Kaleidoscope By Susan Cornford

Published by


           “I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up all over my wedding dress!” I said.
           “Breathe,” my friend, Monica, replied.
           I breathed. I didn’t throw up. It was past the time of morning sickness so something else was wrong. The woman in the mirror in front of me reapplied the rose-pink lipstick she had wiped off two minutes before. I wished I could have a sip of Monica’s champagne to settle my stomach.
           “I don’t know why I should feel so nervous. John and I have been living together for three years now and have a mortgage with both our names on it.” I flashed back to our housewarming party when what I was hoping wouldn’t happen, happened. My current rose-pink-clad bridesmaid had been there then too.
           “Put out some more nibbles, Monica,” I asked her; then, checking later, I saw only empty bowls. I made my way to the walk-in pantry and there she was, among the boxes of nuts and chips, with John mistaking her neck for a cashew.
           At the sound of my heels clacking on the slate floor, he tried to pass it off as whispering in her ear; she took her cue like Meryl Streep incarnate. But I saw enough to confirm my suspicions. We all gathered up the pantry contents and distributed provisions around the champagne-anointed vessel we chose to convey us through our life together.
           The sound of still-popping corks reminded me of our early-summer celebration of university graduation and Monica’s toast. “Lift your glasses to the fact that the school has not yet realized their mistake in giving diplomas to the two biggest party girls ever to walk its campus.”
           Still, I had already quietly said, Goodbye, to the almost-hidden alcove in the library where I had gone to do much of my “partying.” A sip from my hip flask on the way back to the dorm and my roommate Monica never guessed.
           Since she ran through men like water, I was more than glad to take up with her occasional cast-offs. The one she introduced me to this time was called, John, and he seemed a bit more down-to-earth than the usual. We ended up off in a corner, talking for hours. I came away thinking he’d someday make a good father. Unfortunately, I got pregnant out of wedlock.

           Pop! The cork hit the ceiling and bounced back, missing our baby, Nancy’s, face by an inch.
           “John, are you trying to kill our daughter?” I cradled her more closely since the whole water dripping, prayer-intoning rigmarole had unsettled her.
           “For God’s sake, Monica,” I whispered to best friend, now Nancy’s godmother, “Pour me a glass before my mother starts her rant about breastfeeding and alcohol. The little darling feeds better when I’m relaxed.”
           Years later, I found myself sulking in the corner, nursing my glass of non-alcoholic champagne, and running my eyes over the banner that said, “Happy Retirement!” Why John and Monica had insisted on this travesty on my behalf was beyond me.
           After all, I had been unceremoniously kicked out merely for falling asleep at my desk once or twice. Could I help it if I had trouble sleeping? A little drink or two helped me to nod off…Getting to my feet, I said, “Attention, everyone: I want to thank you all for coming and let you know my plans for spending more quality time with my lovely daughter, Nancy.”
I do not know why John and Monica suddenly looked at each other and started singing, “For she’s a jolly good fellow.”
           The last note of the hymn died out and I looked down at the three black-clad figures as they stood beside the coffin with my picture propped on it. Monica stood with her arms around my husband and my daughter.
           Monica whispered in John’s ear. “I still don’t think a champagne wake is appropriate, especially since she killed herself drunk driving.”
           He whispered back, again mistaking her neck for a cashew. “She would have liked it.”

           I opened my eyes to find each of my hands being held. I’m getting ready in a white dress. It’s our big day. My dream, as vivid as a memory, speaks more as a premonition of my pending marriage. My gaze moved from my rose pink-clad bridesmaid to the pink rose boutonniere of my groom-to-be. I sat up. I stood up. I unzipped my dress and let it fall to the floor.
           I handed it to Monica. “We were always the same size, so you marry John and live in our dream home, but this baby is mine and I’ll bring her up. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find an AA meeting to attend.”

Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia. She enjoys reading, crossword puzzles and coloring books. She is glad they make large-print books and crossword puzzles and sad they don’t make large-print coloring books. (But she has got a magnifying glass!) Facebook: @susan.cornford.731, Twitter: @susankaye123


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.