Did You Take These Women……

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Trena N. Taylor


Steven swayed and trembled in his ill-fitting tuxedo as the bridesmaids stepped in time down the makeshift aisle, his wife Anneke at the rear of their procession. All the expenses had been paid and this renewal of their vows was a lavish wedding ceremony, if a bit unconventional. Steven hoped it would make up for the hasty nuptials they had rushed through seven years ago. He tried to swallow, but the ashen lump in his throat would not shift, would not permit him to gulp the air he needed to draw another breath.

What a coincidence…

It was Sandy. Sandy whom he hadn’t seen since his stag party. The night Steven had not been at all sure that he could go through with marrying the girl he’d thought was the one of his dreams. On that evening, the word “Forever” had seemed to echo in his head as the music overwhelmed and his buddies slapped him on the back, egging him on as this Sandy, this bridesmaid walking not ten feet before of him, had pulled him up by his belt buckle and led him through the small crowd and out the back of the pub. He shouldn’t have done it, shouldn’t have let her do it, should have stopped her, but, at the time, Steven had been having unrelenting doubts about whether or not he was a “Forever” kind of man.

This can’t be right…

But, behind her… yes, it was Bea! Smiling serenely as she always had in the office, even after their tryst during the Christmas party, on the boss’s desk. His face now flushed a shade of deep pink that is the plague of all redheads, and the thin sheen of perspiration that had been accumulating on his brow began to bead.

This ain’t right…

Steven feared he would fall to the floor as Carole’s face came into focus next. With eyes as smoky as he’d remembered, they always seemed to hint and promise and suggest they could give him everything he’d ever wanted, and he had listened to them and, for one very brief evening five years ago, he had believed.

When Angela next appeared in the processional, Steven began to think, or at least to hope, that perhaps he was dreaming all of this. Perhaps there really was an ocean’s waves crashing nearby. Angela had certainly been one of his bigger mistakes. He’d been confused at the time, not knowing if he was satisfied with the way his life was going, wanting to make a change, to cause an effect, to do something to shake things up a little—take charge of his own life again.

Think… Must… think…

The fifth bridesmaid was Mindy. Steven had known she was there long before he saw her face. She had worn Tea Rose back then and she wore it now, that overpowering scent of roses permeating the room, even though gardenias filled the studio. He felt a sinking in the pit of his stomach, as she drew near, briefly recalling how upset he had been with Anneke for meeting his old college roommate for yet another lunch. And how he had inflamed that anger over vodka mixers. Until, of course, he’d discovered that Anneke’s lunch dates had merely been a cover to plan a surprise party for him. How could he have thought it was a good idea to hook up with Mindy? He had never felt so low, afterwards.

Keep smiling…

As if in a trance, Steven swayed gently from the waist as he recognized the penultimate bridesmaid, Adrienne. Adrienne, who had been underfoot the entirety of that fateful summer, two years ago. Adrienne, who Anneke had constantly left alone with him, practically on a silver plate. It was an inevitability, really. At least that’s how Steven had seen it, at the time, what he’d told himself again and again, afterwards.

Don’t look at the cameras…

And now Linda, who had been like a breath of fresh air—was it already a year ago?—when things had become so strained and difficult between Steven and Anneke. She had been the release he’d thought he’d needed and deserved.

Leave… Go… Run…

The rush in his ears had grown steadily and he now recognized it for what it was, as Anneke came into focus before him. Initially mistaking it for cheering, he now realized it was not. It was jeering.

Too late…

And in that moment, as Anneke stood before him and opened her mouth to speak, Steven knew he was a fool to have agreed to renew their vows on the Springer Show.

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Trena Taylor is a member of Zokutou, a writing group that formed during the 2002 NaNoWriMo in London. The group has produced several anthologies. She is currently editing her 2002 NaNo, “31,” with NaNoEdMo. Trena won bronze in the fall 2003 Three Cheers and a Tiger contest. E-mail: tntaylor101[at]hotmail.com.

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