Marrying Nate is the logical thing, Andy reminded herself as she was buttoned into her dress. It was what she’d said in her heart of hearts when Nate had proposed, a seemingly thoughtless surprise one evening. She’d wanted to talk about how it was time for them to seriously discuss moving forward as a couple, and Nate had responded with the proposal, as if she’d challenged him and dared him to do it. They’d bought the ring together some days later, and Andy told herself that her lack of enthusiasm was down to the disappointment over her proposal.
The dresser took a step back. “What do you think?” she asked, smiling almost maternally at Andy’s reflection. Andy bit her lip. “It’s beautiful,” she said, and meant it: the dress was as stunning as it had been when she’d first tried it on. She’d chosen a silk bateau-neck dress, because Miranda had told her once that the neckline was flattering on her. It was fitted but not tight through her waist, and flared out into a tea-length skirt. It draped nicely now, she thought, twirling in front of the mirror. When she’d tried on the sample, she’d been horrified by the tutu-like layers of crinoline that gave the skirt several inches of stiffness.
“Very 50s chic,” said Maureen, her wedding coordinator. "I just love vintage weddings."
“Thanks,” said Andy, even though she hadn’t been going for vintage until, apparently, right this moment.
“There’s someone here to see you,” Maureen said. “I know you didn’t want people in the room, but she’s rather insistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
It couldn’t be, Andy thought, but there was only one woman of her acquaintance who would be so insistent to see her when she’d been very clear that she wanted to be alone. “It’s okay Maureen, you can let Miranda in.”
“I thought she looked familiar,” Maureen chirped. Andy stifled a laugh at Miranda's reaction to her preternatural cheerfulness.
“So I’ve been told,” Miranda said crisply. “That’s all.”
“Thanks for everything, Maureen,” Andy called as Maureen left, feeling obligated once again to make excuses for Miranda.
“Well, Andrea,” Miranda said, as if that was a complete thought. She sat down in the armchair beside the window. “Turn.”
Dutifully, Andy turned, and it was as if no time had passed at all. Miranda was impeccably dressed in a deep teal cocktail dress, with her hair still carefully set in her signature look. When she crossed her legs, Andy caught a glimpse of the red sole of her nude Louboutin pumps.
“It needs an accessory of some sort,” Miranda said, after several moments. “Are you wearing a veil?”
“No,” Andy replied. “Miranda, I -”
Miranda continued as if she hadn’t spoken at all. “Brooch?”
“No, this is everything,” Andy said. “Apart from the flowers.”
“Hm,” Miranda said. “I suppose your colors will be a sufficient statement in the end, assuming you’ve selected orange and pink flowers.”
“Thanks for remembering my colors, Miranda.”
“Indeed,” Miranda said. “Well.”
“Thank you for coming,” Andy said after a few minutes. It felt odd to stand while Miranda sat and looked her up and down, but she couldn’t very well do that, she’d wrinkle.
“Thank you for the invitation,” Miranda said.
“I’m really glad you’re here, actually,” Andy said, because she was. Seeing Miranda, and having her be entirely Miranda-like, just the way she remembered her, from her aloofness to her critical eye, made her feel much calmer. Miranda’s expression remained inscrutable, and Andy suddenly realized that she’d come across entirely differently. “I don’t mean that the way it sounded! I mean it honestly, like - I don’t know. You know what I meant.”
Miranda cocked her head to the side. “I don’t, but I’ll take your word that it was complimentary.”
“It was,” Andy said. “Thank you.” The room fell uncomfortably silent. Andy had never mastered the art of filling that silence with the kind of chatter to which Miranda was accustomed; that was Emily’s chief talent. Miranda would invariably complain and tell her to stop talking, but she had learned early on that Miranda hated silence far more than she hated small talk.
“Have you got all of your somethings?” Miranda asked, after several minutes. It was odd to hear her break the silence.
“What do you mean?”
Miranda shifted impatiently. “Something old, something new, something borrowed - “
“Oh! Yes,” Andy said. “My dress is new, my earrings are borrowed from my great-aunt Lucy, and my something old is my mom’s wedding band.” She wanted to kick herself when she heard her voice crack.
Miranda didn’t seem to notice, and Andy was relieved. The last thing she wanted to do on her wedding day was inform her old boss of her mother’s passing.
“You’re missing one,” Miranda said. “It’s unlike you to be so unprepared.”
Andy laughed - it was a joke, wasn’t it? - but sobered quickly when she realized Miranda wasn’t even smiling with her. She remembered many afternoons at Elias-Clarke when Miranda had wondered aloud her disappointment, why is no one ready, a statement of fact rather than a question, and the insult felt almost cozily familiar.
“Something blue,” Miranda continued, pulling a small, beribboned box out of her purse. She sounded quiet, strained, defeated. Never defeated, Andy thought. Resigned. It was a word she never thought she’d pair with Miranda, but then Miranda had always reserved a special kind of derision for Nate, one on par with that for her most recent ex-husband. It was as if Andy’s decision to marry Nate was a personal affront.
Andy loosened the ribbon and opened the box. Inside was a delicate filigree ring with a brilliant blue center stone. Its facets were large and seemed to absorb the light so that it practically glowed, and came to a point at the top of the stone, a shape Andy had never seen before.
“Miranda, it’s beautiful,” she said, even though the word didn’t really do it justice, and she thought immediately of several others that would do better in its place. “Is it a sapphire?”
Miranda shook her head. “It’s a blue diamond.”
“I can’t accept this,” Andy said, almost immediately.
“Pretend it’s a sapphire then,” Miranda said, and turned away.
Andy set the box down on the table. “It’s not because it’s incredibly generous Miranda, although it is. But why are you giving me a ring on my wedding day?”
“It’s hardly a proposal, Andrea,” Miranda said dryly, and Andy laughed. That she could recognize as a joke. “It is customary for a guest to bring a gift to a wedding. I saw something at auction which I thought you would like. I wanted you to have something lovely before you consign yourself to a lifetime of misery beside a man who doesn’t deserve you. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
Andy sobered. “Nate - “
“Doesn’t deserve you. That was a statement of fact.”
“Right. So then why are you here?”
“Because you invited me,” Miranda said simply.
Andy shook her head. Miranda was undoubtedly the loveliest and strangest woman she’d ever encountered. “I’m glad you’re here, Miranda. And thank you for the beautiful gift.”
“Wear it well,” Miranda said, finally turning back around. “You make a beautiful bride. I wish you much happiness.”
“Thank you,” Andy said, and reached out to shake her hand, since a hug was out of the question, but Miranda turned on her heel and left.
Fifteen minutes later, Andy found herself contending with someone far more vocal in disapproving of the wedding: her father. She had congratulated herself on her decision to get ready on her own, saying that it felt wrong to have anyone else in the room when her mother couldn’t be there. Upon hearing that, Lily, Claire, and Alison practically volunteered to get ready by themselves, and Andy had barely spared them a thought this morning, when it was so very easy to miss her mother. Even if she had her own, unvoiced doubts about the marriage, it was still her wedding day, and she was still standing before a mirror in her Audrey Hepburn dress, and her mother was gone.
“You don’t have to do this,” her father said, straightening his tie. He was looking over her shoulder, and his presence seemed only to underscore her absence. He’d come in shortly after Miranda left, with Charlotte the photographer in tow and snapping away at the daddy-daughter first look. Andy did her best to pose, but Miranda had unsettled her, and Charlotte left not long after to take portraits of the bridal party. “You can get all the way down the aisle and change your mind. If you’re not entirely happy, I don’t want you to do this.”
Andy burst into tears. It was hardly the first time they’d had this conversation, of course; her father, while he had been unfailingly supportive, financially and otherwise, had certainly had reservations about the marriage. It seems like it’s come out of nowhere, he would say. We’ve been together for six years! Andy would reply, but it never seemed to make a difference. He questioned Nate’s plan to take six months off to get his own restaurant off the ground, and at first Andy had thought it simply boiled down to the fact that he didn’t want her to be the sole breadwinner. But when the conversations continued as the planning progressed, rehashing the same points over and over again, it became apparent that he father’s doubts went deeper than that. The worst part was that she had never said anything about her own uncertainties; he’d come up with this all on his own. She wondered if she hadn’t been excited enough, animated enough.
“Then it’s settled,” her father said, putting his hand on her back and startling her out of her thoughts.
“No!” Andy exclaimed, reaching blindly for a Kleenex. The wedding coordinator obliged; Andy recognized her bright red nails. She kept her head down so she wouldn’t have to look at Maureen’s face.
“Could you give us a minute?” her father asked, and Maureen scuttled out of the room.
“I have to get married today,” Andy said. “I am getting married today. You’ve spent so much money, and everyone is here, and I want to marry Nate. I want to marry him, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted!” But the words sounded empty to her own ears.
“Andy, I promise you that cancelling the wedding will be much, much cheaper than a divorce,” her father said. “We could have a family reunion. Or something. There’s a hundred people out there. Believe me, they’ll eat, wedding or no wedding.”
“I want to marry Nate, Dad,” Andy said, dabbing at her face. “That’s what I really, truly want.”
“Why does everyone keep trying to talk me out of this? It's like the only person who wants to see us married is Lily.” It occurred to her, even as she said it, that she should have mentioned three names: her own, her friend's, and her fiance's.
Her father pulled out the chair from the vanity and sat down. “It’s a valid question.”
“We’ve been together for six years, Dad. We’re at the marrying point, where you either say, okay, we’re in it for the long haul, or we’re not going to waste any more time.”
“You don’t marry someone because that’s the logical next step, Andy. Those marriages never work out.” He rubbed his forehead. “I’ll give you some space, honey. And even if we get to the end of the aisle, you can always change your mind.”
She made it to the landing of the staircase before she practically doubled over from nausea and anxiety and that damned, ill-advised glass of champagne. It was her father who spoke to Maureen, Maureen who handled everything, and Nate who stormed out without a word, his lovely family following shortly behind. Andy watched them leave the hotel from the window in her dressing room, and found that she regretted losing his sister, the sister she’d always wanted but never had, the most.