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Who knew that being a klutz and combining it with a distrust of wedding bouquets could lead to a black eye?
Annika Jacobson automatically touched the four-day-old berry-colored bruise with its spectacular vivid yellow edges with the tips of her fingers as if that would will it away.
"Stop it." Nicole Lindquist from Whitetail's Affairs with Hair leaned forward and captured her hand. "I've concealed it with makeup but if you keep tapping it with your fingers, you'll ruin all my hard work."
"Sorry." For the thousandth time in ninety-six hours, Annika asked herself why she hadn't just caught the damn flowers. Everyone outside the old Whitetail church knew that Jennifer would throw her bouquet to her best friend and they'd all discreetly taken a step back so it could happen. She'd known it too and had thought she was up for the task but at the last minute she'd panicked and moved sideways, thinking it would leave Melissa wide open for the catch. In her own inimitable, uncoordinated style, she'd misjudged it completely and the only thing she'd caught was a wad of firmly packed tulip stems to the cheek. Stems which packed a hell of a punch. All in all it had capped off a day she'd been dreading for months.
Not that she didn't think Jennifer's marriage was a good idea, it totally was. Jennifer, unlike herself, had been born to be married and Carl was a great guy, but their wonderful wedding, where the town had made them celebrities for the day, had been their last day in Whitetail. They too had joined the parade that led out of town toward jobs in Madison, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities and beyond. Their departure made the economic situation very real and meant that after a decade, she was the only member of her graduating class still living in Whitetail. Financially, she was barely holding on herself because personalized calligraphy was a luxury few in town could now afford and her almost nonexistent bank account had her seriously worried. Reggies, the biggest employer in the town, had been shedding jobs for a year and had now pulled out completely. The business park lay idle and her beloved town was shriveling before her eyesslowly languishing on the curve of a pristine northwoods lake.
Sadly, beauty and fresh air didn't pay the bills and the town desperately needed a new industry to survive. She thought of her two overdue rent notices and knew deep in her heart she needed a regular job to survive. A job so she could stay in Whitetail where she belonged.
"I'm just nervous, is all." She glanced around at the other four expectant faces, the core group of the Whitetail Chamber of Commerce who'd joined her in the limousine for moral support. At least they thought it was moral support. Annika felt it was more along the lines of making sure she didn't back out of "the plan." Just the thought of "the plan" made her sick to her stomach so she tried to joke. "At least this party's full of out-of-staters and no one will have read about my epic failure in The Bugle."
Melissa Bergeron, the owner of the Northern Lights Boutique and the woman who'd lent Annika the evening dress she was now wearing, made a funny face as if she was trying not to laugh.
"They might have seen it in the online edition."
Annika's stomach rolled on acid and not much else. "Since when does The Bugle have an online edition? I thought Eric was still learning how to use the Guttenberg press?"