Welcome back to Tuesday Tales. This is a blog hop where we share our wip with you the readers. There aren’t too many weeks of Wedding Bell Blues left before it goes to the publisher, but this morning you’re invited to a wedding!
MJ stared at the face in the mirror. The makeup artist had deepened the slight tan she’d acquired so that she looked less pale and had pulled her loose curls up behind her left ear, securing them with a sprig of island greenery complete with a beautiful, red gumamela, better known as a double-petal hibiscus, behind her left ear. A matching bouquet would complement the look.
“I’d originally chosen white based on the picture your mother showed me. It’s a good thing the manager gave us a head’s up,” Kate said, fussing with the hair ornament. “Given the color of your hair, white would’ve washed you out under the lights. Red works much better. How are you feeling?”
“Nervous, scared—no make that terrified. Didn’t I read somewhere that the camera adds ten pounds?” she tried to joke but wasn’t sure she’d pulled it off.
“I don’t think you have to worry about that,” Kate said. “You look fantastic, and that gown was made for you. Honestly, you’re the most beautiful bride I’ve seen in a long time.”
“Seriously? I’ve watched more than a few episodes of the show, and Mr. Rich has gorgeous women on it almost every day.”
“Yeah, but I don’t work at the studio. I freelance.” She chuckled. “I go with Louis when he’s on location. For me this is a part-time gig, but I love it.”
Giles stepped into the room, the curtain, swishing closed behind him.
“Wow! Kate, you’ve done it again, not that this one needed much work.”
“That’s for sure,” the girl said shaking her head. “I added a little color, and of course waterproofed it as the boss requested.”
“Fantastic job as always. Well, Ms. Summers are you ready to become Mrs. Davis?”
MJ smiled and nodded. She would be thrilled to be Mrs. Davis if the words passing between them meant what they said. She stood and wobbled on her feet, as if the world had somehow tilted on its axis. Maybe she shouldn’t have had that third glass of champagne.
“Kate, better follow along just in case,” Giles said.
In case of what? Her headpiece wasn’t going anywhere and Kate had said the makeup was waterproof. What were they planning to do? Toss her into the ocean when the ceremony was over? She was warm enough right now, that might actually feel good, but the gown wouldn’t do well.
“Shall we?” Giles offered her his arm. “As soon as you step through the curtain, you’ll be on camera, and while you aren’t miked, there are quite a few out there to pick up ambient sound. Paul’s microphone will pick up your exchange of vows or whatever the French call this noce civil’s answers. You do say something, right?”
“Yes, but it isn’t much. Basically he speaks and we tell him we understand. Monsieur St. Louis went through it all with us earlier this morning when we signed the marriage contract.”
“Good. After that’s finished, the padre will perform a typical American vow exchange—”
“Padre?” she asked, feeling the Earth start to spin again. “Padre as in church official? I thought this was just a civil ceremony. No one said anything about a priest or a minister.”
“I thought someone had told you. Mr. Rich pulled a few strings with the military and the French government. While the marriage vows exchanged here tonight won’t be binding in France, the military chaplain from Puerto Rico will perform a marriage ceremony that the United States government will honor and accept.”
“Why?” The word was the only one she could think of.
“Louis talked to your mother, and we found out your legal wedding wasn’t going to be held until Thanksgiving. That would be rather anticlimactic for the show, so he’s making it happen now. Basically, Mr. Rich has a lot of clout, and a real wedding is so much more satisfying for the millions of viewers out there. Congratulations. Don’t look so stunned. This is a dream come true, right?”
MJ swallowed the lump in her throat. Hadn’t she known something else would go wrong? This was a comedy of errors, and it was all aimed at her. Fate? Quimbois Magic? Murphy’s Law? Whatever was responsible—and it could well be all three. Clutching the chair instead of reaching for Giles’s arm, she exhaled slowly, feeling the tension moving into her chest.
I will not have an asthma attack in front of millions of people.
“Does Paul know about the padre?” she asked, grateful her voice worked and that she’d used her inhaler earlier.
And the hits just keep on coming!
“He does, and he’s thrilled.”
Liar! He’s probably as upset and terrified as I am and hiding it, which is what I have to do.
There was no backing out of this now. Pasting a smile on her face, the one she reserved for the “Oh my God, shoot me now,” moments in her life, she stepped away from the chair, wishing the earth would open up and swallow her. Where was a sinkhole, earthquake, or volcanic eruption when you needed one?
“My mother will be disappointed. Waiting until Thanksgiving so she could be there is the reason Paul and I didn’t elope,” she answered, wondering if her argument could sway them just a bit and make them forget about the second part of the ceremony. Of course, if she had any backbone, she would say no, enough is enough, but if Paul was determined to do this … It didn’t really matter in the long run. A divorce was probably easier to get than an annulment. Besides, once this charade ended, she would have to leave Watertown, just as she’d left Stilton, so if the diocese decided to nullify her contract, she’d have to find another job, too.
As the poem Marmion said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!”
Giles put his hand over hers on his arm.
“We knew you’d feel that way, so…”
The curtain opened, and MJ blinked at the lights shining on her, almost blinding her. Almost…
“Mama?” she whispered, wondering if the champagne was making her hallucinate, grateful Giles was holding her; otherwise, she would fall flat on her ass. “What are you doing here?”
“What do you think I’m doing?” Mama said and laughed. “My only daughter is getting married. I’m here to give you away.” She blinked her eyes, trying to stem the tears, but the shine gave her away. Your father would be so proud right now.”
MJ gazed into her mother’s face registering three things simultaneously. Mama wore a beautiful, pale green gown, one she could never have afforded in a hundred years. With emerald and crystal jewelry, her Mediterranean heritage was more pronounced than ever. Her hair, peppered with gray the last time she’d seen her—had that really only been five days ago?—had been colored a deep, rich brown, and cut and styled expertly, which made her look younger and brought out the deep brown of her eyes. She hadn’t seen Mama looking this happy since Papa died. There was no way MJ could tell the truth now. No way could she hurt the woman who’d done so much for her all through the years. Like it or not, she was in this for the long run. She and Paul would have to make the best of it because she would not break Mama’s heart again.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, feeling her own eyes start to tear. “Where are you staying?”
“As much as I’d love to stay on the island, I’m sleeping on the treasure hunting ship tonight and flying back to New York in the morning. The one thing you don’t need on your honeymoon is your mother. But I brought you something.” She opened her small purse and pulled out a linen handkerchief, embroidered with pale blue forget-me-nots. “Tuck it inside your bag. My grandmother gave me this when I married your father. It’s your turn to have it.”
“Then I need it on me,” MJ said, tucking the tiny linen square, a family good luck piece, inside her bra.
“Mrs. Stevens? They’re ready for us.”
“Yes, of course.” Mama put her arm through MJ’s just as the traditional music started.
MJ looked up and saw Paul step up onto the small stage with the sunset in the background and gasped. She’d never seen him in uniform before.
Smiling, she and Mama walked toward him. If she lived to be a hundred, she would never forget the look of joy and pride on his face. She would make this marriage work because she believed in forever and happily ever after.
If there is some Quimbois magic at work here, please make it last.
That’s it for this week. Please take the time to check out the other selections on Tuesday Tales.