There's no such thing as Mr. Right. But there is a Mr. Right-for-You.
-Excerpt from Finding Mr. Right-for-You by Dr. Rachel Berry
If Rachel had to explain the change one more time she was going to pull out her hair. The horror etched into the eyes of Brittany and Kurt had been enough to start the second-guessing. They'd run over the pros and cons quickly, more for their own benefit than anything that had to do with her. Rachel had covered that ground a dozen times already.
Her fathers had listened silently, with shoulders squared and backs straight, their only parental concession the lone worry lines stretching across their foreheads.
It'll be okay, Dad. I know what I'm doing.
Dad had taught Rachel to think independently, and he'd never questioned her decisions. Even now, the most he'd said was, "Rachel…"
Daddy cried, weeping for her loss and having to live through a "loveless marriage". But once his eyes were dry he'd decided to stand behind her in her decision.
When she'd called Jesse with her announcement and demands, she'd been met with a long silence. She'd almost enjoyed his obvious shock and unspoken, You're what? Just when she thought he might have gone unconscious behind the wheel of his car, he asked her to repeat what she'd said. She'd ended up going through it three times, until he eventually assured her his family would keep it quiet. She supposed he wasn't eager for word to get out that he'd jilted Dr. Berry at the altar.
At least one group hadn't needed explBrittanytions. Puck had introduced her to his sister, Bekah, and she'd met Finn on a number of occasions before. Bekah was a female version of Puck, with her long dark hair, haunting green eyes, and braces. Finn, as tall and lanky as ever, was spending his summer (per usual) on the island. His boyish good looks and easy lopsided grin had always brought a smile to her face. Today, though, it made her nervous. They accepted the news of Noah's impending matrimony with friendly smiles, but Rachel didn't miss the silent glance exchanged between the two of them.
Now, four hours, one wedding license, and countless moments of stark terror later, Rachel stood in her white gown, feet poised at the foot of the aisle. The media cameras clicked in machine-gun fashion, capturing a three-quarter view. She curved her lips upward and forced a twinkle into her eye. Whoever said her theatrics would do her no good had obviously not known what they were talking about.
Thirty feet down the aisle, waiting in the gazebo, was Brittany and Kurt, Finn standing in as Noah's best man, and a justice of the peace who'd agreed to do the last minute ceremony when the Rabbi had politely declined, (Turns out being Jewish wasn't enough to persuade the kind man that the last minute stand in was the real deal) and Noah.
Noah. Is this really happening?
The musicians started the wedding march. Rachel curled her arm around the stiff material of her father's tux and took the first step. A gentle breeze blew off the ocean, ruffling her hair and veil and feathering her strapless A-line gown against her legs. She'd finally found the satin dress at a boutique in the Hamptons after scouring numerous magazines and shops. Now what did it matter that the gown was perfect or that the hem hit the floor precisely?
How had it come to this? Jesse was supposed to waiting at the end of the aisle. They matched. They were a fit according to everything she knew about personalities and relationships. They had so much in common- their love of exercise… organization… punctuality…. Loyalty….
Well. She supposed she'd have to rethink the loyalty part.
She passed her Aunt Dottie in the second row, wearing her trademark cherry-red lipstick. Her brown hair coiled above her puffy white face like thick chocolate shavings on a pile of whipped cream.
The groom's side was half-empty, but what did she expect with last minute invitations? Bekah sat on the first row beside a beautiful Latina woman that Rachel had never seen before. Two part-time employees from Noah's shop sat on the next row, straining to see around a tall, spindly man she recognized from someplace.
She imagined how upset Noah's mother would be at missing the ceremony of her only son. And at finding out about the wedding after it was over… But it was what Noah wanted, and it was his decision. They'd have to smooth things over later.
She was going to be joining another family. The thought struck her hard and quick. She didn't even know these people!
What am I doing!
As if her dad could read her mind, his steps slowed and his hand tightened around the one lying against his arm. She glanced up briefly and caught his eye, giving him an encouraging smile she continued forward. She didn't meet Noah's eyes until she nearly reached the gazebo and then realized her mistake. A bride would be gazing adoringly at her groom. Was she smiling widely enough? Her dry lips stuck to her teeth.
Noah had cleaned up well, even shaved his perpetual five o'clock shadow (not that he couldn't pull of that particular look splendidly- and not that she ever ever noticed). His short hair was shining lying obediently against his head. His eyes met hers, pulling her in- a solid lifeline in what felt like a turbulent storm.
They reached the foot of the gazebo, and her dad stopped and kissed her cheek, then took a seat on the first row next to her Daddy.
She was on her own now.
What am I doing?... What am I doing?...
She stepped into the gazebo as the last strains of the wedding march rang out and drew to a halt between Brittany and Noah. Her bare arm brushed against his. In the distance, whirring clicks of cameras captured every second of the event, and she knew the best photos would grace the pages of tomorrow's newspapers. But as the justice began talking, all Rachel could think about was the way the heat from Noah's arm seeped clean through his tux and settled against her skin.
"Marriage is commended to be honorable among all men," the justice began. "And therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or light- but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, and solemnly." He emphasized each word, his bushy gray eyebrows inching upward disapprovingly. "Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined for life."
Joined for life. She turned her head a fraction of an inch toward Noah as the ugly scent of fear filled her nostrils, mingling with the tangy, salt-laden air. Life?
What am I doing?
She dragged in a breath and slowly released it, careful to keep her expression neutral. There's no going back now. Focus. Just get through the ceremony.
Was Noah afraid too? Was he asking himself what he'd gotten into, wishing he were back in his shop, sitting in a layer of sawdust? Was that his arm trembling against hers? He had every right to panic. He was giving up a year of his life. He was being thrust into the public eye.
What if he backs out? Right here in front of everybody? Jilted twice in one day. Had it ever happened before? She imagined the headline. "Dr. Berry Jilted at Altar by Two Grooms."
The justice stopped talking, and the moment's silence sent alarm through Rachel. Instinctively, she slid her right hand from her bouquet and reached out, searching for an anchor. When her fingers touched Noah's hand, his encircled hers. It was warm and strong and – oddly- confident. It's going to be okay.
The soloist began and Rachel's mind wondered. The song had seemed perfect for her and Jesse. How could she have been so wrong? Who was it who had stolen his heart? Just the night before, he'd held her close and kissed her good night at her apartment door. What was it he'd said? "I guess I'll see you soon."
Had there been something in his tone? In his expression? Some warning she'd missed? She'd been too flushed with excitement to notice. And just like that he was gone.
And now she was marrying Noah. Committing a year of her life to a man she didn't love. Good grief, most of the time she couldn't even stand him. Not that he was a bad person. He was just… irritating sometimes. And… smug. And so…. Cocky! The way he was late and careless and so laid-back sometimes.
She couldn't think of a man less suited for her.
The soloist finished the song and returned to her seat. The justice began talking about the seriousness of the vows they were about to take. Rachel wanted to plug her ears. She was a proponent of life-long marriages. It was her life's work to help couples stay married. And now she was making a mockery of the process.
I'm a hypocrite. A fraud. What would my readers think if they knew?
The justice turned toward her, and Rachel focused her attention on him as he announced the reading of the vows. She was supposed to face Noah. She handed her bouquet to Brittany and turned toward Noah. She wasn't sure if she was capable of breathing, much less speaking.
Then she saw the corner of Noah's lip tilt up ever so slightly, his eyes soften. Instinctively, she relaxed.
I can do this.
The justice read the vows, and Rachel repeated them. "I, Rachel Barbara Berry, take you, Noah Elijah Puckerman, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward." Rachel swallowed hard. "Until death do us part."
The last words were rushed, but she'd done it. Now the just prompted Noah.
He repeated the vows, and he did it well. His eyes said as much as his voice. The way he looked at her… it was the way every bride yearned to be looked at. Like she was precious. Like she was his chosen one. His voice was low, as if rumbling up from the deepest part of the ocean. It was more than credible. It was convincing.
The justice said a prayer and ended it with an amen. "It is tradition to exchange rings as a symbol of the love between a man and a wife."
Rings! Rachel felt something akin to a tidal wave inside her. Jesse's best man had her ring. Noah wouldn't have a ring to put on her finger. She turned a desperate look toward the justice, but he was looking at Noah as he spoke. "…representing the unending love of your union." He cleared his throat as if the words had left a foul taste.
Rachel stared hard at the justice; hoping mental telepathy would work just this once. There are no rings!
But then Noah turned to Finn. When he faced Rachel again, he held a ring in the hollow of his palm. He'd taken care of it. Relief washed over her in such a wave she could have cried but instead she smiled her gratitude.
He took her left hand in his and slid the ring onto her finger until it rested beside the glittering diamond. "With this ring, I thee wed." The look in his eyes burned the words into her heart.
The band was white gold, elegant in its simplicity. When had he had the time to buy a ring? And how had he known her size?
The justice was prompting her to get Noah's ring. She turned to take the ring from Brittany. There was no way Jesse's ring would fit Noah. She hoped it would at least slide over his knuckle. Maybe no one would notice.
She took the ring from Brittany's palm… but it wasn't Jesse's white-gold band with diamond shaped cuts. This one matched the one Noah had put on her finger. She turned toward him and took his hand in hers. The ring slid easily onto his wide, tapered finger and looked bright against the darkness of his skin. "With this ring, I thee wed," she said.
Noah caught hold of her hands, and the justice gave his closing thoughts. Rachel was aware of nothing except Noah's hands holding hers, his fingers rough and calloused against hers. She noticed that he was more than a full head taller than her five-foot-two frame. Her gaze fell to his eyes. He looked straight at her, into her, anchoring her.
The justice was making his closing statements. "By the power vested in me by the State of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
The relief she felt brought a smile to her face. It's done. I made it through.
"You may now kiss the bride."
She tried not to falter as her eyes flew back to Noah's. In all the commotion of last-minute changes, she hadn't even thought about the kiss. Had he?
One of his eyebrows quirked as if challenging her.
She leaned toward him and felt his hands to go to her waist. She brought her fingers to his jaw just as their lips met. His mouth was soft against hers. His lips moved slowly, deliberately, as he pulled her closet until their bodies nearly met…
Oh my…. God….
It was over in seconds, but it left her rattled. Light headed. Good grief, he was good at that. Who would have thought?
He was watching her, most likely noting her newly flushed cheeks. His eyes twinkled as if he could tell the kiss had left her shaken. She drew her shoulders back and tilted her chin as the justice said his final words.
"I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Noah Puckerman."
"In honor of the first men in her life," the DJ announced from the makeshift stage, "the bride would like to have the first dance of the evening with her fathers."
Rachel disengaged herself from Noah's friends and wound her way through the circular tables to the parquet dance floor, where her Dad and Daddy waited with extended hands. She went into their arms for a three way dance as the first notes of "Unforgettable" began playing behind her. Everything else had been turned on end, but sharing this dance with her father's was exactly the way it was supposed to be. Rachel closed her eyes and relished the normality of it, unwilling- unable- to think past this moment.
"You're holding up well."
She looked up at her Dad. His face had aged the last couple years, and Rachel realized she hadn't visited him in Ohio enough. Phone calls and letters didn't allow the same connection, and she'd spend most of her spare weekends with Jesse in Boston. And for what?
"Really?" She felt as transparent as Saran Wrap and just as fragile. Making rounds with Noah had been hard. Everyone wanted to know how they'd met and how they'd kept it a secret. Noah's eyes had said it all. We didn't. The two of them had a million details to work out. She didn't know how they'd remember everything they'd come up with on the fly tonight.
"What do you know about this guy?" Daddy shuffled stiffly. His hair, what was left of it, was combed neatly to the side in a part not quite deep enough to be a comb-over.
What did she know about Noah? Not even enough to fill a page really. "He makes furniture, and his shop is right below my place on Main Street. In fact, he owns the building. I was renting my office space and apartment from him. He did the renovations."
She'd let Noah know months ago that she was moving out this month. Little had she known she'd be moving into his home. She realized she didn't know where he lived.
"What else?" A benign smile hid his concern.
"He's a nice man, Daddy. Really. Harmless."
She glanced over her Dad's shoulder at Noah. He stood with Finn, hands resting in his pants pockets as a beer bottle dangled easily from his fingers. His jacket, long since discarded, left him in a crisp white shirt fitted perfectly, tapering from broad shoulders to narrow hips. Maybe "harmless" was overstating it a bit.
"We're not leaving until morning, so if you need anything tonight you call us."
Rachel laughed. "Not the words most parents say to their daughter on her wedding night."
"This isn't most wedding nights."
Rachel sobered. No, it wasn't. She didn't know who she was going to survive the honeymoon at the Four Seasons, much less the next year.
"If anyone can do this, you can." Her father squeezed her hand in a rare gesture of affection. Behind him, the vocalists belted out the chorus, the lead singer's face reddened from the strain.
They danced quietly for a few moments, the three of them swaying gently to the music, before her dad broke the silence. "I know you and your mom haven't gotten on so well in the recent years. But I wish she would have been here tonight."
Rachel didn't want to think about her mother, tonight of all nights. "You're here. That's all that matters." The three of them made one last spin as the band wound down the song and the crowd applauded.
Noah approached her as her parents stepped away. "May I cut in, sir?"
Rachel knew he'd score brownie points for the honorific title. Her dad smiled cordially, but the look in his eyes warned that the points wouldn't carry far.
The band struck up the song she'd selected for the bride and groom's "first dance," and her heart strutted. "When a Man Loves a Woman," had been their song. It had played on the oldies station the first time Jesse had kissed her. A constricting knot lodged in her throat as Noah's hands come to her waist. She felt his eyes on her, and she worked to steady her smile. There were people watching. Always people watching. She had to hold it together.
As if sensing her need to hide, he pulled her close. She laid her cheek against his chest, away from all the faces. Above the swelling music and chatter, she could hear the waves swooshing the shoreline with rhythmic certainty. The consistency of the sound soothed her.
"Its gonna be okay, Rach," Noah's voice rumbled next to her ear.
Her eyes burned, threatening to spill, and she blinked. Breathe, just breath. She needed to think about something else, anything else, but the thoughts wouldn't budge: "I'm in love with someone else." Were harsher words ever spoken?
"I'm glad we have a minute alone," Noah said. "Because I have a question for you."
She swallowed. "What's that?"
"Are we going on a honeymoon?"
Her laugh was feeble. "I'm sorry." She pulled back enough to look into his eyes. "We have reservations at the Four Seasons for the week. Is that okay?" He had his work, after all. But if they didn't take a honeymoon, people would wonder.
"I have a couple jobs to finish up this week, but I'll get them pushed back." He pulled her closer. "The Four Seasons, huh? Your publisher went all out."
She moved her hand down his shoulder. "The hotel offered an unbelievable rate. They'll get a lot of publicity."
"Surprised you didn't want to go to Hawaii or something."
She shrugged. "Nantucket's done so much for me. I wanted to do something to help the community. The publicity is good for the island." She smoothed the stiff lapels of his jacket. He'd put it back on for the dance. For the photos that were being snapped.
He'd been a perfect gentleman all evening. She was beginning to wonder why he'd gotten on her nerves before. "Thanks for not shoving cake in my face," she said.
His lips tilted. "Wouldn't dream of it."
The singer crooned the chorus, but Rachel kept her eyes on Noah. They were supposed to be the "Happy couple." It was harder than she'd imagined; the pretending was wearing her out.
"So when does this shindig end?"
Not soon enough. "The band has to stop at nine thirty."
Noah started to look at Rachel's watch, but she grabbed his hand and kissed the palm. "You're dancing with your bride. Time is meaningless."
His eyes clouded, If you were really my bride we would have already blown this joint, and he settled his hand at her waist, looking away.
"When the band winds down, we'll make our exit," she said. "There's a carriage scheduled to take us to the Four Seasons."
It hit her how deceiving appearances could be. For all that this looked like a fairy-tale wedding, the beginnings of a true marriage, it was a farce. Empty and fake, it was an elaborate mansion, gutted on the inside.
"I haven't packed." He spun them around, surprisingly graceful.
"That's taken care of."
The flash of a bulb flared just off the dance floor. She gave Noah her "adoring bride" smile, letting her eyes rove lovingly over the planes of his face even though she was seeing black spots, as the photographer snapped half a dozen more photos. When he stepped away, she continued. "Brittany is going to grab some things for you tonight. That is, if you don't mind her riffling through your stuff. You can pick up the rest of your things tomorrow."
"Not sure how I feel about Brittany riffling through my underwear drawer."
"Well from what I remember it seems she's seen it before," she muttered lowly. That shut him up. Honestly, of all the things to be upset about. He'd married her at the last moment, but he was worried about Brittany going through his clothing. But what other options did they have? They couldn't send Bekah or Finn after his things and have them knowing he hadn't planned for his honeymoon. Even Noah wasn't that disorganized. "Do you have a better idea?" she asked.
He was looking over her head now, wearing an insipid smile. "Just send Britt."
Rachel opened her mouth to respond, and then changed her mind. The last thing she needed was an argument on the dance floor.
Rachel faced the mirror in the bathroom of the Four Seasons Shoreline suite. Her dark hair, pulled up at the sides, disappeared beneath the triple-layered veil. Her makeup still looked fresh, her dress stunning. Her shoulders, carefully tanned over the past month, looked every bit as lovely as she'd hoped.
Only none of it mattered now. Jesse loved someone else, and she was married to a man she barely tolerated.
Ah, but my career is salvaged. At least I have that.
She set her heavy bag on the marble counter and opened it, resting the floppy lid against the beveled mirror. The zipper clanged against the glass.
The carriage ride to the hotel had seemed to take forever even though it couldn't have been more than twenty minutes. She was tired of pretending. Which didn't bode well- the entire next year would consist of nothing but pretense, and just one night of it had worn her to the bone. Her feet hurt, her head ached, and all she wanted was to slide between the sheets and pull them over her head.
Maybe it wouldn't feel so awful in the morning. The sun would come up, it would glitter off the harbor, and the fresh air would remind her it was a new day.
At least she wouldn't have to move to Boston. It had been the one thing she'd dreaded. She pictured Jesse's apartment in downtown Boston and sighed at the thought. She'd never go there again. Never sit on his couch and eat popcorn while they watched CNN.
She turned her attention to her suitcase. Her clothing, carefully rolled to avoid creases, was packed in colorful bins all lined up in rows. She scanned the pieces and realized the satin items she'd planned to wear for this week would hardly suffice. Instead she pulled out a tank top and a pair of shorts. It would have to do.
She looked in the mirror, noting her drawn expression, and willed herself not to cry. Then, with a sigh, she began the tug-of-war of releasing herself from her gown.
Noah was sitting in the armchair when she reentered the room, his elbows braced on his knees. His gaze flickered over her, and she realized he must be eager to change.
"Brittany should be here soon with your things."
"Sorry she couldn't get them over sooner."
He nodded again.
Rachel began hanging up her clothing, one item at a time, trying to ignore the fact Noah was probably staring at her backside. They steadfastly held on to their silence until a few minutes later when a tap sounded on the door. Rachel practically leapt across the room to let Brittany in.
"Is everything okay?" Brittany whispered with a hug.
"Sure." Rachel summoned up one last smile. She would've offered more, but Noah was hovering, obviously wanting to change.
"Here you go," Brittany said to him.
He took a paper bag and a noisy cluster of keys from her.
"I couldn't find a suitcase or duffel bag."
Brittany looked at Rachel. "Well…"
"Well…" Rachel's brain raced, trying to think of a reason for Brittany to stay. Perhaps she'll notice the slightly manic look in my eyes and take pity. But with a wave and a quirk of her eyebrows, Brittany was gone.
Rather than run screaming for her assistant, Rachel continued unpacking, stashing her socks and underclothes in one of the armoire drawers while Noah disappeared into the bathroom. He returned in record time.
Wearing only a pair of Nike basketball shorts.
Oh…Rachel's gaze skittered away. As if things weren't awkward enough already.
She was acutely aware of his appraisal as he sat in the armchair. What was he thinking? More specifically, what did he expect from this marriage? If it were Jesse, she'd ask- or likely, she'd already know. How many conversations had she and Jesse had about their expectations? They'd been as prepared as an engaged couple could be.
Feeling him watching her, knowing she was procrastinating, Rachel placed her alarm clock, phone and Day Planner on the nightstand, then stowed her suitcase in the closet. When she could delay no longer, she returned to the bed and pulled the covers down, glancing at the pillow on the other side.
Just what, exactly, does Noah expect tonight?
Does he think…?
She sat on the edge of the bed, facing the wall and a framed print of a lighthouse, back rigid, heart racing. She wasn't naïve. Men expected sex on the honeymoon.
She and Noah were married now, and, technically, it was his right to expect it. But… it seemed wrong. Theirs wasn't the typical marriage. There was nothing typically about this honeymoon. And there was no way she was sleeping with him like some… some… hussy!
Still, this was a conversation they should have had before the wedding.
She didn't want to fret over it all night either. She glanced at him, still sitting in the chair. He was leaning back, his head turned toward her. The room was big, and he seemed far away. A good, safe distance. But she could hardly yell across the room.
Rachel forced her tired legs to support her weight and walked toward him.