This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m featuring the end of Chapter 32 of Adicia’s story, “Wedding Preparations.” Shortly after Easter 1966, Adicia, her sisters, and their friends pay a visit to Upper East Side Beautiful Brides to find a wedding dress for Lenore and bridesmaid dresses for themselves. The owner of the salon, Mrs. Marsenko, is one of my favorite secondary characters in the book. Ever since the miserable Mrs. Troy and her unhappy daughters first marched in there in June of 1960, she’s never forgotten them, and this time she was pleasantly surprised to discover Mrs. Troy isn’t there and this is for a wedding everyone wants, not an attempted forced marriage. She appears in five chapters and the first section of the Epilogue.
“That first wedding dress you all liked so much is one hundred,” Mrs. Marsenko informs them as an associate starts ringing up the purchases. “The dresses for the maid of honor, bridesmaids, and flower girl are between twenty and thirty each.”
“Wow, that’s an awful lot of dough,” Baby says.
“Have we decided on the wedding dress yet, or will you need to come back to look at more?”
“Wear the first one!” Adicia insists. “Take this blue one off and try the first one on again and see if you like it more.”
“I’ll handle paying,” Emeline says, taking Lenore’s pocketbook off her arm. “Just try on the first one again and see how you feel the second time.”
Lenore follows an associate back to the dressing room while Emeline counts out the cash Allen put into Lenore’s pocketbook. Almost his entire monthly salary is there. Emeline marvels at how her brother has moved up in his station sufficiently enough to be able to spend so much money.
“It still seems wasteful that we can’t wear these dresses to any other events,” Ernestine says. “We’re not uptown girls who go to parties and society functions every week. It’s like throwing money away, just so we can look nice on one day.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be able to wear them at four other events this spring,” Lucine smiles. “We’ve got four graduations coming up in this family, and you always wear nice clothes at a graduation ceremony and party.”
“Four?” Adicia asks. “There’s my graduation from elementary school and Ernestine’s graduation from junior high. Who else is graduating?”
“I’m graduating high school!” Emeline reminds them. “You’re all invited to the ceremony and my party in Yorkville in June.”
“And you can all come down to Hempstead in May for my college graduation,” Gemma says. “I’m in my last year at Hofstra.”
“Isn’t your school in Long Island?” Ernestine asks.
“Yes it is. I’ll be the first person in our family to graduate from college, after I was already the first to graduate from high school six years ago. Wish I’d been able to graduate two years ago, but the past is what it is. My friends and I are going out to supper at a nice restaurant that day, and if you want, you can go down to onea the beaches on the island.”
“A real beach?” Justine asks. “With warm sand, pretty shells, lighthouses, and pretty blue waves?”
“I can’t wait to go to the beach!” Adicia says. “You’re a neat big sister. You got a lot nicer since we last saw you.”
Lenore comes back out in the first dress, this time with a veil over her hair and a pair of white leather shoes with a slight thick heel. Everyone stops to stare at her in awe.
“Now you look like even more of a bride!” Adicia says. “Please get this dress! Allen is going to fall in love with you all over again when he sees you!”
“Who’s walking you down the aisle, by the way?” Lucine asks. “I suppose Father Murphy will escort me when I get married someday, though I don’t know if he’d be allowed to do that since he’d be performing my ceremony too.”
“Do I have to be escorted by someone?” Lenore asks. “I see it as Allen and I giving ourselves to each other, since we don’t have decent parents to give us in marriage to each other.”
“Our parents aren’t invited to the wedding,” Emeline says. “But in the meantime, are you or aren’t you gonna buy this gorgeous dress? You look like a Medieval princess, like Ernestine said. Allen will feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be marrying such a beautiful bride.”
“Please get this one!” Justine begs.
“Even I think it’s beautiful, and I don’t ordinarily get into alla that girly stuff,” Girl says.
“All you need is a bouquet and you’ll look like the perfect bride,” Julie says.
“You know Allen won’t be satisfied with anything but the best for his beautiful bride,” Adicia says. “All you have to do is change back into your clothes, pay for the dress, and let Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik store it at their place so Allen won’t be able to see it till your wedding day.”
“And then we can pick up my brother and go out to eat, if you’ve got any money left,” Girl says. “I kinda wish I was a girly girl right now, since I’d love to play dress-up and look like a princess for one special day.”
Lenore looks around at the girls, then turns around to look at herself in the mirror for the umpteenth time. “It is a really beautiful dress. I suppose I deserve a gorgeous wedding dress like this after what I’ve been through. Okay, it’s the one. I’ll get this dress.”
Emeline pulls out five twenty-dollar bills from Lenore’s pocketbook as she goes back with the attendant to change into her street clothes. The younger girls are all smiles as they take their boxed dresses and sit down in the lobby to wait.
“Do you think I’ll be lucky enough to bag a nice guy of my own someday and wear a pretty dress like Lenore’s?” Adicia asks. “Surely our brother can’t be the only nice guy in the world.”
“You’re a pretty girl,” Emeline says. “I’m sure any nice boy would love to be your fellow when you’re old enough. And even if you have to wait awhile, there’s no shame in being a dark horse. You’ll just find your fellow later than most girls, and when no one expects it.”
“What’s a dark horse?”
“Like an underdog. The one no one expects to win the race, the one everyone underestimates. I guess all of us Troys are like that, at least all of us except Carlos and Tommy. No one ever expected us to come up in society and do as well as we have. Gemma’s graduating from college, Allen graduated high school and got a cake job in a nice neighborhood, Lucine’s in college, I’m gonna graduate high school, Ernestine’s going to high school in the fall, in a nice neighborhood, and I’m sure you and Justine will do well for yourselves too.”
“So it’s like someone who sneaks up on the other horses and wins at the last minute?”
“Yes, the one no one pays much attention to ‘cause they think he’s of no account anyway. I think it’s good in a way that we’re a family of such dark horses, since we’ll get an even better last laugh on the people who made fun of us all these years. They won’t even see it coming when we make good.”