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Author Topic: The Wedding Scammer  (Read 146 times)
drose
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« on: October 12, 2017, 07:17:37 PM »

Brand new WIP. I've never posted this early n the process before. Would love feedback on the pages. Thanks!

THE WEDDING SCAMMER

   Charlie’s anxiety attack, in its infancy during the canapes and cocktails, amplified into a full blown, tantrum throwing toddler by the time the guests were seated.  It was so bad, she had trouble catching her breath. She tried bending at the waist to put her head between her legs, but the dress was so tight she could only lean slightly forward and bow, which made her appear serene and contemplative to everyone but her companions.
   
 A steady stream of dressed alike bride maids in floaty dresses the color of seafoam, all carrying small bouquets wrapped with white ribbon, arms linked with their procession partners  began to march up the aisle in measured, practiced steps, accompanied by lilting music from a discreetly placed quartet.

“Is Charlie okay?” Alexander peered past Max. “Is the dress too tight?”

“It’s not the dress,” Max said, fanning Charlie vigorously with his program.

“Sshhhh!” The bride’s cousin in the row ahead did a half turn of her head to scold them. She whispered something no doubt derisive about the disrupters into the ear of her companion.

A bridesmaid, smiling widely, left a citrusy perfume in her wake as she passed by.  “Think of the scene if she passes out,” Alex persisted. In deference to the cousin, he lowered his voice an octave, but he sang opera and his voice carried on the sweet evening breeze.
Another wedding pair passed by; this was the matron of honor, Jess’s sister with her husband. Jess and her sister were both petite. Max met Jess’s sister’s eye and smiled though he couldn’t recall her name. Suzie? Lila? She had the same thick, auburn hair and pale skin as her sister the bride. Her husband was dark hair and dark complected and made quite a striking pair.

 “She hates weddings,” Max said, working two buttons free at the back, waist level, of Charlie’s dress, which was, to his annoyance, indeed a little too tight. “You know this.”

“You dressed her like a doll,” Alexander said, “Nipping in the waist like that.”

“She never shows off that adorable little waist. Anyway, I told you, Alex. It’s not the dress. It’s the wedding. You’re trying to blame the dress because you talked her into coming.”

Alex frowned and leaned in closer. “Jess would have been crushed if Charlie didn’t come.”  During performances, he wore his hair combed back and thickly gelled, but when he wasn’t singing a shock of long, thinning bangs tended to swoop forward, which lifted every time Max fanned the program.
“I’m sitting right here.” Charlie managed to say. Even she was shocked; her voice didn’t sound like her at all. Beside the garbled noise coming from her throat, the passed tuna tartar and paper thin Bellini appetizers churned alarmingly in her esophagus. Please don’t throw up, please don’t throw up she begged her body.

“Oh, god, Alex. She’s turning green,” Max whispered.

“Max,” Charlie tried to say, and began a slow slide down the chair.  Her eyes fluttered closed, but she only descended a few inches, thanks to the stiff wire inserted into the corset of the tight dress to keep its shape, and the vise grip Max had on her elbow.  Luckily, the blackout lasted only a few seconds. By the time Charlie opened her eyes, the fiercely whispered debate between Max and Alexander about whether to shout out for help and ruin the ceremony, was moot.

 “Turn away,” Max said, fanning Charlie with the wedding program so hard, the breeze lifted the hair of the cousin in the row ahead who had shushed them. “It will all be over soon.”

“I know that line. It’s from Titanic,” Charlie blinked, somewhat revived.  “Alex, can I borrow your handkerchief?”

“Pocket square,” Max corrected. But he snatched Alex’s pocket square and blotted the sweat profusely coating Charlie’s neck.

“Breathe,” Alex advised. “It’s just a little panic attack.”

“I didn’t throw up and I only passed out for a second. Progress, right?”

“It’s the dress,” Alexander said again.

“It’s the wedding,” Max argued.

“The wedding.  Definitely. God, I hate weddings,” Charlie said as the gallery stood for  the bride, chic in a jersey sheath, to a collective sigh among the guests, gliding on her father’s arm toward the flower bedecked canopy toward her groom.


Max hadn’t left her side since the ceremony. Though Charlie assured him she was certain the worst was over, he was apparently worried she might pass out once again.  Charlie joked to Max that he was protecting the dress he made for her to wear, but she knew better.  Max squinted at her with concern and held her elbow tight against his jacket. He gripped a little harder when the bride approached.

“I’m better now, Max. You look beautiful,” Charlie said to Jess. “I mean, you always look great, but today. Wow. Something else.”
It was true. Jess was a beautiful woman. It was also true her beauty was enhanced,  by the sheen of her skin, the way her hair was swept up in artful swirls, with sparkly gems studded throughout, revealing a long and graceful neck, normally camouflaged since she wore it long and loose.  An art deco-ish necklace was embedded with blue and yellow stones, a perfect complement to the flowers she still held in her hand.

“I’m so glad you came,” Jess said. “There’s someone I’m dying for you to meet.”

“You promised you wouldn’t,” Charlie said. “I told you, now is not exactly a great time for me.”

“Set something up for when you come back from your big vacation? Come on, Charlie.  Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith,” Jess said.

 “Are you talking about the tall brunette in the tan jacket talking to Jason?” Max indicated who he was talking about with the direction of his chin.

“Stop,” Charlie said. “Seriously? The guy with the man bun?”

“Do me a favor and give him a chance,” Jess said. “I’m the bride. You can’t turn me down on my wedding day.”

When Charlie looked again, Man Bun was heading her way. “That only works if I’m Marlon Brando and we’re in The Godfather family.” 

“Be nice,” Max said. “You never know. And look, he’s wearing great shoes.”

 “Hey,” Man Bun said, flashing a smile at Charlie while he lifted Jess’s hand and kissed it. “What a great party.”

“Thanks to Charlie,” Jess said. “The wedding wouldn’t have happened without her.”

“You would still have gotten married,” Charlie said. “With about thirty years worth of debt you don’t need.”

“You’re a wedding planner with super powers?”  He frowned when Charlie, in mid sip choked and coughed.

“She’s okay,” Max said, patting Charlie on the back. “Breathe, Charlie. To answer your question, no and yes. Charlie is most definitely not a wedding planner. She

has as little to do with weddings as humanly possible….”

“That’s different,” said Man Bun. “Every woman I know has wedding on the brain, know what I mean?”

Max glanced sideways to gage Charlie’s reaction.  “She does have super powers. Charlie is the best freaking forensic accountant in New York.”

“I’m Ethan. Wow. A woman who’s not interested in weddings and saving money? Nice.”

“Ethan is Mr. Novack’s son, Charlie. Mr. Novack, Jason’s boss,” Jess said quickly.

“Yes, I save people money, Ethan,” Charle said.  “But that’s an oversimplification.”

“Can I get you another drink from the bar, Charlie?” Ethan smiled again. “I’d love to hear more.”

“Sure, Charlie could use another drink,” Max said, nudging Charlie with his elbow.

Two drinks later, Charlie tried to stifle a yawn. The “I’d love to hear more” apparently had more to do with all things Ethan: Ethan’s car, Ethan’s apartment,

Ethan’s last vacation. She only perked up when he started discussing his stock portfolio. When she asked pointed, direct questions regarding asset allocation and
long term risk, Ethan lost interest.

“Hey, look. We can get into all that. If you’re as good as Jess and Jason say you are, you could do me a huge favor.”

“Favor? I only do favors for friends.”

“We can be friends,” Ethan said. “Can I take you to dinner?”

“Thanks for the offer,” Charlie said, “but I don’t think so.”

“What?”

“I’m going on a vacation in a few weeks. A long vacation. Super busy wrapping things up before I go.”

Almost at once, the air around Ethan changed. He leaned back. “So I never get a taste of those superpowers you supposedly have?”
“Don’t think so.”

“Have so many men lining up for you, do you?”

“Excuse me?”

 “Like, tomorrow you’ll be calling Jess asking what my last name is so you can stalk me on social media, right?”

“Your last name is Novack. Jess said it already. And no, I don’t think so.” Charlie peered over, across the rooftop to Max, who nodded encouragingly.  He said
something to the woman he was standing next to, raised the glass he had in his hand. Over Ethan’s shoulder, she could see Alex walking over.

“Chicks like you, I get it. Edgy haircut. Playing like you’re not interested.”

 “Actually, Ethan,” Charlie said. “I wear my hair short on this side so it doesn’t get in my face when I’m working. And I wear it longer on this side to cover up this….” She pushed the hank of dark hair away from the puckered scar that soared above her eyebrow.  Charlie felt a deep and satisfying pluck when Ethan’s expression faltered at the scar. The same feeling a cutter might get when the bite of a blade released a bead of blood; a self-inflicted, satisfying ping of pain.

“Having fun yet, kids?” Alex put his arm around Charlie’s shoulder. “Feeling better?”
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