Timing(7)

By: Mary Calmes


She deflated, and Ben gave her a sympathetic shoulder squeeze.

“It’s so awful,” she said, her eyes locked on mine. “The dress, the bridesmaid dresses… the tuxedos… Stef, it’s just… just….” She turned and looked up at Ben.

He squinted at me. “It’s bad. Wait’ll you see the tuxedo you’re wearing.”

When she had called, hyperventilating, to tell me that everything she had done in preparation for her wedding had been undone by her mother, her aunts, and her cousins, I had laughed on the phone. How bad could it really be?

But now, as I stood beside her in her room, staring at the atrocity hanging over the mirrored side of the armoire, I was speechless. I didn’t know a dress could have that much beading and lace and….

“What are those… rhinestones?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Huh.”

“You see?” She waved at the dress.

“Huh,” I grunted again.

“Oh God,” she said, throwing herself down very dramatically across her bed.

“Maybe if we pull stuff off,” I offered, fingering the lace and brocade.

“Thank God you’re here,” she muttered into the comforter on the bed. “I can’t do this without you. Nobody gets me like you get me.”

“I know,” I said, because it was true, but also because it was an easy response and I was distracted. “I bet if the sun hit this just right you could, like, blind people.”

She groaned loudly.

“Whose dress was this again?”

“Ben’s mama’s.”

“Huh.”

“There’s a veil too.”

“No, really?”

She lifted her head up off the bed so she could see me. “I’m sorry that you have to deal with the whole ‘man of honor’ thing, but if I had you stand with the groomsmen, it would have been a lie. You and Ben are friends, but Stef—you belong to me.”

“Yes, I do, you poor, dumb bitch.”

Her smile, with the dimples, was luminous.

Back downstairs in the living room of the enormous three-story bed and breakfast we were all staying at, Charlotte clutched my arm for dear life. I felt her fingers dig into my arm as a man and woman stepped in front of us, followed closely by a younger couple.

“Charlotte, is this your best friend that we’ve heard so much about?”

“Yes, Linda,” she said softly, leaning against me. “This is Stefan.”

I looked at Ben’s mom and smiled wide.

She caught her breath.

“Wow,” I said, offering her my hand. “Jesus, Char, you didn’t tell me she was hot.”

Charlotte squeaked her surprise as I yanked her soon-to-be mother-in-law into my arms and gave her a quick kiss before I hugged her tight.

She pressed against me, her fingers digging into my back.

“Hey.” Ben’s father laughed. “Give my wife back.”

I let her go but put my arm around her shoulders, holding her beside me as I looked down into her face. “Whaddya say—can we revisit the dress, Mom?” I asked softly, using the full weight of my arsenal, my voice and my face. Having been told constantly from a very young age that I was gorgeous, I knew I was. The blond hair, dark green eyes, and the permanent tan that I had been born with, all of it blended together made people stop and watch me walk by on the street. I took no credit for any of it—it was just genetics, after all—but I used it to my advantage when I had to, and I had to get that dress altered.

Ben’s mother giggled and wrapped her arms around my waist. “Yes, darling, whatever you want.”

“Oh my God,” Charlotte breathed out on the other side of me.

“Hello there,” Mr. Cantwell said, smiling at me, extending his hand. “It’s a pleasure, Stefan. My girl’s face lights up every time she says your name.”

“Yessir, I know,” I said, smiling at him, taking his hand, gripping it firmly. Nice that he was calling his soon-to-be daughter-in-law “his girl.”

“I know this was a long way to come, but Charlotte said you would do anything for her and Ben,” he said, his eyes warm as he stared at me.

“Yes sir, absolutely.”