Unhappily ever after

wooden chairs hanging on a wall

More from the Dinner Party

Dell studied his reflection in the dressing room mirror, turning to the left and right to see if he had a “good side.” He decided that neither direction was any more appealing than avoiding the mirror altogether.

He heard the whispers. His own groomsmen were mumbling about how he was “marrying up,” and “how did Dell reel in this catch.” He knew Ciera could have her pick of men, but still she chose him.

Adjusting his ascot, Dell wondered if his betrothed was as nervous as he was.

At the other end of the church hallway, past the surplus Fellowship Hall chairs hanging from the wall, Ciera was being attended by her bridesmaids. Chattering like a yard full of guinea hens, they fussed with the buttons running down the length of her gown.

Dumbfounded by their friend’s whirlwind romance that led to this haphazard wedding, the gaggle of party girls were still trying to talk Ciera out of walking down the aisle. Her sudden change of behavior had them concerned, worried that Dell had somehow managed to brainwash her into submission.

Nothing like the typical sexy men Ciera hooked up with, Dell was a caricature of a nerd. He was short, unnaturally pale, overweight, balding and bespectacled. He had never had a girlfriend before Ciera, relying on companionship from a seemingly endless selection of just as desperate online dating match-ups.

Dell first saw Ciera at Twister, a club on Woodbridge Boulevard. He would go there to watch the girls dance, and Ciera was his favorite. He tried to buy her a drink one night, and she poured it on the floor when her server pointed him out at the bar.

After that night, he would still come into the club to watch Ciera, but he kept his distance. Then he received a formal invitation for dinner at the home of Augustine Stiles, the reclusive, ever enigmatic and eccentric, multi-millionaire.

He never thought twice about what he would ask for when Mr. Stiles’ staff distributed the wish cards. He wanted Ciera to be his forever.

Standing at the altar, the sanctuary pews sparsely filled with friends and family, Dell and Ciera exchanged vows.

Dell wrote his own words, declaring his never-ending love and devotion to the woman of his dreams.

Ciera made a promise of fidelity and dedication, offering to cleave unto her husband in sickness and health, good times and bad. What she didn’t mention, what she didn’t feel towards the man she was promising herself to forevermore, was love.

During their reception, the newlyweds opened small gifts including one wrapped in gilded paper. The card was simply signed, “Best wishes for a long life together, A.S.” The Cartier 14-karat gold picture frame held one of their wedding invitations, immortalizing the date of their nuptials.

Their life together did proved to be long, but joyless. Their union was devoid of passion and tenderness. It lacked any semblance to the dream Dell yearned for in a happy home.

Too late, he realized he neglected to word his wish correctly. He didn’t just want Ciera, he wanted her to love him.

Mr. Stiles patiently signed the stack of correspondence Jasper had presented. One card brought a complacent smile.

“Remind me, Jasper,” Mr. Stiles said, adding his usual flourish to the bottom of the card. “What is the traditional gift for the 25th anniversary?”

“Silver, sir.”

“See to it that an appropriate memento commemorating this auspicious milestone is sent,” Mr. Stiles said.

Inspiration: Conditional joy
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Inspiration: Hanging chairs

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