Today is the big day, and this morning I woke to stained red sheets. I suppose I should feel relieved, especially since I checked my calendar and discovered I was two and a half weeks late.
“Be happy you’re not pregnant,” Renee said when I called, crying for her to postpone the wedding, at least for another three to five days. “I was a little worried when your dress didn’t fit.”
The dress fitting was a disaster. I nearly ripped it at the seems trying to pull it over my hips. It felt like I was being squeezed into a corset when they tried to zip me up, and all I wanted to do was throw up the eggs I had for breakfast that morning.
“It’s only going to be tighter now.” Especially since I said no when Marinette offered to let out my dress. I refused to accept that I had gotten bigger since she first took my measurements.
“Well, sweetie, you’d better drink plenty of water, because you are getting married today. No ifs, ands, buts . . . or periods.”
I don’t find her last remark funny at all—a cruel joke—and, to further mock me, the gas I’ve been holding tight in my lower gut all morning finally escapes, and my room smells anything other than that of a bride about to be married. Then I catch my breath. Oh lord, what if I fart again will walking down the aisle, or when I say “I do,” or when I’m having my first dance with Mitchell, or . . . later?
As if reading my mind, Renee says, “Just calm down. You’ll get through it.”
“And what about tonight?” I’d been looking forward to my wedding night with Mitchell since the day he proposed. There was something magical and alluring about having sex for the first time as man and wife. While we were no strangers to one another’s nakedness, had learned each other’s inner delicacies, became skilled at making the other erupt, making love after marriage was on a whole other sphere.
To consummate our love, our eternal bond; to literally come together as one, fitting perfectly into each other, as one body, one mind, one soul, one love, from this first night, into forever—it sent chills down my spine. I wanted that ethereal feeling. I wanted Mitchell to put it deep inside me, with every kiss, every stroke, every breath of air. I wanted to open my eyes and see my life in his—this night, and every night after. Tonight wasn’t just supposed to be about making love, but making life, a new life for us, together.
“If it had only come a week later.”
“Then you would’ve spent all day and all night worrying over if you were pregnant because you did things out of God’s order.”
I know Renee says it out of love, but it still stings.
“Consider this your retribution. You’ll have that all-consuming, so-this-is-what-love-is, locked-in-the-room-for-three-days, husband and wife sex time with Mitchell. And when you do, it’s going to be everything you ever dreamed and more.”
I closed my eyes, thinking of it in that moment. Mitchell’s eyes searching every inch of me, his fingers roaming over my curves, his warm body pressed against mine, his lips, succulent yet firm when they kiss me, and the ultimate exhilaration when he releases his entire soul into me—
“But not tonight,” Renee said. “So stop your moaning, get dressed, and be at the church by noon.”
Today is the big day, and all Mitchell can think about is Rita. She disappeared during Renee and Bryan’s get-together after the rehearsal dinner, and no one has seen or heard from her since.
“You know, going to another woman’s house on the day of your wedding might give off the wrong impression,” Bryan says.
Mitchell knows he’s only joking, but he shoots him a look that makes Bryan turn his attention to the line of house that zip by his window. He’s only quiet for a few seconds.
“I don’t know why you feel you have to tell her about you and Tash. We all know, and we’re cool with it.”
Mitchell keeps his eyes on the road, trying to remember which street to turn on—Maple or Chestnut. He thinks it’s Chestnut, but does he turn right or left?
“Rita’s different,” he says, settling for a right on Chestnut. He remembers how Rita was last night—before she left the house in a hurry—nearly crying as she recounted the only time, he presumes, that she ever experienced an honorable man, and now he has to tell her that what he and Natasha did afterward was anything but honorable. “She’s delicate,” he finished.
“Delicate?” If Bryan’s eyes could rise any higher, they’d be off his forehead. “Are we talking about the same Rita?”
Mitchell starts to reconsider bringing Bryan along. He’s asking too many questions, and Mitchell still needs to figure out what he’s going to say when he sees her. How will he explain himself, and will she even listen?
But then he remembers Matthew 10:19, and then Luke 21: 14 and 15, which he read before calling Bryan. The Holy Spirit will give him the right answer in the right moment. Was there any doubt in Mitchell’s He wouldn’t? After all, it was the Holy Spirit who sent him on this assignment in the first place.
He feels ten pounds lighter now that the weight of he and Natasha’s sin is off his shoulders. Although, he didn’t experience the full relief of it until he got home last night. The temptation to be with Natasha was still there. With everyone already knowing, Natasha felt freer to kiss him deeply under the mistletoe as they left Bryan and Renee’s. And outside of her apartment, her roaming, desperate fingers tugged on the collar of his coat for him to come inside for one last night.
It’s not her fault, really. She’s a passionate woman. He loves that about her, and he knows he’ll love it even more after they are married. So he pried her hips off of him, kissed each hand goodnight, left her at her doorstep and drove straight home.
As soon as he closed his front door behind him, he heard a voice. No, it wasn’t his younger cousins fighting over leftovers in the fridge, or his mother yelling from the guest bedroom down the hall for him to show her house to work his “dumb” smart TV. This voice said one word: Repent.
And he dropped to his knees, fell into worship right there on the floor. He asked God to forgive him of his sins, of every lustful thought he ever had—with Natasha, at the strip club—he thanked God for His love, His mercy, His grace to overcome; He prayed for a clean heart, a renewed spirit; he asked that God never take away His presence, something he feared had happened after the first time he and Natasha made love— when the voice suddenly went silent. Lastly he asked God to bless their marriage, that they would be fruitful, not only physically but spiritually, producing the goodness, holiness, love, that as Renee had said, could only come from God.
When he finished, he was nearly out of breath, crying happy tears. He felt lighter than air, and he threw his head back, arms lifted, his tongue rolling in his mouth, spewing a foreign dialect as he begun to praise God in his prayer language, but the voice cut him off, very clear on what was to happen next.
Ask Rita to forgive you.
Outside of Rita’s apartment, Bryan leans against the staircase banister as Mitchell continues to knock on the door. He didn’t think to wear gloves— wasn’t planning to be outside this long. His hands are starting to go numb, and still no answer.
“Here’s a thought,” Bryan says, “maybe she’s already at the church, like we should be.” He turns and descends the stairs leading back to the parking lot. “Take it from a guy who’s been married longer than you,” he says over his shoulder, “you don’t want to be late!”
Mitchell sighs and looks toward the sky. But, God, he says silently, you asked me to be here. What was the point if she’s not home?
The final chapters of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans