“I don’t,” Peyton said, “See why we have to do this.” The blonde was sitting in a chair, facing Heidi, who was attempting to apply make-up to Peyton’s face. Peyton swore she never touched cosmetics at home, and if her first attempt had been any indication, Jolene was pretty sure she knew why. Although, Raquel had seemed to feel a little better about her own make-up after having seen Peyton’s go with it.
“Go to Raquel’s wedding?” Heidi asked, sounding horrified.
“No, dress me all up.” Peyton said as Heidi reached for a brush.
“Don’t you want to look pretty?”
“Beauty, goes the old cliché, is in the eye of the beholder.” Peyton shrugged philosophically. “Besides, this is more or less a lie.”
“A lie?” Jolene couldn’t see Heidi’s face, as she was standing behind her, but she would have laid money that the redhead was looking puzzled.
“I don’t really look like this, Heidi. Whatever you’re doing to my face. I don’t have those eyelashes, my lips aren’t that color, my eyelids don’t shimmer. I mean I know that part of why we’re here in Shadowcrest is basically as Magic Order Brides,” Jolene choked back a chuckle with a smirk. That, she guessed, was one way to put it. But Peyton was still talking. “I mean, we are here as the female half of the baby-making machine to restore the country. But the thing is even if this will help me attract one of those guys, it’s an illusion. He’s gonna wake up the morning after the wedding and my bust is going to be back to the size it was before I hoisted it with underwire and padded it to make it more impressive. My eyes and lips and all will be back to normal. That’s the woman he’s going to wake up next to for the rest of his natural life. Not this one.” She gestured at her face, then sighed and looked down at her bare fingernails.
“What?” Heidi asked. “Do you want me to paint your nails before we go?”
“No, I always chew fingernail polish off. I don’t chew my nails, except when there’s polish on them. No, I just had the sad realization that I’m gonna end up marrying Alistair. He’s not going to think any of our pedigrees are good enough for his, so he’ll wait until the rest of you are married off and then Lachlan’ll order him to marry me cause I’ll be the cheese, standing alone.”
“Oh, I highly doubt that.” Jolene just had to interject. “The king would no more order you to marry Alistair than he would order Sir Wesley to marry Kennedy, for the same reason, you’d kill him. He’d make one backhanded comment at you and he’ll spend the rest of his life eating soup cause he won’t have any teeth left.”
Heidi turned and tried to glare at Jolene. “Okay, maybe.” Peyton said. “But it still feels somewhat fake to do this just to attract a man.”
“We’re not doing it to attract a man,” Heidi said. “We’re doing it so you look and feel pretty.”
“I can live without pretty. How bout comfortable?” Peyton murmured.
“Hold still so I can get your eyeliner on and comfortable is not a style.” Heidi said. “My mother used to say that to me and now I’ll say it to you.” At that point Jolene shook her head and went upstairs to see how Raquel was doing.
Apparently, Jolene thought, seeing the girl’s shoes on the bed as she crested the stairs, not much better than she’d been doing all morning. Or for that matter, most of the week. She strangled down the feeling once again that she should be saying no. She’d been strangling down that feeling ever since Raquel had come home and had told them that Blake had proposed. Because even then Jolene had a feeling “Marry me” wasn’t “someday in the future when we’re both grown and ready for it.” It was “someday soon.”
Marriage seemed like an awfully big step, one, Jolene was sure, only slightly proceeded babies and Raquel was far too young for motherhood. Jolene hadn’t been sixteen in almost a decade and she barely thought she was ready for marriage and possible motherhood. Although she was fairly certain that, as Peyton had pointed out downstairs, it was what she was here for.
Kennedy, who–though she would never admit it–looked sorta like Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in that dress with her hair like that, a very tan Belle, but Belle none-the-less and Tiffany–whose silver and ice blue dress had been chosen because it was “shiny” and Tiffany was a self-described magpie, sorta reminded Jolene of Cinderella’s dress, were pointedly not looking at the bride in her grape juice toned wedding dress.
“So how’s it going?” Jolene asked quietly, after Kennedy stopped laughing–a shade too loud and a shade too hearty to be one hundred percent from genuine mirth–at whatever Tiffany had said.
“Well,” Tiffany murmured. “She’s not crying anymore at least.”
“She isn’t ready for this.” Jolene said, looking over her shoulder at the slight girl on the bed.
“Probably not, but we’ve already tried to talk her out of it, and you know Lock’s stance on the whole thing.” Kennedy muttered.
“What do we do then?” Jolene asked.
“Hope that my lecture to Blake worked like it was supposed to.” Kennedy chuckled.
“What lecture?” Raquel asked, heaving herself onto her back.
Agreeing with the logic behind the ceremony or not, it had been a very pretty one, Jolene thought, as she sat at one of the tables in the reception area of the church. And she cried, which was about par of the course. There had been this girl that Jolene had known back home, someone who worked at a Stop and Rob, that lived up to it’s name, getting held up often. The gas station was on Jolene’s patrol, who had gotten married to her sweetheart–Jolene used that term loosely–a couple years back. It had, Jolene had to admit, been about the most ghetto wedding ever–the priest having to pause every five or so minutes to let the groom shake out his leg and swear cause his home arrest bracelet kept shocking him, among other things. And she’d still cried at that wedding.
She was just that kind of girl.
At least Blake was the sort of man that it didn’t make you throw up a little to term him someone’s sweetheart. He would, Jolene knew, from the way he watched Raquel do his best for her, and that almost made her forget her misconceptions about the wedding. Almost.
Unfortunately, one of her tablemates, made her develop a whole new set of things to dread. For some genius had managed to sit her next to Sawyer–and if she found out that whomever had done it had done it on purpose…
He was a really sweet kid and when he grew up, he’d probably make some girl a good husband. Some girl more like Raquel, someone he could grow up with, mature with, go through all those little steps of becoming an adult and a man with. Some girl who was not her. As his hazel eyes sparkled with candle light and excitement she felt like the world’s biggest bitch, but he was too–too–Sawyer.
Like Romeo, he’d taken “love at first sight” to distressing extremes. And Jolene was determined to be his Rosaline, not his Juliet. He was too young for her. She had the better part of a decade on him, just like she had on Raquel. And he was so charming and oddly vulnerable that if she didn’t shoot him down and keep shooting him down, she’d ruin him. Because even in Shadowcrest she was all wrong for him and he would just have to trust that she knew better than he did.
And in this case, Jolene did.
Unfortunately there was another side effect that Jolene hadn’t expected of Sawyer’s infatuation… One that she could only hope the coming spring and rest of the women would cure. Everybody liked Sawyer, he was just sorta like a puppy. And while he so obviously only had eyes only for her–no one else was going to even think about it.
When there was some adorable girl, more his age, came along. Hopefully he would, like Romeo had upon seeing Juliet, forget all about her…
It was, with almost relief, at least on her part, that Gray suggested that Sawyer, who was on musician duty for the evening, start a song. Jolene wondered, as she went to grab herself another glass of wine, if it was tradition in Shadowcrest for the couple to share the first dance, as Blake and Raquel were the only ones to have moved to the open floor behind the buffet tables, or if it was something that Raquel had suggested.
She twirled the stem of the glasses in between her fingers and watched as Master and Mistress Carpenter took their turn about the floor. They were cute together. And here, quietly, in the privacy of her own head where Peyton couldn’t mock her for being a hypocrite, she thought they’d make very pretty babies together.
When that happened, hopefully in, like, five years or more.
Sawyer was, she thought, actually a very good musician. His fiddle swelled and soared and danced along with Raquel and Blake. Jolene found that she sort of lost herself in the music because somehow it was the middle of two songs later and she was still standing by the wine bottle, glass of wine in hand, and she was no longer alone as a spectator, nor were Blake and Raquel even on the floor anymore.
In one of the little alcoves set off to the side of the dance floor, sat Blake’s best friend, the blacksmith, Ren, was chatting with… Peyton? They even sorta matched. Ren’s doublet and half his hose were purple.
She was too far away to hear what Peyton was talking about, but Ren was watching her with an expression that either meant it was really interesting or something about her was. Jolene’d have to remember to tease her about that. Especially as just that morning she’d been sure that she was going to be marrying Alistair.
Granted, as Peyton was likely to point out, talking at one wedding was far from being the next one to get married, but it’d still be fun to tease her about. But it was seeing the other couple to occupy an alcove that twisted something inside of Jolene and killed all thoughts of teasing.
And the green eyed monster hadn’t even fully come into play when she wanted to kick herself cause it was Heidi almost too sweet to be believed Heidi, who was nice to everyone. She turned away and downed her glass of wine, practically without tasting it. Which was a bad idea, she knew that as her knees seemed to quiver for a second.
She leaned against the edge of the table, not too far, even though it felt less like table set up on barrels (like they’d used at the Harvest Fair) and more like a real table they’d just stolen from some other purpose.
A few murmurs came from behind her and suddenly the last voice she wanted to be hearing right now when the wine was going to her head and she was wondering why her, was speaking her name.
“Is something wrong, my lady?” Sawyer asked.
“Uh, no. No.” She said in hasty reassurance.
“Oh.” He said, biting his bottom lip. She watched his mouth for a second and then shook her head abruptly, turning and walking away from him–except she found herself going in the wrong direction–toward the dance floor rather than toward the tables where she could sit down and get her head back.
Almost walking into Kennedy and Emanuel, who were for the moment not sniping. In fact seemed to be lost in each others’ eyes and arms. She stared for a moment at them, then for a moment at Jarrett who was playing something haunting on Sawyer’s fiddle.
“It’s nothing, just the–nothing.” She shook her head. before glancing away. Then she found herself looking back in time to see him walking away, her hands, almost of their own accord, reaching out. I can’t.