At the hotel, Stacey thought of Patrick. There were bridesmaids everywhere—bridesmaids in silk bathrobes, bridesmaids curling their hair, bridesmaids helping her shimmy into her long, lacy, voluminous dress. She was swathed in tulle. The women petted her hair, the women kissed her cheek and teared up. The women gave her a moment alone.
She thought of Patrick in a suit. He never wore suits. It was a fight to get him into anything other than jeans and cotton T-shirts. Button-ups in the winter. A scarf he used to wear that she’d made when she used to knit. Worn sandals or battered loafers. Things with holes in them.
Her tongue tasted like salt. A small shiver shook the vanity and tipped over a bottle of moisturizer.
At the church, before the service, she asked to see Daniel.
Charity raised her eyebrows. “Stacey, are you sure? It’s bad luck.” Stacey shook her head.
No such thing.
Charity slipped into the hallway, her dress billowing. Who had picked that shade of pink?
Stacey stood in a back room, where there was a bookshelf full of messages of faith and hard chairs disguised with gold upholstery. There was a banner on the wall that read Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again! in large felt letters. She blurred her eyes and made it Chris. Chris has died, Chris is risen, Chris will come again.
The door opened a crack, and she imagined she could smell Daniel’s cologne. She could see his fingers on the edge of the door. She could picture Daniel with his tuxedo holding him upright like a deck of cards in a box. Daniel with his clean-shaven face. Daniel who wouldn’t cheat on even the smallest traditions.
They had a polite conversation through the door. He’d seen her parents, and the Callaghans.
Stacey sat on one of the upholstered chairs. She felt a shudder in the floor. A small trickle of water seeped in across the carpet.
The water had started creeping out of unlikely corners of her apartment—the second shelf of her jewelry box, the storage bins under her bed. There was the day she had come home from work to find her Tupperware containers swimming in their drawer like tiny plastic dinghies. Or the morning all of her socks were sodden. If she thought too hard while falling asleep, her hair would lift on her pillow, the water floating her cheek, rippling against her mouth.
Her therapist had prescribed rest and a lower level of stress. Stacey had taken to drifting off with headphones on, but still somehow she could hear the ocean, would fall asleep with salt along her tongue.
In the lobby of the church, the dress dragged behind her, pulling at her hips.
Charity held a bouquet in each hand; Denise adjusted her cleavage. There was a murmur from the sanctuary, conversations and the creak of pews.
Stacey’s father slipped into the entryway. His suit made him younger and older at the same time, hiding his paunch and silvering his grays. He put his hands in his pockets, and his eyes filled up.
“You look lovely,” he said.
She said, “So do you.”
There was a swell of music from inside the chapel. Charity pushed the bridesmaids into position.
The water began to find her outside of her apartment. She thought of tidal bores. “Bore” from the Old Norse “bara,” meaning wave or swell. The force of tide reversing a river, sending it forty kilometres upstream. A bore, she knew from memory, could be a small rolling wave, or eleven feet in height, depending on the size of the tide and the river location. It could reach speeds of up to twelve kilometres an hour, and could sometimes be heard before it was seen.
She lifted a book from a shelf in Indigo and a small torrent followed it. Her flat white left a puddle on the counter. Her gym bag leaked onto the floor at Pilates. She tried deep breathing and cancelling plans and more therapy, and the water swirled and tugged at her consciousness like a scarf caught in a wheel. The water pooled in her shoes, her car, invaded the vacuum of her days. She held out her emptiness to it.
He’d been in a Zodiac Hurricane. Deep-V fiberglass hull, inflatable collar. High-capacity deck drains fitted with scupper trunks. Maximum speed of 38 knots.
Stacey squinted up the long aisle at Daniel. Hands folded in front of him. If she blurred her eyes, he could be anyone. He could be a Stephen or a Mark or a Leo. But he was Daniel.
When her mother had met Daniel, Stacey had felt the air in the room turn pink with relief. A sort of marbled shift in the atmosphere. Here was a nice, steady boy.
Halfway down the aisle, the earth buckled. Stacey gripped her father’s arm.
She’d been alone fifteen months before she met Daniel.
He’d been leaning on the end of the bar, rectangular and handsome, and she hadn’t felt anything when she looked at him.
“Hi,” he’d said. She’d blinked.
“You look a bit at sea.”
She’d laughed out loud. Daniel wasn’t in on the joke, but he grinned anyway.
“Can I buy you another round?” he’d said.
She’d glanced at her drink and thought about it being a workday and how she was supposed to be lowering her stress. She said yes over the low rush of waves in her ears.
The reverend was reading from Corinthians. Stacey felt the quaking consistently now, a deep, incessant rumble under her feet. Her dress was drinking up water like a wick in oil.
Her hands in Daniel’s shook. He squeezed her fingers.
She could see her mother in the front row, her eyes wet with tears. Stacey thought about crying, but it wasn’t the right emotion—she wasn’t overjoyed or sad. She was sodden. And also terrified. She’d picked something good. Daniel was good. But he didn’t stem the tide.
Daniel read his vows. They were sincere, and sweet; Stacey was distracted by a bead of water trickling from behind his ear and running over his collar. She said her own vows in a small voice, unable to gauge the right volume over the ocean in her ears. The reverend said something else and then Daniel kissed her, and his lips tasted like salt and her mouth was brine and the ground was water and she held on to him because she was in danger of slipping.
Stacey turned to face their audience. Daniel was grinning. He held her hand fast in his, so she didn’t wobble. Her mother was smiling through her tears and her father looked pleased, and there was Aunt June in a hat worthy of the Royal Ascot, and behind her Cousin Amanda with her pinched face, and then near the middle of the room were the Callaghans. They were darling to come; why had she invited them? She could see Patrick in them, their limbs and eyes. Oh god.
She glanced at the doorway. She felt all the blood leave her face.
The walls began to shimmy. Daniel looked to her—she must have made a sound—and every window in the church exploded.
Drowning, Stacey knew, was fast and silent. Below thirty degrees Celsius, exposed skin soon became blue and puffy. Muscle coordination was impaired, pulse and respiration rates decreased significantly, major organs failed. Clinical death occurred.
Patrick was at the end of the aisle. His face was bloated and ballooned as they’d found him in the water. His clothes hung from him, dripping, and he held the battered remains of an orange life jacket in his left hand. He held up his right hand, dark blue, and waved.
It was awful to see him again but all she could think was thank god as the water rose to her knees and she took a step towards him and his face broke open and he was beaming.
The floor heaved and the walls cracked and the thunder in her ears blurred out the sounds of panic as she walked towards Patrick’s beatific face. Through the shattered stained glass windows, the water poured in.