I weep openly. A high-pitched whimper leaves my mouth that is so high I think I hear a dog howl somewhere in the distance. I alternate whimpering and bawling, snorting every now and again. Tears drench my cheeks. Boogers almost run into my mouth. I’m a hot mess.
When the celebrant smiles happily and utters, “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride,” my sister, Natalie, throws her bouquet behind her. Without flinching, Mimi snatches up the flowers mid-air before winking to the crowd. Nat stands on her tiptoes and kisses her husband, Asher, through a smile. He gently hooks a hand around the back of her neck and holds her close, deepening the kiss and refusing to let her end it. They smile lip-to-lip.
It’s beautiful. And so I howl. I look across to the middle-aged man sitting next to me. He watches me with a mixture of concern and fear, backing up just a little. I try to speak through my hitching breaths and sobbing, “Izz juzz so beautafoo.” Hitch. “So beautafoo.”
I break down again, louder this time. Sinking down into my chair in the most unladylike way, I let out a long, keening cry. I hear someone say an annoyed, “Will someone please get her out of here?”
Wet mascara makes my eyelashes stick together. When I realize the annoyed person is my sister, I lift my face heavenward and cry harder. Nat glares at me and hisses only loud enough for me to hear, “Seriously, shut the eff up and stop with the crying. You’re bringing everyone down, skank!”
I weakly reach a hand out to her, body shaking with silent sobs and try to speak. “I lubb ewe. Ewe look beautafoo. So beautafoo.” I sit up and wail, “I’m juzz happy. So happy.”
My sister. She speaks my language. So when I see her eyes fill with tears and her lip quivers, I know it’s not long before this solo turns into a duet. She looks at me and whispers, “Aww.” The first of her tears fall, and before I know it, we’re clutching each other and sobbing openly, wailing, sounding something like a couple of chimps fighting in a turf war.
If you couldn’t tell, I don’t do weddings well. They get me. They always get me. It’s the same thing every time. I give myself a firm pep-talk. I don’t bother packing tissues, as if somehow that’ll stop the tears, and usually, before the cake is even cut, my makeup is all over my face and my eyes are swollen shut.
But today is worse. Today it’s my sister’s special day. Well, my sister’s second special day. She and Asher eloped. They got hitched in Vegas, married by Elvis. They said at the time it felt right, but when they got home, it felt wrong, that it felt like something was missing. And what was missing was family.
They organized another small celebration to be held in the best man, Nik, and maid of honor, Tina’s, backyard. I have known Tina Tomic all my life. She grew up with us. Her parents and mine were the best of friends, meaning, naturally, we all developed a special bond. Not quite close enough to be sisters, but too close to be called just friends.
We became soul sisters.
When Tina lost her mom and daughter, she left California and moved to New York. She opened a very successful boutique called Safira’s, and Nat followed close behind. Nik and Tina met, developed a friendship and fell in love. A special kind of love. One for the ages. The type of love poets write about.
Nik owns the club across the street from Safira, The White Rabbit. And with Nik comes his posse—his younger brother, Max, his best friend, Asher or Ghost, as the boys call him, and their cousin, Trick. Tina, having her own posse, her worker girls, Mimi and Lola, and my sister, Nat, decided to merge the two groups to form one. And they did.
They formed a family.
Not all families are bonded through blood. Some have been sewn together by love and laughter.
Now, Nat and Asher, they didn’t always like each other. In fact, they despised one another. They fought their attraction to each other for a long time…until it became unavoidable. When they finally came together, they collided with a bang. Literally. Heads were butted. Hooves were bucked. It wasn’t pretty. Not your typical romance, for sure. They fought until it hurt to fight anymore. You know the saying, ‘There’s a thin line between love and hate’? Well, they severed the line and the emotions merged. They realized their love for each other was too strong to ignore.
And here they are, happily married. I smile shakily.
I can’t believe it.
My sister is married.
Someone pries my Kung-Fu death grip off of Nat and ushers my sobbing ass away. I peer out of a swollen eye to find my older sister, Nina, shushing me and rubbing my back soothingly. She tries not to make eye contact, knowing it’ll only make things worse, but in a moment of confusion, her eye meets mine.
We both still.
Her eyes widen.
So do mine.
Her wide-set gaze darts from side-to-side in panic, looking for a quick out. But it’s too late. My lip quivers, I lift my face and I let out a wail so strong it sounds like an animal has made it—namely, a moose—and etiquette tells me that alarming noise has no place at a wedding.
But I just can’t stop it!
Nina’s steps quicken, in turn, quickening my own. She pulls me along, and then we’re inside. “Jesus C, kid. Buck the fuck up,” she utters in exasperation. “I seriously don’t know how we’re related sometimes. It’s a wedding, not a funeral! No more tears. Capisce?”
My breathing hitches so much that my face jerks to the side with every heavy breath. “I.” Hitch. “Can’t.” Hitch. “Help.” Hitch. “It.”