Full Circle Ch. 08bytens©
Hello, readers. Thanks for your patience. This chapter was very difficult to churn out. I thought once I had the whole story diagrammed as well as plotted it would be easier to write, but the joke was on me. The chapters go up to number twelve and there's an epilogue of decent length. Chapter ten brings us to the "present." I think it does, at least. I'm too tired to check my plotting notebook; I'm also too sleepy to give this chapter a thorough editing. Excuse any errors. Thank you for reading.
March 9, 2013
Persephone and Finn munched elaborately made toast and jam as they sipped on exotic teas. The mock Viennese coffee house they ate in was close to the boutique where Lina bought the wedding gown she disliked. Finn had spotted the café on their walk down to the shopping district and remembered it as a place her parents had always taken her and her brothers when the family was younger. They decided to meet there with Lina before heading over to the boutique. Finn was loath to shop on an empty stomach and she wanted to know more about the elder sister of Ivan Pravdin.
"Is she a tall asshole?" Finn asked, daintily placing her teacup back on its saucer.
"No, she's tall and reserved and super pretty. And Vanya's not an asshole...most of the time. He's just socially deficient. He'd probably be fine if he just used more sentences."
"I guess you're right. He's just not my biggest fan. I have no place to talk though. Lauren is an asshole. Did I tell you what she pulled when we went up to the lake this past weekend?"
"Nah; did she scandalize the clan?" Persephone knew the Cagney family was made up of several liberal politicians but they were also vastly wealthy. She could see a staunch grandmother being very harassed by Lauren's wild child demeanor.
"No, but she managed to break two sea-doos trying to show off how well she could keep up with my cousins."
"Two? You didn't stop her after the first one?"
"Ugh, stop asking rational questions, Perce. It's making me remember what a disaster it was bringing her up there. Let's sort through some of these pictures. You know this girl better than I do. Throw out stuff you know she would hate."
"Well, 'know' is a relative term," Persephone mumbled, taking a look at the laptop Finn had pushed over to her. When Finn had been informed of their task she immediately went to work on gathering pictures of the latest fashions from the most expensive retailers. Finn gathered her findings in a phone file in preparation of their Saturday of wedding dress shopping.
"You've been with Vanya since the beginning of the school year. You guys never hangout with her? I thought she lived here in the city?" Finn queried.
"She does, she's just super busy. The girl is a workaholic. I've only seen her a handful of times, if that," Persephone answered distractedly while browsing through the photos.
"Well, that's a little odd. It'll make for an odd afternoon."
"Maybe," Persephone mused, "She's nice and I'm nice and you're nice so if we all try I'm sure it'll be okay."
"Alright," Finn shrugged, "Do you at least have a picture of her? I can try to figure out her dress type."
"Actually, I do. I have a bunch of pictures Vanya sent me of this concert thing we all went to. I think she's in some of them." Persephone scrolled through photos on her phone until she came across one of Vanya and Lina smiling alongside one another. She handed the phone to Finn, whose brows shot up immediately.
"Whoa, you didn't tell me Ivan's older sister is Freyja!"
"You know, Norse mythology, the goddess of love and fertility and war and all that. She's like a blonde goddess. She could be a model."
"I know, right? I guess she's aged out though. She's like, thirty-one I think. Modeling is too frivolous for Lina anyway. She's kind of a badass businesswoman. You should see her command people on the phone. She doesn't yell, but it's still kind of scary. 'Kickin' ass and takin' names' type of lady." Persephone smiled and shivered in an exaggerated manner, getting a laugh out of Finn.
"I thought you said she was nice!"
"She is; she's just reserved and direct, I guess. Which is good. I like serious people. That'll actually help us out today. We'll be able to cut through this slew of dresses you've got here."
"Speak of the devil," Finn replied, nodding toward the entrance.
Persephone turned to see Lina gliding past the hostess after spotting them. The phone pictures didn't do her justice. Thirty-one or not, Lina could have easily been on top of the modeling game. Her long golden hair was wet, presumably from a shower, but she still managed to look kempt and professional in her electric blue pencil skirt, a flouncy, white button-down blouse, and dainty leopard print flats. A large clutch and pearl earrings were her only accessories. Lina's neutral face and purposeful gait were the only things that gave away her austere nature. She walked like a self-assured corporate raider, nearly a head above everyone else in the café, garnering appreciative and jealous stares, acknowledging none of them. She kept her eyes on Persephone, who was rising to greet her.
"Hey!" Persephone smiled brightly. She quickly looked Lina up and down before taking the other woman into her arms. She felt a brief wave of envy over the fact that Lina would look great in any dress style they chose.
"Hi," Lina smiled politely and turned to Finn to say hello. They exchanged awkward pleasantries after Persephone introduced them and proceeded to enjoy a quaint breakfast of baked eggs and Kaiserschmarrn with lingonberry sauce. Things remained quiet as they ate until Finn began to ask whom Lina knew that she might know. Finn vowed that there must be someone they both knew between their two rival preparatory high schools. They were only three years apart.
Finn went through club after club and clique after clique until they landed on the name of Harris Beale. He had just bought a commercial property not too far from where they now ate.
"Harris Beale!" Lina exclaimed, "How do you know him?!"
"Oh, god, how could you not know that boy? He's insane! He used to come to my brother's games covered in – "
"Orange body paint!" Lina chimed in. She tilted back in her chair and laughed. It was the first time Persephone had seen her with an open mouth smile.
"You know, he's the one that came up with my brother's nickname – V8 Flash. He was always around my house in high school hanging out with Vanya and trying to hit one me...and failing."
"Ugh! His heckling with that damn cowbell drove my brother crazy. I can't even imagine him as an adult. I heard he converted to Judaism to marry some girl and they have, like four kids."
"Oh, my god, I thought it was three. He can't stop talking about them. He brought one to a showing of this development we built last year. It was a little girl that looked just like him. She had this matching skirt suit and I guess it was cute but Harris was including her in negotiations and seriously considering her opinions. I think she takes trips like that with him all the time," Lina laughed and scrunched her eyebrows.
Her eyes held some wistfulness as she went on to describe Harris Beale's daughter in detail. Persephone let Lina and Finn chatter about the strange man who had given Vanya his high school nickname, content to see the ice breaking.
After they finished eating Finn demanded to see what Peng had picked out for Lina. She gasped upon seeing Lina decked out in the picture on her phone. The trumpet style gown was stunning; its swaths of Silk Shantung and overlay of Chantilly lace could only be described as romantic and regal.
"Well," Finn sighed, "It is gorgeous but I can see the problem."
"Finally!" Lina exclaimed.
"What?!" Persephone asked aghast and confused, "You look like a supermodel! You look amazing."
"Thanks, but..." Lina hedged.
"It's completely OTT for her, Perce," Finn explained.
"OTT?" Lina questioned.
"Over the top. You are not wild, crazy, romantic bow and trains and hoops girl. You are simple, sleek, and chic city girl, right?"
"Yes! Oh, my god! Thank you! I was trying to explain that to Peng but she just didn't get it. I think she was planning the wedding my mom would have wanted and I couldn't find a way to burst her bubble."
"Oh, crap, does she know we're going to pick something else out today?" Persephone asked.
"Yeah, it turns out I was building it up to nothing. In so many words, she said, 'That's cool, I still get to plan the reception so, I'm satisfied.' I would have started looking for another one a while ago if I had known that."
"Fantastic, have you tried on anything else or have anything particular in mind?" Finn asked.
"Nah, I was pretty much going to let you guys lead me around all afternoon."
Finn clasped her hands together in joy. She waved for the waiter, fought Persephone over the bill before giving in, and the three set off on a shopping expedition. Two hours passed and they ended up at a classy department store Persephone had visited once or twice in the past. This time however, they were ushered to a bridal suite Persephone didn't even know existed.
The main dressing room was filled with antique champagne colored furniture and screamed "Traditional Wedding." They sipped on mimosas and ate strawberries and chocolate while sales girls paraded different options for Lina to try on. Currently, a blonde named Marjorie was holding up a long, sleeveless taffeta gown. Finn waived it off, dismissing it as too "on-the-nose." Persephone silently commended Marjorie's patience with Finn, who couldn't really help being a shopping diva.
"Well, have you picked out bridesmaids dresses yet, Ms. Pravdina?" Marjorie smiled through her teeth and directed her question to Lina.
"There are no bridesmaids. Just a...man of honor, I guess. My little brother; it's just him. The best man is my fiancé's little cousin, Teddy."
"Oh, I love it when families incorporate children in more important roles in the ceremony!" another sales girl beamed.
"Actually, Teddy is thirty," Lina replied, not looking at the representative. Persephone looked at the girl with helpless sympathy. Lina and Finn were proving to be tough customers in every sense of the word. Even so, Lina seemed to be having fun, which had been Persephone's only wish for the afternoon.
"That not very traditional. I like it," Finn said gulping down the last of her latest mimosa.
"Nothing is traditional about me and Austin. He's so amazing and I don't deserve it. Thank god. He was really persistent and if it had been left to me we wouldn't even be together," Lina said absentmindedly as she circled the mannequin.
"Pishaw. Of course you deserve him. You're smart and gorgeous which is much more than any society boy deserves," Finn retorted, "How did he manage to catch you anyway?"
"It wasn't for lack of trying," Lina murmured. She took a dress Finn had chosen and disappeared behind an antique dressing screen. "He proposed three times."
"What? Whoa," Persephone removed a strawberry from her mouth to comment.
"Yeah, I know. The first time we were in...in the Hamptons."
"In bed!" Finn squealed. Persephone swore she could hear Lina's eyes roll.
"It was in the Hamptons," Lina stifled laughter, "He tricked me into going under work pretenses. We stayed the weekend and I was scared of how fast things were going and asked for more time. He knows me better than anyone and had expected that. So, he was patient...for a while anyway. He asked me a couple more times and then I heard him say something sarcastically and blew it out of proportion and tried to get out of committing to him. After that his friend basically ripped me a new one and knocked some sense into me. So, I ended up begging Austin to forgive me. And being an incredible person he took me back. I almost lost him. That was nearly a year ago. He's been really patient with my dad and his bad attitude and everything."
"Oh, man, Lina, that is like, intense," Persephone said clutching her chest. Lina's resistance was similar to the walls she had put between her and Vanya. The fact that they were in a bridal boutique gave Persephone more hope for her future with Vanya.
"I know, right?" Finn agreed, "I've never had anything like that. Like, anything that deep."
"Yeah," Lina said, still dressing, "It changed me. I didn't think I could ever share my life with someone. For forever, you know? That someone would want that with me. Austin, he just...I don't know. I digress. I think I'm almost ready."
"Do you need some help?" Persephone asked softly. She and Finn exchanged glances after noticing the warbling timbre of Lina's voice.
"No, no, I'm coming out." Lina stepped from behind the screens and smoothed the wrinkles she'd created while stepping into the dress. "Will you button me up? Or tie me up. Whichever one, I'm not sure."
"Dammmnnn," Persephone called. Finn stood agape. Lina was undeniably stunning. With minimal makeup and no accessories she was easily the most beautiful woman Persephone had seen in real life. She was filled with adoration and envy at once. There was no doubt that this was the dress.
"Lina, you're absolutely killing it," Finn said, circling her and taking all angles.
"Um, is that good?"
"This is better than I could have possibly planned. I'm just going to take full credit on this one. Your man is going to die."
"As long as you lay off the death hyperbola," Persephone laughed, moving to zip and button Lina in the gown completely. The simple dress was enhanced by Lina's height and slight figure. The low scoop neck sheath gown was made of chiffon that fell smoothly over the contours of her body.
The white embroidery that covered the dress and the two-inch bow belt resembled a scallop that had scraped its edges in the sand. This time, however, shiny, pearlescent lines were left in its wake.
The sales girls came in to ooh and ahh at the model getting married in May. Finn shooed them away, asking for the brides' privacy. She ushered Lina to the three-panel dressing mirror and held up her hair.
"I was thinking you might want to do a braided up-do or something for a really simple, elegant necklace that shows off your clavicles," Finn said as she focused on Lina's reflection, "What do you think?"
Lina beamed at her image. It was the first time Persephone had seen the girl with a full smile. She paused a moment before giving her answer.
"It's...it's me. It's perfect and it's comfortable! Thank you so much. I can't believe this is happening."
"Well, don't thank me yet," Finn grinned, "There's still the matter of the veil. Nothing long; we want something that's just going to be in your hair. Stay here, you two. I'll be back in less than fifteen."
"Where are you going?" Persephone questioned.
"There is a perfect veil headdress thing at a place down the street. I'm going to run down there and get it."
"You're going to buy it?" Persephone said in surprise. "How do you even know where all this stuff is?"
"A girl can dream can't she? Call it wedding present. If we don't like it, we'll return it. Just have some more hors d'oeuvres. I'll be back soon." And with that, Finn walked out of the large dressing/living room.
Persephone turned and for the first time noticed that Lina had been silent throughout her and Finn's exchange over the veil. She was still standing before the mirror, somewhat in awe of her transformation. She didn't move as Persephone came up behind her.
"Vanya is going to be so impressed with our taste. I'm going to take half the credit from Finn when he finally sees you."
"Hmm?" Lina asked faintly, acknowledging Persephone's presence at last.
"Umm, yeah. I'm just trying to take this all in."
"No. I just feel really lucky. Like, I'm so happy. I've never been this happy for this long in my entire life. It's scary."
Persephone grabbed one of the ivory Louis XIV chairs that sat adjacent to the mirror. She moved it behind Lina. "Here, sit down. I want to braid your hair into a quick up-do before Finn comes back with that veil. That way we can go 'full effect' and take some pictures."
Persephone took Lina's long, blonde tresses and gathered them at her back. Her length fell below her shoulders and Persephone wove her hands through the strands, root to end. Lina's eyes drooped more than once as Persephone prepared her hair for braiding. Persephone knew the powers of a head massage and wanted to treat her before the pulling and twisting began. As Lina's hair was very sleek and straight, her braids would need to be very tight to remain secure. They sat quietly until Persephone broke the silence.
"You know, earlier you said you didn't believe you actually deserved all this. You were just joking, right?"
Lina shrugged, "Yeah, sure."
Persephone continued to braid for a minute or so. She checked in periodically to make sure her styling didn't hurt too much. When Lina seemed to drift off once more Persephone spoke again. "Hey, man, are you sure you're okay?"
"Umm, yeah, I'm just stressed. Thank you for asking." Lina's answer was polite, direct, and laced with finality. Persephone debated whether or not to press.
She'd only had a couple of brief interactions with Lina thus far and had no idea how she would react to a little prying. The girl was reserved to say the least. However, Persephone was sure they'd built some rapport today and she could tell something was wrong. The way she viewed it, she had nothing to lose by showing some concern.
"Oh, good. I was just worried because you were saying you didn't deserve this and you definitely deserve to be happy. There's nothing wrong with that."
"Yeah, I know."
"I'm serious," Persephone persisted, "I mean, by virtue of being a human being. If you're trying to be good and do good you can't feel guilty for every bad thing you've done. Guilt is pointless, and for me, that's saying something. I'm a Catholic!"
"Well, it's just the one thing I feel guilt about," Lina mumbled.
Persephone waited for her to expand but no details came. She continued to diligently twist Lina's hair through her hands. Persephone wasn't planning on unveiling any deep secrets and she bit back the urge to find out if Lina's guilty act involved Vanya in any way. That would have been the insufferable, nosy girlfriend thing to do. Instead, she opted for her best policy. Honesty.
"I've never told anyone this – not even Vanya – and I trust you because you seem like someone that can keep something close to the vest. When... when uh...my parents died I was supposed to be out of town on this school field trip, but I wasn't. I was messing around with some friends, it ended up not being my scene, and I went home to walk in on my parents in the middle of a robbery. Long story short, both of my parents got shot. Apparently, my presence at home hadn't been expected. The thieves got nervous and the 'rents suffered the consequences. I managed to shoot one guy in the leg and then kill another but it didn't really matter because both my parents bled out. The car accident thing is just easier to explain, I guess, and a car was crashed, technically.
"Anyway, the point is, I felt horrible about it for a long time and it changed my perception of myself for along time. I felt massively responsible because it was the first time I deliberately disobeyed my parents and it led to a complete disaster. I couldn't ever really be happy because I didn't think I deserved to be. I hadn't been able to enjoy life or be close to anyone in any way until Vanya came and forced me to realize it was okay to let go of my guilt. After being with him for a while I started to understand I'm not this ruined person; I did an awful thing but I get that I made a mistake and it doesn't define or dictate the rest of my existence.