So… Ethan. I should tell you guys that unless you come at Ethan directly with something—like his bachelor party or like his father when he was trying to use Ethan to spy on the Greys—or you come at his “Kitten” directly, he’s pretty much a standoffish kind of guy. I’m thinking that his overall lack of action up to this point may have painted him in a bad light. I’m saying that because I see more than a few people throwing verbal daggers at him (I’m not angry, I find this kind of funny) and I haven’t even developed the character yet.
So, I’m sitting here like, “Oh, dear God, what have I done?”
Somewhere down the line, I’ll have to try to develop him as I see him, because I’ve left his character kind of open for interpretation and the interpretations are like, “Yikes!” LOL.
He’s not a bad guy, folks. I’ve just left that door a little too open. 😉
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 35—Grey Festivities
What the hell. He’s here? But he’s not spying on me? Don’t flip out, Ana. Don’t make a scene. Just go see what this is about.
“Val, I need you, hon,” I say, sliding back out of the booth. Val’s brow furrows.
“Is everything okay?” she asks concerned. I don’t want to draw any attention to us.
“Yeah, everything’s cool,” I say, flippantly, taking her hand. “I just need you for a sec.” She reluctantly follows me out of the club and into the wide hallway of the hotel. I take two steps away from the door and hear,
“Jesus Christ, Angel, are you trying to give me a heart attack in that dress?”
We both turn to the sound of the voice and see Elliot standing against the wall across the hall.
“El!” Val says. “What are you doing here?” Good question.
“Ethan’s party is at the Four Seasons. Lover Boy over there could see the party bus from the penthouse balcony and just had to see if it was the party bus.” Just as I’m about to look over there, I feel two strong arms slide softly around my waist.
“I’m sorry,” he purrs in my ear. “I shouldn’t have come.”
Every tiny bit of ire that was in me just melts away in an instant.
“Lover Boy, huh?” I say, turning around to the puppy-dog look in my husband’s beautiful gray eyes.
“I’d much rather be with you than with this gaggle of drunken fools drooling all over themselves and…” he trails off.
“And…” I coax.
“That’s why we were on the balcony,” he says. “Live entertainment.” I open my mouth.
“Aahh, okay,” I say. I slide my arms around his neck. “You know I can’t stay.”
“I know,” he says, brushing his lips against my cheek. “I wish I hadn’t seen you in this dress. You look delectable.”
“Is that why you left from Grey House?” I ask. He nods.
“I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable getting dressed. You look so good and I know that other men look at you.” There’s no use in trying to dispel that. I know that other men look at me, too.
“Other women look at you, Mr. Grey,” I protest softly. “You should hear these poor girls in here talking about you—’the one that got away.’ They’re a sorrowful bunch.” His eyes widen and his mouth falls open.
“They’re talking to you about that?” he asks in amazement and I nod.
“One of them has been watching you since puberty,” I inform him. “She’s probably got pictures of you in her hope chest. You’d be surprised how far a little liquor will go in loosening up some normally tight-assed bitches… and they like to use that word a lot. It’s a term of endearment, did you know that? They call each other all types of degrading things—hoes and cunts and whores and bitches and…”
His mouth is on mine in an instant, silencing and devouring me, his lips massaging mine, his tongue lapping into my mouth until I feel my pussy getting wet and my clit start to throb. I melt as he captures me by my nape, and I groan into his mouth. His body hardens against mine and I completely give in to him. He rewards me with a groan of his own and I have to fight to keep from climbing him right here in the hallway of this hotel.
“Do you know what you do to me?” he breathes against my lips. “Do you have any idea? God, you make me mindless.” His arms tighten around me as he pulls me closer to him. “You were so cute on the floor dancing with Val. I was going to leave after I saw you, saw that you were having a good time and I felt a little guilty, because I didn’t want you to think I was spying on you. I just wanted to see you…”
I know he’s telling the truth.
“When you were singing that song, I knew you were singing it to me. I knew that every word was for me. I felt it in every cell of my body and I wanted to run in there and fall at your feet. I was still trying to convince myself to leave when you started to sing the second song, only… you weren’t singing that song to me. I was singing that song to you.”
What was the second song? Oh, yeah… “I Have Nothing.”
I feel a tightening in my chest and I almost want to cry. He’s so sweet, I could just die.
“When you finished, I just stood against the wall and kept willing myself to leave, but I couldn’t move. I knew I couldn’t leave without seeing you. I’m sorry…”
I stand on my toes, grab the nape of his head and pull him down to me, pressing my lips hard against his. He groans against my lips and wraps his arms tight around me, pulling me close to him and infusing me with love and heat and passion. When we finally break our kiss, there’s need and longing in his eyes.
“I love you so much, Christian,” I whimper, my voice so heavy with emotion that I don’t even recognize it.
“I adore you, Butterfly,” he whispers, his voice gravelly and betraying his slipping control. We could probably drop and do each other right here on the posh carpeting but for the fact that someone would see us. I thrust my hand into his hair and my tongue back into his mouth, wanting to climb him and ravish him so badly while his hands wander wildly all over my body. My temperature is rising quickly and I’m feeling heat in all the right places…
“I knew it! I just knew it!”
I rip my lips from Christian’s and gasp, startled at the proximity of Mia’s voice. Dammit, Mia!
“Hi, Meelo,” Christian says coyly.
“Don’t Hi Meelo me,” she snaps. “I knew you guys were going to sneak out for some suck-face time. It’s so damn typical, as if you don’t live together. And where’s Val? She’s supposed to be counting holes.”
“She’s right there and nobody’s doing holes!” I exclaim pointing behind me.
“Doing holes?” Christian says bemused.
“Pub Golf,” I say, not realizing that I just made a big mistake in front of my very protective husband, but before he has the chance to berate me, Lily scoffs.
“Valerie is the secret scorekeeper?” she says with that same horrible expression she wears all the time. “With her best friend playing?” she adds in an accusatory tone. I turn in Christian’s arm to face the group, who have all come out of the bar now.
“I’m not playing,” I announce. “Val let it slip that she was the secret scorekeeper and that I was losing. I told her I wasn’t playing. I can’t keep up. I’m having drinks with you guys, but no Pub Golf for me. I won’t know my name by morning!” I’m still slightly drunk as we speak!
“See… I’m drunk, not crazy!” Monica announces, pointing a tell-tale finger at me. “I knew you were a couple o’ shots short!” She can barely get the words out of her mouth as she laughs at my supposed calamity. “We’re still gonna get you liquored. We’ve got three more holes!” Oh, hell.
“Looks like you’ve made some friends,” Christian says in my ear.
“Just for tonight,” I reply, so that only he can hear me.
“So, where the hell is Val?” Mia says impatiently, trying not to slur her words. “We don’t have much time left to get these last three holes in!” I sigh.
“She’s right the…” I look over to where she and Elliot were when I last saw them, and the spot is empty. “Okay, they were there.”
“Oh, great,” Mia says, throwing her hands in the air. “You sneak away for suck-face-time and she crawls away for a 10-minute quickie. Just stick around, girls. She’ll be out any second now with JBF hair…”
The words are no sooner out of her mouth when around the corner comes a very disheveled Elliot and Valerie. Val is unsuccessfully trying to smooth the JBF hair that Mia rightfully said she’d be sporting while Elliot, who is now wearing most of Val’s lipstick, didn’t even bother trying to straighten his hair. He looks like cats have been playing on his head and his zipper is undone.
“See? See?” Mia says, pointing to exhibits A and B. I stifle a laugh.
“Dude, your fly!” Christian says. Elliot pauses, looks down at his pants, and closes his zipper.
“What was your rush?” Mia scolds. “It’s not like everybody didn’t know what you were doing. You could’ve taken a moment to make yourselves presentable.”
“Yeah, scorekeeper,” Lily snarls. Geez, is she always that ugly? Even a hot dress and make-up doesn’t help that grimace. Val glares at me.
“Nice going, Steele,” she accuses. I point to Mia.
“I didn’t out you, she did,” I defend. “Then Lily tried to out me, but I announced that I wasn’t playing, so…” I trail off and shrug without looking at Lily, who I know is turning her snarling grimace on me.
“Jesus!” Christian says. I raise my gaze to him and he’s turning away. “That woman looks like a goddamn gargoyle!”
I can’t even stifle my laughter on that one.
“Sorry, sis,” Elliot apologizes. “It was the dress.” Mia grunt.
“Ugh! To the bus, bitches!” she says, a bit perturbed and begins to lead the way, then she stops and turns to face us. “Bitches… not horndogs!” she says to her brothers, before proceeding to the front door.
“It looks like we’ve pissed off your sister,” I say to my husband.
“She’ll get over it by the eighth hole.” He takes my chin and turns my face to his, placing such a soft and succulent kiss on my lips that I have to put my hand on my chest to steady myself.
“Go, have a good time. Make my sister forget I crashed her party.” He kisses me on the nose. “I love you.”
“I love you, too…”
“Are you guys that touchy-feely all the time?” one of the girls asks when we get back to the bus. I don’t bother trying to remember everyone’s name. I won’t see most of them after tomorrow.
“Every waking fucking moment,” Mia chimes in before I can answer.
“Of every damn day,” Val adds. I gasp.
“Says the girl who got a nooner at midnight in the hotel bathroom!” I retort, appalled. The bus breaks into loud laughter, including Mia.
“You heard him,” she defends. “It was the dress.”
“He must really love that dress. It was the only thing intact when you came out the bathroom!” I shoot. More laughter. Val is trying to comeback and she’s usually pretty good with it… except when I’m drunk. When I’m liquored, they’re just lined up waiting, like darts, and anybody’s a target.
“Well, at least, I wasn’t necking in the hallway! You guys didn’t even see us leave!”
“Yeah, we would have snuck away to the bathroom, but it was already taken!” A couple of the girls are on the floor now. Even though the jokes by themselves aren’t that funny, the continued reference back to the bathroom is just enough to keep a bunch of drunk women laughing. Even poor Mia can’t hold it together. I don’t even know if Val and Elliot actual went to the bathroom, but she must have because she’s not saying anything to dispel it.
“Steele, you’re a real piece a shit, you know that?” Val laughs.
“Yeah, and I still couldn’t get to the bathroom…”
With time ticking away even before suck-face-time and the midnight nooner, there would not be enough time to get three holes in before “last call.” So, we go to one more bar, content to do two holes on the party bus, and the girls don’t let me out of the last three holes. So, hole seven is done on the bus. Hole eight is done in the last bar we go to—with the rowdy “fooooooooouuuuuurrrrr” announcement that a bunch of drunk women are playing Pub Golf. I always thought you yelled “four” before barfing. We never found out. Nobody barfed, not even me and not even after doing the ninth hole on the party bus.
I don’t remember getting home, though.
I remember swirls and swirls of alcohol… three shots in under an hour and quite possible more, I’m not sure.
Then I remember music and pretty, pretty lights.
Then I remember Mia crying and thanking me and telling me and Val how much she loved us and what a great time she had. I think Val and I are crying, too… or at least I am…
Then I remember… the Audi, I think… and nothing after that.
Now, I’m kind of floating in the arms of this fire-haired god I can’t quite see…
“No,” I protest weakly. “I’m married…” The god chuckles softly.
“I know,” he says. “To me.” I force one eye open.
“Christian?” I squeak, still unable to focus.
“Ssshhhh,” he says softly while carrying me to our room. “Come, you inebriated goddess. Let’s get you to bed. You need rest…”
I’d say it was somewhere around noon when I finally opened my eyes, and only because I was forced to do so against my will.
“If you want any hope of possibly getting to Mia’s wedding, you need to get up now.”
My husband’s voice gently rouses me from sleep and I want to hit him in the head with a sledgehammer! I want to sleep! Until next June! Dammit!
“Mia’s probably not going to make it to her own damn wedding,” I grumble, remembering just how toasted she was… while I was still coherent, that is.
“Oh, contraire, my love,” he informs me. “My baby sister called three hours ago to tell me to make sure those ‘cows are out of bed and at my wedding at three,’ her words exactly. I don’t know what secret elixir she has coursing through her veins, but she was as bright as a bunny.”
“She and the bridal party had some kind of detox treatment at Miana’s,” I groan.
“That’s a good idea,” he suggests.
“I’m not going to Miana’s,” I grumble without raising my head. He twists his lips.
“Whatever treatments Mia had for the ladies, we can have here in an hour.” I raise my head slightly.
“Make it happen.”
This is one of those days when it really pays to be rich.
I don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt as hot towels, massaging hands, fresh vegetable trays, vitamin-B-infused shakes, and plenty of water slowly begin to bring the life back into my alcohol-ravaged body. No, I’m not setting a good example for Sophie, who has joined me in the lower-level spa, but at this point in time, it doesn’t matter. I need help.
“How is Operation She’s All That?” I ask as I begin to get my wits about me.
“It’s okay,” she says. “It was a pretty good idea. I’m not so scared to approach people and I can spot the phonies from the real ones in the first few minutes.” I nod.
“Very good,” I say. “And what about that other situation?” She frowns, bemused. “The guy?” She drops her head.
“Still pretty much the same,” she says. “I haven’t thought about it much until today.”
I bet I can guess why.
“Why today?” I ask, hoping I can get her to open up. She looks at me like a cornered rat for a moment. Then, she drops her head and sighs. Just when she’s about to open her mouth…
“Time for fresh towels, Mrs. Grey!” One of the girls from Miana’s pipes in loudly, bringing a fresh set of steaming towels into the spa. I don’t know whether to hug her or slap her as I need fresh towels for my detox, but one look at Sophie, and I can tell that the moment is lost. I just roll my eyes.
“Thank you,” I say as she removes the lukewarm towels, wipes my skin down, and replaces them with hot ones. I have to admit that I can feel the toxins leaving my pores and I can’t be too upset. I turn back to Sophie and change the subject.
“In moderation, a drink every now and then is a good thing,” I tell her. “It helps adults to loosen up after a long day or to celebrate the moments of their lives. It can even be medicinal. But in excess, everything is a bonehead move, and drinking is no different.” I put my hand on my head.
“I don’t get the idea of bachelor parties,” Sophie says. “Why get drunk the night before the wedding? You have to stand up at the wedding. You’re sick and hung over in a church. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Grown-ups are stupid,” I groan. “I didn’t even drink as much as some of those women. I wonder how they even got out of bed this morning!”
“You were watching what they were drinking?” she asks.
“We played Pub Golf,” I confess. “They had drinks at every bar we went to. I skipped some!”
“Steele!” Val bellows and I realize that my headache isn’t quite gone yet.
“Oh, fuck!” I hiss quietly.
“Ana!” Sophie scolds. I open one eye.
“Oh, fudge,” I say begrudgingly.
“There you are,” Val says appearing in the doorway of the spa. “You didn’t have to tell me we were having spa day.”
“We’re not,” I tell her. “I’m detoxing and you weren’t drunk.” She put her hands on her hips.
“How many drinks did you have, Sophie?” Val accuses.
“She wouldn’t judge me,” I throw in. Sophie giggles and Val just shakes her head.
“Now, I don’t feel so bad about showing you this,” she says, scrolling through her tablet and thrusting it in my face. There’s a link that says “Headline—And she sings, too.” I click the link to see a recording of myself singing All The Man That I Need. I sit up straight on the table.
“Oh, shit!” I say, looking at the video. It has clearly been taken with someone’s cell phone. I thought we had gotten away with it last night. Nobody said anything. Nobody let on that they knew who I was, but somebody got me on camera.
“You guys did karaoke?” Sophie says, looking over my shoulder. “I didn’t know you could sing.”
“Dammit!” I hiss. “We’ve got a primetime interview coming up! Christian’s going to shit bricks.”
“No, he’s not,” Val says. “He’s already seen it.” I raise bemused eyes to her.
“He’s already seen it.” She shrugs.
“What did he say?”
“Nothing. He just laughed and said he saw it live.”
“Did he think this was your recording or did he know this was online?” I press.
“He knows it’s online,” she replies. “You’re singing karaoke, Steele, you’re not stripping.”
“You’re very good,” Sophie says. “Is there anything you can’t do?”
“Apparently, stay out of the press,” I say, lying back down on the table.
I don’t even want to go to this damn thing and if I could get out of it, I would. However, it’s my baby sister’s wedding and I do want to be there for her. I’m going to forego the tie, though. I’m going to be comfortable and I’m going to hope for the best, that she was able to curtail most of the over-the-top things that Mom put in place and that this is going to be a classy affair and not the three-ring circus that I fear it will be.
One can always hope.
A caravan of Audis will be leaving from the Crossing since everyone going to the wedding will be leaving at different times. The twins are too young to sit still through a wedding and reception, so they will be staying behind, but Sophie will come to the wedding with Butterfly and me. Valerie and Elliot will be on a plane very soon after Mia and Ethan cut the cake, and I’m going to be trying to leave before the bride and groom even get out of the reception hall if I can.
I thought I’d be waiting forever, but I’m very happy to see my wife and my honorary niece come around the columns from the formal dining room, dressed and ready for the wedding. Sophie is wearing a skater dress with an embroidered top and a flare, teal skirt with modest heels while my wife is wearing a sultry forest green bodycon dress with a plunging v-neckline and an overlapping v-split that shows just enough of a flirty thigh to make me hungry, attached to nude sandals that wrap around her ankles giving the image of mile long legs… again.
Down, Grey. Sophie’s with her.
“Ladies, you look lovely,” I say, trying to behave myself and wanting to tell my wife that I’m going to have my hand in that split all fucking night.
“Thanks, Uncle Christian.” Uncle Christian. When did that happen? Hmmm. Oh, well. I did call her my honorary niece. I guess it’s not too weird to be Uncle Christian. I step between them and present an elbow to each of them.
My ladies smile and each take an arm as I escort them to their chariot.
Getting to the door of the Paramount Theater is impossible. The streets are blocked and you can’t get past the Paparazzi to get to the cleared portion of the road to get where you’re supposed to enter. At this rate, Mia won’t have any guests at her wedding.
“This is ridiculous,” Butterfly says. “They can’t block the only entrance to the only street that we can get through.”
“They can and they have,” I tell her. Mia’s wedding is set to start in about an hour and all of her guest are outside on the perimeter. I’m thinking fast. They’re not playing fair and now, neither am I.
“Jason, I need every member of GEH security out here in twenty minutes.” His eyes grow large.
“Every member?” he says.
“Everybody you can get here in twenty minutes.” Jason makes one call and I get a little perturbed at first, but I realize that he must know what he’s doing. In ten minutes, black suits begin to surround my car. Jason gets out and I see my wife and Sophie getting a little nervous. Five minutes later, my phone rings. It’s Jason.
“I’ve got 35 and more on the way.” Well, damn. I end the call and get out of the car. When I look back, there is a sea of black suits behind me. Fucking hell. They’re my men and I’m intimidated.
“Who has cameras?” I ask. Starting from the front, they each start raising their hands moving all the way to the back.
“Start recording and follow me.” I say and make my way to the front line where the Paps are blocking the cars from getting through.
“Jason, either you go or send somebody back to the car with my wife,” I say. He nods and gets on the phone.
“Chuck’s back in the car,” he says. I nod.
“Bring three and come with me.”
Jason, three other guards and I walk into the very front of the crowd of Paps while pictures flash and cameras are rolling from both sides.
“Once again, my security has cameras trained on this event and the fact that you are blocking private property and my sister’s guests cannot get to her wedding. That’s a problem that I and the fifty plus and counting trained men behind me can rectify and I am willing to fight lawsuits to do so. Are you willing to risk injuries, broken bones, disfigurement, and destroyed equipment to stop me?”
These bravado motherfuckers don’t think I’m serious, so I give a signal for security to move in and start pushing these fuckers back. Now, I realize that there’s a lot of money in getting the right shot for the Paparazzi, but I can’t help but wonder what goes through one’s mind when they see a wall of about 50 black suits coming at them—thick and big enough to block out the sun and not one of them is less that 1.9 meters tall. Yeah, needless to say, these “they-better-not-touch-me” assholes started backing the fuck up. Several members of my security staff had to form walls from one road block to the parking lot and valets just so that cars could get through while other members just had to direct traffic. I swear to God, I had no idea that people could be this disrespectful and inconsiderate. Some of the vendors couldn’t even get in… which may have been a blessing in disguise.
I’m outside for a full half hour just waiting to see if most of the guests are at least going to be able to get inside the venue. When I see that things are moving as smoothly as they can without my assistance, I go in search of my wife.
As expected, the marquee outside announces the wedding of Mia Grey and Ethan Kavanaugh. Come one, come all—big, extravagant, over-the-top, crazy event happening here! No wonder the Paparazzi had the only opening to the venue locked up tight!
When I enter the lobby, it almost looks like the staging area for the Oscars, minus the giant gold statues—opulent seating areas and wall dressings, the crème de la crème dressed in their designer best mulling about and conversing in clusters. Pictures are being taken everywhere! There are booths set up for what appear to be souvenir shots and what look like publicity photographers. I almost expect Jimmy Kimmel or Billy Crystal to pop out any second, or someone from E! asking everyone “Who are you wearing?”
Mia has employed her own security for the event and they’re everywhere as well. I wonder why these assholes weren’t outside helping the guest get inside? Fucking amateurs.
The lobby doors open to the huge main venue and when I get inside of the theater, I swear I’ve walked into another dimension. The walls are completely carpeted with flowers and the theater chairs have been removed, transforming the entire main floor into an ethereal garden-like ballroom. The space is reception ready, decked out in Mia’s colors of wine and slate gray, with strategic uses of shades of white to offset the darker colors. A wine-colored, red-carpet aisle stretches down the middle of the room where the wedding party and guests can enter, leading to a dramatic yet elegant arch in the front of the theater, where the wedding will take place. The stage is set for a band and entertainment, and there are several large movie screens high on the walls, currently displaying slideshows of Mia and Ethan at different stages of their relationship.
The décor is still a bit over the top. There are luxury media stations situated all over the place. Uncertain of their intended purpose, I investigate and discover that they have many functions including but not limited to menu selection, printing pictures, and finding your seat—which is how I find my wife. After locating my place in this huge mass of craziness, I weave through the crowd taking in the splendor—for lack of a better word—of everything I couldn’t possibly describe in a million years.
There’s a large tree in the middle of the room just off to the side of the aisle, draped with thousands of crystals and ribbons.
I feel sorry for anyone with allergies, because between the crazy centerpieces adorning the tables and hanging from the ceiling in some cases, not to mention the floral-carpeted walls, I won’t even begin to guess how many flowers are in this room.
I could be crazy, but I’m probably not… but I think I see small cannons in the floor. Why there would be cannons in the floor, I have no idea. They can’t shoot off fireworks indoors, though I wouldn’t put it past Mia, or Mom during her moments of “looney.”
I’m counting at least four displays hidden behind curtains that will, no doubt, be revealed later. I can only imagine what awaits us behind these swags.
The bridal table is nowhere to be found, and these four displays are way to small to conceal something like that. That big reveal has me frightened.
Mulling around among the guests are waitstaff in costumes. One of them is obviously Marilyn Monroe. Another could be Michael Jackson, but I’m not entirely sure. A third might be… Morticia Addams?
What theme is this?
I won’t even begin to figure out the oddly placed floating votive candles with colored pearls or beads in the water.
I finally spot my wife pondering the surroundings with Sophie, Luma, Mariah, and Celida.
“I wonder where the pink flamingos were supposed to fit in all of this,” I say when I take my seat next to my wife. She scans her eyes around the room and shakes her head.
“I have no idea,” she admits. “Were they supposed to be in a pen somewhere or roam freely among the guests? And belly dancers?” she questions. “Where in the hell would belly dancers fit in this situation? Why?” She shrugs.
“Remember, she wasn’t herself,” Luma reminds us. “And this isn’t all of it. Mia stopped a lot of it.”
“Have you seen this?” Elliot and Valerie join us at the table with magazines in their hands. When they hand one to me, I realize that it’s not a magazine. It’s Mia and Ethan’s wedding program. It just looks like a magazine, glossy cover and all.
“Are your serious?” Butterfly says, taking the book from Valerie’s hand and beginning to thumb through it. “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like the 25th anniversary edition of People Magazine.”
“No kidding,” I say, thumbing through what appear to be advertisements, yet another history of Mia and Ethan’s life, more instructions on the stuff you can get from the media centers, and a play-by-play of the evening beginning with “guests enter” and ending with “reception ends.” I’m at a total loss for words.
“This is way over the top,” Elliot says. “This is the toned-down version of the reception? I got a sneak peak of the wedding favors. Do you know what the hell they are?” I frown.
“Inscribed, gold boxes. I don’t know what’s in them.” My eyes widen.
“Real gold?” I ask. He nods.
“Real gold. Party favors, man. Dad’s going to be paying for this shit until he’s dead.” I shake my head. I’m going to ask my father if he needs some help footing this bill. There’s no way he can pay for all this shit. I know my dad is loaded, but this is crazy even for me.
“I know what you’re thinking, man,” Elliot interrupts my thoughts. “He’s not going to accept it.”
“This is ridiculous,” I tell my brother. “There’s no fucking way he can foot all this. He’s probably hocked up to his fucking eyeballs. I’m going to find out.”
“Well, good luck with that, because here they come.”
I look over my shoulder and spot my mother first, a vision in a stunning wine gown that I know had to be custom made for this event. Elliot and I stand to greet our mother.
“Mom,” I say, taking her hands and kissing her cheek, “you look breathtaking.”
“Thank you, Christian,” she says, her smile bright and sincere. Elliot leans in and kisses her.
“You really look beautiful, Mom,” he says.
“Thank you, son. I don’t know what to do with all these compliments,” she gushes. Dad pulls her chair out and she takes her seat.
“They’re right. You’re gorgeous,” Butterfly says. “I feel a bit underdressed.”
“Nonsense,” Mom waves her off. “You look adorable. It’s perfect. I’m the mother of the bride. I’m supposed to look like the opening act.” She and Butterfly laugh lightheartedly. “Really, though, I had it made during that time, so…” She trails off and waves her hand flippantly when she says “that time” in an attempt to explain the extravagance of the dress.
“Well, you look absolutely stunning,” Valerie says, “and I’ll try not to look like a troll in your presence.”
“You kids,” Mom laughs. “Thank you all very much.” She looks around the room. “Mia did a good job toning things down, but there’s still quite a bit going on.”
Yikes, she admits it! So, I’m not crazy.
“It’ll be fine, dear,” Dad says, taking Mom’s hand. We all engage in conversation about the venue and wild decorations when a frantic little woman comes skittering up to my mother.
“I’m sorry I don’t mean to bring you problems right now but we’ve got a problem,” she says all in one breath while frantically clapping the tips of her fingers together repeatedly.
“The wedding is beginning in fifteen minutes. We can’t have a problem!” Mom snaps at her. It only takes a moment to figure out that this is the wedding planner.
“Well, we do! The soloist for the march song isn’t here!” Mom turns in her seat.
“What do you mean she’s not here?” Mom squeaks. Dad takes her hand again.
“She couldn’t get past the blockade, so she left!” Mom’s eyes widen.
“She’s been paid!” Mom shoots. “All these people could get past the blockade and she couldn’t? Where the hell is she?” Mom’s getting pissed.
“On a plane back to California!” the planner says. “I’ve called in every favor I can. I can’t find a replacement on this short notice.”
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Mom hisses. “Can’t the guy sing the song by himself?” The planner sighs.
“I’m sure he could, but it won’t have the same effect,” she says, her voice defeated. “Mia wanted the image of her and Ethan singing to each other.”
“I am going to ruin this woman,” Mom growls under her voice. The planner looks panicked again, then her eyes fall on Butterfly.
“You!” She points at my wife. “I saw you on the internet! You can sing!”
“What?” my wife exclaims. “Me?”
“Yes, you! I saw you! I heard you! Do you know ‘To Have and To Hold?’” Butterfly is stunned.
“Well… yeah, but, that was karaoke! I can’t sing professionally!” she protests.
“You’ll have to do! Come with me! You’ve got fifteen minutes to practice.” Butterfly is terrified.
“I can’t!” she squeals her protest. “Mia will hate me forever if I destroy her song.”
“Mia will die a thousand deaths if she doesn’t get her song!” the planner exclaims. My mother looks at Butterfly and clasps her hands together, begging.
“Please please please please please please please…” That’s it. Umgawa… come, wife. I stand up and take my wife’s hand.
“Come on, baby, you can do it,” I say, not giving her any more opportunity to protest. We don’t have any time to waste. “You sounded like an angel last night and I’m not just saying that because I love you. Pretend like you’re singing to me.” I pull her along behind me as we follow the wedding planner and I hear her sighing behind me. We get backstage to where the band is and she makes quick introductions of the band, the male singer, and my wife… not me.
The singer smiles widely and comes over to my wife, closing his hand over hers and telling her not to be nervous. The band runs through the instrumental of the song and the male vocals so that Butterfly can hear where she’s supposed to come in. I know this song pretty well. It’s by Christian Baustista. It’s one of the songs I thought about for our wedding. The words are pretty, I just thought they were too generic. I remember them, though.
Partner, companion, lover and friend
Keeper of all things I hold dear
I see you before me and my heart is filled with joy
For everything that has brought me here
And I have tomorrow to look forward to
For God has given me you…
And suddenly, I’m not real comfortable with the way this fucker is looking at my wife singing these words.
“You sing that better than Madge,” he says to my wife in a tone that I really don’t like.
“Thank you,” she says, and she glances at me. I can tell that she’s uncomfortable.
“You sound good, but you look like you’re gonna fall off the stage,” the planner comments. “You need to loosen up.”
“Maybe if I hold your hand,” the guy suggests, and reaches for my wife. That’s it. I walk towards my wife and her eye is on me the moment I move in her direction. She looks as if she almost wants to leap off the stage. I can see it in her eyes, but I’m on her before she can move.
“Give me the mic.” I hold my hand out to the guy and he doesn’t move. I turn a menacing look to him.
“You want her to loosen up, give me the mic, Skippy.” He begrudgingly hands me the mic and I turn to the band.
“Hit it.” They begin the soft lilting chords of the song and I look into my wife’s eyes as she starts to sing…
“This very moment right here and now begins the journey of my dreams…”
She relaxes into the song and the word come easily and smoothly. She sounds like the angel at karaoke that sang that Whitney Houston song last night. When Skippy’s part comes, I don’t give him the chance to intercede. I just start singing…
“Partner, companion, lover and friend, keeper of all things I hold dear…”
I know how I sound. I don’t sing often, but you can’t play a musical instrument without being able to hold a tune.
Our voices together sound celestial and when we harmonize, it’s like we’ve been practicing for years. Our chemistry is hot enough to burn the damn room down. When we’ve finished, the room falls silent and no one can speak.
“You two,” the planner says, breaking the silence. “Get out there. You’re singing that song.” I turn to my wife, who’s now smiling coyly at me.
“We’re up,” I say softly, rubbing my nose on hers.
“Wait a minute,” Songboy protests. “I’m the vocalist here. I can still do my job.”
“Yeah, but we need her and he makes her relax, so we need him,” the planner says.
“I can make her relax,” Songboy says. “You just didn’t give me a chance.” She looks at him like he has two heads.
“Are you missing something here?” she says, pointing between me and Butterfly. Songboy looks at me, then Butterfly, then the planner.
“What?” he says, perturbed. Butterfly leans around me and shows him her left hand and the obscene diamond and platinum rings on her fingers. Once he gets a good look, I flash the art deco ring on mine. He twists his lips as if our marriage is nothing more than an inconvenience to him. You better step back, junior.
“Well, you said Madge wasn’t getting paid for not singing. I’m getting paid,” he protests. “He’s not blockin’ my money.”
“Nobody’s blocking your money. You’re just not singing with my wife!” I hiss. “Fucking pussy,” I add, under my breath.
“If I was such a fucking pussy, you wouldn’t be worried about me singing with your wife!” he retorts. I whirl around on him.
“Are you trying to get fired and get your ass kicked?” I challenge.
“Make your move, Money,” he taunts. Oh, Mr. Melody is feeling lucky. I remove my jacket and hand it to the first set of hands near me, which happens to be my wife. Suddenly, the songster’s eyes widen and he starts to back up. People don’t seem to realize that under these tailored suits, I’m a thick motherfucker.
“You were saying, Tweety?” I ask, closing the space between us. I’ll leave you an ink blot on the fucking floor.
“Naw, n-nothin’, man, we cool,” he stutters, his hands up in a defensive position as if to push me away. I feel my wife’s hand on my arm, and the calming effect is instantaneous.
“Christian, come on, let’s go. The wedding’s starting any minute. We don’t have time for this.” I glare at Songboy and back away, reaching for my jacket and taking a few deep breaths.
“You ready to do this, baby?” I ask, stroking her cheek. She takes a few deep breaths of her own.
I don’t know who created streak-free mascara, but they made a mint today. There isn’t a dry eye in the building as Christian and I sing that song. Mia’s dramatic entrance from behind large drawn wine-colored velvet drapes was even more dramatic when she actually removes her veil at the top of the aisle to make sure that her eyes aren’t playing tricks on her, after which she cries the entire trek down the aisle when she realizes that her brother and sister-in-law are serenading her entrance. Ethan is stunned by his bride’s beauty, but is also amazed along with the bridesmaids who are all stunned into a very unattractive, drooling, hungry stupor as no one expected to see Christian on stage with a microphone. This will be one for the record books, but apparently Eric was getting a little to comfortable in rehearsal and I was already nervous about fucking up the song without his flirtatious overtures.
“You sing that better than Marge…”
“Maybe if I hold your hand…”
Geez, can you be more transparent? And how the hell did he and the rest of the band get through the roadblock and this bitch that was supposed to be singing with him didn’t get through? I’m with Grace, I want her ass on a platter.
After Mia’s tearful entrance, Christian and I hastily make our way off the stage to get to our seats to see the rest of the wedding. Grace never stops crying. I don’t know if it’s the menopause or the song or the wedding or what, but she weeps the whole time.
Even though the decorations are insane and I’m sure that there are many other extravagant surprises in store for us, the ceremony is traditional and beautiful… but that’s where the traditional ends. As it turns out, I’m glad that I didn’t bring my children to the wedding because they would have been traumatized by the kiss. Once the minister announces that Mia and Ethan are husband and wife and that he can salute his bride, Ethan takes the lovely Mia into his arms and kisses her passionately, after which several explosions ensue and the wedding guests are showered with thousands and thousands of white rose petals. I can only assume that they were shot from some kind of mechanisms in the floor. However, they were ignited with no warning. So, instead of being enchanted by the fairytale aura of raining rose petals, the room was full of screaming women all wondering what the hell is going on for the first few seconds until we realize, “Oh… flower cannons.”
I can just envision my poor inconsolable babies right now, jerking in terror and then screaming, staring at me like, “What the fuck, Mom?”
Another reason we had to get the hell off the stage so quickly is because it somehow or another dismantles itself so that Mia’s table can emerge. Ask me how, I don’t know, but, yeah… during the receiving line from hell, the archway is scooted away, the stage extends out into the room somehow and Mia’s table “appears.” Flowers, flowers, and more flowers—a floral centerpiece the length of the table that dangles from the ceiling with floating votives in globes hanging from the flowers. I noted the random floating votives throughout the reception, an homage to Mia’s conversation with Pops before he died.
“Nix the candle stands. I like the floating votives better. And the stones on the bottom should be gray—not iridescent. The iridescent stones look like dollar store dressing!”
She chose various colors—pearls, gray, rose, red, white, flowers, or nothing at all… but no iridescent.
Ethan and his groomsmen all wear classic, no-button formal length tuxedos, with wine-colored vests and ties while Mia’s innumerable bridesmaids—well, I’m certain they picked their own wardrobes. Their dresses look more like Jessica Rabbit than Mia’s does. They’re sharp as hell… deep wine, off the shoulder, lace illusion necklines with push-up breasts, lace-sleeves, empire-waist, mermaid-cut, floral lace trains, and vamp make-up—smoky eyes with silver shadow and deep wine lipstick with sparkles. These dresses had to cost a fortune. Someone should have told them that you don’t outshine the bride…
Not that they could.
Mia’s dress is a totally hand-sewn Haute couture one-of-a-kind masterpiece in Egyptian silk, exquisite beading, appliques, and Swarovski crystals; dark African mesh around the deep and plunging sweetheart neckline attached to a dramatic jeweled, choker collar and cutout back outlined in pearls and crystals. Delicate and intricate floral appliques are handstitched over the dress from the bodice to the knee, silver filigree complimenting many of the flowers in the mermaid-cut gown with its modest three-foot train. I can see little old ladies with needles sitting on the floor and ottomans surrounding this creation sewing flowers for weeks. No machine in the world could master stitchery this intricate and delicate without damaging the stones or the beading.
I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if that dress went into seven or eight figures.
I’ve spoken to a guest here or there, but when I make my way back to my seat, Sophie looks as if she’s tasted something bad. Dinner hasn’t been served yet, so I know that couldn’t be it. I lean down to her.
“Soph? You okay?” I ask.
“I’m fine,” she says, flatly, her eyes trained on her plate and her arms folded. I put my hand on the back of her chair.
“You’re clearly not fine,” I say. “Talk to me. You don’t look so good.” Her eyes quickly flash up, then back down and again, and I see the object of her affection… and dismay. Two tables over and down a bit is Marlow, and he has brought a date with him. Christian has his attention right now and the poor, awestruck girl at his side is drooling over my husband at the moment, but Sophie is so upset right now that you could fry an egg on her head! She focuses her gaze everywhere but on Marlow and I can’t let on that I know about her crush because she hasn’t confided that part in me yet, but I can’t just let her sit here like this. Just when I’m trying to figure out how to get her out of her funk…
“Sophie, come take a picture with us!”
Maggie, Mariah, and Celida all come barreling over to the table to retrieve Sophie, totally unaware of her inner turmoil over her crush. Without paying any attention to the expression on her face, they drag her from her chair and off to parts unknown to take the picture of which they speak. She doesn’t look left or right. She just mindlessly follows as the girls lead her away.
This is going to become a problem.
“Hey, beautiful,” my husband says, sneaking up behind me.
“Hey, yourself. When are they going to start serving some food in this joint?” I ask.
“Once they’re done with the pictures, I suspect,” he says, taking his seat next to me.
“Well, I’m famished and I’m ready to eat. I didn’t know I was going to have to sing for my dinner,” I jest. He chuckles.
“Neither did I, but you did well.”
“As did you,” I say, gently stroking his chin.
“Oh, geez, get a room,” Elliot says as he and Val make their way back to the table with Grace, Carrick, Luma, and Herman.
“I’d much rather get a plate,” I say, leaning back into my husband’s chest.
“I’ve put the word into the planner’s ear to try to wrap up the important photos before dinner gets cold,” Grace says. No sooner the words are out of her mouth is the announcement made that dinner is about to be served and everyone should take their seats.
“Thank God,” I declare, straightening in my chair. A few moments later, the guests from our table all return, including a very sullen Sophie. After a short “welcome and thank you” speech from Ethan, the first course is served. I tear into my salad like a starving man. I have no idea why I’m so hungry… oh, wait, yes, I do. I slept all morning due to a hangover and only ate crudités in the early afternoon. I haven’t had any real food all day and the first thing they bring me is salad. Bring on the meat, man!
“Settle down, killer,” my husband jests.
“The butterflies have vacated and this stomach needs sustenance, now!” I tell him. He laughs.
“Pun intended,” he teases. Butterflies. Ha, ha.
“Very funny. Make them bring me food before I gnaw my arm off,” I threaten.
The wait staff clear away our salad dishes and pepper our table with dishes of nearly every variety. Our food is nearly as diverse as the people serving it. I pay closer attention to our servers and realize that they’re not just in costume. There’s a theme.
Antony and Cleopatra…
Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy… There’s controversy for you.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton…
Sonny and Cher…
Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing…
Sandy and Danny from Grease…
Gomez and Morticia from The Addams Family…
And there are several more, but all our servers are dressed as famous couples. That’s pretty neat. I’m still stuck in the novelty of the concept when a small voice next to me makes a very adult request.
“Excuse me, but, please take this back. This is not what I requested.”
I turn to the young voice next to me and Marilyn is looking at Sophie like she’s has no idea what she’s talking about.
“I beg your pardon?” she says in her practiced Marilyn voice.
“This is not what I ordered,” Sophie repeats. “I ordered coq au vin. Can you please take this back and bring me coq au vin?” She’s holding the plate out to the server as if it’s offensive and Marilyn is eying it like she has no intention of taking it back.
“That is coq au vin,” she purrs, and she sounds as if she wants to add “Little girl.”
“No.” Sophie hands the plate to the blonde-wig-wearing server who doesn’t want to take it, forcing her to relieve Sophie of the plate. “That’s duck confit.” She walks over to Elliot and points just over his shoulder, careful not to come near his plate. “That’s coq au vin.”
Marilyn looks at the entrée in the plate in her hand, then at the entrée on Elliot’s plate, then at Elliot. He nods.
“She’s right. I asked for coq au vin,” he confirms.
“I’m sorry,” Marilyn purrs. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thank you,” Sophie says with no malice as the server goes to correct her mistake.
“How did you know you had the wrong dish?” Elliot asks Sophie. “I wouldn’t have known just by looking at it.” Sophie raises her brow then shrugs slowly.
“I… like food,” she says. “I watch cooking shows.”
“But you know food like duck confit?” Grace asks amazed. “That’s impressive.”
“Do you know all these dishes?” Luma asks. Sophie’s face lights up slightly and suddenly, there’s no more shadow of her disappointing crush.
“Um, I think so. Ms. Grace has fennel salad; Mr. Carrick, filet mignon. Mr. Herman has the lobster and mash and Ms. Luma has the broiled salmon. The girls all have the barbeque chicken and macaroni and cheese. Aunt Ana has the lamb with mint sauce, Uncle Christian, the lobster. Aunt Val has the blackened catfish and Uncle Elliot the coq au vin.”
Everyone is looking around the table at each other’s plates and asking what each of us is eating.
“Did she get it right?” Carrick asks, and so far, everyone nods. Sophie smiles coyly. “Very impressive, Sophie,” Carrick praises her. “Do you have an interest in cooking?”
“I didn’t at first,” she says. “I just liked watching the food channels. Then, I was watching them with my mom and we would try some of the stuff, and it was kind of fun…” Marilyn comes back to the table with a fresh steaming hot plate of coq au vin and set it in front of Sophie, apologizing for her mistake. Sophie smiles and nods as Marilyn leaves.
“Now,” Sophie continues, placing her napkin in her lap, “I just watch them because I like them and I want to try to cook some of the dishes I see. Plus, I like seeing how the dishes turn out and where they come from. I hadn’t thought about cooking, but I know so much about it that now, I probably will.”
The table engages Sophie in a conversation about food for quite some time as we enjoy a meal, quite frankly, fit for royalty. We clean our plates and thoroughly enjoy being enthralled in food conversation with a 13-year-old girl who knows more about wine parings than I do. Once the evening wears on to more food courses and dessert courses, drinks and music, the table starts to thin a bit and couples begin to pair, bringing Sophie’s attention back to her original ire.
It doesn’t help that her ire brings his date over to our table to introduce us.
“Hey, everybody, this is Maya. Maya, this is… everybody.”
I extend my hand and introduce myself and Maya smiles at me. Sophie stiffens next to me. Maya’s pretty—petite, and round… very round in all the right places. I don’t want to be the one to tell her that she’s wearing a dress that’s not very flattering on her. It’s an A-line dress with an empire waist. The problem is that she’s short and the dress is dating her. Not only is the cut wrong, but the color is wrong. It’s like gray, green, and mauve all mixed together and I have no idea who came up with this design. It makes her look old and instead of looking elegant and flowy, it makes her look frumpy.
Sophie twists her lips and turns away, but Maya zeros in on her. It’s almost like she can smell it—the possible competition that’s not even there because Marlow doesn’t even know that Sophie feels this way about him.
“Hi,” she extends her hand to Sophie. “You are?”
“Sophia,” Sophie says, taking her hand. Maya smiles.
“That’s a cute dress. My kid sister has one just like that. I think hers is pink, though.”
And there’s first blood.
“It does come in different colors,” Sophie says coolly while slowly withdrawing her hand. “I have teal and purple. Speaking of which, I’ve seen your dress before, too. Fashion week. 2012.”
“The original was shorter, though,” Sophie continues, “or I think the model was just taller… and skinnier. And the color was definitely different. More vibrant, I think.” Maya’s lips tighten for a moment, then curl in a smile.
“Well,” she says, “I guess I’ll just have to… take it off, then.” She raises her eyebrows suggestively at Sophie before turning to Marlow. “I need the ladies room, babe. I’ll be right back.” She leaves without excusing herself.
Against a 13-year-old girl. Nice going, Maya.
“Uugh,” Sophie grunts and grimaces, placing her hands over her stomach.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“My stomach feels yucky,” she says, frowning. “I probably should have stuck with the duck.” No, Love, that’s the angry flip flops when the guy you have feelings for doesn’t feel the same way about you and the girl that he’s probably fucking just ran you over like a freight train. “I’m going to call my dad and see if one of the guys can take me home.” She rises from her chair and starts walking towards the door.
“I’ll take you home, Soph,” Marlow says. Sophie momentarily throws a seething look at him, which quickly softens.
“No,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to put you out, especially after your date went through all that trouble securing that dress.” Without another word, she turns around and walks out of the reception, and I have to move swiftly so that the blazing arrow that just went flying in Marlow’s direction doesn’t hit me.
“Did she just throw a shot at your date?” Christian asks, bemused. Marlow’s brow furrows.
“I think she did,” he replies. “What was that all about?” Seriously? Did you two miss the entire heavyweight fight that just took place in front of you when Maya wiped her feet on Sophie’s face then escaped to the bathroom to clean the blood off her shoes?
“Temperamental teenager,” I say, rolling my eyes and waving it off in an attempt to divert the conversation. “Who knows? It could be that time of the month.”
“TMI, Ana,” Marlow says. I turn my gaze to him.
“Um, don’t you date?”
“Yeah, but that part has nothing to do with me.” What the…? I hear Christian groan next to me.
“Well, you had better make it have something to do with you, young man, because unless something’s wrong with her insides, every woman you date is going to have that time of the month. And if you so callously shut it down like it has nothing to do with you, you’re going to find yourself awfully lonely on many a Saturday night, whether Aunt Flo is visiting or not!”
I stand, turn on my heels and march away from this young whippersnapper before I really give him a piece of my mind. How dare him just dismiss a woman’s period like it’s some kind of inconvenience and he just has to wait until it passes. I mean, I know most little bonehead boys who are just now figuring out what the heads of their dicks even look like feel that way, but don’t say that shit around me.
I go in search of Sophie, but she must have already found Jason, because she’s nowhere in sight. To be certain, I text him to see if she’s touched bases with him and he confirms that one of the staff has already taken her home as she looked a little green in the face.
Yeah, green with envy.
A/N: Part I of the wedding is complete. On to part II!
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