Have you ever had a kiss that breathed life into your soul? That ignited a fire inside you? That sends you into the most beautiful free fall?
Because that happened to me on my wedding day.
Except it wasn’t with the man I was meant to marry.
Gabe taps my shoulder, his expressive honey-coloured eyes looking at me. “Sweetie, stop touching your lips. They are as dry as the Sahara Desert.”
I really should drink more water, the Xanax makes them dry, not to mention I have a bad habit of stroking them when I’m trying to concentrate. I look up from my laptop and turn to him. We’ve been on this plane for ten hours, and yet his platinum blonde hair is still perfectly coiffed. His trademark white silk scarf is wrapped tightly around his neck, his nails perfectly manicured. Only he can still be continually suave and chic twenty-four seven. I, on the other hand, have a thin layer of sweat, and I do not feel attractive in the slightest even with my trusty eyeliner enhancing my wide almond eyes. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m trying to get some work done.
“It’s the dryness up in here.” I feel them. Damn they are parched, like sandpaper.
“You’re half Asian, aren’t you always supposed to have perfectly moisturised lips?” he asks.
“What? You come up with the funniest crap sometimes,” I tease as I reach into my bag to grab my strawberry chap stick, applying a thick layer.
“Okay, maybe it’s because you’re a female then,” he jokes and I grin back.
My best friend, Gabe Sasse, always cracks me up with his dirty and off kilter one-liners and he is the best buddy to accompany me on this plane ride from hell. Not only are we towards the back of coach, the screaming toddler behind me is really not helping my headache and I rub my increasingly aching temples. The seat underneath me is stiff and even though I am reclined back, it does nothing for my comfort. I hate flying, but especially in economy class. The Xanax is helping me focus on the laptop instead of the fact that I am thirty thousand feet in the air. To think I’m so high up…stop thinking about it, Lay. We’re only two hours away from landing, back onto normal flat land. I turn back to my laptop and continue typing away.
“Hun, you’ve been buried in that laptop all day.”
“I just have to double check the run sheets; just finishing up the one in case we run into wet weather.”
Gabe sighs loudly. Even after all this time, he can’t believe how much I over-plan everything. My backup plans have their own backups, I always plan out my projects with track-able milestones and I update and recalibrate my schedule at least once a day.
“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming me! Come on, we’re on our way to Italy for god’s sake,” he says.
Enthusiastic? That is not a word that describes my current state of mind. Jilted, irritated, cheesed off more like. Hmm, cheese and crackers would be nice right now.
“I am excited, but I’m still a bit—”
“Under the weather? I guess I can forgive you, it’s only been a few days since…” he stops himself but we both know what he’s talking about. So much has happened in the last few days that I should be excited to get away.
He’s right though, I should try and enjoy this. Why should I keep feeling sorry for myself? It’s not every day I get invited to stay at one of the lushest and most historic hotels in the world for free, and in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I suppose I could do with a break.
I reach for my bag again and take out my half-finished block of dark chocolate infused with kaffir lime, laying it out in front of Gabe with a grin. Chocolate is my vice. I love chocolate so much that I always have at least one block with me at all times. “I bought this from that shop on Kent Street, try some!”
“I’m getting merlot!” He presses the service button immediately before taking two little squares out of my block and popping it in his mouth. “Mmm, this is good.”
I take one square and moan quietly at the sensation of the cocoa melting in my mouth. Just a square at a time is all I need and I feel better already. “I’ve also packed a block of milk honeycomb crunch, dark coffee crunch, hazelnut milk, dark raspberry—”
“Whoa! We’re only going to be there ten days, you chocolate whore!”
I laugh quietly, eating another square. I need this chocolate, more than he realises.
I have a reason to bury myself in work and chocolate, a damned good reason. No, I’m not feeling a lot of pressure, as this is my first big international wedding. No, I’m not feeling sad about leaving home; that is, Sydney, Australia. No, my one damned good reason is I’m using work as a diversion. I’m resentful and frankly, I’m pissed off. This is supposed to be a plane ride of joy and happily ever after. This is supposed to be my honeymoon trip, instead I’m planning someone else’s wedding as a means to divert my attention from going off the deep end. Instead of flying to Italy on another assignment, I should be lying on a deck chair sipping a fruity cocktail in the Boracay Islands.
The biggest day of my life didn’t happen. I was supposed to marry the man of my dreams, ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after, but somehow it all unravelled like a ball of yarn. I just don’t know who pulled the thread.
Three days ago.
It’s finally happening, the moment I’ve been planning.
My special day has arrived, almost.
“Are you ready, Lacey?” Dad’s question is a soft whisper in my ear.
I definitely look ready; in fact, I look amazing if I don’t say so myself. Gabe is incredible – aside from being my source for all things gossip and fun, he also happens to be a hair extraordinaire. My shoulder length ebony hair has been transformed into soft tendrils to frame my heart shaped face. Somehow it has managed to make my eyes appear bigger than they already are. My almond eyes have been given a smoky makeover and it serves as a dramatic contrast to my rosy complexion.
“You are going to be beautiful tomorrow.”
I better look good tomorrow; it’s only the most important day of my life!
“I’m so….” I can see a trace of water in his kind, green eyes as he offers his arm to me. “I can’t believe my little girl is all grown up and getting married. It only felt like yesterday when I was putting the Band-Aid over that gash on your knee, or teaching you to drive.”
“Well I still have the scar on my knee, and I will never look at reverse parking the same way. So don’t worry about it, Pops. It’s just a piece of paper,” I dismiss dryly as I flick my hair back behind my shoulders. “But thanks, Daddy, I couldn’t do this without you.”
Dad should be getting emotional tomorrow, at the wedding. It’s only the rehearsal tonight, so there’s no time for anything emotional. I just need tonight to go according to plan, like all the other weddings I have coordinated.
Given my hectic schedule this whole year, my wedding will be like a holiday. Autumn season in Sydney means lots of church and garden weddings to plan for. There was the one at Eden Gardens three weeks ago, then the one at St Mary’s Church the week before that. Not to mention tonnes of beach weddings I did all throughout January, February and March. But a busy schedule doesn’t deter me from delivering top notch service – as expected, my reviews have been unanimous in praise. I might be tough and bitchy at times, but I need to in order to get things done perfectly. And I always do.
I don’t even want to think about my honeymoon because it is surreal to think I will actually have two weeks to sleep, eat and pamper myself. I’m surprised I’ve been able to do my full time job, let alone go through my wedding preparations. Because of the insanity that has been my life lately, I haven’t had any quality time with my fiancé, Adam. The last few weeks we have been more like passing ships in the night – I’ll plop into bed in the middle of the night, and he’ll be out of the house for work by the time I’m up. All our conversations lately have been mostly through email and text. All of which, have been about the wedding.
The day is so close now. I link my arm through my dad’s and face the white double doors as they swing open. Gabe clicks his fingers to the DJ, who is standing at the end of the hall with the turntables to play the tunes. Immediately our song, “Endless Love” by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross, starts playing loudly in the background. I think Gabe only hired Brad to play the decks because he’s tanned, built and blonde, but hey I’m not going to hold it against him to hire some eye candy.
Even though it’s going to be fully decorated tomorrow with lilies, tea lights and linen, it looks gorgeous tonight. I’m impressed – Gabe has transformed my vision into reality. Resplendently white with pangs of aquamarine dotted throughout the room, the large hall feels airy and bright, cheerful in nature. It’s just what I wanted – it’s not gaudy or over the top.
Most people might know me as Lacey Ryan, That Wedding Girl – as it is the name of my website – the wedding planner every engaged couple looks up to make their dreams come true, but tonight I’m just Lacey; a girl marrying the boy she loves. For once, I want to be The Wedding Girl. On any other occasion Gabe is my assistant but for my wedding, he is my planner and he has not disappointed. I couldn’t trust anyone else with this.
My friends and family stand in front of me, in particular my older brother Hansley, who greets me first. Almost thirty and he still dresses like a teenager in his brown chinos and scruffy t-shirt. We look as opposite as siblings can be, him with his unruly spiky hair and tattoo sleeve and me always in form-fitting dresses and heels.
“So you’re really doing this, baby sis?” Hansley gives me a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Guess so! When are you getting married? You’re almost thirty.”
“Pfffft, not for another year. You know my rule, Peanut, not until I hit the three-o,” he affirms.
“If you say so….” I’m sceptical he will get married before he hits another decade. How many more casual flings and hook-ups can he go through before he finally settles down?
“I can’t wait to see you tomorrow,” he grins at me, looking as proud as Dad. I’m just in my usual work attire – a tailored black dress that sits at my knees and emphasises my small waist. Wait till they see me in my wedding dress tomorrow!
“Come on, let’s keep walking.” Dad tugs my arm gently and we continue our descent down the carpeted aisle.
About damn time I got married. I’ve been planning weddings for years, so after seeing hundreds if not thousands of couples experience their happy day, it’s only fitting I get to experience my own. True, I’m only twenty-five but I’ve been doing this for so long it feels like delayed gratification.
And no more than twenty feet down the aisle, there he stands. Adam, my university sweetheart who I’ve been with for six years, looks handsome in a fitted white shirt and tight navy trousers. His caramel coloured hair, usually tousled, is gelled back in a meticulous manner. Standing a head taller, he is the perfect height for me.
His twinkling blue eyes catch mine and at that moment I wish he was already mine in matrimony. Mrs Lacey Belmonte. It has an amazing ring to it, much better than Lacey Ryan. Adam is cute, sweet, and patient. I’m so thankful he is as understanding as he is, letting me be the self-obsessed planner that I am. He even rubs my feet when I desperately need him to. What more could I ask for?
“This is where I let you go.”
Dad winces at his words and kisses my cheek before finding his seat beside my mother, Elaine, who is sitting there looking passive, with quiet happiness in a long sleeve, plum dress. Dad has always been sweet and gentle, whereas I have a much tougher demeanour. If there is anyone I can account for the way I am, it’s mum.
She always emphasised the importance of maintaining an attractive appearance and said I had to always dress ‘like I was going to meet someone important’. Nowadays, I won’t step out of the house without perfect makeup. She taught me that crying is not only ugly, but it is also a waste of mascara. The last time I cried was when my grandmother, Betty, died. I was wearing waterproof mascara, though. She also said men need to be given lots of space as it keeps them happy. It must be true too, because Adam has never complained about me being clingy. And I intend to keep it that way.
I walk up to Adam and he scans my face; for a split second I can see a pang of anxiety flash across his eyes. He reaches out his hand to take mine, as I quickly dismiss the thought.
“You mean so much to me, you know that? I would never want to hurt you.” Odd choice of words that he chose to deliver in a hushed whisper.
He grabs my hand tightly and we both turn to the front of the hall to face our pastor and begin our vows.
The rest of the rehearsal goes by smoothly, but it is only because Gabe is at the helm, and because I secretly created a run sheet for tonight. I have one for tomorrow too – I’m annoyingly organised and a control freak. It’s my thing!
Everyone has speculated that the go to wedding planner would want fireworks, open-top tents, and elaborate centrepieces. They couldn’t be further from the truth. I have always wanted a simple wedding. The only requirement is that there are to be lots of lilies.
I haven’t been a Bridezilla; everyone has been remarking on how eerily calm I’ve been. My little blue book is full of contacts I’ve amassed throughout the years and planning the wedding has been a piece of cake, no pun intended. Is that a good or bad thing? I’m sleeping my eight hours every night without a fault. I haven’t gained weight, nor have I lost weight. What could possibly go wrong when everything that needs to be place is already there?
It’s almost 8pm, the rehearsal is over and the guests are enjoying a dinner of pecan pesto shells with sausages, garlic bread, and sauvignon blanc. The room is rife with laughter.
I feel relaxed. We’ve practiced the walk down the aisle with the entourage four times, ushering the guests to their seats five times, and the recession eight times. Everything is going accordingly to plan, and I’m unwinding by enjoying a healthy sized portion of my pasta. I’ve had far too many mineral waters, and need to pop to the bathroom.
As I get up to excuse myself from the table, Adam leans in to give me a gentle kiss. “Don’t be gone too long, alright?” His eyes twinkle, like shallow pools.
“I’ll be right back.” A grin stays on my face as I leave the table and walk down the hall.
The entire venue has three bathrooms, and Adam and I have been given the big one closest to the hall to use for ourselves.
The bathroom is divine, exuding an understated French décor with a large white marble vanity as the focal point of the room. A big blue vase filled with lilies sits as a centrepiece and a wonderful aroma greets me. As I stand up from the toilet and flush, something catches my eyes. Adam’s tailored navy blazer lying on the floor. I wash my hands and wipe them on the striped towel before picking up the blazer to hang it on the garment hook. A piece of paper falls out of the pocket and onto the floor.
It looks like a letter. Who could it be from?
Should I or shouldn’t I?
Of course I’m going to. I bend down to pick it up, gazing upon handwriting I don’t recognise.
How is it possible that someone as wonderful as you exists? In the short span of six months you have not only become my lover but my best friend. I tell you everything. I worry about you, care about you. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I love you. There, I wrote it.
I’m frightened to be without you, but bearing in mind ‘the rules’ you will not know how I am doing and vice versa. It sinks me down to the core that you are about to be married to someone else, when you should be with me.
You told me you wish to continue our relationship like before, before this all happened. But how will that work?
I know you said to email you for all our correspondence but I’ve always believed in the written word and felt no other way to plead with you to not go through with this.
I don’t understand this, aren’t we so much better for each other? Surely, you feel the same way as well. What will happen after you go through that sham of a marriage?
I have so many questions.
Will I still see you?
Will I still be able to call you mine?
How often will we see each other?
It’s getting harder and harder to see you at work and with your upcoming wedding (I still can’t believe you’re getting married), I haven’t been able to discuss my worries, concerns, or problems at work with you anymore.
I really hope you change your mind, Adam. I can make you so much happier than she ever can. Please take me instead.
Yours in time,