The Proposal by Kitty Thomas




The Proposal





I stand at the back of the enormous church. The stained glass windows mute the over bright sun outside on this unassuming summer Saturday at half past four. The string quartet begins to play Pachelbel's Canon in D. Two hundred and fifty guests stand. I take a deep breath and walk down the aisle clutching the bouquet of pale pink roses which hide my shaking hands. I'm wearing a stunning white Valentino gown which I'm convinced has seven thousand buttons down the back. It's a true white, but it's a soft, elegant white.

You don't realize the variety of white until you shop for your wedding gown. The color palette of white goes all the way from the harsh tacky bright white of office supply copy paper to off-white, into beige and blush barely-there pinks and lavender. Occasionally there is the most subtle mint green which you are sure must be a trick of the light.

And even though they aren't all really the same color, lined up on the racks they seem like they all belong together. Like family. I'd considered going a little less traditional with a pale lavender or pink gown, or even that daring pale fairy green, but in the end I went with tradition—anything else feels like half measures with a man who doesn't know the meaning of that word.

I chose to walk down the aisle by myself. I've never liked the idea of giving the bride away or what it represents. Besides, I don't want to bring my father into this; it feels wrong. He's here, on my side with the rest of my family and friends who admittedly take up a much smaller portion of the guest count than the groom's side and business associates. His business associates are seated on my side, so everything looks more even and normal for the pictures.

I am twenty-nine, and to everyone here my story is the story of Disney Princesses—the story every seven-year-old girl fantasizes about until she's long grown out of such fantasies. But I'm not walking down this aisle to my prince. I'm walking down this aisle to the most ruthless man I know.

I feel as though I'm being kidnapped in the middle of a crowded room, but I can't scream. It's like a dream where everyone acts as though everything is fine even though an evil killer clown is sawing my hand off. But still, everyone smiles politely and makes small talk—or in this case, everyone stands and murmurs complimentary things they don't think I can hear as I drift down the aisle like a fairy tale princess.

They think this is the part of the story where the princess gets the prince, where they get married and live happily ever after. But this is the part where she gets locked in the tower.

When I reach the altar, he takes my hand in his, helping me up the two small steps to stand in front of him. The collective sitting of two hundred and fifty people is the last thing I consciously hear as his intense, searing gaze holds mine hostage. His thumb strokes over the back of my hand, and I don't even know anymore if the gesture is meant to comfort or control me.

We stand there, staring at each other. Words fall over me like gentle rain. Vows are spoken. Rings are exchanged. The announcement that we are now husband and wife moves through the air like a cool breeze.

His hand snakes behind my neck pulling me possessively toward him as he claims my mouth as his property. Later he will claim everything else.

I've never had sex with this man. I'm not an innocent. I'm not a virgin, but right now I feel like one—off balance and unsure of what's in store for me behind the closed doors of our suite in only a few short hours. I want to run as far and as fast as I can, but I know he would catch me. Right now the reception is the only thing that buffers me from his dark intentions.

We take what feels like a thousand wedding photos, each one more intimate and romantic than the last. His hands and mouth suddenly feel foreign on me as though he's a stranger and not a man I've been seeing for the past year. The reception is being held at the swank nearby 5-star hotel called The Fremont, where we'll spend the night before taking his jet to our honeymoon in Costa Rica. Our jet. Is it our jet now? Or am I merely an indefinite extra on his stage? I'm not really sure anymore.

We don't speak during the limo ride to the reception. I don't know what to say to him. Suddenly, for the first time ever, I have no words. All I can think about is what will happen later when there are no longer hordes of unassuming guests to protect me from his attentions. I feel more and more uncertain about this devil's bargain I've made—like I ever had a choice.

He would have destroyed me. At least this way there's a veneer of love and respectability. At least this way it looks like he is giving me the world instead of taking it all away.