The roof gardens were exactly as she remembered. The elephant shrubs were still blowing water from their trunks into the fountain, the Juliet Roses were still marking the entrance, the gazebos were still aglow with soft lights. The whole thing had been Andrew’s idea, of course. He was the biggest romantic sop she knew. He had even convinced Em to get the Octets back together for the occasion. They were playing on the same stage they had played on so many years before, though Em had disappeared, his violin on a stool near the back of the stage with all the equipment.
The cake was in one of the gazebos. Four tiers of white frosting with a slight golden tint to it with pink hibiscuses scattered around the rims. The figurines on top were little caricatures of them with Andrew tripping over his own feet and Harriet grabbing for him in her wedding gown. that had been her idea and Andrew had laughed and clapped when she showed him the drawings all those weeks ago. From the way Andrew’s mom was looking at it, she didn’t think it was appropriate. Oh well, fooey on her.
Set up next to the cake was Quinn’s painting. Harriet had almost cried with laughter when she was it.
“I thought it would match the wedding people.” Quinn had told them earlier.
It was a gorgeously rendered painting of Harriet in a pink dress reaching down to help a young man from where he’d fallen in the waves, a paper in his hand. It was that day on the beach so, so long ago, when Andrew had rushed into the water to save her paper. In any other situation, she would have felt bad for both jibes at Andrew’s clumsiness, but she didn’t. It wasn’t clumsiness that had landed him in the sea foam. I am nothing if not a gentleman
People were signing the wedding book below the painting and grabbing the little gold or white bubbles they had put out.
Andrew, presently, was stuffing his face with rice crispy treats as subtly as he could. Em wasn’t long in joining him. Quinn was off inspecting the elephants and everyone else was mingling or finding a seat at one of the many tables.
Harriet approached Andrew causally, enjoying both the sight of all the flowers and people as well as the shape of Andrew’s butt in his black trousers. She tapped his shoulder and he whipped around, hand in front of his mouth as if he could hide the treats spilling out of his lips. He tried to smile, but his mouth was so full, it resulted in a crinkle of the eyes and awkward cheek motion.
“You might want to chew Andrew.” She told him and watched as he struggled to obey. “It’s beautiful up here. You get points for the idea.”
Andrew grunted something around his food that Harriet couldn’t hope to make out, but sounded like some form of agreement.
People kept on coming by to compliment Harriet on her dress and how lovely she was and how cute the ceremony was. Andrew was no less free than she was. Within minutes of remaining stationery, they were both surrounded. Harriet watched through the crowed as her Uncle John (who was technically her great uncle) approached Andrew.
Harriet was about to step forward to interpret for them so John wouldn’t have to talk, but Andrew managed to surprise both of them.
“I want,” Andrew said as he signed the words clumsily. “To thank you for…um…help—helping me last year—no that’s month—year.”
Technically Andrew had said “I fu¢k thank you from helping my can’t year”, but her ever-patient uncle got it anyway. John’s smiled and his eyes crinkled up as he signed “You’re very welcome.”
Andrew continued on, slowly and choppily, but with determination. “Harriet—” He signed, using the name sign John had given her when she was little—a rough seven across the chest with two fingers, should to shoulder to hip—meaning princess only with an H. “Is teaching me. Or…trying.”
He fingerspelled the last part, and John nodded, clapping him happily on the shoulder. Harriet looked around and realized a lot of her family had been watching too, all of them wearing smiles of approval despite Andrew’s many mistakes. Harriet just wondered how exactly John had helped him last year. She couldn’t even recall them being in the same room. But then again, spring last year had been…bad to say the least.
“Hattie,” Her mom said, touching her should. “We’re going to have everyone sit down now okay?”
“Alright.” She said.
Her mom’s mouth wobbled and she pulled Harriet into a hug. “You look so beautiful.”
“Thank you mama.” She hugged her back, squeezing her tight. She smelled like argon oil and hair spray and rose perfume, just like she always had.
Her mom pulled away and wiped at her damp eyes, “Okay, go sit down now. We’ll round people up.”
Andrew touched her elbow from behind and Harriet turned to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her forehead to his. He looked strange without his glasses, but leave it to Andrew to get drunk and break them two days before their wedding. They had found the missing spectacles in Harriet’s car after hours of looking for them. He had worn his other pair earlier, but they gave him a head ache so he’d taken them off.
“Hello wife.” He said.
She grinned up at him. “Hello husband.”
He smiled again. “Wife.”
“Em.” A voice whispered as Em came out of nowhere and whistled by them, up to the front table.
Harriet rolled his eyes. “I don’t think Em is handling this custody thing well.”
Andrew kissed the tip of her nose. “I think you’re right. Oh, the poor dear. Should we send him to Marie’s to hang-out with Quinn for a few weeks?”
“I don’t think Em would get along with the nurses.” She said. “Then again, orderlies with needles might be just what Em needs.”
“Speaking of Quinn,” Andrew said, looking around. “We should probably find him before we go sit down.”
“Wasn’t he by the eleph—” Harriet turned to look at the foliage fountains to discover that Quinn had vanished. People were slowly making their ways to the tables, but he was not among them. “I showed him a quiet spot over behind the elevator when we first got here.”
Andrew held out an arm for her and she smiled and looped her arm through.
“Our first Quinn-related scavenger hunt as husband and wife,” Andrew observed. “What a milestone.”
Harrie and Andrew eventually found him and his date Magenta kissing awkwardly a floor below the roof gardens in the empty parking garage. Quinn had blushed like a tomato when they’d found him but Magenta (who was luckily Magenta that day—Quinn was very worried she would be Thelma or Saoirse. Kendle, the girl’s true person, didn’t like Quinn as a boyfriend, but knew that Magenta did and was okay with it) had just smiled at them and pulled him up to the gardens.
“You know,” Harriet said as she took a sip of sparkling cider from her wine glass where they sat at the head table. “I don’t feel particularly married.”
He blinked at her. “You don’t?”
“It’s not a bad thing.” She touched his arm to reassure him. “We were practically married before, so it’s like nothing’s changed. The party is beautiful though.”
The sun was beginning to set and people were ordering their food now or picking at some of the snacks that had been laid out. They were all talking and laughing and chatting to one another and though they hadn’t done the first dance, some of the children were skipping around the dance floor, including Ben who was busting some serious seven year old moves. The adults were cheering him on and laughing.
“Ah, the cabbage-patch.” Andrew mused, watching her young cousin. “What an age that was.”
Harriet snorted. “You’re not much better, I hate to tell you.”
“Oh, I have more grace than that.”
Harriet just smiled at him innocently. “Whatever you say.”
Andrew opened his mouth to protest, but Aunt Phyl interrupted them. “Are you ready for the father-daughter dance?”
She looked at her dad who was seated a couple seats down. His attention was on her, obviously knowing what the conversation was about. “Sure. Andrew?”
Andrew helped her up and kissed her hand before departing to find his mother who would be sharing a dance as well. Aunt Phyl announced them over the microphone and people cheered as they walked out onto the stage. Andrew escorted his mother to the dance floor on his arm and looked at Harriet once, long enough for her to know he was nervous. Audiences and dancing were most certainly not his thing. Her father however, was an excellent dancer and had taught her enough as a child that she wasn’t going to trip over her own feet.
Em had joined up with his old band again and was waiting for her to look at him. She gave him a slight nod and he started the first note. It was an old song from one of her favorite childhood musicals. Her father had taken her to the opening production of Sweeney Todd when she was ten years old and she’d fallen in love with in, blood and pies and all. The song they danced to now had nothing to do with death and blades, but with the love a parents bares a child.
Like the characters she had seen so many years ago, her dad was not her biological father, but he loved her so much it didn’t make a difference. He had bought her her first real book and used to fix up her scraped knees and kiss her fingers when she’d hurt them. He had taught her all she knew about most everything, but it wasn’t really about that. It was about how he’d protected her her whole life from everything that had ever meant her harm. It was about the lady bug he’d bought her that was even now sitting in Harriet’s chair up at the table. It was about when they would sit on the old swings, her on the right, him on the left, and wish on the stars.
Nothing’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around.
Harriet could hear his voice singing her to sleep as he used to do almost every night before he went off to a late shift at the hospital.
Nothing’s gonna harm you, no sir, not while I’m around.
Demons may charm you with a smile, for a while
But in time…nothing can harm you
Not while I’m around.
When it came time to finally hand her off back to Andrew for their first dance as a couple, her dad almost looked like he was just going to hold onto her forever.
“It’s okay.” She whispered to him and he finally let her go for the second time that day.
Andrew smiled as he put his hand on her waist and fumbled to grab her other hand. The song changed as they start to move. It was the slow waltz that they had first danced to many years ago in this same spot. Em had done it, she realized. He was the one who had pushed them together with a simple song just to tease his friend. Who could have known what that song would lead to?
Harriet bit back a hiss as Andrew stepped on her bare foot (she’d left her sandals at the table) and his eyes found hers, trying to apologize with just a look. Harriet smiled. They had worked with a dance coach for weeks, but Andrew was quite unteachable. Harriet had suggested that perhaps his inner masculinity kept him from waltzing, but he reminded her that he owned a dress shop—he had no masculinity. The memory of it made her smile and she leaned in close, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Just sway.” She whispered to him, remembering that first dance and how they’d wound up just rocking, feeling closer than any sort of fancy foot work would bring them.
He took her advice gratefully and slowed his steps, pulling her closer. Harriet closed her eyes as she breathed him in. Old Spice and Sandalwood. That hadn’t changed since the last time they’d danced to this. It was funny, she thought, how that one moment on the beach—that one gust of wind—had changed everything, had set both their lives in a completely different direction. Maybe everyone’s lives. If they hadn’t met, these people wouldn’t have been here.
She thought back to their dinner at the Wharf that day, how Quinn had acted so strange, though it was now normal. Maybe he wouldn’t have tried to throw himself off that cliff last Christmas Eve after she announced she was pregnant. Maybe they would have never known he was schizophrenic. Maybe they would have found him dead and hanging somewhere because they were never able to get him help. She wouldn’t have been so close to her cousins, not without all the secrets they carried for her, what they’d gone through with both Everett and that first baby. Andrew had told her many times before that he wouldn’t be where he was now without her to motivate him. Susan wouldn’t have been flirting with one of Andrew’s uncles, Little Olive and Caren wouldn’t be striking up a friendship, Quinn wouldn’t be holding Magenta’s hand as he watched them dance. Her mom wouldn’t have been speaking to her own mother for the first time in years. Andrew’s dad wouldn’t be laughing with cousins he had lost contact with.
It was funny, Harriet thought, that in the blink of an eye, something so miniscule and unimportant as a puff of wind, had changed the lives of so many people.
It had been a long time since Harriet had stuffed her gut with nearly an entire pizza, but it was so good she couldn’t help it. Poor Andrew was going to come back to an empty plate.
These two nights in one of the most expensive hotels in LA in the bridal sweet was all the honey moon they were going to get until December. Harriet didn’t mind. She was looking forward to going back to work if only so she could get done with it and move back home.
“I still can’t believe you shoved that cake into my face.” He said, opening the bathroom door and coming out in a cloud of steam. His over-large fluffy white robe was untied, revealing what was beneath.
“I still can’t believe you didn’t see it coming.” She said as she watched him approach the bed, totally shamelessly. She hoped that the time on the bed and then in the shower hadn’t left him finished.
“Considering you said you didn’t want to shove cake, it seemed like a reasonable assumption.”
Harriet grinned. “I lied.”
“Oh, I noticed.” Andrew said and flopped onto the kind sized bed. “Whachya watchin?”
The giant pink dragon gave it away.
“You know,” Harriet said, taking another bite if pizza. “Bastion was my very first crush.”
“Really?” Andrew looked at the mopy haired boy on the screen who was reading by the light of a candle. “Mine was Violet Beauregard.”
Harriet’s brows rose up to her hair line. “Seriously?”
Andrew laughed. “I liked her spirit.”
“I loved the animal thing.” Harriet said, looking up at her bug that was on dresser. “I had completely forgotten about it. But all that dancing you did with Em in high school didn’t save my feet.”
“Hush about that.” Andrew whispered. “He knows now.”
Harriet laughed. “Oh, it’s endearing.”
Andrew and Em, in preparation for the Freshman dance with their first ever dates, had practiced dancing together for hours and had even made out with a teddy bear for practice. It was one of their biggest secrets and Andrew had spilled the beans to her.
“Well, rub my bruised feet and maybe I won’t tell.” Harriet said and Andrew winced at the thought of feet. “Alright. My back then.”
He peeled the fluffy white blankets back and ran his hands down her bare back. “That was a beautiful dress, you know.”
“It is. Seymour says I’m years ahead of the style.”
“You are.” He said as he rubbed her back, tracing along her spine. “What happened to the missing eleven yards of silk duchess satin?”
“At David’s house, waiting to be brought back to the shop. That was Seymour’s idea, to throw you off the scent so you would still be surprised.”
“I was.” He kissed between her shoulder blades. “You’re a very surprising creature, wife.”
“And you’re very gullible. Husband.”
“So.” He said and pressed on a knot, making Harriet moan. “What do we do now?”
“We could have $ex.”
“No, I mean—well after that. What do we do as a couple?”
Harriet knew he wasn’t going to be particularly thrilled with her dad’s wedding present, so she filled around and pressed him down on the bed. She kissed him deeply and he responded eagerly. She kissed his neck and chest and down and down and down…
Andrew groaned and gripped her hair, still damp from the shower. He tried to fight it off, but Harriet wouldn’t let him. Medical school had taught her a number of things about the male genitalia. Poor Andrew didn’t stand a chance.
When he was done and spent, she crawled up and straddled him, looking down at him. He gave her a sleepy grin and ran a hand a hand over her from hip to breast. Her blonde hair rained down over her both, dripping water onto Andrew’s already slick chest.
“Don’t get mad,” She said finally. “But my dad bought us a house. I didn’t ask him to.”
Andrew sat up and looked at her incredulously. “A house?”
Harriet quickly tried to explain the rest. “Compared to the other houses in Bel Air it’s tiny. The size of my parents’ house, if not smaller. And he says we can sell it if—when—we find one on our own, if we want. And Veronica is going to be renting it until my residency is over.” She looked at his still face. “Say something?”
Andrew opened his mouth and then closed it, trying to find words. His face was the face he got when he was trying not to get angry. “That was supposed to be my job Harriet. As the husband. Buy the house, pick the dog, go to work”
Harriet felt a sinking feeling in her chest. “And it’s the wife’s job to have the babies. I can’t do that. I think we’re just going to have to accept that our marriage isn’t exactly usual.”
Andrew stared her down for a long time and she was about to climb off his lap when he kissed her suddenly. When he pulled back he smiled.
“I don’t think anyone has a ‘usual’ marriage. And if they did, I wouldn’t want it.”
Harriet smiled and kissed him back.