I stared at myself in the mirror. My gown was stunning. It was custom made for my big day– a day I had shockingly little control over. Like most girls I knew, I had been dreaming about my wedding day since I was just a little girl. What I didn’t realize was that my wedding wasn’t really about love as much as it was business. My parents were thrilled when Bill Compton proposed to me.
He came from a family as well-to-do as mine. Like the Stackhouses, the Comptons were old Southern money. Bill was my first serious boyfriend. He was a good man and perfect on paper for me. Bill was exactly the kind of guy my family wanted me to marry. He had attended an Ivy League university, had a degree in finance and was making six figures on Wall Street. We had an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan but our wedding was being held back home at the Bellefleur mansion.
The house was situated on thirty-six acres of land. An air conditioned tent was erected by the manmade pond. I could hear the string quartet outside playing instrumental versions of Sinatra songs, which wasn’t my taste at all. But Bill’s stepmother had insisted on it so we had to have it.
That was how most of the wedding was planned.
What others wanted was what we got.
The guest list grew to be almost 600 people. Most of them were people Bill and I didn’t know. They were business associates of our parents. The freaking governor of Louisiana was coming, for fuck’s sake. The mayor of Bon Temps was coming. My dad had invited a few senators he had gone to college with. It was a goddamn circus.
I was supposed to be the main attraction.
The longer I looked at myself the harder it was to breathe.
I loved Bill. I knew that, but as I stared at myself I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t in love with him. I hadn’t been for a while. It was a thought I had been trying to ignore for months I had hoped that it was just a rut and we would get out of the slump, but I knew in my gut that if I married him I was going to regret it.
The next thing I knew I was clawing my way out of my dress.
There was a knock on the dressing room door. Usually the room was a parlor with pocket doors.
“Go away!” I yelled.
The door opened slowing, whoever it was ignoring me.
“Something tells me you’re not feeling this whole wedding thing,” my cousin Hadley said as she closed the door behind her.
“Yeah, I’m not going through with it,” I said.
Hadley had married a guy that her parents had practically picked out for her and she was exactly what I was trying to avoid becoming.
“Your parents are going to flip their tits,” she sighed. “And what about Bill? Do you plan on telling him or just disappearing?”
I pulled on the yoga pants I’d been wearing before I put on my gown. “I’ll call him later. I know it’s selfish and mean but if I talk to him I’ll have people trying to convince me to stay. I love you, Had, you know I do but I don’t want to end up like you,” I told her. I didn’t want to settle for some guy who barely made me feel secure. She could say she was happy all she wanted but I knew better.
She was Stepford Hadley.
She sighed heavily again as she made her way to me. She wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug. “I’m glad you have the guts I couldn’t seem to muster,” she whispered.
Hearing her say that meant a lot to me. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. New York wasn’t an option at the moment because I knew that was wear Bill would go first to look for me.
I pulled on my custom made Mrs. Compton tank top and my bridal hoodie. I took off my earrings and the bracelet my aunt had loaned me. The last thing to come off was my engagement ring. My eyes welled up as I handed it to Hadley.
“Will you tell Bill I’m sorry?” I knew he deserved more than that and he would get it, just not right then.
“I will,” she promised. “For what it’s worth, I have a feeling he’s going to be understanding.”
I hoped that was true.
“He deserves to be with someone who gets butterflies when she’s with him and I’m not that girl anymore.” I dabbed at my eyes. My makeup had been professionally applied and my hair had been done by a stylist all the way from New Orleans. Fancy, fancy stuff.
“Everyone deserves that. I’ll break it to him as gently as possible.”
“Thank you.” I picked up my purse and fished out my sunglasses. “I’ll let you know where I am.”
“Okay. I’m going to call you at midnight if I haven’t heard from you,” she warned.
“I’ll have my phone on me,” I promised. “Thank you, Hadley.”
“You’re welcome. Now go before Aunt Michelle comes looking for you.”
I hugged her one more time and then I bolted out of the room. I put my sunglasses on and went out the front door. The house was surrounded by catering vehicles and limos. I found the old Bentley that was supposed to take Bill and me to the airport at the end of the night. We were supposed to be boarding a red eye plane for Miami, and then we would continue on to Turks and Caicos.
My luggage was already loaded into the trunk of the old car so all we had to do was get in. The driver was my grandmother’s regular chauffeur, Luther. He was shocked to see me running toward him without my wedding dress on.
“Luther, I need you to take me to the airport,” I told him. “And no calling Adele.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He opened the door for me before closing it and jogging around to the driver door. He didn’t comment on the fact that I was without Bill. “International or domestic terminal, Miss Stackhouse?”
“Neither. I need to go to a car rental place,” I told him. If I got on a plane I knew they would be able to find out where I was before I even told them.
“Smart girl,” he smiled at me in the rearview mirror before he went silent.
I had no idea where I was going to go. All of my clothes in the trunk were meant for a romantic beach honeymoon. It was a lot of bikinis, sun dresses and lingerie. I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my contacts. I needed someone I could trust not to rat me out, and I stopped when I got to Amelia.
We had attended Boston University together and had been roommates our first two years. She was a graphic designer for the promotional department for Coachella. Her life had become fairly bohemian in a lot of ways. Amelia was married to a guy named Tray Dawson who built custom hotrods and motorcycles. He was covered in tattoos and according to Facebook; Amelia had recently gone to a salon to dye her hair to look like a mermaid.
I thought it looked good on her but I knew my family wouldn’t agree with that. When I suggested that she be my maid of honor I was quickly overruled by my mother. It didn’t matter that Amelia was one of my closest friends, or that her father owned most of New Orleans.
I should have known then that I was making a mistake.
Amelia had been hurt when I called her to tell her I wasn’t going to be asking her to stand up in the wedding. In fact, my mom made it clear no one but me wanted Amelia at the wedding. Calling her was a risk, but I did it anyway.
“Decided to walk out on your big pompous shindig after all?” she joked humorlessly in lieu of hello.
“I’m in a pearly white 1956 Bentley on my way to the airport to rent a car. I can’t marry him, Amelia. I had the dress on and my hair done and I couldn’t breathe,” I told her.
She was silent for a moment before she finally said, “We have plenty of room. You’re welcome to stay with us as long as you like.”
“Seriously?” I had explained why I couldn’t have her stand up in the wedding but she had still been pissed. I understood why. I should have had more backbone.
“Sookie, we’re friends. We hurt each other and then we make up. Truthfully, I’m probably the only real friend you have. I wouldn’t leave you high and dry on what was sure to be the party of the century. Get your butt here so I can kiss your face,” she told me.
Her reaction made me smile. I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.
“Okay. I’m going to drive out there so it’ll be a few days until I get there,” I said.
“Alright. Call me every potty or gas break so I know you’re not dead on the side of the road somewhere.”
“I will,” I promised. “Thank you, Amelia. I really don’t know where else I could go right now.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll have plenty of wine when you get here. I can even offer you a joint, but I doubt you’ll take it,” she chuckled.
“I might. You never know.” My whole life I’d only done what my family wanted. I even had a degree in history I was never going to use.
“I’ll wait until you’re settled in before we break out the heavy stuff,” she laughed.
I wasn’t sure what that meant.
“Okay, well I’ll be in touch,” I promised.
“Always.” I had a license but I hadn’t driven a car in years. In New York I had a driver or I took cabs if I wasn’t walking.
I hung up and sat back in my seat. Bill probably knew by then that I wasn’t coming. To save myself the headache I turned off my phone. It was going to be a long drive to California but it might do me some good.
I made it all the way to Sweetwater, Texas the first night before I had to stop for the night. The SUV I’d rented had GPS in it, thank God. Map reading wasn’t my strong suit. I stopped at some little motel that would make that hotel killer guy proud.
Once I was settled in my room I turned my phone on. Text message after text message hit my phone. Missed calls, voicemail, Facebook messages, Tweets… I disregarded the voicemail and just dialed Bill’s number.
“Sookie?” he answered frantically. “Where are you?”
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m okay,” I said. I wasn’t going to tell him where I was. Not yet anyway.
“What happened? Hadley said you just took off. Your parents and I are worried sick about you.” Bill sounded more concerned than upset.
“I love you, Bill, but today I put that dress on that I didn’t pick and I looked at the makeup I didn’t choose. In the background I heard music I don’t like. I thought about you being somewhere else nearby in a tuxedo you didn’t like. Nothing about today was a reflection of us as a couple or as individuals. I realized that it was always going to be like that. Someone else is always going to be pulling the strings and I want to be in the driver’s seat in my own life,” I told him. I hoped it made sense.
“You could’ve told me all this in person, Sookie. You didn’t have to run,” Bill said. “I love you too… you… you really don’t think we can work this out? We can fly out and meet in Vegas so we can elope. It can be just the two of us.”
“It’s not just the wedding, Bill. I used to get these butterflies every time you looked at me. Being together was exciting and I felt like we made a great team. On some level I think that hasn’t gone away completely, but it’s not the way it was. The thrill is gone and I don’t feel the rush I should when I think about starting the next chapter together. I feel like we’re together because it’s what we know and what’s expected of us, and we both deserve better than that,” I explained.
Bill sighed and asked, “Where are you, Sookie? I can come to you and we can talk about this. I don’t want to break up, Sookie. We can work this out.”
“I don’t want to, Bill,” I whispered.
“So this is it, huh?”
“For right now, I think it has to be. I’m so sorry, Bill,” I said sincerely. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He was a good man and he treated me well. I just didn’t feel it anymore. I had outgrown the relationship. Marrying him would be a mistake.
“Right… I need to go. Bye, Sookie.” With that Bill hung up.
I ended the call and stared at the phone. My wallpaper was a picture of him with our black, fat cat, Rhett. I loved the cat. I was going to miss him. I wondered if the cat would miss me back. My eyes welled up and I ended up sobbing on the end of the bed.
In no time my wedding makeup was sufficiently ruined. I started to remove the pins from my fancy hairdo and went into the bathroom to the bathroom to start the shower. I felt terrible for hurting Bill. I was sure my parents were going to be furious with me but I could handle it.
It was my life at stake, not theirs. It was time to stand on my own two feet, whether they liked it or not.