The airplane banked and Brian caught sight of Las Vegas shimmering in the vast expanse of arid desert. It looked like he was about to land on an alien planet. Living in Ireland he was used to rain, rain and more rain. When the door opened he was slapped in the face by a wall of dry heat and by the time he reached the baking hot tarmac, the suit he was wearing started to feel as heavy as armour. It didn't take more than a minute to get inside the terminal but the first thing he thought was, Thank God for air-con. He had flown in to pitch his company at a medical conference taking place at The Mirage, but the bean counters were so tight they’d booked him into some off strip place he’d never heard of. But after traveling for nearly twenty four hours straight, he couldn't care less where the hotel was, as long as it had a bed for him.
It turned out the hotel wasn't that bad at all. Sure, it was a little dated, but it seemed fine. It seemed fine right up to the moment he put his key into the lock and it wouldn't work. He swiped the credit card sized piece of plastic again and again, red light every time. What was wrong with an actual key he thought as he scooped up his suit carrier to head back down to reception? The elevator was one of those ornate copper covered jobs which were supposed to look vintage, but had really been made only yesterday. He'd just pressed the Lobby button when a woman appeared on the hall, running in a billowing white dress while waving and calling, "Hold the door!"
Brain didn't know what to do as the doors had already begun to slide closed, so he pushed his hands into the gap and forced them apart. He had to push quite hard, but it worked. She ran all the way into the car and narrowly avoided crashing into the mirrored back wall.
"Thanks," she panted, and Brian let go of the doors. They closed over with a funny squealing noise, and the elevator began to drop. Something was wrong. As they moved the squealing got worse, and after a second or two, the car bounced, stopped, started again, before grinding to a shuddering halt.
"No, no, no no," said the girl busting past Brian to punch the lobby button six or seven times.
"You got to be kidding me!" she yelled, kicking at the door with a bejewelled white stiletto.
Brian watched the woman pace the car as if he wasn't even there, pounding her forehead with balled hands and muttering to herself. She stopped and shot him a look as if he had just appeared out of thin air.
"I need your cell," she said holding out her hand. Cell? Brian had no idea what she was talking about.
"Your cell phone, I got to make a call."
"Oh right," he said digging through his pockets and taking out his phone. She grabbed it and punched numbers, but it seemed to him that nothing was happening. After two more tries, she checked the screen and gave him a dirty look.
"I'm from Ireland, I don't think I have roaming," stammered Brian, wondering why he was explaining himself to a complete stranger.
"What kind of a cheap-o has no international calling? Jesse!"
He didn't appreciate being called a cheap-o, but now he felt like one.
"Why don't you use your own phone," he said taking his back. She held out her arms like Christ on the cross and looked at him open-mouthed. "Does it look like there are pockets in this thing?"
"Fair point," said Brian going even redder. He thought he'd better get some help before this woman flipped out and killed him. He looked at the control panel and spotted a button with a bell sign. He pressed it and waited, but nothing happened. He pressed it again, still nothing.
"Let me do it," she said pushing him aside again jammed the button home with a manicured thumb. At last, a woman's voice came from the speaker slot. "Hi, what can I do for you today?" said the woman cheerily.
"Get us out of this God damn lift!" screamed the woman at the speaker.
"Has your lift stopped?" asked the speaker in the most laid-back way ever. The crazy girl in the wedding dress did a jig of fury before shouting back. "Of course it has you loon? Why do you think were pressing the emergency button."
"Please stay calm, help is on the way," said the speaker as if she was dealing with a child.
"Thank God. How long?" the stressed out bride asked resting her hands either side of the speaker slot, letting her head hanging in apparent exhaustion.
"They are coming as quickly as possible. Please remain calm, you are in no imminent danger."
"I think I might be," mumbled Brian.
"I understand this is inconvenient, but we are doing all that can be done," said the speaker in such a telly sales manner that Brian expected hold music to appear at any minute.
"Do it quicker, I have a wedding to get to," snapped the woman knocking her head against the car wall. This time the voice in the box said nothing. The crazy girl in white pushed herself away from the wall and stood swaying on her six-inch heels. Brian watched as the redness of rage dissipated, and the corners of her mouth turned down. It was like watching a wax figure slowly melt. Brian was shocked to see this grown woman drop down on her bum like a toddler and begin weeping. A crazy woman he could deal with, a crying one was out of his comfort zone. He moved to the panel and pushed the call button again and again.
"Hello? Are you in there?" Brian said into the speaker. Nothing happened so he kept his finger on the button like the girl had done. After an age there was a click and the woman's voice came back on the line.
"Please be patient, you will be out in no time at all," not quite so nicely this time.
"I don't think you understand, this girl is going to a wedding, her wedding by the look of it."
On hearing the words tumble out of Brian's mouth the girl's cries got even louder, like an old episode of We Love Lucy.
"I do understand, help is on its way," said the woman in such a deadpan way that it may as well have been a recording. There was a click and silence followed. Brian looked at the woman sitting in a puddle of white satin and felt terrible for her. He hunkered down and said," I'm sure they will get us out in plenty of time."
"It's a disaster, the whole thing has been a disaster!" sobbed the girl, throwing her hands in the air. "The flowers came in bowls when they should have been in tall vases, the wedding chapel double booked our time so we had to move the ceremony forward two hours and because of that I couldn't have the car I wanted. They gave me a limo, a black one of all things. How tacky is that? It's like someone up there doesn't want me to get married."
Brian lowered himself down on the ground to sit beside the girl, at least the flow of tears was drying up. He held out his hand and said, "I'm Brian, by the way."
She didn't take the hand but instead wiped away tears with the back of her's, trying not to smudge her makeup too much. "Diane," she sniffled.
"So, how long before the ceremony?" he asked.
"Forty minutes," she said sadly.
"Forty minutes, that is great. They will surely have us out long before that. How hard could it be?"
"I guess," she said, not sounding convinced at all.
"The important thing is, the man of your dreams is waiting for you, even if you end up being a little late. In the end it won’t matter what the flowers look like or the car for that matter," said Brian trying to be as comforting as he could be.
"Hump, shows what you know," she said as if he’d said the most ridiculous thing in the world.
"You men, think it’s all about you, don't you? I have been dreaming of this day my entire life. Get it, since I was about nine years old! I had it all planned out in my head, the perfect dress which made me look like a movie star, an ivy encased church in the Hamptons, a horse drawn carriage with two stunning white stallions trotting in unison, me being walked up the aisle on my dad's arm to the one true love of my life. That was the dream, my dream. Instead I have this, stuck in a lift in Las Vegas with a complete stranger."
"It's not quite the same, I guess, but at least you have someone you love waiting."
"Las Vegas was his idea. It was more convenient for his family. I never wanted Las Vegas," she said, fresh tears appearing in the corner of her eyes. Brian had no idea what to say, so he said nothing. As it turned out, silence seemed to be exactly what the crying woman needed.
"I only think he asked me to marry him because he was about to turn forty. I guess he thought his wild oat's days were coming to an end. We've only been seeing each other for two years," she said sadly.
"So why are you marrying him if you have doubts?"
"I'm not getting any younger either you know?"
"You're not old."
"Thirty three is old! All my friends are married, some are even married divorced and married again. It seems like I was twenty five only yesterday, with a bar full of hot guys trying to buy me drinks and not a care in the world. One morning I woke up, single, over thirty, and I realised my big day was going to slip right past me unless I did something about it. So I did."
"Why are you telling me all this?" asked Brian, not feeling one bit comfortable.
"Because you’re a nobody and I got to tell someone."
"That's not very nice."
"You know what I mean," she said sadly, and the truth of the matter was, he did. He remembered back to the day of his wedding and how nervous he had been. How his mind has been in a fog and his stomach churned like a concrete mixer. He did know what she meant.
"Did I tell you I'm married?" he asked after a while.
"No," she said sadly.
"Yes, six years now. On the morning of my wedding, I nearly didn't turn up."
"Really? Why?" she asked, dragging herself out of her pool of self-pity to snatch as the titbit dangled in front of her.
“Yes, Really. Cold feet or second thoughts, call it whatever you like but I nearly chickened out and left her at the altar."
"But you didn't?"
"Stuff, I guess. Stuff kept pushing me forward. My best man came around and cooked me breakfast, making me get out of bed whether I liked it or not. The suit came from the dry cleaners, so I put it on. The car turned up at the front gate so I just got in it, but all the time this voice inside my head was asking, “What the hell are you doing?"
"So stuff made you get married?"
"No. Stuff stopped me being a coward. What made me get married was simple. I was standing at the top of that church when the organ started to play. Even then, I was ready to say I don't, and run as fast as I could. But when those notes filled the air I looked over my shoulder and there she was, my princess, the only woman I had ever really loved, would ever love, and she was walking right toward me. In that moment I knew that saying yes to this wonderful creature would be the best thing I would ever do."
"And has it? Was it the best thing ever?"
"It's not been easy but we have had more good days than bad. Marriage is hard, it’s maddening at times but there's never a day I regret being her husband."
"So you are saying I'm stressing out over nothing, it's all nerves."
"I wish I could say, Diane. In my case, stuff happened to keep me going when my feet got cold. Stuff seems to be stopping you and your feet are so hot you are literally running to the altar. It could be that stuff is giving you time to have a think, to ask yourself, is this your dream?"
"You're a romantic, aren't you?" she said looking at him sternly.
"I guess, I might be, in a clumsy kind of way."
"The one thing life has taught me is that romance is for movies and books," she said coldly.
Just then, the car moved a little. It jerked and started to go up. It jerked again, and then once more. Both of them got to their feet, Diane checked her makeup in the car mirror. They watched the door and waited. Something clicked and the tips of chubby, grease covered, fingers forced the doors apart and a smiling dirt smeared face appeared.
"Let’s get you folks out of there," the maintenance man said holding out a filthy hand toward Diane. She slapped it away before it could touch her dress and ruin one more thing on her big day. She hitched up her hem and stepped out of the unlevelled elevator. By the time Brian had climbed out, she was already heading for the stairwell.
"Diane!" he called. She stopped and looked back with sad eyes. He didn’t know what he should say. She looked so lost, but she may well have a point, not everyone gets to be a princess, but everyone should.
"Good luck," was all he could offer. She gave a smile and a wave before vanishing from sight.
For the rest of the day he couldn’t get the sad bride out of his mind. He hoped she turned up at the church, like he had done, to find her prince had been waiting all the time, but some tiny part of his brain feared she may well have said yes with disappointment in her heart. That thought was like a boil on his soul. It was getting dark by the time he picked up the bedroom phone and dialled home. She was sleepy when she answered, he had forgotten how late it would be back in Ireland but she still sounded happy to hear from him. He lay in the dark of the night, watching the Las Vegas lights twinkle in their neon brilliance and let the sweet sound of his princess's voice heal the wounds of the world.