*Trigger warning – domestic violence*
The room was the size of a large jail cell. Not that I’ve ever been in jail, but I’ve seen television shows. The light filtering through the double-paned frosted window was bright, and I longed to be outside in the early summer air. A green chalkboard on the wall by the wooden door still had Bible verses on it from a Sunday school lesson, distracting me for a short time. My best friend and I sat, side by side, in metal folding chairs along one wall. The lace and satin of our dresses rustled and swished when we moved, but otherwise, there was silence in the room. From the corridor outside, I could hear guests arriving. Laughing and chatting with each other, they made their way to the chapel. Their gaiety failed to permeate the tension in the room where I waited.
My hands were clenched tightly together in my lap, and I felt a chill on my skin. Clammy sweat broke out on my neck under my delicately coiffed hair. I looked at Miranda, and she smiled encouragingly back. My stomach churned, and I knew it wasn’t from the pregnancy.
“This is a mistake,” I whispered.
Miranda looked startled. “I can go tell them to wait a minute,” she offered.
Just then, the door swung open to reveal my dad, splendidly handsome in his dark gray suit. He told me it was time to go. I told him that I had changed my mind, that this wasn’t what I wanted. He just took me by the arm and led me from the room, bulldozing over my feelings as usual. “You’re just nervous. It’s called cold feet.”
I twisted slightly in his grasp to see Miranda following. She shrugged, either not knowing or not caring about my predicament. All too soon, my uncle was motioning Miranda into the chapel and the music was ringing in my ears. My dad walked me down the aisle to the altar. Flowers of yellow and pink filled the vases lining the aisle. There was my mom, sitting in the front row, tissue clenched in her fist. The stuffy air was filled with a hundred different perfumes, making me feel ill. Then my dad placed my hand in my soon-to-be husband’s. I said the words the preacher told me to say; felt the cool weight of the diamond band settle on my ring finger. A few minutes felt like a few hours and then the ceremony was over.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of colors and noise. There were pictures, well-wishers, cake, and dancing. I couldn’t seem to reconcile the fact that I had just gotten married with the feeling of doom that was hanging over me. I knew I should be happy – glowing, even. Feeling completely alone despite the throng of family and friends around me, I went through the motions of a blissful bride.
Four months later, he hit me for the first time.