Hold by Heather Adams

Jul 11 2013

My best friend and her fiancé show me the church by the water, and I ask where the dirt path below the cemetery leads. To the dock, Anna says. Graveyard, he says. Cemeteries aren’t attached to churches. Okay, I tell him. I’m sure you’re right. You can look it up, he says. I look over at Anna, but her face is blank.

Weeks go by. I want to ask if she is sure, but it’s like there’s a curtain in front of her face and I can’t pull it back.

The day of the wedding, Anna, her mother and I wait in a dressing room by the women’s bathroom. The air smells like spicy perfume. Once her dress is on, Anna won’t sit down. Her face is blank again, this time slashed with red lipstick. She points to the window that looks out toward the parking lot. Tell me when he gets here, she says. Please.

Should I say that I’m sure he’ll show up? It wouldn’t be true. I’m not sure. And I don’t know which would be worse, if he comes or if he doesn’t. I stand there without saying anything, looking out at the parking lot. Earlier in the afternoon, there was a thunderstorm. We waited in the car until it was over. It had stopped raining by the time we got out, but Anna held a magazine over her head as we walked toward the church.

Now the sun has come out and it’s hot again. Steam is rising from the black asphalt. I hear a car pull up and I lean closer to the window. It’s only the minister and his wife. They pull up close to the concrete bumper at the front of the parking space in their big, black sedan. She hands him what looks like a breath mint as they walk toward the church.

Anna’s mother comes up beside me. She is wearing a navy suit with an iris corsage on her shoulder and she smells like hairspray.

Anna asks if anyone has seen her lipstick, and I picture the gold tube on the bathroom counter. I turn away from the window and walk past the chair in the corner where Anna’s bouquet is waiting, a purple bruise on the cream damask. The lipstick is on the counter and I grab it without looking in the mirror. Outside, there are people talking and car doors closing.

I go back to Anna and she looks past me. There’s still time, I say. It’s not that late.

I know, she answers. The organist has started to play. I hold out the lipstick, but she doesn’t take it.

There’s a knock at the door and Anna’s father says it’s time. She presses her lips together and reaches for her flowers.

Later, as we leave the church, I walk down to the dock. The sun is setting, and it’s as though the water is on fire, glowing with the fierce knowledge of the bodies buried beneath.

Heather Bell Adams writes essays, poetry, and short fiction. She can be reached at http://heatherbelladams.com and on Twitter @heatherbelladam.

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