Anne Clayworth was not habitually an early riser. But today, she woke before dawn, before the day had even peeked out beyond the trees. Today was the day of her wedding.
She was staying in a small, pleasant hotel. The walls were neatly papered and every article of furniture in the room was quaint and rustic. A patchwork quilt was spread out over the mahogany frame bed. A Windsor chair sat by a small table, looking pleasantly chipper. From her windows Anne could look either at the small lake situated close to the hotel (she would be married by that lake), or towards the east bound pine forest. A few books were stacked on the pale wood desk; she had brought them to read in the evenings but due to the excitement, had left them untouched.
Stopping briefly by the window to glance at the sky (still dark, she concluded), the books were what drew her now.
She lifted the cover of one – a book of poetry. The scent of pine escaped the book and she inhaled deeply. It awoke a memory, of reading this book on a camping trip. Oh who was there? She counted her friend Marsha, and Marsha’s cousin Allie, and one of her bridesmaids too, June. June’s boyfriend too, what was his name? George something? She remembered that trip well. Sitting around the campfire, passing each other bottles of ale, the cool shade cast by the branches overhead, the wild raspberries they found growing along a rarely used trail. It was all done now though. Marsha married and with a kid in the suburbs, Allie off to do medicine in Europe, June broken up with George, and now, even her friendship with June…
June had been complaining all day yesterday, at the rehearsal dinner. The plates had come to the table, small pates laden with salads and bowls filled with steaming soups. And then rib-eye steaks, steam rising from mashed potatoes and asparagus. Anne felt radiant and surrounded by warmth. It had just been a few friends and family there, all at one table, but June found something to criticize about every plate.
-This lettuce is wilted, she had said, and the soup is cold.
The waiter gave June a dirty look then and Anne’s cheeks grew hot. She had wanted to give a dirty look too but the years of friendship held her back.
Anne still had the friendship bracelets the two of them had bought at the street fair, when they went to Montreal to celebrate their college graduation. That night, they had gone to a whiskey bar and a chic night club, ending the night by belting out “Single Ladies” on their way back to the hotel. She remembered they had made a pact never to marry. Anne wondered if June remembered that too.
She noticed she was still holding the book, though the faint scent of pine had long stopped registering for her. She put it down and went back to the window.
Anne hoped, hoped dearly, June would be nice during the reception today. Today! oh, the reception was today! It still struck her, that just today she wouldn’t be Anne Clayworth anymore, she would be Mrs. Reed. Mrs. John Reed. Her eyes misted over and she smiled.A few rose and lavender streaks shone past the trees. She admired the scene for a few moments, pressing her hand against the cool pane of the glass, but soon went back to sit at the large pale wood desk. She would wait for the sun before perhaps taking a short walk.
She began to brush her hair, with the silver hairbrush her grandmother had given her as a wedding present. Her grandmother was sweet, and so happy Anne would be married. From age 20 onwards, her grandmother had been asking about boyfriends and when was she planning to settle down and Anne had often replied, hotly:
-Oh, let me enjoy my freedom!
But here she was, 26, and how much had changed. In those college days, when boys were as inconstant the weather, she never could have imagined being married. Everything else had seemed so much more important then. The freedom, the friendships, the parties. Oh, where was it now? Anne put the hairbrush down softly and went over to sit on the bed.
The carpets were new, she noticed. She had come here with John, what was it? Two years ago? And then the carpets had been blue. They had changed them to a lovely tan colour, the colour of a deer’s coat, or perhaps that of a young sapling’s bark. Very pretty. She should have chosen this colour for home. They were renovating now. All the carpets to be put in were white, because it seemed clean and new to her, but now she wished for something more established, more traditional.
She stood up and moved back towards the window to survey the room as a whole. She leaned against the wall and looked at the room, trying to see if anything else had changed.
It had been about two years, hadn’t it, since she came here with John? He had surprised her with a trip, said he knew this lovely place out in the country. He had winked and said it did weddings too, and that frightened her, because it had only been a year then, since they had met. But sure enough, here they were. She remembered her agitation that weekend, trying so hard not to wonder about weddings and worrying this way and that. She was still saying hotly to her
-I don’t care much to marry.
She changed her mind, of course. Some of her friends still refused to settle down, never thinking to go with their boyfriends to places that did weddings. A few had even chastised her, saying she was too young, it was too soon. Oh, that familiar argument. She had felt like that too, once, but people change don’t they? She loved him. He had brought her chocolates the night before, heart shaped and filled with red jelly. They stayed up watching movies until she shooed him out of the room a few minutes before midnight, claiming it was bad luck to see the bride on her wedding day. He protested but they kissed and he walked away smiling a big lopsided smile. Her heart fluttered a little, thinking of him.
She walked over to her closet, flinging the door open wide, so she could look at her beautiful dress. It shone like the moon, a slight hint of silver, and it flowed towards the floor in a stream of gauze and lace. It seemed so big, dwarfing the hotel closet. The dress rustled as she ran her hand along it. She stepped back, pulling it out of the closet to lay it flat on the bed.
It was almost dawn now. The sun hovered just below the trees. The dress flowed through the bed, silver stretched out before her, a moonlit river. She felt herself about to embark on a great journey and she sighed, picturing her and John at the altar, their first dance, the toasts and the wedding cake.
The ring on her finger sparkled in the light from the window.
John had made her soup every time she had a cold, going to the market and fussing over the tomatoes and carrots to find the freshest ones. He was there when her cat died and held her until she stopped crying. He proposed to her in an ill fitting tuxedo because he could not wait long enough to get it altered.
The sun rose above the trees, flooding the sky with gold and pink, chasing away the remaining traces of night.
Anne gently rested her hand on the banks of the moon river. It seemed to her all was still.