February Bloom: “Heart Voice"”

Many thanks to my Asheville neighbors for inspiring this month’s flash-fiction story.  During a recent lunch we talked about meeting and marrying our spouses. Here’s an excerpt from what one said:

Six weeks before the wedding, I changed my mind.”

"Heart Voice"

Anton adjusted his bowtie in the mirror for a fifth time, struggling to achieve a perfect balance between left and right. He stood secluded in a room next to the sanctuary. The door pounding resumed, more forcefully now.

“Anton, unlock the door. What are you doing?” his older brother asked yet again.
“Hey, you need to get out here so the procession can start. Sally’s dad paid a bundle of money. C’mon, wedding day’s here.”

“I know, I know, just need a few more minutes alone, please?”

“Okay, Anton, but you have to hurry.”

Anton gazed out a stained glass window. He soaked in the sun from a cloudless sky and so wanted this weather to signal that all would be well on the other side of “I do.” He’d met Sally shortly after her parents moved next door into the tight-knit community built for families with a shared status and set of beliefs. They were both four. When the mothers became close coffee-klatch friends, they forced him to spend time with this new girl he didn’t much care for. But Anton made do, as his parents had declared was his duty. His success at ‘making do’ led their mothers and fathers to believe Anton and Sally belonged together forever.

The door pounding began again, harder this time.

“Oh my, Anton, it’s late – after 2:00. Everyone’s waiting, especially Sally.”

“Alright already, I know.”

“It’s time to get the music started so she can come down the aisle, Anton. Come on.”

“I know that sis, I know, just need a bit more time, okay?”

Anton fiddled with the bowtie again and stared himself down in the mirror, trying to drown the pounding. Throughout junior high, Anton had stomached Sally’s country club gossip and classmate drama. In ninth grade, he rebelled on the first day in the hallway.

“Anton, stop looking at that new girl. She’s not one of us,” Sally whispered.
“My parents said we must stick together when outside elements like that start coming in.”

“What did you say, Sally?” and he turned his back before she could answer.

That week, Anton learned the new girl’s name. Steeped in shyness, he watched her from afar at lunch that semester, as she buried herself in books and dined alone, radiating something good he admired and wanted.

The door pounding thundered in his head now.

“Darn it, son, open up! Come on. All grooms get nervous, that’s normal son. You’ll be fine. It’s well past 2:30, almost an hour late, and 200 people are waiting.”

“Honey, honey, listen to your father. He’s right, you’ll be fine,” Anton’s mother regurgitated.

“Sally’s always been perfect for you from day one. She’s our kind, our pedigree, suits you and the whole family. Come on out now,” his parents pleaded.

Anton paused, embracing an inaudible voice emerging from his heart-‘Anton, you’ll be okay, and eventually she will too, really.’
Anton backed away from the mirror and seized a newfound calm.

“Okay Mom, Dad, I hear you. Out soon, I promise.”

He grabbed his things and dashed out the fire exit. He zigzagged across side streets away from facades of the past and toward a future of his own choosing.