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South of Happily - Deleted Scene. A Prologue. A Wedding, a Headache, and Some Drooling.

Updated: Apr 7

The headaches began a month before my wedding. I diagnosed myself with a brain tumor and some type of head cancer I’d read about on WebMD. My doctor said it was stress. She told me to stop clenching my jaw, suggested some mindfulness exercises, and gave me a mouthguard that made me drool twenty-three seconds after inserting it between my teeth.

The doctor was right. The headaches were coming from the space in my brain where right and wrong debate, and logic loses horribly to “fuck it, I’m doing it anyway.” But the pain was terrible, much like my ability to introspect, so I downed some expired Vicodin and marched on in the hopes of doing the right thing, which at twenty-three meant believing I could turn a shit-show into a fairy tale.

I'd met my intended, Dylan, at a beach party after graduating from college. He satisfied the shallow requirements necessary for a rebound relationship from Nickety-Nick. My person. Too good to be true according to the rules in my existential playbook, where it was written that no perfect man exists, and happiness is but an empty vessel without heretofore embracing misery.

So I did. Embrace misery. Dylan was crude, unserious, and the mention of his name made my dad’s mouth screw up into what I call, cringy-face. My mom, the product of a traditional European upbringing, hid her dismay with grace, because she believed that any man was better than no man. And Dylan Decker was, indeed, any man. Tall enough for me to wear high heels, 36% functional, attractive (on the surface) and he showered regularly.  

He even grew on me after a few months. Not because of his intellect or kind heart, but because his presence seemed better than the alternative. Missing Nick, being alone, and missing Nick.

Yeah, it’s not a mistake. I said it twice.

He came with plenty of warning signs. A shortage of funds accompanied by an abundance of promises once he found “the” job. He was moody and mysterious in a serial killer sort of way. Most dismaying was his terrific assortment of personalities. Publicly, he was energetic, kind, jovial. Privately, he was disrespectful, mean, and detached. I looked the other way. I looked hard. This man-child lacked only the love of a good woman to roll him into greatness.

Soon enough we were engaged because at my advanced age I felt duty-bound to get married and make fat, squeezable, semi-Hungarian babies. Also, I’d given up on the idea of Nick riding in on some nondescript horse and saving me from myself.

In less than six months, everything was in place as the wedding approached. Music, flowers, a caterer, and those damn headaches lurking in the background. My relatives flew in from Budapest, Montreal, Paris, and friends made the short trip from Dufferin Beach, the town where I grew up, just south of Sarasota, Florida.

Then the day arrived. Last minute touches, hair, makeup, and courage as I prepared for the walk to the flower filled gazebo at The Don CeSar Resort. “The Pink Palace,” built in 1928 for the rich and famous, is the Titanic without an iceberg getting in its way. It isn’t just a building; it’s a gigantic pink wedding cake built on the soft sands of St. Pete Beach.

            Jesse, my best friend, recent law school graduate, and Maid of Honor, paced the room in a gown that fit her body and mood, like a straitjacket. She didn’t like Dylan in all the ways possible. In the end, she feigned excitement and watched helplessly as I stabbed myself in the eyeball with the prongs of the ill-chosen fork in the road.

My parents arrived to gather the bridal party. Dad smiled in that odd way that wasn’t really a smile. Mom cried in that odd way that was more of an anxiety attack.

“We’re ready, Katy. Everyone is here.” She adjusted the veil flowing over my shoulders and fluffed the bottom of my gown.

And they were all here, in this beautiful scene where I should have been overwhelmed with happiness and all that drippy emotional shit brides gush about. But the knot in my stomach grew, and the moment felt like a game of dress-up gone wrong. My father herded us down a large curving staircase as guests of the resort stopped and stared. Outside, the music began. My mother kissed me on the cheek and made her way down the aisle. Jesse moved slowly, as if she’d been shackled, and Nori, my cousin and only other bridesmaid, slithered from chair to chair because The Don Cesar makes a hell-of-a Mimosa.

“Now us. Are you sure?” Dad took my hand. “We can stop this.” he smiled at me; hazel eyes sparkling.

“It’ll be fine,” I assured him in a way that wasn’t sure at all.

The guests stood. Some nodded, others judged. Dylan, twenty feet away, looked handsome in his charcoal tuxedo. Moving closer, I noticed the expensive tie my parents bought him was missing. Instead, he’d left open the top three buttons of his dress shirt. With the bouquet dangling in my right hand, I touched my jaw as a twinge of pain pulsated back through my molars. The groom wasn’t looking for me. He was adjusting his suit jacket, posing, preening.

I forced my facial muscles into a smile. Everything was perfect, spectacular, like shit hitting the fan at the most opportune angle. Fuck it, I thought right before we reached the alter, if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a divorce.


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