“What about this one?” Mary plucked a white satin dress dripping with beads off the rack. Dress shopping with Amy had sounded like fun two hours ago, but this was only their first store and already her anxiety was kicking into high gear.
The All Things Bride Warehouse housed hundreds of dresses squeezed onto racks. Only a narrow path between them allowed shoppers to shift through the mounds of satin and taffeta. The walls of white seemed to hang suspended from space because of the rack height to keep the dresses clear of the floor.
Mary sighed louder than she intended. “Why does every dress here have so many beads on them? Much too overdone for a simple wedding.” She shuddered as she caught a glimpse of the price tag. “Not to mention the price.”
“Many brides want to feel like a princess, and princesses wear lots of ruffles and lace and beads and such. And most don’t care about the price.” Amy flipped through a rack of white dresses and selected an especially puffy one. “What do you think?”
Mary eyed it with distaste. She wouldn’t wear something like that in a million years. “Too fussy for my taste.”
“Not for you.” Amy rolled her eyes. “For me. I happen to love lots of lace and frilly stuff. Not all of us are against the whole princess thing.”
“I’m sorry.” Mary stepped closer and looked at the dress. “The candlelight color would complement your complexion. Why don’t you try it on?”
“I think I will.” The two women grinned at each other. “Where are the sales women?” Amy craned her neck in a vain attempt to peer over the racks. “I wish the store took appointments. That would be so much easier. Send out a search party if I don’t come back soon with a salesperson.”
Her friend headed off into a sea of white, holding the dress up high by the hanger. Mary resumed her search for the right dress. She knew she wouldn’t find a wedding dress for herself in this store. Her dream dress was one of those filmy, streamlined numbers from the 1940s, but that was far from what was in fashion these days.
She turned to her friend, who motioned to her.
“Come with me. They have my size and I’m going to need help.”
Mary followed her into the dressing room, which was roomier than she expected. Probably built to accommodate the yards upon yards of material each dress had. Amy chattered as she shed her clothes. The saleswoman knocked and Mary opened the door to take the lacey confection.
“You’ll look like a wedding cake in this one,” Mary said without thinking, and then clapped her hand over her mouth. If her friend wanted to be decorated in lace and flounces, she should be supportive and not critical. “I’m sorry.”
Amy laughed. “Not to worry. I think Calvin wouldn’t mind the comparison, as he loves cake. How do I get into this thing?”
Mary found a zipper disguised as a row of tiny buttons up the back and helped Amy climb into the dress. “There. Go out and take a look in the triple floor-length mirrors.”
She carried the back section as her friend exited the dressing room. She fluffed out the small train on the gown as Amy stepped on the pedestal centered in front of the mirrors
“Oh, Mary. I think this might be the one.” Amy placed a hand on her chest and met her eyes in the mirror. “How do I look?”
Mary smiled. She truly looked lovely, the dress’s poofiness complimenting her medium-frame beautifully. “Like a beautiful bride.”
“Take some photos with my phone so I can text them to my mom and sisters.”
Mary obligingly took the photos, and as Amy sent the pictures, wandered over to look at a rack of bridesmaid dresses. The bright colors reminded her of South American birds with their colorful feathers. Soon she’d see those some of those birds for herself, in person, as the wife of David Kline.
A sliver of unease worked its way into her mind. For the first time, she thought about what being a missionary’s wife would mean. Sure, she was a Christian, but she had spent most of her life angry with her parents for their missionary zeal, and their disregard for her and the life they left behind in the States. Not to mention, she had never shared Christ with anyone.
Even knowing they weren’t really her parents did little to mitigate the hurt she still felt by their abandonment. She couldn’t understand why they took her in to begin with and pretended all those years. Her birth mother was only distantly related to Ed and Louisa Divers, a third cousin, if she had the genealogy right.
Telling her that “aunt” Geraldine was really her grandmother would have been kinder than allowing her to believe a lie all these years. But being kind wasn’t something that came naturally to her “parents,” even before they left for South America. She hoped that Peru was big enough that she and David never meet them. Another thought struck her: David might push her to reconcile with them because that’s what a good missionary’s wife would do. She wasn’t sure she could face them, much less offer forgiveness for their actions. Surely God wouldn’t require that of her. Not after what they put her through.
Anxiety gripped her chest. She tried to suck in a deep breath, but what had begun as a little tremors became an earthquake. She hadn’t had a claustrophobic incident in a few years, but the warning signs were undeniable. Mary leaned against the wall, trailing her fingers along it as she walked toward Amy, who still stood in front of the mirror talking on the phone.
“Just a second, Mom.” Amy covered the phone mouthpiece. “Are you okay?”
Mary shook her head and forced the words out. “I … need…to…leave.” Panic began to clutch at her breath. Fiddle-dee-dee, fiddle-dee-dee, the fly will marry the bumblebee.
“What? No, not you, Mom.” Amy leaned over toward Mary. “What’s wrong?”
“Says the Fly, says he, ‘Will you marry me, and live with me sweet bumblebee?’”
Mary breathed out the words and sucked in another breath. Amy knew she recited nursery rhymes when a panic attack happened.
“Gotta go. Call you back soon.” Amy ended the call and grabbed Mary’s arm. “It’s okay. Breath.” She looked around for the saleswoman. “Hey, we need some help over here!”
“Fiddle-dee-dee, fiddle-dee-dee, the fly has married the bumblebee.” But this time, the mantra failed, and the room spiraled into ever smaller circles until Mary could see nothing but black.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.