The predicted five centimetres of snow turned out to be fifteen. Most of Southern Ontario had been blanketed. My dad and sisters shivered and brushed flakes off each other, and me, at the back of the church. Not exactly the June wedding I’d always dreamed of. Why had I let Brad talk me into a December ceremony?
I peered inside the church. There they were. Poinsettias everywhere. My future mother-in-law Sylvia had insisted on her favourite Christmas plant, not the lovely and equally Christmasy amaryllis or anthurium, neither of which I was allergic to.
“Well, just don’t eat the poinsettias, dear,” she had laughed at the florist’s.
Later I’d fumed. “This too shall pass,” my mom said as she poured me a cup of tea.
True. Anyway, what did it matter? Brad and I loved each other. Sure, we’d had a few rough spots along the way, no different than anyone else.
But there had been tender moments as well. Like last night after the rehearsal party, Brad’s lips quivered against mine as he kissed me goodnight. “It’ll all be alright. You’ll see.”
I squeezed his hand. Yes, all the wedding stress will be behind us.
I thought about the honeymoon Brad arranged. The Bahamas would be lovely and warm. I tucked away the initial sadness I’d had about not spending our first Christmas as a married couple, with our families.
I tried hard not to think about my family’s Christmas traditions, the things I’d miss, laughs and inside jokes around the dinner table. I’d have to do without my mom’s prize-winning turkey stuffing and the rum-laced eggnogs my dad concocted. There’d be a roaring fire. I usually cozied up with a book at some point after the supper dishes were done, and my brother John would bring out his guitar. Later, we sisters would drag him outside so he could “help” us build a snowman. He’d protest that we weren’t kids anymore but once outside, he’d throw the first snowball.
But Brad had his heart set on the Caribbean. A later, watered-down version of Christmas would have to do.
The bigger problem, though, crouched and waited for us in the wings.
Sylvia rolled her eyes whenever the topic arose. “You are the first couple to have two places to live after the wedding.”
It was the only point I’d refused to concede. My apartment was perfect, close to my work, the bookstores and restaurants we loved. But Brad wanted me to move into his place, a glass-faced highrise near scant few amenities. The commute would be a bear, especially in winter, but neither of us had the energy to fight about it anymore. We were at an impasse.
Never mind, we’d figure it out. I unclenched my fists and urged my shoulders to relax.
Happiest day of my life.
But now my brother was red faced and marching toward us, his eyes wild and furious.
What the hell?
Dad stepped forward. “What is it?”
“Sylvia just told me Brad’s not coming,” I heard him say.
I motioned John over. “What do you mean?”
“That’s all I know,” he said. “I’m sorry, Lil.”
I’m sure my sisters’ blank faces mirrored my own.
“I’ll kick his ass!” John hissed.
“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” Dad said, his hand resting on my shoulder. He leaned in. “Honey, don’t you worry. I’ll take care of everything.”
All eyes turned to me. The bride. On the happiest day of her life.
I shook my head, as if to clear it. How could Brad humiliate me like this, with a church full of people waiting for us to start our lives together?
Now my mother left her seat to join us. “What’s going on?”
She took it all in, set jaw and downturned mouth, then pulled me into a hug. “Oh no,” was all she could say.
Now heads turned to the buzz at the back of the church. Sylvia walked out from the narthex.
“Could I please talk to you?” she asked me quietly.
My parents flanked me. “She’s staying right here with us,” Dad said.
“Look, I’m sorry.” Sylvia held out an envelope. “Here, Brad wanted you to have this.”
This was how he treated me? “A letter? Are you serious?”
I ripped it open. Only a few scrawled words: I hate that I just can’t face you today. Please forgive me. In time I think you’ll realize this is for the best. Sorry, Brad.
I flashed back to this morning. It seemed so long ago. I’d woken to a cold, grey sky, and had felt blank when I looked out my window. Where was the giddy anticipation, the joy?
Sylvia was saying something, but I only caught the tail end. “He couldn’t go through with it, but I think he knew if he saw you, especially like this…” Her eyes were huge as she surveyed me. “You’re absolutely gorgeous.” She shrugged. “What could he do?”
She wiped at her eyes with a tissue. “Lily, I’m sorry about the poinsettias, and well, everything.”
“It’s okay.” I extended my hand; I heard one of my sister’s sharp intake of breath. “This isn’t your fault.”
I nodded. “Really,” I said. “But you know, he’ll have to face me sometime.”
A smile played on her lips. “I guess he’s got that much coming to him.”
Yes, yes he does. I have things in my apartment that belong to him; he has some of mine in his. We’ll have to untangle our lives. But it will be on my terms, when I’m ready. After Christmas.
Christmas with my family.
Lisa Finch is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in print and online. She holds an Honours English B.A. from McMaster University. She lives in a quiet little town in Ontario with a very noisy (but lovely) family which includes an incredibly supportive husband, three wonderful children, two cats, a dog and a collection of fish. People-watching is one of her favourite hobbies.