The bride leaned against her father for support, crushing her white gown on his dark blue suit. Her hair was pulled up in a messy bun and her womanly curves spilled out over the top of the floor-length, sequined gown.
“S’hard to breathe in this girdle,” Julie gasped and held onto the man’s arm.
Harold was her father’s name. He was older than all of his daughter’s friends’ fathers, not that he was ever bothered by the fact. His hair was white and sprouted from his ears and nostrils in an apparent migration from the top of his head. He made no attempt to hide his age or his pride in his daughter.
The two tipped their heads towards each other, and Harold wrapped his arm around his daughter’s broad shoulders. It didn’t matter that she worked, owned her own home, or knew her mind as a woman; she would always be his little girl and she was in distress.
Julie tried to calm her breathing, but found that the harder she worked, the more she struggled to fill her lungs. She sucked in big gulps of air, heaving her chest in and out, and started to see a blackness creep in from the outer edges of both of her eyes.
“Baby, listen to me. Breathe in, hold it, and breathe out. Do it again, breathe in, hold it, and breathe out.”
She nodded at him, leaned in and slowed down. Her vision returned to normal and she smoothed her dress out with both hands, letting go of her father’s arm.
“Listen,” he said again. “I have a medical marijuana prescription and I can get you a joint, if you need to calm down.”
“Dad, I am about to get married.”
He laughed with a shrug of his shoulders and a mischievous grin that exposed a mouthful of yellowing teeth that were held in place by complicated metal brackets on his eye teeth.
Three bridesmaids stood in line in front of the two, patiently waiting for the signal from the wedding planner in her tiny top hat to start the procession. They each wore the same purple gown wrapped and knotted in different ways, and were equally self-conscious of their imperfections as they prepared to walk in front of the crowd. The first woman nervously clutched her bouquet of delicate spring flowers while the next women in line winked at each other. They had been listening to Julie and Harold.
“And, if I happen to die in the next few hours just go ahead and get me set up next door at the mortuary. I noticed that this is a one stop shop for all of your important events. Plus, I’m already dressed and ready to go.”
“Dad,really? We’re going to do this right now?”
“No time like the present.”
He kissed his daughter on the temple, satisfied that she was ready to step forward on her own, with or without him.
“Now, let’s go get you married.”