Congratulations to Edith Center! Her entry, “Wedding Dress” won an Honorable Mention in our short story contest.
June 1, 2004 She had come to the attic looking for a hiding place. It was their wedding eve. After the rehearsal dinner, the wedding party had returned to the manor house, for the wedding would take place in the manor’s formal gardens the next morning. They had been sitting in the conservatory, conversation meandering from topic to topic, when someone remarked, “This house must have some marvelous hiding places.” Geoff replied he, his brothers, and their friends had played many games of hide and seek here when children. Before long, it was decided a game of hide and seek would be the perfect way to end the evening. Thus she came to be in the attic. She had grown up on ghost stories and was well aware of the tale of the ghost bride who, while playing this very game on her wedding night, hid in a trunk in the attic – which became her tomb. Different time, different place. But there was no way she would hide in a trunk. Then she saw the cedar chest, standing by itself in the cluttered attic. It captured her attention and she quickly forgot the game. It was beautifully hand carved. Why had it been banished to the attic? Why did it stand alone when everything else was jumbled together, fighting for space? It seemed even the dust and cobwebs avoided the chest. Mesmerized, she slowly made her way across the room. She stood in front of the chest, trying to gather courage to touch it – perhaps open it. – – – Geoff noticed the door to the attic was open and the light was on. Everyone had been found. Except Lynn. He called to her from the bottom of the stairs. “Lynn.” No response. And, for a moment, he too remembered the tale of the ghost bride. He took the steps two at a time and was relieved when he saw her on the other side of the room. Feeling a little foolish for allowing his imagination to get the best of him, he called again. “Lynn?” Still no response. He walked over to her, touched her shoulder. “Carolynn, are you all right?” She turned to him. “Oh, Geoffrey. Did you say something?” Concerned now, he replied, “Yes. I asked if you were all right. You certainly seem deep in thought.” “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Geoff nodded. “It belonged to my great-grandmother. According to family tales, she died shortly after grandfather was born. The family was appalled when great-grandfather married grandfather’s nanny immediately after the one-year mourning period. They had several children, all of whom died before reaching 21. Superstitious family members said it was a curse because of their unseemly haste in marrying. You see, great-grandmother was just days away from her 21st birthday. Some even said it would be the end of great-grandfather’s line. Obviously, that didn’t happen. All of grandfather’s children lived and prospered. And my brothers and I are hale and hearty. So you needn’t worry. The ‘curse’ has been put to rest.” Lynn had been staring at the cedar chest while Geoff spoke and now, more than ever, she wanted to know what was inside. She touched the lid, then looked at Geoff. He smiled and nodded. The chest wasn’t full. But Lynn didn’t notice. For on the top, wrapped in layers of tissue, was Geoff’s great-grandmother’s wedding dress. Lynn held it up, admiring the exquisite beadwork and delicate lace. Inside a small, drawstring bag were earrings, a necklace, and gloves. In a separate bag, was the Bible she had carried, and in another were her shoes. Geoff finally touched her arm and said softly, “We should be getting back to the others.” She nodded and reluctantly returned the items to the trunk. – – – Everyone eventually went to their rooms. The house became dark and quiet. But Lynn couldn’t sleep. The wedding dress seemed to have a hold on her. She finally gave in and crept up to the attic. She opened the chest and took the dress and accessories to her room. She was not surprised to find them a perfect fit – and determined to wear them. – – – She noted the surprise on Geoff’s face as she started down the aisle. But it turned instantly to delight, and he was smiling broadly when she joined him. After the ceremony, they greeted their guests as they slowly made their way back down the aisle. Geoff’s great-grandfather had arrived from the nursing home after the ceremony had begun. So as not to disturb anyone, his nurse placed his wheelchair by the last row. With both his eyesight and hearing virtually gone, his attendance at the wedding was a mere formality. As Geoff and Lynn came close enough for him to see them clearly, the smile on his face fled, replaced by a look of shock and horror. “No! No! It can’t be! Oh, Caroline. My Caroline. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I never wanted to hurt you. She said it was the only way – the only way we could be together. She said the poison would be painless. That you’d just fall asleep. She promised to care for the baby as if he were her own. Caroline, Caroline, please forgive me.” He leaned forward, reaching out his hands in pleading, then collapsed back into his chair. – – – When Geoff and Lynn returned from their honeymoon, Geoff’s mother said, “I have something you should see. We found it in the cedar chest when we replaced the wedding things.” She led them into the library, where an old photograph was lying on the desk. Geoff and Lynn picked up the wedding picture of Geoff’s great-grandparents. The bride was enchanting in her beautiful dress and the groom stood beside her, proud and handsome in his somber suit. But the faces staring back at them were their own. And on the back, written in precise script, was the notation: Jeffrey and Caroline June 2, 1930