The Bridesmaids

Brenda Peynado Click to

Brenda Peynado’s short story collection, The Rock Eaters, is forthcoming from Penguin Press in early 2021. Her stories have won an O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Literary Award, inclusion in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, a Dana Award, a Fulbright Grant to the Dominican Republic, and other awards. Her work appears in the Georgia Review, the Sun, the Southern Review, the Kenyon Review, the Threepenny Review,, and other journals. She received her MFA at Florida State University and her PhD at the University of Cincinnati. She’s currently writing a novel about the 1965 civil war in the Dominican Republic and a girl who can tell all possible futures. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida.

Each of us bridesmaids hated the others. We milled around the bride, pinning flowers in her hair. We pulled other flowers out to put ours in. The maid of honor was the bride’s sister, but she was the most useless of them all; she looked out the window at the sky we were missing. Earlier, the groomsmen had held doors open for us, served us patient, patronizing smiles while we stepped on their toes to gather our things. As soon as we left we heard them laughing. Everything must be perfect, the bride said. She was crying. What a show you’re putting on, said the sister. You don’t even believe in it anymore. What does it mean, this show of a promise? This deflated tradition?

We thought about this. The bride cried harder.

But then we’d spent too long thinking, the daytime moon sliding magnetic tentacles around our hearts so we all beat in sync, listening to each other, waiting for the slightest thump to step out of line. It was the sister who spoke first. I can’t breathe, she said. I can’t move.

We blinked. The moon had dragged night around us. We’d all missed the wedding. All we could do was fall over on each other and lay like dolls against the wall. My cheek was mashed against the sister’s mouth. She breathed hot into my ear. Why do you all hate me so much? she asked, I’m down here with the rest of you. She blinked her eyelashes against my forehead.

None of us can move. We are all facing the ceiling so we can’t see the door. We hear sounds of the wedding reception continuing anyways. Finally, I see in the window the reflection out the door. There’s a whole ballroom out there, way more than the bride could afford. The groom is taking the first dance with a floor-length mirror in his arms, but the mirror cuts him at the edges. He looks perfect, we all agree. The bride’s make-up has run completely down her face, and out of the corner of our eyes, we see she was never the bride, she was always the wolf, the one who eats everything we can give until we are consumed, the one we tell, How big your eyes are, clear as emeralds, How beautiful your mouth, glistening like rubies, Your teeth sharp as diamonds. If we could skin the wolf and wear her pelt we would.

But the night is cold, so we press our dresses up to her for warmth. We can move our arms now, but not much more. The sister curls her hand around a fragment of mirror, blade thin as a knife. It hurts to hold, she whispers to me. She brandishes the knife towards the wolf’s stomach. She’s going to dig her sister out.


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