Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prologue Plunge


excerpt from Strong Enough
by Ellen Harger

White Wedding
by Billy Idol,VH1 Storytellers: Billy Idol

     Upon her arrival at the church, Whitney Brown attains a new social status. Before today, no one in Woods Cross, Missouri could have imagined wearing heavy black mourning to a wedding, especially wall-flower Whitney. Even though she’s seeking this new scandal status, anxious beads of perspiration chill her skin on the bright March morning. It’s a necessary evil if she wants to escape.

     To calm her nerves, she smooths the black eyelet fabric of her dress. Whitney doesn’t have a relationship with clothes except vintage dresses. She found this one several years ago and thought its boat neck, tailored waist, and knee length complimented her fuller figure. She chose a heavy black veil to conceal her red curls but everyone knows it's her; she's the girl who called off her wedding. In a town of less than three thousand, everyone knows about a canceled wedding and who did the canceling. It's been discussed in living rooms with the typical blustering she saw growing up—the threatening to tell the offender exactly what the righteous think, and yet, so often the message was passed across cold shoulders.

     The fidgety movements of people unaccustomed to formal attire echo off the rafters of the cobblestone church. In contrast, the minister's voice is merely a murmur, but Whitney isn’t listening. She has no need to hear his words; they give her little joy. She knows she ought not feel so calm. Emily Post herself would glare from the pages of her book at such flagrant flouting of a social consideration. When she reaches up to adjust the veil, her hand trembles, so she quickly drops it back into her lap. Icy temperatures would be a reasonable, natural cause for the quaking, but extending each quivering finger one by one, she admits it's excitement.

      She can feel a hot stare burning into her head compelling her to lift her eyes and confirm. Caustic eye-darts fly at her from the bride's aunt. To avoid fidgeting she pretends to dab her eyes with a black lace handkerchief. Suddenly real tears threaten, surprising Whitney. She made a good choice, right? Ever since childhood she’s dreamed of her wedding day. She was supposed to have this. She was supposed to have the white dress and all the attention. But the fairy-tale threatened to become more important than the reality. Stuffing the tears inside, she reminds herself that a wedding and a marriage are not the same thing.

     Shrugging off the doubt hugging her shoulders, she tries to sit up straight and proud. If she wants to avoid a predetermined future here in Woods Cross, she needs to leave, to sever the strange safety net of home. Today's exhibition should prevent the welcome-wagon if she should ever want to return.