Betsy and Bruno sat quietly in the back. Leah looked at them through the rear view mirror. They seemed strange. Quiet. Any other day they’d be jumping up and down with joy, probably disturbing Leah’s driving. But today was not an ordinary day. Today Leah is getting married. Leah was certain that Betsy and Bruno sensed her tension. After all, she believed, cats possessed special powers. Traffic light. She looked in the backseat, moistened eyes, and caressed Betsy. Betsy gave herself willingly. With her thick coat, she was always happy to receive human touch. She licked Leah’s fingers softly. Bruno was still curled up in the corner, like a pensive philosopher. It’s so like him, thought Leah. Even at home he only wandered away from his spot once every few hours, so why should he be any different on my wedding day?
A beeping sound disturbed Bruno’s peace. It was from the car in the next lane. “Congratulations” said the driver, winking at Leah, most of his attention still given to the traffic light, ready to accelerate as soon as it was green. Leah regretted being so noticeable. Her balloon filled car and her wedding dress were not making it any easier. Leah gave an obviously fake smile. This was not a good time to strike a conversation. “Thank you”, she replied, turning towards him only for a split second, hoping he will get the hint. “So, getting married then?” he continued. Leah figured she had about fifteen seconds left before the lights turned green. She could handle him for a little longer. It’s not nice to be so unfriendly on your wedding day. He’s a young guy and could get the wrong idea about the whole concept of marriage. She smiled at him, more pleasantly this time. “Yes”, she replied. “It’s a bit late isn’t it? Shouldn’t you be standing at the altar? And where is the groom?” he persisted. “He’s at the venue. I’m on my way there”, Leah answered him, not really believing she’s having this conversation with a random driver. “Can I help?” he asked. Green. Leah stepped on the gas pedal and leapt forward. No, you can’t, she thought. I wish you could.
She was supposed to arrive at the wedding venue within ten minutes. She was already around thirty minutes late to her own wedding. She glanced at the invitation thrown on the passenger seat. “Guests are kindly requested to arrive on time”, it said. No one bothered to mention that the bride should be on time. She heard many stories about girls disappearing on their wedding day; but had no intention to vanish. She had a hard time not thinking about what is probably occurring at the venue right now. Ben, in his groom suit, standing by his parents, who are standing by her parents, who are standing in front of hundreds of guests. All of them waiting for her. She tried focusing on Ben. He must be on the verge of crying. He would look so cute, standing there with his long curly hair and goatee. What is he saying now?
“White Ford, pull over.”
“White Ford, pull over immediately.”
The police car was behind her. Well, this’ll make a great story for the grandchildren one day. She pulled over. A chubby policeman stepped out of his vehicle.
“Good day to the lawbreaking bride. License and registration, please,” he said with a fatherly smile.
“Look, Sir, I need to get to my wedding. I don’t even know what I did.”
“Even on your wedding day, red lights stay red and the law says you have to stop when you see one.”
“Can’t you find someone else to give a ticket to? I’m sorry, but—“
“Lady, I don’t care that you’re sorry,” he began losing his patience, “and I don’t have the time for all this whining. License and registration!”
She started crying. That’s it. All the pressure that was mounting during this crazy day started to come out. The harsh conversation with Ben at the bridal salon. Running to the car and driving like a madwoman home to take Betsy and Bruno. She wasn’t built for that. She’s usually so quiet and eager to please. She loved Ben so much. But before the wedding she felt like he was changing. As if trying to show her that once they were married he was going to control things. He was going to set the tone. Must have taken advice from one of his weird friends. And she wasn’t that bossy or overbearing. She was always there for him, with all his impulses.
“The cats are also attending the wedding?” the policeman smiled in slight awkwardness.
“Yes!” she replied, “and I don’t care that Ben doesn’t think they should be there.”
“Ben? Is that the poor guy waiting for you right now?”
“Poor guy?” she was upset now. “He knows just how lucky he is to have found me. What did I ever ask for? Three years I haven’t said a thing. I said yes to everything. I get depressed after every argument with him. But what does he care? What does he know about relationships? I’m his first long-term girlfriend. His first.” The tears were pouring out now, “but I love you Benji. Don’t you get that? They’re just cats. I love them too Benji.”
“I’m sure he’s not miserable,” the policeman apologized, “but what do the cats have to do with it?”
“They’re my guests. You understand? Mine.” She was pointing at the policeman as if he was Ben, standing there in front of her, “I want them at my wedding and I don’t care that you think they’re just stupid cats that should stay at home. If it were a dog you’d probably have agreed, right? But cats – no. Absolutely no cats. Why? Because cats are not dogs. Because cats are stupid, disloyal animals, which care about no one but themselves and just lie around all day. What do you know about loyalty?”
“I actually think cats are pretty cute,” the policeman didn’t quite know what to say. “They do shed all around the place, scratch the furniture, but…”
Her phone rang. It was Ben. She answered and started yelling.
“Let me tell you what loyalty is. Loyalty is a human trait. You can’t judge an animal with human standards. What are you afraid of? That you’re going to fall into a pit in the middle of the night and your cat is going to look at you from above, say ‘meow’ and walk off? Cats are cute. Accept them. Learn to accept. Stop judging. What did I ask for? For two cute, cuddly, fuzzy, quiet cats to be with me on my wedding day. I love them. I love you, Benji.” She was finding it difficult to continue talking. “I want you to respect me as a human being. I expect something from you that I don’t from Betsy and Bruno. I expect you to understand me. We’re in this relationship together.”
“Leah, you know I’m crazy about you, ” he paused, “I didn’t mean what I said at the salon. I just didn’t understand why you were making such a big deal about the cats and why two hours before the wedding. After all the wedding preparations I was stressed out. I can’t handle the uncertainty. I’m busting my ass, organizing this whole thing and you suddenly ask for those two creatures to—”
“I’ll tell you what you can’t handle,“ Leah calmed down, she was focused now, “you can’t bear the fact that I decided to bring Betsy and Bruno along, two hours before the wedding. That this time, I’m the one who made a decision that could jeopardize the whole operation. I’ve been talking about them for a month now and you’ve done nothing but laugh at me. You didn’t believe I’d do such a thing, right? You don’t get that it’s not about Betsy and Bruno. It’s about me. I want you to know we’re together in this. I love you Benji, but—”
“No buts,” he cut her off , “and I’m really not in the mood for one of your relationship speeches when three hundred guests are sitting and waiting for the lady to arrive at her own wedding. You have a gift for pissing me off at the worst times. I look like an idiot in front of the guys from work. You realize how embarrassing this is? Get down here. For me this is loyalty, nothing else.”
“Is loyalty also fucking your ex, Ruth, behind my back for a whole year?” she blurted quietly.
“What are you talking about?” Ben’s voice was lower now, his usual certainty vanishing.
“You know very well what I’m talking about. I know everything. I also know it’s over, but only because I stepped in and spoke to her, without your knowledge, because I didn’t want it to spoil our wedding.”
“Leah,” Ben was trying to regain control over the conversation, “I want you here in two minutes or I’m calling the whole freaking wedding off!”
“Well, I’ve got news for you,” Leah felt as if she was about to make the most significant act of her life, “you’re not calling this freaking wedding off because I am.”
“Look, if you’re going t—”
Leah hung up. She felt a sense of calm washing over her. A feeling you get when you make the right decision, after long and agonizing deliberations. She smiled at the policeman. The policeman, who listened to the whole conversation, smiled back at her, “I’m not so sure I actually saw you driving through that red light” he said.
“And I’m sure you are very sweet,” she laughed.
Betsy and Bruno were jumping up and down with joy in the back seat. Cats can sense things. One last pat. A U-turn. She’s going home.