Perfect Sandra

Photo by Duo Chen on Unsplash

This is a story I wrote in May, 2019. It’s longer than my usual posts, but I hope you enjoy it!

It was the day that nothing could go wrong. And I meant nothing. I was not going to stand for anything less than perfection, no excuses. 

Of course, when one says that, one opens the possibility to all sorts of disasters. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my day. 

This day was going to be perfect. 

I woke up early, at least a full half hour before my alarm. I took it as a good sign- my body was ready to start this day on the right foot. Of course it could have meant that I was going to be exhausted all day from lack of beauty sleep but that was my worried brain talking. It definitely was going to go fine. 

The house was silent, as I knew it would be when setting my alarm last night. No one was ready to be up yet, everyone was going to try to get as much shut eye before tonight. I wanted the morning to myself, to bask in the dawny glow with a cup of coffee and cherish these last few moments alone. 

I made my way downstairs in soft, slippered feet. The sun was just coming over the horizon and I worried I had made a mistake in waking so early. Would I even have enough strength for later? 

This was next level fretting. I turned the coffee maker on and waited for the strong, bitter smell to permeate my senses and refreshen me. 

I grabbed my lucky mug from the drain board, the one that I drank out of every morning, no excuses, no guests, no others allowed to take it from me, and poured myself a cup, adding two perfect scoops of sugar. That was how I took it. Black and sweet. My perfect cup. Taking a sip confirmed what I confirmed every morning: that I made the best dang coffee in this town. 

I stepped onto the deck out back and sat carefully down in the love swing. The breeze tickled the tendrils of hair in my face and I sighed deeply, taking in all the peace and tranquility. Was I giving up on this forever? I hoped not. I prayed I wasn’t making the biggest mistake of my life, the one I would look back on and see the turning point where I could have done differently. 

I tried to calm my mind. It wandered everywhere, waiting to pull me down into the dark abyss of my emotions. Today I wasn’t going to let it. Today I was going to be strong.

At least I hoped I was. 

Positive thoughts, I chided myself. Today is going to go swimmingly. Don’t worry. 

I was allowed to sit by myself for another couple of minutes, before I heard the first signs of stirring from inside. 

Great, just great. The kids were going to get up and then the perfect day was doomed. No, it wouldn’t be. I would not allow it. 

I went back inside to see my mom standing there in the kitchen. She was moving slowly, her eyes still glazed over with sleep. 

“Here Mom,” I sat her down at the table. “I’ll make you a cup of coffee.”

She accepted it gratefully, and, wrapping her hands around the sides she asked, “You excited for tonight?”

I moaned involuntarily. “You can’t ask that mom! You know that! it’ll just make everything worse.”

“What worse? Everything will be fine, honey! Stop stressing.”

“Easy for you to say,” I mumbled under my breath. But I knew she wouldn’t be the last one to ask.

And so it came to pass. Amy came down the stairs, giving a big yawn and the first thing that came out of her mouth was, “So, sis, excited for the big day?”

“Shut up!” I could talk like that to my sister after all. 

“Sandra, honey,” my mom tutted. “Relax, everything is going to be fine. Everyone is here for you to help you. You don’t have to worry.”

I took a deep mental breath. I should have stayed at a hotel last night. I couldn’t deal with people right now. And I shouldn’t have to!

“Everyone has to just leave me alone,” I said quietly, and nobody heard. 

The next to wake up was my brother James. And then my other brother Peter. And with him my other brother, Max. They all woke up together, as always. They were triplets after all. We always assumed it was something that was natural to them. 

“Good morning Sandra,” they chorused in unison. I rubbed my temples, hoping they didn’t have anything nefarious planned. They had been going out of their way to make my life a living hell since they were born. I’ve been dealing with it for twelve years already, but today it just wasn’t going to fly. 

“Listen everyone,” I drew myself up to my full height and gathered my breath in to begin my speech. “I- wait, where’s Daddy?”

“Right here pumpkin,” my dad bustled into the room, already tying his apron around his waist. “Who wants pancakes?”

“ME!” Amy, James, Peter, and Max all chorused in unison. Amy was just as bad as them, she might as well have been one of the triplets. She was only two years older after all. 

“Wait Daddy! There’s something I want to say first.” I drew out the notepad I had jotted down what I wanted to say in. Amy rolled her eyes, and don’t think I didn’t notice. 

“Today is an important day. A special day. I am making the leap into the future, the one that everyone waits for. I am becoming a woman. Therefore I- shut up Max,” I snapped. He was making the most atrocious noise ever and I was pretty sure it was supposed to be a rendition of me. “Never mind, you all don’t understand anyways. This day is going to suck because of all of you. And I don’t even care.”

“Oh, pumpkin,” as usual, my dad was the first to wrap his big arms around me and pull me in tight. “Today is going to be more magical than you could ever have imagined. Just relax and ignore anyone who isn’t on board the Sandra Express.”

I nodded weakly and sat down heavily onto the nearest chair. It did seem as if the day was already ruined but I guessed I would try not to let it be. 

I put the notepad back in my bathrobe pocket. 

“Well, I for one want pancakes, and that means everyone gets to have!” Dad started mixing together the flour and sugar while the kids looked on, drooling in anticipation.

The pancakes were done in no time and everyone dug in with zeal. Except me. I had too many nerves in my stomach. 

“The makeup artist is going to be here in ten minutes,” I said aloud, checking my watch. “The living room is mine then, and will be until I have all my makeup and my hair done. Is that clear?” I glared at Amy and the boys. “So watch TV somewhere else.”

“Understood,” one of them said, but I didn’t bother to check who, as I was already climbing back up the stairs to change into my getting ready clothes. 

“Relax honey!,” Mom called after me. “I’ll deal with the dress, ok?”

I hoped she could handle the simple job of bringing the dress up from its safe place in the basement. 

I put on my white kimono with the word Bride on the back, and scrubbed my face to perfection. The makeup artist needed a clean slate to work with after all. 

The doorbell rang downstairs and I rushed to answer it. 

“Come in,” I ushered inside an impeccably dressed Lana Winters. Lana was the best makeup artist in the area. I would only take the best. After all, this day would go perfect if only the best people were there. 

“Oh darling,” she drew out the word slowly, giving me a once over and then another. “Did you manage to sleep last night? Those bags are huge.”

I touched the skin under my eyes tenderly. “I did! I got a full night’s sleep just like you told me.”

“Never mind that, we can fix it all don’t worry. Just have a seat and let me work my magic. Who is doing your hair by the way?”

“Renaldo, of course.” After all, that was the hair stylist she had recommended to me.

“Absolutely wonderful.”  She brushed the hair back away from my face and fastened it with a clip. “And you washed it last night, splendid.”

Then she stopped talking as she wandered around the chair I was in, examining me from every angle. 

She started applying a cold cream, and I tried to relax as her expert hands transformed my face. 

The doorbell rang again. It had to be Renaldo but this time I couldn’t get up to answer it myself. 

“Someone get that!,” I called. I heard heavy footsteps walking and the voice of my dad greeting him at the door. He showed him to the living room and Renaldo walked inside, bringing two hundred and fifty pounds of gay man with him. 

“Sandra,” he cooed, his deep gravelly voice so at contrast with his neon pink shirt with puppies all over it. “This is simply the best day of my life. I am so excited to get to touch those perfect blond curls of yours. Did we decide what we wanted for the special day?”

“Perfection,” I answered him, with a cheeky smile. He knew I would settle for nothing less. 

“Of course darling,” he murmured, placing an enormous box overflowing with irons, blow dryers and ponytails. 

He started to work and I remember why I chose this duo. They knew how to work around each other, giving the other space without stopping what they were doing. 

This was the first time I had felt relaxed since Jack proposed. 

Jack. the reason I was going out of my mind determined to make this day as perfect as possible. The reason that I was yelling and overwhelmed and stressed. The reason I hadn’t eaten anything in the past week in order to fit into the tiny dress that he liked.

Jack was the ultimate partner, the one little girls dreamed of marrying. He was tall and broad and blonde. His hair was always perfectly gelled. He had a job at a bank making a lot of money so he was rich. He worked out and had a beautiful body. And, um, oh yeah- this guy wanted me. 

We had met at the bank actually. I had been applying to a job there to work as a secretary and he had seen me from across the room. He walked up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. 

“Excuse me Miss, but I’m going to have to ask you not to submit that application.”

“B-but why?,” I couldn’t help stuttering at the time, so hurt that he had somehow already sensed inadequacy and denied me the position. 

“I’m sure you are truly wonderful at what you do, but you see, I don’t date co-workers.”

“What?,” I gaped stupidly at him, not sure I was following him at all. 

He sighed. “Hi there,” he reached a hand out to shake my slightly clammy one. I hoped he didn’t notice. “My name is Jack. would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”

And then it was a whirlwind from there. I never did end up applying for that job, or any. Jack said he couldn’t have his wife working with the underclass, and I got a little thrill when he said that. He wanted to marry me! Even so, it came as a surprise when one date he took me up in a helicopter. I had never been in a helicopter before and I was truly excited. And then as we were whirring over a lake he told me to look down and I saw a bunch of petals in the water spelling out SANDRA, WILL YOU MARRY ME?

My breath caught in my throat and I said yes without a second thought. 

Absentmindedly I twisted the diamond ring he had given me round my finger. It was slightly too loose as I had lost a tremendous amount of weight for the wedding. 

I just wanted everything about this to be perfect. Jack was perfect- his life, his family- and soon I would be a part of that. 

Lana told me to shut my eyes so she could apply her shadow and I kept them closed. 

Lana was done soon after that, makeup always taking way shorter to do than hair. Renaldo was still finishing the top layer, adding curls and smoothing out any frizz. 

“Look darling,” Lana held up a small mirror in front of my face. “Look how gorgeous you are.”

My breath hitched in my throat as I stared at the gorgeous transformation in front of me. Every line was smudged out, every flaw, and on top Lana had painted an angel. 

Renaldo added some bobby pins and let me see the back. He had done a lovely updo, with corkscrew curls coming down in the perfect way. 

“Thank you, both of you,” I said fervently. “You guys are the best.”

I didn’t feel myself and I was glad of that. I didn’t want to feel like myself, I wanted to feel like this perfect stranger that Jack loved, the girl that I pretended to be when I was with him. I wanted to be that more than anything, and get away from my family, the loud shrieks, the stupid pranks, the fact that nobody here cared about perfection at all. It irked me to no end, but I was going to have my fairy tale, I would see to that. 

“My turn!,” trilled Amy. She had apparently been sitting outside this whole time, waiting to get turned into her own beauty queen. She was only fourteen so my mom said no to makeup but she was getting her hair done by Renaldo as well. 

I gave up my seat to her quickly, not wanting to be anywhere near her for risk of her ruining my face. 

“Wow, Sandra,” she gasped, coming to a shortstop in front of me. “You look like a princess! Jack is gonna love it!,” she nudged me in the side and I almost yelled at her for touching me. 

“Of course he will,” I snapped. But she didn’t know how relieved I was to hear those words. 

The day was going quickly. We had to be at the hall by three and it was already noon! There was so much to do that I felt a few beads of sweat perk up at my hairline

Deep breath in, I warned myself. Everything will get done.

“Mom! Do you know if we got a call about the flowers?”

“All done honey! The hall called and said they were shipped over this morning. The stylist is taking care of it as we speak.”

I breathed a sigh in relief. What else was there to get taken care of?

My mother descended the stairs, giving me a look as she held onto the banister. 

“Why, honey, I can’t even see you underneath there. Are you sure that you want to wear that much makeup?”

Of course, leave it to my mom to make me feel utterly worthless. 

“I like it,” I said defensively. “Are you even wearing anything?”

“Why, I’ve just finished!” She brushed back her hair which was pinned behind her ears with little barrettes. I groaned. She was going to be so embarrassed in front of Jack’s mom, Priscilla. Her eyeliner was swiped on underneath her eyes and she was wearing blue mascara. My mom did always prefer to do her makeup herself after all. It wasn’t like I didn’t know that, I just wanted to deny she was my mom for the entirety of my perfect wedding, if that was all right. 

It was going to be fine though. It wasn’t like Jack didn’t know where I came from. He came for a meal before and my family treated him to what they liked to call ‘Mexican Night’ where everything and anything involving beans was made. Needless to say there was a lot of flatulence and I was mortified. So nothing could be worse than that. 

The day got closer to three as I bustled to and fro, up and down the stairs, packing an overnight bag and making sure everything was in place. 

I put my dress on and, with a critical eye, examined myself in the mirror. The dress lay in soft waves, coming down from my waist. It was a strapless piece, and my breasts were pulled up and held tightly by the corset underneath. It looked marvelous. Why did I feel so disgusted then?

Amy knocked on the door and walked in without waiting for a response. Her hair was down and in a braid, and dusted with glitter. Renaldo had done a great job on her as well. 

“Oh. My. GOSH,” She squealed. “I have the absolute prettiest sister ever!”

Sometimes she could be so loving to me. 

I blushed involuntarily. 

My mom rushed in, excited to see her first daughter all dressed in white. 

“Oh honey!” Tears leaked from her eyes. “Wow.”

Pretty soon my whole family was in the room, cooing over how amazing I looked. I needed to get out and thankfully it was time to go to the hall. 

“Ok everyone, pack it up. We’re leaving.”

Of course, nobody was ready to go even though I had given repeated reminders throughout the day. But yelling got everyone to rush and we made it out in pretty OK timing. 

My dad took the wheel and I got in the front seat. There was just too much dress to shove myself in the back and my mom graciously gave up her place for me. The hall loomed ahead, looking impossibly large and completely unfit for me to get married in. I gulped. 

A doorman rushed out as my dad pulled up front and pulled open the door for me, helping me out onto the marble entrance way. 

Immediately a team of assistants came out to meet me.

“Sandra great, we’re gonna need you out back in five, so you have time to fix your hair. Perfect.” They ignored the rest of my family as they piled out of the car but they were too busy babbling excitedly to themselves to care. 

I self consciously touched my hair, sure it had been perfect not a moment before.

Jack was in the back, taking best man pictures with the photographer. His best man was his assistant from the bank. His name was Jeremy and he was like a little version of Jack. I felt kind of bad for him except for the fact that he got to be by the wedding and spend all this time with Jack beforehand as well. 

“Get off Jeremy,” Jack shrugged his shoulder out from under Jeremy’s arm when the photographer turned his back. He noticed me and smiled. My whole body felt on fire with his gaze. The ball of anxiety in my stomach enlarged. I gave him a wave, and he motioned me to come over. 

His mother came over and intercepted me before I could make my way over. 

“Hello Patricia,” I hugged her in that stiff way she had, giving kisses on each other’s cheeks. 

“Hello Sandra.” Patricia had this way of making me feel like she didn’t approve of me. She never said anything but I knew for a fact that she did not like me. It was understood. Jack was obsessed with his mom though, so I could never say anything. It bothered me but Jack was worth it. 

I finally made it to Jack and he pulled me in close and kissed my hand. “You look great babe,” he said, running his hands down my back and grabbing my butt. I squirmed but didn’t say anything except, “You too!”

And then it was picture time. There was no time for anything beforehand, the photographer whisked me away and over to a patio with a garden view. I grimaced and tried my best to put on a nice smile. Taking pictures was not my favorite thing, and this guy was mean. He kept ordering me to change my pose and yelled at me when I didn’t get it just right. Supposedly he was the photographer that Jack’s family always used but I was not happy. In fact, all I wanted to do was wipe the makeup off my face and sit in bed eating cookies. 

But this was my wedding day! So instead I wiped the thought from my head and continued to do what he told me, holding back tears. 

Finally, the individual pictures were done and as soon as Jack came in he seemed much happier. This man knew who was paying him and treated Jack like a king. He kept giving him compliments and that nagging feeling I had gotten this morning came back. What had I gotten myself into?

And then it was time for the reception. The guests had started arriving and I watched them all walk in and realized I knew no one. I had not been in charge of the wedding, and that included the guest list. At the time I hadn’t given it any thought but I saw now that the only people I knew were my immediate family members. And they were living it up, using the ice sculpture to make their drinks cold, 

So far I felt miserable. Where was Jack? Wasn’t this supposed to be our day?

I looked around to see if I could find him but all I saw were well dressed strangers. I looked down to see what I looked like. Yep, still wearing white. I was the obvious bride here at this party and yet nobody was talking to me. A couple of people had come over to say congratulations but then they drifted off, back to the food, back to the bar, back to the fun party I had no part in. 

Amy popped up under my shoulder. “Dance with me, Sandy!” I shook my head, choking back tears. I needed to get out of here now. I didn’t belong here. 

Amy looked horrified at herself, thinking she had said something wrong to make me cry but didn’t attempt to follow as I rushed off. Nobody noticed my departure. Or so I thought. 

“Honey?,” there was a knock on the door to the handicapped bathroom. I opened up to let my mom in. “Honey, what’s wrong? What’s happened?”

“I-I-I d-d-d-don’t,” I couldn’t stop hiccuping with sobs, all my pent up emotions finally getting the better of me. My perfect facade fell away. “I don’t want to be with him, I don’t want to do this.”

“Oh, honey.” That was all she said as she wrapped me in her soft arms, the arms I had criticized so harshly in my head, wanting her to be more perfect, more toned like Patricia. But my mom was comfort wrapped in the perfect package of mother. “Let it all out.” She stroked my hair as I sobbed, not even caring that my updo was surely ruined, not to mention my makeup. “I knew honey, I was just hoping you would see.”

I recoiled sharply. “You knew? Knew what? What is that supposed to mean?”

“I didn’t mean anything by it. Just that I saw how you were with Jack, always trying to please him, to be something you’re not. You didn’t seem happy.”

“Why didn’t you say anything then?”

“Oh baby,” she tried to approach but I shook my head frantically, only wanting her to continue. She held up her hands in surrender, and gave a tiny chuckle. “Oh, honey, I tried. I tried so many times to say something, but you weren’t having any of it. Don’t you remember?”

The truth was, I did. I had closed myself off to any and all criticism of my perfect relationship, but my mom had tried to approach me several times. I never gave her the time of day, though, to express what she felt. A new round of sobs overtook me. Just then someone knocked on the door. 

I forced myself to be quiet as my mom called, “Occupied!” 

“Ok dearie, I’ll just wait!” Someone very old was out there but I didn’t care. They could wait. This was a life crisis right here, I had to figure out how to get off this train. 

“What do I do, mommy,” I whimpered, as I finally let her hold me again. 

“I’ll take care of it. You just work on washing that face and taking that dress off. I’ll bring you something else to wear. We’re getting you out of here.”

She opened the bathroom door to see an old lady in a wheelchair actually waiting for the restroom and distracted her as she motioned me out. I peeked into the regular bathroom to make sure nobody was in there and slipped inside, immediately attempting to take off the massive white dress. 

I wrapped it up and threw it in a nearby garbage. I was going to make some cleaning woman extremely happy, if they realized what was in there. 

I started scrubbing my face off, watching the layers of paint fall into the sink, coloring it orange. Just then someone walked in. 

“Little rude don’t you think, wearing white to a wedding?” they were commenting on the slip, thinking it was my dress. Nobody even recognized me as the bride. I just shrugged at her and then ignored her as she made her way into a stall. My mom walked in a couple of minutes later with a bag and I opened it to reveal my own clothes I had packed for the morning after. I gulped a lungful of air in an attempt not to cry again, and put on the slinky black dress I thought I was going to wear on my first day of married life. My mother took out the pins from my hair and smoothed it out, bringing out the waves and making me look presentable. I looked in the mirror and was impressed. I looked good, if a little red around the eyes. I looked like any other wedding guest, and in an event this size nobody would even care who I was. 

The woman from the stall came out and said, “Much better. Glad you thought to go with something different,” and walked out. 

I was so happy I was escaping this life. These people were snobs. 

I pulled up short. Wait. Was I actually jilting someone at the altar. Could I do that? Could I be so mean? 

My mother urged me to hurry up when the door was opened again, this time by a woman I recognized. I squeaked without meaning to but she didn’t spare me a look. 

“Sally, just the person I was looking for. Where is your daughter?,” Patricia spoke to my mom, not noticing me in the corner. My mother used that to her advantage. 

“Oh, somewhere around, I suppose.”

“She didn’t make a run for it, did she,” her voice full of forced laughter with a current of something running underneath it. It sounded like a threat. “Because she ought to know what will happen if she doesn’t go through with this.”

I gulped, inching my way closer to a stall and closing it silently behind me. My mom continued the conversation, knowing I would be listening. 

“Oh yes?,” my mom said icily and I cheered for her. She was standing her ground! And my ground, come to think of it. “And what exactly are you going to do to her if she decides to walk away from this marriage? What can you possibly do?”

“Trust me,” Priscilla said, sidling up close to her and looking down her nose. She was at least four inches taller and the heels only added. “I can make her life a living hell.”

“If you touch my daughter, if you so much as think about her, I’ll-”

“Oh, don’t make any promises you can’t keep,” and Priscilla turned on her heel and walked out the door without waiting for a response. 

My mom was seething, I could tell. Her shoulders were bunched up and her hands curled into fists. I was peeking out from the crack between the stalls, but I unlatched the door cautiously and came out. 

“Let’s just go, mom,” I said, taking her hand and pulling her towards the door. 

“That woman,” she spit out. “She is the devil!”

“I know mom. Let’s just go?”

We walked down the hall towards the front door. There were guards standing there, with their backs to the outside. They were facing towards the wedding. What…?

“They’re not trying to keep people out,” I hissed to my mom. “They’re trying to keep people in.”

She nodded her understanding and said, “well, we’ll just have to cause a distraction. Oh, and round up the family so we can all get the hell out of here.”

I laughed sardonically. This was starting to shape up to be like a bad movie. Escape of The Bride. Not a bad title. After this, if I ever got out of this, that is, I would become a movie script writer. 

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