Megan’s had a really bad day. She’s decided she’d rather see if she can run in two inch heels and an oversized wedding dress than stand at the alter and say “I do.”
Now, she’s taken a wrong turn and ended up in the men’s room of the carwash she stopped at to get “just married” cleaned off her car.
This is where she meets Jacob Dante, the hero of our story:
Ever end up in a bathroom stall, in the men’s room, wearing your wedding dress on your wedding day?
“Are you okay in there?” A low voice echoed off the white tiles that decorated the room from floor to ceiling.
I could taste the salt from my tears as I tried to answer without sobbing … again. “Si.” I followed it with a quick, “Yes, I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Um, because you’re in the men’s room.”
He cleared his throat. “You’re in drag … that’s cool.”
“Nope, just a bad day.” I lied through sobs.
My sticky hands still bore the result of a quick get–away. When I grabbed my steering wheel, during my escape, I discovered it covered with Vaseline. It certainly made gripping the wheel frustrating. With nothing to wipe my hands on, I’d turned into the first place I found.
A full service car wash.
After deciding on the quick wash, I’d handed over the keys to the attendant and made a beeline to the bathroom, but didn’t bother looking at the sign. It wasn’t until I’d locked myself in the stall, the urinals registered. But before I could leave, I’d heard a cough.
“You sure you’re okay?”
I tried to clean my palms with toilet paper, but the one–ply shredded in my hands. “Dammit! I’m fine. Just peachy.”
“Okay.” The sound of running water helped end the conversation and gave me a minute to collect my thoughts, remembering what transpired not half an hour earlier.
There I was, back in the church, the scene of my disaster.
“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?” the man in the starched collar asked.
The sparkle in my fiancé’s eyes faded before it dawned on me that something had gone very wrong. He stared at me.
“Did you say no?”
I blinked a few times. “What?”
Glancing sideways through my veil, I saw the pastor biting his lip.
“Did you ask me something?”
“Yes. I. Did.” His enunciation of each word, with staccato precision, made my brothers snicker.
Images of the drunken sister in the movie Sixteen Candles went through my mind as he continued. “Do you.” He pointed to me. “Megan Antonia Sayla, take this man.” He looked at, “Travis Michael Joseph Daniel Carter, to be—“
Travis’ mother cleared her throat. “The fourth.”
“Right.” The minister looked up, mumbled something and then returned to the service. “Travis Michael Joseph Daniel Carter. The fourth.” He smiled in her direction. “To be your lawfully wedded husband?”
I could feel the corners of my mouth lift as I took a deep breath, gazed into Travis’ eyes, and replied, “No.”
Yeah, I heard it that time. “Crap.”
Travis dropped my hands.
“What?” Mom screamed.
“Holy shit!” Dad stood up.
“I toll you, this not work. He not Italian.” My Italian grandmother, Nonna, crossed herself and started saying Hail Mary’s in her native tongue as her husband, Nonno, woke momentarily, then fell back to sleep.
“Mama. Zitto, per favore.” Turning to his mother, my dad placed his hands on her shoulders and eased her back onto the pew. “Be quiet.”
Mom’s Danish parents, we affectionately call her Bedste and him Morfar, began to speak to each other in their birth language, saying things like “What the hell just happened here?”, “Should we call the caterer?”, and “Can you freeze all that rice pudding?”
With all the sudden chaos, I don’t remember much until I ended up in this car wash bathroom talking to a total stranger. I shivered as a gust of frigid, January air whipped through the room. Looking up, I noticed a row of open windows.
The water stopped running and the automatic paper towel dispenser hummed.
“How do I get out of this?” I rubbed my arms with my hands in an attempt to get warm. “Now what do I do?”
A low, masculine chuckle brought me back to reality. “Probably need to get out of the men’s room, first.”
I leaned against the cold, tiled wall and deeply inhaled the cool, lemon–scented air. “Did you ever have one of those days you wish you could start over?”
“Are you talking on the phone or to me?”
“You.” Don’t ask what possessed me to talk to a stranger. Being in that stall, I blurted out, “I feel like I’m at confession, so just go with me on this.”
He laughed this time, his rich voice resonating. “That’s a first.”
“For me to be referred to as a priest.”
“Seems like a day of firsts. This is the first time I left a man at the altar. The first time I’ve been in the men’s room.”
“Busy day for both of us, especially me, now being a priest and all.”
Silence filled the room, again. When he said nothing else, I assumed he’d decided to leave, until I heard, “What’s troubling you, my child?”
“Seriously?” Did he really want to know? Why? Was he really a priest?
“Sure, unless you’re not Catholic. Then you’re better off going to therapy or drinking.”
I crossed myself. “Forgive me, Father, it’s been six months since my last confession.”
“Is that a long time?”
“If you were a man of the cloth, you’d know that’s a horribly long time.”
I suppressed a giggle. “It can be. Most people go weekly. Daily.”
“Geez, who has time for that much guilt?”
“I guess I only know happy, guilt–free Catholics.”
“No Catholic is guilt–free. Guilt is part of the tradition.” And I felt plenty guilty today. I twisted the beading of my wedding dress between my fingers.
“You’re Catholic?” he asked.
“More like a Cathalutheran.”
He chuckled. “What’s that?”
“Catholic dad, Lutheran mom. We combined the two to get the best of both worlds.”
“Best of both worlds? Sounds very Hannah Montana–ish.” He cleared his throat. “My niece watches the show.”
“Right. During religious holidays, we have all the traditional food, but we pretend to ignore the sin of gluttony and gossip.” I bit my lip as my heart pounded in my ears. “Hence my six month absence from confession.”
“Right. I’m supposed to say something like ‘Six months? How many sins could you have committed in six months? Come back when,’ um … what does he say again?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Trying to remember how they did it in Zorro.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Which one? The one with Tyrone Powers or Antonio Banderas?”
“Aren’t they the same? Girl in a box. Guy isn’t a priest. He’s making it up as he goes.”
“Yeah.” Rarely had I met anyone who knew of the first talking Zorro movie, much less the confession scene. I smoothed down my dress. “Do you need help with movie lines? I’m pretty good at them.”
“No, wait. Next, he asked her if she’d broken any of the Ten Commandments.”
“Something like that.” The corners of my mouth rose. “Forgive me, Father, I have broken the fourth commandment.”
“You killed someone?” His accent changed to the melodious sound of the Spanish actor.
“That is not the fourth commandment, Father.”
“Oh, okay. Tell me in what way you broke the most sacred of God’s commandments?”
My parents’ faces flashed across my mind, my brothers, my family. A sob rose in my throat. “I dishonored my mother and father today.”
“That’s not so bad. Maybe they deserved it.”
“What?” I shook my head as I placed my hands over my mouth in an attempt to keep from losing it, again, but tears ran down my cheeks. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Tell me more, my child.”
“I … I don’t know what to say.” I depleted a roll of toilet paper as I tried to dry my face. After a few moments, I realized he’d been silent for a while. “You still there?”
“Yes. This is when he sees her through the screen, isn’t it?”
He cleared his throat. “I don’t think you want me looking between the stall doors.”
His chivalry surprised me. “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”
“It’s at the end of the scene before the captain of the guards shows up and screws it up.”
“Yeah, he’s a good bad guy.”
I took a deep breath as I tried to think. He may not want to look through the doors, but I’m generally nosy. No matter what this guy looked like, I was too curious to walk away without seeing his face. Kindness from a stranger had been an unexpected gift in my chaotic day. I needed to put a face with the voice.
“You okay?” he asked.
Frigid air whipped through the room, then a wave of hot. “Um, yeah, getting there.” As I maneuvered around in the stall, to get a better look, I saw the overhead heaters had clicked on, making pockets of the stall too hot and others too cold. Figures.
Without warning, my phone screamed “Hey Mickey!” An involuntary squeak escaped my lips and I wrestled to turn down the volume. The phone vibrated for a few moments while I got my breathing back to normal.
He laughed. “Whose ringtone is that?”
“My mom’s.” I sniffed. “She loves the 80’s.” There was nowhere to hide my phone as it jiggled again. I’d left my purse at the church, along with my wallet, my clothes, and my life.
It was amazing I’d made it out with my keys and phone.
Tears began to pool, again, as a few ran down my face.
“Ever wanted a do-over day?” I dried my face, only to pull away a makeup-covered wad of paper. Ugh.
“We all do.” Pause. “I guess this is one of those days?”
An escaped giggle filled the room. “Man, you’re good.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
“Show off.” My phone vibrated, again. I ignored it.
“Bad day, huh?”
“Yeah, but I’m sure his is worse.”
I took a slow, deep breath. “Why? He’s a nice guy and I left him at the altar. He’s still there, dealing with everyone, while I’m in a car wash bathroom confessional.”
“Hard to say. Neither of you had good luck today.”
Shaking my head, I almost broke the beading off my gown, as I wrapped the lace accents around my fingers. “It’s not his fault, really. It’s mine.”
I stomped my foot. “Why? Why? That’s the sixty–four thousand dollar question, isn’t it?”
“But you didn’t answer my question.”
“You sure you’re not a priest?”
“That’s not my question.”
“I know that, but you play the guilt card so well.”
“Believe me, I’m far from being a priest.”
My stomach knotted as the image of a very hurt Travis flashed through my mind. More tears. “When the preacher asked if ‘I do’, all I could think of was ‘I don’t’ and ‘I can’t.’” I sniffed and dabbed my wet face, again. “Please don’t ask me why. I truly don’t know.”
Enough time passed that I figured he thought I was some histrionic or spoiled bride–to–be and not worth the effort of an answer.
“You said he was a nice guy.”
I rested my head against the stall door. “He was.” I hiccupped. “I mean, he is.”
“But you said no. Maybe he’s a nice guy, just not the right guy.”
My heart slammed in my chest as I heard the words out loud. This guy couldn’t be more on the money. All this time I kept telling myself Travis was such a nice guy, but I never asked if he was the right one. “You sound like a chick flick movie.”
“I’ve got three sisters. I’ve been forced to watch my share of them. And Oprah.”
I liked the way his subtle, southern drawl lengthened his ‘I’s’. “I’ve got three brothers, so I’ve seen everything to do with aliens, losing your virginity in high school, the military, and superheroes.”
He chuckled. “Coming out of there anytime soon?”
“I probably should.” My tears finally slowed. After wiping my face again, and knowing I’d ruined the two–hundred dollar makeup session I had not three hours ago, I needed to look in the mirror. “All right, I’m coming out.”
“Wow. You’re coming out already? I am good.”
I could feel the corners of my mouth lift. “No. My vanity has taken over.”
“I need to look in the mirror, because I think I might resemble a drunken circus clown after smearing all this makeup.”
“That sounds … interesting.”
“Okay, I’m coming out.” I tried to straighten my overly beaded and ridiculously poufy dress. At least I’d opted not to wear the stupid petticoat before the service, much to my mother’s dismay. If not, I’d never have fit through the bathroom stall opening without getting snagged.
“Do you want me to leave?”
“Only if you don’t want to see a spazzed–out bride who probably looks like a circus freak.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
Taking a deep breath, I inhaled the lemon scented cleaner, stood up straight, and unlocked the door.
When I looked out, I saw him standing against the opposite wall with his hands stuffed in his pockets.
“You’re actually sticking around?” My hands fiddled with my phone. “Really?”
I paused as I caught a quick glimpse of him. He stood at least six–feet, brown hair, nice frame. Before I could get a better look, a glob of mascara and fake eyelashes clouded my vision. I pressed the wadded–up paper against my eye in an attempt to keep the makeup at bay. “Isn’t that a big no–no for confession? You’re not supposed to know what the confessor looks like. That’s part of the decompression process.”
He shrugged. “It’s not a secret. The priest knows who’s in the box, right?”
“You knew it was me in there, huh? Seems a bit unethical.” I dabbed at my eyes with a ball of toilet paper, clearing my line of sight for a second.
“You forget. I’m not a priest.