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I hesitated outside my aunt’s colossal bedroom clutching Leah’s wedding dress to my chest. I marveled at the grandness of her gesture. She and Sam Uley hadn’t parted on the most civil of terms and I imagined the sentimental attachment she must have to this dress. All the same I was nervous to try it on after all the trouble Alice had gone to ordering these beautiful designer gowns.
I peered through the door frame into the bedroom. The room was littered with random tufts of white and ivory satin trimmed in layers of lace, taffeta, and bridal lingerie. Alice stood on the pedestal in the middle of the room lifting yet another gown out of large white cardboard box. She caught sight of my reflection in the full length mirror and turned around to face me.
“Oh! There you are! Nessie, I think you will really like this one. It was just flown in this morning from Paris and the embroidery was done by hand.”
I looked at the dress in her hands which was covered from top to bottom in elaborate beading and intricate embroidery. The long train was quite easily three or four feet long and the trim was covered in the same design. It was beautiful, but it looked as if it belonged in a cathedral rather than an intimate beach shore wedding. I dropped my eyes in defeat and frustration as Alice prattled on paying no attention to me.
“I’m telling you this is the one. Of course we’ll have to do something fancy with your hair. I’m thinking a chignon with braided detail and lots of little pearl pins. Oh, and we can have the same pins in the bouquet to match. And I know you said you didn’t want sleeves but this dress only has little cap sleeves….you don’t mind do you?”
I didn’t know how to respond to her question. She was so excited and only trying to help, but things were getting out of hand. We were so far off base from what I wanted this day to be I didn’t know how to get it back on track without hurting her feelings. I tried to find the right words that would be firm, and yet still respectful, but I had none. I settled for silence and staring at my feet instead.
“What is that?” she asked. I looked up from the ground to meet her gaze and she was pointing to the garment bag I had now squished against me. I pulled it away from me and turned it so she could see the white satin inside the bag.
“Leah Clearwater sent it over for me,” I said trying to sound indifferent, “she was going to wear it one day, but since that isn’t in the cards for her anymore she thought I might like it.”
“Oh, I see.” She raised her perfect eyebrows and glanced back to the designer gown in her hands. Everyone in the room became completely silent as they tried to anticipate her reaction. I felt a wave of guilt wash over me and I dropped the gown on one of the oversized chairs not being occupied in the room.
“It’s no big deal,” I said shrugging my shoulders, “it was just a thought.”
Emeila walked over to the chair and picked up the bag and pulled the entire dress off the hanger, smoothing out the wrinkles with her hand. She didn’t look up at anyone as she turned the dress this way and that, going over every detail with her eyes.
“Well, it would be rude not to at least try it on, Renesmee,” her soft childlike voice broke the uncomfortable silence. “After all, she is your friend and you haven’t tried one like this yet.” Emelia held the dress out to me prompting me to take it.
The entire room exhaled simultaneously and then broke into a chorus of yes’s urging me to try it on. Alice didn’t say anything, but she laid the other dress back in the box.
I walked behind the hand carved Victorian dressing screen to try on the dress. This dress was not like the others- which needed a small entourage to assist in the wearing. The soft ivory satin slipped effortlessly over my head as I ran my fingers through the material letting it fall softly against my frame. I pulled the tiny spaghetti straps in place over my shoulders and walked out from behind the screen to stand on the pedestal. Rosalie walked up behind me to secure the zipper and tie the band in the back.
My mother rose slowly from the damask chair she was sitting in and covered her mouth with her hands. If such a thing were possible, I think she would have cried, but instead she let out a low whimper of admiration and pride. I could hear the low and awed murmurs from Rose, Esme and Tabiah. Emelia leaned against the bed post and crossed her arms over her chest, clearly pleased with herself.
Rosalie reached up and pulled my hair out of the sloppy knot I had wound at the base of my neck, and turned me slowly to face the mirror. My breath caught in my throat just as it did in the kitchen. My hand flew to my chest in elated surprise as I took in the reflection of the girl standing in the mirror.
She wore a dress made of soft, ivory silk faile, with tiny spaghetti straps that held up a deep sweetheart neckline. A soft inset of mesh lace was sewn in the center of the neckline and was embroidered with dainty pearls and crystals. The gown had an empire waist which was marked with a ruched ivory sash, the same color of the dress, and the tulip skirt fell in a soft A-line silhouette. There was no train, just a soft sweeping of fabric in the back. It was absolutely stunning in its simplicity and for the first time since we began the planning I actually felt like a bride.
My eyes welled with tears again as I stared back at myself and then around the room at the sea of beautiful faces gazing at me whimsically. My mother clasped her hands in front of her with her fingertips covering her lips as she made her way over to hug me.
“I think we found your dress!” she squealed and her excitement was echoed by the entire room. I broke away from my excitement momentarily to my aunt Alice, who continued to box of the other dress. I caught her eye and gave her my most sincere smile.
“Aunt Alice, thank you so much for all your help. All these dresses were beautiful- you did a fantastic job!” She nodded in response, but didn’t say anything at first. Then her head snapped up as she appraised the dress once more.
“Well, it certainly fits you.” She crossed over the messy floor of her bedroom neatly dodging the expensive piles of bridal garments, to stand behind me. She reached out and grabbed the back of the dress by the sash, bending it back so she could read the label.
“Amsale.” She read the name of the designer out loud, but it was mostly to herself, “Well, at least Leah Clearwater has good taste in designers.”
I let out a sigh of relief at her approval and threw my arms around her kissing her cold cheeks. She brushed me off dismissively, and she walked out of the room chattering on about hair and make-up and all the other preparations for the wedding.
My mother and I stood side by side for a long moment just staring in the mirror at the image of me in the wedding gown. I realized this would be my last night living in this house, in my own bed, and with my family. It was a bittersweet moment as I looked forward to the official start of mine and Jacob’s new life together.