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JULIA'S CHOCOLATES
by Cathy Lamb

Genre: General Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream

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I left my wedding dress hanging in a tree somewhere in North Dakota.

I don’t know why that particular tree appealed to me. Perhaps it was because it looked as if it had given up and died years ago and was still standing because it didn’t know what else to do. It was all by itself, the branches gnarled and rough, like the top of someone’s knuckles I knew.

I didn’t even bother to pull over as there were no other cars on that dusty two-lane road, which was surely an example of what hell looked like: you came from nowhere; you’re going nowhere. And her is your only decoration: a dead tree. Enjoy your punishment.

The radio died, and the silence rattled through my brain. I flipped up the trunk and was soon covered with the white fluff and lace and flounce of what was my wedding dress. I had hated it from the start, but he had loved it.

Loved it because it was high–collared and demure and innocent. Lord, I looked like a stuffed white cake when I put it on.

The sun beat down on my head as I stumbled to the tree and peered through the branches to the blue sky tunneling down at me in triangular rays. The labyrinth of branches formed a maze that had no exit. If you were a bug that couldn’t fly, you’d be stuck. You’d keep crawling and crawling, desperate to find your way out, but you never would. You’d gasp your last tortured breath in a state of utter confusion and frustration, and that would be that.

Yes, another representation of hell. 

The first time I heaved the dress up in the air, it landed right back on my head. And the second time, and the third, which simply increased my fury. I couldn’t even get rid of my own wedding dress.

My breath caught in my throat, my heart suddenly started to race, and it felt like the air had been sucked right out of the universe, a sensation I had become more and more familiar with in the last six months. I was under the sneaking suspicion that I had some dreadful disease, but I was too scared to find out what it was, and too busy convincing myself I wasn’t suicidal to address something as pesky as that.

My arms were weakened from my Herculean efforts and the fact that I could hardly breathe and my freezing cold hands started to shake. I thought the dress was going to suffocate me, the silk cloying, clinging to my face. I finally gave up and lay face down in the dirt. Someone, years down the road, would stop their car and lift up the pile of white fluff and find my skeleton. That is, if the buzzards didn’t gnaw away at me first. Were there buzzards in North Dakota?

Fear of the buzzards, not of death, made me roll over.