Friday, December 17, 2010

Chapter Three {Death on the Aisle}

Chapter Three

“Did the ceremony start?” Fern’s voice startled me from behind as I stood peeking into the main hall at the Mellon Auditorium. “The bride wanted me to touch up her hair after the ceremony.”
“It just started,” I said.
To my great relief, the Pandit had indeed made it in time to greet the groom by the time the elephant arrived at the front of the building.  The groom’s side had danced into the building and taken seats in the main hall. After a few words by the Pandit, we’d sent the bride down the aisle with her uncle and the groom was about to be revealed as she reached the mandap.  I closed the door as quietly as I could and turned around. “They’re just about to do the reveal and  . .  . What are you wearing?”
“A sari, of course.” Fern’s dark hair slicked back into a low ponytail was the only thing not Creamsicle orange about him.  The traditional mango-colored sari had beautiful gold beading along the edges and might have been a candidate for my favorite one of the evening if a male hairdresser wasn’t wearing it.  I heard a faint jingle.
“Are those bells?” I hissed.
Fern picked up the hem of the sari and revealed a pair of tiny gold bells.  “I couldn’t resist.”
“Couldn’t you?”  I looked around the foyer, grateful that no one was there. “Has the bride seen you?”
“Of course,” Fern gave me a look. “This is one of hers.”
My mouth dropped. “You’re wearing one of the bride’s saris?”
Fern ran a hand over the gossamer fabric. “Well, I am a perfect size 6.”
“You have got to be joking.” Kate’s voice echoed in the marble foyer as she came around the corner. I put my finger to my lips to shush Kate.
“Thank you,” I whispered, glad that my occasionally superficial assistant was on the side of reason for once.
Kate ignored me and glared at Fern. “I can’t believe she let you wear that and not me.”
“This color wouldn’t look good on a blonde.” Fern patted Kate on the arm. “It would wash you out, darling.”
“I’ll have you know that I look fabulous in orange.” Kate flipped her blonde bob off her shoulders.
Fern raised an eyebrow. “Well, this is more tangerine than a true orange.”
I groaned. “Will you two stop arguing over color palettes?  We have much bigger problems to deal with.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about the elephant,” Kate said, giving Fern a final glare.  “His trainer is packing him up as we speak.”
“That’s one down,” I was glad I didn’t have to go outside and check on the elephant.  Livestock that large made me nervous.  “Did either of you know about “Diamond Weddings” filming next weekend’s wedding?”
“The reality TV show?” Kate asked. “Why didn’t you tell me you called them?”
I didn’t call them,” I said.
“The bride’s stepmother did,” Fern said.  “I thought you knew, Annabelle.”
I put my hands on my hips. “No, I didn’t know. How did you know?”
“The stepmother’s stylist. The one they flew in from London. I met him yesterday when I went down to do the bride’s hair trial.” Fern lowered his voice and leaned closer to us, as if there was anyone around to overhear. “He told me that the stepmother has been telling everyone that the TV show begged her to let them film the wedding but she actually called them.”
“Why?” Kate asked.
“She’s wild for the publicity and she’ll do anything to upstage her stepdaughter.”
“Nice,” I said.  The bride’s descriptions of her stepmother had been less than flattering but I got the idea that she might have been being nice.
“You should see what she’s wearing to the wedding. Her gowns for the wedding cost more than the bride’s.  And her jewelry!”  He whistled.
“Gowns?” I asked.  “As in plural?”
Fern nodded. “Mmm hmmm.  And one of them is cream. With beading.”
I rubbed my temples. “How are we going to break this to the bride? She’ll hate the idea of all this publicity.”
“Not to mention her stepmother wearing white,” Kate muttered.
            “Cream, darling,” Fern said. “Subtle difference. And the bride already knows.”
My head snapped up. “About what?”
“The reality TV crew.  She found out yesterday while I was there.”
I was almost afraid to ask. “Did she take it well?”
Fern wrinkled his nose and thought for a moment. “Only if you consider running off the boat and threatening to cancel the wedding ‘taking it well’”
I didn’t.
“Does this mean we have a day off next weekend?” Kate looked hopeful.
“No,” I said. “It means we have a lot of work to do to smooth things over so this wedding actually happens.”
“How are we going to do that?” Fern asked. “Lock the stepmother in a closet until the wedding is over?”
I ignored Fern’s suggestion, even though it didn’t sound so bad.  “We’ll come up with something.” I tried to sound more confident than I felt. “This wedding is going to happen. Trust me.”  I’d spent too many hours on dock permits and water safety plans to let this event fall apart at the last minute.
“Come bell or high water, right Annabelle?” Kate said.
I cringed but didn’t bother to correct her. Kate was notorious for mangling expressions, and we’d all given up trying to change her.  I think she preferred her versions, anyway.
Fern rubbed his hands together. “Let the games begin.”