Proxy: Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Every girl is supposed to dream about her wedding day.

I found out on the day of my father's wedding that I like them much better between the pages of a book, as the neat white ribbon that ties the story together. It was pretty, I guess, as I remember it. It was at the church we all went too now-- it was new for Sheena, but she already fit in like everyone there was her very best friend. She laughed a lot. Even during the ceremony, I remember that she giggled like a little girl, just before the pastor told my father that he could kiss the bride.

(I confirmed it on the wedding video-- I couldn't hear the sound, too many crackles and pops over the piped in praise music, but I could see the way her shoulders moved up and down in her white gown.)

I didn't find it as funny. It wasn't anything against her-- I just didn't see the appeal.

They made me a flower girl. Sheena suggested ringbearer, but my father vetoed that. "My cousin's little boy can do that. She'd be better with the flowers."

I was more interested in the solemn duty of the rings, had already imagined myself walking down the aisle before them like a knight on a sacred mission, carrying the holy rings on a silk cushion. But my father had already begun to sketch out his vision, and I had already set aside the magic rings for a bouquet of pink and white roses.

I did my duty, even smiling in the pictures. And the ceremony was okay. It went perfectly. Sheena and my father both beamed at the crowd, waving at an adoring public. I did well, even through the hour of posing and rearranging for the pictures, watching the photographer get more and more irritated. It was the reception that was the issue.

It was perfect too-- Sheena and my father had decked the church reception hall in pink and white ribbons, covered the tables in silky white cloth and pink roses tucked into white china vases. I went to the bridal party table, like I was supposed to, ate my dinner neatly, chatted a little with Sheena's maid of honor, and left my father and Sheena be. And I did okay, really, as long as we were caught up in the rituals I knew-- the first dance, the cake cutting, the tossing of the bouquet and the garter.

Then the music started-- the familiar sound of "The Electric Slide." Sheena squealed with delight and ran for the floor, trailed by my father and her bridesmaids. "Come on, everybody! Let's dance!"

All the other kids went, forming into the lines they all knew so well. I followed, but I couldn't get the rhythm. I was never very good at that. I'm not much better now, but I was even worse then. The singer asked me to feel it. I didn't. The third time that I went left instead of right, colliding into some boy I knew vaguely from church camp, I slipped off the dance floor and stood at the wall, in the shadows, where nobody could really see me. I was half hidden behind one of the paper mache pillars my father had erected, and I settled in for another night on the outskirts. I almost wished that they would start taking pictures again, so that I would have a part in the scene again.

Instead, "The Electric Slide" turned into "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" turned into "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" turned into "The Chicken Dance," and I turned into another part of the scenery-- aesthetically pleasing, but practically invisible, and not particularly vital.

"Hey, Corinne. Not a big dancer?"

I turned my head slightly towards Sheena. Her hair was starting to escape from the salon waves and work itself into its normal wild curls, and her soft pink lipstick was worn away to reveal the duller, realer pink underneath. I could even see an eyelash that had escaped and drifted down to rest on her cheek.

"No, not really. I don't... I don't know how," I said, ducking my head down and hiding how flustered the admission made me, brow furrowing like I could will away the embarrassed redness rushing into my cheeks.

She leaned against the wall next to me, even starting to scoot down and sit. I almost startled, straightening up myself, alarmed out of my absent slouch.

"You'll get something on your dress..."

She waved a hand, settling down on the hall floor, almost engulfed in the enormous white skirts. "It'll be okay, we already took the pictures. And something tells me I'm not gonna wear this again," she said, smiling at me. When she smiled, a dimple would form on her left cheek. She used to joke about it all the time-- she'd take a fingertip and dig it into the one little divot, tugging it and exaggerating it from a tiny beauty mark to a big pink punchline. It's funny... I'd forgotten about that, until just now, when I was writing this. It was in almost all her pictures, but I forgot that it was really there.

"Come on, you sit too. Don't make me the only weirdo."

I froze for a moment, looking over to the bridal table for my father. He wasn't there. I couldn't pick him out of the crowd. I couldn't even hear him. I settled uncertainly on the ground, carefully spreading out my pink satin skirt, so that any dirt or dust would stick to my pantyhose instead and be safely hidden under the skirt.

"The Chicken Dance" faded out to a slower song, one I didn't recognize, and we sat there in the quiet, watching people spin around in each other's orbits, like they didn't notice everyone watching them.

"So. Any fun plans for while we're away?"

I shrugged, picking at a loose thread from the seam of my skirt.

"Your dad says you're gonna be staying at your good friend Anne's house. No fun plans?"

I shook my head and almost laughed. Anne wasn't my friend. Not really. She was the daughter of one of my father's friends, and they both firmly believed that we were friends. After all, we were both only children-- didn't we need sisters? Didn't we want sisters? Weren't we the next best thing?

The reality was that I was used to being on my own, and resented the intrusion into my solitude, while Anne recognized me as a half-rate substitute for the little brother she wanted and was perpetually denied. I wanted to sit quietly and read my ever present stack of library books, and she wanted to run around with the neighbor boys and plot elaborate pranks. We usually sat quietly in front of the TV and watched a movie we didn't remember or particularly want to see.

"I think I'll just read. I went to the library yesterday. I got a bunch of new ones."

"Oh yeah? Anything good?"

"I... yeah. I hope, I mean. I got the next book from the Wizards series. Or.... the next next one. The library didn't have the second one, so I skipped to the third one, High Wizardry."

Sheena nodded slowly, tilting her head and resting her hand on her chin, like she was filing something away for later. I couldn't determine what she could think was that important. "Well, that'll be fun, at least! Let me know if you find anything really good. I'm in a rut with my mystery novels, last couple were duds. Maybe I should branch out."

I wanted to say something, I felt like I was supposed to, but I couldn't figure out what would be right. So I just nodded, but I stopped my eyes from drifting out onto the rest of the party. I stayed focused on Sheena. I wasn't sure, but it felt more right.

We sat there in silence as the song started to build towards a syrupy sweet chorus. Sheena broke the silence again, resting her hands on her knees. "I'm excited to move in with you, Corinne. I think you're a really cool, interesting person. I'm sorry I didn't get to know you sooner."

"... me too." I wasn't sure I meant it, but I wanted to mean it. "I'm not very interesting. I just read."

"That's something we have in common! And you're very interesting. Most people are, if you take a minute."

I wasn't sure I believed her about me. I always felt so out of place, no matter where I was. Even at school, when the other kids ran around at recess, I sat down on a bench by the school doors, waiting for the bell to ring and for the order I craved to return. But maybe I could become interesting. Maybe I could become somebody that people remembered by name, rather than "Dr. Leonard's daughter.

"Sometimes more than a minute," I said, before I could catch myself. Sheena let out a startled laugh, then elbowed me lightly-- barely, really, her elbow only grazed my arm. She had never really touched me. She was a big hugger, always holding her arms out to anyone she met, but she never yanked me into a hug. It was like she had sensed somehow that I wouldn't know what to do, that I would stand there and wish quietly for the whole thing to be over.

"Well... yeah. But it's always good to take that time."

The quiet settled over the two of us again, but it didn't feel so wrong this time. I felt the nervous tightness leave my shoulders and flow elsewhere, out of my reach.

"So, you don't know how to dance?"

I shook my head again, shrugging slightly.

"Do you wanna learn?"

"No. Not-- not right now." I was surprised to find that I really meant that. I would learn. But later.

"Okay, good, 'cause my feet are killing me. I gotta get out of these heels and into a real chair. Come with me? We might even be able to steal a few extra desserts."

I followed her back to the bridal table, settling into the empty chair on Sheena's other side. We played tic tac toe on the back of an abandoned wedding program, laughing at each other as we tried to find ways to make the game outrageous and elaborate. There's a picture of us that the photographer took, leaning into each other and practically screaming with laughter. It was one of Sheena's favorites. She kept it on her desk, next to the wedding portrait.

I spent the week at Anne's house, reading books and staying out of the way. When Sheena and my father came back from their honeymoon in Hawaii, she brought me a seashell and a copy of Deep Wizardry she'd found at a used bookshop down the street from their hotel.

She remembered.