The Enchanted Villa

Prompt: should be Competition, but isn’t.

1964-cadillac-deville-convertible

Cassandra and I were late, we knew it, but she had a kind of wardrobe malfunction when the lace on her wedding gown got caught on the long back zipper, so frail and delicately sewn that it detached from the dress when I tried to fix it. My maid of honour duties were filled erratically that day.

To be fair (to me) Cassie only unzipped her etherial lacy gown because she said she needed an unholy back scratch, so perhaps it was more her fault than mine. She told me, as we rushed through the hotel towards the Enchanted Villa, that all the stress about the gown was worth the conquering of the itch in her back, which was located precisely in the middle spot between her shoulder blades, entirely unreachable by her, and satisfied fairly orgasmically by my sharp and newly manicured lacquered fingernails.

The Enchanted Villa was reached through a set of nondescript doors at the end of a long, wide hotel corridor, which opened into a double height entryway to a massive stone, or faux stone, facade representing the entrance to a castle of sorts, but a castle festooned with coloured lights which sparkled and, well, enchanted all visitors to the dimly lit foyer. Inside the Enchanted Villa we were to find the rest of the celebratory wedding party: the groom, four other bridesmaids, and five groomsmen. All of us were primed for the flutes of champagne and expensive nibbles on the terrace while we watched fireworks burst garishly over the water in the twilight and stole french kisses behind potted plants and generally revelled in our youth and privilege free from parents and tediously obligatory wedding guests.

But the arched doorway to the Enchanted Villa was locked.

“Are we that late?” asked Cassie. We both thought we could hear fireworks, somewhere. Had the group carried on without the bride? I did the compulsory rattling of the door and pounded a few times, before I suggested we contact a suitable member of the hotel staff.

Our liaison, Mr Carmichael, was no longer on the premises, a young man at the reception desk informed us; nor could he be reached even to cope with dire wedding mishaps.

Cassandra had adopted the helpless attitude of a bride without her groom (even though I knew she was far from helpless), looked at me like a Bambi and was, I’m sure, about to bleat, so I fortified my backbone and told the reception desk person that this was UNACCEPTABLE. Not only that, I said, but the bride and I had not eaten since the early morning and were weak with hunger and had counted on the delicacies promised at the Enchanted Villa to stave off fainting spells.

He seemed startled, as if he had never in his twenty years ever been confronted or criticized, which was entirely possible, and retreated behind a door marked “Manager”. When he returned he had a large smirk and a glossy box the size of a cat kennel.

“For the bride,” he said, placing it on the counter and opening the lid. Cassie and I were already half drooling and expected a box of chocolate delights, maybe some shortbread biscuits, or perhaps the ultimate jackpot, a few slabs of exotic cheeses and chunks of charcuterie.

What we saw was soap. Beautifully wrapped soap adorned with red plastic berries and polyester poinsettias, an apparent survivor of the long past Christmas season. When the young man lifted off the first soap layer of the surprise package, he revealed a second, similarly shrink-wrapped trove of lotions and potions and a tub of perfumed bath salts. Normally the sweet aroma of these would wash over you like an attack of vertigo, but there was no smell at all. Age had dimmed the Christmas spirit.

Cassie and I looked at each other. “These are made in India, very rare,” said the young man, lying.

Cassie took each of the the contents of the box out and stuffed them into what I thought was a tiny silk purse but turned out to be an expandable silk tote in lace that matched her gown.

“OK,” I said to the twenty-something. “After the Enchanted Villa reception, we were all supposed to sail, together, to Paradise Island for the night. The rest of our party might be there. How do we get to the island?”

Paradise Island was a compact 10-room condo development on a tiny offshore man-made island belonging to the hotel, a leisurely five minute journey by boat. It was Paradise because the hotel did not underestimate the idyllic ambience that strings of white fairy lights bestowed on the exterior of a building, and because each room boasted a jacuzzi tub and a mini fridge stocked with mini bottles of sparkling wine, vodka, and fruit juices, included in the tariff.

“It’s finished,” said the older gentleman in the ticket booth, once Cassie and I had trekked the length of the hotel to reach the boat launch, which was in the same wing as the Seafood and Eat It cafe.

“Finished?”

“Last sailing was half an hour ago,” he said. “Good night.”

“Wait,” I said, and physically stopped him from slamming the booth shutter down. “Look at me. I don’t normally wear green velvet. I hate green, I hate velvet. Then look at my dear friend, the bride, Cassandra, in her lace wedding gown, separated from the man she just married, heartbroken, lost…”

Cassie was concentrating on trying to scratch her back with a tube of Indian body scrub.

“Send out an SOS,” I pleaded. The man stared at me as if I was a two-headed fish. “We need food, first. We can’t think. We are hungry. We are owed food and need food and want a hot meal now.”

After five minutes, Mr Leo appeared. I turned to thank the boat launch booth man, but the booth was shuttered and he was gone.

“Ladies, allow me to apologize for the mixup regarding the sailing to the most luxurious and exotic Paradise Island,” said Mr Leo.

“The Enchanted Villa was also closed,” I reminded him. “And the wedding party is missing. No one knows where they are. Doesn’t the hotel have phones?”

“We pride ourselves on a uniquely romantic wedding experience,” said Mr Leo.

“Huh?” said Cassie, as she moisturized her hands.

Mr Leo continued. “Our associate informed me of your request and of course we can accommodate your dining needs, even at this late hour. Can I interest you in a grilled steak? We are home to a fine red meat establishment.”

I noticed there were no clocks in the hotel. I wasn’t wearing one. I guess it was late, but had no idea at all of the time. By this stage, time had no meaning or relevance.

“Follow me,” said Mr Leo, and he led us down down down into what seemed the bowels of the hotel resort, perhaps as a way to expedite our journey? We travelled through tunnels with an insufficient number of flickering wall-mounted lamps, emerging into what looked like a food court of the kind you would find at a mall, but abandoned, and we breezed past the empty taco and pizza and Chinese platter joints and then almost past what looked like the hotel’s main grill restaurant, an expansive mahoganyish clad set of rooms with tablecloth-less tables surrounding a central hub, occupied by a lone woman with a headset.

Cassandra was lagging behind the energetic Mr Leo, who was no doubt well-fed and rested and not alienated from his newly wed spouse. I took her silk purse and slung it over my shoulder, as it was both a burden and a distraction to Cassie, who had completely abandoned any sense of independence and relied entirely on me, as if I was her platoon sergeant in a war jungle.

Mr Leo approached the woman with the headphones and said, “Hello my dear, um, do you still, you know, honour the you know what, for hotel guests, if you get my meaning.”

I was astonished at his deference. She however, was not. “We are closed, and anyway need a voucher,” she said. I heard for the first time the clatter of dishes— somewhere nearby was a working kitchen. I started to salivate. I mentally urged Mr Leo to advocate for us more aggressively.

“We can eat here at this table right here,” I said helpfully, indicating the table at which Cassie had just seated herself and was rubbing her feet.

“Sorry,” said the woman. “We are not serving.”

Mr Leo looked forlorn, so I said, “I hear people in the kitchen. Just bring us whatever they are making, please, as soon as possible, right Mr Leo?”

“Come on,” said Mr Leo, “I’m sure that voucher thing can be arranged, you know, if necessary.”

The woman frowned. She turned her back on Mr Leo and said something unintelligible into her headset. Then she swung around again and said, “We can do room service.”

Cassie said, “Oh fuck” as if she had been following the conversation so far, which she hadn’t.

“Right,” said Mr Leo briskly, let’s just get you to a room!”

“I think my luggage is on Paradise Island,” Cassie said. Mr Leo didn’t hear her, as he was barrelling down the tunnel in the direction from which we had come, at marathon speed.

We crossed the main lobby of the hotel, for possibly the sixth time that day, and there was a newly parked gold Cadillac convertible in the area between the reception desk and the broad bank of windows onto the street, as part of a promotion. In it, at this apparently late hour, a porter was stretched out in the back seat, snoring. How I envied him. Cassie paused to stare, and I had to drag her away so we could catch up to Mr Leo, who was waiting impatiently by the elevators.

By this time Cassie was carrying her white sandals which so perfectly matched her wedding dress, and proclaimed to me that her feet were dead and she was too tired to go on, which I relayed to Mr Leo, who was standing right there anyway. He got a chrome luggage rack and invited Cassandra to sit on the inside platform and be transported, no problem.

We took the elevator up with Cassie perched in the luggage rack, but when we exited and tried to navigate the carpeted hallway, Cassie’s dress was too wide and long to travel without getting trampled by the wheels of the rack, so she leaned back, spread her knees, and tucked the dress between her legs. There was still enough of the stiff fabric to make a whooshing sound against the walls and room doors as we made our way down the hallway, Mr Leo seemingly telepathic about which rooms might be available, since he paused at a few, and used a key on one, much to the consternation of the occupants, a blonde man and woman who swore at him in a language I’d never heard before.

“There’s nothing!” Mr Leo finally cried when, after an interminably long time, we reached the end of yet another hallway. “I don’t know! I give up!”

“You can’t give up, Mr Leo,” I said. Cassandra’s head had dropped between her knees. She was, I assume, asleep.

My stomach had stopped growling. My feet were numb. I was so tired I couldn’t blink, lest my eyes close forever more. I stared at Mr Leo, who said he was going down to the basement to lament his failures— that there was nothing for us there. He said Cassandra made a beautiful bride, and wished the unconscious lady a happy married life. He said there were comment cards on the reception counter, and to be kind as he had tried his best.

I wheeled Cassie to the main reception area. The porter still dozed in the Cadillac convertible. The smirky young man who’d given Cassie the box of Indian toiletries was nowhere to be seen, but there was a neat box of comment cards. I took two, one each for Cassie and I, and put them in my pocket.

The front door to the street was locked, and I could see no taxis waiting at the stand in any case, so I awakened Cassie, who seemed somewhat refreshed after her nap. She put on her shoes and at my request, hot-wired the Cadillac, even though she had no driver’s licence. I took the wheel with Cassie riding shotgun and the porter napping in the back seat. I drove straight through the paned glass windows of the hotel facade and onto a nearly empty street. If there were alarm bells, I didn’t hear them.

The fresh night air was glorious, and we met no traffic nor impediments of any kind, and the porter did not wake up.


  • This story was based on an anxiety dream I had last night! I have no idea of its interpretation, and know it is not necessarily a good read, but I had to write it down just to get it out of my head.
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Delusional

Prompt: Purple

purple

Andrew stayed in his bedroom with the door closed until the last minute.

His mother had called for him at least half an hour ago, maybe to double-check his hair, nails, and suit, and he ignored her. He would emerge, if he did at all, when there was no time left to think.

“I hope you’ll come to love him,” his mother had said. She watched too many television dramas. Her view of the world was simplistic and, frankly, annoying. That’s why she only spoke to her father, Bernard, once, one time, on the phone before dropping Andrew off on his doorstep and leaving him with a complete stranger. They mumbled at one another, and then the old guy showed him his cats, which was weird, then they drove in his cab to the zoo, as if Andrew was a kid, followed by a major freak-out on his grandfather Bernard’s part and a visit to White Spot which was the only decent part of the day. Ok, his grandfather turned out to be not awful and was closer to him now than almost anyone, but his mother had no way of knowing that would happen. People did idiotic things like that on TV, and the plot twisted and turned and everyone had a laugh and it all ended up neatly tied with a bow.

Even Andrew knew that’s not how the world worked. He would not come to love Randy. He didn’t hate him or anything, but Randy was not the sort of person Andrew could love. His mother was delusional. So was Randy, if he thought he could be an effing “father figure”. He’d tried that on, tried to tell Andrew what to do. No way.

Andrew thought about moving out, but he wasn’t finished high school. He could maybe move in with his grandfather, but had a feeling Bernard would tell him to tough it out for his mother’s sake. Sophie said something similar. “Be happy for your mom’s sake,” she’d said. Andrew tried, he really did.

He heard a knock on the bedroom door, softly at first, then more strident.

“Andrew?” His mother. “Bernard will be here in five minutes; are you ready or what?”

There was a full length mirror on the inside of the bedroom door. Andrew took all the old jeans and t-shirts off the hooks and threw them on the bed. This was the moment of truth.

There he stood, in a dark blue, single-breasted suit, with a ever-so-subtly ruffled purple shirt and navy bow tie. The shirt was a fine purple, soft yet striking, the tie was clip-on, and Andrew looked like a perfect fool. He had to wear this outfit, as one of Randy’s groomsmen. Honest to god, his mother, sometimes.

He was hard-pressed to decide which was worse, Randy joining the family, or his having to appear in public in a clown outfit chosen by a delusional mother who watched too much television and thought purple was ok.

Bernard’s old taxi backfired a lot. Andrew heard it and went to the window. It was time to go downstairs.

Ladies’ Choice

Prompt: Promises


Dear Wednesday,

Are you back already? Today’s daily prompt is “promises” and in lieu of a story may I present some of my favourite cartoons, the first of which is all about the promise:

cartoon-wedding-vows


 

Treat your lady nice!

cartoon-ladies-choice-dance-3


Finally, hello, HWSNBN*:

the-donalds-fast-food


Have a peaceful week!

FP

 


*He Who Shall Not Be Named

For Kimberly

Prompt: Graceful

wedding-cake-topper

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.

Perfect

Prompt: Surface

blue wedding dress

Kelly Bak stood at the top of the seven steps to the wide, carved oak doors of the church. It was a perfect day: clear skies, low humidity, and a cleansing breeze to chase away the dust and the pockets of settled heat.

There was a long, covered walkway with morning glory twining up the posts, tracing the path the bride would take from the driveway where the limousine would stop, across a sidewalk, and up the church steps to the doors. The shelter was erected in case of a rain storm, which would not happen now, but the brilliant white of the canvas and the deep blue of the blooms were a perfect setting to welcome a perfect bride.

She was a little late, but that was the bride’s prerogative, and the only issue when Mrs Bak left the house was the makeup— Kimberley felt she looked like a raccoon with a rash. The makeup artist explained that this was for the benefit of the photographs, but Kimberley would have none of it. And was infuriated when the makeup artist turned to her mother for the last word. But Mrs Bak succumbed to Kimberley’s wishes, and the eye liner, shadow, mascara, and blush were duly reapplied. She was perfect.

Mrs Bak had chatted very briefly with her future son-in-law, Harrison, when Kimberley was ten minutes late. She assured him all was well. He wore a perfectly tailored navy suit with a white rose boutonnière. He had the luminous, well-groomed look of a young man entering the most powerful phase of his life; indeed, as Kimberley had told her mother that morning, Harrison was seriously considering a run for congressman. The future looked bright… and, well, perfect.

Though the bride, thought Mrs Bak, could be a little more punctual, to be honest.

Unstoppable

Prompt: Unstoppable

megality

Kimberly Bak was having second thoughts. It’s normal to have second thoughts, her mother told her when she tried to broach the subject on the weekend. The wedding megalith had started its unstoppable journey towards the union of Kimberly Nuance Bak and Harrison Albert Pepper.

The secret service had been to the house and searched the grounds, and even installed a few security cameras, because the wife of a President of the United States was attending, along with her daughter and son-in-law. You could hardly have the feds poking around your home and asking questions of your staff, and then call the whole thing off.

The marquees, and wooden dance floor, and bunting and garlands were all set up on the back lawn. Invitations had been send and responded to. Gifts were set up on display in the downstairs guest room. Kimberley’s wedding dress had been altered, received, gently pressed and hung in her closet. The caterers had left crates of plates, utensils and decorations in the kitchen foyer. The band and the photographers had sent confirmation messages. Harrison Pepper had sponsored Kimberly’s father’s membership application to the golf club.

She had hinted to her mother that she wanted to tell Harrison about the baby.

“There is no— was no— baby,” said Kelly Bak.

“I don’t regret it,” Kimberly said slowly. “But I feel bad about it.”

“You are a sweet child,” said her mother. “And were a child when you got pregnant.” She pushed Kimberley’s chestnut hair off her face. “There is no need to mention it to Harrison. I’m sure he has a few skeletons in his closet.”

“I don’t want to know,” said Kimberly.

“And I’m sure he feels the same way.”

But Kimberly wanted to tell him anyway. If he was offended or horrified, and called off the wedding, well, she would feel relieved. She was pretty sure she would feel relieved. What she liked most about Harrison was the sex, followed by his sense of humour and his ease with people, his skill at anything he put his hand to, and his respect for her parents.

She just wasn’t sure that she loved him.

Happy Time

Prompt: Blank

paper-doll

Kimberly watched her mother fill in the cheque. It looked as natural to her as her breathing. She eyed the paper fondly, as if it were an old friend. The pen, lightly clasped in her hand, seemed to guide her, rather than the other way around. It was gold in colour, part of a set. Her mother had several desk sets, corporate gifts to her husband, that Donna swapped out regularly.

She must have developed special muscles to sign cheques with such a flourish, the flourish of an artist, a dancer. Instead of being an artist or a dancer, she was a woman who excelled in writing cheques.

There was a tiny smile on her mother’s face. It was her resting face. Unlike Kimberly, who had a “resting bitch face”– an intimidating scowl– no matter what her mood. Perhaps her mother had willed her face that way, or perhaps Dr Stanford had done it. A tiny, tiny smile, that suddenly, to Kimberly, made no sense. It was enraging. She clenched her hands into a fist, digging her nails into her palms.

A memory parachuted into her mind: she was in a small inflatable wading pool  with another little girl, playing. Their mothers sat in lawn chairs nearby. When the little girl and her mother were gone, she and her mother were alone in the kitchen, and there was a puddle on the white tile floor, and Kimberly was shivering in her wet bathing suit, desperate for her mother’s warmth, and her mother shouted at her. Kimberly couldn’t remember what she said. She only remembered feeling cold and lost. She shivered now.

“There,” said Mrs Bak, triumphantly tearing the cheque out of the book with another flourish, and offering it to Jo, who stood in front of her desk like a supplicant.

Jo took the cheque and, pretending not to read it, folded it and put it into the zippered compartment of her leather bag.

“The balance on successful completion, now,” said Mrs Bak.

“Of course,” said Jo.

“I want this wedding to be subtle,” Mrs Bak said.

Kimberly laughed.

Her mother frowned at her and continued. “Subtle as opposed to ostentatious. The best of everything, but not twee or frilly or overpowering. Do you understand?”

Kimberly said, “I think Jo gets that you want the world to admire and envy you, without your seeming to care if they do or not.”

“Jo?” said Mrs Bak, ignoring Kimberly, the tiny smile back.

“I understand completely,” said Jo.

“Kimmy, what time is the fitting? We should probably be off.” She rose to her feet, smoothing her skirt. “Don’t look so glum! This is a happy time, despite your cynicism.”

“I’m deliriously happy,” said Kimberly. “This is just my resting bitch face.”