I had so much fun writing Part LII of Cinnimin, “Daphne and Rózsika,” not only because it primarily concerns people who were teenagers in the same era I was, but also because I’d been on a bit of a block prior to this. I’d taken some breaks from Part LI, “Alicia and Micah,” after initially getting a lot of progress done. After the initial inspiration of Alicia and Micah getting married, Alicia getting over her fear of sex and becoming a bit of a sex addict (with probably the most explicit sex scenes and dirty talk I’ve ever written, and I wrote the first sections of Part LI when I was still an antique virgin!), and Alicia getting pregnant with her second child (her oldest child is the result of a rape) and breaking the happy news to everyone, I guess things just sort of petered out and I only worked at it sporadically. But then I finally got back to it and thought of a good ending that wrapped things up, with young Vikki and George Kevorkian’s desire to make their Judaism official through a conversion and not just keep going to a New Age shul and have their true religious status in limbo. Then I started “Daphne and Rózsika,” and was very pleased at how quickly it was written, back to my old writing pace. It was written between 10 June and 18 August 2009, in a college-ruled Five Star notebook with 100 sheets.
Daphne and Rózsika’s stories are meant as cautionary tales; Rózsika’s story has a happy ending and she modifies the behavior that got her into trouble (with an IUD, not abstinence, because that would be completely unrealistic, esp. in a story set in 1998), but Daphne’s story isn’t quite so happy. Daphne’s been annoying, pissing off, angering, and alienating almost everyone around her for quite some time, with her silly plans to get married fresh out of high school and her general 1950s attitudes. Now it’s the end of June, and she can’t wait another moment for her deferred wedding.
Daphne had been madly counting the seconds till her delayed wedding would finally be sprung. Philip wished he’d given his permission earlier, since she was driving everyone crazy with her incessant sulking and counting down. As soon as she saw Sparky and Lazarus pulling up in the driveway on Sunday night, she ran for the closet and pulled out the wedding dress. Livia was greeted by the ugly frou-frou bridesmaid dress laying on her bed.
“Daphne and Berus are being joined in matrimony tomorrow at noon,” Gwendolyn said in disgust.
“Who did they find to marry them?”
“Joshua Brandt and his cousins Gavrilla and Lot all refused, so they found some rent-a-rabbi in the phonebook. I can’t wait to see how many people actually show up at this silly wedding. Getting married as soon as you graduate went out of style a long time ago.”
“It can work, with the right attitude and reasons,” Phoebe said. “I know I never wanted that stereotypical high school or college experience of casual serial dating, partying, and meaningless sex. Onan feels the same way.”
“You’re different from Daphne. She’s only doing this out of some weird sense of obligation, like you have to marry the first person you ever date. God forbid you end a relationship after five years. It’s not like this is an adult relationship of five years. It’s a teenage relationship, and I bet anything Daphne doesn’t even want to have sex. Unlike Karyn, who has nearly the same views, she’s always struck me as frigid.”
“Yeah, I don’t sense any horniness or crazy in love vibe from them at all, even allowing for how some people just aren’t into PDAs.”
“I’m not interested in that either, and I love Liam,” Livia protested. “Not that I support this marriage anyway.”
“You’re thirteen, Liv. Normal people your age are supposed to be uninterested in sex,” Gwendolyn smiled. “But for someone about to get married, you’d think she’d be all over Berus.”
“These gowns are hideous,” Livia complained. “I’m going to look like Little Bo Peep in it.”
“Tell us about it. I don’t even feel comfortable in any dress or skirt. Karyn’s maid of honor gown at least looks a bit grownup.”
“Claudia loves hers,” Phoebe said. “At least she doesn’t have a boyfriend yet, so she can’t start planning her own wedding too far in advance.”
“Daphne doesn’t even want to go on birth control before the wedding,” Gwendolyn scoffed. “Randi and Xena are going to Planned Parenthood together in preparation next week, but Daphne refused to go with them. She thinks it’s stupid to go on the Pill or get Depo or whatever before you even start having sex, like only bad girls plan ahead. Planning ahead would mean she actually wants to have sex, and nice girls don’t like sex.”
“Oh, I predict a wedding night from Hell.”
“Do you know Phoebe and Uncle Teddy’s family had to return here from their nice vacation on Cape May just for this dumb wedding?” Gwendolyn asked Livia. “Like Grandma Kit said, this marriage is going to suck worse than her first marriage.”
June 29 didn’t dawn a second too soon for Daphne. She leapt out of bed joyously and ran for a pink sundress she was going to wear till it was time to change into the $12,000 wedding dress. Once at the dining room table, she started piling her plate high with fruit and smoked fish.
“You’re not following the custom of fasting before the wedding?” Mr. Green asked.
“What for? Besides, I’m not stuffing myself with muffins and waffles like other people at this table. I want to fit into my wedding dress.”
“Real women enjoy their food.” Kit added a chocolate chip muffin to her plate. “Have you and Berus practiced for your honeymoon yet, or have you still only seen the rigs of your baby brothers?”
“I don’t need to see or touch it, since we’ll be in the dark, and it is most improper for a lady to touch unmentionables.”
“Sex is no time to be modest and reserved. Going from nothing to everything overnight is quite unhealthy.”
“Well, unlike you, I value my virginity.”
“Which will be gone after tonight. I never understood why girls are taught to prize and defend such an abstract concept, when it just vanishes in the blink of an eye anyway, after which point you can’t do anything with it.”
“How many bases have you even rounded with Berus?” Cinnimin asked. “Don’t tell me you’re only on first.”
“We only do brief closed-mouth kissing. What am I, some ho?”
“Oh, this is going to be fun,” Kit said. “But I’d be glad to save you that shock, cluelessness, and embarrassment by giving you an intense crash course on shagging. After having had thirty-two partners, I know the ropes pretty damn well.”
“People routinely got married as inexperienced virgins till the Sixties! Somehow they managed to figure it all out fine.”
“Rob was a virgin, and he was my worst partner ever. Haakon and Frankie were virgins too, but they was young, and they learnt pretty quickly. Damn, I still remember our wedding night. Rob had no idea how to even penetrate me. He thought the rig was a homing pigeon, and then he couldn’t even thrust properly. I just lay there bored and angry as he attempted to shag me. I don’t even think he got off that night. He thought missionary was best too. I hate that position. Once he even tried to shoehorn his way inside when he was at half-mast.”
Philip was beet red. “Mother, I don’t want mental images of you in bed with anyone! I can’t believe you just shared that!”
“I’ll be looking forward to the story of Daphne’s wedding night. It might just rival my own for suckiness.” Kit gave her a sympathetic look.
“Can you do me a favor and not tell me about it?” Peter asked. “I don’t want to picture my granddaughter doing that.”
“You don’t even care your own 95-year-old father heard your graphic account of your first night with Rob!”
“Oh, I don’t mind too much. Kitty’s always been frank and open about everything, I even once told her and my other kids my wife and I hadn’t slept together since Sammy was conceived. I never hid sexual matters from them.”
“We have to get going soon to get our hair and nails done,” Daphne said. “Me, my sisters, and Mother.”
“Do we have to go?” Livia pouted.
“Of course. I get to choose the nailpolish color. Baby pink.”
“No fair,” Phoebe protested. “I like blue and red for nails.”
“I hate nailpolish,” Gwendolyn said.
“Tough luck. Oh, and someone needs to run out and get flowers.”
“I’ll eat bon-bons while you go to the salon and pretend it’s normal in this day and age to be married at seventeen.” Kit rose from the table. “Enjoy your last vestige of childhood before married life sucks you in with all its serious adult responsibilities.”
Vanilla had chosen a modestly-priced salon and opted out of the full spa package. Daphne would be getting a simple updo with fake diamond clips. Knowing she would flip out if she knew they were fakes, Vanilla had asked the staff not to tell Daphne the truth. Karyn was getting another updo, and the four bridesmaids were having French twists, which Gwendolyn thought looked hideous and profoundly dated. Daphne insisted they all had to match, and that makeup was mandatory too. Gwendolyn felt like a clown as lipstick, mascara, rouge, eyeshadow, and nailpolish were applied to her.
“Your mother said you were getting married.”
“Yes, first thing this afternoon. I can’t wait to be Mrs. Berus Roblensky.”
“You can’t be any older than eighteen.”
“I’m seventeen, but I just graduated. The wedding was delayed by a few weeks, but now I’m finally about to have the grandest day of my life.”
“Are you pregnant? I can’t think of any other reason a teenager would get married.”
“Goodness, no. I’m not some common slut. Unlike most women of today, I’m going to my marriage bed as a virgin. It makes no sense to just keep dating once you come of age.”
“Are you at least going to college?”
“Of course. Rowan U in Glassboro. I could care less about that vulgar traditional college experience most people are supposed to want, drinking, partying, and sleeping around. Oh, I can’t wait to pledge my sorority. And we’ll have an awesome condo or townhouse.”
“No one thinks this marriage will succeed,” Phoebe said.
“The best we can all do now is just pray it doesn’t fail too badly,” Gwendolyn said.
Daphne remained convinced everything would go perfectly. The fact that it was taking place in her parents’ courtyard instead of the originally-planned elegant hotel only slowed her down a little. When she looked out from the top floor window at the sparse crowd gathered below, she reassured herself that all those missing friends and relatives were missing the biggest social event of the season and would kick themselves over it later. The only smiles in the changing room came from Karyn and Kristen. Daphne felt relieved when they left her alone for a few minutes so she could prepare for her processional.
“In the name of all that is holy, and as your many-greats-grandmother, I beg you not to do this.”
Daphne screamed when she saw another face in the mirror. “What the hell just happened!”
“Don’t you recognize me from my painting downstairs? I’m Jennifer Lennon-Zargovich, Charlotte Lennon’s only begotten child. My father built this house you all live in now. Surely you remember this place is inhabited by the spirits of your foremothers.”
“I don’t care about family history! This is my wedding day!”
“My mother would not be enslaved by the marriage customs of her day. She had me outside of marriage, and sadly died while giving me life. She knew her youth and freedom would come to a premature, abrupt end if she married. You can call this whole wedding off and continue courting with the young man for a few more years. I may have been dead for several hundred years, but I do know that today women have choices. You aren’t obligated to marry your first suitor or marry as soon as you come of age.”
“Well, I’m old-fashioned!”
“I know your sisters Phoebe and Livia have old-fashioned views on courting and marriage too, but they approach them in an intelligent, informed way. You’re just being stupid.”
“Stupid is deliberately having a child out of wedlock!”
“Be that as it may. You’ve had a multitude of chances to at least postpone this marriage. Now you have gravely insulted my mother, the matriarch of your own family. I hereby curse you with a miserable marriage and an unconsummated marriage.” Jennifer’s spirit rose threateningly above her before vanishing, emitting a frightening laugh.
Daphne was noticeably jumpy and shaken when she came downstairs. She didn’t crack a single smile as Philip and Vanilla walked her up to Berus, and continued to look like a scared rabbit as the rent-a-rabbi performed the ceremony. She almost couldn’t move her tongue when it was her turn to repeat the marriage formula. Then when she leaned over to slide the ring onto Berus’s finger, it slipped out of her fingers and flew into the audience, hitting Maia on the head. Claudius, the ring-bearer, was sent over to retrieve it. When Daphne bent down to take it, she tripped over her dress and fell flat on her face. She tried desperately to regain her stamina for the rest of the ceremony, but was humiliated again when Berus couldn’t break the glass till the tenth try. His foot seemed to be bouncing off it. Then Daphne felt sick to her stomach when Berus, at the conclusion of the ceremony, gave her more than one of their chaste five-second closed-mouth kisses. She was in holy terror of the wedding night. It was a relief that the reception lasted for quite some time. She could postpone that necessary detail for awhile.
“Why are we being serenaded by CDs of MTV pop acts?” Kit asked. “If they wanted mixed CDs instead of a band or deejay, at least they could have chosen upscale adult wedding music!”
“Tell me,” Phoebe nodded. “Anyone who thinks the Backstreet Boys are suitable wedding reception music is too immature to get married. She can’t want to be a teenage girl and still have that adult responsibility of marriage.”
“Did you see how terrified she looks?” Gwendolyn asked. “Probably living in fear of tonight.”
“It’s usually worse when they build the wedding night and first time up to some big epic event,” Kit agreed. “My gift to her was Our Bodies, Ourselves. Poor girl doesn’t know jack about her own body, so a sex book would be way out of her league.”
“Their honeymoon is Disneyworld,” Ivy said in derision. “Sure that’s a fun trip, but I can’t think of a more childish honeymoon.”
“Will they be having their meals with the characters?” Pandora laughed. “Me, I’d want a romantic honeymoon, like Prague or Casablanca.”
“How did Berus propose, by hiding the ring in Gummi-Bears?” Quintessa asked. “Her ring looks so cheap.”
“That’s ’cause it’s not even a real diamond,” Phoebe said. “It’s the cheapest cubic zirconia he could find. As far as I know, there was no real proposal. It was more like an agreement they’d get married once they graduated.”
“This marriage is going to go down the loo, isn’t it?” Pandora asked. “They don’t even look in love.”
Daphne was on edge the entire reception and couldn’t even smile when pictures were taken. She didn’t look at all enthusiastic when it came time to toss the bouquet. While her sisters and cousins were congratulating Phoebe on catching the bouquet, she was still picturing that phantom face in the mirror. What Jennifer’s ghost had said couldn’t possibly be true. She would have a lovely marriage and consummate it on the first night. Troubled marriages were for other people.
Daphne insisted on keeping the wedding dress on when they drove to the airport later that day. She wanted everyone to know she’d just been married. Berus thought she looked like a fool as they boarded the plane and she was still wearing it. Everyone else had on normal summer clothes, and he’d already changed out of his suit. The flight attendants could barely keep from laughing. When they unboarded in Orlando, everyone stared.
“Whatever, they’re all just jealous. Not everyone can afford a $12,000 wedding dress.”
“I hope you’re giving it to a consignment shop after this.”
“What for! This is my wedding dress!”
“You’ll never wear it again, and it would make a poor bride very happy. What else can it do now but hang in the closet?”
“Alexa might want to wear it someday.”
“Maybe not. We might not even have a girl.”
“Oh, we’re going to. We have to. I’m a carrier of hemophilia, and any boy we have has a higher risk of being a hemophiliac.”
Their taxi driver also stared when they went outside. Daphne felt very hot in the long-sleeved dress in the Florida heat, but kept her composure, knowing she’d never wear it again after tonight. When they got to their hotel on Disney grounds and entered their room, she sat down on the bed and took out the name change kit she’d ordered. Every so often she stopped to admire the dress.
“You can do that anytime. Don’t you think we should do it?”
Daphne turned red. “Well, uh, yeah, I guess we should. Gotta do that sometime tonight anyway. How do we start?”
“I bet you’ve got a cute body under there. I can’t wait to finally see and touch it.” Berus sat down. “I guess you need help getting out of that dress. “I’ll unhook you.”
Daphne ran for the lights as soon as she wiggled out of the dress and hung it up. She sat back down clad in her petticoat and bridal bustier.
[And hence begins the predicted wedding night from Hell and unconsummated marriage.]