Monday
Jul092012

Bridal Discount

Sarah Malone


 

The bride said the wine was paid for so we might as well stay—me and Trevor and Juan, who'd driven me up from the city, and a man with no jacket whose name I'd heard as Rich. We thudded into the deep carpet lobby, more lounge than lobby, the bride said, clasping her hands behind the groom's neck, bouncing in his arms, her shoes slapping unsteady time into the air. Rich set four bottles on a small table. Two armchairs and a small sofa were drawn up. Outside, the DJ was walking his speakers to his car and snow was blowing through the lights and the pines.

"See?" the bride said. "There's no going anywhere now."

"It's good wine," Trevor said.

"Why not," I said.

 

We knew the bride as Carolyn. Rich called her Carrie.

"But we go way back." He took an armchair.

I took a chair across the table. Juan pulled Trevor against him and dropped onto the sofa.

"Right now," he said. "I don't know anyone in the world but you."

Rich indicated me with his glass. "What's your angle?"

"What do you mean, 'angle'?" Trevor said.

He'd kept that up at our office through seven years of firings, new carpets and new vice presidents and no raises. He'd quit a month before the wedding. The groom did sales. I managed.

"And you manage—what?" Rich said.

"So clever," Trevor said.

"So clever, what?" Rich said. "It's a question."

Snow was sheeting the windows. They were tall, parlor windows, stone-framed.

"Can you imagine this place?" I meant the Carnegie decades it was landmarked for, handlebar mustaches, top hats, servants unloading steamer trunks.

"Snow makes me think of something arriving," I said.

"We're leaving after breakfast," Trevor said. "In twelve hours none of us will be back."

"I don't know," Rich said. "I'd get married here."

I meant something fairy tale. Not wolves or little men or gold or wishes. I scrunched tight in my shawl and night bore down onto the mansard roof from ice-toothed mountains and frozen plains. We would bundle together and when the wine was gone we would heat brandy and tea by the fire. Rich sat forward as if to deal cards. He'd met the bride on a train in Ecuador, he said. She was fluent; he had to think out his sentences and hope they registered behind faces he couldn't read. She wasn't the kind of girl to worry about a guy talking to her. He was looking at me. I let that go, and looked back. I let it go that he said girl, and I didn't mention that Trevor and I had joked at first that the bride had our friend under a spell. We—I—had spent so long with people who turned out not to be serious.

"She was on some kind of fellowship," Rich said. "We crossed into Peru, and the police—I didn't know they were on the train—thought I was DEA."

"Why were you on the train?" I said.

"Dumb," he said. "They were going to take me at the next station."

"You just have to pay them," Juan said. "It's not much."

"I would have. She said not these guys. She asked the conductor to stop special and told me to slip off the far side, like a movie."

She'd taken him to a hostel.

"And you know what?" he said. "She wouldn't sleep with me. I'm thinking: this girl just saved my life, and she said that wasn't why she'd done it. That was ten years ago." He poured me the last of the bottle and raised his glass. "Your friend's a lucky man."

"Sleepyhead." Trevor brushed Juan's forehead, his trim, dark hair, and mouthed something to me—You, stay? Do it?

That would have been when to ask Rich to start a new bottle, to let Trevor and Juan go upstairs, to talk low and long and not start to say goodnight until Rich and I were by one of our bedrooms and one thing seemed as easy as another. I saw him hold my door, and snowlit panes across my comforter and long, green insects feeling their way up walls flaked with equatorial damp, and I was the bride, a decade smoothed from my face, standing by a window in a man's shirt I never finished unbuttoning.

 

In the morning the maples across the wedding lawn were as sun-shot as they'd been the morning before. The snow was gone. The manager brought scones steaming in a towel. Rich and the bride and groom had checked out.

"What went wrong?" Trevor said.

"Nothing," I said. "I didn't want it."

"You never do," he said. "Pass the honey?"

I didn't know a name for the range of red and gold lumped hills we drove past, or the smooth river we followed, or the towns, always on the far bank, whose roofs and steeples we seemed to waltz and lose to the next hill. Trevor said no more about what I should have done, though I kept thinking of reasons, and near the city when traffic grew choppy and I gripped my door he didn't look and ask, as he sometimes had, if I didn't trust Juan's driving. On my block, when they honked goodbye, curled leaves crackled in the gutters and the late sun was so full that I folded my jacket and strolled rolling my suitcase behind me, arms bare, in that city way, ready and already knowing.