For Kimberly

Prompt: Graceful


Amid a sea of guests in chiffons and florals and discreetly tailored suits, the secret service men, in their black suits, white shirts, and dark ties stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Kelly Bak was not actually upset by this, since how many weddings have guests so important that government security is an issue?

Pat Nixon and Julie, one in a tasteful yellow layered chiffon with a beaded bodice, and the other in a pastel floral sundress, circulated among the guests as if oblivious to the dark buzzards that hovered about them or stood on the perimeter of the garden, their suspicious eyes alert for the most minor of disturbances. Thank heavens, Mrs Bak thought, that Richard was “unable” to attend, because the scandals were enough, and any more buzzards would have upset the balanced, cheerful celebration that she had worked so very hard to make perfect. For her daughter, of course, only for Kimberly.

She’d caused a fright, to be sure, being over half an hour late to the church. But in the end she floated down the aisle, arm in arm with her father, in her deep blue silk dress like an angel from heaven, to gasps and sighs from everyone in attendance. Even Harrison, stood tall and broad-shouldered at the end of the aisle, lost his assured grin for a few seconds, as the bride lifted her head and looked into his eyes. He faltered, Mrs Bak thought, from awe and pride. And so he should. There was never a more beautiful, striking, and graceful bride than Kimberly. Mrs Bak could tell, just looking at all the faces. The ceremony would be talked about. And the reception would be perfect too.

George’s brother-in-law had too much champagne and fell to his knees on the dance floor, causing two secret servicemen to pounce on him, which made things worse as he loudly protested. But there was always one drunken uncle at a wedding reception, Mrs Bak thought. The little glitches helped to illuminate the perfection of every other element. Like the flowers! Cascading lilac flown in from Washington state, the white roses planted around the marquee, in fragrant, full bloom. And the photographers’ flash bulbs flared for the duration of the reception, giving the festivities an air of celebrity.

“Darling,” Mrs Bak said to her daughter, as soon as they had a moment alone, in the downstairs powder room, their glasses of non-alcoholic punch set on the tile counter. “Why ever were you so late to the ceremony? I’m sure Harrison was distraught.”

“We exchanged gifts last night,” said Kimberly.

“Oh! and how did he like his watch?”

“Loved it, he said.”

“Darling, what did he get for you?” Mrs Bak pushed Kimberly’s chestnut hair away from her neck. No necklace there, except the one Mrs Bak had lent to her, the diamond encrusted butterfly on a silver chain.

“He gave me a person,” said Kimberly. She took a sip of her drink, and winced. “I am going to start on the red wine.”

“Not just yet. What do you mean, ‘a person’?”

“A person! ‘Here is Madison, she is yours’.” Kimberly threw the punch glass into the wastebasket, which was full of lipstick-stained kleenex. “Mama, he gave me a servant, a girl, trained to wait on me or something. He ‘picked her out’ himself; he didn’t just call an agency, as if that makes it all right.”

“It is fine to have a personal maid, Kimmy, I think it was thoughtful of Harrison.”

“It was creepy and horrible,” said Kimberly.

“Now you sound like a child,” said her mother. “You are a grown, married woman now, with responsibilities and a reputation to uphold.”

“Blah, blah, blah,” said Kimberly.

“Where is she?”

“Upstairs in my room, presumably, waiting to attend to whatever whim catches my fancy.”

“I’ll go have a chat with her. Meanwhile, keep in mind Harrison was just trying to be kind, or something like that. Thoughtful, too. He loves you. Go out and dance some more with him. Did you say hello to Julie?”

So Kimberly took her blue-silked body back out into the garden, found her new husband, put her hand on his wrist and whispered in his ear. They strolled to the wooden parquet dance floor, and danced a waltz while the cameras flashed.


Naming Names

Prompt: Together


Sophie got a fitness wristband for an early graduation present, and promptly forced Andrew to take a walk along the seawall with her. At least, that’s how he felt. He had no objections to walking the seawall; it was scenic and fresh and good exercise, but having to do it because of a plastic wristband was agitating.

“Why are you so grumpy?” Sophie asked, as they dodged a pair of cyclists who passed them too closely without a warning. When Sophie called after them, one raised a finger. That agitated Andrew, too.

Andrew picked up the pace. “I’m not grumpy,” he lied.

“Is it because I am graduating ahead of you?” asked Sophie.

“Of course not,” said Andrew. But he supposed it was. As irrational and maybe sexist as it was, it bothered him that Sophie was graduating a year ahead of him. She had skipped a grade, she was entitled to graduate. She was prepared for college or university. Andrew was just ordinary, graduating at the same time as everybody else, and had no real plans. Boring. “How far have we gone?”

“1,312 steps, about a kilometre,” said Sophie.

“Feels farther,” said Andrew.

At one kilometre they stopped for a hot dog. They bought all-beef dogs from a vendor and sat on a slatted wooden bench, watching the cargo ships crawl into the harbour.

“I need your help,” Sophie said. She tossed the un-eaten half of her hot dog into a garbage bin. Then someone walked by with their dog, and tossed in a plastic bag of poo. Andrew said, “Let’s keep walking. What’s up?”

“Well,” said Sophie.

It probably had something to do with university, Andrew thought. Maybe they couldn’t afford it. Or maybe she had been awarded three or four scholarships, which was more likely, and didn’t know which one to accept. Or maybe her final term paper for Advanced Poli-Sci had hit a rough patch. He could help with none of these things. He sighed; a careful, silent sigh.

“I need to change my name,” Sophie said. “They announce your full name from the stage during graduation ceremonies. First, middles, last.”

“What is your full name?” Andrew asked. He was grinning at her. Sophie was not smiling at all.

“Since I’m changing it anyway, I guess I can choose any name I want,” she said. “Like, Gwyneth, or Alexandria, or Lee, or Parker, or Audrey.”

“Is it like, Sophia Gnarlissa Poopsack?”

“Will you help me or not?” She stopped walking, looked at her fit band, and turned and started marching back the way they’d come.

Andrew had to hurry to catch up with her. He noticed the back of her calves were getting sunburnt, but instead of pointing it out to her, he said, “Sophia Chocosquirt Thighburn?”

Sophie stopped. They were in the middle of the walkway. Andrew realized they were going to be one of those street-drama couples at any second, arguing right there in public, not caring who heard them.

“I am graduating ahead of you,” Sophie said. She hadn’t raised her voice, yet. People walked and rode past on their bicycles and with their dogs and paid them no mind. “I’m sorry that makes you unhappy. Really sorry, because I thought you were a friend.”

“Listen, Sophie… If that is your real name…”

“Funny. My grandparents named me. I am officially Lucretia Sofia Cosmina Handler. OK? You are officially an asshole.”

Right, now it was drama level. A few people smirked as they walked by. The sky was cloudless. He had been wondering what to get her for a graduation present. He was thinking about a necklace. Her face was flushed with anger.

“That is pretty terrible,” said Andrew. “But I guess they are family names?”

“Yes, they are. My mother will probably give me permission for the name change, but my grandmother would be devastated.”

“Don’t change it. Who cares what anyone thinks?”

Sophie then amazed Andrew by starting to cry. Now people frowned at him as they walked by. He tried to lead her to the side of the walkway where they could sit on the curb, but she resisted him. “I care!” she said.

Sophie was right. He really was an asshole. A selfish asshole. He put his arms around her.

“Do I get to go to your graduation and hear the new name?” he asked. “And I’m sorry I’ve been an asshole. I promise, um, I promise you won’t have to call me that again.”

Three weeks later, Sophie and her mother went to the government offices, where she had her name changed officially to Sophia Star Lucille Handler. It cost $140. The change gave Sophie great comfort, and she was happy to concentrate on her grad dress, which was white with sequins, and her hair for the ceremony, which was fixed in place by a fresh orchid, and her date for the after-grad, who was Andrew, and whose graduation present was a sterling silver chain with a star pendant.