This year’s Christmas Short Story Challenge is well underway. If you’ve been busy with holiday preparations and haven’t had a chance to check out Michaeline, Jilly, or Jeanne’s entries, you can find them here, here, and here.
I’ll have to confess that, although I’ve had the words and writing prompt sitting on my desk for a while now, I dawdled a bit and didn’t sit down and turn them into a story until the Christmas festivities were completed, the prime rib and Yorkshire pudding eaten, and the guests sent on their merry way. The story was initially going to be a pair of spies working undercover who had been trapped into getting married, so as not to blow their cover. Unfortunately, the bride just could not seem to keep the look of loathing off of her face during the ceremony, which made me think it was going to take more than a short story for me to get them to any semblance of a happy ending.
Fortunately, another idea came to mind. I hope you enjoy it.
A Change of Plans
Sophie stepped up on the padded dais like a queen preparing to address her subjects and turned to face the tri-panelled mirror wishing she was almost anywhere else. The glass of champagne that the bridal shop assistant was doing a marvelous job of keeping refilled barely took the edge off the pain of shopping for a wedding dress in the company of her mother and mother-in-law-to-be.
To call today’s shopping session a fiasco would be putting things mildly. One would have been hard-pressed to have found three women with more diverging tastes or stronger opinions. And don’t even start on the ulterior motives.
Sophie was convinced her mother was trying to recreate her own nuptials, though God only knows why, since they had included a shot-gun wedding followed by three babies in quick succession and a long, drawn-out bitter divorce. The wedding gowns she selected made Sophie feel like a ruffled, flounced, overly-decorated layer cake covered in an eruption of lace. Harry would never say “I do” with her in a dress like that; he’d be too busy laughing to get the words out and she wouldn’t blame him a bit.
Maybe that was her mother’s devious plan. She’d never liked Harry. “An English teacher, darling? Surely you could find someone with a more . . . appropriate career.” Sophie cleared her throat to get the attention of the two women who had been staring at each other, one with a look of naked dislike and the other with barely disguised disdain. At least they’d stopped arguing, for the time being. It was hard to believe the two of them had been best friends decades ago in their murky, mysterious past.
Sophie looked around for her champagne glass since drunk seemed to be the only way she was going to make it through the rest of the afternoon with her sanity intact.
Still, her mother, misguided as she might be, was at least trying to appear supportive and helpful. Harry’s mother was bafflingly hostile and hadn’t had a nice thing to say to anyone about anything the entire day. Sophie had no idea why Mrs. Winton had wanted to join the dress-shopping party, unless it was to wear her down until she’d lost the will to live and called off the engagement.
Good luck with that lady, Sophie thought as her mother cooed, “oh, you look like an angel,” at the same time Harry’s mother said, “that dress is very common looking, don’t you think?” Harry was totally worth all of the wedding preparation drama, including the mom-zillas, though eloping was beginning to seem more and more appealing.
Sophie returned to the dressing room and struggled out of the yards of satin, tulle, lace, and ribbons. For a brief moment when the recalcitrant zipper refused to budge, she was afraid she’d be trapped in the hideous dress forever, but the sales associate came to the rescue. After trying on more than two dozen dresses, there hadn’t been one that she felt anything more than ambivalence about. She was tempted to choose a random dress, just so she wouldn’t have to try any more on, but she resisted the urge and called an end to the day’s shopping trip instead.
As she bid the two women goodbye, with an air kiss on the cheek from her mother, a cold, limp fish pressing of hands from Mrs. Winton, and a promise to continue the search after the holidays, Sophie headed for the café across the street. She may not have found the perfect dress, but she definitely knew just where to find the perfect dessert.
# # #
Sophie recounted the day’s shopping trip to Harry over shrimp scampi and crusty French bread later that evening, turning it into a light-hearted comedy, rather than the tragedy it had felt like at the time. As he dissolved into laughter at her spot-on imitation of his mother’s reaction to one of the more hideous dresses her mother had insisted she try on, Sophie felt the last of her tension slip away.
“Thank goodness it’s almost Christmas,” she said as they sat in front of the blazing fire watching the flames flicker while a light snow dusted the landscape outside. “There won’t be time for any more dress shopping excursions until after New Year’s.
Harry was quiet for a while and then asked, “How set are you on having a big wedding with all the trimmings?”
“You know I don’t care about any of that,” she answered automatically, watching the play of the firelight as it reflected off the diamond in her engagement ring. She turned her head to look at him. “Why? What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking our parents already had their weddings; ours should be about what we want, not recreating the past for them.” He got up and tossed another log on the fire.
Sophie nodded in agreement. “The wedding we were planning was to keep them happy, not because either of us wanted it that way.”
“Right.” Harry sat back down on the couch then blurted out, “and I don’t want to wait until Summer to get married, I think we should get married this weekend when we go up to the cabin.”
Sophie turned toward him, startled. “You want to get married New Year’s Eve?”
“Why not? Our close friends will be there. We have the license. We can keep it as simple as we want.”
Sophie laughed. “Our mothers will have a fit.”
“They’ll get over it.” Harry took her hands in his. “What do you say? Will you marry me on Sunday and make me the happiest English teacher ever?”
“You intellectual types always have the best ideas,” she said pulling him close.