Stage 1. Don’t think about how it would have been your job to rearrange the flower bouquet even though hydrangeas make you sneeze, to tell the confectioner that the bride specifically requested a six-tiered vanilla and red velvet cake, not fudge. Don’t think about how you would despise the cantaloupe colored bridesmaid dress you would be wearing yet wear it proudly, even though it would give you an anemic glow.
Stage 2. Don’t think about how before, you always were been able to predict what your best friend was going to do, like how you knew her boyfriend was going to propose in April and that five months later, the wedding date would be set.
Stage 3. Try to forget the time in junior year: your vow to stay best friends forever, how you scrawled your initials on the outside of your shared locker and how the next year someone wrote their name over both of yours because it was no longer your locker anymore, but it didn’t matter because you knew if you scratched hard enough with something sharp you’d find it: two ghostly initials looped together.
Stage 4. Don’t think about how you know things about your best friend that even her future husband doesn’t know, like how she got that scar on her foot and why she refused to watch any movie set in outer space.
Stage 5. Forget the bachelorette party, how the other bridesmaids teased you about your childhood, your Catholic upbringing and your cross necklace, its outline visible beneath the sheer material of your shirt. Margarita in hand, you laughed with them, salt stinging your lips, even as one pointed a finger at you and said always a bridesmaid, never a bride. You knew they only said it because they saw you were closer to her than they were and were mad. They didn’t know that this was your secret fear, the one that you confessed to your best friend in middle school under the cover of your Tinkerbell sleeping bag. A boy at school had teased you for always frowning, said you’d make a good nun. Your friend tried to make you feel better, told you that you’d find someone. And you’d believed her because you were in middle school and both of you had seen each other at your worst.
Stage 6. Don’t imagine how the wedding is supposed to be, like how after the vows are said and rings are exchanged, the groom gives your best friend a back-bending kiss. The bouquet is tossed, and you fight to get it, even step on another bridesmaid’s bare sandaled foot, spit out a stray strand of someone’s hair that has someone gotten stuck in your mouth until it falls like a snowflake into your waiting arms. Remember you’re not at a church but in a cemetery. Crush the bouquet close to your chest. Forget to put it on her grave. Instead, keep it on your nightstand until the browning petals wilt, until all that’s left is a sticky smear of pollen, a residue easily wiped away.
Candace Hartsuyker has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from McNeese State University and reads for PANK. She has been published in Cotton Xenomorph, Okay Donkey, Heavy Feather Review, The Hunger and elsewhere.