Episode 3 of a flash fiction series. Find previous episodes at Claire’s Story – Flash Fiction Series.
Claire gazed at her reflection in the full-length mirror, turning from side to side. The knee-length wedding gown rustled and swished. She touched her chest below her neck, feeling the lace of the illusion neckline, feeling the thump of her pulse. She smiled, thinking how Bart would love the dress. But worry muted her joy like a balloon tied to a rock.
“I really like the white one better.” Her mother, Adelle, sat behind her in an upholstered chair. Her voice held a superior air. “The blush is pretty, but you look stunning in white.”
Claire clenched her jaw for a moment before stifling a sigh. She wished her maid of honor could have joined the shopping trip. Claire needed today to be a pleasant memory. She placed a warm smile on her face and turned. “Mom, I really like this one.”
Adelle raised her eyebrows, pursed her lips and turned to the boutique’s saleswoman. “Don’t you think the white looks better on her?”
Claire struggled to stop a loud sigh, but failed. She turned pleading eyes to the saleswoman and tipped her head toward the door. The woman smiled. “I think both colors suit her well. Why don’t I let the two of you discuss. Call me when you’re ready.” She stepped through the door to the front of the shop.
Claire smoothed the front of her skirt. “Mom, I like the style of this dress, not the white one. They don’t have a white dress in stock in this style.”
Adelle drew a deep breath and clutched her designer handbag. “This is happening too fast. We can’t have the wedding you deserve in such a short time. And the guest list is far too small.” She frowned at Claire. “Why do you have to get married this weekend?”
Claire’s shoulders sagged. “Mom, I have cancer.” Her voice fell. “You know I start treatment next week.”
Adelle looked away, her mouth a pouting frown. “I can’t believe you found a minister on such short notice.” She straightened in her chair, her head cocked and chin raised. “Although why he demands you attend four marriage classes after your surgery and treatments is beyond me. We didn’t do that when I married your father.”
Claire gently nodded. “I know. I’m just glad he made an exception. He usually requires the classes before the wedding.” She shrugged. “But what harm can it do?”
While Adelle rummaged in her purse for a tissue and wiped her nose, Claire remembered the last time she’d been in a church. She swallowed the lump in her throat as she pictured her best friend’s casket. How could a good God allow the murder of a college freshmen? The pain and questions from that event had gnawed and consumed her belief in the following years. She pursed her lips and frowned at the floor. And what God would allow cancer? Her mind drifted again to the discussion with her doctors. All facts and possible treatments. But she knew the odds. The lump in her throat became an ache and her eyes misted.
Adelle raised her head. Lines creased her brow over pleading eyes. “Can’t we just wait until after your treatment is complete? You’ll get better, I know you will.”
Claire’s voice cracked. “Oh, mom.” Tears streamed down her face. “I just can’t risk it.” Her breath shuddered. “I may not have the wedding I dreamed of, or that you’ve dreamed about, but Bart is my dream.” She choked back a sob and lifted her hands to her face.
Adelle stood, knocking her purse to the floor, and rushed to embrace her daughter. “There, there, dear.”
Claire lifted her head and stepped back. “The dress . . .” She gritted her teeth and sniffed. “I can’t cry on the dress.” Adelle turned, found her purse and drew out tissues for each of them. Claire wiped her eyes and nose. With a trembling lip, she said, “I’ll go change, before I ruin the dress.”
She stepped into the dressing room and closed the door. Her puffy, red eyes peered back from the mirror on the wall. She thought about Bart. Was she fair to him? Was it right to wed after such a serious diagnosis? Her eyes misted and she whispered, “I wish you were real, God. I could use a miracle.” She reached behind her neck to unfasten the dress, then stopped. A sense of calm flowed over her, relaxing her shoulders.
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