32.5 | 'Til Death
Beth and Terrence had their wedding in their backyard. It made sense since they had the room for it—it was a small wedding, mainly made up of Beth’s family and friends...actually it was only her family and friends. Bright paper lanterns occupied the underlayers of tree canopies, the aisle in which Beth walked down between the two clusters of chairs, and each individual table that was set up. Once evening arrived the lights burned golden. The white lilies glowed. It was hard imagining anything going as wrong as it would when looking back at how perfect—or, at least, nonconfrontational—the day had been.
The ceremony was smooth but emotional. Blythe cried the whole time, attempting to conceal it as she stood in front of everyone but to no avail. Thank God this mascara is waterproof, she had said afterwards. Once Beth and Terrence were pronounced husband and wife it seemed any doubt that had been festering in Blythe dissipated. She was suddenly hypervigilant to Beth; straightening out the train of her dress, untangling her veil, caressing the flashy embroidery. I had been the best man so I saw everything up close alongside Spencer who was a groomsman.
Blythe and the rest of the bridesmaids had worn dusty blue gowns; Spencer and I wore navy suits with black ties, Terrence wore a black suit with a silk tie that matched the gowns. The photos taken after the ceremony turned out as flawless as could be—the ironic part was that Blythe looked the happiest. The wedding photographer had asked her to tone down her smile, to which she laughed and asked if he was serious. He was. She listened. Already the marriage didn’t seem to be off to the greatest start.
We were all seated at our tables afterwards for the reception. Beth, unbeknownst to Blythe, had seated Ava at the table with us. Naturally Ava and Blythe chatted away even as the food was served. Ava had been a flower girl so she snuck a few lily petals into the pocket of her dress, handing them to Blythe so she could use them when she got married. Blythe smiled, promising she’d cherish them forever. Beth had a dreamy expression frozen onto her face. Terrence was a bit stiff. But no one could deny every time he glanced at Beth there was love there. He did still love her at that time. He was trying, at least.
Toasts and speeches were made. Blythe could hardly get through her speech because she was so choked up. She cracked a few jokes, earning laughs from everyone, and even Beth got emotional. Blythe kept playing with the stray curls that escaped her elegant bun, finishing off her speech with words of hope and affirmation for their marriage. Terrence seemed especially impacted by Blythe’s speech; arguably more than Beth was. My speech, admittedly, wasn’t half as powerful or endearing. At least not to Beth or Terrence. Blythe cried the whole way through. It was kind of amusing. You’d think it was her getting married. Or you’d think someone had died. Two sides of the same coin.
The cake was cut—none of it sacrificed on the bride nor grooms face. It might have been the most formal part of the whole day. Terrence appeared grave—no nonsense from him. Beth paid no mind to the tension, just happy to be legally recognized as a Bishop.
Then came time for the first dance and this was when things started to get more interesting. Ava crawled into Blythe’s lap and Blythe wrapped her arms around her, resting her chin atop the crown of Ava’s head. Champagne Supernova by Oasis played, the song that kept Terrence and Beth company when they first met, and people who knew the song would sing lowly as not to overwhelm the moment. Blythe was one of those people. Until Ava started asking the difficult questions.
“Blythe, why aren’t you the one getting married?”
This certainly attracted the attention of Spencer and I. It wasn’t as if Ava was simply curious why Blythe wasn’t also getting married, the way she phrased it implied it should have been her and not Beth.
“Oh, gosh,” Blythe laughed under her breath. “I’m still in high school. I’m way too young.”
“Oh,” Ava nodded, but clearly didn’t understand. “But you’re nicer than Beth. And prettier. It should be you getting married.”
Blythe jerked at Ava’s comment. Spencer and I raised our eyebrows. Beauty was subjective but her mention of Blythe being kinder caught our attention. Terrence had been hearing about more and more of Beth’s quarrels at work. Strange how landing a husband seemed to bring out the vileness in her.
“Terrence loves Beth and he makes her very happy,” Blythe said lowly, careful with her words. “Maybe when I’m Beth’s age I’ll get married too. But for now I need to focus on school.”
A pause, then Blythe got curious enough to ask her the question we were all dying to know.
“Why do you say I’m nicer than Beth?”
“My mama got a haircut a few weeks ago and while she was waiting for Beth she saw her being rude to a customer,” Ava started fidgeting. “Then she told my mama that the customer didn’t tip her. She was mad.”
“Oh,” Blythe mumbled to herself. “Well, you never know what’s going on in someone’s day. Maybe it was just a bad day. Beth is a nice person. Even nice people can be rude sometimes.”
“But not you,” Ava said. “You’ve never been rude to anyone. My mama says you’re always nice.”
“I try my best,” she kissed the top of Ava’s head, then watched her sister and our brother dance. She did not continue singing the rest of the song. She didn’t even hum or sway. Just bounced Ava on her knee to keep her entertained.
The area reserved for dancing was full. The friends Beth invited loved to dance. Beth ditched Terrence to dance with them. Terrence sat at the table with us and watched her. Blythe turned around and chatted with us, Ava insistent on remaining on her lap. I didn’t miss the way worry etched its way onto Terrence’s face. I didn’t miss the way Blythe noticed, too. Given what Ava had confided in her earlier I think she knew Beth was the problem. Not nerves, not an adjustment to be made, not jealousy due to her dancing with her friends—but being able to commit to her ’til death do them part.
When Ava interrupted our conversation to inform Blythe she wanted to dance Blythe looked relieved. She bid goodbye to all of us and laughed, holding her dress as Ava dragged her onto the grass. We watched as Ava directed Blythe’s choreography to, yet again, mirror hers. Well, I watched Terrence watching her instead of his bride.
“I’m not certain,” Terrence said abruptly.
“Then why did you marry her?” I asked.
“I thought it was normal wedding nerves. It’s not. I don’t think Beth and I are going to last forever. I can’t predict how long we’ll be together but it will not be ’til death does us part.”
“Does this have anything to do with the trip we took with Blythe?”
“Yes, almost entirely,” Terrence rubbed a hand down his face. “My marriage is going to be boring. Purposeless. My excitement will come from my work. That is not what I wanted but it is what I settled for. It’s not even Beth’s fault. But now I’ve condemned her to what will eventually become a loveless marriage.”
“Maybe this feeling will pass,” I said. “You’ve hardly been married a few hours. Give it a few days, let the ink dry and the dust settle. You’ve never been married before. Doubts are natural. Just weather the storms as they come.”
“You don’t understand,” Terrence stared at me. Spencer had tuned right in. “Going to the mountains has been a mistake. We should never had went. We should never have taken Blythe.”
“What do you mean?” Spencer piped in, sitting up straighter.
“Since the trip I have been trying to find traces of Blythe in Beth. They may be sisters but they have almost nothing in common. I can’t help but want Beth to be more like Blythe but I could never ask that of her. I don’t want to hurt Beth because I’d hurt Blythe in the process. That is my biggest concern and my biggest problem. Not even the possibility of hurting Beth scares me as much. But I know no matter what this can only end in heartache.”
“Are you implying what I think you’re implying?” I asked.
“I would never act on it,” Terrence snapped, defensive. “I never intended to feel this way and I’m trying as best as I can to ignore it. But there is only so long until it ruins my marriage. I didn’t want this. I’m angry. I do love Beth but I know it’s only temporary. It’s a countdown now. But with Blythe it’s different. I wish I could feel for Beth what I now feel for her.”
“You do realize you’re almost double her age?” Spencer blinked at him.
“I’ve done the math,” Terrence rolled his eyes. “I never want Blythe to find out. I never want Beth to find out. As far as I’m concerned when her and I go our separate ways it will be due to irreconcilable differences. No one has to know. I trust this conversation stays between us.”
“You fucked up,” Spencer shook his head. “Royally.”
“I’m going to go speak with Blythe,” I said, shocked. I stood up woodenly. “Unrelated to this, obviously.”
Blythe noticed me approaching and beamed. She was sweating from all the dancing but seemed like she could go on all night. Ava turned around and narrowed her eyes at me, clearly unhappy that I was stealing her partner away. Blythe leaned down and whispered something in her ear which prompted a slow and uncertain nod. Ava flashed me one last dirty look before walking away, likely to find her mom.
“We have about ten minutes,” Blythe shrugged in good spirit.
The music slowed. Beth and her friends left the area but other people, mainly couples, joined Blythe and I. I placed a hand on her back and she placed one on my shoulder, our other hands clasped in the air. Blythe had abandoned her heels somewhere so she stood on her toes. The sun had long set and the ground was damp with dew. The lanterns bathed everyone in gold. Blythe took it all in, finally able to focus on what surrounded her as I led and she followed. She appeared relaxed for the first time all day.
“I know this is your sisters day but I want to know how you’re feeling,” I said.
“I’m feeling...over the moon for Beth and Terrence,” she said then furrowed her brows, unearthing what she had been keeping hidden since the ceremony. “But I will confess that I am feeling a bit nervous for her. For their marriage, really.”
“What has you nervous?”
“I could be reading too much into it but I notice the way Terrence looks at Beth is just...different. It’s like he’s trying to remember why he decided to marry her, like he’s trying to remind himself why he fell in love in the first place. Even now that she’s joined him at the table there’s a disconnect. I don’t mean to point fingers but it’s on your brothers part.”
I tried not to react and instead spun to see what she was seeing. She was correct. Beth was staring at him dotingly, planting a kiss on his cheek, but he was as subtly unreceptive as he could possibly be. He had his hand on her thigh but it was obligatory. Beth waved and smiled her biggest smile yet. Terrence stared up at Blythe and I and that was when I turned away.
“This is his first marriage. He’s nervous. Don’t doubt that he loves your sister,” I tried to sound convincing. Blythe looked up at me, unconvinced. “They’ve taken their relationship a step further. It’s now on paper. It’s a stressful transition.”
“It all started happening after the trip,” Blythe sighed. “I feel like telling Terrence that Beth can’t swim was a huge mistake. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but I think I thought wrong. I don’t want to be the one who planted the idea that she isn’t right for him. You saw his reaction. He hasn’t been the same since.”
“You didn’t plant any ideas in his head. And even if you did that only means they had existed beforehand. You don’t have to be so nervous, Blythe,” but she did. She had every right. “Whatever is meant to happen will happen. It’s not your marriage. It’s not your concern.”
“I want what’s best for both of them,” Blythe licked her lips. “Hopefully that involves them always being together. Beth has never been so happy. She has always wanted someone to love.”
“And so has Terrence.”
He was just attempting to love the wrong person. The honeymoon phase didn’t always have to be a phase. But it would be with them. Some things are just not meant to last forever.
Sometimes people who never should have met get married instead.