The Wedding, Chapter 3: A Stubborn Waltz

The third chapter in Voices’ sophomore serial, following a retired police chief on the day of his daughter’s wedding.

Illustrated by Rachel Lee.

A wedding is a time for family, levity and love. But what craziness ensues when an unwanted guest, the groom’s ex to be exact, shows up out of the blue? Find out over the course of four installments in season two of the UTA Voices serial!

Written by four authors and released in weekly installments with custom illustrations throughout the months of November and December.

I once said that I was all out of tears when my wife Angelica passed, so I had none to spare for the sight of my daughter Monica holding hands with her husband-to-be James in that ill-fitting suit. It reminded me of the humiliatingly baggy police uniforms that I wore before I became chief. 

On Monica’s big day, I had to squeeze out a smile instead of tears.

I thought about giving James the golden cufflinks I wore to my own wedding, but I figured those would look too big on him. I don’t even want to think about what he looked like on the wedding cake.

As everyone took their seats around the long tables, the food came around. I tore through both my spring rolls, pausing now and then to compliment Monica for the meticulous, masterful planning, all while intently staring at James, still holding the stub of his first roll.

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“How do you like the food, James?” I asked.

“It’s delicious,” James responded, softly squeezing the last morsel before setting it on top of his tongue.

I chomped down on the teriyaki salmon. James was still playing with his food with a fork when I was already halfway through. The salmon was a tender medium-rare. If I had gripped the knife any tighter, I would’ve cut through the plate itself.

Monica’s chewing slowly came to a halt. She gently tapped my shoulder and asked in the voice she always used when befriending strangers, “Dad, can I talk to you for a moment?”

We ran off towards the space beside the altar.

“What are you doing?” Her voice changed back again.

I paused to think. “Trying my absolute damnedest not to ruin your wedding,” I said in my head.

No, that’s too brutally honest. It also would’ve revealed to her that James transitioned from tolerable back to unbearable in my book. 

Instead, I replied, “Thinking.”

“About what?” Monica asked.

“About how it’s too late now.”

This needed no explanation. Monica couldn’t find it in her to gasp like she normally did when I lowered my voice.

“How many times do I have to go over this with you?”

I cleared my throat for what was to come.

“I can look past his squeaky toy voice. I can look past the fact that he’s an organic clothing salesman. I can even look past the fact that I don’t even know what the hell an organic clothing salesman is, but I will not stand for a man who doesn’t even look at me in the eye when I’m talking to him.”

“You’re just nitpicking.”

“He’s a coward hiding behind those thick glasses.”

“Let’s face it, Dad, you can’t look past the ‘squeaky voice’ or his job. I’m sorry he isn’t also a bitter former police chief.”

“You watch your tone, young lady.” I said sharply.

“If I knew that you looked at me as if everything about me was sh-t, I wouldn’t want to look into your eyes, either.”

Laughter erupted from the tables.

“Look, Dad, can we please just enjoy dinner? It wasn’t easy getting all these chefs. I beg of you, I would appreciate it if you would drop the stubborn-father-at-the-wedding act. It’s so cliched. This isn’t ‘Meet the Parents,’” Monica pleaded.

“You’re right, if this were a movie, Slim Jim over there would at least have a fitting suit,” I retorted.

Then Monica gasped.

“I’m heading back to the table. Come back when you’re ready, Gerald.”

Monica mustered a grin and ambled back to James and the rest of the two families. I paced around the altar, waiting for the slow dancing to begin so as to not draw too much attention to myself when I sat down on the steps.

After many, many standing moments, the dinner came to a conclusion.

The stereos began blasting Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” as Monica and James locked hands and shared their first dance together as a married couple. It felt bizarre, seeing two people waltzing to such a schmaltzy song at an otherwise so classy wedding, but it was Angelica’s favorite so maybe I really was just being bitter. I raised my head.

“How lovely.”  Even the voice in my head sounded sarcastic.

People watched at first, but then joined in with the newlyweds two by two. The way I saw it, the only thing worth rejoicing was the fact that at least Monica hadn’t lost her taste in music.

“Maybe I’m a man, and maybe I’m a lonely man / who’s in the middle of something…”

For me, there was no maybe. I knew that I loved my wife and daughter with all my heart. I was devastated when Angelica passed. Tonight, I was amazed by how much Monica loved James, how tightly she held his hand and how “Slim Jim” wouldn’t spin out of the dance floor if one of them decided to try something stupid.

“…that he doesn’t really understand…”

The firefly-like lights replaced the sun as the dark settled in. I remembered how I used to dance with Angelica to this tune, and how Monica inherited both her mother’s angry and excited voice, alongside her old wedding dress, as well as the gentle, playful stroke of the veil she did before the unveiling …

“Maybe I’m a man and baby you’re the only woman / who could ever help me /  Baby won’t you help me understand?”

I closed my eyes and clasped my hands together, banging my forehead against my interlocked fingers and praying silently for the song to last a little longer before getting replaced by Nicki Minaj or whatever music the kids listened to.

I felt a smile or a tear coming. I couldn’t tell which, but I was willing to wait.

Email Eugene at [email protected]

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