Jean Marie Donnelly, also a member of Rockland County’s Writing Beyond the Basics, leads River River salons at Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space. She is at work on a novel set in a dystopian world in which creativity has been banned. The following story, true to Jean Marie’s taste for the weird and fantastical, is based on a prompt called “The Invitation.” We always love a good twist!
I stare at the wedding invitation on my kitchen table. There’s been some mistake. The invitation looks exactly like the one my fiancée, Declan, and I picked out. I touch it to be sure; rough where the roses belong and pearl smooth around the edges. I run my finger across the raised lettering I had insisted upon. D-E-C-L-A-N S-A-V-O-Y. The letters are so neatly spaced out and his name feels so good under my fingers. M-E-G-A-N L-A-N-G-S-T-O-N. My finger traces out the rise, fall, crevice, and groove of each letter. Surely there is some mistake. Declan and I met during our junior year of college. We’ve been a genuinely loving couple for the last six years. Why is Megan’s name there? This mystery is not helping the piercing headache I can’t seem to cure.
Yes, my sister Megan and I haven’t spoken as much as we should have over the last few months. She is two years younger than me. We share the same intellect, blue eyes, brown hair, and curvy build. I’m the outspoken one. She’s the reserved, bookish one and my mother’s favorite. (Mom would deny this.) We’ve been very close and had similar tastes until recently. In fact, now when I talk to her she doesn’t hear me. Even when I’m screaming at her, she still doesn’t react. It has been so hard to get her attention. I’m having that same problem with Declan. He’s been under so much pressure studying for the bar exam and planning the wedding. He always dreamed of becoming a lawyer and it was finally happening. He could charm anyone with his seductive hazel eyes, mocha skin, and athletic build.
The other night we had a fight in the car. A sudden intense summer thunderstorm erupted as he was driving me home, which tried our patience further. Drivers forgot how to drive in the rain. Declan refused to pull over and wait it out. I can’t remember what the initial fight was about, but it didn’t seem to be that serious. I went to make up with him, but he ignored me.
The invitation says 528 Church Street – St. Anthony’s Church, October 17 at 3:00 pm. That’s today! The clock on the kitchen counter reads 12:30 pm. How can that be? My grandma said you should pray to St. Anthony for help with things you’ve lost. I hope St. Anthony will help me find some answers. I dart out of the apartment in the direction of the church bells. I forget to even check my reflection in the mirror.
The striking colors of the leaves contrast with the bright blue sky on this warm October day. The church bells grow louder as I approach the familiar old stone building full of family history. My parents got married here, and here we all made our sacraments. The massive oak doors are propped open today to allow nature’s beauty to enter the church. I slip in and see the wedding preparations. The sanctuary always brings me peace and today it is especially beautiful. The Bible stories depicted in the stained glass windows seem to come alive with the afternoon sun. Red, white, and pink roses line the aisle as planned. Red for our love, white for purity and because they are my favorite, pink to honor his mother, Sarah, who passed four years ago and because they were her favorite, and yellow to honor our four years of friendship before we were lovers. I briefly stand at the back of the church enjoying the moment and then walk through bridal suite’s open door.
My beautiful wedding dress glistens in the light on a hanger in front of the full-length mirror, waiting for me. I helped so many of my friends prepare to take their vows in this suite and now it is finally my turn. The day Megan came with me to pick out my dress flashes through my mind. Between the two of us, we must have tried on over a hundred dresses! I wanted her to be such a part of my big day. The sales lady brought out this sleek, white one with just the right amount of pearls around the bodice. I tried it on, and it complemented every curve. Megan loved that dress, too. We decided it was the one.
At that moment, Mom and Megan come into the bridal suite, derailing my train of thought. I’m so excited to see both of them.
“Are we ready to do this?” I ask.
I run over to hug them and they ignore me. Mom helps Megan slip into my wedding dress ever so gingerly. A single tear runs down Mom’s face. I don’t understand. What is she doing? What is going on? Megan picks up the flowers and the beginning notes of “Here Comes the Bride” echo through the church.
“Mom! Mom!” I scream. She doesn’t respond. Carefully, Megan steps out of the bridal suite and holds our father’s arm. I follow them. They begin their march down the aisle. Declan, looking better than I’ve ever seen him in his white tuxedo, stands in front of Father Fred at the altar beaming as he waits for Megan.
This is supposed to be my wedding! “Declan, how could you?!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
No one in the church reacts. I turn to the left and next to Declan stands Sarah, his mother, clear as day. She wears the same dress we buried her in four years before.
“They can’t hear you, Honey. Welcome to the other side,” Sarah says. My headache instantly subsides. The sound of colliding metal followed by the bath of excruciating pain comes back to me. I understand now.
Jean Marie Donnelly is an educator, writer, and theater producer. Most days she can be found in a trailer on a movie or tv set or hidden in the basement of a Broadway theater, teaching academics to child actors. Recently, her students have included the cast of Matilda: The Musical, Feed the Beast, and 10 Things We Should Do Before We Break Up. She is a student of her students and hopes they learn as much from her as she does from them. She enjoys helping people to find their voices and spends many hours people-watching in search of new characters.