The New Bride

She was to join a chorus of community people, not singers so much as volunteers, in a Holiday Open House concert of Christmas carols at one of those old Victorian mansions you see up and down the weeping willow draped avenues of the Deep South. This was Livingston, Alabama in 1979, or maybe it was one of those adjoining towns, York, or Cuba, or Eutaw. She was no longer a Young Bride, but she was still new enough at it to not know exactly what was expected of her all the time. Her husband, the band director at the local college, had assembled some of his students into a small brass ensemble to play at the event and she had agreed to sing. She stood just behind the red-headed baritone player. She waited between songs while the musicians, including her husband on trumpet, played seasonal instrumental pieces, and she looked down at the baritone player. It occurred to her that, unless it is that deep red color, almost a brown really, red hair is not always that attractive. This girl’s hair was quite lovely. It so happened that the girl also had an odd speaking voice, nasal and tinny, that was most disconcerting considering her otherwise pleasant features. But the hair was very pretty indeed. She noted it well. So well in fact that, for the rest of her life, she would remember that night, and looking at the girl’s hair.

By Valentine’s Day, she was immersed in the community theater’s Winter Theater Festival and had to leave the decorating of the house for her husband’s marching band party to the students. She had made a heart-shaped cake though, with pink icing. After rehearsal, when she walked in the back door into her kitchen, the red-headed girl was at the sink. Another student, a boy who had dressed up as a Klansman at the Halloween party she and her husband had hosted – and it was funny only because the boy was African-American – was also standing in the kitchen. She said hello to the girl at the sink and to the boy, smiled at them both, apologized for being late. The boy’s eyes cut to the girl at the sink. He looked back at her and said, “Wow, you are a good actress!” and walked quickly out of the room. The girl looked flustered, set a glass on the counter, and left the room as well. She stood there, alone, looking at the glass on the counter. She had no idea what the boy had meant.

Weeks later, after it was all over and she had moved away, when she would sit in the tiny apartment, the first she’d ever had on her own, with no parents, no college roommates, no husband, and the sun would set without her rising to turn on a lamp, she would remember other things she’d missed. And she wondered how it was that she had misread those events. How had they slipped by her without notice? Why had she not attached importance to them? She guessed that, perhaps, she’d still felt too newly married, that the idea of being married had not completely settled into a familiarity. And yet, wouldn’t you suppose that it would not be until one got to that level of ease, when a woman feels like she’s truly married and that she’s earned the rank, that the seeds of betrayal could more easily be planted? How did complacency find a fertile spot to grown in that short time she was married to him?

Well, maybe it was not complacency at all, she decided. Maybe she was just an idiot. Yes, that must be it.

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