Chapter 1: The Set Up
Disclaimer (applies for all subsequent chapters):
Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters that may appear in this story and the song that inspired this piece belongs to Marc Cohn. No copyright infringement is intended. The remainder is my original work; please do not post it elsewhere without my express permission.
Huge thanks to Caren and Ltlethqak for always encouraging me and making my words better than they were. As far as betas/pre-readers go, you two are totally boss. I am for shizz.
"Isabella, the caterer says they can't set up the hors d'oeuvres buffet where it is on the diagram because there won't be enough room for traffic."
"Isabella, there aren't enough chairs at table twelve and the rental guys took all the extras with them."
"Isabella, weren't the photo booth people supposed to get here at ten to start setting up? I haven't seen them yet and it's almost eleven."
Isabella, Isabella, Isabella.
Every weekend it was the same chorus. The words varied from time to time but the tune remained the same. In my head it always sounded like the mice from Cinderella, except instead of telling me to mop the floors and do the dishes, they wanted me to find a Chuppa at the last minute or tie four hundred chair sashes into perfectly symmetrical bows. Ridiculous, demanding mice.
But those crazy tasks were exactly why brides hired me, why I had a waiting list for practically every Saturday from April until October.
Most days, I loved my job and the challenges that came with it, but from time to time I just wanted someone else to take charge and solve one of the many "wedding disasters" that got tossed at my feet. Wasn't that why I hired three assistants? Apparently they'd forgotten to take their competency pills that morning.
Deep breath, Bella. Keep calm and for God's sake do not roll your eyes.
Why did I let the rental people take the extra chairs with them? Stupid rookie mistake. I knew better-always overestimate your numbers. Better to be overstocked than short.
Internally knocking my head against a wall, I glanced around the ballroom, soaking in the progress that would transform the empty space into a decadent wedding reception that would knock the heels off the pickiest bride. Or so I hoped. Lauren was definitely a picky bride. She'd been stepping on my toes over every detail for months, snidely informing me that everything had better be perfect or she'd know.
Was it too much to ask that just one wedding went off without a hitch?
Whining to the powers that be wasn't going to get me anywhere. I blew out a breath and jumped into action.
"Kate, Eric's number is in your packet, shoot him a text and see what's going on. Carmen, pull one of the high top tables to the other side of the hall. It'll free up some space for the caterers. Angela, see if you can scrounge up a folding chair or something. We'll try and squeeze a cover over it and switch out with a chair from one of the back tables. Lauren will never know the difference."
When my trio of assistants scattered to complete their various assignments, I took a moment to track down my emergency kit and pop an aspirin. Thinking ahead, I dug out a few coins to nab a soda from the vending machine down the hall. Caffeine would be necessary today and I hadn't had time to grab my typical Starbucks. At ten forty five in the morning, I'd already been on the go for close to three hours and we were only getting started. By my watch, I had another solid fourteen to go. If I was lucky, my feet wouldn't start punishing me for another eight.
Such is the glamorous life of Isabella Swan, wedding coordinator.
When I was a little girl, I fell in love with weddings. I attended my first when I was five as a flower girl for one of my mom's best friends and ever since, I've been a little obsessed. Everything about them was so magical to me-the flowers, the invitations, the dresses, the music. Most of all, I loved the happily ever after.
I've always been a fan of fairy tales, sighing over the stories my mother read to me each night and dreaming of true love in my canopy princess bed. But they weren't just stories to me. I knew that true love was real because I had the best example of a happily ever after right in my very own home. My parents were madly in love, rarely fought, always flirted. They were devoted to each other. They were happy. Every time I caught them cuddling or kissing or just smiling together with such affection in their eyes, I'd dream about the day I'd find that kind of love. The kind that lasts forever.
For a long time, I thought I'd found it.
I met Jasper Whitlock in high school when he and his twin sister transferred from out of state in the middle of our freshman year. He sat next to me in history class that semester and was always asking to borrow my notes even though I saw him scribbling down every word Mr. Banner droned at us. Two weeks later he started walking me to my locker after class, carrying my books and kissing me on the cheek before rushing off to the other side of the school so he wouldn't be late for chemistry.
He asked me to the spring formal and kissed me in the cab of his pick-up truck before escorting me into the garishly decorated gym. From that day on, we were inseparable. Not only was he my boyfriend, but he was my best friend. He made me laugh and held me when I cried. In the fall of our senior year, my entire world shattered. My mom was killed in a car accident driving home one night during a bad storm. When it felt like everything was falling apart, Jasper was my strength.
He was my first in pretty much every way-first kiss, first love, first time. First husband.
When he proposed on New Year's Eve during our junior year of college, Jasper and I had already been together for six years. There wasn't an ounce of hesitation in my voice when I told him yes and threw my arms around his neck, covering his face in kisses and grinning like a fool. Jasper was my happily ever after.
We decided not to rush. We were already living together so it seemed like just a technicality in our minds. Instead, we concentrated on finishing up school and graduating while we, well, I, planned and saved for our dream wedding.
Right out of undergrad, I was offered a job with an event center I'd interned with over summer breaks, working as one of their in-house coordinators. While there were other events held at the center-conferences, corporate dinners, holiday parties, I worked mostly with weddings and I couldn't have been happier. I was so excited to gain experience in the field while saving up for my chance to pursue my dream of starting my own planning business. With Jasper following his own dreams of working toward his master's degree in hopes of becoming a history professor, I thought we had it made.
I was a calm bride, slowly but surely knocking things off our checklist-booking the best photographer we could afford, finding an amazing gown, hand-assembling and addressing invitations that were works of art (in my opinion). Finally, on a beautiful June afternoon after a two and a half year engagement, I walked down the aisle in my beautiful white dress to say 'I do' to my handsome groom.
When my perfect day was over, I was more than ready to settle in to a life of wedded bliss with my Prince Charming. And at first, that's what it was: bliss. Things were good with us, easy and comfortable. We agreed on practically everything; our plans for the future meshed seamlessly. He was sweet to me, surprising me at work with flowers for no reason at all or cooking me dinner after particularly exhausting days at work. He was supportive of my dreams, encouraging me to break out on my own and start my own company. He spent countless hours helping me set up my website and filling out the countless forms that came with starting and running a small business. He calmed my nerves when I wasn't sure I could do it.
But then, somehow, it wasn't blissful and easy any more. It was hard.
Jasper's grueling schedule didn't leave a lot of time for him to hold down a job, so at my insistence, he concentrated on school and I found myself acting as the sole-supporter of the household. I ended up getting a second job as a waitress at a local pub to offset some of our bills but it still seemed like money was always tight. Between that and the growing number of weddings I was taking on, it felt like I was constantly on my feet, running around, trying not to let anyone down. It was exhausting but I thought it was worth it. I had Jasper, I had my business, I was living my dreams. And Jasper wouldn't be in school for very long, soon enough he'd be working, too and things wouldn't be so crazy.
When he graduated, it was a relief. When he found a job shortly after, I was thrilled. Finally, things were going to get easier.
Except they didn't. Jasper worked all the time, trying to establish himself as a professor. I worked all the time, trying to keep my fledgling business in the black. And since Jasper's school loans were starting to come in, I still had to keep my job at the pub.
But still, I always thought we were just going through a rough spot, that things would get better. He was still my best friend and the love of my life.
Or so I thought.
I came home one evening after running a rehearsal for that upcoming weekend to find Jasper sitting in the dark at the kitchen table, his head buried in his hands. When he looked up at me, there was so much pain in those gorgeous eyes. He looked haunted. I immediately thought something terrible had happened, maybe to Rose or one of his parents, or even Charlie. But when he opened his mouth to speak, it was so much worse than I could have imagined.
Divorce. Seemingly out of nowhere, my prince charming was asking me for a divorce.
He sat there at that table where we'd sat together countless times before and he told me that he loved me but it wasn't enough. With tears silently streaming down his cheeks and the heartbreak clear in his eyes, he told me that he'd met someone else and while nothing had happened, he didn't think it was fair to any of us for him to stay with me, pretending it was enough when he knew there was the potential for so much more.
Alice was her name, and even then, I could see a light in his eyes that was never there for me. I believed him when he said he wasn't cheating on me. Jasper wasn't that kind of guy and I trusted him completely. Still, I could see that he wanted something to happen and all that was standing in his way was our marriage.
So I didn't fight him on it, despite how much it killed me to sign my name to those cold, impersonal papers that spelled out the end of our marriage. What would have been the point? As much as the thought of divorce crushed me, it hurt even more to think about spending the rest of my life with a man who didn't love me the way I deserved, the way I'd always dreamed I'd be loved.
Twenty-five years old and divorced. Never in my entire life did I imagine I'd find myself in that position. My friends all told me to keep an open mind, that maybe this was a good thing and I'd find someone even better who would love me completely. I smiled and said what they wanted to hear, that I still had hope, that I still believed in happily ever afters. But deep down, I wasn't quite so confident.
Over a year later, I still didn't know if I had it in my heart to try again.
So I watched from the end of the aisle as all my couples said their vows and made promises to love each other forever, and at the end of the day, I went home to my empty apartment and soaked my aching feet, wishing I didn't feel so cynical.
A buzzing in the pocket of my dress pulled me out of my thoughts and had me shaking off the melancholy that always came with thoughts of Jasper.
You've got a job to do, Bella. Focus.
"Hi there, beautiful bride," I greeted the star of the day with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. "How's everything going at the salon?"
Apparently things weren't going well at all. The stylist that Lauren decided on after torturing eight different candidates (bringing five of them to tears in the process) had come down with a nasty stomach bug that prevented her from coming in to work her magic on those golden curls. The salon was doing everything they could-providing free champagne for the entire party as well as offering up one of their other top stylists at no charge, but Lauren was in full on melt-down mode.
After some swift instructions to my team, I scurried out to my SUV and dashed over to the salon as quickly as I could, praying the entire time that Lauren hadn't assaulted someone.
Over the six years I'd been in the business of coordinating weddings, I'd run into my fair share of characters. Emotional brides, sleazy grooms, catty mothers, jealous sisters— weddings just tend to bring out the drama in people. Overall, my brides were sweet-a little stressed out from time to time trying to get everything together, but mostly just excited.
Lauren Mallory, however, was in a class of her own. The woman was spoiled rotten. Between her father and her fiancé, someone was always doting on her, calling her princess and seeing that her every need was met. Which was fine except that her needs seemed to be a twelve carat diamond tiara to wear with her eight-thousand dollar designer gown and chocolates flown in from Switzerland to serve to her five-hundred-and-eighty-six wedding guests among other things. Lauren was demanding, bitchy, and downright mean when she didn't get her way. I hesitated to call any of my brides a Bridezilla, but if there was ever going to be one I'd break that rule for, it was Lauren.
Just get through today and then you'll never have to think of her again.
The commission alone would cover my rent for the next six months so I tried not to be bitter over the fact that she'd likely 'forget' to tip me despite how above and beyond I'd already gone for her in the eight months I'd been slaving over her wedding. When I booked a new client, I was always aware that I might run up against requests that I'd never thought of before. That was part of the excitement, the challenge. Every wedding was different. But interviewing beefy male strippers to find one willing to pose as a cop, pull over the party bus at her bachelorette party, cuff the bride to a pole and grind his g-string in her face was not something I'd ever imagine I'd have to do.
One more day. One more day, I chanted to myself as I hopped out of my car and approached the salon.
When I stepped through the door of the upscale salon, it was all I could do to keep from wincing. The lovely bride was throwing a tantrum to rival a shrieking three year old. Shrill was really the only way to describe it and I was more than a little surprised none of the glass mirrors lining the walls had cracked yet.
Maybe it was only one more day, but the woman was going to torture me every second, I just knew it.
I threw an apologetic glance toward the salon staff cowering by the front desk and followed the screams back to the action. Lauren was pacing between empty salon chairs, yelling at anyone who came within two steps of her. Nearby, her hoard of bridesmaids, as well as her mother, grandmother, and soon-to-be-mother-in-law stood by in various stages of progress. Some wore curlers, some had half-assembled updos, some still had their hair thrown back in messy ponytails. Not a single one of them was done and they were supposed to be at the church, dressed and ready, in half an hour.
First things first. Get everyone back on task, then deal with the explosion that is Lauren.
While the bride's attention was on her younger sister, threatening to kick her out of the bridal party if she didn't get her hair dyed blond instead of the honeyed brown it currently was, I ushered the majority of the women in the group back to their stylists, insisting that I'd handle Lauren, they just needed to take care of themselves.
Once she'd reduced her sister to tears, Lauren turned her attention, searching out her next victim, and instantly spotted me.
"Finally!" she snarled, stalking toward me. "I don't know what the hell I'm paying you for if you're not around when I need you."
The rage in her eyes had me fighting against my instinct to take a step back but I knew that would only add fuel to the fire. The second she sensed weakness, she'd be relentless and I really wasn't in the mood to get attacked by a five-foot-eight bimbo in pink velour.
"Honey, do you want a Xanax or something?" Lauren's maid of honor tentatively asked.
"No, I don't want a fucking Xanax! You, get me some vodka," she snapped at her friend before twirling back and drilling her acrylic tipped finger into my sternum. "And you, get my stylist off her lazy ass and over here to do my hair. Now!"
"Alright, Lauren, let's just take a deep breath," I said in a soothing voice. "We'll get this all worked out."
"There's nothing to work out! I'm the bride, it's my day and I want the fucking stylist that I paid for!" Lauren screamed, towering over me as she continued to poke at my chest.
I was tempted to snap her fake fingernail off and tell her I didn't need to take her shit, but somehow that didn't seem very professional. Instead, I gritted my teeth and steeled myself to negotiate with the hellion.
"I'm sorry, Laur-"
"Sorry?" Apologizing apparently wasn't the right move to make. Lauren's eyes flared with disgust as she shoved me back a full two feet, her talons raking across my neck in the process. "Don't you fucking say you're sorry, just fix it! That's your job!"
Lord, give me the strength not to strangle this crazy bitch.
I ignored the stinging heat on my neck and the anger simmering in my belly. It just wasn't worth it to get into a catfight with this woman. I'd smile and do my job, and on Monday, I'd hang her photograph up on the wall in my office and throw darts at it.
I fixed a calm, polite smile on my face, an expression I'd mastered after dealing with more emotional brides than I could count. Placing myself directly in the line of fire, I stepped back up to Lauren, relying on my demeanor rather than height to put her in her place.
"Like I was saying, Tanya can't be here. Unfortunately, she's just not an option," I said, finding just the right mix of consolation and stern efficiency. "I know you did your trial with her, but we're going to have to improvise. You're still getting married today and you're going to look gorgeous. You're still the bride. It's still your wedding day. Nothing can mess that up, right?"
Lauren pursed her lips but didn't say anything, so I continued.
"Now, Siobhan here is very talented," I said, gesturing the unlucky stylist over to my side. "I've shown her the photographs we took after your trial and she's confident that she can do your hair exactly how Tanya did."
Please don't call my bluff. Please don't call my bluff, I prayed frantically. Of course I hadn't shown her anything in the two minutes since I'd walked in the door, but knowing Lauren, the only way to get her to agree would be if she thought the new stylist was just as good as, if not better than, the old one. Cardinal rule of dealing with difficult brides: know how BS.
"It's a beautiful style, Lauren," Siobhan jumped in with complete confidence. "You have excellent taste."
Thank you, Siobhan. Somebody's getting a big tip from me.
Lauren rolled her eyes, petulantly crossing her arms as she studied her potential new opponent. Siobhan merely stood there, unmoving under Lauren's withering glare, smiling pleasantly at the bride like she hadn't been wreaking havoc for the last half hour. The woman had skills.
Finally, Lauren huffed and glanced back at me. "I'm not paying her."
"Of course; the salon has agreed to cover the fee since the stylist you booked was unavailable," I said cheerfully, gently ushering her over to Siobhan's station. "Now just think-you'll get your hair done and have that extra money to take with you on your honeymoon."
"I guess," she pouted as she dramatically plopped herself into the chair. "Can we get started already? I don't want to spend my entire wedding day stuck in this fucking dump."
With Lauren placated (at least temporarily), I made my rounds to check on the rest of the wedding party, all back in their chairs getting pinned and curled and hair sprayed to perfection. As I helped dry tears and settle nerves, I attended to the constant buzzing of my phone, tapping out directions and mentally tracking our progress through the checklist in my head. Despite the delay at the salon, things were in pretty good shape.
The stylists swiftly worked their magic (likely desperate to get Lauren out of their hair) and everyone piled into the limousine only fifteen minutes behind schedule.
So far so good.
A/N: So….? I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into Wedding Plannerella's head.
This story will be short-six chapters total and all of them less than 6K. Very different than what you're used to from me but I had fun switching things up. I'll be posting on Mondays and Fridays for the next three weeks.
If you are a part of the exceedingly patient Team TTI still waiting for EPOV outtakes from Take the Ice, a thousand apologies. I have not abandoned them, they will be coming, I just need to get my head back into it.
Click that little box below and let me know what you think!