This week, more short fiction
Sheila hadn’t known anyone at the wedding. She wasn’t even sure why she’d been invited. The mother of the bride was a distant relative of her father’s. She’d met her once; the bride, never. She nervously smoothed her gray, wrinkle-free skirt over her knees, plucking at the hem so it would reach further down. The knee-hi stockings were a mistake, but pantyhose made her sweat. You couldn’t see her knees when she was standing up, but when she sat down and crossed her legs the elasticized tops of the fake nylons were visible. She crossed her ankles instead. She felt like a child in a painting, posed and uncomfortable.
The wine glass she was holding was empty except for a thin, round slice of lemon. She’d asked for water at the bar and that’s what she’d been served. Why did they put lemon in it? If they thought people wanted flavor, why not serve lemonade? Maybe she should have had a glass of wine instead. She still could, she supposed; perhaps with the meal. It wouldn’t do to get light-headed though. She didn’t often come to town and she was nervous about finding her way home again.
She was sitting at table eleven, the furthest one from the head table, closest to the door to the kitchen. She didn’t mind that; it was also the furthest from the band. There were eight chairs and the two across from her had been claimed, tilted forward to rest on the edge of the table. Sheila assumed that their occupants were dancing or mingling. She hadn’t recognized any of the names on the other cards for table eleven, but she hadn’t expected to.
She was staring at the kitchen door, willing it to open so they could start the meal, which would give her something to do, when a voice to her right said, “Is this seat taken?”
Startled, she looked toward the floor, shaking her head in little movements from side to side, like a horse trying to twitch off a fly. The voice pulled the chair back from the table and sat down. She looked as far right as she could without moving a muscle. She could see most of the body, which appeared to be clad in a navy blue suit, and the black shoes, which needed polishing.
“Are you a friend of the bride’s or the groom’s?” the voice asked.
“Bride,” she mumbled without turning her head.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that.”
“Bride,” she said again, as her cheeks exploded into color.
“Groom, here,” he said. “Actually, distant relative of groom. Never even met him.”
Surprised, she allowed her head to turn toward the voice. “Me, neither.”
“You’ve never met the groom either?”
“The bride. Never met the bride.”
“So why are we here?” he asked with a little laugh. It was a nice laugh, friendly.
Sheila shrugged and shifted in her seat, being careful not to uncross her ankles. She tried desperately to appear casual as she studied his face. It was a pleasant face with round cheeks and a high forehead. He wore rectangular black glasses with thick lenses. She assumed they were stylish; she knew nothing about fashion.
“What say we dance?” he asked, pushing back his chair.
“Oh, no, thank you. I don’t dance.”
“That’s okay, neither do I. We’ll pretend we do. Come on.” He held out his hand, inviting her to stand up and join him.
Sheila uncrossed her ankles and pushed back her own chair. She took his hand and as they walked to the dance floor, the elastic on her left leg gave up and her knee-hi stocking sagged to her ankle. And then they danced.