The dress was hanging on the knob of a high cabinet in her bedroom: creamy ivory floor length, lacy bodice, and a ballerina neckline Karen thought made her look regal. Shoulder-length veil for her upswept hair. (She’d practiced twice and secretly cried at how great it looked! Me, Karen!) She was now ready to get dressed and off to the church. Her mom, sister, and Aunt Zinnia would be here any minute. These are the very last moments I will be single and in my own apartment, she thought. I’ll never be exactly this Karen ever again!
The rehearsal and the dinner had been fun. It was the first time Karen could ever remember being the star of anything. Her parents loved Kurt; his parents loved her. The parents all liked each other! Karen’s little sister Janet was thrilled to be a bridesmaid and stroll all la-dee-dah down the aisle before her sister would steal the show. She was in eleventh grade and was smitten with Kurt and the whole wedding process.
Karen’s matron of honor was her friend from work, April, who’d been married two years and was 7 months pregnant. The joke was she was carrying a large melon under her cantaloupe-colored dress. Karen had chosen cantaloupe as her theme color to recall where she and Kurt met each other, choosing melons at Food Faire. There were beaucoup fruit jokes among the small bridal party, which they did not share with any of the parents.
The usher was Kurt’s friend from work at State Farm. His name was David and he was years too old for Janet, of course, but she insisted on having a crush on him. She couldn’t wait to dance with him at the reception. It was sort of fun to be seventeen, wasn’t it? thought Karen. Still a dumb little kid but full of confidence and imagination.
The best man, however, was still missing. He hadn’t made it to the rehearsal, but he knew the drill. Who didn’t? Ken was flying in from Nome, Alaska of all places, where he was working on some photoessay or a book or something on bears. It was summer and they were out in the open now so that came first, I guess, thought Karen. What kind of job is that anyway, she wondered. Did he do other animals in the winter?
Ken was a mystery man. Kurt hardly ever mentioned him and the two were estranged as far as Karen could tell. She didn’t know Ken existed until after she was engaged to his own brother! It worried her a little. What else was Kurt not exactly forthcoming about? She had ascertained for sure that he was not now nor ever had been married. Karen could stick to business when she had to. Generally Kurt was an easy going, open guy. Karen couldn’t really believe he would have any dark secrets. A brother you don’t care for much is no biggie!
Ken was certainly not on her mind at all after her mom and Aunt Zinnia and Janet arrived to doll up the bride. (The bride! Karen screamed inside!) (Calm down, girl, people get married every day.) Her dad appeared an hour later and drove the three fussing woman to the little chapel. Karen had not wanted a civil ceremony though that sort of appealed to Kurt. (Later he had admitted the chapel was prettier really.)
The photographer buzzed around getting shots in the Bride’s Room and setting up mawkish scenarios of dad looking sadly yet lovingly at daughter, mother clinging to dad’s arm, little sister adjusting veil of transcendent bride. Karen did her best to look radiant, composed, and daft with bliss all at once. It was hard with a bald man staring through the camera giving directions like a filmmaker. “Look at Dad! Not too much smile. Big moment! Big moment!” Karen wished her shoes were off, but any minute now she’d be trying not to dash down that aisle to Kurt.
And in came Kurt! “No, no, no! Not before the ceremony! You know that, Sweetheart!” The alarm in Karen’s voice was real. Such bad luck! And she wanted to surprise him with her dress at the altar! “No, no! I’m not Kurt!” He smiled and then Karen saw it. This was not her Kurt! What had happened? A joke? A change of heart? A change of character right before the wedding? Holy Moly!
“I’m Ken. I came to see my brother’s bride and wish her luck with that loser! Tough break, Kitten.” He was joking, of course, but already she didn’t like him. Oh, that’s sad, thought Karen! How can I not like my husband’s exact twin just ten seconds after meeting him!
Ken introduced himself to Karen’s mom, dad, aunt, and sister. Hands were shaken. Photos snapped. And then Ken suddenly was there holding her shoulders and looking at Karen square in the eyes, as if he were going to say something deep and sentimental. Oh, it’s just plain weird, Karen thought. Look at him! Weird.
And then he kissed her; not on the cheek or forehead in a brotherly way, not exactly sexily like an old flame making trouble (a flashback to Chad flitted through Karen’s mind), not like a second date kind of kiss either. Whatever it was, Karen did not like it. She couldn’t stop the “OH!” from popping out of her mouth like a ping pong ball, but she quickly took control and said, “What a resemblance! Kurt never told me. Nice you could be here, but I think we have a few more pics and then it’s ‘Here Comes the Bride’ time. Tell Kurt I can’t wait to see HIM.” Ken smiled wryly again and left. The mothers started talking about the twins, but Karen was no longer listening. She was thinking about melon-colored, peach-flavored cake (she forgot to eat this morning!) and the two little figures on the top. She had wanted ice cream too, but she was told it just isn’t done at weddings. Too messy to deal with. Darn.
In a blur of emotion Karen made it down the aisle on her dad’s arm. She actually noticed friends in the pews, she smiled at everyone, she beamed. And she fell in love all over again and practically swooned when she got up to her darling Kurt, so much more handsome than the man standing next to him.
All was well until the exchange of rings. Ken futzed a second with his vest pocket as if he could’t find the ring. And then Karen saw him drop it, on purpose it seemed to her, with juvenile malice, pranking his brother who stood there, as did they all, that few seconds as the ring rolled back down the aisle toward the congregation. Everyone was stunned. Several chortles were heard from the crowd. Then Kurt looked at Ken with a slightly menacing face and turned to go get the ring since Ken seemed to have no intention of doing so. Ken smirked. But, Karen was the one who dove for the gold band. Karen was the one who hiked her skirt up a few inches and scampered down and back, ring in hand. She pressed it into Kurt’s left palm firmly, smiled at him triumphantly, and put out her left hand. He looked into her eyes and they shared their first truly married moment even before the ring was on her finger. He cocked his head slightly away from the congregation and whispered to his bride, “Bombs away!”