Queen of Diamonds
She couldn’t stop looking at her dress, strapless and clinging to her shape until it reached her knees where it billowed out in beautiful satin ruffles. She turned this way and that, trying to see herself from every angle in the mirror. A glance over a shoulder, a power move with hands on her hips, a gasp from the side. She smiled at herself.
Behind her, her mother was not smiling. “I still believe a black dress is a bad idea for your wedding, Lyla.”
Lyla’s smile faded as she picked up the black hat and netted veil that hung from it off the nearby table. She dusted it off, though it was completely clean, to ignore her mother. Then she placed it atop her curled bronze hair.
“It’s bad luck,” her mother continued.
Lyla rolled her eyes. Good fortune had finally come her way. Her husband to be was rich, and what did the rich wear? Black. Because class came before luck.
Lyla said nothing as she applied a deep red lipstick to her lips.
Her mother glanced around the suite, momentarily rebuffed by the silence. Lyla followed her gaze to the ugly maroon wallpaper with yellow, brown, and pink diamonds that clung to the walls. “Bad omens everywhere,” her mother muttered. “Why would you get married in a casino?”
“It’s what Micah wanted.” Of course, it hadn’t been hard for Micah to convince her.
Lyla’s stomach fluttered at the thought of him and, with antsy fingers, she flicked on the radio. It was a news broadcast. That was all that seemed to be on lately; war was eminent. The world was on edge as international relations grew heated and neighbors took sides.
Behind her, she heard her mother huff. “What do you even see in him?”
“We’ve gone over this; I won’t explain it again,” Safety. She wasn’t allowed to tell. Wasn’t allowed to share the information of his family’s bunker. If war would break out, it would just be her and Micah’s family.
“How can you trust a man who has no respect for traditions?” her mother argued back. “How do you know he will respect your marriage?” Her mother reached over and grabbed the bouquet of roses from its vase.
“I’m marrying Micah, Mama.” She held out her hand for the bouquet.
Reluctantly, her mother handed her the flowers.
On the elevator ride down, Lyla and her mother were silent. Her mother had decided that the time for arguing had passed, and Lyla was thankful for the few moments of quiet.
When they reached the ground floor, Lyla linked arms with her mother and walked over to the ballroom where all her guests were waiting. Micah stood tall at the front of the room, his black and white tuxedo streamlining his slender shape. Her eyes caught his behind thick framed lenses. He had wanted to wear contacts, but she liked him better in glasses. He smiled at her.
Music began to play, and, like the rehearsal, Lyla took her measured steps with her mother beside her, slowly making their way down to Micah. Her heart pounded in her chest, the air around her boiling. All eyes were on her, and many were disapproving. However, near the front, Micah’s family was all smiles. This was her new family. They were all that mattered.
As the two of them reached the dais, Lyla’s mother unhooked her arm to go to her seat just as the music came to an end.
The officiant opened his mouth and began the service. Lyla and Micah glanced at each other every so often. He even reached out to grab her hand.
Just as he touched her, the intercoms crackled to life around them, and their mechanical wails berated their ears. The room stiffened in silence. Whispers broke out. It could just be a drill.
Micah grabbed her hand, dragging her with him through the throngs of screaming guests. Bodies shoved against each other; elbows knocked jaws, and people fell as everyone at once rushed for the door to get to the casino basement.
Lyla glanced around, looking for her mother, but she was swallowed by the crowd. Then Lyla heard, with dreadful clarity, a second whistle. People screamed, and Lyla’s eyes filled with tears. She clutched Micah’s hand like a lifebuoy as if he could save her.
A second later, the building shattered.
Rubble fell like rain upon their heads. Bodies were crushed beneath cement, impacted by steel rods, and suffocating beneath piles of the dying.
When the dust cleared, Lyla’s black dress was shredded, her eyes blindly open, and her hand empty.