My sister and I… were very different people.
I had what I call ‘giraffe proportions’, gangly, tall. Amy was average height with the whole hourglass figure. I was a social recluse, she was a social butterfly. I’m an asexual lesbian and she told me quite often during our teen years that I was a freak and could never be loved.
Then three years ago she calls me out of the blue to invite me to her wedding.
I’d moved across the country, had a decent living working as a freelance photographer and had just begun to shake off my insecurities when I got the phone call. She’d had been dating her highschool sweetheart on and off again since graduation and he finally got the balls to pop the question. After apologizing for our relationship going dead since I went to California, she offered to fly me back home and even to cover the cost of the hotel room.
I chose to bury the hatchet and asked for the dates.
Of course I wasn’t surprised when her ulterior motives presented itself. She knew I was a photographer and she knew that I wouldn’t say no to her asking for wedding photos. She batted her eyes and reminded me that she paid for me to be here. So I said yes. I’d get my money’s worth back when I put the pictures on my website, I hoped.
Amy was going to have a fairytale themed wedding. She’d managed to find this meadow in the forest near our childhood home that was absolutely breathtaking. Even I had to admit- if the skies remained clear and the weather was warm, this was perfect for her dream wedding.
I think this is where it started. Amy had been going on and on about how green the grass was when she stepped on a mushroom.
She squealed about how gross it was and I moved in for pictures. The mushroom was a part of a circle, a phenomena of nature I’d never seen in person.
“What are you doing?” She asked, looking at me like I’d grown an extra head.
I shrugged. “Fairy Ring. That’s what they’re called. Perfect for a fairy tale wedding, eh?” My smirk about her disgust was probably a little too evident.
“Well, we’re gonna have to pull them out!” Amy pulled out her cellphone and stepped away from the circle. “I am not going to have mushrooms all over, it’ll kill the grass and make it all brown! I’m calling Dane, will you stay to help pull them out?”
Immediately a chill ran down my spine. I shook my head and raised my hands. “No way. Just leave them there, Amy. They’ll add to the whole magic theme, I promise.”
“No way! They’re disgusting!” Amy pulled a face. “You can just go! It’s not like I paid for you to get here or anything!”
I pocketed my camera and rolled out. I wasn’t going to deal with another of Amy’s bitch fits. Besides, I rather liked the fairy circle. It was a shame that my sister was going to tear it up just because it was going to ruin her idea of beautiful.
That had to be where things started going wrong though.
The next day Amy ‘invited’ me to take pictures of her in her wedding dress, a small photoshoot before the wedding. Naturally I obliged to avoid the fuss if I turned her down.
Amy hammed it up for the camera. Puckered her lips, twirled her bangs, she was honestly one of the better models I worked with. She knew how to look good for the camera.
Then she yelped as one of her bridesmaids, I think it was Julie, stood by her. “Julie, what the hell!? Why did you pinch me?” She snapped.
Julie held up both hands. “I didn’t pinch you!”
“Then what- ow! Ow!”
I lowered my camera as my sister started swatting at her thighs and arms, no longer the blissful bride. The tie on her hair loosened and came down all over her face, which only succeeded in infuriating her more. Before long the other bridesmaids were dancing around and screaming too, swatting at invisible bugs.
We retreated back to the car while my sister pouted at me. “It’s not fair, you won’t be in front of the camera, why weren’t you hurt?” She said.
I shrunk in my seat. “I don’t know? I put on bug spray today.”
Julie examined her bare arms, frowning. “It doesn’t look like bug bites. Look.” She stretched out her arm at me.
Her poor arms were covered in nasty welts, already developing into purple bruises. I grimaced. “I hope these heal by the wedding.”
“They better or you’re not allowed to stand up with me,” Amy threatened Julie.
Poor Julie’s eyes welled up with tears and she buried her face in her hands as she began to sob. I quickly put the car in gear to get the ladies out of there. I took Julie for a few drinks that night after she got out of her bridesmaid gown and iced her arms. The next morning her welts had turned into mottled purple bruises, but I reassured her that they’d be mostly faded by the wedding.
I went to Amy’s house to try to convince her to change the location of the wedding given there seemed to be some sort of insect infection, but she was furious about something else.
“I just bought it! It’s a whole gallon of milk and it’s ruined!” She pitched the gallon of milk into the sink, and the container exploded. Chunky milk poured down the drain and the most awful smell filled the room. I visibly gagged and covered my nose as I hurried to open a window.
“It happens, Amy. Listen, let’s just have some breakfast, okay? You still take your eggs over easy?”
Amy sighed and leaned against the counter, but gave a short nod. She’d been bitten the worst. Even her face was bruised. “I couldn’t sleep last night, I’m sorry I’m being a bitch. I just couldn’t get comfortable! My body feels like a giant bruise.”
I nodded as I got the eggs out of the fridge and heated up the pan. “It’s probably wedding nerves too. Just a few more days and it’ll be over.”
I cracked the egg and dropped it into the pan.
What’s worse than spoiled milk? Rotten eggs.
Amy screamed before she started to gag and threw up in the sink. The egg was horrifying, mottled brown and green and smelled like death. It popped and hissed in the pan before the yolk broke and thick red liquid oozed out. The smell of frying blood was what made me join Amy at the sink, hurling.
“Bad eggs, bad milk, what’s next?!” Amy burst into tears and fell to the floor, her shaking legs unable to support her any more.
I scraped the eggs into the trash and as a second thought threw the pan out too- the rotten smell would never come out. After it was all taken care of and the windows were all open I sat with my sister on the couch, rubbing her back to soothe her and telling her that her fridge was likely the culprit. It wasn’t keeping the food cold. That explained why it had gone bad.
The bruises on the bridesmaids faded in another day, but if anything Amy’s got worse. Awful welts that would swell up and bruise. I swore she got new ones even though Amy claimed she hadn’t returned to the meadow.
Amy grew more scatterbrained as the wedding grew closer. She lost her phone, her keys, her wallet, she even lost the necklace she’d borrowed for the wedding. It was a gorgeous silver and sapphire piece that would have complimented the pink parts of her gown perfectly. She couldn’t stop sobbing and insisting that she had kept it on her dresser but it was nowhere to be found. In the end I had her borrow a simple pearl necklace from me. Something borrowed. But nothing blue.
The day of the wedding arrived and I got a text from Julie.
‘Don’t go to the wedding.’
I immediately called her, it went straight to voicemail. I must’ve called her ten times before the maid of honor poked her head in and told me to hurry up and get ready.
I didn’t wear anything flashy, just a pink skirt and green/white blouse. I looked like a spring princess, Amy was the queen. But god, you could feel how exhausted she was. Make up hid some of the bruising but I felt pained when I saw her back, rows and rows of black and blue marks. I couldn’t imagine how much her body ached.
But she was determined. The sooner she got that damn wedding over with, the sooner this would all come to an end.
The ceremony was beautiful, despite Amy’s clear expressions of pain between her beautiful bride smiles. She was getting bitten again, I could tell as a new stripe blossomed above her breast. I took pictures of the moments she smiled through it. The good parts of the most special day of her life.
When they kissed, I was grabbed by the back of my shirt and dragged back.
I nearly screamed but a hand was clamped over my mouth as I was pulled back into the forest and into a car.
When the doors locked, I turned to see my captor.
Julie looked like hell. The welts on her arms had come back with a vengeance, actually breaking skin and creating horrendous scabbed wounds. In her hands was clutched a pair of scissors and her eyes were filled with madness.
I went pale. “Julie? What’s wrong?”
“They’re coming. They came for me when I figured it out. I… I don’t think they can get in the car but please, please, please Alana hold onto these with me!” She pushed the scissors into my hands, an old pair of shears that had rust speckled like blood flecks over the blades.
When I attempted to pull back, she grasped my hands and shook her head. I glanced out the window, I couldn’t see much anymore given as to where we were parked in the forest but I could see that the women were prepping for the bouquet toss. “Julie, have you lost your mind?” It was harsh, but she looked insane.
Julie shook her head again, her eyes growing wet. “My family emigrated from Ireland when I was a little girl. I thought something was familiar about the marks but I didn’t put it together until I took a sip of some of the milk from my fridge and it was bad. I’m so sorry, Alana, I’m so sorry…”
I heard a scream and my head jerked back to meadow. There was a light. A golden light, shining in a circle from where… where the mushrooms once were.
“… Your sister told me about what she did to the fairy circle. There’s no hope for her now.”
The single scream turned into a chorus of screaming. I saw wedding guests run from the meadow as the light grew blinding. Their clothes were singed, their faces burned red.
I yanked the scissors away from Julie and bolted from the car, ignoring her pleads for my return.
The light was now the same intensity of staring into the sun. I saw members of the wedding party passed out on the ground, their skin the same color as a freshly cooked lobster. Dane was sprawled on the ground, the eyes burned from his head and a silver dagger protruding from his chest. I ran on, to the source of the light.
My sister was being escorted to the light, her white gown whipping about like there was a windstorm. Her bloodless face seemed mesmerized by what was in the light.
All I could make out was the torso and the arm extended to her, and I screamed too.
Around the wrist of the arm was the sapphire necklace that she had lost.
Amy slowly took the hand… and she was yanked inside.
I blacked out after that. When I woke up I was in the hospital, Julie was sleeping in the chair next to my bed.
I’d gotten first and second degree burns on all my exposed flesh, but I was lucky. Everyone else on the ground was dead. No one bothered to try to bullshit what I’d seen, that it was a chemical weapon or some gas leak.
Someone caused what happened to my sister. Her body was never recovered. I lost her.
But why am I bringing this up now?
Well, Julie and I are getting married.
And this morning when I went into our front yard, there was a fairy circle.
In the middle of the circle was the pearl necklace I loaned my sister, with the addition of a blue sapphire at the throat.
Something borrowed, something blue.