“Sorry,” I said, peeling off my coat. “The busses are running a bit late today.” I approached the silk couch, and noticed that Alicia and four of her bridesmaids were all dressed completely in taupe. Did they call each other to coordinate? I smoothed down my red skirt. So much for blending in.
Kate leaned forward to look at me, and took a long pull of her champagne. “There’s a red net on your head.”
This one was observant. “Yes.”
She scowled. “No, I mean, you’re wearing a hat with a net on your head?”
I nodded proudly. “It’s vintage. I bought it at a flea market downtown.”
“How very...Seattle of you.” Kate’s surgically-reduced nose wrinkled. “You’re so funky.”
I planted my butt down next to Shawn, whose braids were woven into a bun on the back of her head. “Thanks...I think.”
As soon as we were seated, Alicia and a gray-haired woman stood before us, causing the girls to fall into a hushed silence. I watched as Alicia raised her glass to the rep and announced, “Girls, this is Juanita. She is the best of the best. A seamstress extraordinaire.” The bridesmaids clapped excitedly, and Alicia’s eyes danced. “It usually takes brides months before they are able to get in with Juanita, but she was willing to squeeze us in. I am beyond thrilled. She is an absolute genius.”
Again, they applauded, and I clambered to join in, offering a few half-hearted claps after the others had already stopped. I leaned over to Shawn and whispered, “Did Juanita design Alicia’s wedding dress?”
She shook her head the tiniest bit, so as not to be spotted being inattentive. “No.” Her voice was so quiet I had to lean closer to hear. “Alicia’s dress is being made in France. But Juanita apparently fit her for it, and will be doing the final touches once it arrives.”
“Ahhh.” I straightened back up.
“Juanita is going to see which of the dresses looks best on each of you. Then she will take your measurements and work her magic.” Alicia announced this as if Juanita had cured cancer.
“And, Violet.” She pointed a tiny finger at me. “We’ve got the perfect black dress for you to wear. The one in the picture I showed you?”
I smiled tensely. “Thanks.”
As if they were summoned by E.S.P., a line of four clerks bustled into the room, holding up every possible version of a deep red bridesmaid dress one could imagine. There were scoop necks, backless, sleeved, sleeveless, sequined, plain, floor length, tea length, full skirts, fitted skirts, and more. They quickly guided the bridesmaids off into dressing rooms, so I settled back on the couch and poured myself a glass of champagne. I watched as Alicia stood primping in front of one of the mirrors.
“So when do we get to see your gown? I’ve heard so much about it,” I said.
“Not for a while yet. It’s still overseas. And it is a sight, let me tell you.” She whirled around to face me, her bony body moving with the grace of a swan. Grace I’d not been blessed with. “I’ve had a team of eight women working on it since four days after Christmas. It’s a mixture of three couture dresses that were melded into one extraordinary gown. It is absolutely breathtaking.”
Alicia sounded like a game show host, revealing what was behind door number one.
“Three different dresses?” I raised my eyebrows. “Wow, I can’t wait to see it. What style is it?”
Her eyes lit up. This was obviously her favorite topic to discuss. “Well, it could be considered a mermaid dress, except that the bustles are raised slightly. And then they pull back to reveal the most exquisite antique lace underneath.” She used her tiny hands to imitate the fluffiness of the fabric. “And the top is fitted, sort of like a corset, but with a very low dipped ‘V’ on the chest, and tiny cap sleeves of the same antique lace as the bottom. Then, they’ve sewn in the most incredible fabric roses amongst all the ruffles of satin. It’s amazing. I’m almost certain I’ll get my picture in Puget Sound Bride with this gown.”
I feigned amazement, and took a big gulp from my glass. Just as the silence between Alicia and I stretched toward becoming awkward, the bridesmaids came parading out of their dressing rooms wearing their red gowns. Rose wore a light sheath of a gown, with a low back and plunging neckline; Kate’s was a floor-length taffeta number with bustles; Marissa was grinning in a dress that bore intricate beading on the front that rivaled her giant teeth in the sparkle department; and Shawn’s skin positively glowed in her strapless wrap gown.
Alicia walked down the line of girls, surveying their presentation, while Juanita furiously took notes on her pad of paper. After examining each of the bridesmaids thoroughly, Juanita waved a hand, and barked, “Be gone! All of youz!”
The row of now-deflated women skulked back to the dressing rooms, and Alicia turned to me with an exasperated sigh. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I picked a color I thought would work for everyone.”
“I thought that they looked great.” I craned my neck to see the girls as they left the room, trying to see what flaws Alicia was referring to. A tiny seed of doubt sprouted in my mind as I saw Juanita and Alicia’s heads together, hissing back and forth about how the bridesmaids had all looked atrocious. Alicia’s face was pinched and she was waving her arms wildly as they spoke, and I was dying to hear what they were saying.
She ignored me and focused on the seamstress, who was clicking her tongue at her notes. “What did you think, Juanita?”
“Jes, zee brunette needs to drop a few pounds, if it iz okay to zay zo.” Juanita spoke in an accent I couldn’t place. Certainly not Spanish, as her name would’ve suggested.
“Of course you can say so,” Alicia confirmed. “I’ve been telling her that for weeks.”
“And zee blonde should consider zeeing a dermatologist, if you azk me. Zee ozzer two would be fine, but zey look like absolute hell in zat color. You’ll want to ztick them in the back of the pictures, and dim zee lights,” Juanita announced with a scowl.
I pretended to be completely captivated by the pattern etched onto my glass, and my gut churned. If this was how Alicia treated her thin, perfect friends, then what was she going to say to me? Or behind my back when I’d left? Good grief, could the bridesmaids hear what they were saying? I looked longingly at the glass doors leading to the street, and wished that the building would catch on fire so we would have to evacuate.
Alicia just rolled her eyes and flopped down on the couch next to me. “These girls think this is a joke. Good Lord, I caught Rose eating scrambled eggs the other day, and we’re not talking scrambled egg whites. We’re talking about the whole egg.”
I gulped. Alicia was a wedding Nazi. Dread set in as my turn in the hot seat approached. I listened to her rattle off the diet plan she’d set up for her bridesmaids shortly after asking them to be in the wedding, and began to daydream about falling dreadfully ill on May fifteenth.
A few minutes later, the girls came shuffling back into the room wearing a new variety of dresses. I noticed that Kate was now holding her middle in as tightly as she could, causing her neck to vibrate, and Marissa’s giant white teeth were now hidden behind her trembling lips.
Alicia walked along the line of women, plucking at invisible lint and tugging on hemlines. “What do you think? We could take the skirt off this one, and attach it to the top of this one? And is this a good length for everyone?”
Juanita began whipping her tape measure around violently. “Jes. I think we will want to hide the calvz on zis one. Zey look like jarz of mayonnaise.”
Alicia nodded in agreement.
I flinched and crossed my ankles underneath the couch. Note to self: buy some Spanx before the wedding.
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