“Keeping Secrets” by Wilma Bernard
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Cassandra and Owen had meant to tell each other everything, but on their wedding day they had at least one remaining secret.
Please enjoy our Feature Story: “Keeping Secrets” by Wilma Bernard:
“How well do you know my brother?” At ten in the morning Gary already had a bottle in his hand and he tilted against the doorframe, though his rented tuxedo was still neat and clean.
Cassandra looked in the mirror a moment longer to smooth the skirt of her wedding gown and to gather herself. Then she turned to face the best man, giving him her most confident smile. “Well, I am marrying him.”
He snorted. “Yeah. I guess you are.”
“You don’t know what you’re getting into.”
She grimaced. “That’s really not your concern, now is it? Just go out there and look pretty, Gary. And try not to slur the toast. I know you’ve got something nice written up.”
“Yeah, Cassie, the speech is fine, but…”
“And nobody calls me that anymore. Gary. It’s Cassandra. I’m a big girl now.”
“Owen is not what you think.”
On the street outside the church a teenager and her mother were having a fight, their angry yells curling up through the summer heat and in the open window. Here the carpet was a subdued cream and the wallpaper had a tiny flower print, and the two of them knew better than to raise their voices. “I don’t have time for this. I don’t even have my makeup on.”
He shrugged. “Go ahead, I don’t mind. I wouldn’t bother you, only…”
“Only you can’t believe that anyone could find a more meaningful relationship than your endless one night stands.”
“This isn’t about me. You’re happy, sure. I know that. I can’t believe you know what he is, that’s all.”
Cassandra snatched up the eye shadow from a nearby bureau and began furiously applying it. “Gary, you can come out and say what you want or you can leave. I’d prefer the latter. I certainly don’t want to stand around here listening to you hint at dark secrets that I don’t think even exist.”
He was silent a while, watching her put on too much eye shadow and then start to rub it off again with a tissue. “Funny,” he said at last, “how this wedding got scheduled. Right after the full moon ends. It gives you some time together first, I guess.”
The full moon? Aw, hell no.
“Before he has to break the news,” Gary said.
“Get out.” She heard the growl in her own voice and caught her breath, but Gary didn’t seem to notice it. Glancing up quickly, apprehensively, she saw him shrug himself away from the doorframe and walk away, raising the liquor bottle in a shaky salute.
“All right,” he called. “Your life.”
She shut the door behind him and leaned on it. What do I do now?
She should have told her own secret weeks ago. Months ago. You’re not supposed to go into a marriage with that kind of thing hidden between you, but damn him, now it would be worse than ever. She had scheduled the wedding herself, of course, had given herself time to tell him and time for him to settle into the idea before he woke up some night with a wolf in his bed. And he had gone along so well, like he always did. He never asked me out on a full-moon night, she remembered now. Why didn’t I ever notice that?
“Cassandra?” She jumped at his voice. “Can I talk to you?”
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door. “Owen.” Her voice was admirably calm, but she saw him flinch under its coldness. “I suppose you know what Gary told me,” she said.
“I knew he’d been up here. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”
“I’m sorry, too, Owen, to have to call this wedding off on such short notice.”
“Damn it! Don’t the men in your family know how to listen? It’s Cassandra. And don’t argue with me. It can’t work.”
“What? You can’t break this off for that! Listen, baby, it’s no big deal. I’ll quit.”
“I can break it off for any… you’ll what? What did you say?”
“I’ll quit the work, if that’s what it takes to keep you, Cassie. Cassandra. I love you. I hoped you could…”
“Wait a minute, Owen. What did you… what do you think Gary told me?”
He looked surprised. “About my werewolf research. I know it’s not a particularly orthodox topic, and most of the family thinks I’m nuts. But Cassandra, you should read some of the stories I’ve gathered. The descriptions, the interviews. It’s amazing.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, I’m sure it is.”
“But I’ll quit, if that’s what you want. I’ll give it up. You don’t have to leave me over it.”
“No. No, that’s okay. You don’t have to quit it.” She smiled. “Don’t worry about that. I’ve dealt with some unorthodox research myself now and then.”
Owen frowned. “Then what were you so upset about? What did Gary tell you?”
“He didn’t get all of it out. I made him leave. But I thought he meant… something else.” She took his hands. “That’s all right, then.” Tell him now. It’s the best time.
“Well, what else would it be?” He was grinning.
Well, maybe not right now. She shrugged. “Let’s go get married, huh?”
“Sounds good to me. Do you want to go like that, or would you rather make your eyes match first?”
Glancing back in the mirror, she giggled. “You’re right, maybe I’d better do that. And there are lots of other paints here still waiting to be applied. Tell you what, babe. I’ll meet you down there. About eleven-thirty?”
He closed the door behind him, and she stood with the eye shadow in one hand and a tissue in the other, staring for a while into her own reflected eyes.
Well. Two in a family… it would have been too much. This is better. It’ll be all right. Maybe he’ll find me fascinating.
Wilma Bernard writes romance, women’s fiction, and fantasy. She has previously been published at Every Day Fiction.
Tags: metro fiction, short stories, wilma bernard