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Hate Mail
Author: Winter Renshaw







“Please tell me this is some kind of joke.” My mother’s face falls the instant I emerge from the fitting room in a black lace wedding dress.

The soft filtered sunlight streaming through the lace curtains, racks of designer gowns, Chopin faintly playing from hidden speakers, endless flutes of Veuve Clicquot, and perfumed, lily-of-the-valley air should be enough to make this one of the most beautiful moments of anyone’s life, only this has to be one of the worst moments of mine.

Six months from today, I’m to be married to Slade Delacorte—an arrangement my parents made with his before either of us were old enough to protest.

“Nico said black is the trending wedding dress color this year.” I wink at my fitting room attendant, silently willing him to help me out here, only he looks like a deer in headlights. “Right, Nico? Weren’t you just telling me that?”

“It … it’s true, Mrs. Wakemont,” he stammers in his posh English accent as his hooded gaze settles on my mother’s horrified expression. “There was an article a while back in Bride magazine. I could find it if you’d like to have a read.”

Turning, I step onto the raised platform and examine my reflection in the three-sided mirror, ignoring the commotion going on behind me as my mother attempts to get my bridesmaids on her side.

“White is classic though,” Tenley, my best friend since preschool, chimes in. Love her to death but she’s always been weak-spined, especially when it comes to powerful, intimidating women like my mother. “You can’t go wrong with white.”

“Black is bold and sexy,” my former college roommate, Elise, offers. She’s always been quick to take my side in all matters—even when I’ve been wrong—because that’s the kind of person Elise is. “You could wear traditional white for the ceremony and do an avant-garde black for your reception.”

“I like it,” Stassi, my best friend from high school, chimes in. “I wouldn’t wear it personally, but I like it. It makes me think of a black swan. Chic and elegant.”

Stassi offers a pained smile, though her pain has nothing to do with my dress or this awkward situation we’re in. Last year, she found out her fiancé was cheating on her a few months before the wedding. They were about to buy a condo in Manhattan together and everything. Their entire lives were ahead of them and I’d never seen her happier—until it all came crashing down.

Inevitably the wedding was called off and Stassi moved back home to Sapphire Shores for a “break,” but her sabbatical has turned into something akin to a semi-permanent situation.

She used to take the subway to work and broker high-dollar deals.

Now she makes crappy pizza at a local parlor and lives in the run-down apartment above it—by choice.

But I digress.

“You girls are doing Campbell a disservice by being generous with your praise,” my mother tells my friends. The girls exchange looks, though not a single one of them dares to rebut her. Mom clasps her French manicured hands in her lap, over her elegantly slanted crossed legs. “Let’s get on with this, darling. Please.”

I run my hands along the silky onyx lace that hugs my hourglass hips and makes me feel rebellious and brave.

There’s not a single piece in this entire boutique that could hold a flame to this one.

Not only that, but it’s a statement.

Marrying Slade is essentially a funeral for my future.

I’m in mourning, even if I have to plaster a smile on my face and pretend I’m not.

Also, a woman has to have a sense of humor about these kinds of things if she wants to stay sane—a decision I landed on years ago, when I learned my parents were never going to change their stance on this ridiculous marriage arrangement.

“Is there a matching veil for this?” I ask Nico.

He glances at my mother, who rolls her eyes.

Hesitating, he mutters that he’ll be right back.

Poor guy—stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Welcome to my world …

“Campbell Elizabeth Wakemont, I’m not buying you a black wedding dress.” My mother tosses back a mouthful of champagne before checking the glimmering diamond Rolex on her left wrist. “We have brunch reservations after this and then we’re meeting with the florist to finalize flowers. Please don’t waste any more of everyone’s precious time. Take that horrid thing off and try on some of the gorgeous gowns Nico pulled for you.”

I twist around, peering over each shoulder as I examine myself from every angle in the mirrors. The dress is sexy yet understated, the way it hugs and drapes and exposes the perfect amount of decolletage and bare shoulders. It moves when I move, fluid yet fitted, holding me like it never wants to let me go.

I feel like I could conquer the world in this thing—or run away in it.

It’s not constricting. The lace makes it breathable. I could do a lot of exciting things in this.

“Can one of you take a picture for me?” I ask my friends.

Tenley reaches for her phone, but my mother places her hand out to block the move.

“All right, while I don’t have an exact match for that dress, I do have these lovelies.” Nico returns with two black veils—one so long it drips to the floor and the other, a shorter, chicer option.

“My apologies for wasting your time, Nico, but she won’t be trying on any black veils,” Mom says. “This is a wedding for crying out loud, not a funeral—a celebration that six hundred guests will be talking about for years to come. We’re going for classic, timeless, elegance—not Victorian graveside chic.”

Tenley shoots a sympathetic wince my way.

Or maybe it’s apologetic.

Either way, she’s been around my family long enough to know that disagreeing with Blythe Wakemont is the quickest way to land on her personal shit list, which is akin to existing on the dark side of the moon.

My mother can move mountains for the people she adores. Even if you don’t love her, you need her to love you.

“I’m obsessed with this dress though,” I say with a dreamy sigh, placing my hand over my heart. My flawless seven-carat engagement ring glints under the soft ambient light. Its Edwardian setting representative of the woman who wore it first—Slade’s great-great grandmother. “It captures me perfectly.”

“Sure, if you were a tragically young widow in the 1800s,” Mom says, topping off her champagne. At this rate, she’s going to be blitzed before we make it to our brunch reservations. We’ll be hauling her and all of her Chanel accessories into the Joie de Vivre Café and Patisserie on Claremont Avenue. “Fortunately, you’re a beautiful, modern day bride-to-be, so let’s dress like one, shall we?”

Stealing one final glance at the moody obsidian number hugging my body, I retreat behind the changing room curtain where Nico has carefully hung the first white dress for me to try on. With its fitted satin bodice and skirted plume of never-ending organza and tulle, it’s something Cinderella herself would approve of. But the difference between Cinderella and me is that she got to marry the man she loved.

Not only that, but she married a prince.

I might as well be marrying a bona fide villain.

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