by June Martin
Long before the guests arrive, when the dew still lingers on the grass and the air isn’t yet warm from overuse, the best man slides a mahogany bit into the groom’s mouth and begs his reluctant friend to bite down hard so he can secure the leather straps around the head. Silver shackles gleaming in the pink morning light clamp down on his wrists– they’ll wrinkle the suit a bit, but everyone expects that– and a chain travels down past his waist to a hook on the ground. The black silk blindfold is next, wide enough to prevent even a crack of light from slipping through. Without sight and speech, the groom has only the cool air on his skin, the murmur of activity around him, the taste of mahogany.
The wedding planner skirts around him, out of the radius of his thrashing. She doesn’t have time to fight his hands away and explain that she’s not his bride. The bride is in her suite, with a porcelain mask strapped onto her face. Gold filigree dances down the forehead, around life-like eyes and full red lips. She has it propped up a little bit, a straw in her mouth leading down to a golden chalice full of Diet Dr. Pepper. Wine is traditional, but it’s her day.
The bridesmaids have been given their shrouds, so that no one’s eyes might linger on their beautiful faces. Each of them is young and as virginal as you can hope for, a promise of the bride’s quality. The groomsmen are naked in the field behind the venue, fighting with their teeth over some raw meat. None of them want it, but even less do they want the collected family to doubt the groom’s virility, to think he comes from weak men with soft habits. In the afternoon, their fight is finished and fine black suits glide over flesh marred by dirt and gashes.
Guests file in, all wearing the traditional burlap. By the time the ceremony starts, all of their bodies will beg to be itched, and all of them will stay perfectly still unless they want the bride to think she is not beloved. They part around the groom like a river around a stone because he is testing the limits of his shackles and gnawing at the bit, though he does not hunger for wood. They take their seats in the grass, little divots dug out where they can kneel and enjoy the cold, wet dirt while the sun rises higher in the sky.
The wedding planner and her assistants tighten another one of the wedding dress’s straps around the bride. White lace like little flowers and branches with smaller flowers still, fractals of beauty so small you need a magnifying glass to truly appreciate them. Another strap goes around her arms, another around her legs. Around and around until she can barely move a finger, and couldn’t dream of taking a step. Jeweled heels glimmer even beneath the dim lighting in the bridal suite. Out in the sun, they’ll be blinding.
Music plays on the organ, a haunting melody composed just for the occasion. All bluster and crescendo to assure the guests they are witness to a momentous occasion. The groomsmen hoist the bride onto their shoulders and carry her past the groom. His nose peaks up into the air, and he lunges directly at them, but finds the limits of his shackles just short. They bring the bride down the aisle and everyone whispers to each other about how gorgeous her dress is, how delicate her shoulders look peeking out, how lifelike the white mask is. They stand her up at the
altar, where the maid of honor is tasked with holding her upright. A falling bride is bad luck, and the duty to prevent that is what confers such honor.
The guests never tire of beholding the bride’s radiance. It’s unheard of to look away. After two hours the sun is hot and the guests are sweating, but the bride only has a faint glistening about her collarbones. Everyone will remember her elegance. Finally, they hear the sound of splintering wood behind them, the sound of rending metal. So quiet with anticipation, they even hear the rustle of silk as it flutters to the ground. The groom stalks up the aisle, hunger in his eyes and wet breath pouring out of his mouth. Finally the bride will be his. He will have her; he will hold her; he will tear those straps away until there is only the mask, her softness, his hunger. But before that, a few vows, then cake and dancing. It’s a party, after all.
Two years ago, June Martin declared herself the world's greatest writer, and since then, no one has even attempted to challenge her for the title. Her short fiction has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Blood Knife, and New Session. Follow her work at www.theworldsgreatestwriter.com or on Twitter @ImJuneFacts