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The Aviary is crowded with a mix of professionals, hipsters, and couples who I’m guessing are celebrating a special occasion. Trish and I are in a cocktail lounge area that’s partitioned from the bar by a dramatic floor to ceiling birdcage, where the bartenders are mixing what I can only describe as concoctions. The set-up is reminiscent of a science lab, complete with billowing plumes of white smoke. Trish and I marvel at the gorgeous and inventive cocktails where presentation is paramount. My favorite is a tropical looking, deep purple drink in an elegant teapot shaped glass.
“You picked the perfect place,” I tell Trish. “Though I don’t want to know how much my drink costs.”
“Of course I did. I knew you’d appreciate the attention to detail. And don’t worry, this one’s on Blooms. At some point let’s talk business and I’ll write it off as an expense. Consider it a thank you for all the business you’ve sent our way.”
“Claude has deeper pockets than I thought. I’ll remember that the next time I ask you for a quote,” I joke. “But seriously, how were you able to get us in on such short notice?”
Trish looks at me like I’m crazy. “Hello? I have connections.”
I laugh and take a sip of my drink. It’s smooth with a hint of spice, leaving a trail of warmth in its wake. Trish fills me in on what’s been going on with her and I do the same. Though outside of work there isn’t much to tell.
“So, I want to hear all about the pitch. But first, how are things with Charlotte? Did she go all psycho on you?” She takes my wrist and lifts up my arm, inspecting it.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking for claw marks.”
“You’re terrible,” I tell her as I readjust my sleeve.
“But not as terrible as Charlotte.”
Trish cannot stand working with Charlotte. I get it. While she’s a royal pain in the ass, I don’t have to deal with her that often. We’re coworkers but for the most part there is a separation between bridal and corporate. Trish, on the other hand, is on the receiving end.
When we started working together, Trish and I bonded over our shared appreciation of all things Charlotte. Frankly I think it’s why she and I became friends. Charlotte is a southern belle and puts on this sweet air when you meet her, but look out. Like a snake waiting to strike its prey, she is venomous if you cross her. Or don’t do something exactly as she asked. Or better yet, told. I have no clue how her husband deals with her.
“She’s been quiet, which kind of scares me. Most of the day she’s locked away in her office. Probably plotting revenge against us all.”
“Or just you,” Trish quips.
“I’d throw my drink at you if it weren’t so delicious. Anyway, sorry I haven’t had a chance to return your calls. Things have been insane at the office and I knew I’d see you tonight.”
“I figured. Tell me everything.”
I think back to that day just over a week ago. The countless hours spent preparing, the heated exchanges between Charlotte and, well, everyone, and the nervous energy in the hours before Veronica and Rob arrived. Fortunately for me I stayed out of most of the drama. I attended some of the initial brainstorming sessions because Don wanted, and I quote, ‘to squeeze out every ounce of creativity I can muster.’ But after that I kept my head down and focused on my own events. It was Don’s idea to pull me into the meeting. As you can imagine, Charlotte was less than thrilled. I believe I was the subject of one of those heated exchanges. In the end, Charlotte relented and said I could attend. Not that Don gave her much of a choice. It was the best decision he’s ever made. He told me so himself.
When Rob and Veronica arrived Don greeted them personally. With Charlotte in tow, he gave them a tour of our office space and then led them to the conference room, where the team was waiting. He introduced them to Genevieve, our lead graphic designer, Charles, our fabricator, and Calvin, our head of IT/lighting. “And this is Lucy,” he said, gesturing to me. “She’s one of our senior planners and will be taking over Charlotte’s projects when she’s out on maternity leave.”
“Nice to meet you,” Veronica murmured.
I smiled and shook her proffered hand. I was struck by how tall she was, even in flats. I’m five foot seven and she had a good inch on me. She and Rob made a gorgeous couple. They looked coordinated and photoshoot-ready, he in his light blue button-down, and she in a cap-sleeve vintage blue dress paired with neutral sandals. She brushed a strand of her long, dark hair over her shoulder, and that’s when I noticed her ring. I tried not to gawk, but it was gorgeous. A solitaire round stone that had to be at least three carats set high in an antique setting. I’ve seen my share of rings, but hers was a standout.
“Please, sit down,” Don said, pulling out her chair. Rob stood until she was seated and then placed his arm around her shoulder. Don proceeded to uncork a bottle of Cristal and offered each of them a glass. He then made a toast and thanked them for giving Dreams the opportunity to plan their dream day. I assume the pun was intended.
“Before you begin your presentation I want to thank you as well,” said Veronica. “I know we didn’t give you an ideal amount of time to pull something together. I apologize for that as I recognize there is a lot that goes into an event of this magnitude. I’m grateful to each of you for putting in the effort and hope you didn’t have to make too many sacrifices on our behalf.”
“Nonsense,” said Don. “We are honored to have the chance to make this day memorable for you both. It’s what we do.” Everyone nodded their assent.
“I noticed. Both Rob and I were impressed by the personal touch that’s evident in each of your events. We’re excited to see what ideas you have for us.” She made eye contact with each person at the table as she spoke. I must say, Veronica impressed me. She was genuine, poised, and has a social grace about her. She struck me as the type who would know just the right thing to say in any situation. I have no such talent and envied her a little.
With the pleasantries out of the way, Don turned the floor over to Charlotte. Teetering on her too high heels, she looked quite a sight, even for Charlotte. Her blond hair was loosely pulled back in a chignon with perfectly placed tendrils framing her face. She wore a black sheath dress with an elegant pearl neckline, which I assume was intentional to draw the eye up and mask her pregnant belly. Charlotte presented our vintage lace mood board first. When we were brainstorming she kept emphasizing how Veronica wanted a shabby chic feel. We all really felt that we nailed it. She went through the color scheme and proposed floral arrangements, to which Veronica gave a polite nod. My gut told me she wasn’t connecting with our approach. Don sensed it too and asked Veronica what she thought so far. “It’s really beautiful. You captured the essence of what we discussed: classic, sophisticated, and elegant.”
“But,” prodded Don.
“I can picture it all. Just not for our wedding. I feel that I led you astray. It’s what I thought I wanted. But now that I’m seeing it, something’s missing. I guess I’m still hung up on the fact that it’s not outdoors.”
“I thought you agreed upfront that wasn’t practical. You do realize it would be hard to pull off on New Year’s Eve in Chicago, right?” Charlotte asked.
“I’m not sure I agree. Tell me again why it’s not doable.”
Charlotte launched into a tirade about how it wasn’t practical. She ticked off the reasons on her fingers as she spoke. How it would be hard to regulate the temperature in the tent, flowers would wilt, ice sculptures would melt, the frozen ground would be an issue. I tuned out after that, lost in my own thoughts. I reached for my iPad and did an image search, my fingers dancing over the keys, trying to keep pace. I found some photos for inspiration and then waited for an opening in the conversation. There wasn’t one. So I took a leap of faith and cut Charlotte off mid-sentence.
“What if we could make it feel like an outdoor wedding?” I asked.
Veronica turned to me with interest. Charlotte glowered at me with a look of pure venom.
“I’ve been thinking about how we could bring the outdoors in. Picture large oak trees covered with strands of hanging fairy lights. They could either hang down or be strung together to create a tiered chandelier. The trees would flank the aisles leading to a large trellis that would serve as a canopy during the ceremony. We can play with the lighting to make it feel like night, and you can get married under the stars.” I propped my iPad on the table and showed her some photos for inspiration. “The look I’m going for is whimsical meets rustic. I know you wanted a shabby chic feel, so perhaps we bring in farmhouse tables for dinner covered in lace tablecloths.”
“Luce, I love it!” says Trish, bringing me back to the present day. “What was Veronica’s reaction?”
I pause as a waiter sets a new drink down in front of me. This one is clear with blood red ice cubes artfully stacked upon one another. The night is still young so I need to slow down. When I go out I have one to two drinks max. And never when I’m working. Ever.
“Her face lit up and it was the first time during the meeting that she was engaged,” I continue. “She started brainstorming with me, suggesting we could carve her and Rob’s initials in one of the trees.”
“Cute. What are you thinking for flowers?”
“I suggested we create a beautiful arrangement out of branches and candles as the centerpieces. Then, instead of having a traditional fabric backdrop for the band, we can build a floor-to-ceiling floral wall using a lattice fence. I’m thinking light pinks and whites, possibly peonies, and hundreds of them. It will be rustic, romantic, and beautiful.”
“Where ever did you come up with this idea?”
She narrows her eyes at me. “Please don’t tell me it’s something you’ve always dreamed of.”
“No, I promise.” Trish knows New Year’s is my favorite holiday. I love how with the flip of a page, it’s a clean start. Everything is fresh and new, a chance to put the past behind you. I’m normally not an optimist, but it’s the one time of year that it feels like anything is possible. I don’t add that my dream is to have a New Year’s Eve wedding. But why bother? The chances of me getting married anytime soon―or ever for that matter―are slim.
Trish doesn’t press the issue further. “What’s she like, Veronica?”
“She’s stunning. Pretty, polished, and polite.”
“The three P’s.”
“Four if you add personable. She was down-to-earth and easy to talk to. And I loved that she included Rob in the conversation. She kept turning to him and asking for his opinion.”
“And what about him? He’s gorgeous but always a bit stoic looking.”
“He’s so taken with her. He calls her Ronnie. I think he puts on an air of aloofness for show, but he’s very amicable in person.”
“I can’t believe you get to work with them. The politician’s daughter and a self-made millionaire.”
“Let’s hope. I’m putting together the budget now.”
“I can’t imagine that will be an issue.”
I laugh. “I’ll send you an email with details for a floral quote.”
Her eyes grow wide. “Luce, don’t feel you have to.”
“I know. But I want to, and not because we’re friends, but because I trust you and know you do great work.”
“Thanks,” Trish says, placing her hands on mine. “For having faith in me.”
“I wish I had more faith in myself.”
She removes her hands knowing I’m not the touchy-feely type. “Lucy Chalmers, you are the most organized, efficient, and creative problem-solver I’ve ever met. And I’ve worked with a lot of people.”
“Thanks. I guess I’m just freaked out. My first wedding and it’s the most important event Dreams has and likely will ever put on. No pressure.”
“If anyone can handle it, it’s you,” says Trish. “Now, back to why we’re here.”
I groan. I was hoping she forgot about our bet.
Trish scans the room and stands up. “There’s no one here who meets my standards. A bit too high-brow.”
“That’s a bad thing?”
“No. This crowd seems too tame. I’m looking for someone who will bring out your wild side. I saw a bar down the street. Let’s go check it out.”
I’d love to tell her I don’t have a wild side. But I know it’s no use. Once Trish sets her mind to something, there’s no changing it. As we weave our way through a throng of people something shiny catches my eye. I bend down and discover a bright, copper penny, heads up.
“See?” says Trish. “A good sign.”
Trish knows me well. I’ve always been superstitious. I tuck it in my purse and hope that good fortune is indeed headed my way.
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