Friday, December 10, 2010

Chapter Two {Death on the Aisle}

Thanks to everyone who checked out the first chapter last week.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Without further ado, here's Chapter Two:

Chapter Two

One Week Prior

            “What do you mean the Pandit isn’t ready?” I asked Kate over the booming drums and cheering wedding guests.
            “He said to wait and he’ll come when he’s ready.” Kate shrugged. “It looked like he was in the middle of a ritual of some sort.”
“Wait?” I nearly shrieked.  “Is he kidding?”
“He’s a Hindu priest, Annabelle.  I don’t think he does ‘kidding.’”
I knew that Kate was right.  I groaned and tried to think fast.
I stood at the entrance door to the Mellon Auditorium with the bride’s family and friends on the inside and the groom and all of his family coming down Constitution Avenue to meet them at the front. When they met at the door, the Pandit and the bride’s mother would greet the groom and lead him inside to the ceremony. To complicate matters, the groom was riding on an elephant surrounded by a troop of half a dozen drummers leading the crowd in exuberant dancing and singing.
“Can we slow down the groom?” I asked.
“If you want to jump in front of an elephant, be my guest,” Kate said. “But I’m not getting anywhere near it. These shoes are Louboutins and they don’t take very well to elephant dung.”
I glanced at Kate’s spike heels and fought the urge to roll my eyes. It was a miracle that Kate could still walk considering the inappropriate footwear she wore to work.
I stepped outside and craned my neck around the corner to check to progress of the Baraat. The Baraat, or procession of the groom to a Hindu ceremony, was one of my favorite parts of an Indian wedding.  I loved the energy of the drums and the joy of the family as they danced and cheered. This was the way to enter a wedding, I thought. After a Baraat, all my other ceremony processionals seemed downright sleepy.
“Almost here,” I said to myself as the colorful crowd advanced. The guests wore traditional Indian saris and sherwanis in the most vivid colors imaginable. The women’s saris were a riot of crimson, turquoise, fuchsia, tangerine and purple adorned with beads and jewels and each was more stunning than the last.  No sedate black dresses here. Kate and I loved to play “pick the sari” at Indian weddings to see which one of us could find the most beautiful one during the evening.
I walked back inside and smiled at the mother of the bride, who stood just inside the doors.  She adjusted the top of her magenta and gold sari and looked around her.  Her dark hair was swept back from her face and held up with jeweled hair pins. With flawless skin and pale eyes, she was as strikingly beautiful as her daughter and didn’t look remotely old enough be a Mother of the Bride, or MOB.
“Where is the priest, Annabelle?”
“On his way,” I assured her with more confidence than I felt. 
I crossed the lobby of the building and peeked inside the grand hall where the ceremony would take place. The mandap was set up on the built-in stage at the far end of the room and, even though the stage was at least thirty feet wide, the mandap dominated the space.  The bride had wanted a ceremony structure that made a statement and her mandap certainly did that.
The entire mandap seemed to glow, and I felt like I was looking into a small sun. Gold was the only color the bride had wanted to use so the pillars were gold, the sheer fabric draped behind them was an iridescent gold, the ornate chairs for the bride and groom appeared to be carved out of gold and the fabric canopy that started at the top of the pillars and went at least fifteen feet into the air over the mandap was made of what looked like liquid gold.  Our mandap designer, Sachi, had lit the entire structure in gold light from above and below so that it really did glow.  I knew the bride would be thrilled.
The only thing that wasn’t entirely gold on the stage was the tiny Hindu priest, dressed in modest robes and crouching over what would soon be the ceremonial fire in front of the bride and groom’s chairs.  I didn’t want to bother him again in case he was in the middle of a pre-ceremony ritual and because, despite his Hobbit-like stature, I was a bit intimidated by him. He must have heard the heavy door open, though, because he turned toward me and held up a finger.
“They will wait.”  He smiled at me and went back to his work.
I nodded and backed out, closing the huge wooden door behind me. I was sure they would wait since they had no choice. I could hear the drums and cheering getting louder.  The bride’s family was trying to see out the glass doors but, luckily, the elephant hadn’t reached the front of the building yet so was still obscured by the pillars in front of the building.  As I put on my most comforting face to reassure the mother of the bride that the Pandit was on his way and mentally convincing myself that white lies were harmless, my phone rang. I pushed the talk button before the first verse of “Pachelbel’s Canon” escaped.
“Wedding Belles, this is Anna . . .”
“This is a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.  I just don’t know if I can work under this level of duress.”
“Okay, take a breath and tell me what’s going on.”
“As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m going to have to work under a tent with a ten foot drop into the water on three sides, I mean I just don’t have waterproof couture,” he took a breath, “now the filming crew wants to use the galley kitchen to store their production equipment.  Annabelle, you know I need that galley kitchen for plating.”
“Filming crew? What filming crew? Are you sure you’re on the right boat?”
A deep sigh from Richard. “Ship, Annabelle. When it’s this big, it’s called a ship.  And of course I’m on the right one. How could I miss it?  It takes up half the harbor.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “But what film crew?”
“The one from the “Diamond Weddings” TV show.  You know, the profiles of the weddings of the rich and richer.”
I knew the show.  Opulence meets excess on speed.  “Well what are they doing there?”
“How should I know?  I thought you arranged for it. And what is all that screaming in the background, anyway?”
I rubbed my temples.  I hadn’t arranged for it. “Dolhi drummers. The groom’s arriving on an elephant.” I rocked onto the back of my heels. “Has the bride seen the crew yet?”
“I don’t think so.  At least I haven’t seen her around today.  An elephant?  Is that why I couldn’t get across Constitution Avenue earlier?”
“Good, “I ignored Richard’s question. “That gives me some time to figure this out.”
“You don’t think the bride knows her wedding is going to be filmed by “Diamond Weddings?”
I thought about the sweet yoga-teacher bride who only agreed to wear jewels in her hair if they were healing crystals.  “No way.  This isn’t her style.”
“I have news for you, doll.  This whole yacht isn’t her style. And did I mention they keep making me take off my shoes and leave them in a basket on the dock?  You do not leave Dolce & Gabana shoes in a basket. Especially on a dock.”
I raised an eyebrow.  I doubted the dock workers were haggling over his metallic silver shoes but Richard had a point about the bride's style. “She wants to make her father happy and he loves this boat.  He always envisioned her wedding on it.”
“Do you think he called ‘Diamond Weddings?’”
“No.” I caught myself biting my lower lip.  “This has the stepmother’s name written all over it.”
Richard sucked in his breath. “Good luck with that.”
Between the impending elephant and the domineering stepmother, I was going to need it.