Getting married wearing nothing but whipped cream seemed like a terrible idea. So Gemma thought: why not? That is to say, she knew why not. But even so.
Then too, what would Bryan wear? There would a terrible imbalance in him wearing a tux, or suit, or whatever men wear to weddings, while she stood there in melting frosting. An outdoor wedding: an hour in the sun (or five minutes in rain) and she’d be naked, which would be indecent.
She’d ask him about it. But he wouldn’t take it seriously. He’d think it was some sex fantasy game idea and suggest they do it right now, only he wouldn’t mean for real, there would be no Justice of the Peace, it would just be the two of them, licking and giggling and, oh, you know.
No. She wanted a wedding. With both sets of parents, a few close friends, but most especially Zelda, who she’d always secretly had a crush on, and with white flowers to match her whipped cream, and they’d have to choose a cool day with no rain predicted and layer it thick enough to stay on. They would write their own vows. And keep them brief.
And a reception, catered, with little frosted cakes and berries piled all around.
They could do it next week. Their parents never had any big plans. She’d get Bryan to find out when Zelda was free.
Shoes. Hers would have to be white, but not so white they made the cream look yellow. They had to match it in a tasteful way.
Gemma opened Zappos and checked “Bridal.” Slingback, T-strap, Stiletto, Wedge. She’d never seen such a hideous selection. White, ecru, black(??). Nothing the color of freshly whipped cream. And who the hell wore wedges to a wedding?
Should she get a veil?
Well, she thought, pouring boiling water over coffee grounds, maybe she should give this a little time, sleep on it. Maybe she’d change her mind. She didn’t think so. It was one of those ideas that come on you in a flash and you know you’re going to do it, wise or foolish, come what may. You dismiss it as absurd, but it sticks with you, nuzzles your neck. It grows in your belly until you have no choice but to bring it, kicking, into the world.
She went back to Zappos.
She Googled “ministers near me.”
In Zelda’s Contemporary Lit class that week, they had discussed Zadie Smith’s NW. Gemma thought Zelda looked a little bit like Zadie Smith. She had counted 17 freckles on Zelda’s face. Gemma didn’t say much in the discussion, because she still hadn’t read NW. She should do that now, in fact. Today was Sunday. She would read NW today so she could ask Zelda about it during her office hours. She would make a list of the smartest questions she could think of. Also, she should do the reading for next class — a Polish author with a confusing name who won the Nobel.
When Zelda talked about narrative reliability the space between her freckles started to fill in. The more excited she got, the harder it was to count them. When a student asked a question she liked, her eyes got wider and she looked like she was in a Broadway musical, about to break into song.
When Gemma had first met Bryan, he was Zelda’s teaching assistant. She had seen them in the coffee shop together — well, not Bryan and Zelda, but Bryan, Zelda, and two other TAs, having a meeting or something, with coffee, and laptops, and folders full of papers. Bryan had said something that made Zelda laugh.
The next week, Gemma and Bryan had drifted in each other’s direction. He thought her paper on Flaubert was insightful. They — Gemma and Bryan — had coffee together, and the next thing you knew they were going for walks, building a snowman, putting their arms around each other in the middle of the bridge over the river — all those things you do — and feeling all the punch-drunk happy feelings you feel. They were talking and texting so many hours a day their work was slipping, so Bryan moved in with her, and now his dissertation was swimming along and the sex was lovely.
Gemma Googled “florists near me.” She called The Petal Pusher.
“Hello?” she asked. “Can you tell me your price range for wedding arrangements? I’m looking for white, to go with a whipped cream aesthetic.”
It would all be too expensive. But if they did it in about two weeks, the lilacs would be in bloom, and she could pick her own. How beautiful it would smell.
She scrolled through her contacts to her parents, thought better of it, and put down the phone.
Bryan was still asleep. The coffee was brewed. She could make pancakes to celebrate Sunday, and they could take a break from their work to go for a walk and admire the dogs in the park. She loved the way Bryan looked when he held out his hand to a dog, or knelt down to rub its belly. He would do that, right in the middle of the sidewalk, his mussy hair shimmering in the morning sun. Sometimes in the park, he would get right down with a puppy and roll on the grass. They could go for a walk, then she would read NW and then start the Polish one for Zelda.
Quietly, Gemma opened the bedroom door. She lay down on the bed, spooning Bryan from behind, her mouth to his ear. He gave her hand a squeeze of welcome.
“Bryan,” she murmured, running her free hand over his pajama-clad torso. “Let’s get married.”
Lise Brody lives in Watertown, MA. Her yet unpublished novel won the 2012 Wilkes/James Jones First Novel Fellowship.