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Something to Believe In
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They dated until they’d completed their courses of study with highest honors, then married at Stanford’s nondenominational Memorial Church. It was a small, family-centric affair for which they wrote their own vows because Susan choked on the idea of pledging obedience to anyone, let alone to Richard. Her parents, dyed in the wool New England Catholics, were not pleased with this alteration of tradition, but they played along because this daughter had proven troublesome and eccentric since birth, and now she seemed happy, as if marriage might settle her. His parents, Unitarians actively involved in their Berkeley congregation, appreciated Susan’s spirit and approved of her feminist stance; they thought she’d keep their son, who had been sprinting through life unallied and unopposed, honest and open to differing opinions.

After the ceremony, they hosted a reception at the faculty club, where they were fêted by instructors and classmates. The celebration kicked off the cocktail hour with passed flutes of fine California sparkling wine and delicate hors d’oeuvres. It was the first time Susan’s parents sampled sushi. Her father gamely gulped down one piece with minimal mastication, but she watched with annoyance as her mother spit a half-chewed portion of raw fish into an embossed paper napkin. Not willing to let the albacore go to waste, Susan commandeered a second section of maki roll from her mother’s plate and popped it into her own mouth. She rolled her eyes and smacked her lips with orgasmic delight, theatrically telegraphing a newfound worldliness and sense of superiority. Her parents retired to their inn shortly after the cake was cut, leaving Susan in her Golden State.

The revelers put the night to bed with rocks glasses full of bourbon neat and pungent cigars in the courtyard under the stars. Richard snipped the end off of a prized Cuban, lit and breathed it into glowing readiness, then wedged it between his bride’s lips. His friends laughed at the sight of a woman in a gauzy white gown sucking down unfiltered smoke; her friends, however, knew better than to underestimate Susan. She puffed like a pro, then exhaled a short series of perfumed rings into the dark sky. The tobacco bypassed her lungs and went straight to her buzzy brain. She felt as if the future were imminent and all things were possible. With Richard by her side, she had something to believe in.

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