We arrive at the house in the early afternoon. Doug, my photographer boyfriend of  one month, wants to check in with the family of the bride. I meet the bride, her brother Thomas and Christian, the younger brother. They hired Doug to photograph the wedding and I am here as his date. I don’t know anyone in the family or anyone who will be attending.

I am dressed up–wearing a cream-colored dress with short chiffon flutter sleeves and my hair up in a loose bun like Stevie Nicks wears. I spend a long time choosing just the right glossy beige pumps with 3-inch heels. I feel glamorous.

At the church, I wander aimlessly, awkwardly fidgeting with the strap of my purse while Doug sets up his equipment. I am bored. I hate being ignored, especially when I look so pretty. I thought I was on a date, but at this point it becomes clear that I am on my own.

“Hey, we get to sit up front.”

Doug motions for me to sit in the section reserved for the bride’s family. He never does join me, though. He spends the entire ceremony shooting pictures. I feel invisible. A stranger to everyone here. I can’t wait for the day to end so we can be together, just the two of us.

I wait for a long time after the ceremony while more pictures are taken of the happy couple in various assemblages with and without the bridal party and family members. Finally, we head back to the bride’s family home where the reception takes place.

The back patio is decorated with flowers and strands of twinkling lights. There is a small band set up and even a champagne fountain, with glasses stacked one on top of another and constant streams of champagne flowing into and over them. I’ve never seen such a thing.

Once the music starts I begin to relax a bit. I sit quietly to the side with a glass of champagne, smiling politely as guest smile back quizzically, not knowing exactly who I am. It gets easier after the second glass. My smile becomes brighter, but I am agitated because Doug is still taking pictures, now random shots of the guests on the dance floor and the band, the food.

“I’m sorry, baby…but it’s work, you know.”

He kisses me on the cheek.

“Hey, Chris! Will you dance with my girl? She looks lonely over here!”

Christian is wearing a dark grey suit and he is quite tall. I am immediately attracted to his open smile and the warm, easy way he takes my hand and leads me to a space on the patio. We spend the rest of the evening together, slow dancing, talking about school, music, his friends, his job. And drinking champagne.

Christian is a good boy. Tall and dirty blonde with broad, strong shoulders and a wide, easy grin, bedecked with shiny metal braces. At sixteen, he is already thinking about college and works after school bagging groceries. He has a savings account.

At fifteen, I am thinking about dropping out of high school. I have two after-school jobs and never leave home without a hundred-dollar bill in my wallet. This empowers me to believe I have life all figured out. My long-distance boyfriend, Bryan begins to fade from my immediate thoughts as my life unfolds moment to moment.

Doug takes a photo of us together on the dance floor, the only shot he takes of me, my head resting on Christian’s shoulder, a dreamy, secret smile on my lips. I look very happy. And very high.

To be continued…