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 36—Kavanaugh Celebrations
Boys can be such doodyheads!
Geez, did I just say doodyheads?
Well, I didn’t say it, but I thought it…
Have I been drinking?
After last night? Hell, no!
I’m just pissed as fuck at one Marlow Johnson. How could he be so damn insensitive? Well, he really wasn’t insensitive. He has no idea how Sophie feels about him. It’s just a childhood crush, and it’ll pass, but what he said about periods. I know teenage boys don’t give a fuck about things like that and they’d like to think it’s none of their concern, but damn, I guess I just wanted to think that Marlow might be different from other teenage boys in that aspect. I mean, he is different from other teenage boys in a lot of ways, but… well, nobody’s perfect.
“Permission to engage,” I hear my husband’s voice say from behind me. I turn around to see him waving a gray napkin in surrender.
“Wrong color,” I say, crossing my arms.
“What was that all about?” he asks. I shake my head.
“Reverse hero worship,” I admit. “I have high hopes for your young protégé. Sometimes, I forget that he’s still a bonehead kid with raging hormones.” I look down at my phone and close Jason’s text.
“Sophie get going okay?” he asks. I nod.
“Yeah. Chance took her home.” I raise my eyes to him.
“I didn’t think Marlow would bring a date,” he says. “He told me he was escorting his mom.”
“Where is Marcia?” I ask. I noticed that Marlow and Maggie are present, but no Marcia.
“She wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed home. Marlow secured a date at the last minute. He said he didn’t want to bring anybody because girls get kind of clingy at weddings.” I shake my head.
“And apparently, guys get kind of stupid,” I retort. Christian raises an eyebrow.
“It appears that girls are a bit more out of character,” he recounters. I look at him expecting. “Well, look at Sophie. I’ll have to admit, she was darling in her dress. I’m glad there weren’t more boys her age here or we may have had to beat Jason off with a stick. Her knowledge of food is phenomenal, and her dinner conversation was extraordinary—well beyond her years. But the banter between her and Maya… where did that come from?” I raise my eyebrow at him.
“Where indeed,” I say, as I see the little tart just over his shoulder emerge from the ladies’ room. Pretending not to see her, I continue the conversation with my husband just loud enough for her to hear.
“Why that high-school girl took a veiled cheap shot at a tween’s dress in front of people who consider her family, I have no clue. However, why Sophie sliced that horrendous fart of a dress that she was wearing from two seasons back, I get that. I realize that she’s young and inexperienced, but she should probably remember her place when she’s a guest at someone’s wedding around people that she clearly doesn’t know.” I glare at my husband and see the little cow shift uncomfortably in my peripheral before she scurries back into the ballroom.
“And… you weren’t talking to me just then,” he observes.
“I certainly was not,” I confirm. He shakes his head and puts his arm around my waist, ushering me back into the reception.
“Come. Champagne and dancing for you…”
A glass or two of champagne later, and I’ve loosened up a bit. After last night, I steer clear of the hard stuff. Couples are canoodling here and there all over the room waiting for the bride and groom’s first dance, Christian and I included, when we’re interrupted by some guy trying to talk shop over Christian’s shoulder.
“Not talking business at my sister’s wedding reception,” Christian says flatly.
“Oh, come on, Grey. Everybody talks a little business at social functions,” the guy coerces.
“Not talking business at my sister’s wedding reception,” my husband repeats, never changing his facial expression or even making eye contact with the guy. The guy glares at Christian. Then he turns to me and his gaze softens.
“You should get him to loosen up,” he says, with a smile. “He’s far too intense.”
“Oh, he loosens up just fine,” I retort. “He just didn’t come to his sister’s nuptials with intentions of turning them into a business meeting.” I smile softly at the asshole, who adjusts his tie, raises his drink, and walks away.
“Nice comeback, Mrs. Grey,” Christian says, nuzzling me behind my ear.
“I learned from the best,” I coo with a wink. “I need the restroom, dear.” I kiss him on the cheek and he reluctantly releases me. I quickly relieve myself and return to the floor as I don’t want to miss any of the festivities—and I do mean quickly—I’m not gone ten whole minutes, and yet…
I turn my back for an iota of a second, just long enough to piss and wash my hands, and this Lily bitch is all up in my husband’s face. She must think I won’t stomp a mudhole in her ass because we’re at Mia’s wedding. If you’re bad enough to try me, bitch, I’m bad enough to fuck you up. I make a B-line over to where this cunt is trying to put the moves on my man.
“Christian,” I hear her purrs as I approach, “it’s been so long since we’ve talked.” She closes in on my husband with outstretched arms, her dress only a breath away from a nip slip. Christian steps away from her grasp.
“We never talk, Lily,” he says coolly, avoiding her embrace. She pouts seductively.
“Just one hug, Christian,” she says, nearly rushing him and about to catch him in a bosom hug.
Oh, enough of this shit.
“Oh, no, I don’t fucking think so,” I say, putting first my arm, then my entire body between her and my husband.
“Excuse you!” she hisses at me.
“No, excuse you,” I retort. “You have clearly lost your mind if you expect me to stand here while you attempt to put those sacks of silicone all over my man! You might want to put those things away because he clearly doesn’t want you,” I say to the scandalous tramp standing before me offering herself to my man like free leftovers.
“She’s right,” Christian says. “I clearly don’t want you, so you might want to cover yourself up.” She giggles. She actually giggles.
“Don’t be coy, Christian,” she says in a sultry voice. Christian just shakes his head and pulls me close to him.
“Let it go, baby,” he says softly in my ear. “You won’t have to see her ever again after this.” Just as I’m nodding my acknowledgement, she retorts,
“But you will.”
“He’s married, you sow!” I whip around on Lily, finally having had enough of her blatant disrespect and overt flirting with my husband. She almost doesn’t acknowledge my outburst until Christian looks over at me. Then she turns affronted attention to me.
“Excuse me?” she says, as if I have no right to say anything to her at all.
“There is no excuse for you!” I seethe, no longer able to restrain myself. I won’t yell. I won’t make a scene, but I’ll beat her fucking ass if she doesn’t get away from this table. “He has a wife… and children! You desperate cunt!”
“How dare you!” she says, doe-eyed and surprised.
“How dare you, you indiscreet guttersnipe!” I feel my blood pressure rising. Someone should intervene before I get to the tears.
“Steele?” Val’s voice floats to my ears. “You okay?”
“Someone needs to remove this piece of trash from my presence before I do it myself!” I say through my teeth. I can feel Christian’s arms tighten around my waist. He’s preparing for the inevitable. Lily scoffs and Val decides now is a good time to intervene.
“I really think you should go away,” she says to Lily. Lily’s hands rest defiantly on her hips.
“I’m part of the wedding party. You can’t make me leave,” she says, rolling her neck on every word.
“I’m part of the family and yes, I can,” Val says, closing the space between them. Now, I’m chomping at the bit to get closer to this girl, but Christian is holding me tighter and tighter. Just as she’s about to rebut, big brother Elliot steps in.
“Look here, girlie,” he says to Lily, “you need to be anywhere but right here at this moment, because if you touch this one, I’ll fuck you up.” He pulls Val to his side. “And if you touch that one…” He points to Christian, “… she’ll fuck you up.” He points to me. Lily laughs loudly.
“Oh, please. Whatever,” she says incredulously. Now it’s Christian’s turn to speak.
“Lily, I don’t want to embarrass you, but what’s more, I don’t want to ruin my sister’s wedding. So, I’m going to grace you with my conversation by saying this to you one time.” She smirks victoriously at me and turns her attention to Christian. He leans in close to her and says,
“Get. The fuck. Out of my face. I don’t want you. I never have. If you come near me again… ever… I’m going to have my security remove you from my presence and then, I’ll get a restraining order against your ass. Your unwanted romantic overtures are bordering on harassment.”
Her face falls immediately and the smirk she wore moments before is now plastered on my face.
“You are worse and more persistent than any stalker I’ve ever had, and my stalkers have tried to kill my family. That makes you a danger to me, my wife, and my children. I never gave you the slightest bit of encouragement, and I don’t know what ever gave you the idea that you ever had a chance with me, much less that I would leave my wife for you. I’m not even attracted to you. I never have been and even if I ever was, what makes you think I would leave my wife and family for you? Now do yourself a favor and tuck your tits and what’s left of your dignity back into your bra and get the hell away from me!”
And there’s that look again… My God, she has that hideous look perfectly.
“You’re just saying that because she’s here,” Lily responds. Father in heaven, help us. Another delusional bitch. What the fuck, do they grow on trees?
“I’ve always said that, Lily,” he reinforces. “I don’t have to put on a show for my wife. Name one time—one time—when I gave you the slightest hint that I ever wanted you. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”
Lily knows that she can’t name any times because she would have to call Christian a liar to his face. I’ve seen her be forward at Grace’s house, on Christian’s boat—but I can’t believe that she would do this at Mia’s wedding reception. Isn’t she supposed to be, like, Mia’s best friend or something?
“Christian, if you would just give me a chance…” Her voice is haughty. She’s not even embarrassed enough to sound humble in her indiscreet and unbecoming begging.
“Oh, God, somebody make it go away,” Christian says mocking despair. I will! I will! If you just let me go…
“Lily, what are you doing?” Mia says, making her way over to us.
“Shamelessly coming on to my husband while I’m damn-near sitting in his lap,” I say before I can stop myself… and regret it immediately. Mia reacts, but not like I expected.
“You said you wouldn’t,” she says flatly to Lily. “You promised you would behave.” Lily stands mute. Mia sighs. “I should have known,” she says, shaking her head. “You weren’t even speaking to me for a while, then all of a sudden, we were best friends again. I should have known it was all about Christian. And what did you do to the maid of honor dress? You look like a stripper!” she exclaims. Finally, she just shakes her head and waves to someone. “You need to leave,” she says. Lily frowns.
“You need to leave, Lily!” Mia reinforces. “I want you to leave now before you embarrass me more than you already have.”
“Mia, please,” Lily beseeches. “I was just talking, I swear…”
“Is that why my sister-in-law looks like she’s ready to crawl out of my brother’s arms and scratch your eyes out? Because you were just talking? What the fuck did you say?” Lily falls guiltily silent this time.
“Just about any inappropriate thing that popped into her head,” I add, “while offering her fake double-D boobs plated and served to my husband while I’m standing here. She didn’t even acknowledge my presence until I called her a cunt. She’d fuck him right here on the floor while I and the reception watched if he let her!”
Okay, my mouth needs a leash and my anger has already gotten loose and is running around the room. Mia’s reaction is swift. Her arm is up in the air, gesturing to someone to come over to us. Two suited members of someone’s security come over to our table.
“She’s leaving… now!” Mia gestures to Lily. “Please show her out.” Lily’s mouth falls open.
“You said you would give me a chance,” she says. “I was just talking.” I’m about to say something when Mia puts her hand up to silence me.
Yeah, it’s probably best that I keep my mouth shut come to think of it.
“We will talk about this later, but right now, you’re ruining my reception and I want you to leave. People are looking at you!”
Sure enough, I look around the room and we now have the attention of more than a few party-goers.
“We’ll talk once I’m back from my honeymoon, but please… just leave now, please.” Lily frowns deeply, then moves to hug Mia. Mia is a statue.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I really was just talking to him.”
“He’s married, Lily,” she says flatly. “They’re in love, in case you’re the only person in the world who’s blind to that. This isn’t news. You’re making a fool of yourself throwing yourself at my brother. He’s not being cruel or playing hard to get. He just doesn’t want you.” She holds her head down. “And I was a fool to think you really wanted to mend fences with me.” Lily now looks terrified. Why, I’m not really sure.
“Mia, I did…” she protests. “I do, I really do.”
“Why?” Mia asks, “so that you can have the opportunity to get closer to my brother?” She shakes her head before continuing. “Just leave, Lily. Leave now. We’ll talk about this later.” Mia won’t make eye-contact with her and Lily finally turns to leave.
“And Lily,” Mia calls out. She turns around. “There are a lot of people outside waiting for a story. The story is me leaving on my honeymoon with my husband. If you give them anything else besides you’re leaving because you don’t feel well, not only will I shun you for the rest of your life, but I’ll also make sure that you’re quite persona non-grata. Not a social circle on the west coast will come anywhere near you. And if you say anything adverse about my family including my sister-in-law, I’m sure my brother could make that nationwide and more than just social circles.”
“Worldwide,” Christian throws in, to Lily’s dismay. She looks at him with the most crestfallen look I’ve ever seen, except for maybe the one on the Pedophile right before they took her away. “I told you to leave me alone. You should have listened.”
That’s when she turns that horrible sour face to me.
“And stop looking at my wife that way!” Christian snaps, startling everyone in the general vicinity. “You look like that ugly rock fish.”
“Stonefish,” I correct him. I was trying to place what that face looked like and that’s it!
“Whatever. It’s ugly.” Christian gestures to Jason, who walks over to us. “Keep an eye on her,” he says. “She keeps throwing stinkfaces at my wife.” Lily gasps.
“I’m not going to do anything to your precious Anastasia!” She knows my name! Who knew? All this time, she acted like I didn’t exist.
“I know,” Christian retorts. “I’m just making sure you know, too,” he hisses. Lily and I both glare at him.
“How much money do you spend just watching people?” I blurt out before I think about it, but Christian and Jason are unfazed.
“Apparently, not enough,” he replies, “and I’m going to start giving the order to shoot first and ask questions later if the wrong person comes near you,” he adds without taking his eyes off Lily. Now he gets the stink face.
“You’re not all that, Christian,” she says. “I was just talking.”
“Yeah, well, my sister said she doesn’t want you here anymore, so talk while you’re walking.” She huffs indignantly and heads toward the entrance to the ballroom.
“You’re giving her more credit than I would,” I say to Mia, noting that she said she would talk to Lily later.
“I’m not giving her shit,” Mia says. “I just want her out with the least amount of drama possible. I never plan to see her again. We fell out because she was mad that I didn’t hook her up with Christian in the first place. She fell back in when she found out I was getting married. I should have known what she was really up to, that trifling skank.” Mia drops her head. “Now, I have no one to do my damn maid of honor toast.”
She stomps back towards the bride’s table and I feel totally responsible for this since I’m sort of the reason the tramp was kicked out of the reception.
“Mia!” I call after her. Mia stops midstride and turns to face me. “I’ll do it.” Her brow furrows, then her gaze softens.
“I can’t put you on the spot like that,” Mia says. “You already had to fill in for a vocalist who will never get another job again if I have anything to say about it!” she hisses. “Thank you for that, by the way. You guys were wonderful. You sounded better than the people we hired.”
So we were told.
“It’s no trouble, Mia,” I say softly, closing the space between us. “It’ll be something short and impromptu, but it’ll be sincere. Can you even imagine what Lily might’ve said if what you said about her is true?” Mia thinks for only a moment.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she says. “I have no idea what I would’ve have done without you today,” she says with a sigh. “I’ll let Skye know there’s a change in plans.” She smiles at me and heads to her wedding planner. I watch her walk away and roll my eyes. God, this day just keeps getting better and better.
Well, once we rid ourselves of one Lily in heat, my wife then volunteered herself to do the maid of honor toast. I don’t know why they couldn’t just let the best man do his toast and call it a day, but far be it from me to piss on somebody’s wedding. My baby had an idea to fix what was broken, and that’s fine by me.
As it turns out, Mia had come looking for Lily because it was time for the toast, so my wife is whisked away to charm the guests once more.
“For those of you who have been living under a rock and have not seen the tragedy that is my life unfolding for the last two years, I am Anastasia Grey.”
A huge round of applause and laughter fill the room at Butterfly’s not-so-flattering self-introduction and she curtsies on the stage.
“Thank you, you’re too kind. As you know, Mia is my sister-in-law through my husband, Christian. And it appears that I’m going to be pulling double duty tonight as the maid of honor unfortunately had to leave. I’ll apologize in advance because I was not prepared for this, so I’m just shooting from the hip, so please bear with me.
“First, I will, of course, begin by thanking our wonderful waitstaff who kept the food coming and the drinks flowing, our band, our wedding party, the wedding planners, the staff and security of Paramount Theater and of course, of Grey Enterprises Holdings for stepping up in a pinch, and certainly and not least of all, Carrick, for the bottomless checkbook!”
Another rousing round of applause and laughter as Dad stands and takes a dramatic bow while Mom and Mia laugh hysterically.
“The first time I met Mia, it was just over two years ago,” Butterfly begins, as the laugher dies down. “We bonded over the French language and Jimmy Choos.” Mia smiles at her. “Her brother called her ‘Meelo’ and she called him ‘Cwis’ and I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever heard. It made me long for a sibling, but more so, it helped me see that true love could never be tarnished.
“Mia likes to play. She’s a fun-lover, but make no mistake. She’s loyal to the point of murder.” More laughter fills the room. “I wish I was kidding about that. I’ve seen this little kitten turn into a wildcat when it comes to the people that she loves. I’m just glad to be one of the people that she loves.” Butterfly turns to Mia, who is clearly fighting back tears.
“I remember the night of their engagement,” Butterfly says. “Mia was doubting Ethan’s feelings for her and Ethan had planned to propose all along. The entire family was there. Mia screamed and we came running into the house like it was on fire…”
“Even then, Ethan proved that nothing was more important to him than Mia’s happiness and everything that I’ve seen since then has shown me more and more of the same. So, ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses to Ethan and Mia. We wish you all the love and happiness your hands and hearts can hold, and Ethan, she’s a real handful… and she’s all yours now!” There’s even more laughter as the theater raises their glasses and spouts various congratulations to my sister and her husband. Her speech was short and sweet and to the point. I’m sure whatever Lily had planned was going to be nothing like that.
My wife makes her way back to our table—and my arms—and I kiss her gently on the lips.
“You were eloquent and gracious as always, my love,” I tell her.
“Thank you, darling,” she says, sweetly. As I kiss my wife, the lights go down and there’s an announcement that the bride and groom will now have their first dance. A fog machine begins to fill the room with fog and an image of a night sky is projected over the floor and fog. It gives the room a blue, ethereal hue. A soft female voice begins to sing Mary Lambert’s version of “She Keeps Me Warm” and we see Rita Oro emerge onto the stage with the band as Mia and Ethan take their place on dancefloor and glide effortlessly through the fog.
I coax my beautiful wife from her seat and bring her to my lap, cuddling her in my arms and holding her close to me while pressing gentle kisses to her neck as we watch my sister and her new husband share their first dance. I think about our first dance in our castle and I’m filled with that same love all over again, that same newness I felt when she first became Mrs. Christian Grey.
“And I can’t change, even if it I tried…” I whisper in her ear, repeating the words to the song that I feel in my heart, that I couldn’t stop loving her no matter what happened in this life; that she would always mean the world to me and losing her would break me down to nothing. She melts in my arms and I feel so much love and warmth that I could just burst. She wraps her arms around my neck and snuggles into me, swaying with me in our seat as Mia and her husband—and now her wedding party—dance to Rita Oro’s serenade. I love her so much. I can’t see my life before or without her. Rita stops singing and I can’t seem to untangle myself from my wife.
“I won’t bother with the wisecracks. I’d be wasting my breath,” I hear Elliot’s voice.
“I think you would,” I retort. She uncurls herself from me and kisses me softly on the cheek.
“I love you,” she whispers.
“I love you more,” I reply.
“Not likely,” she says, and I smile.
“We’d be debating that one all night,” I say, stroking her cheek. she laughs, too.
“Yes, we would.” She strokes my hair. I kiss her on the cheek.
“Alright,” Mia says, breaking our lovefest, “enough of the sucky-kissy. Get on the floor and dance.”
“With. Pleasure,” I say, taking my wife’s hand and leading her to the dancefloor as yet another love song begins to play.
Dancing with my wife is one of my most favorite things to do—for several reasons. For one thing, I love to watch her move. It doesn’t matter if she’s gyrating that little body to a funky pop beat, or grinding to a sultry love song against me, I adore seeing her sway her hips back and forth and swirl those dainty hands in the air, and fling her hair to and fro. And when she touches me, when she pushes her hands up my chest under my jacket to the thump of some tribal beat, her when her fingertips caress my nape as I’m holding her close and we’re dancing to a slow song, I’m gazing in her eyes and seeing my future and every good thing that every has and could happen to me…
And one stupid fucker after another comes wandering up to me trying to get my attention. One after another, I ignore them until I just can’t take it anymore.
“Grey, how are you, man?” McFarley says, yet one more interruption while I’m trying to dance with Butterfly, and I continue to sway with my wife without acknowledging his presence.
“I say, Grey, how ya doin’ there?” He’s fucking not going to go away. Did he think I didn’t hear him? I’m looking at my wife like I’m starving and she’s lunch. Does he really think I prefer to look at him instead of her? I lift my gaze from my wife and turn my head to him.
“I’d be doing much better if you’d leave me the fuck alone,” I inform him. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m dancing with my wife. I’m not deaf, I’m ignoring you. Now, will you please take your rude ass to another part of the dancefloor and intrude on someone else’s space?”
I turn a fierce glare to him that silences him immediately and he almost scampers away from us. I turn my attention back to my wife.
“You know it’s just going to continue all night,” she says. “If they could have gotten away with interrupting you at dinner, they would have.” She gently strokes my nape to comfort me. I have to admit, it’s working.
“I know,” I reply, “and I know that I may end up talking business with someone before the night is over, but I choose that discussion. They’re not going to swarm in on me like I’m Don Corleone and this is Minnie’s wedding.” I tighten my arms around her waist and deliberately rest my hands on the top of that luscious ass. “And they certainly aren’t going to interrupt me while I’ve got this body in my arms.”
And I’m a man of my word. Dance after dance after dance I spend on the floor ignoring probably dozens of interruptions until my wife declares that her feet hurt and she can no longer trip the light fantastic. We walk gingerly back to our table and I put her feet in my lap. I remove those delicious sandals from those dainty little feet and begin to massage those dainty little toes. My poor wife is doing her best not to make sounds of ecstasy in the seat next to me, but she’s not doing a very good job. So, she just closes her eyes and lets the chips fall where they may. It’s a good thing Herman and Luma have taken the girls home, because these sounds are a bit obscene, and I can’t help the smile that creeps over my lips at the looks we’re getting from other people who aren’t dancing.
“I see you’re a little too big to fit under my porch.”
I look over my shoulder and see the kindly old face of the woman that used to leave me lemonade and cookies, that is, before I took up with the Pedophile.
“Aunt Tina,” I say, with fond affection. She laboriously bends and kisses me on the cheek. “I would stand, but…” I gesture to the feet of my nearly catatonic wife.
“Oh, don’t you dare,” she says, making her way to the chair next to me. “What I wouldn’t give to have Samuel around to massage my feet, God rest his soul. She’s a pretty little thing,” she says, gesturing to Butterfly.
“She’s my whole world,” I say, gazing at my wife, “her, and my children, that is,” I correct, looking back at my childhood confidante. “How are the kids? I know they’re not kids anymore.”
“Hardly,” she says. “Have kids of their own, and some of them have kids of their own,” she laughs. “It’s been a good life for me, Christian. These old bones are tired.” My brow furrows.
“Why are you talking like that, Aunt Tina?” I ask. “You’re not well?” She shakes her head.
“Doctors give me six months, maybe a year if I do chemo, but my body’s just too weak for it. Look at me, I can barely stand. My children want me to do the chemo, but what kind of quality of life would that be for me if I’m going anyway?” I sigh, my heart suddenly heavy.
“Oh, Tina,” I lament.
“Now, none of that!” she scolds gently. “I’m 91 years old. I’ve had a wonderful life. I couldn’t have asked for more. I have beautiful children and grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren. None of my babies died before me. Yes, my Samuel went home, but it was his time to go, and he had a good life, too. We built a home and a good life; he left me comfortable. We’re leaving our children and their children comfortable. I have no regrets, not one! So, don’t you be frettin’ me and feelin’ sorry for me and makin’ me feel sorry for myself, okay?” she scolds. Aunt Tina always had a way of putting me in my place. If I had continued to come to her porch more often, maybe I wouldn’t have fallen into the clutches of a child molester, but then there’s a string of what if’s in my life.
“So… are any of the kids back home with you right now?” She nods.
“Harmony came home,” she says. “She and her husband separated last year. Things just didn’t work out. She was on the fence about what she wanted to do anyway. She finished school and the divorce still isn’t final, yet, so there’s that. She’s doing some work-at-home thing so that she can be close in case I need her. She doesn’t need to work—she just wants to stay busy, I think.”
“What is her degree in?” I ask.
“She’s got a BS in social work.” I look over at Butterfly, who appears to have drifted off into a massage-induced nap. I reach into my jacket and pull out my phone. Swiping the screen, I open my contacts.
“Can you put her information in there?” I ask. “Helping Hands may be able to use her services, if she’s interested. I’ll pass her information onto my wife and mother and they can give her a call.” Tina smiles and takes my phone, enters Harmony’s information, and hands it back to me.
“Your commercial still runs sporadically,” Tina says, handing the phone back to me. I examine the information to familiarize myself with it before saving it. “She saw it once and mentioned that she’d like to get involved in something like that. She’ll be glad to know that you offered to have Ana and Grace give her a call.” Almost on cue, Mom and Dad return to the table.
“Tina, you look lovely,” Mom says, bending to kiss Aunt Tina on the cheek. “I’m so glad you could make it. How are you feeling, dear?”
“This is one of my better days,” Tina smiles. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. I would have had Harmony roll me in her if I hadn’t been up to it,” she adds with a laugh.
“Where is Harmony?” Mom asks.
“She’s around,” Tina says, scanning the room for her daughter.
“Oh, she’s here,” I ask, in surprise. Mom looks at me, bemused. “Tina was telling me that Harmony has finished her bachelor studies in social work. I have her phone number and was going to pass it on to you or Butterfly to talk to her about possibly being of some use at Helping Hands.”
“Being of some use? Are you serious?” Butterfly is awake as if she’s been taking part in the entire conversation the whole time. “Who are we talking about? A bachelor’s degree in social work? Where?” She’s as bright as bunny like she wasn’t out cold just seconds earlier. I can’t help the laugh that escapes me.
“Butterfly, I don’t think you’ve formally met Tina Franklin. She’s a dear friend of the family.” Aunt Tina extends a shaky hand to my wife. Butterfly removes her feet from my lap and reaches the distance across me to ease Tina’s difficulty.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, dear,” Tina says.
“The pleasure in mine, Ms. Franklin,” Butterfly smiles.
“Tina, dear, please,” she says.
“You may remember that I told you I used to sneak under Tina’s porch and she would give me lemonade and cookies,” I say. No realization comes across Butterfly’s face.
“Did you tell me this before or after…?” She trails off. I take her hand.
“Before,” I say softly. She nods and smiles sadly at Tina.
“He’s probably told me the story,” she says. “Unfortunately, as you most likely already know, I had a terrible accident last year and I’ve lost a lot of my memories.”
“Don’t you worry your sweet little heart about it, dear,” Aunt Tina says. “We hold on to the important stuff.” She winks at Butterfly. “We were talking about my daughter, Harmony. She’s back home now to take care of me and may soon be looking for some way to put her degree to use. I’ve already given Christian her number in case you or Grace want to contact her…” My wife glances over at me.
“I asked for it,” I tell her, fearing that she may be having flashbacks of “the mothers and the daughters.”
“I didn’t say anything,” she says with a laugh. Tina chuckles.
“With a face and bod like that, I’d watch him like a hawk, too, dear,” Tina says impassively. Mom and Butterfly burst into laughter. Dad just shakes his head.
“I’m so glad that you two are having such fun at my expense.” My wife turns a scrutinizing eye to me, still laughing.
“I have one word for you,” she says, crossing her arms. “Lily.”
“Oh, that’s why she’s not here,” Dad says.
“Yeah, that’s why she’s not here,” Butterfly confirms.
“Lily,” Tina chuckles. “There’s a piece of work… and did I see Courtney here?”
“You… may have,” Butterfly says nervously.
“I thought Addie sent her home,” Tina says.
“She did,” Butterfly says. “Courtney decided to stay and make it on her own. She’s asked that I don’t inform her grandparents.”
“That may be a moot point if they bump into each other,” Tina points out. I look at Butterfly, who shrugs.
“I won’t engineer a meeting, but I’ve told her several times that I think she needs to talk to her grandparents,” Butterfly begins.
“As have I,” Mom chimes in. “She’s quite a different woman from who she was a year ago.”
“Yes,” Tina says, “anyone can see that just from looking at her.” Butterfly looks at her in amazement.
“You can?” Butterfly asks. Several surprised eyes turn to my wife. “Well, think about it. I’m with her all the time. I know there’s an emotional and a character change, but if there’s a physical change, it’s been gradual, so I wouldn’t notice it.”
“Well, there has,” Tina says. “I only observed her for a few minutes with her companion, but she carries herself much differently. She looks, behaves, and speaks like a lady. I’ve watched her for years and I’ve never seen this Courtney…” She turns to me. “… Just like I’ve never seen this Christian.” She looks at my wife. “You have an amazing effect on people, dear. My Harmony doesn’t need any fixing, but if you have this kind of effect on the people who do, I’d love for you to meet her.” Butterfly smiles shyly.
The Butterfly effect… I keep telling people just how powerful it is.
“Tell me, why doesn’t she want to talk to Addie and Fred? I won’t say anything—it’s not my place, but I’m just curious.”
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Butterfly responds. “When people talk to me, a lot of what they say falls under doctor/patient privilege. It’s hard for me to draw a line, so to be safe, I’m mum on all of it.”
“Well, there’s no privilege here,” Mom says. “I’ll still be discreet, though. I’d hate to betray her confidence. Short version, there was some very hurtful things said and Courtney thinks it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie than to open old wounds.” Tina shakes her head.
“She couldn’t be more wrong,” she says. “Life is too short, too precious. You never know which day is going to be your last. She’s going to have to rectify this or she’s going to regret it for the rest of her life.”
“Hear, hear,” Mom says.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Butterfly says.
“There you are.” Our attention is drawn to an attractive, young brunette with a very short haircut who has made her way to our table. “I was talking to Greg and Lisa, and I turned around and you were gone.” Tina smiles an accommodating smile.
“And now I know how she felt when she was six years old,” Tina jests, eliciting a laugh from us. “This is may daughter, Harmony, everyone. Harmony, you remember Grace and Carrick…” Harmony extends her hand.
“Yes, I do. It’s good to see you again,” she says, greeting them both with handshakes and cheek kisses.
“And I don’t know if you met Christian,” Tina says. Harmony extends her hand to me.
“A little out of my age rank, but of course, I’ve heard of you. It’s nice to meet you, Christian,” she says, shaking my hand. She’s considerably younger than me, maybe early twenties at best, and already separated… that’s sad.
“Likewise,” I reply, politely.
“And this is his wife, Anastasia,” Tina completes the introductions.
“The other half of the famous AnaChris,” Harmony says, extending her hand. “You’re even more beautiful in person,” she adds sincerely.
“Brownie points for you!” Butterfly exclaims, accepting her hand while everyone chuckles. “We were just talking about you. Your mom informs us that you’ve recently completed your bachelors studies in social work.” Harmony throws a loving glance at her mother.
“Mom’s very proud of that,” she says, and I can imagine that Tina has probably mentioned it to anyone who will listen. “Yes, I just finished my studies in June. It was… difficult, but I got through.”
“So, what are your plans from here?” Butterfly asks.
“Well, I need my master’s before I can be licensed, so I start those classes next week. Luckily, since I’ve already secured my bachelors, I can complete my master’s in a year instead of two.”
“Tina says you’re working,” I ask. “You’re going to do them both?” And take care of your mother.
“No,” she admits. “I was only working to fill the time. An idle mind and all that,” she says, waving off the topic. Butterfly and Harmony are off on the topic at hand and I scan the room looking for Courtney. I admit that I can’t find her anywhere. Granted, the venue is huge, but I know what she looks like and I should be able to pick her out of the crowd. Tina puts her hand over mine on the table.
“Elena has been writing to me from prison,” she says. My chest immediately tightens at the mention of that woman’s name. “She’s talking about being reformed and such. She’s quite destitute.”
I don’t react. I don’t really want to know how Elena’s doing at all.
“She asks about you often,” Tina says. “I put together that years ago, you were one of her boys.” My eyes widen.
“You did?” I ask in horror. She nods.
“Yes,” she says. “I don’t blame you. Teenage boys think with their dicks. As a man though…” She trails off.
“I know,” I say, pushing my hands through my hair. “I know, Aunt Tina. I want you to know that as soon as I figured it out, I went on a mission to bring her down. I’m the reason she was caught. I found the boys that she was molesting.” Tina nods.
“I know, and I think she knows, too. She’s not certain, but you know that she never takes responsibility for anything that she does. I truly believe that she’s no threat up there in prison, and her letters are the rantings of a crazy woman, but I don’t know who else she’s writing to.”
I hear her warning loud and clear. Elena’s reach from prison is what caused Butterfly to be called before the licensing board on trumped-up charges of sexual misconduct. I may need to find out just who she’s been talking to in the weeks since our last visit.
“Thanks for the heads up, Aunt Tina,” I tell her.
“Anytime,” she says with a smile. “And now, I think it’s time my chaperone got me home. It’s getting to be past my bedtime. And if you get a chance, come on by and have some lemonade and some cookies for old times sake, okay? I’ve always got ‘em. And I’ll understand if you don’t, but always remember that Aunt Tina loves you… and I’m so proud of you.”
She leans forward and places a tender kiss on my cheek. I close my hand over hers.
“I’ll never forget you, Aunt Tina, and you’ll always have a place in my heart.” She cups my face and smiles. I help her out of her seat and Harmony is by her side in a moment.
“We’ll talk. You have my card,” Butterfly says.
“Sure thing,” Harmony nods. “Come on, Mom, let’s get you home.” I put my arm around my wife’s waist and watch Harmony lead Aunt Tina out of the theater, knowing that this may be the last time I see her.
“Why is it that the only time family and friends really come together is for events like this?” I ask. “Weddings and the like?” I never take my eyes off Tina’s retreating back.
“We get caught up in the mundane tasks of life,” Butterfly says after a pause. “We keep meaning to call someone, meaning to catch up with someone or go have lunch, drop by or say ‘hi…’ and then we get that call.” I turn my gaze to her. “That call that there’s bad news or the doctors don’t have any hope…”
I turn back to the exit and Aunt Tina and Harmony have left.
“… That there’s been an accident,” I say, my voice cracking, “or they need a kidney… or there’s cancer…” I feel my wife’s hand on my chest and I turn back to look at her, her beautiful blue eyes full of sympathy. I wrap my arms around her and bask in her love, so glad that I didn’t lose her last year when that crazy submissive T-boned her car.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the bride and groom to cut the cake!”
Good Lord, I thought they had already cut the cake. It’s late! Let’s just get this over and done.
So… now, I see that two of the huge things hiding in the corners behind these huge drapes are cakes—not just any cakes, the bride’s and groom’s cakes. Now, I’m one of the most ostentatious fuckers that ever lived. I am the epitome of go big or go home, but these cakes are the most extreme displays of largess and waste that I’ve ever seen in my life. Whoever created these monstrosities should be ashamed of the man-hours and materials invested in their manufacture with the level of starvation going on in the world right now. These two monstrosities are unveiled from the corners and the crowd rightfully gasps in amazement.
The cakes are on platforms that are rolled to the center of the floor in front of the stage on cranes. The cakes are nearly impossible to describe. Ethan’s WTF expression says it all.
Mia’s cake is a seven-layer intricate creation of flowers, columns, and tiers. The base of the cake is at least five to six feet in diameter and the first layer is quite possibly two feet thick. Each additional layer gets thinner until the top layer is about a foot thick—maybe the thickness of an average cake. All in all, the cake itself without the platform, is probably about ten feet tall, with realistic flowers and columns and bridges and balustrades and intricate details that are probably all edible. I don’t even know how they assembled the damn thing.
The groom’s cake is worse. It’s a castle—a fucking castle, complete with blue towers… several towers, something like twelve or fifteen of them! The castle is white with bricks and windows and doors and battlements and stairs and more flowers at a base that’s wider than Mia’s. Oh, and there are lights inside.
The cakes are so large that Mia and Ethan complete disappear behind them and must make their way around to the front of the bride’s cake in order to cut it. And what utensil is presented to them to cut the cake?
A sword… a fucking sword. Nothing else is long enough to reach the cake.
I shake my head in pure disgust. If every guest on Mia’s insane guest list took home a serving of cake equal to an entire normal cake, there would still more cake left over than anybody knew what to do with. There still must be enough filet mignon and duck confit prepared in the kitchen to feed a fucking army because I sure as hell didn’t order lobster until I got here, so there had to be enough food on hand to handle contingencies. This level of waste is abhorrent, and I have to find out what they’re going to do with the leftovers from this wedding.
“You don’t look happy at all,” my wife observes. I shake my head.
“Look at those cakes, Anastasia,” I say, my face hurting from frowning. “I spent the first four years of my life in squalor—starving, in agony—and somewhere, right now, in this city, there’s another child feeling that same pain and she’s got those.” I point in dismay at the ridiculous cakes. “I understand wanting the best—I really, really do, but this…” I gesture at the monstrous creations again. “There’s no explanation or excuse whatsoever for that.”
My brain immediately starts running through the calculations of what the pounds and pounds of flour it took to make those cakes could have done for the homeless—bread for sandwiches and pasta for entire meals. It’s probably a ridiculous concept right now, but with all the philanthropic causes that I support behind the scenes, this is exactly where my mind goes when I see something so utterly wasteful. Yes, I spend extravagant money on things for myself and my wife and children, but I am equally generous in my humanitarian endeavors, because they’re just that important to me.
“Maybe we should step outside,” my wife says, turning around in my arms, her expression serious, “or out in the lobby and take a picture or three—get away from this scene for a while.” I shake my head, more to shake off the figures of what I know those insane cakes costs and how that money could have been put to such better use.
“No, I’ll be fine. I’m fine,” I say, attempting to appear normal.
“No, Christian, you’re not,” my wife says firmly. I look down into her eyes and she stares at me. “You just called me Anastasia.”
Shit, did I? I try to review my words in my head, but I can’t remember. I just… I can’t believe those fucking cakes. I look back at my sister and her husband and they’re beaming, laughing and feeding each other hunks of what had better be the most luscious and delicious cake ever made by human hands!
“I’m sorry, baby,” I say, running my hands through my hair, “I expected a three-ring circus, but as God is my witness, I didn’t expect this.”
“Don’t apologize,” she says, gently rubbing my chest. “Shots were fired for the goddamn wedding kiss, for fuck’s sake. When the minister said, ‘You may salute your bride,’ she was literally fucking saluted!” That makes me chuckle a bit, but did little to comfort my unease about the level of excess I’m witnessing tonight. I hold my wife close to me and sigh into her hair. I wonder how often shit like this was going on when I was hungry, hiding under the kitchen table or in the closet, praying that fucker wasn’t lighting another cigarette…?
“Bro, you okay? You look sick.” Elliot’s voice brings me back to the here and now, and I have to say that I’m glad it did. I had no idea I had slipped back into the squalor of the lost boy because of a fucking wedding cake.
“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m anything but fine. I have to find out what she’s doing with this leftover food. I will personally spend the night having this shit sent to a GEH facility for storage and distributed to the homeless and hungry tomorrow if I have to.
“He’s not, but there’s nothing that can be done about it, so don’t ask,” my wife says, her tone serious as she wraps her arms protectively around my waist and lays her head on my chest. It’s comforting, and it keeps the monsters away.
“That’s some cake, huh?” Elliot says, holding Val close to him.
“Yeah,” I sigh, “that’s some cake.” Elliot turns to look at me.
“She always was over-the-top, bro,” he says, and I hear the sympathy in his voice. “You couldn’t expect this to be any different.” I look over and meet his gaze.
“Yeah, I know.” I look back at the ridiculous cake and watch as it appears that they are setting up for some other performance or something in the middle of the room.
“It’s the food thing… isn’t it?” he asks. I look at him again and he doesn’t break his gaze. “You used to take food from the table and shove it in your pockets. You hid it in your room. You hid it in the treehouse. You hid it places and forgot about it. Mom would find it all the time. I didn’t know what was wrong with you, so I asked Mom. She told me that before you came to live with us, you didn’t have enough to eat, that you were often hungry, and that you were afraid that you were going to be hungry again. It explained why every single time at every single meal you ate every single thing on your plate. That’s why I always slipped you my Brussel sprouts when Mom wasn’t looking.”
I remember that.
“You never took more than you could eat; you never left anything behind; and you often got irritated with anybody who did. Even now, you still clean your plate. You don’t leave a morsel behind.”
I never knew my brother paid that close attention to me. I didn’t know that I still exercised those practices, either. I have serious issues with wasted food, but I try not to impose my issues on others, and I try not to be anal about them in my eating habits, but apparently…
“And now…” He gestures at the two obscenely large edifices that pose as cakes behind Mia and Ethan, and I’m just realizing that in our back-flashing of my food issues, we’ve missed the bouquet toss. No matter—I wouldn’t have been able to watch it with the lavish wasteful confections as a backdrop anyway.
“Well, that’s our cue, bro,” Elliot says. “The Caribbean is calling our names. If we wait any longer, we’re going to miss our flight.”
I almost forgot that he’s going to be leaving on his honeymoon as well tonight. All of our lives were put on hold when we got word that Pops didn’t have long left to live. I was planning to take my wife to Rome this summer for our first anniversary. That was a big no-go.
“You guys have a great time and a safe trip,” I tell him, shaking his hand.
“Tell her we stayed as long as we could, but it was either sneak out or crash the garter ritual.” He shrugs.
“I’ll tell her. Get going.” I pat him on the back in a bro-hug. Butterfly is hugging Valerie and wishing her a safe trip, making her promise to take lots of pictures. We send them off to say goodbye to Mom and Dad as we turn out attention back to floorshow of the girl who caught the bouquet and the guy who caught the garter. Apparently, I missed them both. How, I have no idea.
My wife attempts to comfort me throughout the minutiae of other things occurring in the next several minutes of the reception or so—bubbles appear from somewhere and there’s a dance line of some sort. I’m glad to see that those monstrous cakes are wacked up all to hell, but there’s still a whole lot of them left, and I do get to see those solid gold inscribed boxes Elliot referred to earlier. I’m waiting for an opportunity to get my sister alone, just a moment or two, and it’s like the girls on the sidewalk when I was a kid waiting for a chance to jump in on jump-rope. As soon as I get my chance though…
“Mia, a minute?” She examines me.
“I know that face, big brother. What did I do?’ Geez. I don’t want to scold her on her wedding day. How do I approach this? I suddenly feel like a kid about to ask his mother for a forbidden lollipop.
“I… um… if you don’t have prior arrangements… there’s… quite a few leftovers and… well… that’s a lot of cake, and…” I sigh. She chuckles.
“This is about the food thing, isn’t it?” she asks, and now I’m gape-mouthed.
“You know about the food thing?” I ask, amazed.
“Of course, I know about the food thing,” she says, obviously. “We all know about the food thing, Cwis, we love you.”
I’m standing here literally scratching my head. How did I not know they knew?
Because I never let them in.
Mia puts her hand on my arm.
“Did you think Mom didn’t know you were eating Elliot’s Brussel sprouts?” she asks, raising her eyebrows. I just shake my head and scratch my eyebrows.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you going to do with all the leftover food?” I ask. She smiles.
“Find a program,” she says. “Page ten, bottom left.” She kisses me on the cheek and walks away into a crowd of guests.
I nearly have to scour the entire theater to find a program that hasn’t been claimed by someone. I quickly flip to the back of the book and go to page ten and scan to the bottom left.
**Remaining food and confections from today’s festivities will be donated and distributed among the following charities:
Compass Housing Alliance
Pioneer Square’s Union Gospel Mission
St. Martin De Porres
Sacred Heart Shelter
The list is so long that I don’t have time to read all the names. I fall into a large seat nearby, a huge weight having been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like it was my responsibility and mine alone to be sure this food didn’t go to waste. It’s. So. Much. Food. And somebody somewhere is painfully hungry like that little boy under the kitchen table while all this food is sitting here going God only knows where.
But it’s not going God only knows where. She’s going to make sure that it goes to someone who needs it. It won’t go to waste.
I breathe again.
I feel light.
I feel so much better.
Thank you, Mia.
Good God, thank you.
A/N: Christian references Don Corleone because in movie The Godfather, the Don is required to receive anyone who requests an audience on the day of his daughter’s wedding.
Part II of the wedding is complete. On to part III!
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