The bride stands up and says,
“Okay, ladies, this is your moment. I have to take a tinkle, but when I come back, he’s all mine forever.”
To the sound of loud cheering, the bride pulls off the fitness instructor headset, kisses the groom on the top of the head, and steers out of the banquet room on unsteady feet.
Earlier in the evening, the MC, who is also the bride’s brother, explained the family wedding tradition of the men lining up to kiss the bride one last time whenever the groom leaves for the bathroom and vice versa. That caused the groom’s buddies to toast him every few minutes and get the whole ballroom going on some CHUG-CHUG-CHUG chants.
Now, the groom is wasted, and the male segment of the party has had ample opportunity to kiss the new Mrs. Hollander. But it is the first time the bride has excused herself, and despite the groom’s droopiness, several women and even a few men are already lined up.
An older man named Tom sits at the table furthest away from the newlyweds. This table seats those who are neither kids nor eligible singles. Tom has turned his chair around to watch the festivities and is now scanning through the queue for kissing the groom. Then he sees her.
She goes by Maddie and looks no more than nineteen. She stands about three-quarters down the line wedged between two women who are both turned away from her. There she waits in her too-big tulle dress of a color between soft pink and unwashed, staring down at her black Converse high-tops with her brown, curly hair falling into her face.
Tom tries to get her attention by waving, but Maddie doesn’t notice. She just takes a step sideways whenever the line moves.
The kissing goes a little faster when the women in line figure out to alternate cheeks. So far, only the bride’s second cousin has planted a kiss straight on the groom's mouth and left a mark of red lipstick the size of Manhattan. The groom tries to rub it off on his sleeve but doesn’t succeed.
Tom smiles at the distraction and then runs his eyes down the line to find Maddie again. Maddie is still a good twenty people away from the front. It looks as if she’s arguing on her phone, a plus-sized, Hello Kitty!-encased one that barely fits in her hand. Her face is angry, and her phone-free hand emphasizes a point in the air with a steak knife.
No one sees Maddie or the steak knife but Tom. His smile fades. He tries to wave Maddie down but to no avail. With difficulty, Tom gets to his feet. He has to look down at what he's doing and steady himself with a hand on the back of the chair. He is not drunk. That is just how his body works after all those years as a beat cop.
When Tom has his eyes on the room again, he sees Maddie end the call with a shriek of frustration. She drops the phone on a table and stomps out of the queue to go behind the groom toward the exit, steak knife clenched and brows furrowed.
Tom begins to make his way through the big banquet room, but it takes time. People are standing and chatting in the winding spaces between the round tables. Some kids have built a fort out of chairs and table cloths in the middle. The line for the groom snakes its way around the front, obstructing his access to the door with rowdy women in high heels and dangly earrings.
When Tom is just on the other side of the queue, he catches a glimpse of Maddie almost at the entrance, still with the knife in hand and still upset.
“MADDIE!” he yells, and she hears him and stops for a second to meet his eyes.
They have a wordless conversation in the span of a moment. Then Maddie lowers her head and continues.
At the same time, the bride tries to come back into the ballroom but is blocked by the maid of honor guarding the door to allow for the kissing. The two of them end up standing in a peculiar dance position with their arms raised in the air, the bride bopping and weaving to see past the maid of honor, the maid of honor preventing that as much as she can. They take up the whole width of the double doors.
When Maddie sees them, she turns on her heel and marches back in the opposite direction, knife down by her side.
“NO, MADDIE, NO!” Tom yells again, but she doesn’t let him stop her this time. Tom tries harder to get to her, but he is too far away and too slow.
A middle-aged woman in a revealing strapless dress bends down to place a kiss on the groom’s cheek. Maddie pushes her away, and as the groom leans in to meet a set of lips, Maddie plants the steak knife in his eye.
A woman in the line lets out a long and piercing scream that starts a panic and more screaming. The maid of honor turns to see what's going on. That allows the bride to slip by her and over to her dead husband. In denial, the bride pounces on the groom’s chest again and again, so his arms flop up and down like a rag doll, and the front of her white dress gets covered in blood. People fumble for their phones to call emergency services.
Maddie is nowhere to be seen. Later, Tom finds her sitting up against the wall, eyes staring far into space, and in the palm of her hand, a heart-shaped locket with the groom’s picture in it.