Justin Callahan is one man I hate to love. But what can I do when his easy charm, warm nature and spanking witticisms lured me in. Too bad he caused me to chase him across town. Tomorrow’s headlines will be the murder of a groom by his bride on their wedding day. I’ll make absolutely sure of that.
A few days ago,
“Are you sure?”
Henri twisted her serene little face into a sad one. I looked into a set of piercingly blue eyes and watched as frown lines appeared on the perfectly done forehead. The barely there creases disappeared instantaneously as I whirled around narrowly escaping a fatal injury that would have caused my ankle to twist rather unromantically. I forced a winning smile on my face while working my way into a mammoth design of silk, peppered with lace embroidery, lovingly covered with layers and layers of tulle: my wedding dress.
“Of course I am!” I screamed in frustration trying to stand erect under the heavy weight of the dress. I swished around knocking down a few hairbrushes, towels, nail paints and of course a mirror from an adjacent tea table. Notwithstanding the unforeseen incident, I keenly observed my blue eyes and examined the effect of white color on my skin. All the while, I made up a great emotionally wringing speech about how I could die tomorrow if I don’t marry Justin today; how she would be coming between me and my happiness; how she’d be miserable without her darling little prancing schmaltzy sister living in some corner of the world.
I instinctively flounced around almost as lightening quickly as I could and was almost crushed by the combined weight of Henri and my dress. She flung her arms around me in a mad rush upsetting empty wine bottles, lots of cosmetics, hair clips and a dozen other inconsequential items that I didn’t care about under the intoxicating influence of a grieved and worried sister’s embrace. “Oh my god, Henri! Are you crying?” I crooned trying to swallow the burning tears in my eyes.
“I cannot live without you! For chris’sake, you are just 19! What’s the rush to get married? You graduated through high school just last spring and autumn hasn’t even gone yet!”
She tightened her soft gloved- iron grip on me. I wasn’t the kind to be pushed around nor am I too strong-willed. I’m just a sister who wanted to get out of her sister’s way for her to live a life worth living. She cannot sacrifice her entire life raising me and looking after Mrs.Rosethorpe senior.
I gently pushed her away on the pretense of my wedding dress being spoiled and quickly called for Alice. Alice junior barged in almost immediately scared of finding two sisters high on emotion only to find a frantic little sister and an emotionally impenetrable older one. I quickly glanced at Henri only to notice the calm well-practiced face which suggests to the world that she’s alright. Only, I know the contrary is true. Alice Mungo had been the town’s sole fashion designer since the inception of our Lovell. We, Lovelliers, as we most definitely would call ourselves, are one great community full of enthusiastic farmers going about our business with our tongues firmly in cheek. Revelry, cheer, dancing, hard work and inhuman mental strength are all a daily reality in Lovell.
“Ah…Alice!” I threw back my head in a faux-happy gesture, “Tell the senior Mungo that our joint creation has become a delightful success.”
She tipped her head gracefully and slipped away. I approved of her very much. Alice junior is the middle child of the Mungo family and takes after her mother in the affairs of her heart and talent. I wish she breaks more hearts than me. It’ll be good for girls to do that. Henri broke many hearts too but by being unavailable. I glared into my reflection sadly drowning in self-pity. I cannot believe that I’ve become a spindly old lady in all but form at the age of 19.
“I probably should get going,” Henri abruptly jumped up making a move for the door knob, “I have to check on the water level on our land. I’m worried about the winter crop.” She smacked her head in anguish with one hand and twiddled her suspenders with the other. I literally blew off steam at the sight of my sister. She looked every bit like the supermodels on the Calvin Klein posters in New York City but lacked the will and inclination to work on herself. How would she, I chastised myself, she spent all her waking moments working on others.
I was so lost in my own thoughts that I quite forgot to notice the doorbell ringing downstairs. At least, I’d like to think I did a perfect act of it. I very well knew who that might be. My eyes gleamed back at my own reflection with glee when a loud, cultured, impossibly smooth and equally hard to forget voice trailed through the gaps under the door. Henri went rigid as both of us grappled with the enormous truth of muffled sounds made by the high-end heels on the plush carpeted stairs. The door burst open to reveal a magnificent lady prettier than anyone in their 40th decade of their life. She threw open her arms, bony soft hands wiggling for her daughter.
“Magdalena!” she exclaimed in a soft feline purr.
I elicited a well-rehearsed hoarse scream of joy at beholding the one woman who didn’t deserve my respect in over twelve blue moons. I hastened into our mother’s widened arms unnecessarily shoving my older sister to a side rather indifferently. Henri gladly skipped over to the far corner of the room moving as quickly as possible from the mother who hated her. I dislike my mother too. I make it clear every time I speak of her while Henri being the sensible one just shuts her mouth when asked about it. I could see the unmistakable moan from my sister’s lips although it wasn’t so obvious to my mother. Our dilated pupils met an instant later and what I saw in there would’ve crumbled all my plans to dust within seconds. I was extremely grateful to my mother for distracting me at the right moment and having the shallow woman in our midst made my resolve even more rock-hard.
I think I’ve sprinted out of the village square a good fifteen minutes ago and to my enormous disappointment, I couldn’t find Justin anywhere. The constant physical exertion made my mind so crystal clear that I fancied myself detective the moment I noticed car tracks along the chilly autumn street. I became pretty sure about the place he headed to. A keening noise and the smell of gas made me aware of the fact that my douche has finally arrived. A huge eight-wheeler delivery truck came my way with Johnny on the wheel. I ran headlong onto his truck and managed to stall him. I jogged up to his open window.
“Johnny, I need a lift. Can you take me to the Callahan’s duck pond?” I demanded the perv.
“On one condition,” he leered at me, “flash me!”
My eyebrows shot up at his daring request and I held back a second allowing the wheels in my head to turn.
“Why not?” I teased lacing my voice with honey like the hookers I saw on TV. “I’ll give you something more too. A kiss!”
I pulled open his door, jumped into the cabin, and grabbed him by the shirt. As he leaned forward, I promptly pulled him out and threw him on the ground.“Wait for the kiss, Johnny, Justin’ll be roaring to oblige you,” I screamed out the window.
Earlier that day,
My mother’s sugary voice perforated my already sore ears. Henri had just begun to help me into my wedding dress while Alice junior powdered my skin frantically. It was well past our originally planned schedule but no one was drawing more stress other than Mrs. Rosethorpe junior. Grandma Rosethorpe hid herself in what she liked to call it her private chamber (just a tiny bedroom in which she keeps her belongings). Moreover, she had been avoiding having dinner at the table and had been sleeping in Mrs. Madison’s home next-door. Mrs. Madison was the ever-helpful ever-friendly support my grandma always counts on.
“It is your wedding,” my mother reminded me making slashing patterns in the air with her artificially trembling hands. I knew that she was play acting by the almost there shadow she possessed under her eyes and by the well-covered wrinkles at the creases of her eyes. Despite not being around my mother for long years, I knew her like the back of my hand. After all, she’s my mother and after all, I’m her daughter.
Rosethorpe junior knocked out Henri’s hands in a flash and began doing my hair. “Henri, get me a glass of water and I need freshly baked scones for breakfast. Right now! I give you 15 minutes. Don’t make me regret my decision of coming back to my family. Otherwise, I could walk out of the entrance as easily as I came in,” my mother stared into poor Henri’s chocolate brown eyes intently until she was sure Henri comprehended the implications of it. I exhaled loudly nudging my mother’s foot discretely and raising my eyebrows at her indicating her to rein it in. Henri nodded her head predictably and slithered out of my room.
I raised my foot a good 10 inches high before bringing it ferociously onto my mother’s delicately studded Christian Loubotin with a feral hiss. She batted her eyelashes innocently at me. “That cost me more than you could give me,” she replied in a deadly voice.
“It’s not much than my sister’s feelings.”
“Exactly what I wanted to talk to you about,” she cut in bitingly, “what’s with you? You cannot run around with tramps. Find yourself a nice husband Magdalena! Not a high school drop-out!”
“Speak for yourself, Irene. You too married a high school drop-out and might I remind you that you indeed married a farmer?”
“Malcolm had a wonderful well-settled family Magdalena and he had a wonderful family name. Don’t you think Rosethorpe sounds like a royal name? What of Callahan? What can you make out of it? Justin Callahan?” She twisted her shape and mouth into horrible shapes while talking about Justin, which I strongly objected to with a well chosen and one of our county’s best swear words.
“Magdalena!” she huffed irritably, “See sense!”
“I send you hundreds of dollars month after month for a reason Irene and I want you to payback now,” I scowl at her, contempt forming in my throat, “just shower love on me and act indifferent to Henri. Don’t go on focusing your attention on her because it is needed elsewhere - on me.”
I flail my arms helplessly before the deaf woman.
“Do you even love him Maggie?” she wondered aloud using my nickname. I started at her unusual use of it.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged relieved to share this piece of news with another living being.
My mother gawked at me looking staggered. She bustled toward me shaking her head apparently mighty disapproving.
“Magdalena! You’re my daughter and I love you,” she whispered as she shook my limp defeated hands, “I haven’t taken even a single dollar from your account too honey. I just wanted to know the truth. Hmm?”
Angry tears formed in the depths of my eyes and spilled forth with a hurry. “I could call off the wedding honey. I’ll handle everything. I’m always here for you.”
“No,” I denied her right, denied her presence and denied her love, “you weren’t there for us when we most wanted it, Irene. Leaving a teen and pre-teen with their grandma is not a noble thing nor is it so worth anything. You had left us and we are taking turns to be mother, Irene. It’s as simple as that. She had been my mom since you’ve gone, abandoning her own wishes. And I’m going to be hers by getting out of the way but that doesn’t mean I’m abandoning her like you think.”
“Pray tell me what is it you are doing? You are sacrificing your whole goddamn life for her? You think you are so high and mighty, home-girl? You are so not. It just makes you pathetic!” Irene drew herself to her full height and breathed invisible fire.
Two things happened simultaneously at around the time my mom raised her voice. Relishing her victory, she hurled the words into the air making it highly possible for the ears-inside-walls to gather enough information that could topple my plan like a pack of cards. The words produced rather unexpected expected reactions from two corners of the bedroom: one from outside the window and the other from outside the door. I scooted over to the window ignoring the person inside the house.
With a sinking heart I found Justin walk away with a purposeful gait to his step and Conrad, Justin’s best man jogging towards the church. “Curse you, Irene!” I made a fairly objectionable hand gesture and skidded out of the door pushing the frozen Henrietta aside.
“Henrietta!” my old lady’s voice pursued my swinging figure and both the girls collided outside the room.
“Stop her,” Irene rosethorpe shrieked in an unnaturally high-pitched voice which gave a rather oily tinge to her otherwise lilting voice. I shook my head in disgust and ran around the waiting arms of Mrs. Mungo.
“Alice!” she shouted at her apprentice/child, “the dress!” Alice junior rushed after me just as my feet made contact with the cold morning ground. I hopped and skipped on the barren frosty road until I reached Gardinia’s shoe store. I pilfered a pair of red sneakers and ran after Justin. Gardinia sauntered out of her store shaking her fist at me. She made to follow after me with her uber-strong limbs.
“Justin!” I bellowed with all the air inside of me. I could just make out a hazy shape of his car in the distance. I stopped for air and found Alice junior dutifully standing beside me with an eerie uncomfortable gaze on my dress. Shrieks and yelps after me urged me to turn around and scan the number of people after me. Henri and Irene chased after me squabbling like a pair of rats, closely followed by grandma and Mrs. Madison. With Gardinia Grahams on my heels too, I bolted out of the hell-hole in search of a douche with a car.
Twenty minutes later, I and my stolen truck stopped at Mr. Callahan’s ranch. Another mile later, I chanced upon Justin sitting peacefully at the banks of his duck pond. By this time, I was totally sure that I’d have lost at least 5 lbs. Justin made me run like I’ve never ran in my life. I stopped in my tracks at the sudden thought that popped in my head. I care for him more than for anyone in my really short life. At this specific juncture, I cared for him more than Henri which could only mean one thing. I love him. I love Justin. My bubble fizzled out when my eyes filled with the picture of Justin listening on Irene and me. This realization lead me on the path to fury. I immediately picked up a soft pebble off the earth, swung it in the air, caught it once again and flung it at Justin’s head.
“Ow,” he growled but still didn’t turn around. He reached for the back of his head and rubbed it gingerly.
“Hunter!” I hollered at him. I shuffled along the ramp and slid down beside him. “Hunter!” I pleaded him, “Talk to me.”
He simply averted his gaze. I felt tears welling up in my nineteen-year-old-eyes. It’s hard enough to realize you are in love. But the harder part comes when your love didn’t get reciprocated. “Hunter, I know you are extremely angry with me. Ok, I made a mistake. Ok, I didn’t tell you I called my mom for our wedding. Ok, I should’ve told you I accepted your proposal for Henri. But you are my best friend. Ok, ok, ok, I was wrong. I am wrong.” I poured forth a garbled mix of words. I allowed fresh tidal waves of tears coming onto me. Justin didn’t move a muscle. I abruptly stopped crying when I noticed the right corner of his mouth steadily moving up. I gaped at him in astonishment. His face radiated with mischief as his voice broke into a whoop. He faced me and went into a fit of guffaws. I hit his shoulder angrily. His X-ray brown eyes roved over my face as I tried to understand what the hell was in his mind.
“Oh my god, Magpie! Oh my god!” He clutched his stomach and toppled over.
“What? What?” I ground my teeth in pure white hot rage.
“Magpie, you are red, sweaty, flushed and in your wedding dress. Do you know you sound like the silliest girl in the world right now?”
“What the….,” I trailed off. “Ok, forget it. What were you thinking? How the hell did you end up outside my bedroom window? You know its bad luck to see me before our wedding, right? Anyways, I’m in love with you. Oh by the way, I decided I’m going off to college next semester to hide my stupid face after today’s fiasco. Hey do you know what Johnny asked me a few minutes ago. That jackass wanted a kiss from me. I told him you’d give him one. See to that, ok?” I rallied my case rather strongly.
He waved his hand airily and squinted at me. “What are you talking about? You are going to college? Sorry to remind you Magpie but you hate school.” Justin frowned sympathetically.
“Oh, right, I forgot. Thanks for reminding me. So, what next?” I ask him sounding more desperate than I wanted to show.
He exhaled heavily and turned to watch me. He waited for something that I pretended I couldn’t guess. I was pretty certain that my face had it all. As I felt my cheeks getting warmer, I guessed my guilty face had turned a bright shade of pink. Ok, I know what he wants me to say. My cunning insertion of the ‘I love you’ didn’t go unnoticed. I immediately shifted to stand up from there when a pair of warm hands caught my waist and pulled. I threw back my hands to stop his weight from pushing me when his mouth found mine. My heart did a disco jig while my hands itched to reach his neck. I kissed him back hesitantly not knowing how to respond. He didn’t seem to mind. That’s Justin for you. He’s always calm, always composed, always with a plan, a quiet confidence in his demeanor, a naughty twinkle in his eye, smart, intelligent, warm, handsome (to my eyes), slightly boring due to his lack of drama and finally, he loved me from the day we became friends way back in kindergarten.
“It doesn’t matter if you didn’t love me, Magpie. I could always make you to love me,” he shrugged lightly looking every bit unruffled.
Am I glad that I’m going to be his wife? Yes sir, I am.
The kiss ended very soon to my liking because my mother, sister and a bunch of the townspeople swooped upon us and whisked us away to church. Good luck for your next kiss Magdalena, I hoped for myself.
The church erupted in a deafening roar that would probably shake the highway until Nashville when I and Justin prolonged our kiss at the altar. I rolled my eyes rather childishly and followed him outside the church. I and Justin had a plan. And I have to say we seldom fail. I tittered excitedly while all the young ladies assembled in a bunch behind me squealing and shrieking with glee. Justin stood facing all of them and gave me a sign as to where Henri was. I winked animatedly and made a show of tossing the bouquet and stopped. A collective sigh. I did that again. Another annoyed jeer. The third time, I muttered a small prayer in my head and launched the bouquet to my far right where I surely know Henri would be hiding.
“Heads up, Henrietta,” Justin whistled at the exact same moment. Henri looked toward the sky startled out of her reverie only to be pushed forcibly aside by my mother. Henri got knocked down the steps and into the surprised arms of a handsome stranger while my mother caught the bouquet. Everyone started giggling and guffawing over Henri’s shocking introduction to the young man.
“Henrietta Rosethorpe!” Irene shouted shrilly at her eldest daughter hardly hiding the fact that she’s jealous.
“Mom!” I yelled mortified at the sight of the bouquet in her old hands.
“Magdalena!” Henri charged up to me having alighted from the gentleman’s grasp.
And so it goes…