This week, Chuck Wendig assigned a bizarre flash fiction challenge: to use stock photos with WTF factors so high that no one would ever be able to use them.
Until now, that is, because we had to use one for story inspiration. I couldn’t even begin to pick one, so I used a random number generator and landed on photo 5. I’ll post it at the end of the story so as to not give anything away. If you want to see the whole list of photos, click here.
The Lost Wedding
“Mom, hurry up!” Jamie runs to the mirror and adjusts her veil. “I need you to help get the girls organized.”
“I know, dear.” Mrs. Harris’ defeated voice comes from the couch. Her tone matches the dreary mood of the room; neither of the ladies has bothered to turn on a light. The only illumination comes from the sunlight through the window.
Jamie turns and slumps. “Would it kill you to show a little excitement? It’s my wedding day.”
Mrs. Harris stands and approaches Jamie, running her hands over the veil’s fine tulle. “You look beautiful.”
“Are you planning to get dressed?”
Mrs. Harris hasn’t changed from her workout pants and sweatshirt. She puts her hands into the hoodie’s pockets. “I will, honey. I have time.”
Jamie places a hand on each of her mother’s shoulders. “You have an hour. That’s nothing. The girls?”
“They’re doing fine. They’re waiting in the next room. I’ll go check on them, if you’d like.”
Jamie beams. “That would be lovely.” She turns back to the mirror, this time dabbing her fingers under her eyes, likely to evenly distribute the makeup she partially cried away. Running her hands along the brown curls that drape her shoulders, she starts to cry again. I wish her to stop. One of these days must be a happy one.
She adjusts the top of her gown, smudged in places from repeated use. I ache as I watch her; I imagine the dress was pristine the first time, though I didn’t get to see it.
Her primping complete, Jamie turns, faces the empty room, and sighs. Set in the back of the church, it’s a room meant for a bride to prepare for her wedding — or for family members to wait to be escorted into the funeral of a loved one. Jamie has used the room for both purposes.
I hope that today, she only remembers the happier use of the space.
Jamie seems to tire of waiting for her mother’s return and stomps out of the room, entering the nearly empty church.
Mrs. Harris is waiting in the doorway of the sanctuary, hands in her pockets.
“Mother. Get dressed.”
Mrs. Harris forces a grin as she starts crying. “Must we keep doing this?”
Jamie looks puzzled. “What do you mean?”
Mrs. Harris doesn’t answer. Instead, she puts a hand over her mouth and rushes out of the church. Jamie follows, and I follow her. I must follow her.
Mrs. Harris runs to her husband’s open arms before turning back to her daughter. “I thought I could help you, dear. But I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep pretending. I’m sorry.” She falls into the passenger seat of their Beemer but looks back before Mr. Harris drives away. “I’m calling Dr. Warren when I get home.”
“I’m not crazy,”Jamie says as the car disappears down the dirt road.
She re-enters the church, which the pastor has kindly allowed her to use on this day every year for the past five years. He seemed to assume her ritual was a form of grieving.
My Jamie gazes into every room before walking out the back door of the building and to the adjacent cemetery.
“No, don’t go there again. Not this year,” I say.
She settles next to a tombstone, Jason Quill’s tombstone. My tombstone. The ground is smudging her dress, and I can hardly stand it.
At least there isn’t a photographer here this year, like three years ago. She thought she could trick me into thinking she was happy, just because she smiled on my grave.
Stroking the marble, she cries new tears. “When can I stop? My mom thinks I’m crazy.”
“When you have your perfect day,” I say. “I love you. That’s all I want for you.”
She can’t see me, but she can hear me. I discovered this fact the first year after I died on the way to our wedding, when the truck driver plowed into me. She can only hear me on this day every year, but I can see her all the time. I watch her suffer and try to regain her old life, only to fall again into despair. I figure if she knows I’m still here, and that we can have our wedding, then she won’t have to suffer any longer. She’ll have her day, like she always talked about.
Turning towards the direction of my voice, she asks, “How can that happen?”
I reach for her, longing to touch her. My frustration mounts as my hand moves cleanly through her body. “When you have your day, I’ll leave.”
“You died, Jason. I can’t have that day without you.”
“But I’m here.”
“No, you’re not!” She jumps to her feet and stomps right through me. “You have to leave me alone!”
I watch her go back to her car and drive away.
I follow, gliding through the air. I only have a few more hours before she’ll stop hearing me. I have to convince her.
I won’t be able to go until I do.