Apr/May 2022  •   Fiction

My Brother's Bride

by Beate Sigriddaughter

Upcycled, mixed media artwork by Keely Jane

Upcycled, mixed media artwork by Keely Jane

I've watched him all my life. He's my brother. I know all about him: what color Easter eggs he prefers, what instrument he likes to play most, how he first fell in love with Tammy. Carlos made falling in love feel like the world was suddenly one endless song. He sang it in his room, at the dinner table, while giving me a ride to school. I was only 14 then. He was 21, and Tammy was the love of his life. I was spell-bound. As far as I was concerned, she walked on water. As did he, of course. Carlos wrote songs for her. Some of them are still being played on the radio. And they still get a gazillion views on YouTube. He wanted to take her to Paris for her own 21st birthday, but she said no. He got her a puppy instead. That she accepted, and she loved the puppy. Her birth name was Tamar, but she preferred Tammy. I would have preferred that, too.

She was beautiful then. Still is. So was he. Then. And now, too, even as he is balding on top and putting on some weight around the middle. He wanted to marry her, of course. I don't know why she said no. I would have married him myself if I wasn't his sister. He didn't give up for a very long time. When she was married to some guy from her family's circle of friends at 24, Carlos stayed in the background. When she divorced at 25 because her husband was unfaithful to her, though it was customary in their culture, Carlos was right there, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to hug, a man to reassure her she hadn't lost any of her allure. And of course, he was still hoping it would lead to more. She went out with him, they had long all-night conversations, he often stayed at her apartment, and she came to dinner at our house on Sundays. When she wasn't available, he spent many night hours talking to me about his tender dreams for a common future as well, and I gave him whatever advice and encouragement a kid sister could give. It looked promising. And still she said no when he asked her once again to marry him. I never understood. I should have been angry with her, but I couldn't even manage that. No one can stay angry with her for longer than a minute. She's that kind of magical creature.

A few years down the road, she married another guy, another one I couldn't figure out what on earth she saw in him when she could have had my amazing brother. The second guy she married was completely ordinary. He worked as a store manager in a grocery store. He sure didn't write songs for her. Her first husband at least wrote a few poems in his spare time. Her second husband? No such thing. Carlos went to their wedding. I was invited, too, but I didn't go. In her late 30s, Tammy had two kids, cementing her marriage to Mr. Ordinary. I think that's when Carlos gave up on his devotion. Tired of hopelessness, I suppose. I didn't blame him. He dated lots and lots of women, like a series of auditions. Women were always attracted to him because of his music and his glamor and his fame. All except the elusive Tammy.

One fine day he decided to settle down. Selena is lovely enough. When he asked her to marry him, of course she said yes. We all went to Italy for the wedding, rented a castle, complete with a small lake, and I was the wedding photographer.

I am looking at the photos now. There is Selena in her long white dress with a veil and long lacy train two girls carried as she walked down the aisle. A fairy tale princess. Knowing Carlos, I imagine he promised himself Selena will never know his heart is still elsewhere, burning like a solitary candle in some side-chapel of an ancient cathedral. He probably left the hymnal open on the altar but closed the door to the chapel forever. One day, I'm sure, Selena will look at all these photos I took and be filled with nostalgia. By the lake. On the castle wall. In the rose garden. At twilight under a tree with an owl looking down on them.

One of the photos grates on me. Carlos is bent from the waist, kissing a hand she imperiously holds out to him. They look both serious and slightly mocking at the same time. Maybe truth is like that. Serious and mocking. I don't know. It looks so romantic and so wrong because I know his heart still flutters elsewhere. It's a heavy secret. I hope Selena and I never have a falling out. I'm afraid of spilling the beans Carlos has been so careful not to spill. How he gave his heart that once, and it was never returned. Yes, of course Selena knows once upon a time he dated the beautiful Tammy, but she has no clue how deep that love went for Carlos. I wonder if Tammy ever looks at Carlos and Selena from a safe distance—it wouldn't be difficult; the two of them are always in the news—regretting what could have been. Sometimes at night I feel like crying for him. Or for myself. I wish someone would love me the way he loved Tammy, or I would find someone to love from my end the way he loved her. One needs to be so brave in this incomprehensible world.