Read an Excerpt
It's Not My Wedding (But I'm in Charge)
By Sharon Naylor
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Sharon Naylor
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI am walking down Madison Avenue with a check for ten million dollars in my pocket.
It was there. I had slid my hand into my bag, spreading the billfold of my wallet to feel for its rough serrated edge, about a hundred times in six blocks. I could feel it. It was warm somehow, like it was heating up the thirty-one dollars in cash I had right next to it. Each time I touched it, it felt hotter and hotter.
You kind of lose your mind when you have ten million dollars in your bag, or maybe that's just me. With each step of my boot heels on the puddled, slushy sidewalk, I had another separate fantasy about the ten mil I'd been entrusted with for a twelve-block walk to the bank.
What if I just hop down to Atlantic City and put it all on red at the roulette table? Just slap that little sage green check right there on the red circle while a crowd of amazed senior citizens and hard-core gambling addicts with dark bags under their eyes gathers around me and peers over my shoulder. Someone would call the six o'clock news, and they'd have a hot Italian camera guy covering my ballsy move. "Woman Puts $10 Mil On Red." I'd double my money and stay in Trump's personal suite for the week. With the hot camera guy.
Or, What if I just walked into Tiffany right now and showed them the check? Would eight smiling Stepford jewel supermodels float out from the back room with champagne and strawberries, ushering me into a private suite where I could try on the diamonds Jennifer Aniston wore to the Oscars?
What if I could cash it in twenties, take it home, and roll around naked in it for a while? I've always wanted to do that.
I was walking with a lascivious smile on my face, all but petting the side of my purse, and people were looking at me strangely. Am I giving off a vibe that I have a ten-million-dollar check in my bag? Is that guy checking me out because he KNOWS, or because he's just checking me out? Am I going to get mugged here? Am I going to wind up in a police precinct answering a detective's raised-eyebrow questions on why I'd be so stupid as to walk down the streets of New York City with a check larger than the amount in most armored cars? I'd wind up on the six o'clock news: "Idiot Woman Makes Herself a Walking Target-$10 Million Gone Like That." They'd use an animated graphic of fingers snapping and a flurry of dollar bills floating away into the air.
I am losing my mind.
Four more blocks until I reach the bank, deposit it into the account, and return to a place of sanity. I was practically running now. Get this thing out of my purse.
I was, and was not, surprised that my boss entrusted the check to me. Zoe Brandenberg had ... moments. Moments of clarity, and moments she called the "purple-plum veil of haze." Even when describing her depression, she had to accessorize it well. She was, after all, the reigning contessa of wedding planning. She was the wedding coordinator to the stars at the highest stratospheres, the ones who spent six figures on their wedding cakes alone and commissioned artisans from Morocco to weave them custom rugs for the outside doorway to the church. These were the elite, celebrities who breathed different air than we did, since they paid about one hundred thousand dollars a month for someone to show up with pink metal cannisters of O2 to plug into specially designed outlets in their homes. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Zoe Brandenberg was the name in celebrity and royal weddings. Dakota Fanning had her prereserved, and the twin grandchildren of the Queen of the Netherlands already had a date chosen for them ... and they were in preschool. Zoe would be sixty-five when their weddings rolled around. But that was her demand level. As the ads said, If it's not a Zoe wedding, it's not a wedding at all. We in her back room, of course, had much fun with her commercials. If it's not a Zoe wedding, it's a blowy wedding. We'd been breathing too many hot glue vapors, it seemed sometimes.
I might be in the back room, but I was Zoe's right-hand woman. I was her "Number Two Woman," she said, and I'd never been comfortable with how that sounded sometimes. Especially when Zoe was on a manic high, reinserting pearl pushpins into the center of roses in concentric circles rather than spirals. "Mylie! You're my Number Two! Put down your jacket and help me concentric these!" She could go for days on end, and with me as her right hand, I sometimes didn't see daylight for three days. For her average four-million-dollar wedding, that was a lot of pearl pushpins to redesign in the centers of barely bloomed roses.
Everyone asked me if I liked Zoe Brandenberg, and I honestly didn't quite know what to say. As a boss, she was demanding, but you got to understand the logic behind the lunacy. When she was up, she was on fire, and she created magic. It truly was amazing how she preenvisioned color schemes and could make an orange theme actually work without looking like a Syracuse University homecoming dance. When she was done with it, it looked like the vibrant oranges and yellows and reds of a dramatic sunset in Hawaii. She made orange sexy and smoldering. She made purple rev up your libido. And I don't even want to tell you what her reds did. Her happy clients said she shared the same palette as Mother Nature, with all the same creative force. These were actresses. They were paid to be dramatic. While I wouldn't get quite so powers-of-the-universe about it, I had to say that Zoe was a genius. And like most geniuses, her mind was ... complex.
Do I like Zoe? Absolutely. She could be shrill and obsessive, Type A-plus, haunted and maniacal about invitation fonts, but she was never rude. When she got tired, her hands shook. Her eyeballs darted from side to side. And she'd occasionally burst into tears when she couldn't get the leatherleaf ferns to arch just right. She once threw her Jimmy Choos at an ice sculpture because the facial expressions of the two doves looked pained, not enraptured. And I was always there to place my hand on her back, whisper a secret message into her ear, and lead her back to her spa room for some rest. She had a spa room in her design studio. White reclining couches, a Zen water fountain, vases of gardenias brought in fresh daily. And a Lalique tray of Godiva chocolates, raspberry- filled starfish. I guided her there with a light touch on her elbow, since she didn't need to be helped, as gentle and as loving as a daughter putting her on-the-verge-of-dementia elderly mother to bed.
Zoe appreciated my tenderness, apparently. She raised my pay by ten thousand dollars each time I rescued her from a particularly bad downward spiral. And she slept with her lips in a slight childlike smile, her face softer like she'd grown ten years younger. "Thank you, Mylie. You're my angel," she said each time. "You're my hands."
And I stayed up through the night to rearrange pearl pushpins in concentric circles just as she would want it. I bundled up in a parka, climbed into the deep freezer, and chiseled out just the right facial expressions on the ice sculpture doves, first trying out my own enraptured expressions in a mirror to get the lip lines just right, and Zoe slept like a cherub while I shushed the night cleaning crew and found just the right font for the monogrammed napkins.
I dated someone once who tried to analyze me. He said I saw Zoe as a replacement mother figure, that I was trying to please her, to become her. I took my toothbrush home from his place and laughed with the cabdriver about it on my way back to my place. That was what I got for trying to meet a guy on-line. I wasn't going to waste my time or ruin a perfectly good mojito by trying to explain, "No, I'm learning from her. I have the same genius. I'm just learning from her. And she's a person who needs a little kindness once in a while."
"And how much did you say you get for this kindness? An extra ten thousand dollars?" My snakey former date clucked his tongue and still didn't manage to dislodge the tooth-clinging parsley he had popped to help out his breath (which, by the way, did not work). "You, my dear, are taking advantage of a floundering old woman whose passion is driving her mad."
The guy's one-man, one-act play had just been canceled in the city. He wore black and saw everything through a telescope of bitterness, too far removed from reality to see anything clearly and with his own purple-plum veil of despair. He should have paid me ten thousand dollars just for putting up with him for five dates. But I digress ...
Zoe Brandenberg. She was a genius. She trusted me. And she said I "have it." I'm sticking with her.
That was why I was walking a ten-million-dollar check to the bank and depositing it, with blue ink still wet on my hands from signing a CIA-level, four-inch-thick confidentiality agreement with the celebrity bride and groom who have come to us-sorry, to Zoe-to create The Wedding of the Millennium. I haven't met the two stars yet, although I have had very vivid sex dreams about the groom-to-be in the past. Their associates showed up with the confidentiality agreements in locked black leather briefcases. They even brought their own pens, and held out their catcher's-mitt-sized, meaty hands to get the pens back. According to the terms of the confidentiality agreement, Zoe and I were to be the sole designers. No support staff at all. If any word leaked out at all about the plans for this ten-million-dollar celebrity wedding heavenly extravaganza, the henchmen would return to harvest my eggs, my ovaries, my spleen, my kidneys, and my corneas with plastic pudding spoons and no morphine.
We called this a Zip It job. Talk to no one. Put nothing in writing. No e-mails. Use only a scrambled-line cell phone. Jennifer Garner would play me in the movie, I decided one night while waiting for the subway. National security was not this tight. We had spy gear for planning weddings. I really could use one of those black leather jumpsuits Jen Garner wears on screen. And I'd need a code name.
It was while considering what my code name should be that I reached the bank and pushed through the heavy rotating doors with a whoosh, suddenly walking with the high, confident step of a runway model (only not as horselike), working it, secretly hearing the theme music to Mission Impossible in my head. With my black hair braided tightly back, diamond earrings in my ears, black stiletto knee-high boots, and freshly red lips, I stepped up to the counter and used a voice that wasn't my own. I went throatier, sexier. It was how Jennifer Garner would have delivered the line in the movie of my life: "I'd like to make a deposit."
Chapter TwoI would get five percent of the ten million.
When the wedding was over.
I wasn't a math major, so it did take me a minute or two to move the decimal point and figure it out, but that certainly was enough money to roll around in naked when the time came. And it was enough to furnish my dream apartment entirely with everything in the Williams Sonoma catalog. Well, most things. I wasn't wild about the white lamps with the yellow polka dots. I was thinking more of a chocolate-colored palette ... rich, deep cocoa browns, champagne pales, bronze accents, hints of pink here and there ... no, wait, scratch the pink and replace it with cinnamon.
I should be focusing on the cabernet-colored calla lily bouquets I was making right now, pairing them by the arch of their petals, the curve of their thick pale green stems, the delicate ways they nestled together, but instead I was in two places at once. Normally, I could shut out the outside world and focus on the task at hand. I was in the back workspace, chilly from the cool temperature we kept it at to benefit the flowers, and it was 5:00 A.M. We had a wedding today. An ambassador's daughter and an oil magnate's son. All of their flowers must be the color of her childhood bedroom, a pinkish purplish red. She was unable to produce a color swatch for us, so we had to fly to Belgium and find her childhood home, knock on the door, and ask the current owners if we could look at the upstairs bedroom to get a color match. Zoe's French was perfection, and of course we had no trouble getting in the door. Or scraping off two coats of midnight blue wall paint to see the pinkish purplish red beneath. The owner of the house recognized Zoe from the Oprah show, so we could have gotten the paint sample and helped ourselves to everything in their refrigerator if we had wanted to. Plus their VCR. I was amazed at how doors literally opened for Zoe. She had a name. Her face was known. She was an icon.
"How are the bouquets coming?" Renata pushed the heavy door closed and pulled a sweatshirt over her head. She lost most of the baby weight in record time, but still insisted that she needed bulky outfits, even when she wasn't in a refrigerated workspace.
"If I could focus, they'd be done by now." I sighed, sounding way more whiny than I'd intended to.
Renata was the only other employee of Zoe's who was in on the secret that we were doing the ten-million-dollar celebrity wedding. She was the backup in case I got hit by a bus. I swear. It's in the confidentiality agreement. She knew we were going to be working on it, but she wasn't in on any details. A deal was a deal.
"Then focus." She winked, her violet eyes the main reason why Zoe hired her in the first place. That and her six years of experience at the New York Botanical Gardens. But Zoe said her eyes were the exact color of a sunrise she once saw in the Arizona desert, the rich purple outline of cliffs in the distance.
We worked in silence, wrapping the bridesmaids' bouquets with lengths of pinkish purplish red silk ribbon, affixing a circular cork bottom to the stems, and then origami-folding the ribbon into an intricate closing pattern, sealed with a crystal charm at the bottom. For the one larger white calla grouping, we use a diamond pin that the bride could take off of her bouquet and wear in the future to all of the cotillions and oil magnate estate parties, dinners at the White House, and alumni gatherings at Harvard. We always added a little something that could be kept for the future. From the bouquet, from the veil, from anything. This time, it was a diamond brooch the size of a silver dollar and worth about fifty thousand of them.
These kinds of things still took my breath away.
I hoped I'd never lose my ability to see the beauty in each detail, each accent. I hoped it would never get old and boring for me to see the perfect arch of a calla lily's petal, the shine of a Swarovski crystal, the tiny little rainbow in the tiniest corner of a diamond as it caught the sunlight just right. The smell of gardenias, and how it always reminded me of my grandmother, who would have been so proud to see the work I do.
"Nice," Renata whispered as she fastened the last charm to the last bridesmaid's bouquet. She stepped over to the wall-which was actually a giant dry erase board-and crossed off "Make bridesmaids' bouquets" and "make bride's bouquets" from our dwindling To-Do list. Without a word or a moment to absorb our accomplishment, we moved right to the boutonnieres. Lily of the valley for the groom, mini ranunculus for the groomsmen. No one was doing baby roses for the men anymore. Although they would probably come back in style a month from now. Things moved quickly on the market. Usually when Zoe said so.
"So tell me ... have you met him yet?" Renata smiled, her dimple denting her smooth cheek. She was thirty-five but looked twenty-two. I was thirty-five and looked thirty-four. I'd take it, having seen some brides who were thirty-five but looked forty-five from too much hard living.
I rolled my eyes. Get off my back, woman. "Still doing Match.com?" she tried. As most happily married new moms did to their single friends.
"No, turned it off." I didn't lift my eyes away from the tender droops of lily of the valley that I was now matching together like puzzle pieces. Most people would just bunch them like a handful of parsley, but I knew Zoe's microscopic view. She'd light it on fire if the edges didn't match well, the flowers not falling well.
Renata nodded. "Gotcha.
Excerpted from It's Not My Wedding (But I'm in Charge) by Sharon Naylor Copyright © 2007 by Sharon Naylor. Excerpted by permission.
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