Fatick, Senegal – April 2010
“I’ll be the queen,” Melody said. She pointed at me, “You can be the princess, and Ethan will be the bodyguard.”
I leaned back, enjoying the shaded hut in the Forsythe’s front yard. “I want to be the queen,” I said, lazily stealing a 9-year-old’s dream. “I don’t want to have to move.”
Melody is nicer than me, so she quickly agreed. “Okay, I’ll be your servant!”
This selflessness made me uncomfortable. “No, I mean. You can be a princess. You can sit here with me.”
“No, no, no. I’m your servant. What do you want to drink? Can I get you something to eat?”
“…Well. A Vimto would be nice.” Melody ran inside to satisfy my whim.
Ethan stood nearby with a stick. “Do you want to jump on the trampoline, Miss Trish?” he asked.
It was so hot. “I don’t think queens jump on trampolines,” I said sadly.
Melody returned, carrying a can of Vimto with a straw. “I had the best idea!” she said. “The kingdom is under attack, and you have to get married!”
“Wait, what? My kingdom is not under attack. Everything is great.”
“No, it is. And since Ethan is your bodyguard, you have to marry him, because he knows about fighting people.”
“I do, Miss Trish. Watch!” Ethan swung his stick around, defending my throne room.
“Shouldn’t he marry you?” I asked, very aware of being twenty-one.
Melody’s mouth fell open. “I’m a servant!”
“And you’re my sister,” Ethan added.
“Okay, sure. I’ll marry Ethan.”
I leaned back again, but Melody rushed forward. “Great! I have just the dress you should wear. My aunt gave it to me, and I dress up in it sometimes. Ethan, go get ready! Maybe we can get Miss Holly to be the one to marry you!”
Ethan ran inside, and Melody pulled at my arms. “Wait, I–” But it was too late. Melody dragged me inside and pulled out an extremely 80s strapless dress. I pulled it on over my jeans and t-shirt. Melody started to protest, but I put my foot down. “This is as fancy as I’m getting.”
“Can I find you a flower for your hair?” she begged.
Dressed for my wedding, I found Ethan in the living room. He had put on a purple button-down shirt, and Holly was parting his wet hair. “I heard you’re getting married?” Holly asked, ginning over my fiancee’s head.
“Yup!” I went to give Ethan a high-five, but he looked down nervously. My stomach dropped. Why wasn’t he joking around? Did he know this was fake?? “Best pretend wedding in all of Senegal!” I said with feigned excitement. Melody rushed past with an armload of flower petals.
“You look so handsome!” Holly told Ethan.
I twirled in my absurd outfit. “What about me?”
Ethan stood up and ran from the room. “It’s bad luck to see your wife before the wedding!” he shouted back at us. Holly and I made eye contact, but her expression was amused while mine was desperate. “Ha ha,” I laughed weakly.
Kim walked in the front door and immediately stopped, staring at my outfit. “…What’s going on?” she asked.
“I’m marrying your son.”
Kim took in this information. “Can I take pictures?”
Melody ran into the room, grinning wide. “Everything’s ready! Ethan’s already on the roof. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”
We three adults followed her up the stairs to the roof. She had been busy. A colorful mat was laid out with chairs arranged on either side. She had a box of flower petals in her hands, and Holly took her place beside Ethan. The sun was just starting to set, and it was all kind of…beautiful. I smiled. There could be worse weddings.
Melody delicately tossed petals as I walked behind her, clutching a bouquet she had also made. When I stood beside Ethan, he took my free hand. Holly smiled at us and said, “We are gathered together to celebrate the marriage of Ethan and Tricia.” Kimberley circled us, snapping pictures. I looked down two feet to my young husband. Holly finished, “I now pronounce you man and wife!”
“Now kiss!” Melody shouted. Ethan and I both shot her panicked looks.
“Uh, we’ll hug,” I suggested.
Ethan was giddy, jumping around. He stopped abruptly and said, “So am I Mr. Trish now?”
Kimberley handed me the camera. “Welcome to the family,” she said.