An Angel's Fix Pt. 03byphotodad©
Jill, Kim, and Joe helped get the home in its polished entertainment grandeur. Ashley was the last to work on finishing up getting ready for the events starting early in the evening. There was a knock on the front door, and the group downstairs looked at each other. A few things were odd. Nobody they knew well would knock, let alone on the front door. Also, the gate at the end of the driveway didn't open unless you knew the code or someone from inside used the phone to unlock it. Joe got up and answered it. He called out that Kim had company.
She padded to the foyer in her bare feet and sundress to see what was up. Jill and Jasmine startled when they heard her scream. "Mommy! Daddy! I thought you wouldn't be here until dinner."
The other two girls raced each other to the foyer.
Kim's mom hugged her daughter. "Cindy got us an earlier flight to surprise you."
Kim looked around her dad who took his turn to hug and kiss her, and sure enough, Cindy was walking up the steps from her car. Kim mouthed her thanks, to which Cindy smiled and nodded. The couple greeted Joe warmly with congratulations, and Kim's father caught Jill, then Jasmine when they jumped to hug him.
Her mom kissed them all and looked around. "The house is bigger than I remember, but just as pristine." She looked at Jasmine. "Great job, as usual."
"Thanks, but I had a lot of help today."
Her dad looked at the girls all dressed similarly to Kim, only in different colors. "You ladies look great, do you have a chart to coordinate what to wear?" he joked.
"No, it just happens this way," Jill answered.
"Kim, you shouldn't have let this one get away. This all could have been yours."
Her eyes darted at him. "Daddy, don't start."
Her mom chimed in. "We've already had this fight with her, Bill. Let's not repeat it."
"What? I'm just saying that if they had hung in there until college, she might still be with Joe."
"I certainly hope not!"
The heads all turned toward the voice descending the stairs visible through the den behind them. Dressed in a white blouse unbuttoned low to display the familiar pendant, a black and silver paisley vest, black slacks and matching pumps, the redhead glided toward them confidently with the grace the two parents had only seen from Jill.
"You must be the famous Ashley that Kim's been telling us about," the mother said as she reached her arms out to the bride to be.
"Indeed I am," Ashley smiled as she accepted the embrace, and moved on to accept one from Kim's dad. "Welcome, and thanks for coming," she said graciously.
They congratulated her on the upcoming wedding, and she invited them to sit in the media room. Joe sat next to her on one of the couches after his drink offer was refused. Ashley whispered something in his ear to which he nodded. He asked about their flight, and the conversation led to everybody catching each other up. After a while, she tapped his knee as a reminder and he told the other three girls that they would be leaving in a few minutes. They excused themselves to fetch their shoes and other necessities.
Ashley graciously fulfilled the couple's curiosity about her. Before they left for his job, they only knew her as a new girl on the cheerleading team. Since then, their information was tinted through Kim's eyes. They immediately saw why Joe fell in love with her, and Kim adored her. Ashley's charm drew them into her as well. Lively chatter announced the other three girls' return, and they loaded up two cars to meet Ashley's parents at the church.
Ashley made the introductions between the parents, then quickly excused herself when she saw Reena walk in. Kim's folks got to see the giddy side of Ashley when she squealed and bounced excitedly with her band mate. They calmed down and Ashley led her up to the organ, asking if Reena could play it, or if she was bringing her keyboard. Reena powered up the large electronic device, clicked some buttons, punched in a few knobs, and played a forceful Bach's Dorian Toccata in D minor.
The group heard Ashley say, "I guess that qualifies as a yes."
Reena pulled out her books, and went over music with Ashley for the ceremony, occasionally playing snippets, so that the bride could get a feel for the overall ambiance the selections would make with each other. While that was going on, Cindy met the florist at the door and collaborated with Jasmine as to where the arrangements were to be placed. Ashley's parents paid for the flowers, and Joe was surprised that they were being delivered in two van loads. There was nothing for him to do, so he sat and chatted with the two sets of parents, plus Jill and Kim.
The priest came in and summoned everybody to him. He went over the order everything would take place in, and then led a walk-through. Ashley was sent to the back of the church while the bridal party was being arranged on the altar steps. Being left alone for a bit, she got bored, and to fight boredom, she usually got playful, and this was no exception. Finally, she was instructed to walk ceremoniously up the aisle, and she started her slow pace. The priest said that was good, and she could walk up normally now to save time. She turned and did one of her effortless back walkovers before dancing her way up the aisle. The rest of the group laughed as she did the 70's shuffle and point. The priest coughed to choke off his chuckle and reminded her that this was still a sacred place, even though no ceremony was going on. Ashley settled down after getting scolded, and the rest of the rehearsal proceeded as planned.
At the end, Joe took out his and Ashley's violins to practice what was to be their duet. The others sat to watch while the two rested against pew arms across the aisle from each other. It was Joe's turn to be playful, and he picked out the first part of Dueling Banjos. She gave him an 'oh really' look and played the other part to take up his challenge. Both played their heart out to keep up with the other, and when the last note together was played, Joe lightly tapped Ashley's head with his bow out of affection. Even the florists stopped what they were doing to watch them and joined the small group's applause. Joe turned serious then, looked up at Reena in the choir loft and she started her accompaniment to their duet. The tiny audience was moved by the piece, and they wondered where it would be worked into the ceremony.
Ashley's parents took them out to a lakeside restaurant, where their dinner conversations were spirited and fun. Joe was so affectionate with her that Ashley wondered what she had been worried about to begin with the night before. Their shared jokes, laughter and cuddles made it obvious to Kim's parents that even if they had stayed in town, there wasn't a doubt as to who Joe would have ended up with. After dessert, Joe and Ashley walked hand-in-hand alone around the lake, enjoying their last moment together before the ceremony that would make them one. She pitched an idea she had, but he doubted he could go through with it. She asked that he think about it, and then kissed him goodbye before leaving with her parents to stay at their house for the first time in months, and last time ever.
Cindy was at the house early the next morning, pleased that the "kids" were already up and taking care of last minute details. Jasmine had taken the early lead, instructing Joe, Kim, and Jill where to place the furniture so that the media room was opened up for dancing. Cindy took over and sent Jasmine outside to start rearranging the planters by the pool. The professionals arrived shortly later, and while Cindy took charge of orchestrating the interior decorations, Jasmine managed the outside setup. Joe finally had a leadership assignment in getting the caterers working in his commercial kitchen.
It struck Jill that the house had become just a building to entertain guests in without Ashley there. When Ashley was present, it felt more like home. Not just a home, but the idea of home. She hadn't realized it as it was happening, but Ashley worked to ensure that Jill, Jasmine, and Kim all felt that this was where they belonged. The house was definitely missing something now that she wasn't there, even for a day.
Late in the morning, Jasmine went MIA once things were well in hand outside. She reappeared when the others gathered their dresses and bags to head to the church.
"Whoa, Jasmine! I thought we were going to wait to get ready at the church," Jill said when she saw her complete with finished makeup.
Jasmine put her large makeup case on the table to wait for the others. "SOMEONE has to help Ashley get ready," she reasoned.
"Yeah, I thought I was," Cindy said.
"You're in the wedding party, too. Now I can devote my time to her without worrying about myself."
Joe fed them sandwiches and they loaded up the cars to head out. Carter Electronics donated a security team for the day, and Joe ensured they had the keys and codes necessary to watch over the house and the teams preparing it.
They met Kim's parents outside the school attached to the church and were told Ashley was waiting inside.
"How is she?" asked Kim. "Is she nervous?"
"I wouldn't say that," her mom said. "That kid is as cool as can be."
"Yeah, more like energetic," her dad added. "We had breakfast with her and her parents and she talked on and on about all different things."
The girls looked at each other and said as a chorus, "She's nervous."
A car pulled up and Allison, Marybeth, and Sally stepped out and were greeted by shrill welcomes and warm hugs and kisses. They each went up to Joe and pecked him while offering their congratulations.
Kim's parents ushered them inside. Joe was not permitted to see Ashley before the wedding, so her parents showed him to the next room, where he started to get dressed by himself. Although he didn't get to see her reaction, he heard it as the eighth grade room suddenly erupted in screams when Ashley saw her three other friends.
Sally happily announced that Ashley looked so pretty, all they had to do was pop the dress on her and push her to the altar. After the blinds were closed and paper was put over the window in the door, the girls started to undress while Jasmine arranged her makeup tools on the teacher's desk. There was giddy conversation while they caught each other up on happenings over the last few weeks since graduation. Sally and Allison had been taking trips with their families and their boyfriends' families. Marybeth already started summer college courses at a private school in south Florida.
Their gowns adorning their bodies, the ladies were sent out of the room so that Jasmine could do Ashley's makeup without distraction. Unlike the others, Ashley had changed into Joe's football jersey and sweatpants per Jasmine's instruction. The jersey would keep Ashley cool and could slip over her head without touching her face. It also created a rather humorous photo op for the photographer who was allowed in to record a couple of shots of Jasmine attending to her friend's face. She finished and handed a mirror to Ashley.
"Holy shit! That's the best I've ever looked. Thanks Jasmine!"
"No sweat. Your face makes for an easy canvas. Speaking of canvas..." She carefully lifted the jersey over Ashley's head. "...I wanna do something special for Joe. What was the first meaningful thing he's said to you?"
Ashley answered without even having to think about it.
"Wow. And he said that while he was drugged?"
Ashley's lip quivered. "Yes," she said in a broken voice.
"Uh uh...don't cry yet. That mascara is waterproof, but only once it's set."
"I know," Jasmine said as she dipped a brush into some body paint. "Okay, this might tickle a bit."
Jasmine set about painting Ashley's stomach and waist. It did tickle, but Ashley worked hard to keep herself still until it was done.
"So, do you have any tips you learned from your time with him the other night?"
Jasmine was surprised that Ashley brought this up now, but there seemed to be no malice. "Yeah, actually. If you really want to hear it."
"Well, I figured you were able to seduce him in one night, so you must have found something that worked."
Jasmine breathed a heavy sigh as she dabbed more paint on. "No one can seduce him in one night. You found that out yourself when you two started getting close last year. He needs a connection with his partner before he'll consider going to bed with them. That's your first tip. He loves you dearly, so continue to shower him with hugs and kisses. That gets him going more than anything else."
Ashley could see the logic in that wisdom. "Okay, but what if I want to get him fired up in a hurry?"
Jasmine smiled. "He loves hair. It's not quite a fetish for him, but he loves to play with it. That was part of Jill and Kim's downfall with him. They hated having their hair messed with. Yours is fabulous, and you don't seem to mind when he twirls your ponytail like a helicopter, or when he toys with it in his fingers until it tangles."
"I actually enjoy him playing with it. It's soothing, somehow."
"Well, there you go. Keep letting him, or find ways to encourage him to play with it more. If you really want him to ravage you, expose your neck to him. He won't be able to keep his lips away."
Jasmine's shiver at the thought didn't go unnoticed. Ashley smiled. "What about clothes? G-strings, bikinis? Naked? What would be treats for him?"
"Naked would work, certainly. But I think mystery is a special treat for him. The strip club almost seemed ho-hum for him. He appreciated the sights for sure, but I could tell something else would work better. That's how we ended up at The Shack. Panties. Anything to do with panties gets him going big time. Whenever any girl there gave a glimpse, he noticed. He watched you intently for any peeks you gave."
"Really? I thought he was too busy looking at you."
Jasmine giggled. "Well, he looked when I presented him with opportunities, but he seemed more hopeful for ones from you."
"What about in bed? Any hints?"
"Be yourself. Anything you enjoy, he will too. I think you know all this, though."
"I guess. I just wanted to see if I was missing anything."
Jasmine finished her handiwork by tapping it with a cotton puff doused in baby powder. Ashley stood and went to a mirror. The fancy script of what Joe said shortly after waking from his coma last fall was bordered with ivy, flowers, and fairies. It read:
"It would be a tragedy For the world To lose such A beautiful Angel."
At the bottom near Ashley's hip and under the scar, she signed it in tiny print, "Congratulations you two! Love, Jasmine."
Ashley thanked her and Jasmine sat her down and rubbed the tension out of her shoulders and back while they waited for everything to dry. Ashley spent the pampered time writing out a card to Joe. At last, Jasmine zipped and hooked Ashley into her gown just before there was a knock at the door. Jasmine let the other girls in, and Ashley handed Jill the card to take next door. Jill and Kim started laughing and Kim handed a card to the bride. Ashley opened it while Jill delivered the other one.
It was a good luck card and Joe had written: "Even though I'll see you in a few minutes, I couldn't wait to say I love you!"
She gasped and the girls crowded around. When they read it, there was a chorus of aww's. There was an even bigger chorus when she sobbed softly that she had written the same thing to him, word for word. Jasmine dabbed the tears away for Ashley and studied her face. She did a small fist pump when she determined the makeup remained intact.
The room became a busy beehive as the girls took turns getting Jasmine to put finishing touches on their makeup, while the rest primped and fussed with Ashley's dress and hair. Once everything was done, Jill did a check on the old bridal tradition of "Something olde, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." Cindy had installed Ashley's grandmother's silver comb in her hair, so that took care of "olde" and "borrowed." The dress was new, and Jasmine confirmed that Ashley had blue underwear on, so those were covered.
Cindy said, "A lot of people forget the last line of the poem, which is 'and a silver sixpence in her shoe.'" She held out an acrylic box. "I remembered, though, and found one in a coin shop. I hope it brings you two a fortunate life." Ashley hugged her and kicked out her foot behind her and Cindy slipped the coin under Ashley's heel into the shoe.
Ashley's dad knocked on the door and he escorted her to the vestibule in his dress blues. They heard Reena playing a compilation of soft love songs on the organ while the last few guests were being seated. Jasmine, Cindy, and Jill scurried about Ashley, making sure her dress would flow properly during her walk up the aisle.
The priest appeared from the vestment room and picked his way through the yards of royal blue bridesmaids' satin crowding the vestibule. "You ladies all look lovely," he complimented before heading up the side aisle to join Joe in front of the altar. A few moments later, Reena stopped playing and Ashley heard Joe address the congregation.
"Ladies and gentleman, thank you for coming to witness our marriage."
Ashley gasped at the unrehearsed greeting. "Oh my God, he's actually going to do it."
Joe continued, "To acknowledge my parents' and sister's spiritual presence and to honor them in memory, I offer a piece my mother adored. Thank you Ashley for suggesting it. This is Schubert's Ave Maria."
Ashley asked that the doors be opened, but no one moved. She turned to Jasmine and begged her to, since she desperately wanted to watch him. Jasmine relented and quietly opened them. Joe's eyes were already closed as he brought his bow to the strings. The church was packed with schoolmates, teachers, people from Carter, as well as community leaders and other business men and women who had worked with Joe's parents. But Ashley didn't notice the number in the crowd. Instead, she listened and pressed her lips against her clasped fingers, adoring the voice coming from Joe's instrument. She was drawn forward and stood in the doorway motionless through the first verse. Joe had opened his eyes and saw her there. He transitioned the music to repeat the first verse, and Ashley's emotions compelled her to sing with him. The congregation turned as one when they heard her crystal clear voice sing the same version she had at his parents' funeral. The two fed off each other's performance so well, that some would later swear they could almost see a ribbon of energy connecting them down the aisle. When the final note was played, there was not a dry eye to be had. The congregation stood and applauded for a solid minute. During the ovation, Ashley mouthed an I love you to Joe. I love you more, he mouthed back.
She stepped back and her dad embraced her. The girls lined up after giving her careful hugs. Each of them had made it known a number of times how much they adored Joe's violin play. It had been predetermined that to thank them for their friendship, he would play Pachabel's Canon in D while they processed to the altar. So, he started the slow smooth intro as Sally started up the aisle. She smiled at him, and he grinned back, knowing she'd enjoy the surprise he had arranged. His tempo sped up as he nodded upstairs to Mike, and ended up accompanying Mike for Canon Rock, a stepped-up adaptation of the classical piece arranged for electric guitar. Sally's smile stretched from ear to ear and Joe dipped in acknowledgment as he played. Once the seven girls were in place and the last note jammed from Mike's guitar, they led the applause and Joe saluted Mike with his bow.
He handed Cindy his fiddle, and the congregation stood when Reena played the fanfare that led into the Bridal Chorus for Ashley's entrance. Ashley smiled and hooked her arm through her dad's as they took the first steps down the long aisle. Joe had come down to meet them and Commander Roberts kissed his daughter. He shook Joe's hand before literally placing Ashley's hand there. Joe supported her by her hand while she had to guess where her feet were in relation to the steps. The music stopped, and Jill held a microphone between them. The audience guessed that the couple were going to recite some prepared poem, as the program stated a proclamation of love at this point.