Lizzie and I dawdled down from the university to the underground railway station on campus. After tapping on, we padded down the stairs to Platform 2. I glanced up at the screen, which confirmed that the train to Epping was seven minutes away. Lizzie was standing beside me, tapping away at her phone.
“Are you going OK?” I checked.
“Yeah,” she assured. “It’s been a good day today. Can’t believe we needed to go and pick up our textbooks in person though, in 2023.”
“What are you doing this afternoon?”
Lizzie’s phone beeped before she could reply. The look on her face hinted that the answer had just changed.
“I’m going out tonight.”
“Oh, lovely,” I replied, sounding aloof.
Lizzie was drowning in her phone. I didn’t press further, although of course I wanted to know. Once the train arrived, we climbed aboard. Lizzie took the window seat. As the train moved through the tunnel and out the other side, the sun caught the highlights in her hair.
“What are you doing this afternoon?”
“I’m going shopping with Sofia, you know, Ashton Fernando’s girlfriend and her bridal party, for her wedding dress.”
“Oh, you’re her bridesmaid?”
Lizzie tightened her lips as she waited for my response.
“Yeah, I am,” I answered, trying to act cool.
For some reason, I felt embarrassed. We were supposed to be each other’s bridesmaids. It was never confirmed, but an unspoken pact from when we were little girls. I knew that I would have stiff competition from Janey, Katie and Lizzie’s many friends, but I could picture us. Our train eventually pulled into the station, from where we would head in separate directions. Farewelling Lizzie with a hug, I got into the car, with Triple J playing on the radio once I switched on the ignition. Waving her goodbye, I reversed out of the parking spot. As I drove to Baulkham Hills, the beautiful, the weird and the wonderful of the Hottest 200 played. I parked near where I usually would for work. A few last dregs of the jacaranda flowers dropped onto the car, falling at the request of a gust of wind. I smiled, the summer sun making me happy enough, as I got out of the car and made sure to lock it behind me. Passing the library, I wondered who would be working. As I walked down the street, the sisters approached in the other direction. I greeted Sofia with a hug, outside the bridal boutique, then we headed inside.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome,” a shop assistant greeted us. “Which beautiful bride do we have here?”
Sofia raised her hand.
“Would you like a glass of champagne?”
“Yes, please,” Alexia accepted.
“I’m alright, thank you.”
The shop assistant, whose name was Jill, seemed to look twice at Sofia. She didn’t say anything further and scampered off to fetch glasses and bubbles. Even though I was tempted, I declined. I would need to drive home, an my P-plates wouldn’t accommodate a drink. Faint tunes played in the room. I felt a little peckish, and it occurred to me that I had not eaten all day. Amalia raced around the boutique, trying to pick dresses off the rack. Most of them were too heavy for her to lift, except for the occasional cocktail-length gown. Jill compiled all the options on a rack. She wheeled it into the changerooms. Sofia followed her, farewelling us temporarily with an excited smile and wave. Ariane picked up one of the wedding magazines and started thumbing through the glossy pages of gorgeous brides and beautiful table settings. I found myself on my phone for a little bit. Sofia came out wearing the first dress. The ballgown was classic and classy, with a daring split up the side. Sofia carefully smoothed her hands over white satin.
“What do you reckon?”
“You look beautiful,” Carmel gushed.
“Hot stuff, sis,” Alexia chimed in.
“The only thing I’d worry about is whether you’ll be cold.”
“We can pair it with a little jacket if you’re worried,” Jill mentioned, “either a bolero or a long-sleeve.”
Sofia’s waist was eventuated by a circle of pearls. I could tell that Carmel was still a little hesitant, even though she was trying not to show it too much.
“Is it the split that you’re worried about, Mum?” Sofia checked.
“Well, how about we go for the next one?” Eleonore recommended, trying to find a happy medium.
Sofia shuffled back to the changerooms. Dress number two was gorgeously pretty, blush in colour and decorated with embroidery. Sofia turned around to reveal a criss-cross back.
“You are so beautiful,” Eleonore gushed.
The gown, however, seemed more pink than white, which was a cause of discussion.
“I’m not opposed to not pure-white.”
Sofia sighed in thought, dropping one hand onto her hip.
“I think I would like to try on another one.”
She followed Jill back to get changed. Alexia downed her champagne, just as her sister returned in a new gown. I felt like it was a similar look to the previous dress, albeit more sparkly. Generally it was really positively.
“What do you think?” Eleonore wanted to know.
“I did really like the pink one.” Sofia laughed, running a hand through her hair. “Now I’m calling it ‘the pink one’.”
“Well, does Ashton know what colour he wants for him and the groomsmen?” Carmel queried.
“No,” Sofia decided, “but I don’t know why it’s such a big deal.”
“Who are going to be the groomsmen?”
“I don’t know. Ashton hasn’t decided.”
“Surely, he would have his brothers at least, so that’s two. It’s nicer in the photos if it’s the same number.”
“Well, that’s the problem,” Sofia began. “I knew who I wanted to pick. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked, but Ashton can’t think of that many groomsmen.”
She sighed, like she hadn’t planned on divulging that information.
“Everything is fine.” Sofia tucked some hair back from her face. “Everything is fine.”
“How about you go and try on a different one?”
Sofia scampered off. She seemed to stay in the changeroom for a long while, as the bridesmaids and I looked at each other.
“Do you think someone should go and check on her?” Alexia suggested.
Nobody said anything straight away, but finally I stood, legs shaky.
“I’m going to go and check on her.”
I made my way through to the changeroom, where Sofia allowed me behind the curtain. She wore a dress which almost glowed in the harsh salon lights.
“You look absolutely beautiful.”
She breathed out.
“My heart is absolutely racing.”
I pulled a face.
“What do you think about the dress?”
“I think you look beautiful,” I assured her, “but it doesn’t matter what I think. You’re the bride.”
Sofia wiped the corner of her eye.
“So everyone keeps telling me.”
I didn’t know what to say. Sofia took a deep breath, to combat her sense of overwhelm.
“I want Mum to love it,” she divulged, “but I do, I really love it.”
Both beaming, we knew what needed to come next. I departed, returning to the main room.
“She’ll be out in a moment,” I assured the others as I sat down.
Sofia finally walked out of the changerooms, to a collective, delighted gasp from her entourage. She was genuinely beaming. Jill found a bridal veil. She slotted it into Sofia’s hair.
“I’ve seen Say Yes to the Dress. I know how this works,” Alexia quipped.
In my head, the bridal march played. I tried to resist welling up with tears.
“You look like such a beautiful bride.”
With the dress selected, we all went out for dumplings, and I stuffed my face with delicious pork. Conversations flowed with the other bridesmaids, like all of us were sisters – lovesisters, perhaps. At the conclusion of the meal, Carmel paid for all of us, which was very kind of her. I suppose that it would have been awkward to just omit the non-sister bridesmaids. I returned home to a quiet house, Mum and Dad already in bed. I listened to gentle rain against the roof. Sitting down on my bed, I texted Geoff. He anticipated his cricket would be called off. Geoff enquired about my day and I assured him that, so far, being a bridesmaid is a breeze. I lay down and quickly fell asleep.
The younger sister of missing Sydney man Mitchell del Reyan, Nina del Reyan lives on Dharug land in western Sydney. She has recently commenced a teaching degree at Macquarie University. Nina loves her family and friends and is deeply committed to finding answers and justice for the families of missing people.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.