A man stands at the altar with a priest on one side and a best man on the other side.
His bride will walk down the aisle to him in a few minutes if what his best man just whispered in his ear is anything to go by. Five minutes pass. Then six. Then seven. Then eigh– never mind. Bride appears at the church’s doorway. Bridesmaids and bridesmen line up ahead of her. White gown. Veil. Bouquet in hand. The whole shebang. Perfection.
First comes the bridesmaids. Four of them. Each one hanging onto a bridesman’s arm. Each one dazzling. Each one awkwardly swaying to the slow music. Each one taking her sweet time to reach the front. Each bridesmaid standing to one side as each bridesman stands on the opposite side. Perfection galore!
The congregation looks on. They sigh as the painfully cute flower girls litter the aisle with red roses. The man looks at the congregation. Identifies his friends and relatives. What can he say? The church smells of wealth. It is a good day is what he thinks. A perfect day to convert a girlfriend to a wife.
There is silence when the organist starts to play Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. The shy smiling bride at the doorway starts to move. She’s coming to her man. She’s about to become wife.
The man looks on. The smile on his face competes with the brightness of the white gown. He catches his bride’s eye under the veil as she approaches him. So beautiful. The kind of girl every guy wants. He winks at her. She smiles. She keeps moving. Inching closer to him.
A step or two from where his bride is about to stand, bridesmaid number four coughs loudly. But before his eyes can settle on the coughing bridesmaid, her perfume reaches his nose first. So when their eyes meet, he’ll already know who those eyes will belong to. And he confirms it when their eyes lock.
Mistress is bridesmaid number four.
She’s holding onto her bouquet of flowers. Wearing the same outfit as the rest of the bridesmaids. Lined up with the rest. Standing opposite him. Looking at him. Not looking away.
His eyes dart away like a hand that touched a hot surface. His bride is almost by his side.
Mistress is still not looking away.
Bride is now standing by his side.
The man regrets looking for the cough and its owner. Because now his hands are sweaty. The smile has left his face. His perfect handsome face is now sweaty and confused. And though he looks at his bride, flashes his teeth, and puts his hand in hers, his mind is on bridesmaid number four standing on the other side. Not looking away. What. The. Hell?
The congregation quietens down behind the man and his bride. The bridesmen and bridesmaids stand to each side of the couple. Everything still looks perfect. But nothing is really perfect anymore. The man faces forward. He’ll be damned if anyone knew what was going on in his head right now. How did this happen? He had planned everything so well. He had even toasted to his ingenious. Drank to it. Patted himself on the back imaginarily, damn it!
The priest starts to speak.
So many questions. We will now begin the ceremony, ladies and gentlemen.Chief among them, how does Mistress know wife-to-be? Dearly beloved. I mean, he had heard people say it so casually, but was it really such a small world? We are gathered here today to celebrate love. This small a world that his bride could know his girlfriend, soon-to-be mistress, enough to form part of the bridesmaid team? To celebrate the union of Mathew and Joanna. This small a world? We are gathered here this beautiful day to join two hearts in holy matrimony. Really?
Mathew looks to his side. Joanna has her full attention on the priest, oblivious to him and his ravaging thoughts. Oblivious of the hand holding hers that is drenched in sweat. A man and a woman will become one today in the presence of God and in your presence, ladies and gentlemen. But maybe nothing will go wrong. Yeah, right. This thought is a joke. Mathew knows that for a fact. He looks towards the bridesmaids one more time. Mistress winks at him.
Now she’s playing games.
How does this play out?
Whichever way it plays out, Mathew knows he’s fucked.
He faces forward. Looks at the priest who is smiling and nodding and saying something. He stopped listening. What’s the point?
Mistress has eyes on him. He can feel them digging into his face.
He tries so hard to concentrate but hears nothing of what the priest says. Only something holy matrimony. Something the sanctity of marriage. Something loving one another as Christ loves the church. Who is mistress to Joanna anyway? Relative? Friend? Why hasn’t he met her with Joanna before? Unless–
Mathew struggles with his vows, but he gets through it. I don’t know why I’m so nervous, he whispers to Joanna as they stand next to each other, rings already slid onto each other’s fingers. Joanna rubs his hand to reassure him. For a minute, Mathew wonders if she really knows anything about him and bridesmaid number four. The priest blesses their union. He is instructed to kiss his wife. He complies. Ululations fill the room. Dance fills the church floor. Love, so to speak, fills the air.
Were this a normal wedding, Mathew would be toasting in his head to the coming to fruition of his genius plan to elevate the status of the two women in his life. His girlfriend to wife, and his other girlfriend to mistress. But, since this is nothing close to a normal wedding, Mathew will hold off the toasts for now.
As they pull away from the kiss that seals their marriage, Joanna finds Mathew’s right ear and, with a smile, she whispers, “Do I kiss better than her, Mathew?”
What could possibly go wrong?
From this point on, only everything.
TO BE CONTINUED