The day Jill asked me to be her bridesmaid was the same day I prayed for flowers.
I had asked that morning – softly, in my loneliness.
Jill came home late.
Someone has left flowers for you on the landing.
I ran out. A bouquet, and a letter – with a question.
She grinned at me, as I curled up outside our blue front door, crying.
The day that Jill had moved in, flowers had started growing up out of the carpet.
My apartment had been oriented towards androgyny for many years, but Jill brought with her severely feminine trinkets: hearts, quotes, lace. She had fifteen vases, with at least three constantly filled with posies.
The first night we prayed together, I had a vision of coloured poppies taking root behind the dining table. It was, finally, a living room.
We were the same age – 26. We were both actors. I had never let anyone but a lover that close. Jill was safe; like the way animals or children are safe.
Every day we would make tea – always Yorkshire – sit on the maroon couch she had brought with her, knees tucked into our hearts for pressure. We would confess, and counsel one another, whispering about weddings, about bodies, about God.
The soil of our living room was watered with the aftermath of both loving men that we ‘shouldn’t’. We’d let them go in obedience – grateful, but seething.
Now, we were waiting for our husbands.
We started dating again within a month of each other.
Every night, the men would exit that blue front door before bedtime, no matter the hour. Our couch was conveniently long enough for two to curl up on, but whenever hands wandered too far beyond conscience, my eyes would catch Jill’s flowers – glowing in their vases, beckoning.
It was an almost comical dance. We weren’t virgins, nor were the men. The decision to be celibate was almost an act of defiance: we were reclaiming our bodies from those that did not have the patience to truly appreciate them.
I missed sex in moments, but more urgently, I wanted to fall asleep against another body.
I never expected it to last that long.
We were both in love – surely we’d both be married soon enough.
When I went to America for work, Jill visited, and stayed in close contact. My relationship ended, and she counseled me through it. When it was time to return to our home of flowers, I was missing the (holy) mayhem of our bachelorette lives.
A week before I moved back in, however, Jill got engaged.
We quickly resettled as sisters, but something had changed. As we prepared for the wedding, I found myself watching her and her fiancé with an uncontainable restlessness.
I threw myself into their love story – desperate to absorb the wonder. We joked that I was their adopted child, consistently tagging behind.
I stood agape as she tried on wedding dresses. The purity of that white was not just some traditional gesture, but the reflection of a magic we both felt promised. She glowed in the mystery of love. I wondered if I’d ever really felt it before.
As the months went on, she and her fiancé grew closer, and my restlessness rose. Instead of spending hours on the couch, they would go into her room and close the door. I would lie awake, listening to make sure he went home each night.
One day, I blurted out my discomfort – all fire.
Jill – gentle as ever – heard me in humility, then encouraged me to exchange my fear for grace.
Soon after, I met The Man.
The Man was bright-eyed and challenging.
He accepted my ‘terms’, but viewed God’s call differently.
He laughed at our couch.
What is the difference between us sleeping beside one another or me going home at 3am?
I was scandalized by my own liberalism in considering him, but Jill was not.
This is a good man, Anna.
The wedding day loomed, arrived, and passed through us all like a storm.
Jill lifted her head high – a ridiculous grin cracking her heart open for all to see – and became a wife.
After the reception, they said goodbye to the wedding guests in a circle.
I waited in the hall, a bag ready for her with her removed veil, make-up and a spare pair of white lace undies. Two eclipse mints were melting into my fist.
The Man stood nearby, deep in conversation.
I hovered, unsuccessfully trying to fall into his headlights.
Jill finished the round, and finally stood in front of me. Her eyes were impatient, bright.
I pressed the mints into her hand, and she threw them into her mouth. Alice In Wonderland, ready for the adventure.
You remembered everything.
She took the bag, holding me tightly.
And then she left.
She looked like a bride, but not the bride I had expected. She had entered into the mystery, and it was a magic I could not see, because I was not a bride, and I was not leaving my wedding to make love to my husband for the first time.
Someone brought me my bouquet, in case I forgot it. I wanted to take a shower.
The Man was driving. Others, including my new housemate, Maddy, piled in. They raged on in the back seat, cracking jokes. I stared at the streetlights.
We pulled up, and Maddy got out. The satin of my dress was crushing, the tulle irritating my skin.
I looked at The Man.
You can stay, if you want.
Upstairs, Maddy quietly arranged my bouquet into the only vase we had left, as if it were a wound to tend, and she my nurse.
The next morning, I awoke for work at four o’clock.
I made myself a Yorkshire tea and curled up on the maroon couch.
The flowers sat in their vase, silhouetted on the dining table.
The Man snored, softly, from my bed.
Image: Aleksandar Radovanovic
Anna is a writer and actor, who works predominantly in the Australian film and television industry. She is passionate about authentic portrayals of women in storytelling. She is interested in writing about the intersections between social justice, creativity, spiritual faith and sexuality. She is also a total space nerd. Anna recently graduated from AFTRS, and splits her time between Melbourne and Los Angeles. Twitter: @annamcgahan