“She’s not coming,” Jack says, pacing back and forth.
“She’ll be here,” I say, calmly chewing on one of my Lee Press-On Nails.
“It’s 15 till!” he says, frantically tapping his watch.
“In Maggie time,” Mindy says, as she checks her makeup in a compact mirror, “that’s tomorrow.”
In exactly 15 minutes, Maggie and Jack are supposed to walk down the aisle and commit themselves to a life of nuptial bliss. The candles are lit, and Sylvia, the harpist, is weaving her magic on the strings. It’s standing-room-only in the little downtown chapel.
“I can’t believe this,” Jack says, rubbing his temples. “How will I ever show my face in public again?”
Jack seems to be the only one who’s surprised Maggie is running late for her own wedding. Everyone on the bride’s side brought reading material. Maggie has never been on time in her life. If we want her to meet us for dinner, we tell her we’re meeting for lunch. She’ll still be late, but at least she’ll get there in time to split the check.
“You never really know a person until the wedding,” Spouser says sympathetically, checking his watch for the umpteenth time.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” I snap.
Mindy, Spouser and I have the honor of being part of Jack and Maggie’s large bridal party. It goes without saying that you’ve never seen such awful dresses in your life. Besides the fact that we look like Christmas ornaments, the dresses have a built-in bodysuit that make it absolutely impossible to go to the bathroom without totally disrobing.
“If I don’t get out of this thing pretty soon,” Mindy mutters, swaggering across the room, hoop skirt swinging like a bell, “I’m going to have to straddle the champagne bucket!”
You can dress Mindy up, but there’s no muffling her. She says it like it is. No doubt she’s remembering our visit to Mom’s cabin in Cloud Croft when we had to use a bucket in the middle of the night to keep from losing our hides to the bears who hung out near the outhouse.
Maggie’s church is perfect for a wedding. Train dragging behind her, the bride will float down a long curving staircase to her waiting father at the foot of the stairs. There’s one little snag: The only way up to the bride’s dressing room is also the way down — right through the chapel.
At exactly 15 minutes after the time the wedding was supposed to start, Maggie’s Mustang screeches into the parking lot. Muttering to herself like the rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland,” she rushes down the aisle in cutoffs, curlers in her hair, and her arms loaded down with shopping bags.
Mindy and I follow her up the stairs. “Something old, something new, and a little something from the deli,” I say as Maggie drops her cutoffs and kicks them across the room.
“Maggie,” Mindy says analytically as Maggie steps into her wedding dress, “I think that being late for your wedding means that, subconsciously, you don’t want to get married.”
“Mindy, mind your own business,” I warn.
I zip Maggie up while Mindy pins on the veil and hands over the bouquet. I signal Sylvia to begin the wedding march. Spouser lines the groomsmen up like pallbearers. And just as we’re about to get the show on the road, Maggie hesitates.
“Am I making the biggest mistake of my life?” Maggie asks.
I cup Mindy’s mouth and shout, “No! No!” One might say it’s a little late to be asking this question.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that sooner or, more likely, later, Maggie will make mistakes MUCH bigger than this one.
As Maggie greets her father at the foot of the chapel stairs, the harpist plays the wedding march with conviction, cameras snap, women wipe their eyes with wadded tissues, and men gawk.
Jack wipes his brow in relief when he sees his bride make it to his side without falling on her face.
“Maggie,” Jack says, lowering his narrowed eyes, “your cups runneth over.”
Grabbing the front of her strapless dress, Maggie does a little wiggle-hop and puts her ample puppies back in their pen.
The priest clears his throat, wipes the sweat off his brow, and the ceremony begins.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane.