I sit at my vanity table and stick yet another bobby pin into my long, unruly brown hair, determined to tame it, if only for the next few hours.
I’m definitely hiring a professional hairstylist for the actual wedding, I muse as I stab myself for the fifth time in an hour.
“Ouch!” I yell to my empty bedroom. I take a moment and sit back in my chair. Frustration will get you nowhere, Cora, I calmly tell myself.
I take a few quick breaths and then resume my task. After several more minutes of wrangling, cursing, and dousing my wild mane with hairspray and more bobby pins, I sit back to take in my handiwork.
“It looks pretty good,” I murmur to myself as I turn my head side to side, impressed with my own skill. It had been risky to forgo my usual ponytail and try out the deep side part weaved into an intricate French braid, but I feel… sophisticated.
And even pretty.
“Well, a girl should feel pretty for her own engagement party,” I declare out loud while I pull a few strands of hair out of the delicate braid to frame my face.
I certainly don’t think I’m unattractive, but I sometimes have to remind myself that a lot of people, including my fiancé, find me to be pretty. I have deep, dark brown eyes and nice, full eyebrows. My eyelashes look longer thanks to hefty coats of mascara, and I have a smaller nose that some have described as “cute.”
And tonight, I actually feel sexy. As a larger woman, it’s not a common feeling for me, so I decide that I’m going to hang on to that sensation throughout the entire night.
I smile as I slip into my dress for the dinner. It’s snug, but the zipper doesn’t pinch, so I count the small victories. The fabric hugs my bust without being trashy, and the skirt stops right above my knee. It’s perfect for my engagement dinner.
I slip on my black wedge heels and stand back to examine myself in the full-length mirror hanging on the back of my closet door.
Hair, tame. Dress, pretty. Cora? Happy.
I shake my head at my nonsense. It’s a game I’ve played since I was a little girl. A checklist to make sure I feel confident and to let myself accept whatever emotion I might be feeling.
Across the room, my cell phone hums and I know immediately from the ringtone that it’s my mom.
“Hey Mom,” I greet.
“Hi sweetie. I just got to Frankie’s. The place looks lovely and they have the back room set up and ready for us.”
“Great! Thanks again for going early so I could finish getting ready.”
“Anything for you, sweetheart. Are you on your way?”
“I will be, in just a few minutes. I also need to see if Marky wants me to pick him up or not.”
“Okay, drive safe and text me when you’re on your way.”
“Will do.” I hang up the phone and laugh a little. I’m twenty-five years old but my mom still likes me to text her whenever I drive anywhere so she knows how long to wait before she should start to worry. I want to be annoyed, but I love how much my mom cares.
Leaning against the bed, I call Marky to check in about carpool plans. I smile as I wait for my fiancé to answer, thinking about his pretty blue eyes and infectious laugh. The phone rings but then a beep sounds.
“You’ve reached me, but I can’t pick up. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I can,” Marky’s voicemail greets me.
Huh. Marky is usually pretty good about answering, but I shrug and head to bathroom to grab my perfume. He’s probably just rushing to get ready since he had to stay at work late.
Marky is a junior architect, and he’s doing quite well for himself. He works for his dad, Matt Harrison. Matt founded Harrison Architects about twenty years ago and made quite a name for himself and his firm over the years. But the hours are long and it’s been frustrating because it seems that Marky has been working a lot recently, and often those hours run late into the night.
I shouldn’t complain, I scold myself. I’m lucky to have someone like Marky, who is kind and generous and who works so hard for us.
I smile. Marky is a real-life Prince Charming.
From my spot on the bed, I look out the bedroom window and take in the beautiful yard so carefully tended by my mother and, beyond that, the magnificent Appalachian Mountains. From my third-floor view, I really do feel like a princess in a tower, surrounded as I am by trees, singing birds, and wearing this elegant dress.
I rub my fingers along the deep blue velvet. It cost more than I wanted to pay, but Marky insisted that I wear something to our engagement dinner that would make me feel fabulous.