I WOULD RATHER SPEND the morning sleeping in, do nothing but think as minimally as possible. I felt lethargic, not up to going to the wedding I'd coordinated. I would certainly be fired if I decided to laze around all day instead of overseeing the details that would make my clients' day memorable.
Wedding planning is very serious work. You spend weeks planning out a wedding, but only have a day to see the only and final result. There's no point in studying hard for an exam if you're not going to show up. So there's no point being a wedding planner if you're not going to help realize a couple's most memorable day.
This morning, I was bloated with PMS and too out of it to be the professional I was supposed to. I woke up feeling stiff and achy, almost inhuman. Since I'd have to be on the premises in two hours, I jerked myself awake. Still, I couldn't wipe the grogginess from my eyes. My "average" hangover would have to wear off on its own.
Before getting out of my room, I looked in the mirror to see if my body hadn't mutated. After losing much weight, I lived with the constant fear that I would wake up grotesquely fat, not that I'd ever been massive.
Despite my bloating and hangover, I was still thin. My Italian hips would always be on the generous side but I hoped, with daily effort, to preserve this work of art.
My best friend and roommate, Leila, was drinking coffee and nibbling on toast while perusing the New York Times. In the morning light, she looked particularly beautiful, almost like an angel in a mundane situation.
"Good morning Stella," she greeted, looking up from the paper. Though I couldn't see what section she was reading, I bet it was the arts and entertainment section. She was a music teacher at a music academy in Brooklyn. On top of playing the cello and violin, she knew the piano quite well.
"You're off to work?"
"Like nearly every Saturday," I said. "I start in two hours exactly."
"There's coffee if you like," she said.
I felt as if I could barely move, let alone oversee a day long wedding. I wish I had the kind of job in which I could call in sick without major consequence. The pressure of my work was just enormous.
I grabbed a mug from the cupboard and filled it to the brim. Then, realizing that coffee would only keep sending me to the bathroom, I poured some out into the sink.
Leila looked over her shoulder. "Are you feeling okay?"
I nearly dropped my cup, which felt heavy. "Yeah I'm fine."
"So, how did last night go?"
Memories from last night came in fragments. Soon after, they converged into one concrete memory. I'd gone to a midtown club without my boyfriend Danny; I'd gone with two of my wildest girlfriends. Dark lights, sheer fabrics, mile-high legs, and an impressive assortment of stilettos popped into mind.
Even though I'd gotten moderately drunk, I'd had the most fun in years. By years I mean just a couple--before I made the commitment to Danny. Ever since we'd hooked up, my life became divided into pre and post-Danny. Though I'd been mostly happy in either divide, I still had major relationship issues that seemed incurable.
I rubbed my eyes and stared out the window. Brooklyn was in full swing. Even sleeping in a little made me feel like I'd skipped half the day. I gazed on thinking that if I'd be dead, my neighbourhood would look exactly like this. Will, the shoe shiner from a few blocks down would still whistle in the spot he'd claimed.
Leila set down the newspaper, which was already old news.
"What are your plans for today?"
She shrugged. "There's a rehearsal later in the afternoon. I might go grocery shopping after lunch."
"Well good luck with the show."
Leila's pale face creased into a frown. "The show's next week. You're gonna be there, right?"
"It's Sunday right?"
"Friday night," she corrected.
"I'll be there don't worry."
I poured myself a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios that I brought into my room along with my terrible coffee. As much as I would have liked to slip in a discussion about whatever, I was pressed for time. I'd only been late once for a wedding rehearsal and that was when Danny and I had been very hot for each other.
I took a good look at myself in the bathroom mirror thinking that I wouldn't be as sleek today. I'd certainly look acceptable but not my best. I made a slight even part in my hair and tied it up. As for makeup, my hangover left me no choice but to go au natural. I opted for a cream-coloured pants suit and a white shirt that always made my boobs look firmly terrific, which might compensate for my tired-looking face.
After making sure I looked presentable, I grabbed my clipboard and headed out the door. At least it wasn't an overcast day. To my relief, a cab stopped almost immediately.
I tipped the driver and got out. The marriage ceremony would take place at the United Methodist Church in Brooklyn Heights.
I pushed open the large wooden church doors and got a sweeping glance of the interior. The florists I'd booked were already on the premises, displaying their fabulous end-results. I recognized Walter, the expert Parisian florist, his small frame moving about nimbly. Despite being a little too arrogant, he was a total professional. His pregnant wife, Anne, was lingering discreetly in the background.
When he recognized me, he said, "Ah bonjour Stel-lah!"
I was very satisfied with his work. In fact, Walter and his crew had not once disappointed me. He'd made elegant arrangements with calla lilies and orchids in a modern, tasteful way.
"C'est class en?" he said to me.
Too bad I couldn't speak French. "Oui, very much. It's spectacular."
In his heavy accent, he said, "I work all night."
"They're gonna be really happy. There's no doubt in my mind."
He gave a knowing, almost withering look. Walter's touch-of-magic skills kept him scoring jobs. Talking about anything other than floral arrangements, for the most part, was out of the question.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted yet fulfilled. I now had another successful wedding under my belt. Eventually, I would be able to open up my own business and quit working for Valenti.
The photographers had showed up on time as well as the band, cameraman and so forth. The food was either decent or exquisite, depending on the guest. There were no wedding crashers, protesters, or smashed guests staggering about like tormented zombies.
Because I'd gotten drunk last night, I just settled for a glass of Pellegrino with lemon and hung around before leaving the reception hall. After being in the business a few years, you know when it's safe to leave. When you did your job right.
The dance floor bustled when I sloped off without saying goodbye to the newly married couple. After their honeymoon, they would call me to thank me. Quite often, clients send me thank you cards with their wedding pictures tucked inside.
Once inside the cab, I checked my cell phone to see if I'd missed any calls. There were three missed calls from Danny.
At this point in our relationship, I could accurately say he was the ideal boyfriend. I'd met him at a time in my life when I'd considered dating women or swearing off men forever. I'd met him a year after my ex-boyfriend Josh had suddenly taken off to Los Angeles with the woman he was having an affair with. (Apparently I'd never been his girlfriend so he didn't consider it cheating)
Josh had called me from a public phone in the West Coast to break up with me officially.
"Things weren't working out," he'd said. "Don't take this personally. You're a great person, remember that."
I didn't want to hear the rest of it. When someone dies, it doesn't matter how. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks. I'd felt as if my eyes were furious little fountains, my limbs flimsy bones.
I'd met Danny when Josh was still on my mind. Josh hadn't called or sent me an email to update me on his life in California. The only thing I'd known for sure was that his relationship with that woman wouldn't last.
Though Danny was incredibly good-looking in a Robert Downey Jr. kind of way, I was still heartsick over Josh. It had taken time to fall for Danny--to see all the good qualities that would eventually eradicate Josh at the root.
The day we'd met was still so pleasantly clear: one overcast afternoon at a Citibank. He'd dropped his wallet and I'd picked it up. His seventy-five percent cocoa eyes locked with mine.
"Thanks a lot," he'd said in a slightly husky voice.
We'd clicked from then on. Danny Costello was not only good-looking, but he possessed the character I'd hopelessly hoped for in my next boyfriend.
Oh Danny, I thought in the cab. I would call him as soon as I got home.
I hadn't noticed the taxi driver peering at me from the rear-view mirror. It felt both good and disturbing.