Getting back to fiction this week, our selection is an excerpt from a story called Speak Now Hold. It's about a woman who specializes in breaking up weddings for a living. That in itself is what hooked me, but then I saw that the writing matched the quality of the premise, and got even happier. The author, Molly Strzelecki, says the idea came to her while listening to morning radio. A woman called in and said her plan for the weekend was to "disrupt the wedding of a friend's ex-boyfriend as retribution for how badly the ex-boyfriend had treated the woman's friend." Molly adds the woman sounded so gleeful that she knew she had to write a story about it.
Molly is a writer and editor living in Washington, DC. For a "Monday-Friday dose of Molly," you should check out McPolish.com.
Speak Now Hold
By Molly V. Strzelecki
By Molly V. Strzelecki
She checked the scrap of paper she had clenched in her hand, matching the address scrawled across it with the address on the sign outside the church as she pulled into the parking lot. She looked at the paper again. Tim Duncan marrying Deana Miles. Tim and Deana, Tim and Deana, Pepper thought to herself, committing it to memory. She checked her lipstick and combed her hair one last time before getting out of the car, tottering a little in her high-heeled shoes, squinting in the sun. She smoothed the fabric of her dress as much as she could over her protruding stomach, the threads stretched and showing her growing belly had pushed out her navel. Pepper took a wrong step and her ankle rolled, pitching her forward as she flailed her arms for balance. A middle-aged couple rushed to help her, offering their arms, one on each side of her, for the rest of the walk across the gravel lot.
“Thanks,” Pepper murmured to the couple as they reached the walk leading up to the church steps. Her hair fell in front of her face and she said softly, “Thank you. I think I can manage from here.” She looked up and smiled serenely, easing their concerned faces into smiles as well. The woman winked at Pepper conspiratorially, boldly laying a hand lightly on Pepper’s belly and saying, “Pregnancy can be tough – a lot more body to deal with. God bless!” The woman and her husband made their way up the path and into the church as Pepper stood for a minute more on the sidewalk looking after them, a bemused look on her face.
She took a deep breath, straightening her shoulders before walking purposefully up the steps and into the church. It was cute and picturesque, white clapboard, humble countryside goodness. There were flowers everywhere, thick blooms on the bushes outside and covering every available inch of space leading inside, the scent sticky and cloying, enveloping the church. The groom, Tim, stood inside the vestibule greeting guests and Pepper sauntered past him, catching his eye. He held her gaze for a moment and she raised her eyebrow suggestively before smiling. He smiled back slickly, leering toward her almost imperceptibly. His eyes started to trail blithely downward from Pepper’s face, rolling over her long neck and her stacked, curvaceous chest until he caught sight of her belly bumping out in front of her. He looked up quickly, the slightest look of repulsion crossing his face before looking away. Pepper’s grin turned into a smirk. “Gotcha,” she thought to herself.
Pepper settled into a pew near the back. Not the very last row, but close enough, and on the end, not wanting to be blocked in by other guests. “Pregnant,” she whispered loudly with a smile when they tried to scoot her further into the pew. “Have to use the ladies’ a lot,” she continued apologetically.
As the music swelled to announce the bride’s entrance, Pepper’s chest tightened in excitement, it always did at this exact moment, and she cast her eyes downward when the bride passed her row, gliding down the aisle on the arm of her father. The congregation collectively sat back down as the priest started the ceremony, welcoming everyone here today to join in the holy matrimony of Tim and Deana, talking about what it meant to bring these two here together today with love and honor. Pepper rolled her eyes and fanned the skirt of her dress out over her splayed knees. Her stomach was huge.
People never actually used the bit about objections to a marriage – not in church, anyway – “speak now or forever hold your peace.” Pepper wondered when it had been dropped from the ceremony, how many years ago, or was it just something Hollywood had made up. “They should use it,” she thought. “It would make my job a whole lot easier.” In its absence, she had to be creative then, create and opening and finesse her timing.
Pepper started clearing her throat when the priest first paused. She kept going, louder and louder until people on either side of her began shooting her strange looks, watching as she fidgeted in her seat more and more, eventually becoming such a distraction clearing her throat and shifting her weight in her seat that people ten rows up were turning to look at her. The priest paused again and made the mistake of looking up. “Here,” Pepper thought, “right here.” She struggled to her feet.
“Excuse me,” she called, stepping out of the pew and into the aisle. The priest continued to talk, and she called out louder, “Excuse me!” She took a few steps forward, but not too many, and as people turned to look, she wrapped an arm protectively around her middle.
“I’m sorry,” Pepper said loudly. “I’m sorry, but I have something to say.” She paused, as if trying to think of the right words, clearing her throat again. “I – I’m Lindsay Josephs, and I object to this marriage!” At this, Pepper pointed at the bride. “Deana, Tim doesn’t love you. He loves me, and I’m having his baby!” The congregation gasped, sucking in the air of the church tightly, taking the air in Pepper’s chest on the inhale.
Tim’s shining and flushed face went from red to white in a flash. “I don’t know who this woman is! I don’t know what she’s talking about! I don’t know who this woman is!” he yelled in a stammer, and Pepper’s stomach swayed tauntingly from side to side.
Pepper dropped her arms to her sides, pushing her hips forward to make her belly stick out further. “Oh, Tim,” she cried, sorrow filling her voice, “why do you deny it? I’ve been trying to tell you for the last 6 months that the baby is yours. I know you remember the night you came over.” Pepper let tears drip into her voice as she said, “It was the night that you and Deana had a fight about where to go on your honeymoon. And you told me you didn’t love her, you still loved me. And that night, oh, Tim, that night, it was so passionate. I know you remember!”
“I’ve never seen this woman in my life!” Tim yelled, louder, turning to anyone who would listen, and making the mistake of turning to Deana, whose face was purple with rage. She stood speechless for a moment before her shrieking pierced through the murmur zipping from person to person. “Lindsay? That’s Lindsay? You slept with Lindsay? You got Lindsay pregnant?” Her face was inches from Tim’s, her eyes incredulous and her mouth gaping. Pepper noticed Deanna’s chest begin to heave up and down, straining against the pearl and lace edging her décolletage, and she smiled a little. On the inside. On the outside Pepper managed to keep a distraught and tearful face.
“You told me you were through with her!” Deanna squealed. “You told me it would never happen again!” She reeled back her arm and began beating Tim with her heavy bouquet, petals of orchids flying everywhere.
“That’s not Lindsay!” Tim shouted, trying to dodge the stems and fingers that scratched his face. “She doesn’t look anything like Lindsay! I don’t know who that woman is!”
“Don’t try and deny it you lying, cock-sucking bastard!” Deana dropped her bouquet and clawed at Tim, flailed her arms, punching him in the gut and chest. “I knew it! I knew you couldn’t stay away from her!” Deanna let out a grunt unbecoming of a woman in a puffy and swirling white gown, lunging her full weight at Tim and knocking him down. The congregation gasped and a few people even half-rose out of their seats, their faces canvases of confusion, not quite believing what thought they were seeing. A vibrating whisper waved and crested across the church pews as Deana’s voice pitched higher.
“You told me you were through! You promised!” Deana yelled over and over again, slapping Tim as she kneeled forcefully on his chest, digging her spiked bridal heels into his sides until one of the groomsmen stepped in and pulled her off.
Pepper was still standing in the middle of the aisle, and out of the corner of her eyes saw a few of the guests start easing down their pews toward her. “I’m sorry,” she called over the chaos. “I’m so sorry.” She let a few tears slide down her cheeks as she took a few steps backward. “I never meant to hurt anyone,” she pleaded slightly, her voice shaking. “I just wanted to do what was right.”