"I can't imagine my life without Kelsey. I am so blessed to have her in my life," I say, dropping the last line of my speech. Standing in front of the crowd of attendees, microphone in hand, I raise my glass of cider and the guests join me in a toast.
"To Mike and Kelsey!" we chant. Tears glisten in the eyes of the guests. I tip my head back to prevent mine from pouring over the rims of my eyes. I already want her back.
Kelsey stands from her seat at the head of the bridal table. My speech is finished, but my admiration for her lingers like sugar on my teeth. The guests return to sipping on wine as strawberry crêpes from dinner plates tunnel down their throats.
Kelsey makes her way toward me. Her feet shift beneath thirteen layers of laced fabric, stark white and delicately shaped to dress her figure like a porcelain doll. Brown curls float to her shoulders. She's never looked so pure.
Kelsey embraces me, softly petting my hair. My eyes close for a moment before two women pull her away from me. I pull back, but I lose my grasp on her.
"Hi habibi! How are you?" one woman, her mother-in-law, says. She draws Kelsey into a warm hug, tracing ribbons along her back.
"What are you going to do now, hatta? Slice the cake?" the other woman, her mother-in-law's sister, says.
I stand beside them during their exchange, but they don't acknowledge me. I glance up at Kelsey, hoping to catch her eye. Look at me. I'm right here. Can you see? Please don't ignore me. She isn't facing me.
Kelsey and the two women begin to move away so I follow behind them, a lost puppy. My head lowers into a scowl. She cared about them now more than she did about me. They didn't care about me at all.
Trekking through the red-orange heat of the summer, Kelsey flows through the rose garden to the cake table. Petals cling to the edges of her dress as it rivers behind her. She sprouts past the flower buds to meet her husband at the cake table, laughing and shaking her curls like a lion's mane. Her skin glows as the sun kisses her face.
A new family, a new language, a new home. I don't understand this language. I don't know this culture. Baklava shimmers in the light of the sun. The mother-in-law says religion is everything in Jerusalem. Kelsey Salameh will be printed on all her legal documents. We no longer share the same family name. I want her back.
Her new family has the sun in their hearts, and they consume her whole. When she chokes on the bones in her throat, I fear she will have forgotten me. I will still want her back.
Kelsey is my sun, my center. Everyone calls her honey when she sits on a throne. She's been my queen since the day I was born. I want to be the one to shape the crown to fit her head. I made sure to stand beside her when the photographer took family portraits so when she crams her wedding pictures on her bedroom walls, I'll be painted beside her in her tiny picture frames. That way I couldn't be erased.
Kelsey will no longer just be a friend to her husband's family. She is their beloved addition, their new daughter and sister. She is legally bound to them. I want my sister back. She is part of this new family, and she is not mine.