Sorority Girl Ties the Knot ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Roland Diderot and Beverly St. Vincent were married in an elaborate outdoor ceremony at the home of Beverly’s wealthy parents on a Saturday afternoon in spring. After months of planning, the ceremony lasted a scant ten minutes and, when it was over, the cake was cut and the champagne flowed freely. Photographers took pictures of the happy couple as they fed each other bites of cake and then as they moved out onto the dance floor to dance their first dance together as man and wife. The crowd of two hundred was dazzled by the splendor, the beauty and the extravagance. Ladies wept as their husbands were glad they didn’t have to pay the bills.
Later, as the bride and groom stood beside the bride’s parents to receive the good wishes of the multitude, a man in a dark suit wearing a yellow flower in his buttonhole approached and, after politely shaking everybody’s hand, came to Roland last. He held Roland’s hand in his own for longer than was necessary and, pulling Roland toward him, whispered something in his ear. Then he was gone.
“Who was that man?” Beverly asked Roland. “I never saw him before. Is he somebody you invited? What did he say to you?”
Roland merely shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
The time came for the bride and groom to depart. They changed out of their wedding finery into clothes more suitable for travel and then were borne along by the crowd amid a fusillade of rice to the obscenely long white limousine that awaited them. They went only a few miles, however, to the Prince Albert hotel downtown, where they would pass one night only. The next day they were off to Paris for two weeks.
The first thing Roland did when he and his bride were ensconced in the bridal suite on the eighteenth floor was to order a bottle of champagne. He had already had a great deal to drink but wanted more. Beverly started to say something about his drinking too much but held her tongue; she didn’t want to start off her marriage in the role of the nagging wife. If he liked drinking so much, she thought, let him have it for now, for tomorrow I will take charge of every aspect of his life.
Seeming in a somber mood, Roland installed himself on the couch with a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other, while Beverly, thinking Roland needed only a little time alone, had a long, scented bubble bath in the enormous marble tub in the bathroom fit for a king. When she came out, wearing her expensive peignoir that was a gift from her sorority sisters, she noted, first, that Roland was still drinking on the couch and, second, that he was, or had been, crying. She was touched because she thought he was crying for happiness.
“Well, here we are at last,” she said, draping herself across his lap.
“Be careful!” he said. “You’re spilling my drink.”
“Oh, isn’t this just too heavenly for words?”
Like an excited child, she ran to the floor-to-ceiling window and held back the sheer curtain to better see the sparkling lights of the city.
“It’s very pretty,” he said without looking up.
When she returned to the couch, she took the glass and the bottle away from him and set them on the table. She sat beside him, nearly on top of him, and pulled his face toward her so she could kiss him. He pulled back from her, though, so that her kiss landed somewhere in the vicinity of his ear.
“Why, what’s the matter, darling?” she asked. (She had heard her mother call her father “darling” so many times, and now she had her very own darling.)
“Oh, nothing,” he said. “I’m just a little tired, I suppose.”
He reached for the glass but she took it out of his hand again.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough of that?” she asked. “You won’t be able to…”
“Won’t be able to what?”
“You won’t be able to get up in the morning. Remember we have to be at the airport bright and early.”
“That’s all your mother’s doing,” he said.
She pulled back from him so she could better see his face. “What is?” she asked.
“Oh, Paris and all that.”
“You mean you don’t want to go to Paris?”
“Most people would kill to go to Paris for two weeks. It’s the most romantic city in the world.”
“You’ve been there. I’ve been there. What’s the big deal?”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m just a little tired, that’s all.”
“And more than a little drunk, I’d say.”
“So now that we’re married you’re going to start in on me about my drinking? Well, I’ve got news for you. I drink, my father drinks, his father drank, and all the way back to the beginning of time. It’s what we do.”
“It’s not just the drinking,” she said. “What’s the matter?”
He seemed to notice for the first time that a large part of her breasts were exposed. He took a large sofa cushion and held it up to her so she was covered. She took it in her hands and then threw it on the floor.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “What makes you think there’s anything wrong?”
“It’s our wedding night, for heaven’s sake, and you’re acting awfully queer.”
“Oh, so now you’re calling me a queer?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I don’t much care for words like that.”
She decided that being motherly might be the best approach. He was just feeling a little depressed, is all, now that the excitement of the wedding was over. Just a little letdown. It would pass.
“Why don’t you get into bed,” she said, “and I’ll give you a backrub? I can feel you’re all tense.”
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’ll be even finer after I’ve had more champagne.” He filled his glass again and drank it down. “You know, while you were having your bath, I was just sitting here thinking about the way we’re all conditioned.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“We’re all expected to be a certain way and do certain things and then we do our best to fulfill those expectations.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“In all the excitement of the wedding and the months of preparation, did anybody ever think about stopping and taking a deep breath and asking me if it was what I wanted?”
“Are you saying you didn’t want to get married?”
“Well, a part of me did, I guess.”
“And a part of you didn’t.”
“I was just buying into the image.”
“The image that was created for me by your mother and father and by my mother and father and by everybody in my life going back to the beginning of my life.”
“You’re not making any sense,” she said.
“I can’t go through with it,” he said.
“Can’t go through with what?”
To her surprise, he began weeping, sobbing like a grief-stricken widow of the old country.
“The marriage business,” he said.
She stood up and looked at him as if he has just turned into a toad. “Does this, by any chance, have anything to do with that man with the yellow flower?”
“You know who I mean,” she said. “He had reddish-brown hair with a sort of pompadour and he was wearing aviator shades. Impeccably dressed. He came through the reception line. He shook hands with all of us. He seemed to know you intimately.”
“That’s a silly name.”
“All names are silly if you think about them long enough.”
“He whispered something in your ear. What was it?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“The two of you are…”
“Don’t say it! You’ll have to make it into something dirty. Your kind always does.”
“My kind? I don’t know how you dare speak to me that way!”
“Why don’t you get that daddy of yours or those big strong brothers to beat the shit out of me. Isn’t that what they do?”
“Why didn’t you tell me before the wedding? You might have saved us all a lot of trouble!”
“I didn’t know until I saw him again.”
She went into the bedroom and slammed the door. In two minutes she came out, fully dressed and ready to leave, her coat over her arm and her suitcase in her hand. She went to the door and, opening it, paused for a moment.
“I’m glad to know about this now,” she said. “Instead of later.”
“Goodbye,” he said.
After she was gone, he continued to drink the champagne until the bottle was empty. He remembered then that he hadn’t eaten all day except for the little bit of wedding cake that Beverly had fed into his mouth with her own fingers. Thinking about it, he could still taste the cake—and especially her fingers—and it wasn’t a pleasant memory.
He got up, splashed some water on his face and ran a comb through his hair. When he was sure he looked presentable and not too drunk, he went down in the elevator.
Robin Fortense was waiting for him in the lobby. They went out the door and began walking down the street.
“I saw her leave,” Robin said. “She got into a taxi in front of the hotel.”
“She didn’t see you, did she?”
“Of course not.”
“Everything went according to plan. She’ll go to her parents’ house. They’ll get started on the annulment tomorrow.”
“You fiend!” Robin said with a laugh.
They went to a little restaurant a few blocks from the hotel and sat at a booth in the back.
“The wedding pictures will be in the all the papers,” Roland said. “It’s too late to pull them. She’ll be humiliated. The worst part for her, though, will be having to explain to all her family and friends why her marriage failed on the first night. She’ll have to return all the wedding gifts.”
“Don’t you feel just a little bit sorry for her?”
“My brother was only ten years old when she killed him. She had been to an all-night sorority party. She was drunk. She ran up onto the sidewalk with her sports car where my brother was waiting for the school bus. She hit three kids but my brother was the only one that died. She got off with a suspended sentence because the judge was a friend of her father’s. The ‘accident,’ as they call it, was expunged from her record. No consequences. According to her, it never happened. Meanwhile, my brother is in his grave.”
“Have you hurt her enough now?” Robin asked.
“I have the bridal suite for tonight,” Roland said. “Are you going to stay with me?”
“I was afraid you weren’t going to ask,” Robin said.
“I’m sure she would be hurt if she knew.”
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp