A Barefoot Wedding (Omniscient Narrator)

Bart was dubious about attending a barefoot wedding in October.

The wedding of Joe and Silvia Herny was a cute idea on paper.  Outdoors and barefoot, the entire ceremony, and subsequent celebration, was taking place in a series of connected tents.  But nature rarely pays attention to the desires of mankind: it had rained the night before and the Minnesota farm pasture had turned soft.  Tables and chairs sank under the weight of their occupants (both food and guest).  Silvia’s train had grown gray and heavy as it dragged through the muddy grass.  Toes squished and disappeared in the mud during the procession, buffet, and wedding dance.  At one point, the best man (after a few too many sneaked drinks) had rocked back on his chair and found himself with a face full of wet clay.

Given the bad weather, why wasn’t the wedding moved indoors? (Or why, at the very least, didn’t people put their shoes on?) Well, Sylvia’s father had put a large deposit down on the outdoor venue and refused to sacrifice the money for comfort, after all, The Suck had been worse than this and he’d made it out of there ok. And Sylvia wanted everything to be perfect for her ideal wedding, and that meant no one dared put his or her shoes on before desert had been served.

And so Bart sat at his table knowing full well that, through the layers of damp and drying mud, his feet were purple and ivory. But Bart’s mind wasn’t really on his feet. He was more interested in his former love Brisbane O’Neill, her hair was shorter and darker, but it was still his Bris. She was seated on the other side of the buffet tent and had yet to look in Bart’s direction, which he took to mean that she had no idea that he was in attendance.

“They couldn’t have picked a worse day for a barefoot wedding, you know?” It was the young woman to Bart’s right; she had introduced herself as Rebecca but was clearly a Becky or Becks.

Bart half turned and glanced at Becks from the corner of his eye, “Hmm?”

“I asked who’s got your eye on the other side of the room? Don’t you know that’s where all of the taken ladies are sitting? Us lone wolves are all at this table,” Becks wasn’t entirely interested in Bart, but she was tired of being the single friend at weddings.

Bart didn’t hear a thing that she said. Her mouth was moving, but everything in the tent was on mute. He turned more fully in her direction and looked her up and down, from the plunging neckline and deep cleavage to her hair that was pulled back too tightly and the annoying glitter on her cheekbones. He hated that glitter. Bris would wear it sometimes, to annoy him, and it would get all over him and their pillows. Bart smiled and nodded at Becks.

“You even hear what I said?” she placed a hand on his shoulder.

Bart didn’t want her hand, but he didn’t care enough to shrug her off. He was barely even at the wedding, his mind thrown back to that last night with Brisbane in his car: She cried in the passenger seat, curled into herself like a touch-me-not. She wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t explain what she had been doing at that man’s apartment. Bart had asked only if she was ok when she entered the car and then, with a sigh, had started to drive. “Barty?” He clenched his teeth so tight that he feared they would break, but he didn’t look at her. “Barty, I’m ok,” she said through tears, but she wasn’t ok. They weren’t ok. The distance between them was a coiled viper. Brisbane reached a slender arm across the car and placed it on Bart’s shoulder. Her hand was cold through his sweatshirt and he recoiled. But her hand was insistent and it returned to his upper arm. She squeezed lightly, kneading her way into him, silently pleading. Bart wouldn’t let himself speak, and he didn’t know what to say anyway. Except for her quiet sobs, they drove in silence.

It was clear to Becks that Bart was as interested in her as he was in the mousse that wilted on his plate before him, “You’re a lost cause, you know that?” She patted his shoulder in pity and then turned her attention to the other young men at the table.

Bart nodded and stood up from the table. He was taking someone else’s spot, anyway. Sylvia was Brisbane’s friend, not his, and he hadn’t actually been invited to the wedding. But he needed to talk to Bris. He had needed to talk to her since he walked away two years ago, but he hadn’t had the courage to do it until now. He needed to know what had happened that night, whether he had been correct in assuming infidelity or if he should have waited for an explanation.

From across the room, Brisbane watched as Bart stood up. She had seen him saunter into the reception tent, looking awkward and out of place in his ill-fitting wool suit. She hadn’t seen or heard from him in two years, but he looked the same to her: His sad eyes and timid mouth, a face always on the edge of smiling but never fully committing. Brisbane had begged Sylvia to seat her in the couples’ section; she said she couldn’t deal with the prowlers and creepers that come with the singles’ table. But, if she was being honest with herself, the truth was that her heart was still in Bart’s car.

Of course she had called Bart to pick her up that night. Sam had gotten sick at the club and left early. Tiphanie had met some Andrew, but hadn’t wanted to seem too available so she made Brisbane accompany them when they left. Brisbane was drunk, had thought nothing of playing the wingman for Tiph’s guy’s friend, Chuck. But when Tiphanie and Drew got down to business, Chuck had hoped for some of the same. And why shouldn’t he have expected it? Brisbane had played the wingman: she had flirted and touched his arm, called him cute and laughed at his jokes. But the alcohol refused to take no for an answer and Chuck became too forward, almost aggressive. Brisbane wasn’t worried about Tiphanie, she could take care of herself, but Brisbane did not want Chuck. She loved Bart. And she had run from the apartment in fear, had called Bart from the stairwell and had waited outside until Bart’s car pulled up.

She was crying when she got into the car. She barely even heard Bart ask if she was ok. How could she tell him what had happened? She should have known better, and was embarrassed that she had let things get as far as they had. She wanted to explain, to allay Bart’s fear and anger, but she didn’t. She sat and cried. Bart ground his teeth and breathed through his nose, angry and scared and confused. She was just as confused, and was scared of the silence in the car. She reached out to touch him, to close the space between them. Her words of “I’m ok” were spoken out loud, but had the effect of a soliloquy. Bart made the decision to drop Brisbane off at her own apartment, rather than returning them to his. He looked at her as she climbed out of the car, their eyes met sadly but they said nothing. Bart surrendered any of his things that he might have left in her apartment, knowing that he wouldn’t return for them. As his car drove away, Brisbane wished she had spoken up, had cleared the air between them and made clear that he was wrong, he was still hers and hers alone.

The reception dinner was winding down and the cold-footed guests waited for the bride and groom to say something. Knives and spoons were clanked against glasses, prompting Joe and Sylvia to kiss. The only people who stood were the servers who moved to remove empty plates from tables, and Bart. Attention in the room shifted to Bart, people murmured and pointed in his direction. Is he with Sylvia’s family? Maybe he’s one of Joe’s college buddies. He’s getting ready to say something. Who is this guy?

Sylvia recognized Bart a moment to late, thinking Why is he here? What is he doing? He’s going to ruin my day. MY day! No no no no no!

Bart was already approaching the microphone stand that stood before the wedding party’s table. He was making eye contact with Brisbane now, it was clear to him that she knew he was there. Becks watched curiously from her table, growing bored with a young doctor’s descriptions of the emergency room. Brisbane smiled at Bart, but she shook her head at him, she didn’t want him to do what she was afraid he was about to do. She started to rise, dividing the tent’s attention between her and Bart. Bart motioned for her to sit back down and he turned to Sylvia and Joe as he reached the microphone. He offered a conciliatory smile and a shrug. Joe was confused: he had pulled a few to many drinks from his hip flask and couldn’t place Bart’s familiar face. Probably one Sylvia’s friends, he thought.

Bart’s world was silent again, and a sort of tunnel vision had crept over him. Everyone in the tent was blurred except for Brisbane. He smiled at her lovingly. He grabbed the microphone.

“I’d like to propose a toast…”

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