"Our feet left prints in the dust beneath us, marking the trail of regret in our wake..
Liz stands at the apartment door for what seems like hours, the breathing exercises her therapist had recommended serve her little. Her heart thuds loudly in her chest, and her palms feel sweaty, fists clenched by her sides.
I can do this. It’s different now. I’m different now.
The door stands innocently before her. It must have been dark green once, but years of neglect have left a faded, pale shade in its place. She reaches for the door knob with one hand, the other adjusting her bag strap. The key jams in the lock for a few seconds before she remembers that it had always needed the extra tug. The door creaks loudly as she pushes against it, the familiar scent of the living room wrapped up in musky undertones. Light barely gets through the worn out curtains, hanging at the windows. It’s the same ones, she thinks idly.
She remember picking them out excitedly. The landlord had covered the meager furniture in the room, and as she passes by the sofa, she runs her hands over the thin plastic. Her palm comes back caked in dust. She grimaces at it, reaching into her purse with the other hand, wondering why she even did it in the first place. She tries to ignore the way she can almost hear his voice behind her.
….Good morning, love….
Her arms wrap around her waist, almost feeling where his used to be, his face nuzzling against her neck… It takes her phone ringing to snap her out of it. And as she scrambles to get it out her purse, she scolds herself. She came here for a reason, not to get caught up in memories again.
She groans when she sees the name on the screen, and considers ignoring the call. It rings a few more times in her hand before she answers, and,
“Ree, I don’t need you to hold my hand through this. I’m not a child. I’ll get it and be on my way. ”
There’s laughter on the other end, which was Ree’s respond to anything these days, happy as she was in prenuptial bliss.
“Hey now, don’t get snappy with me. I just want to know my maid of honor is doing okay… ”
There’s concern lacing her tone, and Liz wants to ignore it. She was fine, she didn’t need to be treated like some fragile thing. She was fine.
She assures Ree of that, and promises to call later. Ree is still objecting when she cuts the call.
She moves away from the living room into the hallway, sparing a glance at the dining space to her right, the wall is bare of the paintings that had once adorned it, as she expected. She wonders when he had come in to take his things. The door’s in the small offshoot hallway, and she hesitates, her hand just above the knob, but, God, this is silly, what am I doing, it’s a freaking door... She turns it, and,
here too, the landlord had covered the furniture with plastic wrap, except the lone dresser by the window which was covered by a white sheet. There was that coating of dust on everything, but that was to be expected. She strides in, not sparing a glance at the bed and squats before the dresser, and pushes the cloth away.
Which of the drawers was it again. . Which one. ..
She finds it in the third drawer after a quick tug forces it open. It’s small and satin-lined, and nestled in-between browned singlets and some stray journals. For a moment, she’s amused at the arrangement, and for the life of her can’t recall the decision to keep it there. And the journals too… I should take those… She picks the books up, three in all, and tucks them beneath her arm. A cursory look around the room, and Liz is ready to leave. She decides against opening the box in the house, and walks out quicker than she had entered, refusing to linger in the entryway. The front door closes quietly behind her, and as she walks away, her flat soled feet give little challenge to the silent hallway.
The landlord is an agreeable man, and he’s smiling when he invites her to lunch. His wife is smiling behind him, juggling their fussing infant in her arms. Liz declines as she hands the keys over to the Landlord, and walks forward to cuddle and coo at Junior, and ah, I’ll bring something for him next time.. He’s getting so big.. She’s waving as she leaves, her other arm reaching into her purse for her phone. She was meant to meet Ree at the dress shop , and as it was, she was running late. She’s walking faster as she gets to the roadside, arm raised, and taxi! I’m going to…..!
The establishment is White and Cream Tresses, and is as stuffy as the name implies, offering overpriced, quality wedding gowns to willing clientale, with Ree now being a part of their number. It’s colored after the name, with the only splash of bright coming from the overhanging flowers at the building front. Liz subconsciously runs her hands over her edges, patting, and a few puffs to the bun on her head. She halfway thinks she should have dressed better, but decides her slacks and chiffon are preppy enough. She’s smiling when she meets the receptionists, and it takes a few and here we are, clicks on the computer and shuffled steps to find her friend.
Ree’s standing before a mirror, already dressed in a suggested gown , a picture of lace and delicate embroidery. It’s an off-shoulder, basque with a plunged back. It perfectly compliments her build and,
“You look beautiful, Ree…”
Ree squeals as she rushes towards her friend, gown scooped in hand. “Finally! I was wondering when you were going to get here. This is the third one, you.. Third one! Every one’s more pretty than the last..”
She’s glided back to the mirror now, and starts trying out different poses, “Edidiong’s family wants to pay for the whole thing, you know. It was quite the uproar at the last meeting. My Dad initially opposed the idea.. I think he’s secretly relieved though. The last few months have n o t been kind to him.. Or so Mum says…”
Liz sits at the provided sofa adjacent to the mirror-viewing area, and makes agreeable noises at appropriate moments. After the morning she’s had, she’s ready to just listen, and escape into her friend’s happy life for the moment. That’s why it takes her a while to realize that Ree had asked a question. She snaps out and, sorry, what did you say?
Ree has her “concerned face” again, and she walks down to the sofa. It takes a while to arrange her gown around herself, and after a few pats, she starts,
“Eddi told me about some of his friends that were coming to the wedding.. Friends from work.. One of them stood out, and well I asked a few more questions and.. Well.. ”
Somehow, Liz knows what she’s about to say before the words come out, the familiar ache in her chest is back, and rubs at her arms, the events of the morning play back in her heads, and she braces for the rest, Ree was worried enough to expect a reaction from her.
“He’s dating someone, isn’t he?…”
“Yes.. He’s bringing her to the wedding. I’m so sorry, love.. Apparently, they’re good friends… I’m sorry”
When she looks up at Ree, smile on her face isn’t as strained as she thought it would be, but, “Ree, this isn’t about me, okay.. We’re shopping for what’s going to be the most beautiful wedding dress ever. Let’s focus on that. I want to be here for you today. Now…”, she lightly pushes at Ree’s shoulder urging her to get up, and standing up in turn.
Ree’s laughing as she walks towards the changing room, with an admin assistant at the ready to help. Liz follows behind her, leaving her phone behind and silent, on the sofa, wanting to escape any distractions.
Her phone’s ringing as she’s walking away, and RYAN flashes on the screen.