I hate to dance. Period. That’s it. Today is my sister’s wedding day. She’s three years younger than I, which means I’m the spinster sister, although I’m a mere twenty-six. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing really, but it does contribute to me hiding out in the house while the bride and groom, and everyone else, twirls with abandon on the outdoor dance floor my father paid an arm and a leg to have installed just for the occasion.
My sister’s wedding.
I won’t be missed. Everyone knows I don’t like to dance. I’ve tried it, don’t get me wrong, even had dance lessons. My instructor kindly told my mother I was hopeless. If I was told to go right, I went left; if I was told to twirl, I stumbled; if I was told to dip, I dropped.
Let it be said, this put quite a damper on my social life.
A dancer I am not.
I wandered into the kitchen and dodged the caterers as I put together a small plate of food and filled a champagne flute with OJ. So much more elegant than just any old juice glass.
Flute and plate in hand, I plopped into an armchair in my dad’s home office. It was as far from the music as I could get and still be inside, away from notice.
I had helped select the menu for the dinner, so I had no problem plowing through the food on my plate. I should have gotten more, but dared not make a foray into the kitchen for another run. It would be just like my mother to be in there making sure the caterers knew what they were doing.
The froth of my dress, yes, it’s one of those too, too much in every way dresses brides force their bridesmaids to wear so we look ridiculous while she looks amazing. Fortunately for me mauve complimented my fair skin and chestnut hair. The sweetheart neckline and fitted bodice was okay. The mutton sleeves I could do without, as well as the miles and miles of silk and tulle worked into the skirt. We all looked like pudgy Swan Lake ballerinas on speed, even those of us with a slim figure.
I love you Sis, but some of your friends don’t need extra bulk around their butts and thighs. Just saying.
I jumped when the door opened. The most handsome man I have ever seen in my life stood there grinning at me.
“There you are! Joe told me to look for you in the most unlikely spot.”
“Joe?” I queried stupidly taking in the specimen before me with palpitating heart. Yeah, I know, treacly word, but my, oh my, my heart was stampeding like a herd of wild ponies.
“Yeah, Joe, your new brother-in-law. About my height, dreamy green eyes…”
He palmed the air when I raised my eyebrows at the dreamy green eyes comment. “That’s Pam’s description, not mine!”
Pam is my sister and Joe does have dreamy green eyes.
“So, come on. They’re wearing out the dance floor. Pam told me to come get you.” He put his hand out and expected me to take it. It’s the hardest thing I ever did to look at him like he was certifiable. I tucked my hands under my butt like a little kid to avoid temptation that might lead to something like dancing.
“Who are you?”
Let me see. How many witty opening gambits are there for meeting a hunk and half? Surely anything would be better than, who are you.
He gave a hokey sweeping bow, “Jake Morrison, at your service.” He straightened and that grin was back. “Joe’s friend. We grew up together.”
I did not remember Joe mentioning a Jake Morrison, and as one who poured over the guest list with razor like precision because it kept growing like weeds after a rainstorm, I knew Jake Morrison’s name was not there.
“I’m here as a surprise. I’ve been out of the country, but I had to be here for the most important day in Joey’s life.”
One, only Pam called Joe Joey, and two, had this man just read my mind?
“So, how about it. Let’s join the party.”
The music I hadn’t been able to hear, at least not very well, seemed to drift into the room. His hand hovered in front of me, palm up. Not clear exactly why I did it, I took his hand and let him help me up. I actually made it to my feet without falling on my face. As if it were meant to be, he brought me close, into a dancer’s embrace, my right hand in his left, his arm gently around my waist, and for reasons beyond my understanding, I placed my left hand on his shoulder (and a mighty fine shoulder it was) to steady myself.
“You are as beautiful as Joe said.”
I gulped. Nobody called me beautiful. Ever. Pam, well, she’s just a knockout. I’ve never minded. I’m okay, I mean my looks, don’t get me wrong, but beautiful?
He twirled me in time with the distant music, and I didn’t trip. Now that made my lips turn up in surprise, and maybe a touch of happy.
“And you have a lovely smile.”
“I hear you’re quite the artist, too.”
Painting, my guilty pleasure.
“How do you know about that?”
“Pam, she brags on you all the time.”
See, the thing is, my sister is my biggest fan, so I wasn’t surprised by his comment. However, my dabbling was just that, and I told him so as we dipped and swayed around Dad’s office, which seemed to have taken on dimensions I’d never realized before. Of course, when you know how to dance, and how to lead, it doesn’t really take that much space, I thought.
“What type of artist are you?”
“I just told you, I’m not an artist. It’s a hobby, that’s all.”
“You don’t think much of yourself, do you?”
Now I took offense at that statement. It’s just that I know my limitations.
“If you have limitations, you put them on yourself.”
Did I say that out loud? No, I did not.
“Let go, Anna, dance to the music of life.”
“I don’t dance.”
He grinned. “You are dancing,” he said, and spun me around, then caught me in a feather light embrace.
A slight frown marred his countenance. Abruptly he let me go and stepped back.
“Excuse me, I have to take this.” He pulled a cellphone from the pocket of his suit coat.
I fidgeted and wished we could get back to doing that thing I don’t do: dancing.
“Now!? But I’m at my friend’s wedding.”
He turned away from me and nodded his head to whatever was being said on the other end of this annoying conversation. “Yes, I know you said I shouldn’t, but…” When he was done, he slipped the phone back in his pocket and turned to me, disappointment written all over his handsome face.
“Sorry, I have to go.” He smiled with such warmth and kindness, I smiled in return, even though in my heart I suspected I would never see this man again.
“Remember what I said, Anna, dance to the music of life.”
“I don’t dance!” I yelled as he walked out and closed the door.
I sat back down in the chair and wondered what the heck just happened.
“Here you are!”
I startled awake to find my sister, wedding gown still sparkling, wrinkle free and gorgeous, leaning over me.
“I found her!” she shouted, as if I was at the North Pole.
Alex, one of Joe’s groomsmen poked his head around the door. “Can I come in?”
What was I going to say? No?
“Listen, Anna, no hiding out. I may be the star of this show, but you’re my best supporting bridesmaid. Everyone’s asking where you are.”
“I got this, Pam,” Alex said. “You better get back before Joe starts to wonder if you’ve already come to your senses and left him.”
Pam punched him in the shoulder hard enough to make him wince. My sister, in addition to being runway model beautiful, is a black belt in karate.
She left me with Alex who turned to me with a dazzling grin and put his hand out to help me up from my chair. I surreptitiously pinched myself on my underarm to be sure I wasn’t asleep and dreaming. I mean, really, what are the odds two gorgeous men would be paying attention to me when there were bevvies of beauties out on the lawn just dying for a flirt fest?
I took his hand and stood up gracefully despite my frou-frou flounces of fabric. I must have looked a bit pensive because Alex’s smile disappeared to be replaced by concern.
I realized he was still holding my hand and it felt darned good. I took it back and smoothed the fabric of my dress.
“Of course. I… I was wondering what happened to Jake.”
The expression on Alex’s face could only be defined as stunned. He visibly shook himself, or maybe shuddered, and smiled a ghost of a smile.
“Morrison. Jake Morrison. What happened to him? He was…”
“How did you know Jake? Joe and Pam just got together two years ago.”
He looked at me with a mixture of bewilderment and distress. “Sorry, it was just such a surprise to hear his name after all this time.”
I knew I didn’t want to hear whatever he had to say and lifted my hand in a useless gesture to stop him.
“I thought everyone knew. Sorry to be the one to tell you. Jake died in a skiing accident three years ago.”
He looked at me and swallowed. “He would be here today, if he could. In some ways…” He glanced around and then back at me. “In some ways, I think he is. Wherever there was music, there was Jake, charming the ladies and spinning them around the dance floor.” Alex drew in a deep breath and blew it out. I sensed he, like I, was on the verge of tears. “His mantra was dance to the music of life.”
He knuckled a tear from my cheek I didn’t know was falling.
“He swore he would dance with the most beautiful girl at the party when Joe got married. He can’t be here, but would you do me the honor of allowing me to fill in for him?”
As we walked into the hallway, I looked back. I swear Jake Morrison was standing there grinning at me. I blinked, and he was gone.
I hope you enjoy this little bit of romantic fantasy. Be sure and drop by my booth (59) at People’s Faire on Saturday, Aug. 27. I’ll be selling signed copies of my books.