The Distance

By: Alexa Land

Chapter One




I checked myself out from every angle in the frothy wedding gown, and decided white was definitely not my color.

“You look adorable, Jessie,” Nana told me. My employer’s real name was Stana Dombruso, but most people used her nickname, because she felt like a grandmother to us all. At the moment, the petite eighty-year-old was also wearing a great, big, fluffy wedding dress and preening in the mirrors that surrounded us.

“I look like Barbie’s flat-chested sister Skipper,” I told her, sliding my red baseball cap back on my head. “Also, this dress is failing the comfort test big-time. It’s super itchy, weighs a ton, and I keep feeling like my nipples are about to fall out.” I grabbed the top of the strapless, heavily beaded bodice with both hands and hoisted it toward my chin.

“So, that dress is out,” Nana said. “This one is, too. I look like a float in the Rose Parade.” She wasn’t wrong. Her white-on-white dress was festooned with three-dimensional fabric flowers and definitely parade-worthy.

From behind us, a booming voice with a thick Spanish accent exclaimed, “You are a vision, Nana!” Mr. Mario, her friend and hairdresser, came into the room and fluffed his big, ruffled skirt. He then started carefully smoothing his collar-length salt-and-pepper hair in the three-sixty mirrors. The wedding dress he wore was more cream than white, and looked pretty good with his faux tan.

“I’ve decided I hate this dress,” Nana said, tugging on the puff sleeves and making them stand out like a linebacker’s shoulders. “I like Jessie’s better, but he has a list of grievances.”

“I don’t understand mine.” I scooped up an armload of the skirt’s many layers, which revealed my turquoise sneakers. “When I was a kid, I had a little net for when I needed to clean my fish tank, and it was made out of this same, exact stuff. Why would anyone want to get married in a huge goldfish net?”

“That shit’s called tulle, and it’s supposed to be all elegant-like,” Nana told me. “But now that you said that, all I see is a big fish net. I still like the beading, though.”

I hoisted my skirt higher and scratched my thighs with my short fingernails. That tulle stuff was miserable. “I need someone to explain to me why any woman would want to be completely uncomfortable on what’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life,” I said.

“It’s a small price to pay for looking this good,” Mr. Mario said, admiring his reflection in the cream silk number. He occasionally moonlighted as a drag queen, so he was probably used to the horrors of women’s formalwear.

A rustle of fabric announced the arrival of five of Nana’s little girlfriends, who stuffed themselves into the mirrored room with us. They were all over seventy-five, under five-foot-two, and each wore an enormous wedding dress. “I like this one, Stana,” her friend Miriam said, spinning as much as she could in her lacy frock. The little room was wall-to-wall brides at that point.

“Nah, forget all that lace, it’s too fussy,” Gladys said, waving her hand dismissively. “What you want is simple and elegant, like this.” She flung her arms out to the sides, and in the process knocked Miriam’s wig off.

“Damn it, Gladys, watch your paws,” Miriam huffed. When she bent over to retrieve her wig, she bumped into Mr. Mario, who went over like a felled tree and took Nana and most of her friends with him. When his hairy legs flew into the air, the skirt dropped back to reveal tiger-striped socks, five-inch gold heels, and skimpy, leopard-print briefs. I managed to remain upright until a little old lady named Sylvia grabbed my skirt to try to hoist herself up, and then I fell right on top of her.

“You okay, Syl?” I asked, trying to locate the floor in that sea of fluffy dresses so I could push myself up.

Someone’s hand found my ass in the cloud of tulle and gave it a squeeze as Sylvia exclaimed, “Oh, I’m fine! This is more action than I’ve seen in a decade!”

She gave me a gummy smile, and I called, “Everyone, watch where you step! Sylvia’s teeth flew out again.”

Just then, the mirrored door swung open, and Sylvia and I and two more ladies spilled out into the hallway. I looked up at Nana’s grandson Dante, who wore an impeccable black suit and an amused expression. He raised an eyebrow at me and said, “Really?”

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