Monday, April 28, 2014
Pride and Princesses The Wedding chapter 26
Mouche and I were silent junior bridesmaids. It was a beautiful, solemn but joyous occasion, just as a wedding should be. They had a great band playing memorable songs and beautiful flowers adorning the aisles with garlands to decorate the reception tables afterwards.
What was left of the brief fall we’d had led to a slight layer of orange crunch covering the ground and an even briefer winter which had left the slightest amount of snow. The first time it had snowed in Sunrise in thirty years, according to Mark’s aunt. The whole town was there, practically the entire school and all the parents of the Sunrise Parents and Teachers Association gathered in synchronicity. It was just the Princesses and Mouche and I who seemed to have some socialization issues. We were dressed (to add to Mouche’s disgust) in pink. I liked the dresses, and I heard Mouche grudgingly admit to Teegan once she had hers properly fitted, that she liked them too.
By the day of the wedding we had consolidated the dates. After the play, the mix-ups and the dates, came the joining of two like souls in Holy Matrimony. We all had little notes in our inboxes and final drafts of the content of the blog, which was yet to be published on the internet. We still hadn’t had our final group meeting, because none of us were talking.
At the reception that followed Mr Frames” marriage to Miss Love, Jet couldn’t take his eyes off Mouche as she sat at her table between Mark and Jet. How was it she had managed not to come between those two friends? Were the boys actually more mature than the girls or was it just that they’d never let a petty emotion like jealousy get in the way of enjoying life? I think probably the latter.
Mark looked at me then smiled and walked over to speak.
“Phoebe, I’m so sorry about what happened...backstage and all that. Seems like I spend half my life apologising to you.”
“Mmm… seems like it.” I wasn’t convinced.
Suddenly Joel appeared like my knight in shining armour.
Mark scowled at him, turned and walked over to Mouche, then asked her to dance.
“Phoebe Harris I missed you more than words can say,” Joel said.
I wanted to laugh. I didn’t believe a word Joel said and if he hadn’t taken my hand before I stood up I would never have danced with him.
“I’m sure you had far too much to do in New York to think about me...”
“I emailed you hundreds of times,” Joel said in a mocking way.
“That, I find hard to believe, since I only have two emails. It was quite thrilling to hear all about your travels. I didn’t think you’d be back here in a hurry.” I said sarcastically.
Joel seemed to sense I knew something about his past that he hadn’t told me, like what an irresponsible individual he’d been, lying to me and manipulating all the people in his path, including Mark’s sister.
“I couldn’t miss the entire semester. Besides, Miss Love was almost totally responsible for giving me a glowing reference that encouraged the Deputy Principal to re-think my exclusion from school...so here I am...”
“Here you are,” I said absently, searching the room for Mark.
Joel took my hands in his. They were surprisingly warm and not at all clammy which had to mean he had many good qualities yet to be discovered. I figured I’d let someone else discover them.
I glanced around the room as we danced. The Sunrise Hall was decked out in strobe light splendour. As the dinner dishes were being cleared, dessert was served, mood music began to play and the night wore on.
Teegan brought her date, Jack Adams, the film buff. They’d somehow hit it off in the back of the projection room with Teegan taking “our rules” very seriously, playing hard to get, then finally relenting and letting him know she was interested in him. Jack seemed to like her approach and gave her a box of Coco Mademoiselle perfume for her birthday. Dutifully, she added it to the holding locker which was now crammed full of surprises, as well as a diary filled to the brim with notes due to be uploaded onto our anonymous site.
Tory was with Tom Allen and his Blackberry which he had switched on to silent. He was checking shares for the stock club, which had dwindled dramatically in popularity but Tory had followed every rule in our guide and all of them had worked out brilliantly with Tom. He wasn’t very generous at first. But by the third date, he presented her with his sister’s ice-skates, unopened, left lying in a box after she ’d abandoned them and gone to prep school in upstate New York. Their date was at the Sunrise ice-rink and very romantic, according to Tory, who seemed to have all but forgotten about Mark Knightly. Don’t ask me why. “Anyway those ice-skates will be perfect for skating in winter at the Rockefeller centre,” Tory said wistfully as she placed the new white skates next to a previously gifted pair.
Brooke wore a somewhat sullen expression underneath her apricot winter hat and had straightened her curls in honour of the day. She’d managed to entice Peter Williamson to visit for a weekend with her and her very wealthy parents at one of the lake resorts. They occupied separate wings at the resort because there was no way either Peter’s or Brooke’s parents would have considered any other arrangement. Brooke desperately tried to pull off more than rule one ‘the kiss,’ and didn’t even achieve that. However, to thank Brooke for her hospitality, Peter had very sweetly insisted on buying Brooke the sunglasses she’d admired in the resort gift shop window. They weren’t exactly Chanel but they were the latest style and we arranged them nicely on the top she lf of our now bulging treasure chest.
Freya had arranged to go to an art gallery opening with Josh Klein who spent the entire evening talking about his passion for playing the violin and why he loved the early works of Picasso. Freya was so surprised by how much he knew about the world of life and art that she had bypassed rules one to three and gone straight to collecting proof (in the form of an old-fashioned photo booth – she had resorted to kissing Josh in there before he’d had any chance to protest) and had even forgotten about collecting a “gift” for our treasure chest. It was good that he had agreed to accompany her to the wedding.
“He didn’t freak out like Mrs Jones’ Guide suggested he might,” Freya said. He had, of course, loaned her his mother’s cashmere coat and it would be at least six months before Mrs Klein missed this particular item from her extensive wardrobe. Freya didn’t ask questions once she had claimed her prey.
None of them (that we knew) had secured Mark for the prom and we had, in fact, heard that he was due back in London for the holidays. He was going with Mouche - or not at all. We weren’t surprised to notice him ignore us or to see Jet glance lovingly at Mouche as our teachers said their traditional vows.
Wednesday had come along because Miss Love desperately needed a flower girl and all the children she taught were teenagers and Wednesday was happy to be dressed like a little princess in crown and “diamonds” for the day. She currently sat under the table with the page boy (Miss Tartt’s nephew, Timmy) playing pick-up sticks.
My cousin Ella and Mouche’s cousin Katie made a brief appearance. Ella resumed a conversation with Joel (whom she had met in the local candy store just hours after he’d arrived back from the airport). If I’d been paying more attention, I probably would have noticed Ella flirting with Joel, but I was busily finishing dessert and wondering how best to approach Mouche again by then.
Now that the Princesses were playing by their own rules their dates had gone surprisingly well. The boys seemed flattered and thrilled that these girls had taken the initiative to ask them out and who could have predicted their basically generous natures would rub off on the Princesses.
Let’s face it, love was making everyone kinder.
Everyone that is, except Mouche, me, Jet and Mark.
We were all more confused than ever.
And there was Petra. She may have been too young for a serious boyfriend, but she would certainly benefit from the company of good friends. Instead of socializing she arrived late and sat isolated in a corner. I found her a seat at my table for the entree (delicious lobster mornay and crunchy bread and butter with tomato soup – very exotic) which cheered her up no end and had her looking quite full and happy. I think me and Mouche (if our friendship survives this impasse which I am sure it will) will adopt Petra as our next (and slightly younger) best friend and give her the benefit of all our good advice. That’s if we ever talk to each other again.
Petra told us she is transferring to Sunrise next semester and I have my eye on a sophomore called Josh for her. Actually, He’s sitting in the corner over there and I think I see him heading this way. Mouche coached him for a Big Sister program our school took part in last year.
The lights were dimmed, the strobe turned to dimmer. The band played softly, and the lead guitarist took a swig of spiked soda. Guests drifted off the dance floor, couple by couple. Minutes passed. My favorite song played in the half light.
Suddenly Mark was at my side. He cut in and took me by the arm and said, “Please come with me outside. I need to speak to you.”
Joel seemed to disappear the way he’d arrived, quickly.
Tory mouthed “go for it,” since we weren’t sitting with the Princesses anymore (obviously) and she was intently conversing with Petra.
“Was I just one of your little...trick dates?”
“Tory told me about a...diary”
“Oh, you read it?” I feigned shock at his poor manners.
“No, I just wanted to hear what you had to say...Tory says she’s going to put it on the internet or something tonight.”
The horror in my eyes masked my fear of exactly which pages would be uploaded. I had a feeling the Princesses did not do things anonymously and certainly not by halves. During the past weeks we’d all become so friendly, we’d shared details about our first dates with Mark and Jet. If they couldn’t have the prize, no one else would either. The Princesses planned to upload the early Mark insults I’d written, first impressions never meant to see the light of day. How could I ever have imagined Teegan was trustworthy? She probably considered showing Mark all the horrible stuff we wrote (excluding their pages) before we even got to edit the blog. It was the surest way to secure the prize for the prom! We had exactly two and a half hours before the scheduled midnight meeting.
“Well, it’s true that we were playing a dating game, for fun, sort of...”
“What did the winner get?”
“The winner hasn’t been announced yet,” I said cryptically. Let’s face it; at this point it seemed the winner was unlikely to be me.
“That seems, kind of...confusing.”
“Oh, you can talk! Being nice to me then kissing my best friend and trying to ruin Joel’s life!”
“His life! Didn’t you read my letter?”
“That still doesn’t excuse you for being proud and difficult before we talked, then ...after we’d talked you seemed so much nicer and I was beginning to like you, but...you seemed to be more interested in Mouche. Anyway, I can see you are not in any mood to be civil.”
“That’s not true. Why do you think I went to all the trouble of writing you letters to explain everything? I’ve never written a letter to any girl in my life. You are the special one. I think I liked you the first time I realized you could see through my facade. I was so mad at myself for ruining things by speaking out of turn at the dance, that I’ve been trying to make it up to you ever since. The kiss was in the script! I’m not going to apologise because it made you jealous. I was only talking to Mouche to find out more about what it would take to get you to like me.”
Mark turned around and I thought he was about to stomp off, when this loud, fairly romantic string quartet started to play softly then louder on the steps outside the stately reception home (slightly less stately than Mark’s ). I looked up and saw Mouche and Jet dancing in the rotunda and looked quizzically at Mark.
“He’s taking her to prom,” Mark said.
“Oh,” I replied. So Mouche hadn’t won the bet either. Mouche had traded gold for love. Perhaps Mouche was a better person than I was.
Mark paused. He was dressed very nicely in his suit and tie for the wedding. I wasn’t surprised he was here because he and Jet were in Miss Love’s academically gifted class, taking advanced trig, something that’s never vaguely interested me.
Then he looked at me strangely, as if he was still trying to work me out, and smiled.
“Will you give me another dancing lesson?”
“I didn’t think boys really liked to dance...except maybe Peter Williamson.”
Mark smiled and took my hand.
The day had ended. Mouche sat at a table deep in conversation with Jet. I stood at the punch bowl with Mark as he leaned over and pushed some of the wedding glitter off my nose. The Princesses disappeared into the indigo shadows, along with their dates. The night wore on and the other guests started to leave. Mark’s sister, Petra, walked outside with the boy we’d introduced her to, Josh. They were sitting on the steps with their sodas, laughing. Mark looked up then looked at me.
“I was wondering?”
“Yes?” I said. My heart was racing.
“Well, I was wondering if you still feel the same way you did about me after the Fall Fling.”
“...No, absolutely not,” I smiled.
“Good....” he said in return.
Then quite unexpectedly, Mark moved closer. Across the functions room furniture, all cream and garlanded with peonies and chocolates and recently wiped away wedding cake, we met. He kissed me as we sat atop a mahogany table where lovers from as far back as 1968 once made out.
We looked at each other and smiled. Then Mouche glanced over at me and smiled and even though Mark hadn’t actually asked me to the junior dance (although I was willing him to do so and wishing I could break our self-imposed rules and do it for him) suddenly everything seemed right with the world.
“I gotta go,” I said, “You were never just a game. You were first prize. It’s a girl thing – a meeting all of us planned months ago.”
Mark seemed to accept this explanation with a bemused smile.
Mouche looked over at me as the Princesses started to trail off without their dates.
“Okay, I gotta leave early anyway. My uncle’s taking us boating before breakfast. He’s better when he’s not jet lagged,” I smiled although it was in dubious taste to mention Mark’s uncle at a moment like this. “So, I’ll call you tomorrow...”
“Until tomorrow,” I said. I wasn’t sure how long I could wait until I saw him again.
That night, I was walking home with Mouche along Main Street. I was so glad to have my best friend back. Life was an embarrassment of riches right now.
I apologised for my petty behaviour and Mouche accepted.
“I missed you so much,” I admitted, “You are my best friend in the whole world,” I added.
Mouche smiled, “same here,” she said.
“We should head to the Lake House; get a lead on the Princesses...C’mon...”
The Christmas lights were out and everything looked so beautiful. By ten pm only the Sunrise Cafe was still open. As we rounded a corner, Mark’s aunt was finishing her late night shopping. Our bridesmaid dresses were dragging in the street as we walked along the pavement, so Mouche and I tucked them into our underwear.
Mark’s aunt practically walked into us. Her expression registered our impropriety. She had left the wedding early and was finishing her late-night shopping but still wore her tailored linen suit and heels that were far too high to be comfortable. She rested a small bag of groceries on her hip as she headed towards her expensive European car. Then, before stopping as an afterthought, she turned around to speak to us.
“Ah...Phoebe Harris, isn’t it? I didn’t get a chance to speak to you at the wedding. You came to my house for lunch a while back...”
“Yes,” I said, unravelling my skirt.
“Hello again, it is nice to see you.”
“Yes, nice to see you too, Mrs Knightly.”
Mark’s aunt had been way rude to me and had placed the skinny, miserable looking daughter of her business partner, Kayleen, right next to Mark at the wedding to encourage him to dance with her instead of me, no doubt.
It seemed so funny that she was currently looking at me like I was the one who was seriously impolite. Mark’s aunt seemed to be concerned that I was imagining myself to be the next Mrs Knightly just because Mark took me on a tour of his house. Hello, I’m barely sixteen!
“I’ve seen your picture on my nephew’s cell phone. I just came to ask if you are going to the prom with him.”
She questioned me in a very loud, overbearing voice.
“I only ask because he knows he has a prior arrangement with Kayleen.”
“Well if that’s the case, then how could he be going with Phoebe?” Mouche interjected.
Mark’s Aunt got high on her horse at this point.
“Oh, I know who you are. This whole town’s been talking about you and your mother’s infamous liaison with the school guidance counsellor...not to mention your illegitimate sister...”
“Ah, that word is not used anymore in polite company,” Mouche said.
“That is quite enough, Mrs Knightly!” I interjected. Being insulted was way harsh, but to insult my friend and push her to the verge of tears because she was standing up for me, was an outrage.
It was weird because Mouche’s psychic abilities and my telepathic ones seemed to have completely abandoned us after the happiness of the day. We were extremely pleased that, although our own dalliances hadn’t worked out the way we planned, we seemed very good at fashioning other people’s and in a roundabout way, love had found us when we least expected it.
“If it is true that your business partner’s daughter and Mark are dating then you should not be concerned that he might be going to the Prom with me.”
“Oh, I know how devious your sort can be!”
Mrs Knightly was so pompous and had a very affected accent. I really felt sorry for her and would have had a strange desire to laugh if it weren’t for Mouche gesturing me over to the nearby park bench.
“Excuse me!” I said and walked off towards the streetlight.
Mrs Knightly also walked off, shaking her head. Honestly, on the subject of future in-laws, Mrs Robinson would seriously have something to say. I mean, there must be millions of future in-laws who are nice. Why couldn’t I have met some of them? I can’t believe I just said “future-in-laws,” I must be losing it. But what really surprised me was how much the dating game had changed us. I was outspoken and standing up for myself – not just on stage but in my private life and Mouche had started to act more demure around the man she seemed to love.
“Jet,” Mouche said, “is the nicest boy I’ve ever met.”
“And rich too,” I said, “not that that means anything.”
“Not as rich as Mark Knightly,” Mouche added.
“Who is not as arrogant or as rude as I thought.”
Suddenly my cell beeped loudly. There was a text from the Princesses: cu@midnight@the lake house.
Then my cell rang. It was Ella’s mother, panicking because it was almost midnight and Ella wasn’t in her bed.
Ella’s mother was three years younger than my mom and quite the drama queen.
“By the time Ella is eighteen I am certain her mom will be stealing Ella’s eighteen year-old man-dates,” I told Mouche.
“She’s a total cougar already so lock up your boyfriends, Ella,” Mouche said to the wind.
Then Mouche checked her cell and discovered a text from Ella that said: pls cover for me don’t tell mum I’ve gone to meet Joel!
My mother rang me after Ella’s mom had hung up and asked, “Are you on your way home? It’s so late for Wednesday! You mean you don’t have her with you?” Mrs Mouche’s screams could be heard many blocks away.
“I came to pick her up from the reception at eight, but I was told she was with you and Mouche.”
“Who told you that?”
“Some boy called Joel...”
“Just hold on, mom. Tell Mrs Mouche not to panic. Call you in ten minutes...” Mrs Mouche was hysterical on the other line as I texted Mark’s number, since I knew he had a car and could beat us back to the reception hall.
“Just wait until I speak to Joel,” I said to Mouche as we hurried back along Main Street. I just knew he was busy distracting Ella who was not much younger than him but certainly more foolish. I knew he’d caused trouble with Mark’s sister and I figured it was about time he got a piece of my mind. But first, we had to find Wednesday. I’d give it a few seconds and a call to Mark (who could check the hall) before I called the police.