“Do you, Theodore Patrick Burke, take this woman to be your wife, to live together in holy matrimony, to love her, to honor her, to comfort her, and to keep her in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?” asked the priest.
Teddy cast his winning smile at Elaine. He loved her with every fiber of his being. With great heart, he professed, “I do.”
Elaine turned briefly to look out at the crowd before her. Her mother was now crying and her makeup was a mess. Her father looked on proudly. She had ignored the fact that Redmond rudely left. Nothing could ruin this day. It had all been so perfect, like a dream come true.
“And do you, Elaine Katherine Gardner, take this man to be your husband, to live together in holy matrimony, to love him, to honor him, to comfort him, and to keep him in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?”
Elaine felt a rush of excitement fall over her body. She had waited for this moment her entire life. She was more than ready.
With honest sincerity, she said, with all the love in her heart, those two big little words: “I do.”
The moment the words left her lips, the world seemed to stop for a moment, though not from happiness. There was a sudden ringing in her ears, a deafening noise.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. She felt as if she were outside of herself, watching the scene unfold around her. She looked down slowly at her wedding dress. The white dress was now stained red with blood. She looked around, disoriented and confused. Then, she saw.
Lying in a pool of blood, at the foot of the altar, was Teddy Burke.
Horror grasped Elaine Gardner as she looked at Teddy, bleeding from his head. Samantha Flint had missed Annette, thanks to Redmond’s intervention. She had hit Teddy instead.
Elaine let out a soundless scream as she fell to her knees. She threw herself upon Teddy, pleading with God. It had to have been a dream.
“Oh God! Oh God! Teddy! No! Oh my God! Why? Why?” she sobbed uncontrollably, “Teddy! Teddy!” she screamed.
Laura Gardner, in absolute shock, rushed to her daughter, and pulled her away. Elaine was covered in blood, crying. Laura looked back in terror at the man lying dead on the altar. The church was in an uproar. No one knew what to do. Many rushed to see if Teddy could be saved. Others called the police, while the rest comforted each other between their own sobs.
Yet, above all the buzzing questions and concerns, was Elaine Gardner, wailing with grief, lamenting the loss of the one man she had truly loved.
Teddy Burke was dead.
Elaine Gardner grew silent as her mother drove her home. She could not feel anything. She had gone numb to the world around her. The whole thing felt surreal, as if she were watching a movie. It could not have happened to her. “It’s not real,” she repeated, trying to convince herself of the impossibility of the situation at hand. She glanced back down at her dress and saw the blood. A rush of sadness and anger came over her. She threw herself down on the seat and cried.
Back at the Gardner household, everything was brightly decorated in white and baby-blue shades. It felt so wrong. As Laura Gardner walked her daughter inside, she looked around at the now-drooping balloons, the empty chairs, and the wedding cake that sat where her future son-in-law was supposed to sit. She uttered a small cry, but did not let Elaine hear.
They both turned away. The dream Elaine had yearned for had turned into an unimaginable nightmare.