My eyes squinted as I focused on the tag. I needed to double-check the price. There had to be a mistake. There was no way a dress this ugly could possibly be worth $500. Flipping the decorate tag, outlined in pink lace and with the designer’s name in stencil writing, I scanned the entire front and back to ensure there were no red marks or stickers indicating this item had been marked down. To my surprise there were none.
The gown before me was some shade of electric pole dancer pink and was disturbingly short, probably stopping at my upper thigh area, to be of any good taste for a formal wedding. To add mischief to mayhem, an overabundance of tiny bows encircled the hem and then a giant bow clung lopsided to the middle of the cleavage area.
“This is not for real, right?” I spoke over my shoulder to my best friend since kindergarten Jeanette Bixby.
She turned her head and eyed the monstrosity. At this point, I was fiddling with the bow, which looked as though it were hanging on by its lasts thread, as I did my best to straighten it. I was trying to kill some time while Jeanette and I waited for her appointment with the boutique’s in-house wedding planner to get started.
Her excited exclamation at the dress’s hideousness was enough to startle me away from my task and I almost pulled the whole thing down off the rack as I jumped in surprise.
“I wouldn’t have my girls caught dead in an outfit like that! My wedding is going to be done with class and style.”
Taking a quick survey of Jeanette, she would indeed live up to that claim. Standing no less than six foot, she made my modest 5’6’ height look almost shameful. Jeanette was always on the slim side with a creamy complexion and high-society facial structure. Her tall statuesque physique is what now aided her in making a good living as a catalogue model. She was not gauntly skinny and was still a tad full in the hips and so she came to realize way back when she started going out for test shoots and interviews she would have little to no chance on the runway scene. This fact never deterred her from pursuing a modeling career and now she was booked, seemingly on a regular basis, with gigs for catalogues and home shopping channels. Jeanette never flaunted her income; however, she was always sure dress to impress and made sure her spacey loft here in Timber Hills, NJ had a great interior décor.
Me, on the other hand, was a completely different story. My butterscotch complexion was nowhere as smooth as hers. The thickness of my long hair and my reluctance to relax it as compared to Jeanette’s corn silk colored angel fine hair had been the cause of many moments of self-consciousness on my part, especially when standing next to her at parties and clubs. Out of habit, my hand went up to the drastically shortened locks I now wore in layers reaching down to just below my chin and tucked the pressed hair behind my ear. I was also, not too long ago, what one may have referred to as “full-figured” for most of my life. Probably the result of over-indulging in too many varieties of fried foods. I smoothed down the size 8 straight black knee-length skirt I was wearing and gave my white form-fitting blouse a once over. A dramatic event in my life a little over a year ago had prompted me to take the leap and get a new hair-do and to drop almost thirty pounds. Still, I have moments of insecurity.
“Kerine, are you listening to me?”
“What?” I realized Jeanette had been going on and on about something but all I saw were her lips moving and her right hand casually accentuating her speech.
“I was saying, you know the wedding is a month from now?”
“Of course, I am your maid of honor, remember?”
She rolled her smoky gray eyes at my bluntness.
“What I mean to say,” she continued while casually poking through the never-ending aisle of disfigured bridesmaids gowns, “is everything is finally coming together. The final preparations are being made. My end is pretty much cleared up; however, Tyler is just now starting to work with his guys and getting them all set.”
After having had this discussion numerous times over and hearing every other wedding related detail repeatedly and in extreme abundance for the last year, I had feigned interest and moved on to inspect another gaudy dress one rack over. This one was midnight blue and seemed a bit too far on the Goth side for my tastes, yet I was sure there would be some giddy bride all too happy to dress her reluctant friends in this nightmare of an outfit.
“Yeah, so?” I moved down the row as Jeanette followed.
“You know that means he’s coming back?”
My heart instantly doubled its pace and my feet supplanted firmly in the carpet below. I felt the slight brush of Jeanette’s breasts on my back as she collided with me, as she had not expected the sudden halt.
Making sure to calm my breathing and not trusting my own voice just yet, I responded as casually as I could.
“Who do you mean?”
Jeanette stepped around me in the narrow aisle so we stood face to face.
“Oh, no. You do not play this game with me,” she said with a look of distaste on her classically beautiful face.
“Who was the one who sat up with you for hours on end while you cried your eyes out over him? Who was the who had to force you to come out of hiding from your apartment? Kerine White, you know exactly who I mean.”
I immediately dropped my eyes to the floor in shame at the painful reminder. Jeanette softened her stance and put her hand to my shoulder.
“Oh, Keri, honey, I am so sorry. I didn’t want to bring all this up except time is running out. You know I do care about you. You’re like a sister to me. I had to tell you he was due to come back soon so you could get ready.”
“Get ready for what?”
I stepped back from her afraid of what she might say. There was no way she was going to talk me into what I thought she may have been suggesting.
“I don’t mean you two getting back together.”
I exhaled a sigh of relief.
“Well, what do you mean?”
“I know how much the break-up hurt you. I only wanted to make sure you were mentally prepared to see him again. With him being Tyler’s best man, we will all have to spend a lot of time with one another over the next few weeks. Are you ready for that?”
The look of concern in her eyes along with my sudden light-headedness told me the answer to that particular question was probably an emphatic NO! I chose not to verbally express my doubt; instead, I sent up a silent prayer that we, meaning me, would get through this event unscathed and unharmed because when Joshua Somers blew back into town all hell was liable to break loose.
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