Gabrielle stared at the bride as she touched up her lipstick. She looked beautiful, almost too perfect, but there were those quirky decisions that kept her from being a clone from a bridal magazine. Laila's white flip flops were sticking out from under her simple lace gown, her toes painted to match the bridesmaid's baby blue dresses. She wore no veil, only a large white flower tucked into the curls of her strawberry blonde hair. As maid of honor, Gabrielle had seen this wedding come to fruition and had been shocked by her sister's relaxed enthusiasm for it. She knew that Laila had always been decisive yet everything she had done for the past year in preparation for this day had almost been too easy, as if it were a pleasant routine. Laila kept saying that the details didn't matter, she was marrying the man she loved and the extravagance was more for the parents than the bride and groom. And extravagant it was. The vineyard was covered in flowers and small white lights which were timed to turn on exactly when the sun set. There were hundreds of chairs waiting to be filled with friends and family who had come from every corner of the country to see this wedding take place. A full orchestra was tuning their instruments in preparation for the first dance. A five course meal awaited them after the ceremony.
Laila smiled at Gabrielle through the reflection of the mirror and turned to face her, reaching for a glass of Champagne and smudging her newly perfected lipstick on the crystal glass.
"You're ruining your make-up," Gabrielle chided as she checked her own from the corner of her eye.
"We still have half an hour before the ceremony starts," her sister reminded her. "I can fix it again."
"Could you be any more relaxed about this wedding? You're starting to freak me out," Gabrielle said, turning to face the now empty mirror and smoothing out her dress. When Laila had announced her engagement and had asked Gabrielle to be her Maid of Honor, the first thing the younger sister had thought about wasn't the actual honor of her position but about the horrible dress she would have to wear. That had been the first of many surprises and by the rehearsal dinner the previous night, Gabrielle had decided she really didn't know her sister at all. She had been allowed to choose the design of her dress, choose her shoes, how she would wear her hair, nearly all of the details that most brides relished in forcing upon their bridesmaids.
Laila could only smile. Her younger sister looked so grown up, so much her own person that it pulled on her heart strings, so much more so than marrying Sterling for a second time. Granted, no one knew about the first marriage ceremony and that was the only reason she wasn't on pins and needles this afternoon. The truth was that the two of them had been happily and secretly married for over 18 months while they finished their time at Yale University. Laila had been tempted on more than one occasion to tell her best friend Piper and now, more than ever, to tell her sister, Gabrielle. She could feel the confession on the tip of her tongue but she held it in, not knowing how Gabrielle would react. Her younger was still very young and very naïve, incredibly quick to pass judgment.
"You look beautiful," Laila told Gabrielle and received a warm smile in return.
"So do you," her sister replied. "Do you think Sterling is nervous?"
Laila laughed. She didn't know if her husband was nervous to marry her again. "Maybe a little. If Alistair isn't giving him too much grief."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes in response. Alistair was Sterling's twin brother and his best man. He was also unbelievably cute. Gabrielle knew that Sterling and Alistair looked practically identical but there was no way she could ever look at Sterling the way she looked at Alistair. Sterling was, and had always been, like her older brother, and in a matter of minutes that title would be official. Alistair, on the other hand, teased Gabrielle and flirted innocently with her, constantly asking her when her 18th birthday was so he could finally take her on a date. And he did all this with his girlfriend and their baby girl standing by which is why Gabrielle tried to convince herself that Alistair's flirting was simply annoying and not at all flattering.
"Is Elliott here yet?" She heard her sister ask and her lips instantly formed a frown on her angelic looking face.
"We broke up," Gabrielle said quickly and turned back to the mirror, fixing her auburn hair for the hundredth time.
"What?" Laila put down her Champagne and reached for her sister's hand. "When did this happen?"
"Two weeks ago," her sister said, trying to pretend as if it didn't bother her but Laila knew better. Gabrielle's large green eyes were darting about nervously and her thin lips were quivering as if she trying to hold back a sob.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want to spoil your big day," Gabrielle said with a small smile. "Not with some stupid high school drama."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Laila said with a frown.
"Laila, you are getting married in a matter of minutes. I don't want to talk about it!" Her sister laughed and Laila had to laugh as well. She knew this entire wedding had been a source of anxiety for Gabrielle. She was younger than the other bridesmaids and not able to participate in the fun things, like the bachelorette party, but her little sister had never once complained. She had taken her duty as Maid of Honor seriously and had been by Laila's side every step of the way, keeping the bride in check and on schedule. Now that the big day was finally here, Laila couldn't help but wonder if Gabrielle would feel as though she was losing part of their relationship, part of their sisterly bond.
"Gabrielle, can I tell you something? Something nobody else knows?" Laila had made up her mind. If anyone should know about her marriage to Sterling, it was her sister. 18 months ago, Laila never would have trusted Gabrielle with the information. Her sister was headstrong and judgmental and would have run straight to their parents with the information. Not because she would have wanted Laila to get in trouble, but because she would have seen it as the right thing to do. But now, having spent so much time with her over the past few months, seeing how much Gabrielle had grown, she had full faith that her sister would keep her secret.
"Oh, God! You aren't having second thoughts are you? Okay, I'm prepared for this," Gabrielle said, taking a deep breath and holding Laila's hand.
"I'm not having second thoughts," Laila said with a laugh, stopping her sister before she could either talk Laila out of running or encourage her to follow her heart. "Exactly the opposite."
"So tell me," Gabrielle said, her face still distraught with worry.
The bride opened her mouth to say something, her expression giddy with anticipation, when the door burst open and the remainder of her bridesmaids paraded into the room.
"Laila, girl, do you know how many people are out there?" Tennille asked, taking a swig straight from a bottle of Champagne.
"There are so many cute boys!" Luanne squealed as she glanced at herself in the mirror and fluffed her bright red hair.
Piper came in last, her little girl, Paisley, on her hip and an uncorked bottle of Champagne in her other hand. "I just saw Sterling. He looks so handsome."
Laila glanced once at Gabrielle and winked, a silent promise to fill her in later. Her strong younger sister gave her an encouraging smile and the siblings joined the other girls. Paisley covered her ears while her mother popped the cork on the Champagne bottle and each bridesmaid was handed a glass.
"Don't tell Mom," Laila warned Gabrielle who nodded her head and eagerly accepted the drink.
"To Laila and Sterling," Tennille said, raising her bottle. "I was there from the very beginning and I can honestly say that I always knew this day was going come eventually."
"You did not," Laila laughed at her.
"Please! You two were disgustingly in love from day one and nothing has changed."
All Laila could do was smile brilliantly at her friends. She could tell that they were all excited for her and knowing she had their support meant more to her than this ceremony itself.
"Can I say something?" Luanne asked timidly.
"I didn't want to say anything in front of everyone, and you know this already, but I owe so much to you and Sterling. If you hadn't been my roommate, I don't know what I would have done or what kind of awful person I would be today. I love you so much."
Tears pooled in the redheads lids and Laila pulled her in for a tight hug. "I love you too."
"Alright," the girls heard Piper say. "Enough of this sappy stuff. Laila, let's get you married."
Laila kissed Luanne quickly on the cheek, finished her glass of Champagne in a few large gulps, and reapplied her lipstick one last time. Even with the extravagance and the circus of two large groups of family and friends being brought together, she had to admit that she was excited this day was finally here. Sterling would look dashing in his tux, they could dance and drink Champagne, act as in love as they felt, and no one would know their secret.