This week’s Creative Writing Class assignment is to write autobiographical fiction that is filled with lies. I approached this as imagining what things in my life might look like in an alternative universe where my parents stayed together and had those four kids my mother always wanted and if I had stayed in Boston for grad school instead of moving to Philadelphia. Hope you enjoy.
I stand at the open bedroom window looking out at the backyard below. It is a beautiful October day. The air crisp and cool and the trees a riot of orange, red and yellow. I am surprised at the butterflies in my stomach, a mixture of excitement and nerves. I have been looking forward to this day for months and now that it is finally here everything feels like it is moving too fast and I want to slow it down.
“You look beautiful,” my sister Charlotte says, putting her arm around my shoulders. She is stunning in emerald green, her hair piled loosely on top of her head. She has always been the family beauty, her heart as radiant as her skin. “Ready to get this show on the road?”
I nod my head and turn to check myself in the mirror one last time. Not out of vanity but more a reality check. The white chiffon dress is simple but elegant floating out around me. I don’t quite recognize myself—I look like an actress in those glamorous 1930’s movies we used to watch together as kids. Charlotte interrupts my reverie to hand me my bouquet of vivid fall mums and dark greenery.
“Do you have the ring?!” I ask Charlotte, raising an eyebrow. Char is known for misplacing her cell phone and keys on a regular basis. It was my idea to attach the ring to her bouquet with a ribbon, assuming that it would be much harder for her to lose something the size of a bouquet.
“See?” She holds her bouquet up for my inspection so that I can see the wedding band securely tied to the bouquet. “I’ve got this.” She gives me a quick hug before offering me her arm as we exit the bedroom.
Charles and Jeff are waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. Jeff is pulling at the collar of his shirt, looking awkward and uncomfortable in his suit. He would much rather be in his usual uniform of jeans and a flannel shirt and I love him for agreeing to wear the “monkey suit.” I have promised him that he can lose the jacket and tie the moment the pictures are done.
Charles on the other hand looks born to be dressed like this. He looks damn good in his well-cut suit and tie and knows it. I smile at my brothers before I ruffle Jeff’s hair affectionately, earning a scowl, and accept Charles’ hug. “Looking good Magpie,” I smile at the old nickname, bestowed because of my childhood habit of collecting shells and sea glass, bird feathers, glittering rocks and shiny objects I found.
It is just the four of us for a moment, standing at the bottom of the stairs of my aunt’s house. I am filled with love and gratitude that my siblings are here to stand beside me today. It has just been the four of us these last five years but our lives are busy and we rarely are alone together anymore. Their support means the world to me. Suddenly our cousin Claudine pops her head into the hallway and says, “Everyone’s ready.”
I look one last time at my siblings before looping my arms with Charles and Jeff as Charlotte leads us out to the yard where the big white tent and rows of chairs are set up, filled with friends and family. On queue, my friend Daniel pushes play on the sound system and Handel’s Water Music starts to fill the yard. Charlotte proceeds us as both my brothers walk me slowly along the left aisle of the chairs. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that our walk is mirrored on the right side of the aisle but I don’t want to look until we meet face to face in front of the guests. I want that moment to take my breath away.
And it does. Shireen is gorgeous in her red wedding sari, her skin glowing, her eyes sparkling and full of welcome. Once our eyes meet everything else fades away. She is my heart, my home. She suddenly notices my shoes—converse sneakers covered in silver sequins- and starts to laugh and looks at me with affection. As I take her hand and look deeply into her beautiful brown eyes, I realize that the butterflies are gone. I am exactly where I want to be.