It was a fine spring morning and the magnolia tree on the corner opened its satin-gloved hands and the staff at the café put out chairs and tables for the first time that year. The bride-to-be sat across from Louisa sipping a latte, carefully choosing her words. The proximity of the tables made Louisa anxious, reminding her of a date when she strove to fight off a panic attack while being psychologically chained to the table by decorum, forcing herself to appear as if she were truly attentive and not obsessing over the possibility of hyperventilating. And she thought about how she had come through the anxiety of dating, as did the bride, who was now scrolling through her phone to find her dress.
They were joined by people from the street looking for a reason to celebrate, offering their congratulations and advice because every age-old couple offered these most willingly. Tables were annexed with additional seats to accommodate the guests, who, to Louisa, resembled the old folks in her family. Rejection, obligation, and toleration molded them into the soft shapes they were now (someone was cracking open peanuts because he just gave up smoking, another had given herself a too-tight permanent, etc.). Louisa retreated to the girl part still alive in her, the silent girl who listened and observed and was intimidated and intrigued by their stories and exaggerated mannerisms.
Mommer they said Mommer this and Mommer that. Mommer always said marry a Jew because they’re smart and don’t cheat. Nicoletta married a Jew. Remember how we danced at the wedding?
I remember you drank too much.
The gown was a plunging double V with floor-sweeping skirt and tulle overlay. One hundred percent silk. Louisa imagined the laced V on the bride’s olive skin then thought of her own skin in the light of the morning and how it took some time to be in her body. The kids were at school and her husband closed the shades, even though they were two floors up. This was something he always did—close the shades, as if they were doing something illegal. They embraced, and he started fondling her, delicately and then a bit harder, like he was losing his patience and wanted to move things along. She thought of chores and errands, money and work she needed to get done before the kids got home. When they kissed, Louisa became distracted, looking over his shoulder at the imaginary camera filming her life’s documentary.
Whatever happened to Nicoletta’s friend Dilly?
You remember Dilly?
Listen to you. Puttana. Her mother was dead and her father was a drunk. I’ll give you a puttana—
The grass was brown under the snow. There were cars, garbage trucks, cyclists, women pushing babies, men walking dogs. Louisa thought of the hole in the tree in the woods as her husband slid her panties below her hip. What animal was capable of chiseling a perfect circle? She thought of the eagle in the tree, how she saw him soar up and up over Mikey’s Subs and the School for the Deaf, and she turned the car around just to watch him ascend. Louisa remembered then the euphoria of her own soirees in flight—it was once so effortless—but lately it’s been an arduous undertaking to get even a few feet above the ground.
What about Dicky’s girl? Mommer never found out about her.
Ahh, Dicky could do no wrong.
You got that right.
Mommer told us girls, you come home with a belly and salate il vostro—
salate il vos—
Louisa laughed tickled by their laughter, how they slapped their knees and grabbed ahold of one another. I’ll salt you, they explained, that’s what she said! Mommer! You know— down there! I’ll salt you! I’ll salt you!
Louisa looked for the bride to see if she were equally amused by this, but she was gone. The table became crowded with people discussing marriage, and the conversation too loud for an easy Sunday morning. Voice can itself be a kind of ascent and when a woman began singing, Louisa located her directly. Her song—sung in a language her friend fully understood—filled the air, and silenced all. Louisa remembered her own song then, when she was the one in white at the height of her beauty and youth.
Laurette Folk ‘s fiction, essays, and poems have been published in Waxwing, Gravel, Brilliant Flash Fiction, pacificREVIEW, Boston Globe Magazine, and Best Small Fictions 2019. Her first novel, A Portal to Vibrancy won the Independent Press Award for New Adult Fiction. Her second novel, The End of Aphrodite, is published by Bordighera Press. Laurette is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing program. Her website is www.laurettefolk.com