Felice Neals


Made for Display

(1) Betrothed.

(1) Yes.

(2) Over there.

(3) Under the trellis.

(5) The one by the elevator.

(8) Clara’s suit was raw silk. Ivory and gold.

(13) She was a runner-up for Miss Uruguay. She still has that smile.

(21) Wide, and friendly and made for the pageant circuit. She was made for display and she knew it. They all did.

(34) When she met Fernando she was working for lawyers, holding court as a receptionist. He needed immigration advice. “Habla español?” “Yes, of course, señor.” She responded gaily. He was smitten at first sight.

(55) Fernando arrived early in a black tuxedo and crisp, white shirt, with ruffles trimmed in red. His best man, Jorge, chose the dark green suit and shiny, brown shoes he had worn to his sister’s Holy Communion twenty years before. 

“The rings?” Fernando asked.

“Yeah, man. Tranquillo. You’d think you were getting married or something.”

(89) Fernando laughed and patted Jorge firmly on the back as the wedding judge arrived. “Say cheese,” someone uttered in the crowd. An elderly woman posed, as a young girl with the same, wide nose and cocoa-colored cheekbones, held a bright, pink camera. Fernando checked his watch.  

“Late as usual.” 

A line formed with brides in veils, grooms in suits, men in uniform, girls in studded blue jeans, children in frilly dresses, couples in matching “I heart him/her” t-shirts and families swathed in make-shift formality and boisterous, musical accents.

(144) Clara was late. She knew that she would be, even before agreeing to meet up with Glory Silva and the gang. They had talked her into celebrating the last hours of her single status the night before. It seemed silly though. She and Fernando had already completed a family. Two teenage girls: One shy, one outgoing. Isa was happy about her parents’ announcement and called her best friend. Sandy asked what the point was and closed her bedroom door.  

“I want to tell the world that I still love papa.” Clara pleaded. The door slowly opened.  

“Why?” Sandy asked.  

“Because…”

Sandy waited then shook her head.

Clara had always been afraid that someone had seen her, that Sandy had seen her. Sandy always saw things, like the day Clara wore the tiara for no one in particular. 

She should have won. Everyone thought so.

(89) The flowers—lilacs and lilies and one Bird of Paradise—stood in a deep blue vase on the edge of her desk. There was no card; that was the agreement. Fernando would have chosen yellow roses and baby’s breath. She liked red roses. Only the winner gets roses; the runner-up—white carnations. That was the rule. Geoffrey said he would send her roses every week “‘cause she was always a winner in his eyes.” She remembered when the roses turned to lilies. It was right after Miami.

(55) Their conversation went something like this:

Clara: (Silence)

Geoffrey: Why so quiet? 

Clara: Fernando thinks that I am visiting my cousin.

Geoffrey: My wife thinks I am visiting a client.  

Clara: Lawyers have lots of defenses.

Geoffrey: You’re a charmer. That’s my defense.

Clara: (Smile) I’ll stop by on the way back—to see my cousin.  

Geoffrey: Bon Voyage.

(34) Sandy and Isa waited in the cab for their mother, the bride. Sandy wore jeans (to mark her disapproval), but added her favorite shirt—just for the photos. Clara slid in beside them.

(21) Isa took her picture.  

“You look like a movie star, mommy.”  

Clara smiled and looked into the rearview mirror.

“Thanks, honey.”

(13) Fernando paced the marble floor while Jorge took his picture.  

“_Tranquillo_, man. Tranquillo.”

(8) She waved to the crowd. “I love you.”

(5) “You may kiss the bride.”

(3) Under the trellis.

(2) “I will.”

(1) “I…”

(1) “do.”