All the women were excited about the upcoming wedding.
"It's going to be just like a dream! I can't wait for it to get here!"
"Theirs will be better than Diana's. What they have is true love, not phony like Charles'."
"But it's still a fantasy! So young and so beautiful - can you just imagine?"
Debby could imagine it - that was the problem. Each word of praise a drop of acid in her stomach, churning her in secret hell. Time was when she had the perfect wedding, lavishing herself in the envious talk of her inflamed pageantry and perceived perfection. Even if she could dig up some poor misfit to remember her day of glory how could that ever compete with a royal wedding?
Everywhere she looked were reminders of the painful procession to come; mocking her, extinguishing her life's fire like a stubbed out cigarette on a bus station floor. Dear God, tell me it isn't so. Even an English lecture she planned to attend was canceled when the speaker opted to attend the royal wedding instead. Yes, God was telling her it was so very so.
Her two kids in college left her afternoons alone. No more busywork of distraction. Just Debby, the mirror and time - a toxic cocktail as the bills of a lifetime came due. But the thing that nailed her to her cross the most - the vile and bitter thing of this living nightmare - what made it all too real was that she too once shared the fine and classy looks of the English bride to be.
If only somehow it could get canceled. Please God, just do this for me and I'll never ask anything again!
Helpless - driven even - she took another bite from the Ben and Jerry's carton. Eating ice cream from so small a carton made it less a sin she told herself. She couldn't stop her arm if she wanted to anyway. She long ago gave up the fight. Sweets were the last thing left that made her feel good. And were the first thing to bloat her beyond the lithe figure of the future princess.
Debby was still tormented by the face that stared back at her from her passport photo of two years ago. Even her head had swollen. Her hair didn't sit up like it used to. She read the whole lie of her life in that picture. Surely everyone else saw it too! She pushed the unthinkable thought out of her head.
Anything...anything to keep it from happening...the wedding that invalidated her life...that lay her naked to the world. "Why does it have to happen! Why!" she cursed aloud. A regal hand around her neck tightened its choking grip with each passing day. She leaned back in the kitchen chair, glassy eyes admitting a long building defeat. It's true. God has abandoned me as I abandoned myself.
A small brown puddle formed at the base of the hallowed carton melting from inattention.
It wasn't until the second attempt she heard the doorbell ring. A registered letter. Registered letter? Red flags went off but she couldn't remember why. When she opened it the floodgates of memory rushed in a long buried reality. It was him.
When they worked together he had told her he loved her. Later, dying in the aftermath, he sent a registered letter pouring out the same. But how could she leave a sure deal like her marriage? She secretly scorned the dating and the single struggling to find mates and happiness - fools not smart enough to make a deal like she had. On her check list for life all the boxes had been marked off. That's supposed to make for happiness and success!
But it was she who had been the fool avoiding the necessary pains of finding her true path. With every passing year her ball and chain weighted itself in heavier load. I'll make it...somehow. She snapped at her children's freedom, insisting they make the same mistakes she had, naming it a moral imperative. You don't want your mother to die, do you?
And now this crazy note shot out from the past, reaching her at the exact nadir of her existence. At first, her soul failed her to even read it. Once realizing she could not ignore it Debby tore it open with eyes wide with fear and hope.
"Don't you know what "need" means? It means "not optional", "can't do without", "no other way possible". How is it you ever thought I could make it without you? I call out to you Debby Hanssen. I call out to you across time and space. I cannot un-need you."
She dropped to the floor, breaking down in tears, gradually - meekly - letting light in around the edges. Her dead heart beat in joy. Someone needs me! Could anything be more clear? This is the greatest gift in the universe. Used for a lifetime, imprisoned, impaled. But now? What cared she for any nuptials in the world?
Then she cried anew, releasing her pride and pain, thanking God with all heart and all her soul and all her mind - just as she had always claimed to do. It was obvious what to do: leave right away, seek him out and find what there was to find.
But you can't leave right away or they'll know!
The fear of being "found out" was the tensile strength of her chains. Dare she break her chains and show herself a fraud? Dare she break the chains that had giver her a marriage and family and a grand house? No, no - she must be conservative. I've got to play this smart.
"I'll make an excuse to go so no one will really know why I'm flying out there. That way, if things go wrong, I won't lose everything." Fight the urge to flee right away!
Perhaps nothing in the universe is so difficult as to do what one wants. It took her a week to manufacture a cover story. With trembling and excited fingers she typed in her plane reservation. I've got a good feeling about this! A good feeling I haven't had in a long, long time! It's like I feel...connected. Debby's glowing face even chanced a look in the mirror.
The airport lounge was surreal with infinite windows. Suddenly, the world was once again at her feet. Last time she flew had been sheer (hidden) drudgery, a chore. But this? This was her escape! Bring on the world! And come the world did.
"Flight 215 has been canceled due to mechanical issues. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please come to the front desk to make arrangements for departure first thing tomorrow morning. Again, we apologize for the delay."
What does this mean? Is God testing me? I'm still going even if I have to sleep here all night! That's it! That's how I can show my commitment. Inside a voice was knocking but Debby had shut the door, the idea of a closed mind proving too seductive, one last chance to prove her shuttered life hadn't been an entire waste. And that's why she failed to remember she could ask another airline to accept her ticket.
Waking in the morning, a disturbing pea nestled uncomfortably under the princess' bed. But why? She had proven her commitment to make good! I must be imagining things. Nothing's going to stop me. And yet, she remained unconvinced, a sinking feeling in her stomach.
Pulling into the parking lot, the minute she saw the ambulance, she thought: "That's him!" Don't be silly! You're just being negative again! But as she pulled up to the private condominium, the sinking feeling in her stomach pulled her deeper into the seat. Those last few unreal steps to the EMT haunted her the rest of her days. He was dead...suicide the previous night...please move away.
She who hesitates is lost. The note dropped from her hand, blowing away in a hot dry wind, its usefulness lost.