A/N - This is a sequel to my previous story Maybe. I recommend reading that one first as there are some story lines I've continued into this one that may not make sense otherwise. I hope to post chapters weekly. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Annie or any of its characters.
Grace Farrell sat at her dressing table in her slip, pulling her hair up into a fancy twist. When she finished, she sat and looked at herself in the mirror, butterflies in her stomach. The last week had been a whirlwind of activity, planning a wedding that most people took months to do, in only seven days. Not to mention the other task she had undertaken, unbeknownst to Oliver. Grace had been so busy, there had been little time to think about anything, but now that the day was actually here, she had done nothing but think. Though this was a day that she had dreamed about for a very long time, she was more than a little nervous. She wished again that her mother could have been with her.
Grace thought of her parents often, but it had been years since she felt their loss this poignantly. Her father died when she was 19, from a sudden heart attack. Her mother had followed only a year later, from a broken heart more than anything, Grace knew. Grace had come along late in their lives, for a long time they thought they would never be able to have children. Though they adored and doted on their only child, Grace knew that the love the two of them had shared had been something special, deep and powerful. Something that Grace had only dreamed about finding, but now that she had, she wanted nothing more than to be able to share it with them. A tear made it's way slowly down her cheek, as she pictured herself walking down the aisle on her father's arm, her mother's face beaming with pride as she watched.
"Now, now, what's all this? There's no room for sadness on a day like today," Grace heard from the door, as Helen Pugh stepped into the room. She came up behind Grace, laying a hand on her shoulder.
"Thinking about your mother, are you?" Helen asked quietly. Grace could only nod over the lump in her throat.
"Well, I know I'm not her," Helen continued, "But, I'd like to help you, if you'll have me." Grace stood and turned, embracing the shorter woman tightly.
"I'd like that very much," she said, her voice shaky, a few more tears escaping from her eyes. Helen patted her back, then pulled away and put a hand to her cheek.
"Come then," Helen said with a smile. "Let's dry those tears and get you ready."
A little while later, Grace was dressed and putting the finishing touches on her make-up. Helen smiled at her in the mirror, as Grace dabbed a bit of perfume on her neck.
"You look beautiful, Grace," she beamed. Grace returned her smile, blushing a bit at the compliment. "Now, do you have everything?"
"What do you mean?" Grace asked, confused.
"You know the poem, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," Helen replied.
"Oh, well, I hadn't really thought about it," Grace confessed. "It's just a silly poem, after all."
"Silly poem?" Helen protested, her hands on her hips. "Why, it's a wedding tradition, it brings good luck." Grace chuckled. She had never been one to believe in superstition or luck. Still, Helen looked quite serious about it, so she supposed it wouldn't hurt to play along.
"Well, all right," Grace replied. "Let's see, my dress is new, oh and I'm wearing the earrings my father gave my mother for their wedding day, so that covers the something old. And this can be my something blue." Grace opened a blue box from Tiffany's, Helen gasping as she did so. Inside, lay a necklace with a sparkling heart-shaped sapphire pendant, surrounded by tiny diamonds. Oliver had given it to Grace the night before, telling her that the sapphire reminded him of her eyes and the heart a reminder that she held his, forever and always. Grace smiled as she thought of it.
"It's gorgeous, Grace," Helen breathed. Grace nodded, taking it gingerly from the box.
"Will you help me with it, please?" she asked Helen. Helen nodded, taking the necklace and fastening it around Grace's neck.
"Now then, you just need something borrowed," Helen said.
"Well, I don't know where I'm going to get that now," Grace answered. "I guess three of the four will just have to do."
"Nonsense," Helen insisted. She then pulled something out of the pocket of her dress and gave it to Grace. It was wrapped in a cloth and Grace opened it carefully. Inside, was a set of ivory combs, small gems inset into the edges. Grace looked up at Helen questioningly.
"I wore those in my hair the day I got married," Helen explained. "I intended to pass them on to my daughter, but then I ended up with my three boys. I thought perhaps one of their wives might use them, but they all had things from their own mothers." Helen shrugged. "I want you to have them Grace, you know you're like a daughter to me." She placed a hand on Grace's shoulder and squeezed gently. Grace looked at Helen, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
"I'd be honored to wear them," Grace said. "But, I can't keep them Helen." Helen looked at her, surprised. "I'll borrow them, and then you set them aside for that new granddaughter of yours." Grace smiled and winked. Helen's oldest son and his wife had just had their second child a few weeks before, a little girl. It was her first granddaughter, after four grandsons, and Grace knew Helen was enamored with her.
"All right," Helen agreed. "Let me help you with these and your veil." As Helen affixed the veil to Grace's head, they both heard a commotion at the door and Annie burst in, Cecile at her heels.
"I'm sorry Miss Farrell, she insisted on seeing you," Cecile apologized as Annie flung herself into Grace's arms.
"It's all right, Cecile," Grace replied. "I wanted to see her too." Cecile nodded, stepping out and closing the door. Grace hugged the little girl tightly, then sat back from her, taking Annie's hands.
"Now, let me look at you," Grace said, as Annie took a few steps back. She wore a long white dress, accented with a blue sash around her waist and white mary janes. It was simple, but adorable.
"You look wonderful, sweetheart," Grace said, smiling broadly. Annie beamed with pride, then seemed to look carefully at Grace for the first time since she had entered the room. Her mouth dropped open as she took in the sight of Grace in her dress and veil.
"Mom, you look so pretty," Annie breathed. A little thrill went through Grace at Annie's words. Annie had been calling her mom for a week now, but it still delighted Grace every time she heard it.
"Thank you, Annie," Grace replied, giving her another small squeeze. "Are you all ready for today?"
"Yep, I practiced and everything," Annie said enthusiastically. "Cecile is holding my basket, so I don't spill it." Grace laughed at Annie's excitement.
"I know you'll do wonderfully." Grace grinned at the little girl, then rose to gather her own bouquet. She took one last look at herself in the mirror as a small knock sounded on the door.
"That will be Punjab, I expect," Helen said, crossing the room and peeking out the door. Punjab had agreed to escort Grace down the aisle, for which Grace was grateful. She knew if anyone could keep her steady, it was Punjab. Helen opened the door to admit the bodyguard, then turned to Annie.
"Come along, dear," she said, holding out a hand for Annie to take. "Let's get you all ready downstairs." Annie smiled at Grace once more before taking Mrs. Pugh's hand and following her downstairs.
"Miss Grace, you look most lovely," Punjab said, bowing, then offering Grace his right arm. She blushed, slipping her arm through his as he led her from the room.
"Has my surprise arrived?" Grace asked, as they made their way to the staircase.
"Yes, just, with the Asp," Punjab replied, smirking at her.
"And Oliver doesn't know?" Grace asked.
"No, Sahib has been in his study, until just a few moments ago," Punjab assured her. Grace smiled, hoping that Oliver would appreciate what she had done. Although there was a small part of her that feared he would be upset. Grace sighed, and Punjab looked at her questioningly.
"Did I do the right thing, do you think?" Grace asked him, biting her lip.
"To that I cannot say, but I have never seen Sahib so happy, as this last few days, surrounded by his family," Punjab replied, emphasizing the word family. Grace nodded, what's done is done, she thought to herself as she and Punjab reached the bottom of the stairs, taking a turn toward the back terrace.
As they came around the corner, Grace spotted Annie standing in the doorway, waiting for Cecile to send her on her way. The guests were all seated on the lawn in front of the terrace, Oliver and the minister waiting at the end of the aisle. Grace smiled as she saw Oliver, he was watching Annie and hadn't noticed Grace's arrival. Cecile glanced back as Grace and Punjab stopped a few feet behind Annie, then nodded to the small orchestra seated on the terrace. The music began and Annie started her slow march down the aisle, concentrating mightily on the flower petals she was plucking from her basket and dropping to the ground. Then, as the music changed, Grace's stomach did another small flip-flop. Punjab gave her hand a squeeze and the two stepped out of the doorway onto the terrace and began their own walk toward Oliver.
Oliver smiled as he watched Annie drop the petals carefully and precisely, every other step. He chuckled at the expression on her face, so focused was she on her task. And then the music changed and Oliver looked up as the guests rose and turned to the rear. The sight that met his eyes took his breath away. Grace very nearly floated down the aisle, the necklace he had given her sparkling in the sun. His gaze locked with hers and a wide smile spread across her face. He found himself unable to smile back, he was so taken with how beautiful she looked, he could only stare, open-mouthed. As they reached him, Punjab took Grace's hand, kissing the back of it before he bowed to Oliver and placed Grace's hand in his. Oliver finally composed himself, squeezing Grace's hand and winking before turning to face the minister.
The ceremony proceeded, but Oliver couldn't have told anyone what was said, he was too busy studying his bride from the corner of his eye. He could not seem to stop looking at her, not even for a second, and it was hard to pay attention to anything else but her. Grace seemed to sense his stare and inclined her head slightly toward him, giving him a small smirk. Oliver had to bite his lip to keep from laughing out loud, as she gestured with her eyes toward the minister and raised her eyebrows, silently admonishing Oliver to pay attention.
Then they turned to face one another, Oliver forcing himself to listen closely, as he repeated his vows after the minister. Grace's eyes shone, her smile wider than Oliver thought possible, as he pledged his love to her. And as he heard the same words from her, his heart soared and he could not help the grin that broke out over his own face. Once they had exchanged the rings, the minister blessed them and then presented them to the crowd. Oliver kissed Grace softly, then hugged her to him.
"Forever and always," he whispered in her ear, then pulled back to look at her. She nodded, placing a hand against his cheek, before kissing him gently in return. And then the guests began to clap and cheer, Grace laughing aloud as Oliver led her back down the aisle and onto the terrace.
They stood and greeted everyone, accepting congratulations and hugs from their staff and few friends they had invited. Oliver had hired wait staff and caterers for the wedding, so everyone on the staff could enjoy themselves. Something Mrs. Pugh was none to happy about, she never liked having her kitchen invaded. In fact, as Grace searched the crowd without seeing her, she knew that Helen was back in the kitchen right now, ordering everyone about. Grace chuckled quietly, feeling a bit sorry for the caterers.
Annie rushed up to Grace as Oliver greeted a business associate, hugging her tightly round the waist.
"Mom, did you watch me? Did I do a good job?" Annie gushed, looking up at Grace.
"Yes, dear, you did a wonderful job," Grace replied, leaning down and kissing Annie atop her head.
"A wonderful job, indeed," Oliver concurred, swinging the little girl up into his arms, laughing as she giggled. "I don't think I've ever seen anyone do quite such a perfect job, as a matter of fact."
"Daddy Warbucks," Annie said, giggling louder. "I'm the only flower girl you've seen."
"Oh, not true, my dear, not true," Oliver argued. "I've been to plenty of weddings in my time and I've never seen such a perfect flower girl." He kissed her cheek, putting an arm around Grace, just as the photographer snapped a picture. Grace sighed contentedly, laying her head against Oliver's shoulder and smiling up at Annie as the photographer snapped away.
As the last of the guests greeted Oliver and Grace, Grace began to search the crowd for the one face she had not yet seen. She had noticed the woman seated in the last row when Grace had come down the aisle, but now she was nowhere to be found. Grace frowned, looking around once more, then decided to check in the house.
"I'll be right back, darling," she said to Oliver. "I just need to check on something."
"Don't be long," he replied, kissing her on the cheek. She nodded, then gathered up her skirts and made her way through the crowd on the terrace and into the house. Grace looked in the library, the dining room and the solarium and had almost given up when she saw someone walking toward the front door.
"Wait," Grace called out, hurrying after her. The woman turned at Grace's call, then shook her head and continued toward the door.
"Please, Elizabeth, wait," Grace said again, walking as quickly as she could manage in her dress. The woman reached the door and turned the knob. She stopped for a moment, then sighed and turned back to Grace.
"Why are you leaving?" Grace asked. "You haven't even seen Oliver yet."
"I know," Elizabeth said quietly. "I intended too, I really did. But when I actually started over to the two of you, I just." She trailed off, shaking her head. Grace put a hand on her arm.
"Please," Grace said. "I know he would be thrilled to see you." I hope, Grace added to herself.
"I'm sorry, Grace," Elizabeth replied. "It was a beautiful wedding and it was wonderful to see him so happy again. But it's been too long, too much has happened, I'm not sure what there even is to say. Thank you for inviting me, but, I just can't. I'm sorry." With that, she turned and walked out the front door, leaving a stunned Grace in her wake.
Oliver searched the crowd once again for Grace, still not finding her anywhere. He frowned, glancing at his watch, wondering what had happened. She had said she just needed to take care of something, but that had been nearly twenty minutes ago and she still hadn't returned. He wasn't sure what she could possibly be checking on. The chairs had been moved from their rows and now surrounded small tables scattered around the lawn. The food had all been brought out and waiters were moving through the crowd with glasses of champagne. The orchestra was ready to begin playing their first dance, but Oliver needed to find his bride first. He finally excused himself from the conversation that was going on around him, leaving Annie with Cecile, and went into the house to search for Grace.
He checked the kitchens first, but was immediately ejected by a harassed looking Mrs. Pugh, who was mumbling under her breath about incompetent servers and messy cooks. Oliver couldn't help but chuckle. He looked in the solarium and the library, but Grace was nowhere to be found. Growing concerned, Oliver made his way toward the front of the house and saw Grace talking to a woman, who quickly departed, leaving Grace standing motionless in the doorway. A flicker of recognition crossed Oliver's face as he saw the woman, but he couldn't quite place her. Brow furrowing, he searched his memory to try and attach a name to the face, as he walked toward Grace to find out what was going on.
"Please, wait," Oliver heard Grace call, as she took a step out the door. Oliver hurried to her side, placing a hand on her arm.
"Grace, what is it?" he asked, puzzled. Grace started when he touched her arm, turning to him gasping. "Are you all right?" he asked, concerned now.
"Oh, Oliver, I'm sorry, I," she began, but then paused, turning to look once more at the woman who was now climbing into a taxi. "I'll explain everything, I promise, but I have to stop her." Grace picked up her skirts and flew down the stairs toward the taxi. Oliver stared at her in shock, then gathered himself and followed Grace quickly, still trying to remember who the mystery woman was. Grace reached the taxi before he did, wrenching open the door before it could pull away and sticking her head in to talk to the woman inside. As Oliver reached Grace's side, he caught another glimpse of the woman's face and something finally clicked in his brain. He stopped, eyes wide, mouth open, as he stared at the woman in the taxi.
"It can't be," he whispered quietly. The woman seemed to finally come to a decision. She gave the taxi driver some money, then stepped carefully from the car, closing the door. She looked down at her feet as the taxi drove away. After a moment, she raised her head, locking her gaze with Oliver's.
"Hello, Oliver. It's been a long time."