FIRST PAGE SATURDAY: Untitled Mystery
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“Yes,” cried Mariah, as she stood back to get a good look, clapping her hands in delight. “That’s the perfect wedding dress for you.”
I smiled at her excitement, wishing I’d shared it. Just wasn’t too sure.
Moving closer to the full length mirror in Voluptuous Veils, Paxton, West Virginia’s one and only bridal shop, I stared at my reflection. It stared right on back. Long, curly red hair greeted me, green eyes, multiple freckles, pale face devoid of any color whatsoever, no smile, no twinkle in my eye, no glow and oh yes, I was swathed in a white satin gown.
Was that really my reflection? That washed out, ghostly apparition? Weren’t brides-to-be supposed to be radiant? Ecstatic?
What was even stranger was that I was usually a ‘smiling-kind of’ person, but for some reason, just couldn’t seem to summon one up today. Not even a teeny-tiny one.
I squinted, still trying to size up how I looked. Jeans and tees were more my style. Dresses were a rarity and fashion completely foreign to me. Just not important in the least.
I still couldn’t believe that I, Samantha Barclay – high school psychologist/FBI special agent – was getting ready to marry my fiancé, Al Michaels, and was even at the stage of buying a wedding dress.
But shouldn’t I look happier about it? Rosy-faced? Shiny-like?
Weren’t weddings touted as the best day of our lives? And saying ‘yes’ to the dress, one step closer to the coveted pinnacle – the wedding day?
And then… contented married life.
A shot of fear sliced through me. A tear formed, and began sliding down my cheek. Quickly brushing it away, I glanced behind me. Had anyone noticed? Nope. Whew!
My stepmother, Irena Edwards, was staring intently at her iPhone, thumbs flying over the keyboard, while Mariah Blue, my half-sister, was now checking out the buttons on the back of the gown. Thank goodness. I certainly didn’t want them made privy to my thoughts. Wouldn’t be able to stand all the questions they’d surely ask.
Looking back at the mirror, once again I was alarmed by how sad I looked. Or maybe frightened was more accurate. I mean, really, this was supposed to be a happy time, right? A time of exciting plans and making dreams come true, right? So why did I look like I was in mourning? Like I was prepping to attend a funeral?
Okay, I never really did have great fantasies about my wedding day to begin with, but figured buying the dress was supposed to be somewhat exciting. So, why wasn’t it? Why was I dreading committing to this gown, or any of them? And… was it the actual day or the ‘forever kind of marriage” that was freaking me out?
I was a psychologist and a trained FBI agent – why couldn’t I figure this out?
It was a problem that needed a resolution, and I was usually pretty good at sorting through stuff like this. Or at least when it came to my work. For some reason, my personal life left me stunned, confused, unable to make sense of any of it.
“Sorry,” said Irena, flipping her phone back in her purse. “Had to answer a text from your dad. But I agree with Mariah. That dress is a beauty. Absolutely stunning.”
“Do you think so?” I managed to plant a fake smile on my face. “Really?”
“Really,” said Irena. “I don’t think you could find a more perfect gown.”
“Yeah?” I knew I sounded like a little kid, but just couldn’t help it.
“Yeah. Now, would we lie?” barked out an impatient Mariah. “Here, put this veil on. Let’s get the full effect.”
Picking up the long, frothy swirl of white tulle draped over a chair, she attached it to my head, via a silver tiara. I stared. Yep, it lived up to the store’s name. Definitely voluptuous.
“Sam, it’s you,” added Mariah, fussing over it, draping it just so. “The dress is not too prissy or lacy, but elegant and fits you like a glove. The veil sets the whole thing off. The tiara is perfect – not too ornate or anything. You’re a vision.”
Probably believing she’d got it just right, Mariah, looking exhausted, grimaced as she tried to squeeze herself into a chair. Being eight months pregnant made it quite a feat and all that huffing and puffing made me nervous, so I was glad when she finally managed it and looked up at me. Waiting for an answer, I supposed.
“Yeah? But a vision of what?” I asked.