Other People's Weddings
An excerpt from the short story by Josh Lanyon
“I’d rather be dead than wear this!”
Griff dropped the latest issue of Elegant Bride as Madeline Dalrymple burst from the dressing room cubicle, shot across the showroom floor, and slammed out the front glass door of Venetian Bridal Gowns. Her exit bore an unfortunate resemblance to a big purple balloon flying wild after being jabbed by a pin.
Mallory, Madeline’s sister, appeared at the mouth of the hall to the dressing rooms, looking exasperated.
Sometimes Griff suspected that brides deliberately picked the worst possible dresses for their bridesmaids and maids of honor. Or maybe it wasn’t deliberate. Maybe it was subconscious, a paying back of old scores, a testing of true devotion. The Watters & Watters strapless sheath of lilac layered over hot pink chiffon would have flattered Mallory’s tall, slim, brunette beauty, but it made short, plump Madeline look like a Purple People-Eater after a good meal.
“Well?” Mallory said to Griff.
“Well?” Griff returned blankly, with an uneasy look at Sasha, co-owner of Venetian Bridal Gowns. Sasha raised her shoulders infinitesimally. After twenty years of dealing with brides and bridesmaids, she didn’t bother trying to understand, she rode the whirlwind the best she could -- and cashed in at the end of the ride.
“Go after her,” Mallory ordered. “Are you my wedding planner or not?”
Mallory’s idea of Griff’s job description was a cross between a personal assistant and confidante. By the second week of accepting the job of coordinating Mallory and Joe Palmer’s nuptials, Griff knew he’d made a deal with the devil. Possibly literally. But the Dalrymples were Binbell’s wealthiest family, and Dalrymple-Palmer wedding was going to be the social event of the season -- plus he needed the money. In these days of economic hardship prospective brides might not be willing to cut costs on dresses or cakes or hair stylists, but hapless wedding planners all too often fell under the heading Optional.
This, however, was different. Griff was experienced enough to know Lord help the mister who comes between a bride and her sister. “I don’t think it’s my place --”
“Of course it’s your place,” Mallory snapped. “Whose place would it be? You need to get her in line before she wrecks my wedding.”
“She’s still wearing her three hundred and forty-five dollar bridesmaid dress,” Sasha pointed out mildly.
Now and again co-ownership seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Griff choked back words he would regret once he started juggling utility bills on the space next door, and pushed out through the glass door. The jaunty notes of the Wedding March followed before the door closed and cut them off.
The L-shaped strip mall, locally known as Wedding Aisle, consisted of Venetian Bridal Gowns, Skerry Weddings, and Guy’s Tuxedos. On the hook of the “L” was Betty Ann’s Crafts and Supplies. It was, as they said, a match made in heaven.
Maddy’s blue Sebring convertible was still parked between Griff’s classic red VW Beetle and Mallory’s BMW Z4, but there was no sign of the runaway bridesmaid. He ducked his head inside Skerry Weddings, but Mallory was not hiding out there. He walked around the buildings to the end of the strip mall.
Maddy was walking up and down the asphalt drive behind Guy’s, smoking a cigarette. She looked up with raccoon eyes at Griff’s approach and snorted. She had stopped crying, which was a huge relief.
“Fuck, Skerry. Don’t you have any pride?”
“Look,” Griff spoke awkwardly. “Mallory’s sorry if she didn’t seem sympathetic, but it’s too late to change the dresses. This is the final fitting.”
“She’s not sorry,” Maddy spat out. “She wants me to look like a fucking circus freak. She deliberately picked the dress that would make me look worst. You were there. You saw. She could have picked the dress I liked, but oh no! It had to be something only her and her anorexic friends could wear.”
Griff managed not to sigh. It had seemed that way to him too, but experience had taught him the sister dynamic was a weird one. A decade of organizing other people’s weddings had made him very glad he’d been born an only child.
He said patiently, “Mallory’s wedding is the most important day of a woman’s life, so naturally she wants everything to be perfect. The way she always imagined it. You’ll see when your turn comes.”
Maddy’s tear streaked face screwed into an expression of disgust. “First bullet point: I am never getting married. And if I did get married, it wouldn’t be in one of these big fat geek weddings. Second bullet point: her wedding day is not the most important day of a woman’s life. Do you honestly believe that shit?”
Er…no. Not really. Not exactly. He believed in marriage, obviously. Believed in commitment. A wedding was an important symbol of commitment, a significant milestone, but the single most important one? No. How could it be when most women married men, and most men didn’t consider their wedding the most important day of their lives?
Then again, he arranged weddings for a living so...
He was still trying to think of a compromise answer when Maddy said scornfully, “Don’t you find it ironic that all these people who despised you and made fun of you in high school hire you to do their weddings?”
Griff flushed. He said defensively, “High school was a long time ago. Everybody does things they regret.”
“They don’t regret anything they did,” Maddy retorted. “They thought you were a joke then and they think you’re a joke now. The gay wedding planner. They’re laughing at you.”
This attack caught him off balance -- not least because he and Maddy were not close. There had been three years between them in school, and whether Maddy believed it or not, her family and her money ensured she had never truly been the social outcast she imagined. For a moment he was right back there. Right back in Mrs. Dodge’s tenth grade biology class, struggling not to cry because no one wanted him for a lab partner. No, because Hammer Sorensen had humiliated him once again with a cruel but accurate imitation of Griff’s light voice and slightly affected speaking manner. The horror of breaking down in front of the goggling, giggling class. Like falling in the snow in front of a pack of wolves.
He could practically smell the formaldehyde. Hear the whispers... But he wasn’t fifteen years old anymore, and he hadn’t cried since that day. Griff said shortly, “I don’t think anyone would trust a day as important or an event as expensive as a wedding to someone they considered a joke. Are you coming back inside?”
Maddy raised her brows as though this sudden display of spine was unexpected. She flicked her cigarette to the asphalt and crushed it beneath her kitten heel. “I don’t have a choice. Mommy Dearest will disinherit me again if I spoil Mal’s big day.”
True. Dilys Dalrymple’s tight clutch on the Dalrymple purse strings was the ace up Griff’s sleeve. He was leery of playing it, though, not least because it would require him having to deal with Dilys. She was more alarming than both of her daughters put together.
As she walked past him Maddy said, “You’re good at what you do, Skerry. That’s true. But my sister can afford the best in the entire country. Maybe you should ask yourself why she wanted you?”
Copyright 2000-18, Josh Lanyon.
All rights reserved.