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By Sandy Rideout Yvonne Collins
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI'm in the ladies' room when my big moment arrives. It's no coincidence. The event: Emma's wedding. My mission: to avoid the ceremonial tossing of the bridal bouquet. I almost pull it off, too. As a bridesmaid (my seventh tour of duty), I've had access to the script, which states that the toss is to occur at 11:45 p.m. precisely. At 11:35, I skulk off to the last stall of the hotel's fancy washroom, sit down on the toilet's lid and haul my feet up onto the seat. It won't take long for the search party to give up. In the meantime, I can lean against the cool marble bathroom wall and rest my eyes.
"Found her! She's asleep!" Emma's six-year-old niece yells. She's peering under the stall door, a wide grin on her annoying little face.
"I was not asleep," I say, opening the door to find two bridesmaids in buttercup yellow dresses identical to mine glaring at me. "I've got a migraine."
"You don't get migraines," Lola says, grabbing my arm with one hand and hitching up her special Maid-of-Honor chiffon cape with the other. "Cut the crap and let's get this show on the road. The sooner it's over, the sooner we're back at the bar."
As they escort me to the dance floor, the delighted flower girl skips ahead, shouting, "I found Libby! She was asleep on the toilet!"
I should have known better than to attempt escape with Lola in charge. She's cranky because yellow makes her look sallow and worse, Emma made her promise not to smoke tonight. The honor of being chosen maid of honor is hardly compensation enough. In fact, no one is more oblivious to this sort of honor than Lola and no one is less willing to be on her best behavior. That's why I expected the Maid-of-Honor nod myself, but Emma probably wanted to leave me free to enjoy my own brand of nuptial notoriety.
For five minutes at every wedding, I am a bigger star than the bride. My role is to catch the bridal bouquet. It isn't staged, it just happens. No matter how poorly the bride throws, nor how eager my competitors are, the bouquet is always mine. All I have to do is show up. I stand among the single women, hands at my sides and it flies straight at my face. At the last moment, I inevitably raise my hands in self-defence. Like I could afford twelve nose jobs on a government salary!
Twelve bridal bouquets. Now, there's a claim to fame. At six foot two (six-five in yellow satin bridesmaid pumps), I suppose I'm an easy mark. I prefer to blame my unlikely talent on my height than accept that Fate is playing a cruel joke on me. After all, everyone knows that the girl who catches the bridal bouquet will be next to marry - it's a tradition. Yet, somehow, I remain single despite my twelve trophies.
When I caught my first bouquet at age eight, I was thrilled. When I caught my third at age twenty, I was cautiously hopeful. When I caught my eighth at twenty-eight, I was mortified. And when I caught my tenth at thirty, well, I asked my friends to stop inviting me to their weddings.
They didn't, obviously. These days I get invites from people I barely know, just so that they can see me in action. I've become a party trick.
Being a little superstitious, I held on to the bouquets long after I gave up all belief in the tradition. Lola found them hanging in my closet last year. "This is seriously weird," she said, as if she'd stumbled upon Bluebeard's wives. "I'll destroy them to spare you from ridicule." As if anyone who's caught that many bridal bouquets is a stranger to ridicule! Still, I was relieved when she took responsibility for dumping them. Given my history with men, I can't afford to be sending that kind of message out to the universe.
When I agreed to be her bridesmaid, Emma promised to show some restraint. "Don't worry, I won't get all bridey," she said moments before launching herself into a vortex of white lace and tulle. After that, it was Fairytale Wedding by the book. Pathetic optimist that I am, I even believed her when she told me she'd keep the bouquet toss simple. "Just the basics," she said.
Many have been less considerate. They embraced the variation on the tradition where the woman who catches the bouquet has to dance with the man who catches the garter because they're destined to marry each other. People love seeing the look on my face as the garter-catcher - usually a single-for-good-reason guy in a bad suit - comes to claim his dance. It makes for great wedding video footage. Take the following scene from Emma's, running unedited at nine minutes:
Emma, resplendent in $2000 worth of strapless, beaded taffeta, is beaming from the podium as she prepares for the bouquet toss.
The camera cuts to the crowd of single women, where my big, bushy head looms above the crowd. There's a sullen expression on my face. Lola stands guard over me, a drink in one hand, a partially hidden smoke in the other. Two eager young women flank me. They're sizing me up and, judging by their smirks, they don't consider me much of a threat. Lola pretends to burn one of them in the butt with her cigarette and we both make faces behind them. We have forgotten the camera.
Emma winds up for the pitch and the video slips into slow motion. The bouquet shoots out over the crowd. The camera captures my expression as I assess the bouquet's trajectory. Closer ... closer ... The two youngsters jockey for position, elbowing me. I step backward to avoid them. Arms outstretched, they hurl themselves into the air. You can see the hope on my face: this time I am finally going to miss it! But no, the teens careen into each other. One stumbles off her platforms and into Lola, who "accidentally" spills red wine on the teen's tight white dress (never wear white to a wedding). The bouquet travels like a missile over their perfectly coiffed heads, my hands go up and ... yes! It's a direct hit, ladies and gentlemen. Turning, I hold the bouquet high and curtsy for the crowd. The teens check out my butt and sneer, confirming my suspicion that there is no good angle in a yellow stretch-poly frock.
I offer the photographer a big, fake smile before stepping to the sidelines to make way for the single men. The D.J. cues the stripper music and Bob, the groom, removes the garter from Emma's leg and snaps it into the air. There's a flash of blue as it streaks across the dance floor, the camera panning to follow its path. Over the heads of the single men it goes, until its flight is suddenly arrested ... by my forehead. It snaps my head back with its force, then drops into the bridal bouquet I'm still holding. Heads are swiveling. No one knows where the garter landed. The videographer speaks up: "Libby caught it!"
Stunned, I pluck it from the bouquet and hold it aloft. The single guys turn as one and race toward me. There's a brief struggle as they grab my arms, my waist, my legs and hoist me into the air. I stop resisting when I realize that the more I thrash, the less coverage my dress provides. The D.J. plays the Village People's "Macho Man" and the guys pump me up and down to the beat. As the song ends, they deposit me - quite gently, really, when you consider the trays of tequila slammers they've consumed - before the bride and groom. I surrender the garter with a dizzy flourish. Bob snaps the garter again; this time a tall guy grabs it casually out of the air. Emma grins in my general direction before whispering something in the D.J.'s ear. He steps to the mike: "Would Libby McIssac please step forward again? Tim Kennedy will now place the garter on Libby's leg and the two will share a special dance."
I look stricken, but Tim is smiling as he walks toward me and bows. He leads me to a chair in the center of the dance floor. I lift my own bridesmaid gown and place my foot on the chair. Tim slips the garter over my foot and slides it up my leg. The video does not capture the snag in my thirty-dollar stockings.
"Let's give Libby and Tim a hand, everyone," the D.J. shouts.
"We'll see them united in wedded bliss sometime soon!" (I hate this guy.)
The camera follows us briefly as we start dancing, then finally cuts back to the bride.
Excerpted from Speechless by Sandy Rideout Yvonne Collins Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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