After The Wedding
By Jessie Marie Widner
Be gentle and strange, these are the things you tell yourself until the day you remember the suicide you planned three years ago, the suicide planned with the hand of the artist, the whole thing based on the idea of blood on white silk. But it had to be nice silk, expensive, raw silk. Once when you were younger you cut your hand and let it drip into a bowl of milk. You think about this often. It was fleeting of course, because once there was too much blood the milk went pink and it was no longer romantic. But no one wants to hear about that.
The night before your wedding you go to your sister’s house. She lives alone in a bungalow only a ten-minute walk from the apartment you and Edgar share. Your sister is a more tragic woman than you; she was pregnant once, and painted her house in pastel colours. It was three days before the baby shower that they told her the baby had died. They had to induce it, stillborn. You weren’t there when this happened; you were spending the summer in Paris with a man you no longer speak to. Your sister’s husband had left two years after the baby died. He told your sister that she was too different then from the woman he had married.
The walls are still pastel. Elaine never speaks of her sadness, in fact she smiles more than you do. You suspect she is easier to get along with than you are. You love her; she is the kind of person anyone would find hard to criticize. When she opens the door and sees your face she takes your hands. She takes you into the house. You sit on the sofa while she makes tea and when your voice comes it comes from far away.
“It’s not that I don’t want to marry Edgar, I do. I love Edgar. I don’t see why he would want to marry me.”
Elaine sits next to you. She’s your sister but she’s much older than you and you don’t look alike. “You can’t be serious,” she says, “You know he loves you. You’ve always known that.”
“It was in the fitting room at Holt Renfrew,” the police officer says. Elaine’s hands are shaking, “They found her quickly. I’m terribly sorry for your loss.”
“It’s my fault,” Elaine says after a little silence, “I encouraged her to marry him.”
The two police officers, a man and a woman, both white, both wearing paint-by-numbers sympathy on their faces, stand up. Elaine is sorry to see them go, even though she doesn’t know or particularly like them. She is aware of her loneliness, her sudden fragility like a yolk within her. Karen was a girl made of eggshells. Elaine opens a window to let the cold air in. The police officers are still sitting in their car. She wonders if either of them have ever lost anyone dear to them. Surely everyone has at some point or another.
Elaine doesn’t like to feel sorry for herself, but she feels in this moment that she’s been dealt a bad hand. She thinks about Karen, younger, prettier, dead. She thinks about how her own life has become contained, in this house, in the drawers of her desk, the books on her shelf, the food in her cupboards. She doesn’t go out very often. One forgets there are many ways to die.
“I won’t be a minute,” Karen is standing in the darkness, her hair longer than last time, dressed in a white pantsuit, an outfit she would not have been caught in before she died.
“You’re dead,” Elaine says, “What are you doing here?”
Karen moves soundlessly but she looks more or less flesh, blood, bone. Elaine takes her forearm as Karen moves past her into the house. She is warm to the touch.
“I don’t mean to burst in on you like this,” Karen says, in the living room now, her hands buried wrist deep in the couch cushions, “It’s just, I think I left something last time I was here.”
Karen cries out softly and draws her hand back out of the sofa. There is a thin line of blood across the side of her index finger. She smiles, “oh, I found it.” She reaches back in and pulls out a long razor blade, holds it up in front of her face.
“No,” Elaine says, stepping forward, “that’s not yours.” Karen appears to not have heard her. She walks towards the door. “You can’t leave,” Elaine rushes after her but Karen’s already standing at the door, one hand holding it open.
“I really must be off,” she says, head turning towards the night, “I’m sorry to bother you in middle of the night.”
Elaine watches her sister walk down the garden path, open the front gate, shut it behind her, and continue across the street. Before she disappears she turns and waves, smiling wide. The smile fades last, a glint of white teeth in the dark, empty street.
- - -
Jessie Widner is a writer based in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has appeared in the University College Literary Journal, Shorthand, and Lantern Magazine. Additionally, she is the founding editor of Klipspringer Magazine.
After The Wedding
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