After Mandelin hung up, she put one hand on her hip and the other on her forehead.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“That was the boutique owner where I reserved my wedding dress. They sold it to another customer by mistake.” Her eyebrows lowered as tears formed.
“You can get another one, can’t you?”
“No! I want that one. It’s my special day, and I want it to be perfect.”
I sighed under my breath. She kept looking at me, waiting for me to present the solution.
I called the shop owner, who gave me the details of the unintended dress recipient to make up for their mistake.
“Hi, Cathy. This is Warren Clad. I believe there’s been a mix-up with the dress. My wife was the first to book it.”
“Well, I was the first to get it.”
“Who is it?” I heard a woman ask on Cathy’s side.
“Some guy called Warren. He said his wife booked the dress first,” said Cathy.
“Hi, this is Irene. I’m Cathy’s mom. I’m sorry about the mix-up, Warren. I’ll do my best to persuade my daughter, but she loves that dress. I’ll call you back.”
The other problem was that they were in Cape Town, and Cathy’s wedding was a day before ours.
No update three days later. Mandelin sneezed several times during her pace. “Why hasn’t she called?”
I pursed my lips and shrugged. She stood in the middle of the lounge with her hands on her hips and glared at me, prompting me to get off the sofa and call Cathy’s mom.
“Cathy is adamant about wearing the dress,” she told me.
“What if I get the dress from her after the ceremony?”
“Let me check with her.” I heard them whisper. “Cathy says it’s fine but for double the price.”
How wonderful for Cathy to wear a dress for one day that’s gonna make her a fortune.
“Sure,” I said with a heavy heart.
I got off the phone and told Mandelin. She smiled, ran up to me and then wrapped her legs and arms around me.
I added the flight ticket and car rental in Cape Town to my card. Fortunately for me, Mandelin’s parents had insisted on paying for the wedding and the honeymoon. Her mother had immediately expressed concern about me not being able to afford the fairy-tale wedding her daughter deserved.
I met Mandelin at the venue two days before the wedding. The valet at the country club showed me the way to the ceremony setting and said that my fiancé was in the reception hall.
I walked out onto the patio. The white carpet covered the steps and led to the ceremony podium, in front of the chairs, wrapped in white silk with a gold ribbon at the back. The green grass looked artificial and stretched to the creek, and a white, wooden fence with patterned holes surrounded the podium. A bouquet of lilies was on a stand on both sides.
Mandelin was setting the tables as I entered. Peachy cloths covered the round tables with lilies in the centre, and the bamboo chairs had white cushions. Gold curtains decorated the windows, and a long table faced the room. Four massive diamond chandeliers hovered over the tables.
“Sweetie, do you think I placed the utensils correctly?”
The fork was to the left of the plate and the knife to the right. That would satisfy most people, but Mandelin always felt that she could do better. She indulged in intricacies to ensure that everything was flawless. I recalled when we met that she dusted a hair off her shoulder and checked her shoes every few minutes to ensure they were shiny enough. Her hair glistened from the daily grooming, and each strand looked strategically positioned.
“It looks fine to me.”
“Shouldn’t you be getting to the airport?” she asked.
“Yes, don’t worry. Your day will be perfect like everything else in your life.”
She glanced at me from the corner of her eye. I kissed her forehead and smiled to assure her that everything would unfold as per her stringent standards.
The flight over Cape Town was mesmerising. Mountains hovered over the blue ocean, and the verdant wine farms spanned for kilometres. The V&A Waterfront bustled with tourists who took pictures of the African dancers and bongo players, and I snapped a few of the pirate ship docked in front of the restaurants.
I walked into the wedding venue and met Cathy’s deadpan look. “Hi, I’m Warren,” I said and extended my hand.
Irene smiled, but Cathy barely moved her lips. I looked at her flabby arms and double chin. Why did she buy a dress that doesn’t fit her? It better not tear.
“You’re the guy who wants to take my dress?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t say paying twice the value is taking it.”
“Excuse me,” said a man in a waistcoat and a measuring tape around his neck. “May I see you two in the dressing room, please?” he added.
After they left, Mandelin called. “Is everything okay?”
I assumed that she was referring to the dress. “Everything’s fine.”
Irene returned a few minutes later and showed me my seat, isolated at the back of the venue. All of the guests had taken their seats by six pm.
I cringed as the piano signified the bride’s arrival and thought about her stretching the dress. My shoulders lowered as I exhaled while looking at Cathy standing at the entrance. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but Mandelin would notice a difference; I was sure of it.
After tying the knot, the newlyweds stood up and gave their speeches. Her skinny husband reached her shoulder and had gaps between his teeth.
Cathy pointed at me after thanking her family and friends for attending. “That’s the stalker who wants to steal my gown.”
The guests laughed. I smiled at them to show that I could take a joke, then sneered at Cathy to tell her to screw herself.
I approached her table at ten o’clock because my flight was an hour later. Her droopy eyelids and slurred speech made me think that I’d need to have extra patience. “Sorry to interrupt, Cathy, but may I have a word?”
“Oh, it’s you,” she said in front of her family.
“Cathy, darling. It’s time,” said Irene.
“Well, I’ve changed my mind about the dress. I’m keeping it. I think it suits me.”
My eyes closed, and I puffed.
BAM! I banged my fist on the table, and everyone flinched. They turned to me and stared.
“Listen here. Either you take off that spandex, or I’ll rip it off you right here.” She gaped. “What’s it gonna be?”
Her husband gulped and said, “Honey, we don’t want any trouble on our special day. Give him the dress.”
She glanced at me to determine my sombreness. I put my hands on the table and leaned into her with a flushed face. She pushed her chair back and swayed as she stood. Her husband clutched her right arm, but Cathy slumped onto the chair after her frame overpowered him.
I dragged my palm over my mouth, down to my neck and craned my head up. She leaned on the table with both hands, and her father clutched her waist for support.
I snapped my fingers and yelled, “Let’s go! Don’t tear the dress.”
I took the loose dress and headed to the airport. Mandelin was too fussy not to worry about the dress’s flaw, so I asked a boutique assistant for help.
“Mr Warren Clad, please report to gate seven immediately. Your flight is boarding,” a lady announced over the intercom.
I dashed past the passengers and ran up to the counter. “Sir, you’re very late. The plane is full and waiting for you,” said the personnel.
I walked onto the plane and heard scattered, sarcastic cheers and claps, so I smiled with compressed lips and took a bow.
At half-past one in the morning, I walked into the house and saw Mandelin asleep. I laid the dress on the couch and fell asleep in the guest bedroom.
The following morning, I walked into the lounge. Someone tapped my shoulder, and I turned around and twitched as Mandelin leapt onto me. She wrapped her legs and arms around me, then smothered me with kisses. “You’re going be the best husband ever.” I assumed that she had seen the dress.
I chuckled. “We better get going if we don’t want to disappoint the guests.”
We held hands on the way to the garage and then faced each other. Mandelin put her arms around my neck and mine were on her lower back as we smiled and kissed.
I got into the car and felt my heart pound my chest, continuing to the wedding venue.
Clive, the best man and Mandelin’s brother, approached me after I got out of the car. “How you feeling, buddy?”
I blew out a breath to get rid of the butterflies that flew around the knots in my stomach. He smiled and patted me on the back to soothe my anxiety, but his gesture felt like he said, ‘Better you than me.’ He escorted me to the changing room and helped me to dress.
A knock on the door. Mandelin’s bridesmaid handed me a note.
‘My love, we met at a shopping centre, and the moment I saw you, I knew you were the one.
I immediately began picturing raising our son.
The days leading up to this have been filled with laughter and fun, and the good times will only carry on; it will never be done.
My goal in life is to give you everything you desire.
I will serve you like you are my sire.
I thank God every day that we met.
I haven’t, nor will I ever feel the slightest regret.
One day when we die, our souls will reconnect in heaven.
No one can separate us; we’re like the magnificent seven.’
A tear slid down my cheek and onto the paper. I put it in my left chest pocket to signify its closeness to my heart.
Clive held the blazer for me to slip into it. My shoulders raised, and my chest expanded as I inhaled and looked at the mirror. I smiled as I thought about marrying the love of my life. “I’m ready.”
My feet fidgeted at the altar, so Clive squeezed my shoulders and whispered, “Hey, don’t worry. All of this will be over soon. Then, you’ll be starting a whole new life.”
The music signified the beginning of a new adventure. Mandelin appeared on the patio on her father’s arm, and I crossed my hands at the groin. The only thing more beautiful than the dress was her smile. My heart raced as she held eye contact while sauntering down the aisle, and my shoulders lowered the closer she got.
I lifted the veil and saw her wear make-up for the first time. She looked more beautiful than any artist’s masterpiece. I grabbed her hands and felt them trembling, so I squeezed them to let her know that everything would be fine.
After the priest did his routine, he said, “Warren, your vows.”
“I…uh, I’ve never been good at sharing my feelings, especially not in front of a crowd.” The guests laughed. “Mandelin, the day I met you was the best day of my life. I…actually, I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.” I licked my lips and gulped.
“Aww,” some of the female guests exclaimed.
“I want the whole world to know how blessed I am to have you in my life,” I said. Tears coursed down her cheeks and circumvented her smile. “You’re the greatest blessing in my life, and I will treasure you for the rest of my days,” I added.
We kissed and hugged.
“Mandelin,” said the priest.
“Sweetie, ever since we met, I wanted you to be the man of my dreams, and you turned out to be just that. As we got to know each other more, I saw that you were perfect for me. It was in the little things you showed me that you’d always be by my side. When you came to visit me because I felt lonely or when you listened to every detail of my day. Then, when I saw how you were around children, I knew you’d make a great father.” A tear slid down her face. “Sweetie, I love you so much.”
She put her arms around my neck, and I pressed her head against my chest and then kissed her forehead.
The guests stood up and applauded, and we made our way down the aisle.
In the reception hall, I grabbed Mandelin’s hand and took her to the dance floor. Family and friends took pictures of me spinning her before joining us, and the guests poured drinks as the band played commercial hits.
Ray watched me down half a bottle of champagne and winked. “Don’t worry, buddy. I’ll step in if any of my colleagues stop you tonight.”
“Thanks, but a limo is driving us to the airport. We’re catching a flight to Thailand.”
“Ooh, you dirty dog. Gonna get your freak on.”
I chuckled. “It’s about damn time.”
My colleague Wilson approached me. “Congratulations, Warren. I wish you two all the best.”