Larry and Tilda met in the most promising way, at the wedding of a mutual friend. They were seated next to each other on the bride’s side, toward the back of St. Joseph’s, both getting a little sentimental about their friend’s marriage while the church filled up. Tilda sniffed and teared up a little, while Larry became uneasy and scratched his ear. Larry’s girlfriend had argued with him the day before and said she wanted to break off their engagement, but he had begged her to wait. Tilda’s fiancé was working on a negotiation in Amsterdam; it had come up suddenly.
Larry leaned in and said, “Harmony and I were classmates in college, and you could not know a sweeter person.”
Tilda wondered if he meant that she did not know many sweet people but decided that he meant the comment kindly. “She and I went to high school together.”
“And, after all these years, you’re still friends.”
“It’s only been… well, six years, since graduation. Not that long.” Tilda looked around at the stained glass windows depicting St. Joseph as the patron saint of families and of a happy death. “She’s not that hard to be friends with.”
“Exactly what I meant,” Larry said and noticed the window in which the angels fluttered around an old man with a halo. Larry was not Catholic; he was not anything, not even a Unitarian. “Do you know what that window means?”
“That’s Joseph, who was a carpenter. He died and went to heaven.”
“Nice. Easy for him — in the building trades.”
Tilda turned to look at him disapprovingly.
“I only meant that I’m in real estate, and it’s not doing well right now.”
She thought for a second and said, “It’ll bounce back.”
“I may try something else, go back to school and study, oh, botany maybe, study grasses and clover and honeybees and how they communicate.”
“That’s my field! Environmental studies.”
“Evolution is really interesting,” he said earnestly.
“That too,” she said.
“Charles Darwin is my hero. Harmony turned me on to him.” He sighed. “But I went into a business major.”
“You’re young,” Tilda said.
“Not that young. I’m twenty-five.”
“Plenty of time for school and the chance to follow your dreams.”
“Dreams.” He tapped his fingers together. “We all have those.”
“The Wedding March” started up. There was only one wrong note. People craned their heads around to the back and whispered and grinned in anticipation. Harmony started down the aisle beside her smiling father.
“I’ve met him, too” Larry said. “Harmony and Chase double-dated with me and my girl. Harmony’s dad told me that marriage was the biggest decision of a person’s life. Scared me half to death. I was only twenty.”
“You’re scared of marriage?” Tilda asked.
“No. Scared of marrying the wrong person.”
Tilda nodded. “Me too. How’s a person to know? There’s the whole process of natural selection pushing you, and you’re only twenty-five.”
“So Joseph is the saint of happy families? This is a good church for a marriage.” Harmony and her father passed them and Larry lowered his voice. “My parents got married by a justice of the peace. And divorced too.”
“That doesn’t mean it will happen to you,” she whispered. “I’m engaged right now, and we’re planning a very simple wedding, probably in front of a justice of the peace. We’re going to travel with the money we save from not having a big wedding. Maybe to Paris or London.”
“My fiancee wants a big wedding. She should get what she wants.”
“What is it that you want?” Tilda asked.
“What she wants.”
“I just want to make a decision and get it over with.”
“That doesn’t sound like the right way to make a decision, pardon me for saying.”
“It’s good enough.”
“No, it’s not. You should hold out for a better reason.” She pointed her finger in a teacherly way. “You should hold out.”
“What’s a better reason?”
“Are you engaged for the right reason?” he asked.
She looked down, cleared her throat. “They’re starting.”
At the front of the church, the priest said, “Repeat after me: ‘To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.’”
Harmony repeated the words. Tilda’s heart beat loud. Larry stared at her. He slowly let out his breath. He leaned over and whispered, “The reception doesn’t start for a while. Let’s have coffee. Do you like that idea?”
Tilda said, “I do.”
Cezarija Abartis‘ Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Per Contra, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. This flash was begun on ShowMeYourLits and revised on Zoetrope. One of her flashes was included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 list of flash fiction. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.