My Favorite Mistake

By: Stephanie Bond

“THIS IS A MISTAKE,” I said, suddenly panicked by the horde of women pushing at me from all sides. In the minutes just prior to Filene’s Basement “running of the brides,” the crowd was getting hostile, all elbows and bared teeth.

Next to me, my friend Cindy turned her head and scowled. “Denise Cooke, you can’t back out now—I’m counting on you!” The normally demure Cindy Hamilton shoved a woman standing next to her to make room to reach into her shoulder bag. “Here, put on this headband so we can spot each other once we get in there.”

I sighed and reached for the neon pink headband. It wasn’t as if I could look more ridiculous—I was already freezing and humiliated standing there in my yoga leotard (the Web-site-recommended uniform for trying on bridal gowns in the aisles). February in New York did not lend itself to leotards—I was numb from my V-neck down. “This is a lot of trouble for a discounted wedding gown when you’re not even engaged,” I grumbled.

“This was your idea, Miss Penny Pincher,” Cindy reminded me.

That was true. I was helping Cindy with her Positive Thinking 101 class, and her assignment was to prepare for an event with the idea being that it would then become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since Cindy wanted to be married more than anything else in the world, she’d decided to buy a wedding gown. Cheapskate that I am (an investment broker-slash-financial planner, actually), I had suggested Filene’s biannual bridal event for a good deal.

So here we were at seven-thirty on a cold Saturday morning, poised with oh, about eight or nine hundred other freezing leotard-clad women, waiting for the doors of Filene’s to be hurled open. There were a few identifiable teams with members wearing identical hats or T-shirts. Like me, they were friends who had been commandeered to grab as many dresses as possible from the clearance racks, thereby increasing the odds of the bride-to-be getting a gown she wanted.

“Remember,” Cindy said, her eyes as serious as an NFL coach dispensing plays, “strapless or spaghetti straps, with a princess waistline—white is my first choice, but I’m willing to go as far left as light taupe. I need a size ten, but I can work with a twelve.”

I nodded curtly. “Got it.”

“If you find a gown that might work, put it on so no one can grab it out of your hands.”

I swallowed and nodded again, suddenly apprehensive.

“And who knows,” Cindy added with a grin. “You might find a dress that you’ll want to keep for yourself.”

I frowned. “Barry and I haven’t even talked about getting married.”

“Good grief, you’ve been dating for two years—he’s going to propose someday, and then you’ll already have a dress. It’s practical.”

I started to say it was presumptuous, then remembered why Cindy was there and clamped my mouth shut. Barry was…great, but I couldn’t see myself getting married…again.

Like every time I remembered my last-minute and short-lived Las Vegas marriage to Sergeant Redford DeMoss, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. My first marriage was one of those events in my life that I wanted to expunge from my memory, like a stupid teenage stunt…except I hadn’t been a stupid teenager—I had been a stupid adult. In the three years since my marriage to and subsequent annulment from Redford, I had managed to block the incident from my mind for the most part. But since two of my best friends, Jacki and Kenzie, had recently gotten married and my last single friend, Cindy, seemed hell-bent on doing the same, the memories of my incredible wedding night had been popping into my head at the strangest moments—I couldn’t seem to outrun them.

Someone behind me stepped on my heel, scraping it raw. I winced, not sure how I was going to outrun this dogged bunch, either.

“They’re opening the doors,” Cindy announced excitedly.

A cheer rose from the crowd and everyone lurched forward collectively. The two security guards unlocking the doors looked as frightened as I felt. When the doors were flung open, self-preservation kicked in—I had to match the pace of the crowd or be trampled. I squeezed through the double doors and ran for the escalator, my heart pounding in my chest. The escalator was instantly jammed, and everyone still clambered upward, some screaming as if we were all vying for front row seats at a rock concert. At the top of the escalator, we spilled onto the second floor where several freestanding racks bulged with pouf dresses. I had no idea where Cindy was and I hesitated, not sure where to begin.

Women stampeded by me in a blur and began yanking dresses by the armfuls from the rack. It was a locust swarm. I realized I was going to miss out if I didn’t move quickly. Cindy’s order of “strapless or spaghetti straps” vanished in the wake of the disappearing gowns. I grabbed whatever I could get my hands on, draping the gowns over my shoulders until I could barely see or hear past the mounds of rustling fabric.

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