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Restrictions This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute hand of the clock ticks slowly. She glances up again to take her eyes off her shaking hands. Also to take them off the ring that rests on her finger, the one that will never come off. Like a belt pulled one notch too far, it is too tight. It's too late, and it's too tight.

She cannot figure out why she's still shaking. The ceremony's over; there is no more anxious anticipation, no more longing for the day. But she knows why she shakes. She has also lost her freedom. She leans her head back against the tile, touching the walls of the stall that surround her. They were once a bright yellow, but have faded with time. Now they are the generic, sickly color of an old pear. She knows they will only fade further to peel or be repainted. Time only destroys.

The clock slowly ticks away the seconds. She clings to each one as though it were her last. The slower they come, the longer she can remain in this bathroom. And the longer eternity will be. She wishes they had talked more before the wedding. Not only about the wedding, or even about love, but about changes, about the loss of romance, about rules, about rituals, about reality. But it is too late now. She can no longer turn back. Talk is cheap and reality is often hard to bear. She has traded in her freedom for security and this ring is far too tight.

Tugging and pulling at the small band on her finger, she stomps with her high-heeled shoes. Her head constricts and, the harder she cries, the harder it is to breathe. And the tighter the ring gets. And the more her chest tightens. And the harder she cries. And the tighter and tighter it gets.

She used to love the feel of his arms around her. She loved the gentle snugness with which they held her close and reassured her of his affection. She always told him to hold her tighter, to hold her to this world, to keep her from floating off. Off to the heaven where she thought she was. But now his grip is tight enough around her finger and the seconds are slowly ticking away.

She licks her now red and swollen finger and turns the band. It turns with more ease now. She does not know what she'll do once it's off, but she feels the need to remove it. After much tugging, it flies off and lands on the floor. Immediately she drops to the tile. It has rolled under the divider between the stalls, and she reaches under to retrieve it. At first she is able to find nothing, but as she looks at her empty hand with its swollen finger, she searches harder. She is scrambling, she is desperate. She wants to feel it again, even if just to touch it. She wants to feel it between her fingertips for now, she will give herself time to clutch later. She is becoming frantic.

In her fingers she feels the gold, now somewhat dusty, and, as it comes into sight, she sees its shine. She thinks about how dirty it looks now. It is not the same gold as she saw in the jewelry shop. It looks so gaudy, not like it did before the wedding. But then she looks deeper. She remembers its beauty and how happy she was when she first laid eyes on it. Now she can see that it is somewhat gaudy and somewhat dirty, but she remembers how beautiful it can be. She does not know about the future, but she slides the ring back on with more ease and leans against the wall. And she breathes. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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