Reader, I married him in a chapel on a hill with violins playing and swans making heart shaped figures together on the rolling green lawns while cooing doves were released along with blue winged butterflies but it turned out that was one too many creatures and the swans ate the butterflies with fierce snaps of their bills. No one slept well that night.
Reader, I married him in a castle with lit candles flaming in the corners of the room and a nun in a starched white wimple singing "Ave Maria" in a high, warbling voice that cracked during the super high notes. My gown was a marvel. The train measured twenty five feet long and as I swept up the aisle, it followed behind me, gathering lint and gum wrappers. Reader, my veil was handmade by blind, arthritic ladies in Burma. I had never worn a veil before and was surprised at how in gave everything a white, fuzzy glow so that my husband-to-be was a glob-like blur, a destination I moved toward with increasingly confident steps. His features swam into sharper focus the closer I got, and I thought, Oh, yes, that's him, I recognize his Adam's apple. That's his eyebrow. But when I finally stood next to him and he turned to me, I saw that his terror had transformed him into a thing I didn’t recognize at all.
Reader, I married him on a beach in Key West. The island had a name, I forget now what it was, but sand kept blowing in our mouths, leaving a crunchy taste that later blended into the chicken cordon bleu. Further down the beach, a dead whale had thrown itself ashore in some last desperate act. Every once in a while, when the wind changed direction, we'd be knocked flat by its fishy, rich stench.
Reader, I married him in a Holiday Inn reception hall in front of 300 of our combined acquaintances, even though he smelled like mothballs and his mouth held a darting lizard tongue. But you know what? He let me pick the flowers. I wore white. He wore something white-ish. His Aunt Lydia, who lost half her tongue to cancer, drank too much chardonnay at the reception and kept repeating, in an extra slurred voice, "I said to him, I said, 'Either shit or get off the pot. Shit or get off the pot.' He shit."
Reader, I married him. The ceremony was held in Our Lady of Perpetual Heartache Catholic Church, in Langhorne, PA, home of the dairy cow. The church had high ceilings, stone walls, and my heels echoed as I made my way down the aisle toward my beloved, who had shaved his scruffy, rash-inducing beard as a testament of his love for me. I kept my gaze on him, my hand clutching the meaty arm of my tottering great uncle Frank. What can you do? The rest of the men in my family were dead. When my uncle released me to my love, I turned to him and saw how, with me in heels, we measured exactly the same height.
Reader, I married him impulsively on a cruise ship called Bertha Sails, somewhere between Aruba and the Gulf of Mexico. I was drunk, he was high, we had known each other for two carnal-filled months, but what of that? The soul knows what the soul knows, I used to think. The captain read to us in a monotone voice, as if he would rather not be steering this particular ship. My husband dipped me, unsuccessfully and I fell flat on my back. The gathered strangers laughed and cheered, most of them in shorts and other leisure wear. He helped me up and I pretended to be okay, though I had trouble dancing after that.
Reader, I married him and we vowed to never stray, to have and to hold. We made a promise before the reception to not smash cake into each other's faces. Reader, we kept that promise, though we knew this tiny act of violence was expected of us. Instead, he gave me a forkful of sweet, tooth-ache inducing frosting. In his haste, the tines stabbed the roof of my mouth. I smiled, mouth closed, and swallowed the frosting mixed with the coppery taste of blood.
AIMEE LABRIE works as the director of communications for Rutgers University School of Social Work and teaches at Rosemont College. Her short story collection, Wonderful Girl, was awarded the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction and published by the University of North Texas Press in 2007. Her second collection of stories, Animal Shelters, placed as a finalist in the BOA Short Fiction Contest and will be published by Running Wild Press in 2018. Other short stories of hers have been published inPleiades, Minnesota Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Permafrost, and other literary journals. In 2012, she won first place in Zoetrope’s All-Story Fiction contest. “Ducklings” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Pleiades. You can read her blog at www.butcallmebetsy.blogspot.com.