Short story – Bride to Be

I wrote this for a competition at my writers’ club. I had the inspiration for it at my friend’s hens party. Fortunately she didn’t have the same doubts that Kayla had!

Bride to Be

The maid of honour adjusted the veil over Kayla’s blonde shoulder-length bob, and tweaked the white train that cascaded from her waist onto the floor.

“Are you ready for this?” Sophie asked.

Kayla stared at Sophie, and wished that she could be anywhere but there.

“Of course,” she said, conjuring up a smile as Sophie opened the door. Still wearing the smile, she walked into the room.

The faces of the people inside the restaurant registered a variety of expressions.

Her friends laughed and applauded when they saw her. Strangers sniggered, and a few bold ones whistled cheekily.

Not surprising, considering what she was wearing. Sophie had dressed her in a white satin negligee, with fur covering the bra area and the hemline. A far cry from the sedate and perfectly matching items of clothing she usually wore.

Sophie pulled her to the table where a group of her friends were sitting wearing exotic headgear.

“Welcome to your extremely glamorous hen party,” Sophie said. “Everyone, raise you glasses to Kalya the bride-to-be.”

“To Kayla,” they said.

Kayla felt the welcome breeze on her back. It reminded her that all was not lost. That there was still freedom to be had, if she could just gather enough courage to break free.

Break free, and then what? Her life would never get back to its well-ordered, structured past. Even if she ran now, there was never going to be any possibility of freedom.

“We have a list of tasks that Kayla has to do,” Sophie said.

Kayla was oblivious to the cheers as her heart sank. As if this evening wasn’t bad enough.

“What does she have to do?” shrieked Xanthe.

Paulette snatched the laminated card out of Kayla’s limp fingers. “It says that she has to kiss the first man who talks to her,” she read. “And get three guys’ phone numbers.”

“You’d better throw them away afterwards, or Andrew will get jealous,” Xanthe laughed.

Kayla managed the fake smile again. Andrew wouldn’t care how many other phone numbers she had. He wasn’t marrying her because he loved her.

“Serenade a man for one minute,” Xanthe giggled as she read over Paulette’s shoulder. “I hope someone brought a video camera.”

“I did,” Jackie said, waving it in the air. “I also have a quiz for our bride-to-be about her groom-to-be.”

“That’s going to be fun,” Sophie said.

Jackie smiled. “We haven’t decided what forfeit she’ll do if she gets the answer wrong.”

“She’ll drink of course,” Paulette said. “What?” she asked as everyone looked embarrassed.

Kayla wished that she could slide off her chair, and join the puddles of rainwater on the tar outside the restaurant.

“Didn’t you hear?” Sophie said with an awkward glance. “Kayla’s pregnant.”

Paulette’s face might have made Kayla laugh, if the subject had been at all funny.

“I didn’t know you got knocked up,” she gasped. “Kayla!”

“I know, totally unexpected for our sober and careful Kayla,” Sophie said. “What can you expect? Andrew is a hot tamale.”

Andrew was indeed. Andrew could have had any woman he wanted. If he had a choice, he certainly wouldn’t be tying himself to sober and careful Kayla.

Kayla took a gulp of water from the glass in front of her.

“That’s why they have to get married so quickly,” Kayla heard Xanthe whisper to Paulette.

“Oh, I wondered,” Paulette whispered back.

“What did I miss?” Jackie asked, coming back to the table.

“Nothing,” Sophie said, to Kayla’s relief. “Let’s get this party started.”

“I think it may be starting right now,” Jackie said with a wink, as a waiter asked Kayla what she would like to drink.

Her friends started a slow chant of “Kiss, kiss, kiss.”

His handsome face was a mixture of mirth and embarrassment as he stared down at Kayla.

I have to get this over with, Kayla thought. Before she could talk herself out of it, she pulled his head down and kissed him on the cheek. He felt warm and slightly scratchy, just like Andrew had felt the first time they had danced, and he had leaned his cheek against hers.

The waiter bolted, and didn’t wait for her order.

“Oh well, at least he was cute,” Paulette remarked.

Kalya could tell that she was hurt, and a little angry that Kalya hadn’t told her about the baby. It hadn’t been anything personal. Kayla just preferred to tell as few people as possible.

Her parents had been the first to know. She had always had a very close relationship with them, and she didn’t want them to hear it from anyone else but her.

They had been shocked. At the age when most young people were rebelling and trying out things like sex, drugs and house music, Kayla had stayed quietly at home. The wildest thing she had done was go to her friends’ houses to watch movies.

In fact, Kayla was already respectably into her twenties before she had her first kiss. It had lasted approximately two seconds, and had left her rather under-whelmed. She had never had a boyfriend who reached more than first base, and had certainly never done anything remotely like she had done with Andrew.

The others were pouring over the menu, but Kayla knew that she wouldn’t be able to eat. The nausea wasn’t because of the pregnancy, but because her life was spiralling out of control at a speed too fast for her to stop.

“Right, first question,” Jackie said, after a second waiter had taken their order. “Where did you meet Andrew?”

Breathe Kayla, you can answer this, she said to herself.

“At Sophie’s twenty-sixth birthday party.”

The party that had been her downfall.

“Correct,” Jackie laughed. “I think the rest of us should drink to that.”

They all flung their heads back and downed their shooters.

Kalya felt her stomach churn at the smell of alcohol. She had never been a drinker, and neither had Andrew. That might be why the stuff had gone straight to their heads.

“What did he think of you when you met?” Jackie asked.

“Don’t know,” Kayla mumbled.

Sophie had been telling Kayla stories about her wonderful cousin Andrew for months, and had often said how ideal they would be for each other. Kayla had been hopeful when she had heard that he was moving to the area, and would be at Sophie’s party.

They had been introduced, had spent some time talking about casual things, and had one dance together. Kayla had never believed in love at first sight, but as she floated around the dance floor in his arms, she had to admit that this man with the glossy brown hair had certainly left his mark on her.

At the end of the dance, Andrew had thanked her, and then spent the next hour talking to Sophie. Obviously he hadn’t been impressed.

“Pathetic answer!” Jackie said. “You’ll have to do a forfeit.”

Kayla gagged a little as she swallowed the repulsive tomato juice.

“What did Andrew say?” Xanthe asked.

“I saw Kayla walk in the front door,” Jackie read.” I rushed to ask Sophie who she was. I couldn’t wait to be introduced to her.”

“Love at first sight, maybe?” Sophie laughed.

Those shooters were already getting to Sophie’s head, Kayla thought. She was getting delusional.

“Next question,” Jackie said. “When did you two first kiss?”

It had been that stupid drinking game. The one where they spun the bottle, and if it landed on you, you had to drink whatever was in the bottle and kiss the person on your right.

Kayla remembered that her head had already started feeling fuzzy when she leaned over and kissed Andrew. She had lingered a moment longer than she should have on his lips, and he had put a strong arm on her shoulder to stop her from falling.

She should have left after that, and not been persuaded by her friends to stay a little longer. Whoever said that peer pressure was just a problem among young people!

Jackie chortled. “Wrong again. Andrew says he sneaked a little kiss on you hair while you two were dancing.”

Kayla looked at her and frowned. She hadn’t felt anything.

“That’s not lip action,” Sophie protested. “We’re after the real thing.”

“That second kiss was more like the real thing,” Xanthe said.

By the time the bottle had landed on Kayla again, Andrew had also partaken of the contents, and had given Trevor sitting on his right a peck on the end of the nose.

That second kiss between Kayla and Andrew was a result of three bottles of mystery mix between the two of them.

Kayla dimly remembered someone yelling, “Get a room.”

About half an hour later, they had done just that.

Kayla remembered very little of what had happened in that room, but recalled sufficient details to know who the father of her baby was, when she had discovered she was pregnant.

“What was Andrew’s worst moment in the world?” Jackie asked.

It had to be the moment she had told him about the baby. It had certainly been Kayla’s worst moment.

She had dreamed of becoming a mother. In her imagination, she would have a loving husband, who would be delighted to hear about the new arrival. Now, her longed-for baby was a mistake; something not wanted by its father.

Kayla certainly didn’t think of her baby with love and anticipation, so guilt was added to the fear and shame that she already felt.

Kayla had asked him to meet her in a restaurant. She wasn’t sure how he was going to react when she told him she was pregnant, and that he was the father, and she felt safer with plenty of people around.

He had been silent for a long time.

Kayla had many agonising moments to study his handsome face, kind eyes and soft brown hair, and wonder what his baby was going to look like. She had many agonising moments to wish that things were different. That Andrew would love her and want to be with her, instead of so obviously be trying to get himself out of this nightmare situation he had found himself in.

Then Andrew had looked up at her, and had calmly suggested they get married, so that the baby would grow up in a real family.

A real family! How real would any of it be, when Andrew was only there because he had to be? He didn’t love her. He just felt it was the gentlemanly thing to do.

Kayla felt the tight fur bodice constricting her chest as she struggled for air, imagining years and years ahead of her being married to a man who didn’t love her. Sharing his life and his bed, knowing that he would rather be with someone else.

“She’s taking too long to answer,” “Paulette said. “Make her drink.”

Kayla drank the thick red liquid, thankful that she hadn’t been forced to make up an answer.

“Andrew’s worst moment was when he found out his mother had cancer,” Jackie read. “Andrew’s best moment?”

“His graduation day?” Kayla guessed. She knew he had worked hard to achieve his Architect degree.

“Oh sweet, listen to this,” Jackie said. “My best moment was when Kayla told me that she was going to have my baby. At last I could ask her to marry me, and be reasonably assured that she would say yes.”

“What?” Kayla said blankly. That didn’t make sense to her.

“His best moment was when you told him about the baby,” Jackie said.

Kayla snatched the paper from Jackie and scoured it with her eyes. It was from his email address.

“What does he mean by being reasonably assured that I would say yes?” she asked Jackie.

“He didn’t think you liked him at all,” Sophie replied. “Especially after you just left him the next morning, and didn’t answer any of his phone calls.”

“I was ashamed,” Kayla mumbled. She had died a thousand deaths when she woke up next to Andrew, her head feeling the after-effects of the mystery liquid from the bottle. She had gathered her clothes, and crept out of the house with the stealth of a ninja.

Sophie smiled. “The baby gave him an excuse to ask you to marry him, and a reason for you to say yes.”

“But…”

“What’s up?” Jackie asked, re-claiming the paper. “We can all see that you’re crazy about him, but we’ve known you for years. I guess it wasn’t that clear to Andrew.”

“He doesn’t love me,” Kayla stammered, tears starting to prickle the corners of her eyes. “He’s just marrying me because of the baby.”

“Pish posh!” Jackie said. “As proof, I’ll ask you the next question. What does Andrew love about you?”

Kayla shook her head. She was incapable of saying anything more at that stage.

“Okay, I’ll read it then,” Jackie said.

                 “I love her smooth hair and beautiful eyes. I love the way she wrinkles her nose when she laughs. I love the way she cares about people. I love the way she approaches every problem as if there is always a solution. Most of all, I love the way she makes me feel.”

Kayla felt the tears pour down her cheeks, but she did nothing to stop them.

“Andrew said that?” she whispered.

“He loves you, idiot,” Sophie said. “I guess you’re not the only one who’s good at hiding feelings.”

Kayla felt her lips curve into a ridiculously wide grin. Andrew loved her!

Suddenly marriage wasn’t a lifeless, emotionless prison, and Andrew wasn’t a reluctant groom and father. Her baby wasn’t unwanted, but something precious and special.

Kayla Haines wasn’t a scared bride-to-be, but a woman who had found out just in time that her life was very beautiful.

“I need to do another task,” she said dashing the tears off her face. “Sophie, give me your phone. I have a man to serenade.”

She gathered up her prickly net train and ran outside the restaurant, tucking herself in the shelter of the wall next to the entrance.

Andrew answered immediately.

“Sophie?”

“It’s Kayla.”

“Is something wrong?”

His voice was anxious, and Kayla wondered if he thought that she was phoning to call off the wedding.

“These friends of mine have given me several tasks,” she said. “I hope you have a minute to spare. I have to serenade you.”

“I’m all yours,” he said.

She sang for more than a minute. She warbled her way through the whole of the love song they had first danced to. He voice was breathless and slightly squeaky. She had strange looks from the people entering and leaving the restaurant. She should have felt embarrassed, but she didn’t.

Her Andrew loved her.

It was about time she told him how much she loved him back.

 

© 2011 Julianne Alcott

 

 

 

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