THE WEDDING DATE - CINDY ROSMUS
The Wedding Date Collected in Gutter Balls by Cindy Rosmus. Copyright(c) 2007 by Fossil Publications.
“This guy,” said Lucy the bartender, “who hurt you so bad. You’re goin’ to his weddin’?”
Cissy smiled. Lucy was Bar 13’s Rock of Gibraltar. Its voice of reason, which didn’t say much. Patrons as lucky as its name symbolized. “Only if I find a date.” A beer-guzzler built like a double-scoop cone, Cissy’s good luck stopped there. She was thirty-five, trashy, and smart enough to feel lousy about it. “Six guys I asked already. Nobody wants to go. You’d think I asked them to marry me, for Christ’s sake.”
Lucy shook her head. With her bleached frizzy hair, and that scar down her cheek, she was worse off than Cissy. “I wouldn’t go. Or even mail back the invite.” Lucy’s sneer showed a double row of teeth. “Motherfucker!”
A scumbag, sure, but Roy was hot stuff: tattooed, and blond, with a scruffy chin and gravelly voice you could feel grazing your clit. Not to be fucked with, just to fuck, hot and deep. He seldom got trashed, wanted a home and family. “But not with me,” Cissy told Lucy. “With ‘Sweet Polly Purebread.’” Roy’s girl Trish, an Italian JAP, had been holding out for marriage. Six months Trish made Roy wait, but the time flew by, thanks to Cissy, who sucked and fucked him, anytime, anywhere.
For the tenth time that week, Cissy finished her story. “And the very night those six months were up...” She picked up her shot of ’Buca. “He gives her the ring, and me the shaft.” She gulped the shot.
Lucy instantly poured another. “Won’t last,” she muttered. As the side door buzzed open, both looked up. In the doorway loomed Terry Becker, Loonus Colossus, who smiled mysteriously.
Lucy turned back to Cissy. “What I don’t get,” she said, cracking a beer for Terry, “is why he’d invite you.”
As he stared up at the TV, Cissy watched Terry pull his dark hair back into a ponytail, then let it fall. “Trish was my friend,” she said. “In gram-”
“Hear about that spree-killer?” Terry shook out a pack of smokes.
“...Grammar school.” Cissy avoided his eyes. “She was a priss-ass even back then.”
“Killed ten people so far.”
“Don’t interrupt!” Lucy told Terry.
“But I love to.” Cissy could feel his eyes on her. “And you love when I do.” When Cissy looked over, he smiled. “You didn’t know I was a poet, did you?”
“I know you’re a pain in the ass,” Lucy said. “Whoa!” she said, when he got up.
But he was moving his stuff next to Cissy’s, whose heart raced, as he sat down beside her.
“So,” Terry said, “who’s this diva? And where’d she invite you?” Lucy rolled her eyes.
“I don’t feel like talking anymore.” Cissy’s voice cracked.
“Love bites,” Lucy muttered.
“A wedding?” Terry said. “Lucky you.” He took a long drag on his cigarette. “And are we happy for them?”
Through clenched teeth, Cissy said, “If I was any happier, I’d be twins.”
“Don’t say that,” Terry said softly. “Weddings suck.” Suddenly he looked sad enough to cry. “Mine did.”
Lucy looked horrified. “Somebody married you?”
Terry ignored her. “’S a real sore spot with me, Ciss. Believe it or not... Some things I just don’t talk about.”
“Wow,” Cissy said softly. She looked at him differently. Even that crazy gleam was gone from his eyes, or hiding somewhere.
“My bride,” he said, “never loved me. Who did she love?” He laughed bitterly. “Hint-hint. He’s not called the ‘best man’ for nothing!” Cissy gasped. “The day we got married, I thought she was blushing.” His hands framed his face, in an exaggerated, comic way. “But it was the afterglow of hot sex!” He pounded the bar. “Raw... raunchy... sex! With him!”
“This guy, Roy,” Cissy said, “hurt me real bad. Used me. Now he’s gonna marry her. And I’ve gotta go to their wedding.”
“Why?” he demanded.
She didn’t answer right away. For the first time that week, it all hit her: her dead-end office job, guys who wanted her ’til they got her, then dissed her. This... place.
“Well?” Terry said. As he leaned across her for the ashtray, his hair brushed her, and she tingled, all over.
“To prove I’ve grown,” she said.
“When is it?”
Cissy looked down at her beer. “Two weeks from today.”
“Valentine’s Day?” She jumped when he seized her hand. “How dare they!” he yelled. “What a slap in the face!” Lucy caught Cissy’s eye. That crazy gleam was back in Terry’s.
Lucy poured him a double-shot. “Told her she shouldn’t go.”
“Oh, no!” Terry said. “You must. Look at you! Angelina Jolie meets Einstein. Big juicy lips and a killer IQ. And...these.” A respectful glance at her chest. “Hot stuff that just can’t be cooled off!” Cissy beamed, squirmed in her seat.
“Go,” Terry commanded. “Show him what a mistake he made.” His eyes narrowed. “Go,” he said, “and blow him away. Blow them all away!”
At the register, Lucy stopped dead. Turning, she slowly shook her head. Cissy ignored her. “But I can’t go without a date,” she told Terry.
They toasted. “You got one,” Terry said.
As the door shut behind Terry, Lucy said, “Know those feelings I get sometimes? Out of nowhere?” Cissy nodded. “Got one now. About that fuck,” Lucy said. “Don’t take him to that weddin’, man. I mean it.”
Cissy’s smile was silly. It was the happiest she’d been since she got that dreaded invitation. She was so bombed, she saw two Lucies with four sets of teeth. “R-Roy...” she told one Lucy, “Roy’s gonna die!”
The other Lucy wasn’t smiling. “Him and who else?”
Cissy forced a laugh. Slid her shot glass across the bar. “One more?” she begged.
Villa Notte. The classier the name, Cissy thought, the sleazier the hall. Outside Terry Becker’s place she waited, shivering, in her rented Sable. Her coat wasn’t warm enough for mid-February, and the smell of a new car always made her queasy.
Like all her wedding dates, Terry had been MIA since he promised to go. But last night, as Cissy was trying on her halter dress—black spandex, of course—the phone rang!
“Ya ready?” Terry said.
“It’s tomorrow!” she said.
“I know,” he said. “Just tyin’ up some loose ends.” A strange thing to say, but coming from him... “Caught that spree killer,” he said then.
“Did they?” she said.
“Too bad.” The smile in his voice chilled her.
“Be ready at four!” she told him.
Now Cissy was antsy. How would it feel to see Roy again? With her? As man and wife! She blinked back tears.
A knock at the window. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty!” Terry said. As he hurried around to the passenger side, Cissy saw a new Terry Becker! No suit, he wore black casuals, but that long hair...was gone! A black Dutch boy, he had now. And clean-shaven! She realized he had no chin, and was carrying...something, in a brown paper bag. A big one. Shit, she thought, dirtbag brought his own beer. But it looked too heavy even for a whole case.
“What’s that?” she said, as he got in.
“A surprise!” he said, grinning. Without all that hair, he looked weird, but still cute. The bag he put in the back, keeping a small foil box and red envelope, which he slipped in his jacket.
In the box were pieces of a hollow chocolate heart. “Happy V-D Day!” said the new Terry Becker.
“Thanks,” Cissy said carefully. “But...it’s broken.”
His smile matched that crazy gleam in his eyes. “Oh, well!”
Villa Notte had no valet parking. “Good,” Terry said. From the lot, Cissy saw the bridal party step out of their limos. The gowns were dill-pickle green. Then a flash of chartreuse. In the doorway stood the maid-of-honor, Angie, Trish’s big-nosed sister.
“Oh, God,” Cissy whispered. “I can’t.” Beside Angie was the best man, Bruce, Roy’s best friend. His gap-toothed smile reminded Cissy of the time they’d almost fucked.
Smirking, Terry watched them file in. “They have no idea,” he said. “No idea!”
Next were the bride and groom: Cissy glimpsed Roy’s buzz cut, and a tacky, senorita-type veil. Blinded with tears, she suddenly reached in the back seat. “A beer!” she sobbed. “Gimme a beer!”
“No!” Terry seized her arm. “Later,” he said. “You can have anything you want, later...” She sniffled. “At my wedding,” Terry said, “they wore red. Blood-red.”
“When was it?” Cissy asked, “Christmas?”
After a long pause, he said, “It was five years ago... today.”
She looked up. “Happy Anniversary to me,” he said dreamily, watching the bridal party file in.
Inside, the Villa Notte looked like a funhouse, hyped up for Valentine’s Day. Red neon hearts against gilded mirrors, which seemed to multiply the guests, making them uglier, fatter. Good thing they’d missed the “Big Dance.” Coming up was Bruce’s “Big Toast.”
Cissy rushed to the bar. The old bartender looked amazed as she gulped two double Sambucas. “What you want?” she asked Terry.
He didn’t answer. His eyes were huge as the best man raised his champagne glass. “Hey, guys! Today is a very special day!” Bruce said. “And for these two, even!” People laughed uproariously.
Cissy smacked down her empty glass. “Club soda,” Terry murmured.
“You’re not drinking?” Cissy said.
“I don’t have to drink,” he said, “to have a good time.”
Since when? she wanted to ask. But she owed him, big-time. Maybe, later...would be the “Big Payback.” She giggled, as the ’Buca hit her.
“Ya know what?” Cissy asked Terry loudly, as he picked at his Prime Ribs. “To guys, I’m just a piece-a meat.” She knew she was on everybody’s nerves. “Chopped meat.” The spectacled lady beside her looked ready to smack her. “But I got feelings!” Cissy told Terry. “That makes me...chopped meat, with feelings.”
Smiling, he put down his fork. “No.” He took her by the chin, looked into her eyes. “You’re better than that.”
“Am I?” Cissy whispered.
“You’re a...chuck steak, with feelings. Juicy, I bet real flavorful.” Cissy could see herself in his eyes. He pointed to the bridal table. “He’ll be sorry.”
For the first time, Cissy turned and looked that way. Roy was alone. Arm draped across his bride’s empty chair, he stared into space.
“Damn, Ciss!” Trish was right beside them. “Lookit all these glasses!” In her bridal gown, she looked like a white elephant. Her wedding purse bulged. “People would think you’re a drunk!” she sneered.
Or that you’re a cunt, Cissy thought. Without smiling, she tossed her own wedding card onto the table, then turned back to Roy.
His smile made up for all he’d done, somehow. How he’d cut her off, for good. But as soon as she smiled back, Cissy was sorry.
Behind her, Terry was standing. “I need the car keys,” he said.
She grabbed his hand. “Why? Where you goin’?”
He pried her fingers out of his. “Be right back.” As she handed him the keys, he slipped the red envelope out of his jacket. “Hold this,” he told her.
“Kiss me!” she said, before she could change her mind. He smiled down at her. His hair curled around his cheek, and she realized he had dimples.
As he bent to kiss her, somebody said, “What a nice guy. And stuck with that drunk bitch!” Chuck steak with feelings, Cissy thought, as they made out. His tongue probed her mouth, with a vengeance. What a kiss! Short, but sweet, and ending with a rough lick from cheek to ear. Cissy loved it.
“Be right back,” he said again, but without smiling. And walked out.
“The bride cuts the cake!” people were singing, but Cissy was oblivious to all but Terry, now. This new, sober guy was so cool, so sexy. And a challenge! Like a lovesick teen, she held his envelope to her heart.
What came first, the screams, or shots, she’d never remember. Both seemed to start at once, the moment she read the envelope: “HAPPY VALENTINE’ S DAY, MR. PRESIDENT!”
Mirrors shattered, neon lights exploded. Roy’s face burst in two, half his skull struck the screaming Trish, in the middle of feeding him cake. Gown red now, she was jerked off her feet. Bruce was riddled with bullets, danced wildly, as his limbs were blown off. Blood, guts splattered as the uzi sprayed the hall. Bridesmaids were raw burgers, all ketchup-y.
Like a dog chasing its tail, Terry ran around, almost in circles, shooting, laughing maniacally.
Under the table, Cissy crouched, puking. Too close were the shots, shattering glass, bones. A foot went limp, chunk of brain landed beside her. She puked up everything she’d ever drunk since grade school.
A new kind of shot rang out. And it was over. That fast, the cops got there.
She was dragged from under the table. The spectacled lady’s head was gone, blood shot up like a geyser. Too late for laser surgery, Terry might’ve said. He had to be dead, for that uzi to be. Lots were dead, lots wounded. People were still screaming, rushing to get out, but the cops held them back. Everywhere she looked, Cissy saw blood, intestines, glass. Gory whipped cream cake. Again, her stomach lurched. But nothing else came up.
“He...he was with her!” The bartender pointed to Cissy. He was showered with booze and splintered glass. “Her date! That maniac was her date!”
Cissy’s head reeled, as cops swarmed her. She needed a lawyer. She was the driver, the scorned slut. Chuck steak with feelings, my ass. This was planned. “No!” she screamed. “I had nothing to do with this!”
“They never do,” snarled the cop, as he cuffed her.
BIO: Cindy is a New York textbook editor by day, a hardboiled Jersey female by night. Her fiction has appeared in Black Petals, The Beat, The Cynic, Red Fez, Zygote in My Coffee, Hardboiled, NVF, MediaVirus, Mysterical-E, The Monsters Next Door, Out of the Gutter, Devil Blossoms, 13th Warrior Review, and Beat to a Pulp. She has four collections of stories out: Angel of Manslaughter, Gutter Balls, Calpurnia’s Window, and No Place Like Home. She is the editor of the e-zine, Yellow Mama. She is also a thrill seeker, a Gemini, and a Christian.
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
11 hours ago