All's Fair in Love and Blood by Jennifer Peel

The Wedding


“Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Please don’t let me fall. What did that article say about walking in heels? It’s all about the posture? Am I standing tall?”

“Excuse me?” Garrett—the groomsman I was clinging to—asked out of the side of his mouth.

Did I say that out loud? “Nothing,” I squeaked.

How long is this aisle, anyway? If only I could see. Or maybe I should be happy I’m nearsighted and stepmother number seven thought I would look better without my glasses. It’s not like I wouldn’t be going to another one of my father’s weddings in the near future. Besides they’d all looked about the same: hundreds of flowers in varying shades, depending on the season. Though for some reason my father, Augustus Armstrong—or Auggie, as I call him because he doesn’t want to be called Dad or Daddy like most southerners prefer—liked to get married in May. So, usually the flowers were pastel in nature as they were today. Then there were typically myriads of candles in all shapes and sizes, making it smell like there was a massive séance going on. If only. That would probably be more fun. This wife, Eva, wanted to add arches between the pews and Auggie was happy to oblige. He spared no expense when it came to his weddings.

I was beginning to think my father needed a twelve-step program for wedding addiction. I had been a bridesmaid five times now and a flower girl twice. Perhaps Auggie did it so I would wear a dress at least every couple of years when he created a new future ex-wife. Regardless, I wasn’t sure I was going to survive this go-around.

Tight core and land on the ball of your foot first, I reminded myself. Unfortunately, I had nothing close to a tight core, as I was still happily holding on to the freshman fifteen and had never worn heels so high or SPANX—another requirement from the latest woman trying to fill my momma’s shoes. Though I didn’t know if my momma had ever worn heels. In fact, I didn’t know much about her at all, except she had died when I was one. Other than that, I knew only what I’d seen in the single picture I had of her. She was beautiful, with her willowy figure, golden-blonde hair, and forest-green eyes like mine. She wouldn’t have required SPANX, and no one would have ever said something to her like, “Scarlett, if you would only lose some of your baby fat, get some contacts, and get better control of your curls, you would be so pretty.”

Those words from Eva had been playing on repeat in my mind for the last several days. Being pretty is overrated, I tried to comfort myself. Eating cookies whenever I wanted to was much more fun. And I didn’t enjoy sticking things in my eyes. As far as my curls went, it would be easier to tame the ocean’s tide. Or at least that was the lie I told myself. Doing my hair was so time consuming, and I had better things to do—like studying. It was no easy feat scoring a 522 on the MCAT. Getting into the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was my goal. Hopefully with that score I was one step closer.

Oh. Oh. Oh. There went the left ankle. The large audience gasped on my behalf as I faltered. Even the procession music the orchestra played came to a stop. Great. At least I couldn’t see them. I had to pause and grip Garrett, the unlucky groomsman and cousin of Kane—Eva’s son and my father’s best man. Kane made a good case for wanting to be pretty, but it seemed best not to think about it right now, as my legs were already unsteady enough. Besides, we hadn’t interacted much other than a few pleasantries. He’d seemed more interested in studying me whenever we’d been around each other. He probably thought I was odd. And he would be right. I shouldn’t care what he thought. I should be blaming him for this entire ordeal. Kane worked for my father, and one fateful day, his mother met him at the office for lunch and now here we were. I should be grateful, at least, that Eva wasn’t half my father’s age like the last train wreck.

Garrett rolled his eyes; at least I think he did. Maybe I should have gotten contacts before the wedding.

“Are you all right?” Garrett asked begrudgingly.

“Fine. Just fine,” I whispered through my pain.

“Let’s keep going,” he grumbled.

I hobbled the rest of the way down the aisle, thankful I couldn’t see my father or Kane. Despite not being able to see my father, I was sure he was sighing and shaking his head, not quite sure what to do with me as usual. Kane, on the other hand, was probably studying me, again. And I knew he would be beautiful while doing it. As far as I was concerned, it was perfectly fine for me to think about Kane like that since he would be my stepbrother for only a maximum of eighteen months. No wife had made it past three years, and that was a long time ago. My father’s marriage lengths had gotten shorter with each wife. So, Kane and I would never truly be family. Besides, Kane was a lot older than me—like seven years, which made him twenty-nine. And he was so out of my league. That was if I even had a league. I was more like a spectator. When I could see.