“Worst thing I ever witnessed?” Rory said, and perked a brow at me.
I nodded. I didn’t know Rory very well, but he was sort of a big-shot in Catholic music circles. He’d written settings for masses used all over the country. He’d had multiple albums recorded. What brought him from Phoenix to our little craptastic burg was anyone’s guess, but it probably wasn’t money. More likely he wanted to get away from the scrutiny of his former church. His divorce and subsequent involvement with another (young) woman probably didn’t sit well with the parishioners there, even if the priest didn’t mind.
So he moved two-thirds the way across country and settled into an affluent, small suburb an hour out of the Big City.
It was sometime around 1993, maybe ‘94. I’d been singing in church for a couple of years with my (now) ex-wife, but we were newly married at the time. She used to be the music director at that church, and the people adored her. She’s incredibly talented, beautiful voice, great eye and instinct for music. But for some reason, the pastor brought Rory in.
We were trying to get to know him. See what he’s like under the exterior, which appeared aloof, a little full of himself. Instead, we found him gentle, nice, courteous, a little shy privately.
I nodded at him. “Yeah, worst thing you ever saw in church.”
Rory rubbed his chin, contemplating. “Hm. Well, I did the music for a wedding once. The church was all decked out in expensive flowers, ribbons, streamers, the whole nine yards. A red carpet runner up the aisle. During the procession, I played Pachelbel’s canon. There were about fourteen people in the party, seven on each side. The groom took his place on the steps in front of the altar. Then we all paused, and I turned to the back of the church.
“It took a minute, but the bride and her father finally appeared in the doorway. I started the traditional wedding march and she came down the aisle, just a vision in her long-trained, lace-and-gossamer dress. The embroidery was amazing on the bodice and sleeves. She was stunning. Her veil was so thick I was surprised she could see through it.”
He paused, sighed.
“Her father walked her to the altar, right past the groom, which seemed weird. Then they stopped and faced the congregation. The groom – and the rest of us, really – were a little confused.
“When the church fell into an uncomfortable silence, she lifted her veil. Her mascara had run down her cheeks, and she wiped the streaks with her fingers, ruining her blush. She’d obviously been crying, and from her expression, it didn’t look like tears of joy.
“She held her head up high, and in a clear, calm and projected voice, said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, there will be no wedding today. I’m sorry. Last night, my fiancé had sex with my maid of honor.’”
I let out an involuntary gasp. “Oh my God.”
Rory nodded, a sardonic smile on his lips. “So her dad took her arm again, and led her down the aisle the way they’d come. And as they left, you could’ve heard a pin drop on the carpet.”
I sat agape, stupefied. I had no idea what to say. I still don’t, some fifteen years after hearing the story.
Life often seems to be leading us in one direction, but delivers an unforeseen surprise when we least expect it. Have you ever been blind-sided by something so unforeseen even your worst-case scenario didn’t account for it? Were you on the bride’s side of that unexpected blow, or the groom’s side?
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