Instead of using his enchantment skills to shoplift a fine gown, Vax borrowed a suit from Jason. It didn’t fit well. The sleeves were too short and it ended well before the tops of his shoes, as if he were going to wade in a shallow stream and didn’t want to get his clothes wet. The waist needed to be taken in, and while even Vax’s skills at tailoring were enough to do that, he didn’t think it would be appropriate to alter Jason’s only suit. So he used glamour to disguise it and make it look like it had been cut of better cloth. If Jackie touched it too much, the glamour might fade. But if Jackie touched it too much, maybe he could take it off.
Jackie had gone to the church early. He found her in a small room off to the side of the entrance, where she took his breath away.
She was gorgeous. Her eyes had been painted with some luminous powder that made her stare look deeply inviting. Her lips glistened a berry red, moving quickly as she spoke. Her billowing cinnamon-colored hair did little to hide her expansive décolleté. And the dress! Back in the Realm, in his palace, it would have been simple enough for servants’ clothing if it weren’t for the color. It was of a palest peach, high ranking orange modestly subdued. It had ruffles and flounces and darts and ribbons, details of clothing design that he rarely saw here in the dying lands. It seemed to emphasize everything feminine about her.
“You look…” he licked his lips, stunned past speech. “You look…”
“Ridiculous, I know. And Kit’s not even here yet. Her brother said she was out of town, which I thought meant like, a bender in Vegas or something, but why wouldn’t she invite me? She knows I’m out of work. Anyway, they’re all being cagy about where she actually is, and she should have been here two hours ago. Even if she shows up now, there’s not enough time to get dressed. She better not show up in jeans and a tee shirt. I’m wearing fucking taffeta for her.”
“Your dress is amazing,” he said.
“Heh, that’s one way of putting it.” She picked up the edges of the skirt and flounced around. “I’m a pretty princess. I can’t believe she’d put me through this and then not even show up at her own wedding.”
“Kit’s not here yet?”
“James keeps saying she’ll be here, or we would have bailed. She wasn’t here for the rehearsal either.”
“I’m a bridesmaid. You didn’t think I’d voluntarily wear something like this, do you? Damnit, she better get here in the next thirty seconds, or we won’t even have time to zip the thing. I don’t know what she’s thinking. Can’t have a bridesmaid without the bride.”
“Brides…oh, you explained that. I remember. Isn’t Elaina one as well?” He thought it was weird that Kit would ask Jackie to be her servant, but there was a lot about the dying lands that still felt strange to him. “Where is she?”
“Went off to fetch coffee. I told her we didn’t have time, that she’d be here at any minute, but Elaina thinks she’s miss-psychic pants and says that Kit isn’t the marrying type and this whole thing was a farce, but she wouldn’t do that to me. She wouldn’t do that to Fenwick either. Poor guy, he looks like a welfare kid who doesn’t think Santa is gonna bring him that bike he wanted, but he can’t stop hoping anyway. Kit wouldn’t do that to him. If she was gonna ditch him, she’d at least let him know, which means that something awful must have happened to her and her brother’s just covering it up, but if she’s in the hospital or something, why didn’t he say—”
“You look fantastic.”
She stopped her rant, startled, and smiled at him. “Thanks. You look nice too.”
Some organ music came from the main part of the church.
“You’d better go sit down,” she said. “Their block of time is almost over, and they’re going to start this whether or not the bride shows up.”
“What if she doesn’t?”
She shrugged. “Reception hasn’t been cancelled. Kit doesn’t show up, I say we drink the hell out of the open bar.”
Vax went in through the heavy wooden doors to the church. The building was too small for this number of people, and the rough stone bricks hadn’t been softened much on the inside by the banners hanging from the ceilings, nor by the dark windows. A door on the side had been propped open by a chair, and a large fan blew air out. It didn’t help much. The warm night felt suffocating, and the crowd of guests fanned themselves with programs. They muttered and chattered to one another, and not a few faces looked back on him with surprise then disappointment when he came in through the back door.
Kit’s fiancé stood up by the altar. He was a huge guy who had a tuxedo that fit him perfectly. His hair had been drawn back into a ponytail, and he alternately tightened the ponytail and fiddled with a small velvet box in his hand. A man in a dark suit stood next to him, checking his watch frequently. In the front row, a woman dressed in acres of buttercream satin wrung her hands and glanced at the back of the church.
Vax took a seat in the back and waited. Jackie had told him that the ceremony would be over in less than a half an hour, but he waited for what felt like forty minutes. A guy came down the aisle, and it took Vax a minute to recognize him as James, the guy from that coffee shop in the Old Town. Vax had been to that coffee shop plenty of times, but the guy looked so different in a tuxedo instead of an apron that Vax almost didn’t recognize him.
“She’ll be here,” James said, and then he said some things that were too quiet to hear. The man in the dark suit shook his head and gestured at his watch, then back at the parking lot. Kit’s fiancé had been staring at his shoes, but he turned, as if hearing something. Vax wasn’t sure how he could hear anything over the anxious muttering of the crowd, but he said something to James. James sprinted back to the front of the church and opened the door. Before it had even finished closing itself behind him, James opened it again. Vax turned in time to see him gesture, but then the music began and they all sat down.
A little boy came down the aisle, carrying a pillow with a ring on it. He looked nervous and tried to run to a dark-haired woman sitting in a pew, but she whispered encouragingly and convinced him to continue towards the altar.
Jackie came next, walking arm in arm with a man he didn’t know. He wanted to be the one touching her arm, but she’d warned him she’d be paired with a groomsman, so he curbed his jealousy and satisfied himself with watching her walk. Elaina came after her, also paired with a man he didn’t know. She raised her eyebrows when she saw him, then looked away. He wasn’t sure if it was a subtle acknowledgement or a deliberate snub. Elaina had been good at both, but better at snubs. Jackie and Elaina and the men finished their walk to the front of the altar and broke up their pairs, fanning out on either side.
He wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen, but he could tell that by the mutterings and whisperings of the crowd that it wasn’t happening. The man in the dark suit pulled his mouth into a line and glanced at his watch. Kit’s fiancé’s face was so taut he looked like he would shatter if you tapped him.
The organist fell silent. The priest coughed. The crowd’s whispers became more agitated, and a family with a wailing toddler slipped out through the side door. The whispers became louder, and people started to gather their belongings to follow that first family.