”
Chloe laughed at me. “Mom, Bridget and Charlie are getting married. Remember?”
She pried off the golden heart, careful not to mess up her new paint job.
“She asked if Abby could be a bridesmaid.”
“That’s right. Max will be best man, or something like it,” I answered.
Chloe unfolded the invitation, reading off the details.
“Saturday, September 18 at 6:00 p.m., outdoor ceremony and reception, backyard tuxedo attire, please bring your own lawn chairs, no gifts please, donations for our local Humane Society appreciated.”
Chloe handed the paper back to me.
“Only Liz would do something like this,” she said. “Who is she kidding? It’s going to be more like a circus than a wedding.”
Two weeks later, Chloe and I dressed for the occasion as requested. We wore our dressy black denim jeans and white cotton shirts, crisp from ironing. Chloe’s row of small buttons shimmered like fresh water pearls. She smoothed her black hair with mousse, gathering the strands first in her fist, then within a clip covered in glittering glass beads. Her almond shaped eyes reminded me of her father.
I adjusted my French cuffs. Chloe reached over, tucking my chin-length hair behind my ears. I decided to wear my own wedding-day earrings.
“I like those earrings. They make your eyes look greener.” Chloe straightened the corner of my collar as she walked past me, towards the hallway. “Too bad you never wear them.”
Five minutes later, we emerged from our house. Hearing us approaching her from behind, Abby turned around, wearing an expression of tolerance on her angelic face, outfitted in her bridesmaid gear.
“Abby, you look gorgeous,” Chloe said, bending over to rearrange the pink bow perched on the top of Abby’s head. “Stay there,” Chloe ordered before walking a few steps back towards the house to pick up the two folded chairs propped against the fence.
“Do you think Liz made up a batch of her special cookies?” I asked.
Abby danced a little jig when she heard the word cookie. She had a wicked sweet tooth.
“You can have a cookie after the wedding,” Chloe said, shaking her finger in front of Abby’s nose. “But only if you behave yourself.”
Abby nodded her head in acknowledgement.
“Time to go, ladies,” I said.
Down the driveway and along the sidewalk, it only took us a few minutes to reach our destination. Wedding decorations identified the house belonging to the bride’s family. Clusters of white balloons and streamers tied to the front pillars caught the interest of anyone walking by.
I lifted the latch of the gate blocking our entrance to the backyard and pushed inwards. My foot held it open, letting Chloe and Abby pass through.
An usher approached us.
“If you are making a donation, please drop it into the box on that table.”
He pointed to a long table beside the arch.
“And please sign the registry.”
He pointed to large white floor pillow.
“Are you with the bride or groom?” he asked.
Chloe and I looked at each other, our voices joining together.
Usher boy led us to the left side of the pathway and set up our lawn chairs in the last row. He noticed Abby’s costume.
“Are you part of the wedding party?”
“Yes, we brought the bridesmaid,” I answered.
“You’re late,” he said.
“This isn’t a real wedding,” Chloe said. “What’s the big deal?”
“Come with me please.”
We followed him to the back porch. Strange noises passed through the screened windows. Prenuptial jitters, my guess.
“You stay with Abby,” I said to Chloe. “I’m going to take some pictures.”
Smoke from the barbecues mingled with the scent of fresh cut grass. Liz had lucked out again. She managed to pick a perfect day to host an outdoor wedding. The row of sumacs covered in crimson leaves contrasted with the grey boards of the back fence. Three flowers floated in the birdbath surrounded by boxwood. Laughter broke free of the normal speaking voices, silenced for a few seconds and flaring up again elsewhere.
Music played in the background, a sign for the guests to settle down in their lawn chairs. Multiple strands of small twinkle lights spread out among the dense branches of the evergreen shrubs, illuminating the darkened backyard.
The porch door opened. Chloe led the bridesmaid and best man, Abby and Max, to stand in front of the arch. Abby’s bow slid to one side of her head. Max looked distinguished wearing a black satin tie around his neck. A tall gentleman followed them. I focused the camera lens and clicked.
Liz accompanied the bride and groom, Bridget and Charlie. Bridget’s veil dragged on the ground and her graceful head shifted from side to side. Charlie’s shirt gaped open near the bottom and his tongue hung out the right side of his mouth. I stood near the front, moving around while trying to find a good angle. I caught Liz’s attention and winked at her.
“Let me start by introducing myself,” the gentleman said. “I have known the bride and groom since the day they were born.” He stopped and looked at Liz. “Almost a year ago isn’t it Liz?”
Liz nodded and smiled.
“I’m Vincent Marlow, the family vet.”
The wedding party contributed their comments by barking. Dr. Marlow patted each of the four heads lined up in front of him. He bent down in front of Bridget and Charlie. “We are here today to wish you both a long and happy life together. How about we shake a paw?” He grasped the paw offered by each of the dogs.
The guests whistled and clapped their hands. The pair of playful retrievers rolled on the lawn. Grass clippings stuck to their golden coats. Bridget crushed the veil. Charlie popped off the last of his shirt’s buttons. Abby, our black and white boarder collie, shook loose the bow on her head and nudged Chloe’s hand. Max, an even-tempered cross-breed continued to wear his bow-tie with dignity.
Liz addressed the guests. “On behalf of Bridget and Charlie, Abby and Max, we thank you for joining in the celebration with us this evening and for your generous donations. Dinner is being served...”
Liz raised her right hand and pointed in the general direction of the barbecues. A pair of Siamese cats feasted on grilled lemon and pepper salmon steaks.
“Behold,” Liz shouted. “A pair of party crashers. Who says this isn’t a real wedding?”