The Grey Wedding

“I can’t believe this,” Aileen said, to her son and to her own wedding invitation, propped up with a twine-wrapped baby food jar, sporting a mockingly pastoral Seven-Brides-for-Seven-Brothers scene even as the droplets splattering her window at 220 bpm threatened an ambience closer to that Alanis Morissette song. Aileen, having enough writing skill points to recognize misuse of its eponymous adjective, hated that song.

“Aw, Mom, the sky’s so happy you’re getting married, it’s crying.” Shu had been his mother’s sole confidant for a decade after his father jumped ship and married a dead painter. (It was a whole thing.) He’d since moved out, but still dropped everything and showed up at 8 A.M. today to arbitrate her happiness.

“Then tell the sky to get my vows laminated at the print shop. This is a logistical nightmare.”

“Look, your job today is to enjoy yourself. Leave the worrying to me, and I’ll make sure your wedding with Matt goes off without a hitch.”

“I wish I could believe that. It’s too late to do anything.”

“Mom, nothing is too much for me today. Above and beyond is SOP. I’ll make it work.” Shu couldn’t talk without flailing around like an inflatable tube man. Grand gestures were his specialty.

“Shu, don’t—“

Her son was already texting his handiest friend and Simsterest-junkie girlfriend, the latter of whose wedding binder was on his head when he woke up.

The door closed, leaving Aileen alone to contemplate the differences between her own experience and the perpetually smiling couple on the front of her invitations. They’d stay in rosy-cheeked stasis even if she ripped it down the center. Marriage was more of a new beginning than a happy ending, she wanted to scream at the greeting card manufacturer, and she understood as well as anyone how heartbreaking its real ending could be.

Aileen regarded her pre-nuptial reflection like a thalassophobe at the beach. Her formalwear, contacts and extensions and itchy lace and all, felt more ingenuine than special. That, and flimsy enough to fall apart without a tacky clear plastic poncho.

“Guess who?” Based on the voice, likely someone who would stand in the doorway with an open umbrella to avoid dripping on the floor or exposing his borrowed tux to the downpour for even a second.

“Just sit down, Shu, I’ll deal with the puddles later.”

“Whatever the bride wants.” Aileen stepped into the foyer just as Shu finished de-puddling the floor with a microfiber cloth. He did a double-take at her presence and scrambled for the doorknob. “You look stunning as usual. Vámonos?”

Shu guarded the threshold with his umbrella as Aileen gathered her train above the knees, revealing her galoshes. “Still Myshuno Meadows?”

“Yeah, it’s too late to change the location. But just trust me.”

Ascending M.M.’s stairs with the sub-knee portion of the dress draped over her forearm, Aileen raised an eyebrow at the state of the park. “Ok, so the fact that there’s no wedding arch or seating doesn’t inspire confidence.”

“Well, it should,” Shu replied, holding open the door to the visitor’s center.

It usually looked like it smelled like mothballs, but had been slapped over with the design sense that made Aileen the butt of many an E.L. James joke: sharp, clean, and desaturated, with hints of silver, charcoal, gunmetal, slate grey, stone grey, good old regular grey itself. Aileen caught a whiff of chlorine from waterfalls glittering in cold light like the sky above.

“See? Now the rain looks totally intentional. Besides, it’s more ‘you’ now.” He gestured in roughly the direction of Newcrest. “It matches, y’know, your entire house and everything you own.”

That’s when Aileen’s June wedding fantasy started to fall as flat as the card it was printed on. The bride was just a prop stuck in a generic setting with no one who truly understood her. And here Aileen stood, mortal and flawed and special to someone, ideal marriage or not.

“Thank you, Shu. This is far better than what I was thinking.”

She held back the saltwater building in her eyes enough to make out Matt’s figure at the altar. She remembered how loved she was, letting it wash over her, overflowing with joy. Her tears came in torrents.

“Look, Mom, it wasn’t gonna be perfect anyway.” Shu offered his arm. “You got this. As long as you love Matt, everything will be fine.”

Aileen took a deep belly inhale. “You know what? Fine is all I could hope for.”

She pictured the rain carrying her doubt, her inhibitions, her past, her dread, her expectations, good and bad, leading them into the gutter with the other sewage, back into the earth, dissolving everything it touched until there was only her fiancé, the path forward, and her son walking her down the aisle.

24 thoughts on “The Grey Wedding

  1. Ob, I love this! My favorite sense detail is the scent of chlorine… it’s something I’d notice, too, and it would bug me until it didn’t. Shu really came through! That last paragraph–so perfect!

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  2. I am feeling rather inept at comments this time around due to some life distractions, but I did enjoy the read with special note of your descriptive words that tell us more than the photos do alone. Thank you for sharing. I am enjoying the reads this month.

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  3. This story was so detailed and it made me have to look things up, which I love. Learning new things and enjoying your characters and their complexities it was a fun ride. You have given me so much. Entertainment and learning. Gotta love it!

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  4. Everyone who gets married wants their wedding to be perfect but there is an added layer when you’re already a perfectionist. I understand why Aileen created a vision that would make other people happy when they’ve made fun of her preferred style. The E.L. James joke was really funny, but I like grey (black is my favorite color). I thought it looked very pretty and perfect because it reflected Aileen. Shu is the best son ever.

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  5. Obsessed with the wedding dress. Also made a million “Mr. Grey will see you now” jokes in my head. But most of all, just loved getting lost in this little vignette. Shu is very sweet. It’s also bananas that he is his mother’s main confidante. I love, love, love your writing. I feel like it’s always hinting at something sinister beneath surface, even when everything is visually stunning and looks good on paper. I laugh, and then I read it again to see what I missed…

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  6. Aileen was looking SO beautiful! Love how this wedding looked in general, like it all looked super neat… and I guess we have Shu to thank for that!
    I really appreciate chapters like these where we get to see Shu’s good side come off so beautifully. The side of him that’s so committed to his loved ones and who is, for all intents and purposes, honestly a really good dude to have in your life. Aileen raised a good son.
    Here I go again with the comparison with Charlie LOL but I can’t help myself because it’s just so damn interesting!! but it’s chapters like these where, even though Charlie doesn’t even appear (the dude’s just on my mind a lot, i guess), I really find myself thinking about their differences again. Again, Charlie tends to be seen as the good guy, while Shu is the… messier one? I could see that being a common viewpoint among readers. But when you read chapters like these, I at least am immediately brought to the realization that I could never see Charlie doing something like this. To put in this level of effort to ensure the best of the best for his loved ones… I feel like Shu just has that feel, you know. Like that natural feel that enables him to know exactly what others need and how to help them out and make them happy. And it’s heartening to see him work that feel, is all.

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    1. I LOVE this analysis. Charlie and Shu accidentally becoming foils is one of the more interesting things that happens in Book I, and let me tell you, I’m never going to get tired of talking about it. As you know, this work is about forcing the characters/reader/author to examine the simplifications we make to understand our complex world, and what we lose in doing so. The Charlie/Shu dynamic (which again, wasn’t planned) forces the reader to confront their own desire to categorize people based on value judgements.

      I’d argue they both have good intentions and prioritize others’ happiness above their own: Charlie suppresses his emotions to benefit people around him, while Shu exploits his high emotional sensitivity to lead a life of servitude. And of course, given everything else about this story, you can expect both approaches to blow up in their faces in radically different ways. Anyway, Charlie’s more relatable, which I guess is why he has a solid fan base of 2 people. Shu’s more complex, but, IMO, putting in the effort to understand him is rewarding. Like you pointed out, he’s empathetic, subservient, and emotionally available—the opposite of basically every other Casanova character. So I’m glad you can appreciate both!

      During the two hours that Simister made me download Wicked Whims, it labeled Shu an Artist and Caregiver. Not Lover. It picked up on his deeper motivations. Impressive, right?


  7. “the sky’s so happy you’re getting married, it’s crying.” Aww, that’s got to be the sweetest thing to say to a bride on a rainy wedding day. My appreciation of Shu continues to grow.

    Aileen was a beautiful bride. She sure bitched a lot though. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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