Lacey sat at the edge of the bed.
Outside a streetlamp shone and lightening occasionally struck to send brilliant flashes of bright light into the small bedroom. The light would crash into the room in precise motions, tumbling down in a geometric cascade on the white wash walls, illuminating parts of the room like a limelight from heaven for a tenth of a second before it vanished completely, leaving nothing but thunderous echoes miles away.
And Lacey sat on the edge of the bed and dangled her feet there like it was a cliff overlooking a monstrous ocean. The darkness was strong that night and the winds howled, and Lacey sat gazing into her room as if it went further than she could imagine. Her arms were rigid and stiff and she held onto the edge of the bed with a firm grip. She let her shoulders loosen and droop and her spine sink but she held her body onto the bed. The darkness would swallow her whole but the streetlamp kept her alert, her arms tight, like a sturdy ship sailing into the night.
Her eyes were trained on the last spot the lightening had touched—the top of the closet, where a blue gown hung. The fabric shimmered. In the night the light blue was toned darker and the folds of the dress fell like waves.
She had bought the dress earlier that week. It cost her sixty dollars plus another thirty for the heels that were thrown in her closet. Lacey looked at the blue gown and felt awfully shitty that she had to spend so much money on a gaudy dress that she would only wear for one occasion.
The occasion was a wedding; she was to be a bridesmaid for her cousin. The cousin was one that she had been close to as children. Lacey and Allie grew up on the same street and went to the same school and to the same church, they attended much of the same events and every Sunday afternoon they dinned at their grandmother’s house after service and played in the yard after lunch while the adults talked in the cozy living room. They had been as sisters but they plunged into puberty. Allie was swept away by her first boyfriend in high school— Lacey never had much of a chance in between the succession. The distance grew as they aged.
Lacey didn’t know Allie’s fiancé, however, she had heard and seen a bit from him. His name was Arnold and he was a successful what-or-another, he was handsome and he was mad with a temper that often blazed hot against Allie. The flame was quite apparent to everybody, but to some fire is safety and to others it’s danger. She met him once at the past family reunion in which Allie came prancing in with Arnold in her arm and a diamond on her finger. Arnold was of good money, and good family, and he smiled politely at all the aunts and uncles, and all the aunts and uncles nodded approvingly at him. He spoke the words and shook their hands, and while all the cousins were gathered together, huddled on benches with paper plates piled high on their laps, he stood over Allie’s shoulder like a bird of prey perched, his eyes giving it all away. But the aunts and uncles and cousins nodded approvingly, and like rabbits huddled, didn’t look up, ate with their faces turned to trivial things, and cozied next to a fire that could burn their forest down.
That was all that Lacey knew of him, and although she didn’t know him she didn’t like him, but she nodded her head with the others and continued nodding when Allie asked her to be a bridesmaid, quipping nostalgically of their childhood days spent chattering and fantasying in such future affairs: “And now look at us! Finally here!”
But somewhere between puberty and the atrocities of adulthood, their childhood dreams of love had been attacked, shot out of the sky, their perfect day stabbed by tiny needles that slowly sunk below the horizon, loosing air like a balloon released that sets back below. Allie had once talked excitedly about a day filled with flowers and fragrance, where they’d dance all night at the reception like Cinderella. But her fantasies were not taking form. There were compromises and arguments. They were all rushing from one appointment to another like there was a deadline. Arnold had established this sense of rush into the arrangement that flushed Allie’s cheeks whenever she had to let go of something she wanted, like roses instead of carnations, or blue instead of coral.
Lacey had joined the bridal party at the dress boutique and watched with awe as Allie walked into the room in her wedding dress. Beautiful, silky fabric flowed from her torso like wide pedals onto the floor and the lacey corset wrapped around her like a stem. She glittered and shimmered and bloomed. She grabbed an end of her dress and twirled on the pedestal and watched herself in the mirror and laughed. “It’s perfect!” she said. “It’s perfect!” they said. “It’s what you always dreamed of!” Lacey said.
The bride was brimming that day in the boutique until she received a phone call from Arnold about the suits where he insisted that he wear a lime green tie. Her blue eyes grew and Lacey could see in them Allie standing by Arnold on the aisle, and all eyes were naturally pinned to the atrocious green tie. But how could they not? Even flowers are overlooked by something unnatural. They argued and her cheeks flushed, her face reddened, tears formed on the edge of her eyes and she nearly stamped her feet like a child in protest, “but this is my day!” she cried. She wanted cream and coral, he wanted a lime green tie, they decided on blue.
The child who had dreamed with frills in her dress and bows in her hair, whose cheeks already reddened with blush taken from her mother’s drawer, would take Lacey’s hand at the reception and ask whose wedding they were attending. Lacey’s throat tightened at the thought. Lacey knew she’d cry at the wedding, but she wouldn’t cry with her family, she’d cry with the child.
A heavy flood of rain beat down against the window and a giant wind blew the trees back but Lacey couldn’t take her eyes off the shimmering dress. It stood silhouetted in the darkness like a flag; an enemy’s flag out in the distance, and it gave Lacey a cold feeling, seeing the flag like a warning, like a ship on the horizon heralding a storm. In her room where the night blended into the walls like oil paint and expanded them far to edges—far to the east, west, north, and south—where she sat on the edge of her bed and skipped thoughts like stones over the surface to see how far they’d go, she saw her childhood sink. Surely if Allie sunk, she would sink, too. The gown forbade it, the sign at hell’s gates read the same to children sailing on to adulthood, and like an omen it floated against her wall, like a flag that mean defeat.
Lacey lowered her head. She could not look at the gown any longer. Her body sagged with the burden. There was nothing an onlooker could do for the ship at sea except to wish it good luck. And there, sitting on the edge of the bed as if it were a cliff overlooking the sea, she sent her prayers like stones, threw her wishes like rice, but held firm to the edge, not slipping, clutched tight to the fingers of her former self.
Suddenly, lightening struck, and Lacey jolted, her arms cracked, but she regained her steady perch as the light brought her back to the edge of the bed. And it was a bed, and she was in her room.