Derek: “Are you ready for this?”
Derek: “Remember. We don’t just have chemistry. We’re in love.”
There was very little that a well-renowned family like Derek’s could hide. When scandals came out, like some hint of Derek’s father crashing another car, that was less than beneficial. It was a scramble to cover up the story, make sure it leaked as soon as possible. But when one wanted to publicize something—especially something that seems a slight bit scandalous—it was a miracle.
If one were to believe the papers, Derek and I had known each other for years. We had gone to camp together, even—Derek knew some people who were very talented with photo shop—and had, over the course of our childhoods, fallen in love. Of course, Derek had his duty, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be rich and famous, and so we parted ways—I to run my bakery, he to be the equivalent of superman. Really, the way the papers talked him up, you’d think that in addition to his doctor work, he was arresting villains at scalpel-point and single-handedly bringing about world peace.
As the romantic stories usually go, though, following the death of Derek’s grandfather, I couldn’t resist staying away while seeing the love of my life in so much grief. And once we were reunited? Nothing could separate us.
And so it was that, two months after his less-than-romantic proposal, Derek and I were by the lake of the Von Haunt estate, beneath a wedding arch, about to exchange vows.
People were gathering. The time was near. I should have felt nervous, shouldn’t I have? My life was about to change enormously. For the last few weeks, I’d been studying hard with Alexia, quizzing her about the ins and outs of high class married life—what would he expect, what should I do—but even that was of little help. As Alexia said, every man has different wants and needs and intentions. All she could do was help me to pick up on his subtle signs, and then, once he made his wants known, she could help me execute them to the best of my abilities.
So really. I should have been nervous. I was entirely out of my depth here, and the whole reason the Derek had married me—or said he wanted to, at least—was because I was smart and capable and yet still refined. Dear Creator, I could have made him want to divorce me the second after I married him.
And yet I wasn’t nervous at all.
At all. Can you believe that? I didn’t know what I was feeling, really. There was an undercurrent of happiness, I think. But I wasn’t ecstatic—not like brides usually are on their wedding day. And I wasn’t terrified, or nervous, or scared. I was… expectant, maybe? I think it was because I knew that this wedding, this ceremony, was only the first part of the process. I wasn’t really getting what I wanted yet—that wouldn’t happen until I had children—but it was a step in the right direction. I couldn’t let myself be happy yet, because I’d overestimate what I’d so far achieved. I couldn’t let myself be nervous, because then I’d step away from the steps I still had yet to take.
I was expectant.
But maybe a little ecstatic, too. Creator, your father was gorgeous, Jane Anne.
Derek: “Don’t forget—you’re the bride, but you’re also the hostess. This reception is your first task.”
And a bit of a hard-ass, but I expected that.
Janelle: “I do.”
Derek: “I do.”
The wedding ceremony itself was small, thank goodness. Just my immediate family and his. And the several sneaky cameramen who had situated themselves in bushes to watch the ceremony, but we had really wanted them there anyway (honestly, how does a cameraman expect to hide? Even if you hide yourself and the camera well enough, you’re always going to be given away by the clacking).
But the moment we left the ceremony, we were entering the semi-public reception. 500 people had been invited, most all elites—not just the people from the nearby areas either, Willow Creek and Oasis Springs, but from Windenburg, too, and even a few from San Myshuno.
And it was my job to entertain them all.
Our wedding photographer really wasn’t very good, was he? Why on earth does a picture with the back of Hari’s head half in frame seem like a good idea?
That’s better. We looked happy, didn’t we?
Now it was time for the reception. I could do this, I could be a good hostess. As long as I had Derek at my side, making sure I knew the ropes, all would be well.
So much for that. He had wandered off somewhere the moment we left the altar. I thought the whole point of this thing was to make a good first impression on all of these elites? How was I meant to be a good bride-hostess when my groom had run off somewhere?
Janelle: “There you are, Derek. I was surprised when you ran off so fast after we left the altar. I brought you some cake, but then are you ready to go run the rounds of our guests?”
Derek: “Oh, I’ll be there later. Leave the cake.”
Janelle: “Um… aren’t we meant to be hosting, though? I’ve never attended a gathering with so many elites, but it seems likely that as hosts, we’re meant to be entertaining them.”
Derek: “No, you’re the hostess. You’re meant to be entertaining them. I’ll make an appearance at some point, but really your job is to make sure that people don’t question why I’m not there. Make my life easier. I hate these things, so go make sure I have to go out there as little as possible.”
Janelle: “Okay then…”
So much for doing this with my groom at my side… I didn’t even know the names of half these people, much less things that I could talk with them about. Alexia had quizzed me on some of them, but those had only been locals. What was I meant to do about those from Windenburg and San Myshuno?
I guess I’d just bluff?
Janelle: “Good evening, everyone! I hope everyone is having a lovely time. Thank you for attending.”
Rita: “Thank you for getting married so we all could attend a party! It’s been ages since we’ve all attended something together like this. Of course, it perhaps won’t be as memorable as the Goth’s ball in ’12, but…”
Janelle: “Well, I wouldn’t dream of topping an event like the Goth’s ball; so long as you all have a nice evening, we’ll be satisfied.”
The Goths had a ball in ’12? I really needed to study up on this stuff. And was Rita a Goth? I had no clue. But boy was she a bitch. All that stuck up aristocratic snobbery, wrapped up in one skinny little stick of a body…
Hold up, Janelle. I had to calm myself down. This is the world you want to be involved in. These are the people who you wanted to be around. If you want to interact with them and, more importantly, represent your family well to them, you’re going to have to impress them now.
Rita: “True enough, dear. Now, tell me, Gregory here and I have been discussing the new school board elections, and we think you’d just be the perfect candidate for treasurer…”
See, Janelle? She’s involved in education. I had to remind myself to be nice to her, to keep in touch with her. She’d get my children places.
Around two hours into the party, I’d been feeling pretty accomplished. I had interacted with near every person that hadn’t wandered up into the upstairs of the estate to WooHoo, I’d made sure that champagne made it to the glass of every person who seemed a bit tense, and I’d ushered servers around with food to sate the appetites of the few children attending (and some adults) before they got hangry.
More than that, I’d accomplished it all with a smile on my face and a series of polite conversation topics lined up for each couple. Sometimes they fell a bit flat—asking oil moguls Rupert and Michaela their opinion of the new clean energy bill hadn’t gone over too well—but that was a problem solved next time by some research and extra studying.
Despite my feeling of success, I was still feeling a bit bereft. My groom, supposedly the host of the evening, still hadn’t come out to walk the crowds with me, and people were beginning to head to the door. Surely it wasn’t acceptable for the groom not to show his face the whole night, even if I’d been covering for him rather well? Oh, he’s just making the rounds with some other guests, he’ll be along shortly, I’d tell everyone who asked. And now he was making a liar out of me, on top of being a no show in front of his guests.
This is not how I imagined an aristocratic gentleman would behave on his wedding night.
And even now, I couldn’t find him. Damn it.
Janelle: “A zebra fizz, please. Yes, just the one.”
It’d been a long evening, and I needed just a little something to calm my nerves before I stalked across the length and width of the venue in search of my husband.
Janelle: “Yes. This is what I needed.”
Janelle: “Now to find my husband.”
Derek: “Janelle? What are you doing?”
Janelle: “Derek! There you are, I was just coming to find you. I think some of our guests were interested in speaking to you before they left—“
Derek: “I didn’t ask what you were going to do, I asked what you’re doing.”
Janelle: “Um… having a drink?”
This is not the tone I expected to be greeted with this evening. Not after entertaining our guests by myself for hours. I expected recalcitrance, a note of apology, even an actual apology, perhaps. I certainly didn’t expect outright anger.
Derek: “Why would you be having a drink? You’re meant to be entertaining guests. And for that matter, I heard from the good Lady Liza that you were particularly enjoying a piece of our wedding cake earlier. Why were you eating?”
Janelle: “I was eating because I was hungry, and I’m having a drink because I’ve been entertaining our guests for a good two hours now, entirely on my own, and I’m parched.”
Derek: “Well, don’t. Entertaining guests, even if entirely alone—no, especially entirely alone—is your job. You’re my wife now, it’s what you do. And on top of that, it’s meant to be what you do to be smart. Do smart people—smart women—eat and drink in front of guests?”
Janelle: “They do when they’re hungry and thirsty?”
Derek: “No. They don’t. Drinking is for men, and eating is for guests. Basic hostessing, Janelle. If you can’t even handle this, I don’t know how you expect to handle the rest of the duties involved in being my wife—“
Janelle: “Woah, Derek, hold on a second.”
I couldn’t decide whether to be apologetic or angry. I wanted so badly to be angry—it was my first instinct. Here was this man, husband or not, who with the smell of whiskey all of his breath (seeping out of his pores, really) was telling me that I was a horrible hostess—no, a horrible wife—for having a piece of my own wedding cake and sipping on a mixer. What a hypocrite. It’s not as if he had represented himself as the model husband this evening either.
But no. That wasn’t what I needed to say right now. That anger wasn’t going to get me anywhere I wanted to go.
Alexia would be proud that I didn’t punch the man.
Janelle: “I’m so sorry, Derek. I didn’t realize that my actions would be taken as so gauche. I’ll set it down right now and return to the guests.”
Derek: “At least you’re intelligent enough to know when you’re wrong; pity you’re an idiot otherwise. I guess I can’t trust you to walk around on your own with behavior like that though—you’ve thoroughly embarrassed me, so I’ll just have to stay by your side to ensure your good behavior.”
Derek: “I can’t believe you made me do this. You should be able to run a simple reception without me coming to save you.”
Alexia would be proud that I didn’t punch the man in the balls.
Janelle: “You’re right, Derek. I should. Come on, I think some of the guests are leaving. Let’s go man the exit, say goodbye as they leave.”
We returned to my family home that night, Derek and my family and I. His family returned to their estate, but Derek was meant to be driving us back there, and with as much whiskey as I smelled… I claimed personal reasons, and asked that we spend the night at home.
I smiled to my family and hugged them goodnight before retreating to my bedroom. I even smiled at my mother, though she didn’t get a hug. I dragged Derek along behind me when he left, who was still muttering about how much I’d embarrassed him.
Yeah, right. As I was leaving, Rita told me that the party had neared the esteem of the Goth ball of ’12. And we all knew how great of a party that was.
So my guests had been pleased, and I was content. Now I had only to convince my husband to be so content, and reassure him that I could meet his expectations in the future.
That would be a harder battle, I was sure.
B: “Do you think she’s going to be okay? This is all so rushed…”
Leo: “Don’t worry too much, B. I know that quick commitment isn’t your style, but maybe it’s hers. I’d trust her to know what she’s doing.”
B: “I really hope you’re right, my love. I really hope you’re right.”
Leo: “Hey, if I’m not, we’ll be visiting all the time. We’ll be able to help out, interfere.”
B: “Right. Right.”