Thanks, That Was Fun... Ch. 03byRenegadeBelle©
By Saturday evening, Jane's head was still pounding, the cause of which was equal parts wedding planning, a waning hangover, a half-hearted attempt at sorting Luke out in her head – and mentally avoiding any thoughts of the man she'd spent the night with.
Matt dropped them at the coordinator's office at noon, leaving Lucy and Jane to follow behind Carrie while her wild ideas spun around, with Mrs. Brantley and her wedding staff looking confused and a bit out of breath.
Carrie and her boyfriend decided a few weeks ago to get married, a spur of the moment decision that caused several raised eyebrows through both families. When the news came out that he was going to be deployed overseas, instead of that Carrie was pregnant, everyone seemed to relax – if only a little – and it was easy to get caught up in the celebration and planning.
Still, two months was hardly enough time to pull together a wedding – a phrase that Carrie repeated at a bare minimum of five times a day. Somehow they'd managed to pull it all together; the dresses, flowers, caterer, DJ, invitations, hotel bookings for out of town guests, etc. One of Carrie's cousins was a decorator and was easily persuaded to jump. In fact, as nearly everyone involved marveled, Carrie Abbott turned into a wedding machine. She'd always been able to get people to fall in line behind her when she turned on the charm – a talent that Lucy and Jane appreciated at it's new-found height when they were freshmen in college with fake ID's – but her whirlwind party planning skills were beyond impressive as she advised and ordered the wedding planner and staff. She'd even managed to ward away a case of the bridezillas – costing Matt 20 dollars in a bet with one of Carrie's brothers – and stayed perfectly calm throughout the past five weeks.
At least, until this afternoon, when Mrs. Brantley rather timidly informed the bride-to-be that the hotel banquet room she'd so quickly snatched up had, in fact, been double booked.
Since then, Mrs. B, Wedding Coordinator Extraordinaire, spent the ensuing hours calling new venues while trying to reassure a now hysterical Carrie to relax.
There, of course, was no way in hell that Carrie was going to relax.
Jane and Lucy could have told her that, and tried, once, before two assistants came in with lattes and a basket of muffins. Jane wisely intercepted Carrie's cup; surely these people knew not to give a bride in the midst of shit-fitting caffeine?
Now, as Lucy and Jane drank their coffee, Carrie sat silently glaring at Mrs. Brantley, the basket of muffins in her lap, tearing each one several times before cramming it, bit by bit, into her mouth. Her eyes followed the wedding planner as she scooted about the office, simultaneously cooing comforting words to the bride while calling venues across Charleston.
Once or twice Jane had been forced to place a well-aimed kick under the table to Lucy as she opened her mouth, a grin on her face that fairly shouted that whatever was about to come from her mouth would be, while undoubtedly witty, insensitive to the extreme. Watching Carrie, wide-eyed with anger, ravage a basket of mini blueberry muffins as if they'd done something to personally offend her, her short white-blonde hair sticking out at odd angles, was almost too much for Lucy to let pass without comment – she always made it a point to mock everyone she loved, especially when they were acting as deranged as Carrie was at the moment. It was a matter of principle, really.
When Mrs. Brantley excused herself – Jane wondered briefly if she'd come back, after the way Carrie stared at her accusingly for the better part of two hours – Lucy leaned in.
"Carrie," she whispered.
Their friend turned her head slowly, almost robotically looking at the woman beside her.
"Ummm…" Lucy hesitated. The smartass comment on her lips a moment ago was now evidently forgotten.
Jane was reminded of another Carrie. At a prom.
"Listen…" Lucy started again. Carrie looked at her blankly.
"It's going to be fine," Jane broke in. "We'll find a place, just calm down. And stop looking at Mrs. Brantley like she double-booked on purpose."
Lucy nodded, "You have everything else ready, perfectly. Even if you have to get married at a Wal-Mart, it'll all work out," she joked.
Wrong. Carrie nearly choked on the mini muffin in her mouth, and not with laughter.
Then, she burst into tears. "This will n-never woooork," she wailed. Lucy guiltily scrambled for a box of tissues. "It's all messed up-p now, and we won't be able to get m-married, and J-Joe is going to be leaving in a few-w-w weeks without-t getting m-married, and his m-m-mother is going to h-h-haaaate meeeee…"
Lucy, who was holding out a tissue and patting Carrie's shoulder, looked at Jane with a conflicted expression. Jane could tell she wasn't sure whether to console or laugh at the dramatic outburst.
Giving her friend a dark look, Jane reached over and hugged Carrie tightly, then took a tissue and began wiping what was now muddy puddles of mascara from the bride-to-be's face.
"Hush," Jane said, mopping at her friend's face. "Don't talk like that. You're going to be a beautiful bride, even if you are a rushed one. You will get married before he leaves."
"B-but I d-d-don't wanna get married at Wal-Maaaaart!"
Lucy barked a laugh then covered her mouth with her hands.
"Don't be ridiculous," Jane said, looking over Carrie's shoulder at her other friend, shooting her be nice looks. Reaching for another tissue, she wiped at Carrie's face again.
"We're going to find you a place to get married, and it will be beautiful. Don't worry about it."
"Besides," Lucy chimed in, finally deciding to be helpful, "Mother-in-laws are supposed to hate you. Circle of life, and all that."
Carrie looked at them both and gave a watery smile. "Thanks, y'all…"
"It's what bridesmaids are for," Jane smiled, throwing the handful of tissues on the table in front of them. "Right?"
Lucy made a face behind Carrie's back at the reminder of the matching yellow dresses they were supposed to wear, then leaned forward, flicking the tissues with her hand absently.
"Right!" Lucy forced out, ignoring Jane's grin when she'd shuddered at the term 'bridesmaids' and looking at Carrie cheerfully, "Though one thing is obvious. We're going to need gobs and gobs of waterproof mascara."
Now, Jane sat on the balcony of her apartment, looking up at sky, the stretches of clouds floating by streaked with what was quickly becoming an orange-purple, enjoying the sunset.
She'd be the first person to profess her love for her three best friends, but between Carrie's usually unnatural cheerfulness, Lucy's irreverent humor and Matt's flat-out irreverence, Jane found herself just along for the ride around them.
Except for the occasions when she really, honest to God, needed them to be there for her. And they always were, just like yesterday evening, when she needed them to join her and Jim Beam in a night of total destruction. They'd marched in, asking just enough questions to ascertain that Luke was the hound-dog they'd always told her he was, then spent the rest of the evening getting absurdly drunk and alternating between cursing Luke and making her laugh.
Jane sank down further in the cushions of the outdoor couch, stretching her legs out in front of her. The pain she'd warded off for the past day and a half with alcohol, friends and wedding planning suddenly settled upon her, full force. Her eyes stung and she rubbed two fingers against the bridge of her nose, applying pressure against the headache that suddenly cropped up. A day and a half, and he hadn't called, come by the apartment, demanded to see her – nothing. In fact, even when he'd chased her through the building, he was trying to explain himself – there were no apologies to be heard, that she'd picked up on. At the very least, a boyfriend of two years should be trying to fix their relationship, right? Shouldn't he be begging to be taken back, at least? There must have been a small part of Jane that expected to mollify the humiliation of finding her boyfriend screwing another woman by assuming that he would crop up as soon as possible, begging her attention and forgiveness.
Not to mention, the other woman. Jane thought back to the overflowing briefcase that sat on the desk in the spare-bedroom-gone-home-office. A disappointment almost as acute as that of her relationship with Luke settled upon her at the realization that she was unemployed, now. The past five years of busting her ass at the headquarters of the biggest publishers in the state now cumulated in the manuscripts she'd managed to steal from her office. It was just pathetic enough to cause the tears that crept upon her at the thought of Luke to spill over.
Jane felt herself release control to the tears at the same time as the cell phone on the table beside her lit up and began to chime. She almost flipped it open before she read the Caller ID – Momma. Jane heaved a sigh, hit the "Ignore" button on the side and dropped it back onto the wooden table. The last thing she wanted to do right now was tell her parents that the boy they adored was actually a two-timing son of a bitch. More than that, though, was the dread that followed the idea of telling them that she'd quit her job after punching said son of a bitch in the face in front of God and everybody.
It occurred to her that this was at least the third time that a mournful thought of her now ex-boyfriend was immediately overshadowed by something else even more upsetting – whether it was her job or the fact that her friend's were right about Luke. A fleeting thought that she was actually more upset with herself than Luke by-passed her tired mind before being dismissed; she had no desire to further inspect herself or the situation. Not tonight.
Closing her eyes, she fully expected to be accosted by images of Luke between her boss' thighs – the image that swam in front of her eyelids, instead, was of another pair of legs. Jane felt a shiver go up her spine and wrapped the light-weight shawl around her tighter, as if it would protect her from the images of herself, completely uninhibited for the black-haired man from the bar. Jane reminded herself to breathe but didn't will her mind away from the images of falling into bed with Danny Wright. Even through the whiskey-tinted memory, she remembered her body arching and responding to every inch of her skin that he touched. Jane tilted her head to the side, as if doing so would somehow make the memory of him kissing down her neck before lashing the pulse point behind her jaw with his tongue more real. Jane shivered again, though she recognized the almost instantaneous feeling of tingling warmth that spread through her as well.
The desperate thought that she wished she hadn't been drunk when they'd gotten in to bed together was cut off and shouted down by her conscience – she shouldn't be wriggling around on the couch on her balcony at the mere thought of her one night stand.
Jane made a face at herself and stood up, stretching. Hardly matters how gorgeous he is, she told herself firmly. It was a one-time thing. There is enough shit going on, I don't need the drama of falling for a rebound guy. Mentally, she knew that calling Danny Wright and the memory of him, arching back as he came inside her – she shivered again – a simple rebound was a cosmic injustice. The rest of her was angry and hurt over her sudden single-and-unemployed state, and quickly won over the dampness that reminiscing about the night before caused between her legs.
Though her body demanded sleep, there was one thing she needed to do, first. Walking back into the kitchen, she reached under the sink and pulled out a big bucket Luke used when he washed his car. Working her way through the living room, bedroom and both bathrooms, she collected the things that Luke left behind – hair gel, baseball caps, two bottles of cologne, several University of Florida t-shirts, a tie that was under the bed, his favorite coffee mug… she paused, her fingers resting on two boxes of condoms in the medicine cabinet. A wild, painfully created image of him dropping several into his pocket on the way to meet Rachel Jarrett snaked into her mind. God, imaginations were cruel, sometimes. Dropping both boxes into the bucket, she moved on, from room to room.
Jane sighed as the big bucket slowly filled, the sound of each item thudding into it satisfying, as if she were slowly, item by item breaking ties with the man she'd spent two years with. Bypassing the two large bookcases in the living room – any books he left she'd just adopt, along with his razors - she opened the apartment door and dropped the big bucket next to the bags of trash that were left on the walkway for nightly pick-up. If he was smart enough to come looking, Luke could get his shit. If not, the trash man, a neighbor or wandering hobo was more than welcome to it. Looking down into it, she grimaced at the sheer amount that filled the old bucket. Gracious, he'd left a lot of crap here. Feeling slightly as if she'd been infiltrated, she stared down at it, wrapping her arms around herself, then walked back to her apartment and closed the door behind her, locking it and leaning against the cool wooden surface. Looking around, she thought for a moment that the spaces that once contained vestiges of Luke would glare at her with the sudden vacancy. Instead, a perusal of the room only left her with a contended feeling, as if she'd taken back ownership.
Jane stopped once more, at the table in the entryway. In the center was a beat-up antique platter she'd found at a garage sale and loved – it sat near to overflowing with folded business cards. Pulling Mr. Wright's from her jean pocket, she flipped it open, looking at it for a moment. There was a brief, ridiculous thought that she liked the way he wrote the number eight. Folding the card back again, she dropped it on top of the pile and, feeling as if she'd now dispatched with both of the men that were plaguing her, walked to her room, fell across her bed and immediately surrendered to sleep.
Jane sat straight up in bed, the noise causing her to roll, confused, nearly off the bed.
Buzzzzzzz buzz buzz buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
At the thought, Jane did fall from the bed.
"Shit," she muttered, curling up and resting her head on the plush white carpet in her bedroom.
"Oh, for fuck's sake!" she yelled, getting up and stalking from the bedroom, through the living room, and jamming her finger down on the intercom.
Barely smothered laughter.
Jane groaned, "…Hello?!?"
Someone cleared their throat… "Ahhh, room service, you want me fluff pillow?"
Jane stomped her feet in irritation and looked over at the clock on the TV – 9:37AM.
"C'mon you guys, really? Sunday equals day of rest. Go. A. Way."
Sticking her hands in her pockets, there was a half-lit realization that she'd slept in the clothes she wore the day before, Jane turned and was halfway back to the bedroom, when –
"Whaaaaaaat?" Jane fairly whined, resisting the urge to slam her head into wall beside the intercom.
"Jane, honey," came Carrie's voice, her friends clearly no longer laughing, "It's not Sunday…"
Downstairs, the three of them exchanged glances with each other as the door was buzzed open a long moment later. When they reached the fourth floor, they found Jane's door unlocked, and could hear the shower running in the bathroom.
Matt pressed in through to the kitchen and picked an apple up out of a bowl on the table, then followed the rest of them into Jane's room, before they plopped down the bed.
He shined the apple lazily on his shirt, watching the bathroom door.
"Here we go again…"
Unlike the day before – two days before? – Jane showered, dried her hair and dressed in record time. After Carrie's concerned voice floated through the intercom, she'd buzzed them in, bounded over the couch and into her room, picking up her cell phone and checking the date. Monday. Christ.
Now, kicking open the bathroom door, she marched over to the closet and grabbed a pair of shoes, then looked sheepishly at her friends.
"Déjà vu, huh?"
They grinned, obviously relieved to find her appearing normal.
Fake it 'til you make it, she thought. Again.
"Soooo…" Carrie replied, as she pulled a stack of pamphlets out of her purse. She positively glowed.
"Mrs. Brantley found me a bunch of places to go look at. It's not really places where weddings are normally performed, she says, but each one is beautiful and since it's not a massive wedding, we've taken off work and are going to look them up and were hoping maybe you'd come…"
Jane blanched. Work. She felt, for a moment, like sinking to the floor and wailing about being unemployed. She couldn't remember the last Monday that hadn't found her in the office at seven in the morning.
Upon making eye contact with Carrie, who also paled when she'd realized she'd brought up the tenuous topic, Jane smiled. She hoped it looked authentic.
"Sure…" she said, settling on the bed to pull the first pamphlet from the stack. "Where do we start?"
Carrie, whether she recognized Jane's cheerfulness as forced or not, bounded off the bed with the rest of them in tow, chirping happily.
It really was déjà vu, Jane thought, horrified.
By noon, Matt and Jane confessed to headaches.
Lucy declared that she would shoot the next poor sucker that tried to ensnare them into a wedding venue with plastic smiles and tiny Styrofoam cups of coffee.
Even Carrie's natural brightness was dimmed slightly after three busts – a less than impressive, dusty winery; a rentable river bank that sat downwind of an evidently very busy riding stable; and a 'quiet slice of heaven with an old world feel' that turned out to be a poorly constructed faux cathedral façade in a make-shift park outside of town.
Bucking up, Jane wrapped an arm around her friend, hugging her.
"Don't worry. We'll find a place."
"Or at least…" Matt said, taking the next pamphlet from Carrie's hand and looking at it idly, "We'll make one more stop and then have big fat martinis for lunch!"
The towheaded bride-to-be beamed at him.
Tossing the brochure to Lucy, Matt steered them to the waiting car.
"And at the very least, Luce, you can follow through on all those empty promises of chirpy employees meeting their maker. This next place has guns."
Danny Wright jerked at the knock that came from the other side of his office door. He'd been sitting, blankly staring at a computer screen full of e-mails and dozing, for the better part of an hour.
"Yup?" he replied, running a hand through his hair and standing up. He picked up the phone quickly as his sister opened the door and walked through, and then dropped it back into the cradle, hoping it made him look busy.
"Hey," she said, walking over and sitting down in one of the large chairs on the other side of his desk. Danny followed suit and plopped down.
"You alright?" she asked when he didn't respond.
Danny smiled. "Of course," he said. "Just a little preoccupied. What's up?"
"Ohhh, nothing, I have an appointment in a few minutes, just wanted to poke my head in and say hi," she said, eyeing her big brother.