There is a loose thread on my dress and all I want to do is pull it out. I keep tugging at it, but the problem is getting worse, and the thought of my dress coming undone in front of everyone makes me cringe. Instead, I stop bothering with the strand and check my phone. No new messages. I am sitting at my cousin Raquel’s wedding between my mom and my brother, Eli. We are at table number 2, which also happens to be the size of the pink cotton dress that I am wearing. I borrowed it from Mom, and when I tried it on she said it looked too tight. But I had sucked in my stomach and shook my head, convincing her it was a perfect fit. The thought of her seeing the loose strand was unsettling.
Mom has been eating the same piece of chicken for over thirty minutes. Aunt Aurora is to her right, and they are discussing the “scandalous” fact that their youngest sister Lorraine had allowed Raquel and David to live with each other for 2 years before they tied the knot.
“Why buy the cow?” Mom says with a scoff. Aunt Aurora nods in response, and Mom turns to me. “Isn’t that right, Rebecca?”
I look up from my phone. Mom looks back at me expectantly. I avoid eye contact, instead focusing on her protruding cheekbones, her well-defined nose, and tight lips. Had she always had such strong features? I think about my plump cheeks and imagine Mom when she was my age. The young Elaine Jenkins was attractive, confident, thin, married, free of social speculation because of her pristine reputation. Her legacy of perfection lives on, and haunts me every day.
“I’m sorry...I zoned out,” I fib, “What were you saying?”
Mom opens her mouth to repeat the question, but closes it suddenly when she notices that Raquel and Dave are approaching our table. I smile at the inconvenience, and take a sip of my chardonnay.
Raquel’s dress is strapless with an empire waist. Her weight has always fluctuated, and today she’s on the heftier side. She is suffocating in a corset while fat at is noticeably spilling out at her underarms. I give her a sympathetic smile. Despite her appearance, she seems happy. Her foggy eyes twinkle as she trudges over to our table. Dave follows behind her, almost invisible at certain angles. He’s smaller than Raquel, and her large white dress only emphasizes the contrast between their figures.
Raquel gives each of us a cursory embrace and a peck on the cheek.
“We are so glad you could all join us today,” she recites, gleefully.
“Yes,” David chimes in adjusting his tacky brown bowtie, “It’s so great to see you all. Are you enjoying yourselves?”
“How did you like the ceremony?” Raquel interjects.
“Just lovely,” Aunt Aurora replies, “So romantic.”
Mom and I nod in agreement, and Raquel smiles. “I’m so glad y’all are having fun!” She gives a contented nod, having completed her hostess duties for our table, and she grabs David’s hand to usher him along to the next table.
Eli finally looks up from his plate, having finished his last bite. He is of the lucky sort who doesn’t have to watch what he eats because he plays football and it’s okay to be fat.
“Do you want the rest of my food?” I ask him. I always let him eat what’s left on my plate.
“Are you sure you’re full?” He asks, a bit too concerned for my comfort.
“Yeah.” I push my plate towards him.
“What did you eat?”
“All of the salad and some chicken.”
“Are you sure you don’t want the rest?”
“Positive. It’s all yours.” He takes the plate hesitantly, and slowly lifts his fork to pick out a piece of chicken. I had methodically cut the chicken already, making things easier for him. He begins to chew, and then smiles, picking up the pace.
“She should have gone up a size if you ask me,” Mom says now to Aunt Aurora.
“I think that, as a couple, they are the perfect ten,” Aunt Aurora responds with a mischievous grin. “And by that, I mean he’s the one and she’s the zero.” Aunt Aurora blows out her cheeks and makes a circle in the air with her index finger. They cackle loudly and some people from the table beside ours turn their heads toward in annoyance.
My cheeks flush with shame and I hush the two, who can’t seem to contain their amusement.
“Oh, Rebecca, relax a little, it was only a joke,” Aunt Aurora whispers, “Besides, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’ve got your mother’s good genes. Nice and thin.”
“Not quite as thin,” Mom responds smugly, “When I got married, I had a twenty-three inch waist.” She pats me on the head. “I think you’ll have to get your own dress, sweetheart.”
“I remember that well,” Aunt Aurora responds, “Now that was a beautiful dress. You looked like a model.”
Mom rolls her eyes and rises to go to the restroom, but the young Elaine Jenkins remains. Her legs are crossed and I admire her thin wrists and tiny waist. She wears this pink cotton dress without snagging a thread, and she receives compliments so frequently that her natural response is an eyeroll and dainty shrug. Her delicate charm enchants any stranger who has the pleasure of making her acquaintance. Everyone adores her and seeks her approval.
“What about you, Rebecca,” I hear Aunt Aurora say. Elaine drifts to my periphery as I revert my attention to my inquisitive aunt.
“What about me?” I ask.
“You’re twenty-five, aren’t you?”
“And you and Phillip have been together for almost six months?”
“Paul….but yes we’ve been together for five and a half months,” I respond with caution.
“Mhmm, Paul, that’s right,” Aunt Aurora mumbles, “Nice fellow, huh?”
Too nice, I want to say. Instead I nod slowly.
“Are there wedding bells in your near future?” She finally asks. Her eyes twitch a bit as she attempts to give me a soft smile.
“I don’t know,” I reply, checking my phone and seeing that there is a message from Paul.
How’s the wedding? The food any good?
I respond quickly.
It’s going well! Miss you though!! <3
By the time I look up again, Aunt Aurora is gone. She has found Aunt Lorraine and they are laughing by the cake. Eli has finished my plate and he looks over at Aunt Aurora as well.
“That cake looks delicious,” Eli grins, rubbing his stomach jubilantly. “Do you want to give me your piece?” I roll my eyes and playfully hit on the side of his shoulder.
“Hell no, fatso.” I respond with a giggle. I turn to my right and catch Elaine Jenkins staring at me. We make eye contact and I am suddenly nauseated. The hairs rise on the back of my neck and my head feels light. I wonder if I will faint. She smiles condescendingly. Her pink lips purse.
“Don’t worry,” I hear myself whisper under my breath. “I’m not getting any cake.” Elaine nods slowly. Her encouragement sends warm tingles down my arms and legs. I crave her approval. Mom returns to her seat, and the young Elaine vanishes momentarily.
I check my phone and there are no new messages. That damn, loose thread on my dress catches my eye, and I tug at it once more.