Today is supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but my stomach is twisted and tight. Bile lingers at the base of my throat, threatening to expel itself again. My mother smiles at me in the mirror. Her brush glides through my hair, parting the waves of golden brown so she can curl them with an iron. “You are so beautiful,” she says.
“Thank you,” I murmur. The rain taps against the windows- it’s an invitation to come out and play. It started drizzling at dawn, and the sky has continued to darken since then. My sister calls it a bad omen, but I pray it is a good one. I love the rain. I’ve spent most of my childhood splashing through puddles and casting boats out to imaginary seas. I love the feel of the cool droplets on my skin, easing my tension and refreshing my soul. I long to go out there now.
“Don’t worry, he is a nice man.”
She refers to the man in the picture. It is a small photo, mailed from across the country and taped to the mirror in my Temple-appointed dressing room. The man in the picture has dark brown hair and a sweet smile. The other picture I have seen is his bar mitzvah. This one is from his senior prom, a year ago, and this morning I thought staring at it would calm me. His name is Marshall and he is going to be a doctor. But first, he is going to be my husband.
I bite my lip between my teeth, and pick up the picture. I know so little about him. Starting tonight, I would learn. For now I wonder about his hobbies, and his demeanor. Does he prefer cats, or dogs? Hiking, or board games? Does he talk a lot, or will our marriage be filled with awkward silences?
He could be anyone.
Thunder rumbles overhead. A deep breath escapes my lips, and in the mirror my mother shakes her head. “Almost done, don’t get anxious now. We don’t have time to wash your hair again if you get puke in it.”
“Okay.” Or if I get it on my dress. The gown is white satin, with silk ribbons tied around my waist. Mother is right- it is beautiful. I look beautiful. I study myself in the mirror, wondering if my husband will like my looks. Maybe it will be love at first sight, like in the movies.
“Come on.” Mother takes my hand and I stand, letting the skirts fall around my legs.
My eyes shift to the window again and my heart tugs toward it. The rain trails down the glass panes, pooling in the wooden frame. I so badly want to go outside. For just a moment of peace, of comfort, I would give up the crisp purity of my gown. Or the delicious curls in my hair. I imagine the man from the photo, whisking me down the aisle and into the fresh air of a rainfall. Everything is so still, so clean, so ready. I imagine the kiss of my fantasy, a breathless caress made under the smoky clouds.
Mother tugs me toward the door that opens onto the back of the synagogue. I can already hear the music of the violins, above the rumbling of thunder. I glance at the picture.
A moment later, the man himself is standing before me. I look up into his dark brown eyes, and the playful glint in them eases my nerves. I feel a grin crawling across my lips. His hair is plastered across his forehead, beads of water trickling down his skin. His tux is drenched. He takes my hands in his and beams. He must feel it too, the tingle of the raindrops crawling across our entwined fingers.