A sharp rapping at the door interrupted Cordelia's eavesdropping of the arriving guests. She opened her mouth to reply, but before she could eek out a syllable, Shandi Jones barreled into the room. She of the blistering red lava hair, pocked skin and unfortunate orangutan arms, the bridesmaid gown did nothing for her; its subtle pumpkin shade on such a slinky sheath made the girl look like a lit Halloween candle, a taper; one Cordelia would have liked to douse, at that.
"What're you doin' up here? Cold feet?" Shandi plopped down at the dressing table, pulled off her heels and picked at her hammertoes ferociously. "You're not going to dart are you? End up at some abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa, running through a picket line just to fix a mistake." Her eyes glassed. She was far away.
Cordelia didn't want to imagine where.
"No. Of course not." She nudged the door to the wardrobe closed with her toe. "I'm just relishing in the moment, that's all."
"You got condiments up here? They been lookin' for them big jars of mustard down at the Grange hall. Grandma and Joann and--"
"No. I'm enjoying the quiet. That's what I mean. The quiet." Cordelia glanced outside. The smokers at the corner of the church butted their cigarettes and made their way to the door. In the distance, clouds rolled in, thick and violet, heavy with flood rains and electricity, a storm for her special day. A gift.
"Well, it's time to get down there." Shandi crammed her feet into the shoes and clopped off down the hall. "I'll tell 'em you're comin'!"
She joined Shandi and the rest of the bridesmaids and groomsmen in the entry hall of the old church. The sanctuary doors were closed but the waller of impatient guests crept through every crack. Mrs. Grubner arranged the pairs with the care she afforded fall tubers, which is to say, none at all. She pushed, shoved, snatched and grabbed until they were all happy to file off toward the altar--if for no other reason, than to escape the wedding planner's reign of terror.
Cordelia admired Grubner's work ethic, her lack of people skills was all the more endearing. After another quick slug from the flask, she gave her dress a final fluff, snatched her bouquet from the planner, and marched down the aisle toward Gabe.
The guests melted into the background and thunder clapped.
They would be so happy, she thought. That was all she'd ever hoped for. All she ever wanted. He reached for her hand and wrapped it in his, drawing her close to his side. A shiver rolled through her. His eyes calmed her, warming her more than the elixir.
It would have been the perfect wedding, but halfway through the vows, a scream cut through the church. A guttural warble exploded from the upper floors, echoing through the empty spaces in between.
Cordelia didn't need to guess which room, and the scream was likely Grubner's. She was the only one not absolutely mortified and pointing at the ceiling--just when she was starting to like the old bitch, too. Neither did she need to guess what the old woman had found. Cordelia knew only too well.
She pivoted back to the minister. "Finish this," she demanded. "Quick."