The Fat Lady Sings
by Rebecca Lawton
We arrive late and stand at the back of the crowd.
“Can you hear what they're saying?” I ask.
Lynn shakes her head. “She said something about contributing to his enlightenment.”
Lynn giggles, then sighs as two-year-old Sammy squirms in her arms and fights his way to the ground. She follows as he wanders a crooked course toward the house and buffet tables. I’m left alone to watch the end of the ceremony.
The bride and groom, friends of Lynn but strangers to me, have the American River canyon at their backs. Spring-green grass reaches nearly to their knees. He wears a slate-gray tuxedo with creamy boutonniere. She is lovely in a long dress and wide-brimmed straw hat, her white train draped over one arm.
The afternoon breeze bends toward me, carrying the scream of a distant red-tailed hawk. Memories of years past flood back: days guiding tourists through whitewater, camping along the river, sleeping at the water's edge. The breeze bends again and bears the final words of the wedding: “You may kiss.” The bride and groom share a long kiss; the river's rush, rising from hundreds of feet below, fills a hush that precedes the inevitable wave of laughter from the guests. The groom raises a triumphant fist. His bride smiles radiantly, indulgently, as they stroll arm in arm to the champagne table for their first toast.
Lynn and Sammy return. “I remember repeating those same words,” I say. “'I do' and 'I will.'”
“I know, Maddie.” Lynn's face draws in sympathy.
“Maybe it will work for them.”
“It may still work for you.”
“You have no idea how stubborn Jack is,” I say. “He won't come back.”
“You never know. I hate to hear you give up. You know it's not over until the fat lady sings.”
“Show me where she is. I'll gag her.”
The crowd is not supposed to dig into the food until three o'clock, but guests are edging close to the hors d'oeuvres. After the first hand plucks up a California roll, it's all over, and a scramble begins for foam plates and plastic forks. It's a pot-luck wedding, but not everyone has brought a dish. Polite panic builds as people see the shortage; I elbow through to heap three plates with potato salad, mesquite-grilled salmon and halibut, French bread and individually wrapped squares of butter. Then I pull two bottles of sparkling water and lime from a bucket of ice and settle on the redwood deck.
Lynn and Sammy join me as the groom and his best man link arms and dance on the lawn. The two men lip-sync to the Rolling Stones, who wail in absentia from stereo speakers perched in open windows above the deck. The best man's hair swings in a ponytail past his shoulder blades, brushing the back of his matching tuxedo. A few guests chuckle and applaud.
“They certainly dance well together,” says Lynn.
I agree. “Amazing. Maybe they rehearsed it. But it doesn't really look rehearsed.”
The first champagne cork flies over the lawn and into long grass as the music segues to a solo guitar arrangement of Tchaikovsky's “Sleeping Beauty Waltz.” The happy couple clasp hands to begin their first dance, their faces confident, their eyes meeting tenderly.
“Now that dance looks rehearsed,” says Lynn.
“Yeah. Mine was, too.”
“Hey, Sammy, you know this song—'Once Upon A Dream.'” He and Lynn sing together, she bending to hold him, he eager and joyful. In a moment Sammy turns his attention from the music to my empty water bottle and the serious art of depositing pine needles in it.
“Oh, Lynn, he's great.”
She nods. “Most of the time.”
“I wanted a family so much. Of course Jack didn’t.”
Lynn reaches an arm around me. “It's okay,” she whispers. “Hold that thought. You'll have a family.”
The wedding party is dancing on the lawn. Arms wave, champagne spills, tuxedo tails whip and fly. Ecstatic couples jump and sing to a quick rhythm and blues.
Could you have a change of heart?
Could you have a change of mind?
The group bounces in synchronized celebration. As the best man prances nonchalantly, eyes closed, his wife thrusts up against him. Their hips meet, neat and narrow, as they move together. I watch their gleeful faces until I cannot breathe. “Lynn, I have to go.”
“I'm sorry. I guess this wasn't a good idea. Here, we'll walk you to your car.”
(Read the rest of "The Fat Lady Sings" in the forthcoming story collection, What I Never Told You: Stories on Water, by Rebecca Lawton. )
("The Fat Lady Sings" was first published as "Change of Heart" by the acorn: a journal of the Western Sierra. El Dorado, CA: El Dorado Writers' Guild. 1995.)