Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Family Wedding: One Stranger

Previously: Our Family Wedding VI (Velda)

Good things happen to bad people too...

That's what I said to myself when Gabrielle announced she was getting married. She was so happy, it was painful to watch. She had everything, it seemed - a fantastic wedding, a wonderful charming husband-to-be, a childhood love that refused to let go, tons of money, a perfect life. So it seemed. But it was crashing down like a pack of cards...

We all look to the back of the room where the only stranger in the room is rising to his feet; he looks surprised, like he can not believe what he just did. I feel almost sorry for him, but I know that now he has no choice. It was time to pay the piper.

I would have bet my life that no one would be more surprised to see him than Gabrielle, but the look of horror on her fiance's face is enough to get me curious. He looks like he has seen a ghost, and suddenly more things are falling into place...

The stranger walks up to Gabrielle, and as he moves closer to her you could see him transform; his confidence grows and suddenly he exudes such an aura of rage that we are all held spellbound by what we know is about to happen...

"She cannot marry him. She is married to me."

There is a gasp from all the guests, a mumbled accusation from the groom, and tears from the bride.

But today, we are not looking at Gabrielle. All eyes are on the stranger....

I met Gabrielle in my second year in college at the Vet's office in the city. It was one of the many jobs I took to cover my tuition expenses. She was a beauty. I knew I did not stand a chance with her - girls like her never dated guys like me. But Gabrielle did not play by anyone's rules but hers. And she wanted me; she always joked that I reminded her of a guy back home who loved her almost as much as I loved her. She also joked that her parents would die if they ever found out who she was dating. And then one day she asked me to marry her.
I thought it was another one of the cruel jokes she played on everyone for her own enjoyment, but she was serious. We loved each other and she was willing to defy her parents for me. We were married secretly, and we gave ourselves a one-month Honeymoon before we would tell everyone and face the consequences. Gabrielle disappeared 3 weeks later. I never heard from her again. Her friends who only tolerated me when I dated her could not hide their disdain for me as they made it clear that my wife was gone, and she did not want to be found.
I spent months trying to deal with losing her. But when my older brother who ran our family's paper factory was killed outside a bar, I gave up on finding her and returned home to run the business. And here she was marrying the one man who murdered my brother in cold blood and killed my mother with grief.............

Coming soon: All in The Family (Encore)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our Family Wedding: VI

There is nothing I love better than the sound of silence.
As the preacher pauses dramatically at that unnecessary part of the wedding service,
I can feel the nervous energy rise to a crescendo in the room.
You could hear a feather drop as they all stop breathing.
Even though most of them expect that it will be another part of the service,
simply a formality, they cannot help their excitement,
their anticipation of something extraordinary.

And then that familiar voice comes from the back of the room:

"I DO"... A wildly interesting choice of words.

I smile in spite of myself. I had not expected him to do it. Some people, you have no need to meet them before you conclude, and rightly so, that they are spineless. But he has surprised me, and very few people surprise Velda.

I turn my attention from the back of the church to look into the faces around me.

Every guest looks confused, shocked, wildly curious. I can hear their minds working, spinning the gossip tales they would tell as soon as they can make a dignified exit out of the chapel without running for the oak doors.
The Bride: pale as a ghost, her lips moving, no words really getting formed.
The Groom: if looks could kill.... well, it's no secret that he is capable of murder.
The Groom's Father: Bored, irritated, a man with more important things on his mind.
The Mother of the Bride: Mortified. I know that at this moment there is nothing else on her mind besides what people will say, what the gossip rags will print about the scandal that is about to unfold here. I know because that is exactly what I would be thinking.

After all, she is my daughter...

I was born on the fast track. No one recalls if the first word I ever said was "More", but it is most certainly the first thought I ever formed in my pretty little head. More. I have always wanted more. More than those humble two rooms that formed the house I was raised in, with my entire family, all six of us. More than my father's job at the Postal Office, and my mother's teaching job at the Catholic School up the street. More than the tiny shop out front that we all took turns managing, earning pennies to keep the roof over our heads and the clothes on our backs. More than the regular occurrence of a free novel and a bright pencil for once again being the smartest pupil in the class. More than that whistle, that longing look, the scribbled poems and whispered words that men lavished on me. There was only one thing I never needed more of: I was more than beautiful, and everyone knew it.

Working hard, being a great student and settling for the best jobs in the world would not give me the life I wanted. My parents were smart, educated and they worked harder than all the wealthy people I knew, and they worked themselves to the bone day after weary day. I wanted to be like the women I read about and only saw in magazines; they had the world at their feet and everyone scrambled to do their bidding. I watched them, I learned to act like them and talk like them and think like them. I watched their men too, they owned everything, even the women. That was the life I chose, all I needed was a fortune to call my own. As soon as I was old enough I was out of school, choosing to use my beauty and my intelligence for a far greater purpose. I was married and divorced a few times, each time ending up even richer than anyone imagined I could get away with.

People always thought I was too beautiful to be smart.

George's family did too. They underestimated me. He was 79, battling the weakness that comes with old age, confused that his mind was as sharp as the days when he built the largest business empire in the country as his body died a little more every day. While everybody rallied around, his sons and proteg├ęs, treating him with disdain and waiting for him to die and leave them chunks of his life's work, I became his friend. I was not even thirty, and I devoted two years to him, showing him the time of his life. He taught me how to rule an empire. "Owning wealth is wonderful", he always said, "but you have to control the people around you. You have to own them." I gave him the one gift he asked of me in return for the one thing I wanted: we spent the last few months together  in a secluded villa outside the country, and when his only daughter was born, I was a heiress with more money than I knew what to do with. We had both won. He showed them all, leaving them with nothing, and I finally had what I wanted, a kingdom to rule. A mysterious heiress, that is what they call me. Some even say I killed him myself after he signed the will.

I bought the villa the morning he died, hired the best caregivers in the world for my daughter, and I returned alone. For six years she was raised in the villa by herself protected from the world, even years later I explained her away as a child whose parents, close friends, had died tragically in another country. I told myself it was for her safety.

I had inherited a fortune legitimately. And it was time for me to enjoy it.

But I have always looked after her. She has never worked a day in her life, and everything she owns has been handed to her on a platter of gold, including her husband, her marriage. I ask for nothing in return from her, from all of them, except complete obedience. I own them, all of them in this room, their businesses, their homes, their secrets.

It is not a secret that I do not approve of this laughable charade, this wedding that will never be. But even the most powerful people get tired of pulling all the strings and working behind the scenes. I am an old woman, ready to dance with the devil for eternity and pay for my many sins. It is not enough to be rich and famous and powerful and then die while no one is watching. I want more. And I have found my stage.

I look at all their faces again and smile to myself.

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding: One Stranger