I promised myself this year I would do more writing. Below is a short story I recently entered into a short story competition. Fingers crossed! Let me know what you think!
Hayden Price House
Afiya pushed her way through the crowded platform to the stairs. She was running late to her appointment and with no service underground she could not call her wedding planner. She took the steps up from the center of the earth, light bearing down on the emerging New Yorkers from the crystal blue sky.
It had been a rough few weeks. Between designing and sewing costumes for a new production, wedding planning while Jason was out of town, and boarding her best friend’s two dogs, Afiya was barely holding it together.
“Excuse me.” she raised her voice slightly, trying to get her point across without being rude. In the 15 years she lived in The City, the polite Southern girl in her had been resilient. She always tempered her attitude with a slight smile or a deliberately kind eye.
As she approached the Hayden Price House from E 68th street, the building beckoned to her. Without having been there for a wedding over ten years ago, she never would have known the space existed. It was a large brick building with metal doors. Most people walked by and never knew that inside was a beautifully restored warehouse. It was sometimes used for parties but mostly for intimate, elegant weddings. Every visitor’s reaction was the same, pure awe. The foyer sat directly under a skylight that filled the room with all of the sun’s rays. Moving further into the reception area the exposed brick, hardwood floors and wooden posts kept the original feeling of natural elegance, while the spiral staircase to the rooftop cut its way into the sky. She knew ten years ago that if she were ever to get married it would be here and here she was.
Afiya opened the door and made her way down the side hallway to the office where the owner worked.
“Derrick?” she called out.
A small man, 5’2, with a gray beard, a bald head and an impeccably tailored suit, stepped out of the office.
“Afiya? Come in. Let’s go to the reception room.”
She gave him a huge hug, and two large kisses, one on each cheek.
“I’m so sorry I’m late Derrick! I had a meeting that ran over and coming from the other side of Manhattan is never fun in the middle of the day.” Afiya sat down at the large oak table in the beautiful and elegant reception room. Her coily hair framed her face while the sunglasses atop her head held back the frizz. She removed her scarf, placed it in her oversized hobo and placed the bag on the floor.
Derrick placed a cup of green tea and a bottle of water in front of her. In the 25 years he had been a wedding planner and venue owner, he was always only sure of one thing. Never give the bride-to-be caffeine.
“No worries sweetheart. You know how I work. Every hour meeting is really booked for two.”
Afiya took a sip of the tea.
Derrick opened a large drawer in the sideboard behind him. He had samples of over 25 place settings, including silverware and napkins. All items could be mixed and matched, but he only showed the brides five settings, based on what he learned of their tastes, and they always picked one of the five he recommended, exactly as presented. Every dish, fork, knife and spoon was kept in individual silk lined velvet pouches.
“So we start with the classic off white porcelain.”
Derrick had been through this before with Afiya. She had been coming in for the past several months, always coming to view the place settings. The wedding date was seven weeks away, and although all of the other decisions were made, this one seemed to have her stumped.
“I really love this one. So clean, no specks in the porcelain.” She picked up the salad plate, running her fingers over its surface.
“What about the banded China. The gold?”
Derrick retrieved the dish and opened the velvet pouch.
“Is it ok to have gold banded china? Is it too pretentious? I know it sounds silly. Silver utensils with gold banded plates? But then again, who eats with gold plated silverware?”
“No worries Afiya, you can have a look at them both.”
As Derrick began to unpouch the forks, Afiya watched with amazement. She was in her element. She loved beautiful things and she appreciated the way Derrick handled everything with care. He was thorough and careful and even Jason noticed when they came together for a cake tasting.
While eyeing every detail of every dish and picking up the perfectly weighted utensils, Afiya was in heaven. Derrick had impeccable taste and had picked the perfect setting choices for her big day but with so many amazing options Afiya found it impossible to decide.
“Oh Derrick, everything is perfect. I just don’t know what to do. I know I have seen these, but it’s so hard!”
Derrick walked around the table and grabbed her hand.
“You take your time sweetheart. No rush.”
Afiya checked her phone.
“I hate to, but I have to go. Can you set up our next appointment and send it to my Calendar?”
Afiya stood up and grabbed her bag.
“Do you want anything for the road honey?”
“No I’m fine! Thanks so much!”
Two kisses, one on each cheek, and Afiya was on her way.
Derrick’s assistant walked out of her office.
“She still at it?”
Derrick turned back toward the reception room to clean up.
“Give her time.”
Afiya emerged into the fresh New York air and looked at her phone. She walked up the block towards the subway station. She was running behind and would barely make it to her next meeting since she had to take two trains. She decided to request an Uber.
She looked up. Two women were walking in her direction. She recognized Eileen, her fabric supplier from Chinatown. She did not know the other woman.
“Afiya! How are you?” Eileen reached out to give her a hug.
“I’m well. Thanks. How about you?”
“Good, good. This is my girlfriend Deborah. What are you doing over here?”
Afiya nodded a hello to Deborah. The wind picked up and sent a chill over the group.
“Just finalizing some items for the wedding. It’s so close and I just can’t decide what to eat off of.” Afiya pulled the scarf from her bag and wrapped it around her neck.
“The wedding?” Eileen stopped short.
“Yeah, only seven weeks away! Oh look, here is my Uber! Ciao!”
Afiya walked to the black Toyota Camry and hopped into the backseat.
Eileen stood for a moment, puzzled.
“What’s wrong Eileen?” Deborah asked.
They continued walking.
“Well, remember the young woman that makes costumes I supply fabric to?”
“Uh, Eileen, that is your entire clientele.”
“The woman that was Head costume designer for that play Death on Death’s door. About the young woman that begrudgingly goes to take care of her sick mother. The director wanted new clothing designs and each item hand stitched.”
“Oh. That client. Those clothes were amazing.”
“That was her.”
“Ok. But that doesn’t explain your look.”
“Was she just talking about planning her wedding?”
“Why? Was she not getting married?”
“Oh, she was getting married. It was a really big deal. She was even making her own wedding dress.”
“Wow! That’s unheard of.”
“But her fiancee died six months ago. He was in a snowboarding accident in Utah.”
“I went to his memorial.”
Eileen and Deborah stopped on the corner in front of a brick building waiting for the light to change.
“I wonder what’s in there.” Deborah pointed at the unassuming metal doors.
“That’s a good question. That building has been there for years.”
The light changed and the two women walked across the street.