Patience. Courage. Strength.
fiction by Christina Rosso
Patience. Courage. Strength.
The alligator sauntered into sight after her third outburst, slipping out of the bedroom, its squat, reptilian limbs tapping on the tile floor of the hotel suite with each step. Its oval snout was shut tightly, hiding its massive teeth from view. Like a cat who has retracted it claws, the creature allowed its most effective weapon to lie dormant for the time being.
Its midnight eyes locked onto me as the makeup artist worked on concealing the hives on my neck and chest. Patience, the alligator seemed to say.
My mother had left the suite like a hurricane leaves a coast. Around the room my bridesmaids cowered, surveying the wreckage, their faces torn with fear and shame and sadness. They had no words; they couldn’t imagine a mother acting like this on her daughter’s wedding day. I wanted to ask them how they could be surprised by her behavior anymore, citing her inebriation and subsequent vomiting at my engagement party, or the way she’d picked apart my appearance at the bridal shower, bringing up my weight gain and the blemishes popping up on my face as though I was a pubescent girl again, but I didn’t. Instead I focused on the reptilian beast before me.
Moving through the aftermath of the storm, the alligator’s body swayed side to side as it came closer to me, its gaze never leaving mine. Courage, it seemed to say.
The makeup artist’s lips never stopped opening and closing, words blowing from her mouth like leaves and debris in a storm, a smacking sound each time the flesh met. “How did you two meet? I swear everyone is getting married to people they matched with on Tinder! Where are you going to honeymoon? Oh, you’ll have to show me photos of your dogs!” Having worked hundreds of weddings, she had weathered her share of storms; her hands never faltered as she worked on my swollen, feverish face.
When it was time for the ceremony, the door to the hotel room swung open, revealing only my father beyond it. “Where’s Mom?”
“Wow! Don’t you look beautiful,” my father said. His arms extended towards me.
I didn’t move. Neither did the alligator, who now stood beside me, a massive guard dog. “Dad?”
“She’s not coming, sweetheart.” He frowned, saliva stretching like bubbles between his slightly parted lips. “Her feelings are really hurt.”
My chest prickled with heat and pain. Somehow my mother always managed to make everything about her. Even my wedding day wasn’t immune to her narcissism. I took a step back from my father, my stilettos click-clacking on the tile floor. The alligator remained where it was. I looked back at my bridesmaids; their shimmering eyelids were cast to the ground. I turned my gaze to the prehistoric beast by my side. Its massive jaw cranked open like an iron gate slowly rising to release soldiers to battle.
Its triangular teeth gleamed yellow and brown in the overhead light; bits of algae and meat peppering where teeth met gums. The alligator’s eyes met mine. Strength, it seemed to say.
My heartbeat quickened. I felt my own jaw loosen, my teeth unclenching. “Yes,” I said. I looked up at my father and took a step forward. “Her feelings are really hurt? What about mine?”
I stayed just long enough to see my father’s cheeks redden with guilt. I didn’t need to hear his response. He had never protected me from her, and he wasn’t going to start now. I pushed past him into the hallway and headed for the elevator, determined to walk myself down the aisle, the alligator treading behind my lace train.
Christina Rosso is a writer and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and two rescue pups. Her debut collection, SHE IS A BEAST, is forthcoming from APEP Publications. Her writing has been featured in FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Ellipsis Zine, and more. Visit http://christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.