A tale of weddings, betrayal, murder, and revenge. He never really liked the comparison of knots with marriage. It always made him picture someone tying a noose and hanging themselves. Marriage is ...
Scarlett had been standing outside of the cathedral for a good twenty minutes. She couldn't sit still inside. The ceremony was about to start, and it felt like a morbid deja vu. Only this time, she didn't want the ceremony to start. Because if the ceremony started, it would make everything real. Everything so permanent. As if she were being branded on her forehead that she had lost a sister. A mark that she would carry forever. A weight pressing over heart, squeezing between her lungs, making it harder for her to breathe.
Everyone was dressed in black; it almost gave Scarlett a headache. Few people knew that Annie hated the color black. She always found it so depressing, and the last thing Annie would want was for people to be grieving over her. It took Scarlett back to one of her most chilling memories. It was when Annie was 12 and she was only 11 years-old.
Annie was lying on her bed tracing the patterns of her blanket in deep thought. Scarlett sat on the floor, leaning against the bedside while doodling absentmindedly on a piece of newspaper.
"Scarlett?" Annie called out, as if she wasn't sure whether she was there.
"Yeah?" Scarlett answered, focusing more on her doodles than anything else.
"Do you ever think about...," Annie hesitated, biting her lip. "Death?"
"What do you mean?" Scarlett asked, not giving it much thought.
"I mean don't you ever wonder how people would react when you die?"
"I guess," Scarlett shrugged. "Why?"
"Because I think about it all the time," Annie confessed. "I can't help it."
Scarlett suddenly dropped her pen. It was scary for someone so full of life like Annie to be thinking of the romantic side of death.
"What do you think of?" Scarlett was almost too afraid to ask.
"I think about how my funeral's gonna be," Annie sighed, almost dreamily. "I want everyone to wear white, not black."
"Because white stands for purity, and when I think of purity I think of angels. White makes me think of souls ascending into Heaven," Annie explained, her tone heavy with poetry.
"That makes sense," said an amazed Scarlett. Annie always had a way with words.
"And I don't want a single person to cry," Annie continued on. "Because it shouldn't be about crying over the end of my life, but celebrating how I lived it. I want it to be on a sunny day so it looks like even God is part of the celebration."
"Why wouldn't He be?" Scarlett added. "He would have you."
Now Scarlett was haunted by that almost prophetic conversation. It was like Annie knew she would die early. That something in her bones told her that life ended just as soon as it started, and her final request, her dream funeral, was being destroyed before Scarlett's eyes.
The guests were dressed in black, crying and grieving, and the sky never looked more ominous. It seemed as if the mourning wasn't limited to the mundane. There was a terrible wind starting up, and rain was beginning to fall. God wasn't celebrating Annie's life, He was outraged by her death. It was all wrong, and that's what hurt Scarlett the most. That she couldn't even give her sister the funeral she wanted. The funeral she deserved.
She tried to tell her mother that she was planning everything so wrong, that it wasn't what Annie wanted. But it seemed that grief had overpowered her mother's hearing. Scarlett finally entered the church, drenched from the rain in her white dress. She definitely stood out from the sea of black suits and dresses. The minute she entered, everyone turned and glanced towards her. It wasn't the white dress or the soaked appearance that drew their eyes to her. It was the sympathy and pity.
There was a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach, and Scarlett thought she would vomit although she barely ate anything in the past couple of days. She took a seat next to Bob, and avoided looking up to see the casket at all costs. Soon, she would have to make that walk. The only walk that she thought would literally kill her. The walk towards the casket to see her sister for the last time.
Frank looked the worst out of everyone. Scarlett was killing herself on the inside, but she managed to keep her tough facade. Frank, for the first time, actually looked old. There were at least six years added to his face. There used to be a youthful glow in him, and he was always mistaken for a teenager. His smile reminded Scarlett of a baby's. But that was gone, and he hasn't even given a hint of a smile since the incident. His eyes were once wide and alert with the curiosity of a child's, but now they were half-lidded and swollen from the tears of a lost lover. He stopped shaving and the untidy facial hair just added more years to his appearance. The child in him died along with Annie. Scarlett didn't even recognize him in the beginning.
The organ played on, and it brought back the haunting memories of the wedding that never was. Scarlett could've sworn that it sounded like a more sorrowful version of "Here Comes The Bride." Her parents stepped up to give their speech. Scarlett couldn't even hear them, all she heard was the blood rushing toward her ears as she struggled to recall the last time she saw Annie alive. She couldn't even remember what her last words to her were. The weight in her chest couldn't be any heavier. Her stomach did back flips, churning the nothingness inside. Her body taunted her with her feelings. They were working as one, each trying to break her down. So that she may be with her sister. Broken into fragments of dust and ash.
Suddenly, the row in front of her slowly began to rise. In a single file line, they walked up to the place Scarlett forbid herself to see. Frank was at the end of the line, holding his hands closely in front of him, also refusing to look. When it was finally his turn, he bit his lip and gazed at the ceiling first. Then he shut his eyes as he lowered his head toward the casket. When his eyes finally opened, he froze for a second. Then, his whole body became paralyzed and his cousin had to hold him up as he burst into a loud cry. The sounds that came out of Frank was something Scarlett never heard before. It was more than just crying. It didn't even sound like it came out of his mouth. It sounded like it came from the depth beyond his body. And, then Scarlett finally figured out what she was hearing, it was the sound of a spirit being ripped apart.
Scarlett's row rose before the first row even sat down. Frank had to be supported by his cousin back to his seat. Bob was in front of Scarlett, and he tried to soothe her by whispering words of comfort and compassion, completely unaware that she had gone deaf sometime during her parents' speech. The line moved faster than what Scarlett had expected. It seemed only three seconds had past and Bob was already sniffling over the body of her sister. Then Scarlett started the deadly walk. The walk that was going to kill her. It was too quiet, and Scarlett could hear her own steps. There wasn't much distance left and as she stepped in front of the coffin, she inhaled her last deep breath. As soon as her eyes set down on what she would never have again, she felt her pulse stop.
The rain had only gotten worse by the time they were outside. Giant black umbrellas sheltered groups of three or four. Scarlett didn't want to be sheltered. She wanted to feel the rain. She wanted to drown herself in the Heavenly tears that cried for justice. Her white dress desperately clung onto her and her hair flew in wet layers of red that covered eyes. She could hear the casket being lowered into the ground. Her mother's sobs were being muffled by her father's chest, and Frank was nearly about to faint. But soon, it was over. Annie was buried and returned to the dirt from whence she came.
Scarlett couldn't shake off the image of her dead sister. They say the dead appear to be in a peaceful slumber, but Annie didn't appear to be at peace. Her eyes were forced shut even though she died with them wide open in fear. There was an uncomfortableness in her face, as if she were having a nightmare. It was the slight slant of her lips that gave it away, something only a sister could see.
"I can't believe that Annie isn't even the first one," whispered Bob. Scarlett had finally regained her hearing.
"The first what?" Scarlett asked, barely above a whisper.
"The first bride to die on her wedding day," Bob replied. "The police say there's been a string of murders just like this. It's always the bride, and it always happens right before the wedding."
Scarlett was left with a ghastly sensation. There were more brides who died before Annie. Innocent brides who never made it to their own wedding. Brides who had to leave behind their grooms, their families and friends, and even their sisters. All by the hand of some sick stranger. It wasn't a coincidence; there was a serial killer going after these young women. Scarlett suddenly remembered the stack of newspapers she neglected to read during the anticipation of the wedding. Somewhere in there had to be the information she was looking for. Little did she know that it would lead her to the one person who knew it all.