as always, thank you tons and tons for all your support. I can smell the end of this story from here, but have no fear, I've already started the next one and I have a feeling Sidney will be a much more heroic figure in the next one, but in the meantime...
“Fuuuuuuuuuck!” I stab myself for what seems like the hundred thousandth time as I pin yet another model into her outfit. Considering we’d just had them in to try the garments on the day before I am about ready to stuff some cookies into some of these girl’s mouths. How they could lose an inch in one single day, and why they would when they knew damn well that they had a job….
“You need to start getting into your own dress,” Gareth reminds me, taking the pin cushion out of my hand and reaching carefully to draw the ones I have held between my teeth out. “Hair and make up, off you go.” I give him one, long, pleading look but he just shakes his head and points towards the area where chairs and mirrors have been set up, where flat irons and hair dryers are being wielded like weapons of mass destruction. A shudder runs through my entire body and my stomach begins to clench uncomfortably, reminding me that I haven’t eaten in maybe a day, maybe two, but all the same it thinks it can find something to bring up.
“Ah the wedding dress girl,” the beautician gushes as he reaches to run his fingers through my freshly dyed hair. Kennedy insisted on doing it this morning, even while I was half asleep.
“I don’t care if you cover my head with a potato sack,” I mumble, as he reaches for a very large can of hairspray.
“This face? Oh darling, if you were a few inches taller you’d be on that runway twice a day and on the cover of Vogue,” he replies encouragingly, to which I can only roll my eyes. How many times have I been told that I’m pretty just not pretty enough? I know that part of the make-up artist at these things is to build the girls’ confidence before they step out onto the runway, like cheerleaders with blush brushes instead of pompoms. It’s hard to believe, in all of their tall, skinny loveliness that they could be as insecure as I am, but I know it’s true.
“You have a visitor,” Kennedy whispers in my ear, her hand firm on my shoulder in a non verbal gesture that says ‘be strong’ or ‘don’t run’, one or the other. I immediately feel the fluttering of birds’ wings in my stomach and put both hands down over it, as if I might really feel the brush of their wings against my skin.
“I don’t know that the best man is supposed to see the bride, isn’t that bad luck or something?” Kennedy asks, glancing up at where Max has suddenly appeared in the doorway, looking a little worse for wear, unshaven, and in the way that says he hasn’t slept for days.
“I’m pretty sure it’s just the groom,” I mumble, taking the veil out of Kennedy’s hands and shoving the combs into my hair hard enough that the plastic teeth graze my scalp and make both me and the beautician wince. “Could you just give us a moment?” I ask, glancing up at Kens and then at the hairdresser, telling myself to be calm, that whatever is coming I can deal with it.
We both watch Kensie drag the hairdresser out of the room, keeping our thoughts to ourselves until she’s well out of earshot. I don’t even try to do anything while I wait for him to speak, I just fold and refold my hands in my lap, feeling the cool slick ivory satin beneath my hands move against my thighs as I wait.
“Is it…is it over with him?” Max asks finally, sounding defeated even as he says it, and when I look up at his reflection in the mirror before me, his expression says that the knows what I’m going to say. ‘So why say it? ‘ I wonder to myself, turning my gaze back down to my hands, staring at the Claddagh ring; Sidney’s promise to me and mine to him. “Tabernak woman, you aren’t even in love with him.”
The sting of having my own words thrown back at me makes me wince but I just keep staring at the ring and reminding myself that there has never been any other for me, only Sidney and no matter what else has happened, there can never be another to take his place. There’s never even been the remotest possibility of that.
“I have to get ready,” I mumble, forcing my hand up and forward to grab a tube of mascara, feeling it shake as I try to twist off the cap.
“Merde! You stubborn woman. I’m in love with you. Doesn’t that mean anything?” The mascara wand drops from my hand, my fingers having gone numb along with everything else, as I stare back at him, watching his green blue eyes grow misty. “Oh don’t look at me like you didn’t know. It’s been months, months! You had to know how I felt.” I shake my head, denying it because I’m used to denying my feelings around Max but they were my feelings and half of me is relieved he’s not asking me to be honest with my feelings. But this…this I didn’t expect. I didn’t know. “Sainte Criss! Did you not think when you came to my bed that it was more than some cheap thrill? Could you not tell how much I wanted you?” I open my mouth to say that it was all nothing but I can’t make the words come out.
“You’re my friend. You’re his friend.” It’s my defense, my argument, my only fall back and Max deftly dekes it as he strides across the room and falls to his knees at my feet.
“I’ve tried to be but this? You can’t go back to him. You can’t go crawling back to him…because you don’t love him and he’s my friend and because I love you and you’re mine.” My heart beat doubles and I feel a fine sheen of sweat breaking out across my brow.
“What do you want from me?” I ask, forcing the words through my teeth; part of me wanting desperately to fall into his arms and the other part of me still clinging to my dream.
“What I want? What I want is to tear your clothes off with my teeth and fuck you up against that door,” he growls, pointing at it, his breathing becoming heavy and labored, “until you scream my name so damn loud that everyone out there can hear you. What I want is for you to look at me,” he continues, grabbing my chin in his thick fingers and forcing me to look at him again, “and tell me the truth. Tell me who you love. Vraiment, qui aimes-tu?” I press my hands over my stomach again, feeling those wings beating a mile a minute.
“I can’t do this. Not right now. I…I have things to do,” I mumble, blinking rapidly to keep the tears at bay.
“Melody,” his voice is calmer now, quieter, but there’s still an edge to it that says he means business, that he wants an answer, an answer I’m not prepared to give. This is something I’ve been trying so hard not to think about that I if answer now it will be an emotional knee jerk reaction and I’ve screwed up so many times already basing things on gut reactions instead of taking the time to think things through….“Ma chère, mon amour,” his hand rests on my cheek, gently but insistently forcing me to look up at him, to meet his passion filled gaze. “Si tu peux m’aimer même un peu….” His voice catches in his throat as his hopeful gaze searches mine and my heart begins to beat so hard that it feels like there’s no way my chest can hold it in.
“Max…,” I close my eyes and take a deep breath, feeling the warmth of his skin transferring to mine calling up so many memories that make my body tingle, that threaten to steal my breath away. “Max I can’t…you can’t ask me things like that right now.” I open my eyes and let him see my fear, my confusion, and I add a plea to the maelstrom of emotions that are making it hard for me to even speak. “Un peu de temps. Un peu d’espace. Mon ami, si tu sentes quelque chose pour moi du tout….”
“Je sens quelque chose, je sens l’amour,” he insists, that angry edge leaking into his voice, anger, mixed with passion that reminds me of the stairs in his house and I bite down on my bottom lip to keep from whimpering at the sense memory that makes my insides clench and my nipples ache.
“We have to finish,” the hairdresser says, almost apologetically, holding up a round brush and that can of hairspray and both Max and I stare daggers at him but I know that he’s right and this time it doesn’t take more than a silent pleading look to send Max away, shaking his head, his hands balling into fists at his sides.
“So what are your plans?”
I look up from toying with the scrambled eggs on my plate to find both Nathalie and Mario standing side by side, staring down at me with looks of equal amounts concern and bewilderment on their faces.
“What? Am I being traded or something?” I mumble, not really serious, although I recognize that something is going to have to be done to make the team more competitive next year. I’m sort of hoping that it’s going to be Geno and Max or even Flower, just not me.
“Nooo,” Mario begins, but narrows his eyes at me in a way that says ‘we’ll talk hockey later’. “We’re wanting to know what your plans are for dealing with wedding. Will you be calling around making the cancellations or is Melody doing that from New York?” I nod, understanding now where they’re coming from while I stab at my eggs. I haven’t had much of an appetite since before the game last night.
“I doubt Mel’s had time to do anything about it. She’s got that…show or whatever,” I mumble, pushing my plate away at last. “I haven’t thought about it,” I reply honestly, shrugging.
“Well, it’s coming up, pretty quickly,” Nathalie adds quietly, taking my plate away and heading for the sink. “Do you think that you and Mel will be…making any kind of conciliation?” she asks, hesitantly, over her shoulder. Now I’m wishing I still had the plate of eggs in front of me to play with.
“I uh…no, I don’t think so,” I manage, my tongue feeling thick, my throat closing around a ball of emotion as I say it. It’s not that I’ve suddenly come all over emotional over it. It’s just that I feel guilty and I’ve been sitting here wondering if we’ll ever even be friends again.
“Well then, don’t you think it’s about time you started calling it off?” Mario asks, and I nod.
“Yeah, I guess I should,” I sigh, “considering it’s really all my fault.” Look at that, I think to myself as I slide off the stool at the breakfast bar. I even manage not to blame her for sleeping with Max, even though I still can’t picture my little Mel being that girl that just…jumps someone.
I pull my cell out of my pocket, knowing the caterer and the wedding planner’s number are on it, and there’s a text waiting for me, from Charline.
I thought you might need some TLC, I’m flying in. Pick me up at the airport
Huh. I feel a smile tugging at the corners of my lips for the first time in days. Maybe all that cancelling stuff can wait…for a few hours anyway.
A dozen very fit, very well sculpted topless men in white satin tights, wearing fantastical horse heads over their own, pull a white baby grand out onto the stage. Lady GaGa is singing something…is it Boys Boys Boys or Eh Eh? I don’t know…I can’t really hear it past the rushing of blood in my head.
“Go, go!” Gareth gives me a push out onto the stage and I almost stumble even though I’m only wearing kitty heels.
Blank, I tell myself. Keep your face blank, concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, small steps, no stomping. That had been what one of the other models had suggested when she saw the dress. Small steps would show the dress better.
Ignore the flashes. Stop at the head of the runway, take the bouquet of blood red roses and sparkling crystal encrusted fake flowers and hold it in one hand, pick up the skirt with the other to show the Grecian inspired sandals wrapped around your leg. Don’t look down at the people seated beside the runway. Now, look down the runway as you start to walk and….
Standing there at the end of the runway in a black tuxedo, crisp white shirt and slightly shiny black tie is a clean shaven Max, or at least wearing only a few hours’ worth of stubble, which truth be told, is the way I prefer him. For the second time I nearly stumble, my legs feeling even more like spaghetti than they had a moment ago and now I’m certain all I can hear is my heart pounding wildly in my chest. I drop the hem of the dress and my hand flies up to my chest, as if my heart might really beat its’ way out of my chest and I might actually be forced to hold it in.
I glance around, not sure what to do, not sure if I should keep walking or not. I catch sight of Gareth, Kennedy and Jordan, all sort of holding onto one another with these big, goofy grins on their faces and Kensie is even wiping at her eyes as if she’s crying which means this is real, this is really happening.
Taking a deep breath, I take another step and then another and then…and then Max goes down on one knee and I freeze again, all the air leaving my lungs in one whoosh of a breath.
I can hear a sort of buzz around me and I’m not sure if it’s in my head, in which case I’m about to faint, or if it’s the sort of hum of excited hushed voices but I try not to think about it as I watch Max reach into his jacket pocket. ‘Oh god’ I think, forcing myself forward, my eyes trained on the expectant and nervous smile he’s wearing as he watches me. ‘Oh my god’ I repeat to myself as his hands open like a clamshell revealing a large, sparkling diamond that catches the lights over the runway and seems to turn into a rainbow before my eyes.
I shake my head, trying to clear the buzzing, half sure that I’m seeing things. A few minutes ago Max had looked disheveled. Now he looked…well not exactly like the handsome prince from Sleeping Beauty but he did look…well sort of like a sexy James Bond. Like Gerard Butler in Tomb Raider Cradle of Life when Laura Croft finds him in that Chinese jail….
“Do you remember?” Max is asking as I draw near, his voice low, pitched for only my ears. “That first night, at Sidney’s party in Cole Harbour, when I said to you qui pourrait oublier une si belle creature?” I nod, my eyes filling with tears, my head swimming with memories half forgotten. “I think I’ve loved since that very first moment. I know you’re not expecting this ma chere, mais, je t’aime. Tue s devenu ma vie entire. I will never lie to you. I will never put hockey in front of you and I will never, ever make you a promise that I won’t keep. Mon petit chaton, ferez vous moi l’homme le plus heureux au monde entire, serez vous mon épouse?”