Shaking in her heels, Nadine Turner gave a weak smile as she looped one arm through her father’s. He grinned from ear to ear, glancing at his pride and joy every so often with all the love his heart held. “Ready?”
Her manicured fingers trembled as they interlocked, gripping her bouquet tightly. Counting to ten had not helped to settle her nerves, and suddenly she found herself panicking internally. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
The old wedding march began, the organist taking her own sweet time as the doors of the grand cathedral opened. Nadine’s eyes met with shades of blush and cream with gold detailing strewn about with great care, decor and design fit for the richest of queens. As she’d been promised, no expense had been spared. The groomsmen and bridesmaids smiled warmly, tears welling in their eyes as they watched twin flower girls stroll and lay white rose petals ahead of the bride-to-be’s entrance.
A sharp chill swept through the room, causing the groom to shiver a bit as he awaited with his eyes planted on the floor. The guests all whispered as they strained to catch the perfect glimpse, stating how lucky the two were to have found one another, and how grateful they were that the day had finally come. “It’s about time somebody snatched that Johnny Wright up. Man will run the streets forever if a woman lets him.”
“No, it’s about time somebody get her up out her parents’ home. Ain’t right for a woman to pass twenty-one without a family of her own. I was starting to think something was wrong with the girl.” A few older women murmured among themselves, peering behind their pews.
The ring bearer followed behind the flower girls, bowlegged and stumbling a bit as he fought hard to make it to the altar without dropping his pillow and the ring. A few giggles broke through at the sight of his determined face.
It was a sight to see. Hundreds of faces Nadine knew well and a few she’d only seen in recent passing. Her family, his family, friends, and their whole community smiling with anticipation for the moment they all thought would never come. Feet planted firmly, it took an assuring word from her father to get her moving towards her future. “I don’t believe you’re supposed to be the one with cold feet.”
“I’m just a bundle of unsettled nerves.”
“Before you know it, that nervousness will fade. That smile of yours will show itself, you’ll be married to the man of your dreams, and you’ll live happily ever after.”
He nodded confidently, preparing to take the first step. The organist began to play a tad bit faster, announcing the grand entrance of the bride. Nadine’s steps, like her breathing, were controlled and taken with ease. As she crossed the threshold of the cathedrals doors, audible gasps escaped the lips of many guests.
Looking left and right, Nadine caught sight of a little girl with a smile on her face. She waved, whispering a sweet ‘hi ‘ before leaning against the pew in front of her. The darling child’s eyes lit up, following Nadine and the exquisite train of her dress.
At the altar, Nadine’s best friends took their cue to step back and make room, guiding the flower girls along with them. They stood regally in their blush colored gowns, the form-fitting silk hugging and complimenting their skin tones perfectly. The groomsmen cleared their throats and adjusted the jackets of their cream suits, trying to present themselves as tough while fighting back tears the moment threatened to bring on. The groom looked up, a hand planted firmly to his chest as the sight of Nadine took his breath away.
Wow was all he could whisper as he moved to meet her and her father. Quick words were exchanged between the men before he took his place beside his bride, ushering her to the altar. The guests returned to their seats, the ceremony underway.
The reverend officiating took his time, offering age old words of advice and wisdom to the young couple before spewing off the lines he’d rehearsed time and time again.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sign of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony. Marriage is the union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind. It is intended for their mutual joy, and for the help and comfort given on another in prosperity and adversity. But more importantly, it is a means through which a stable and loving environment may be attained. Through marriage, Johnny Wright and Nadine Turner make a commitment together to face their disappointments, embrace their dreams, realize their hopes and accept each other’s failures. Johnny and Nadine will promise one another to aspire to these ideals throughout their lives together through mutual understanding, openness, and sensitivity to each other.”
Johnny moved from side to side, glancing towards Nadine ever so often as she remained focused and faced forward.
“If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together let them speak now or forever hold their peace.” A hushed silence fell throughout the cathedral, a moment Nadine dreaded most. She gave a silent thanks as everyone remained silent and in their seats. “Who gives this woman in marriage to this man?”
Nadine’s father stood tall, his words dripping with joy. “Her mother and I do.”
The reverend nodded, turning his attention to the groom. There was an indescribable expression etched across his face, a twinge of uncertainty dancing within his eyes. “Young Man, when ready you may proceed with your vows.”
There was a long silence, too long. Guests within the pews began to whisper, causing Nadine to break out of her own nervous thoughts. She kept her voice low and even, reached towards her love with one hand. “Johnny?” Her touch broke his silence, a word slipped that sent the cathedral into a state of shock. “What?”
“Sorry. I-I can’t.”
Nadine’s heart dropped to the pit of her stomach, her best friends stepping forward to catch her immediately as she dropped the bouquet she’d been clenching tightly. Her legs had buckled beneath her, the color draining from her face immediately. “Young Man, would you like a few moments in the back to gather yourself, to gather your nerves?”
He shook his head, looking out on their guests before facing Nadine with sorrow and regret filled eyes. Her own tears had spilled over as she clung to her friends in agony. “I’m so sorry, but I can’t marry you Nadine. Not yet.” Without another thought or word, Johnny Wright ran out of the cathedral, a few of his family members following behind.
Devastated, Nadine allowed herself to be carried away to a private area in shame as gossip and rumors went into full swing. “Oh when I get my hands on that high yellow fool…”
Still holding on to Nadine, her best friends turned with gentle tones as her father followed behind them. “Mr. Turner, please, he won’t be worth it. It’ll be okay.”
“We’ll make sure she’s okay.”
He nodded, opting to keep his revenge filled thoughts to himself. He was certain that was their way of saying now wasn’t the time, and they were right. For now, he would devote his love and attention to his daughter. “Okay, but you better believe Johnny Wright is gonna get his whenever he comes back around.”
Until then, they all decided, they would never speak of him again.