60: She Should Have Been My Bridesmaid

60: She Should Have Been My Bridesmaid

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

She Should Have Been My Bridesmaid

Never forget the days I spent with you. Continue to be my friend, as you will always find me yours.

~Ludwig Van Beethoven

I could feel my curls bouncing as I lifted the train of my dress and hurried after Stephanie into the chapel basement. She wanted to pin my hair up before the reception started because she thought the dining hall would get humid.

She led me to her makeshift salon by the fireplace and patted the chair in front of her. She put a bobby pin in her mouth as she said, “Let’s get all of this hair off your neck.” I sat down as she gently pulled off my veil. As she scooped up my curls and started sliding the pins against my scalp, I thought back to all of the times she used to do my hair at her family’s lake cabin on Stop Island when we were in grade school. We’d come into the bathroom, our swimsuits still dripping from our latest swim, and she’d have me sit on a stool in front of the mirror while she brushed through my snarled, wet hair. I could see myself sitting there, pulling threads out of my towel with my chattering teeth as we laughed and talked to each other’s reflections.

Conversation had come so naturally for us in those days. Now we had to fumble for things to say to make the time pass less awkwardly. Almost everything we talked about as she pinned up my hair felt artificial and forced, as if we really were nothing more than just a hairdresser and her client.

But I felt we were so much more than that because we had been best friends. There had been a bed at her house that nobody slept in but me, and when her little sister had learned to say her name, she learned mine right along with it. Her parents used to tell me how Olivia would toddle around, calling out for “Stephie-Loni” even when I wasn’t at their house.

A slideshow of our past flashed across my memory as we made small talk about our families and plans for the future. We were riding our bikes to the gas station for candy, our sweatshirt pouches sagging with the change we had excavated from her parents’ vehicles and from underneath their couch cushions. We were sitting in their paddleboat, our voices hoarse from trying to sell oatmeal cookies and sun-warmed Kool-Aid to passing boats. I saw us making comic strips in the church pews, and attempting to cover up sudden outbursts of laughter with unconvincing coughs and sneezes. I saw us locking ourselves in the bathroom at summer camp, yelling at the other girls to leave us alone as she showed me how to shave my legs for the first time. I saw her giving me her favorite rainbow-checkered boots from Scotland on a somber boat ride from Stop Island the morning after my grandpa died.

Finally, I saw us starting junior high, where Stephanie’s confidence and clever sense of humor became her tickets to the popular crowd. I didn’t belong in her new group of friends, and I didn’t want to. But I still wanted to belong with Stephanie.

I remembered riding home with Stephanie and her dad, a Kmart bag of weekend clothes in my lap, after one of the last times I had slept over at her house. It had felt quiet and tense in the van at that time, most likely because Stephanie had just said something that had hurt my feelings. Either that or I was just being too sensitive, as I often was. More and more, it had felt like a struggle for us to come up with things to say without offending each other. I remembered how I had scratched a line in the frost-covered van window with my fingernail, and imagined it as the thread our friendship had become. As her dad drove me closer to the comfort of my own home, I wondered how much longer it would take before the thread finally snapped.

I knew it was natural for childhood friends to grow apart as time went on, but I had never thought it would happen to us. I never saw our friendship as a temporary crossing of paths. She had been my best friend, and I had assumed that had meant we would be in it for the long haul.

It saddened me that she was holding a brush instead of a bouquet on my wedding day, but it bothered me even more that she didn’t seem to care. Over the years, I had made gentle attempts to pick up where we had left off in junior high, like the booklet I gave her for our high school graduation. I called it The Adventures of Stephanie and Loni, and it included stories of some of the zany things we had done in our childhood. In the hours I had spent working on it, I imagined her laughing out loud as she read each story, and I pictured her always keeping it safe in a box with precious old photographs and treasured letters. If anything, I had hoped it would show her how much our friendship had meant to me, but all I received in response was a card thanking me for the money and the cute book. Her parents had had more to say about the book than she did. I took it as a sign that my desire to rekindle the friendship was unrequited.

I squeezed my eyes shut as Stephanie began spraying my hair into place. After she finished straightening out my veil, I stood up, hugged her tightly, and thanked her for everything.

I could’ve clarified that by “everything,” I had meant for the fishing derbies with her family, the matching “mushroom” haircuts, the code names we had made for the boys we liked, the friendship. But I knew it would never accomplish what I wanted it to. So instead of correcting Stephanie when she patted my back and assured me it had been a pleasure to do my hair, I simply released my embrace and told her she had done a great job. She told me not to wait for her while she packed up her bobby pins, brushes, and curling irons, so I walked back to the reception hall alone, staring down at a bouquet that held roses as blue as forget-me-nots.

~Loni Swensen

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners