Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stealing Forever - Chapter 2 - Sweetest Drug

It had finally come.
After months of planning and place cards and registries and invites. Listening to the incessant bickering of her mother and his sisters. Selecting swatches in shades of blue and silver for cloth napkins. Food tasting and shower gifts and securing a venue.
At last, she had finally come to the veritable apex of her year-long climb towards the altar.
The dress.
Well, not quite the dress. Despite her best efforts over the last six months, that little bugger hadn't quite made itself known yet, sadly-- more like a dress, or dresses.
It was a necessary evil - and, evil it was. Over time, she'd gone through a litany of emotions, from the highs of intense happiness to the trenches of sadness, anxiety, frustration, hopelessness – all brought on by a simple lack of fabric, thread, and buttons. Her emotions all lead her back to this place in the end. Even with weekend trips to New York, Los Angeles and Paris, three wedding gown 'specialists,' not to mention wreaking havoc on Philadelphia metro, that integral part of their nuptials still remained incomplete.
Dress shopping.
She was dress shopping for her wedding dress once again, because she was someone's fiancé.
Fiancé. Fiancé.
You know, my fiancé and I would be happy to come.
Oh, yeah, my fiancé went to school there. What a coincidence.
Yes, my fiancé and I will be travelling there this summer with our parents.
She rattled off various sentences in a variety of situations where she could not only say the word without thought, but mention the man she loved consequentially.
He would laugh at her when she did this in his presence, flashing her a bright smile, then draping his arm around her shoulders and placing a kiss on the crown of her head. She'd blush and run her lips along his jaw sweetly, shrug, then continue with her shameless, deliberate placement of the word in her conversation. She didn't care. She loved this man, had waited her whole life to feel even remotely close to this about another human being. Her heart fluttered; he loved her, and she wanted the world to be aware. What was so wrong with that?
But, then came need for a dress. She needed to go, and inevitably live, in her happy place – far, far away from this. This whole inadvertent reaction-- a stress relieving exercise of sorts-- had become her escape over the past months of dress searching as she sat listening to the yapping hum of both his and her mothers and sisters in the background of her consciousness. Really, who in the world would remember the color of the table runners anyway?
And so, the discussion continued, and she couldn't muster the energy to comment, or even pay attention for that matter. She briefly contemplated running from the shop, but frowned remembering that she'd ridden with her sister, and auto theft wouldn't do well on her spotless record.
She just longed for silence, so she could daydream about her fiancé in peace: flawless, perfectly bronzed skin with just a hint of pink; broad shoulders leading proportionately to his small waist.... He was a swimmer, so the long, lean muscles of his body were painfully and powerfully beautiful. The way his face contorted in breath-taking agony when he'd reached his climax inside her. The tribal tattoo etched across his back that she loved to run her tongue across at just the right moment…
She felt her face immediately flush at the thought of him, and hoped the others hadn't noticed the redness creeping its way across her high cheekbones. A bashful grin spread across her face, and she yearned to reach her phone tucked in her purse in the next room to call him or at least send a quick text.
She knew he'd be getting measured for his tuxedo that afternoon, along with the rest of the groomsmen, at Ralph Lauren. Claire's mother had insisted they use the American designer who was just about the only one that could fit each of their massive bodies properly. Why he had to have such huge, tall monstrosities for friends was beyond her, she thought fondly.
Her thoughts flickered back to him and his smile, every piece of her ached with complete and all-consuming love. Call her a cynic, but she had romanced the idea of matrimony to a point that she had thought the marriage secondary to the person she was marrying. She was in love with love. Quil changed that for her. All smiles and warmth and tenderness. Always thoughtful, soft spoken and of few words.
She wistfully remembered the Christmas party her parents had had that he'd attended with his father, a colleague of her mother's. She knew the scheming duo was planning to set them up, and she was fairly skeptical of a guy who needed his parents to introduce him to women.
That thought was quickly chased from her mind, though, once she'd laid eyes on him. He was gorgeous; he was perfect, if perfection were possible in this life. Extremely tall, with the most endearing dimples and ice-white smile. They were introduced and every conversation, every sound was silenced as they met eyes. His intensity saw through right to her soul, a fact that still brought a shiver to Claire's spine.
He had spilled his egg nog on her velvet jacket within the first ten minutes, too nervous to keep his composure. She'd assured him it was alright, and ascended the stairs to find something of her sister's to wear. Thank God they all wore the same size.
"Even more beautiful than before," he said, eyes twinkling after she re-joined the party. He offered her his hand and she accepted it, following him into a chaste dance to "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
They talked all night about their families and boarding school and careers and the future. Then, later when neither of them wanted to leave, Quil invited her to breakfast, which lead to an invitation to his best friend Embry's gallery opening the following day.
He picked her up, even opened her car door and every door thereafter.
An old school gentleman, she'd called him, which triggered a bashful duck of his head and slow smile. She smiled remembering how nervous she was that night to meet his friends who were all in attendance. After getting the third degree, the worst of it from his sister, Leah, it was his best friend, Jacob, who made her feel most at home, telling her not to worry and to relax.
"Her bark's worst than her bite," Jacob said handing her a much-needed glass of champagne.
"Funny, I can't imagine her bite being any worst than that, geez," Claire said, downing the contents of the flute in one gulp, then offering it back to Jacob to refill. He chuckled, then grabbed the bottle by its delicate neck atop the drink station, and nodded his head towards a far corner of the party, urging her to follow him.
She actually got her first good look at him below the spotlights beaming on an abstract portrait painted in vibrant blues and greens, hanging on a stark white wall. Though he was a bit taller and larger, he actually looked surprisingly similar to Quil and Embry, and she wondered briefly if they had some distant familial ties.
"Quil's a good guy," he began, finishing his drink, then refilling both glasses once more. "He's one of the best guys I know, and I can tell he likes you a lot already."
She blushed uncontrollably and gushed about how much she cared for him, even in the short time they'd known each other. Jacob was kind and sweet to her, as she'd come to know was his nature. Embry was always good for a wisecrack or unwarranted, hilarious comment. They all protected the always excited and youngest Seth. Sam was his brooding, thoughtful brother. She'd quickly came to love all of them over the years and they'd become a part of her own family.
Of course, she and Quil soon became inseparable. Their parents had warned both of them that they were falling too hard, too fast, though it didn't really matter to either of them. And now, even two years since, the love was still there, as sure as ever.
She needed him like she needed air; loving him had come so easy, too easy almost. It wasn't a frivolous thing that she had to think about or even give effort to. Together, they'd always felt like they were hurling towards something so much bigger than either of them even realized. It was certain and strong and steady. It was there for anyone who took even a fleeting glance at either of them to see, neon and bright, and egregious.
They were soulmates.
"Miss Young?" Claire turned her head attentively in the direction of the tinkling bell-voiced shop manager calling through the door of the large changing room. "I've pulled these dresses for you. I think any one of them will look amazing on that figure of yours," she said, eyeing her with a playfully infectious smile.
Unable to fight it, a broad grin fought its way onto her beautiful face as she let out a deep sigh and attempted to get her second wind.
"Yes, thank you, Alice." She draped a pale blue satin robe around herself and allowed the small woman to enter with the pile of dresses. Her mother followed closely behind, clad in silk and linen and pearls.
Of course controlling Daphne Young would take this opportunity to insert herself into Claire's life. What better a stage to blow her own trumpet than to bully her wedding planner into making choices she thought would be best? Her parents were paying for all this, so unless it was egregious, she let her mother have her way. Claire, however, did think it funny that her mother never had any comment unless she was telling her where to go, how to go, what to do, or who to do it with.
"Claire, sweetheart," Daphne began, sweeping her hand toward the tulle, silk and lace now hanging on various opulent brass hooks, " we saw all these, and the one you said you like is here in the corner."
"Thanks, Mother," Claire thanked through gritted teeth. She hated all of them except for one. She sighed silently, pointing to various rejected dresses about the room, as Alice and her assistant quickly removed them all.
Then, Claire caught sight of the little beauty she'd seen as she walked in the door of the couture bridal shop that morning and smiled. "Hello there, lover," she whispered to the dress tenderly, running her fingers across the beading. It reminded her so much of her grandmother's wedding dress that she'd seen in so many time-weathered black and whites around her childhood home. She'd always thought she looked so amazingly feminine and angelic, so much how a bride should look as she married her grandfather.
Glancing frustratingly around the warmly lit room, Claire felt a wave of hopelessness wash over her. This shouldn't be this difficult. She was being silly – they all were. It was just a dress. The important part was that she was marrying the love of her life; the dress didn't matter. She sighed once more, and had all but lost herself amongst the ivory and French white mass, when she realized she needed a Quil fix.
"Kat," Claire called to one of her twin sisters, "bring me my purse. It's the big brown one under the chair in there with you."
That reminded her; she needed a bag of some sort, a clutch perhaps, to go with her non-existent wedding gown.
Her teenage sibling soon appeared with the bag and sat on the cushioned dressing room bench sipping a bottled soda, "Calling Quil, huh?" she said chewing her gum, complete with intermittent pops and crackles. She looked the consummate antithesis of everything in the room, which may have been partially why, though she'd never admit it, Claire favored her among her family members.
Katharine was all Converse and black nail polish and neon green streaks on jet black hair. The Young family was one of summers in the Hamptons and winters in Aspen, and, though Claire didn't exactly rage against the machine, she saw more of herself in her little sister than in her parents.
"God yes," Claire breathed, "I'm about to lose my fucking mind in here." She searched around the room for which dress looked the least hideous, and easiest, to try on next. Crossing the space between them, Claire slid the bottle from her sister's fingers, and took a long sip while rummaging deeply in her large purse for the cell.
"Babe, kill me now," she began without a salutation. "No, really."
Quil's masculine chuckle was jovial music to her ears. "It'll be over soon, and listen, we can head over to that Italian restaurant that just opened around the corner. I'll come pick you up, how's that?"
"Okay," she huffed. "How's it going for you?" she asked, pacing the room for no real reason other than her tendency to turn into a fourteen year old girl whenever she talked to him on the phone, complete with hair-twirling and lip-biting.
"Pretty good. I'm done, now Jake and Embry are going," he replied, running his fingers over the dozens of silver ties the store had pulled for the men to make decisions on. They all pretty much looked the same to him.
"Ah, to be a guy. You just stand there with your arms out and legs spread for fifteen minutes, and you're done."
Quil chuckled again. "Ah, ah, ah," he chastised playfully, his smile making itself known through the phone, "jealousy doesn't help anyone, Clay."
"Shut up," she teased, "Okay, I gotta go. I just wanted to hear your voice."
"Alright, beautiful. I love you."
Claire turned to the remaining dresses with new found purpose and hiked the closest one over her strapless bra and satin bikini-briefed body. Thank God she hadn't had that third donut this morning over coffee, or she'd never be able to put this thing on. Alice re-emerged to help her zip and button herself where appropriate, stepping back and studying the dress closely.
She turned to look in the mirror, smoothing her hair and fingering the fabric of the asymmetrical gown, then turned to Kat.
"It's…okay. It's nice," her sister said, cocking her head to the side and bouncing her crossed legs. Claire stared at her for half a beat.
"You hate it."
Alice turned to her. "Not sure if that one's it…"
She didn't even bother going into the main sitting area with this one; she opted for tearing it off quickly and sliding into the next one, which was also a bust, and so was the next one; all wonderful, just not it.
She turned to the last of the dresses and slipped it on, thinking how completely heartbroken she would be if she didn't like the way this one fit. She was sure if she had to choose between any of these again, she'd lose control of all cognitive function she was managing to hold on to at the moment.
"Oh, Clay," Katharine uncharacteristically gushed. "You look… wow." She stood to take a closer look at the beading detail, and to have a glimpse at her sister's reflection in the mirror.
"Do you like it?" Claire said, peering back at her reflection, then into the eyes of her sister. She needed little validation though; it was gorgeous, but Katharine was always good for an honest, upfront critique.
"O.M.G., Clay, if this isn't it, it doesn't exist. Seriously."
Claire took one last long gaze at her reflection, turning to see the dress from all angles in the mirror once more. After gathering the train over her forearm, she rushed out of the room, peeking her head around the corner tentatively.
"Well, Claire? Let us see!" Quil's sister, Michelle, prompted, clapping her hands together excitedly. Leah even nodded, seemingly interested in how this particular dress would look.
"Okay," she said with all the fanfare of a ringmaster, "here it is."
She entered the room slowly, careful to give everyone a view, as various gasps and whispered awes followed her to the center. She glanced down, sliding her stocking feet around the carpet, and rising onto the round, raised pedestal. All eyes were on Claire as Alice rushed to retrieve a suitable veil, standing on the edge of the room, admiring her in the perfect dress.
"Oh, Claire," her mother clasped her manicured hands to her mouth, "That's it, sweetheart." Claire found a small, but never the less existent, satisfaction in Daphne's words. Her mother was rarely available for anything, especially words of the positive variety.
"Yes, Clay. You look absolutely Victorian. You should be on the cover of a novel," her sister, Kristina, agreed, smiling with all the enthusiasm of her sixteen years.
"It's absolutely perfect, dear," Quil's mother, Denise, whispered with a smile, gesturing for her to make a full circle so each angle could be seen. The women commented and murmured on the length and color and cut. She shuddered to think of the price of the… Monique Lhuillier gown covering her slender, but shapely figure.
She had to crane her neck and twist her body to see the tag of the dress, because, despite the influence of her much chicer kid sister, she didn't have much of a penchant for fashion or its designers. She favored argyle, cable knit sweaters, and Top-Siders to pumps and skirts.
Claire gazed at herself and thought of her fiancé, fighting back the mist in her eyes. She piled her long hair atop her head in a makeshift bun, admiring the detail at the back of the gown, and ignoring everyone and everything around her.
Wiping a wayward tear from her cheek, a small smile played at her lips and she imagined the look on his face once he had seen her walking the aisle leading to him.
It was lovely, though. Mermaid, she'd heard among the chatting, covered in antique lace and delicate beading over the bodice and was the faintest shade of blush.
Quil would love it. She couldn't wait to meet eyes with him once he'd seen her.
Reverence, she'd call it. Maybe even a tear or two.
Yes, she thought with a simple smile. This is the dress.

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music enthusiast, burgeoning fic writer, lover of indian food, art and random oddities. jacob stan, fanfic-natic, shapeshifter enthusiast, obsessed with all things twi.

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