by Jessica Knoll
The wedding was going to be beautiful. Elegant, tasteful, timeless. As understated as a wedding at The Pierre could be.
“Classic, classic, classic, “ I’d drilled into my wedding planner, Lisa-Howard. Not Lisa, Lisa-Howard, a woman who wore no less than three Cartier Love bracelets on her left wrist to the gym. I highly doubted Lisa-Howard’s capability to pull off classic, but Constance promised she was the best and Constance knows what the hell she’s doing.
I thought the whole idea of a wedding party was juvenile and silly, but when I said as much to Biz she appeared so crestfallen that I’d relented and made her my maid of honor.
“Maybe I’ll be matron of honor by the time the wedding rolls around,” she’d said, slyly. She was back on with Brad again, and girl had a fever and the only cure was three carats on her left ring finger. She wanted five, like me, but Brad was an associate at a mid level firm. Only good for three.
“You’re not a matron if you’re only engaged,” I pointed out. “You’d have to get married before me for that to be the case.”
Biz cocked her head and considered what I’d said. “Oh yeah. I guess you’re right.” She perked up again when she asked if Brad could escort her down the aisle even though I was probably pairing the bridesmaids and groomsmen according to height, and that would mean she was stuck with Peter’s sixteen year old cousin who hadn’t had his growth spurt yet. Brad was a groomsman. Izzy was dating someone in the wedding party too. We were a weird, incestuous group and everyone loved it and I sure pretended to.
“You’ll have to take it up with Lisa-Howard,” I told her, and Biz groaned. No fucking way was Lisa-Howard compromising an aesthetically pleasing ascending order of height so Biz could exit the ceremony with her boyfriend on her arm.
I approached my wedding somewhat mechanically, saying and doing all the right things, smiling and assuring anyone who asked how excited I was for December 16th. I had made a deal with myself. I was allowed three months to mourn Campbell. Exactly the amount of time from when I saw him last to the moment I said, “I do.” I had never really taken the time to find closure, because that faint hope that we might one day end up together flamed in me every so often, like a lightening bug blinking on and off all through out the summer.
That hope had to die, and dying took time. Time I had never allotted before. I would do it now. My wedding would be something of a rebirth, and beyond that, a hope began to swell for something else, something I could love more than I ever did Campbell.
I know what you’re thinking—this cold bitch should not be allowed to procreate. As a general rule, I despise kids, especially the ones in my building who pound all the buttons in the elevator until they light up like a goddamn Christmas tree.
But it would be different with my baby. In my mind, my baby already existed, a cherubic blob giggling on a cloud, waiting for me to pluck her from the ether. (My baby is obviously a girl.) This feeling, like she already existed and I didn’t yet have her, was excruciating; the fear that someone else may get to her before I did acute. I needed her now. A baby, to me, was a finish line, a place where I would at last find purpose in my life. What else, who else could give it to me better than a tiny bundle of my own replicated cells? Sometimes I think my mother, who could never show me love and affection as easily as I could her, had missed the mothering gene and so I had inherited it twofold. The only way I knew to describe this maternal desire was feral.
And, as we do when something means a lot to us, we don’t talk about it very much. No one—not Biz, not Peter, not Campbell—knew the extent to which I yearned for a baby. Of course Peter and I had had The Talk, had agreed we wanted kids, and soon, but I played it off casually. Oh yeah, kids could be cute! I was afraid to admit how much I wanted them. Afraid that if I said it out loud to anyone that the universe would snatch the opportunity away from me, just because it knew how much it would hurt. I used to go to bed every night thanking my lucky stars for my brother, Thayer, and look how that fucking turned out.
So I guess you could say I was looking forward to my wedding, in that it was a means to an end. Everyone else interpreted my enthusiasm for the big day as confirmation that I was head over heels in love with Peter, and that was fine by me.
The morning of my wedding, I woke up with one goal, and one goal only. To get a head start on cooking this little sucker. I was staying in the bridal suite at The Pierre, Peter one floor above me. I’d gone off birth control the month before in anticipation of this very moment, but Peter and I had been using condoms ever since. I wanted to be pregnant very badly, but vanity still won out. No way was I going to walk down the aisle with even the teensiest bit of bloat.
I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and threw on the plush hotel robe. When I opened the door, I found Biz rubbing her eyes. She had insisted that part of her maid of honor duties included spending the night with me. We had raided the mini bar (well, she had raided the mini bar. I had an unforgiving sheer satin gown to slip into the next day.) and stayed up late watching movies.
“What time is it?” Biz yawned.
“Almost 8,” I told her.
“Why are you up?” she groaned, and I cocked an eyebrow at her.
Biz sat up in bed once she translated. “That’s bad luck,” she said, serious as I’d ever seen her.
“Only if he can’t get me off,” I said, knotting my robe at my waist. “And that’s never a problem.” At least that much was true—I was definitely marrying a man who knew how to operate my equipment, for the most part.
“Elizabeth,” Biz said, “I really don’t think that’s a"—
“Be back in ten!” I said, cheerfully, on my way out the door.
Out in the hallway, I decided to take the stairs, lest I run into anyone on the elevator in nothing but a robe and slippers. I was just about to put my shoulder into the door when it swung open. I let out a little yelp, surprised. I settled down when I realized I recognized the person on the other side of the door.
“Izzy,” I breathed. “What the hell are you doing?”
There was a beat before she answered me. “What do you think I’m doing?” she said, parroting the question back at me. Classic stalling move.
“I’m here for hair and make-up!” she said, a sort of duh inflection in her voice. The wedding party was supposed to be in my room, hair wet and faces scrubbed, at 9am. She was almost an hour early.
“Yeah but what are you doing in the stairwell?”
“The elevator was taking forever,” she said.
“So you just walked up ten flights?”
Izzy grinned. “Burn off those last few calories for the bridesmaid dress!” Now she looked me over. “What are you doing?”
“Biz is in the room,” I told her, ignoring her question. I didn’t owe her an explanation. “She’ll let you in.”
I brushed past her and started up the flight of stairs to Peter’s floor, trying to ignore the nagging voice in my head telling me that something wasn’t right.
By the time I got to the top, I realized what it was.
I had climbed a single flight of stairs, and I was already breathing like a fat kid a minute into The President’s Challenge. There was even a fine film of sweat on my upper lip.
Izzy had supposedly climbed ten flights of stairs and yet she hadn’t been out of breath or flustered in the least. With sickening clarity, I realized that was because she hadn’t been coming up. She had been coming down.