Chapter 30: Short of Time
“Okay guys,” I say as I stare at all my friends that have gathered around, “today is going to be crazy so I’m gonna need all your help to make this day perfect. My life seriously depends on it. So what do you guys say? Are you going to help me or not?”
They all fall silent under my pressurizing gaze, lacking my enthusiasm.
“And your life definitely depends on it?” Grey questions with a look of pondering conceit.
“Yes,” I confirm.
“Then my answer is a definite ‘no’,” Grey concludes with a condescending smirk.
“Stand still, Miss Bella,” Ramos bosses as he holds her in place to finish off her hair and makeup.
“Not now, Ramos,” Bells pushes him away with a forceful shove that he goes flying into the door and manages to bump his head, barely conscious.
“What are you? The hulk?” I raise an eyebrow, growing nervous from her unwavering, sharp stare.
“This day better be perfection,” she starts to fret, grabbing hold of me by the shoulders to shake me back and forth repeatedly as if wanting my skull to crack and fall out, unintentionally sinking her sharp nails into my shoulders, “or I swear I’m going to die!”
If I fail, she’s not the one who will die, it will be me.
I flinch under the pain and carefully remove her nails from my shoulders. I nod understandingly at her and gulp in fear, “You can count on me,” I lie.
Heck, I don’t even trust me.
“I hope so!” she yells at me in warning.
“She hopes so!” Ramos yells for the sake of yelling, knowing that if he is on her side, he has nothing to worry about.
“Yeesh,” I complain, “it’s like you’re on your-”
“I am,” she finishes for me, knowing exactly what I was just about to say.
I nod with more certainty, ”Ah, it all makes sense now.”
It just has to be her wedding day during her time of the month, now I really am going to die. That combination is ruthless.
I leave the room, allowing her to get dressed as I go and see to the wedding preparations that I stupidly volunteered to help with.
“You look stressed, you hanging in okay?” Benley asks upon seeing my frightened face. He’s one of my special friends because he didn’t originate with my high school friends, or Jay’s racing friends, or the ice cream parlor people, he’s the only one who originated out of his own.
“No!” Keagen answers for me before I can even blink or breathe. “Mia and Zac are being inappropriate outside again and refuse to stop making the other guests uncomfortable. Also, the original band isn’t coming because we apparently cancelled with them.”
“We didn’t cancel the band Bells specifically asked for,” I state, perplexed by the horrific news.
“I know that!” Keagen shouts at me, practically more stressed out than Bells herself, as he tries to get it through to me. It makes sense, he’s the male version of Bells after all - at least in the area that signifies their obsession with everything being absolutely perfectly arranged and organized all the fricken time.
I click and snap my fingers as it occurs to me, “The damn Dung Beatles!”
Keagen shoots me a fierce look, “Duh.”
“Where are they now?” I question, now just as stressed as Keagen and Bells.
“In hiding,” Keagen answers me in panic, “I can’t find any of the three anywhere.”
“Forget about them, just get the original band back,” I advise him with strategy.
“That’s smart, smart thinking, okay,” Keagen agrees as if the thought had yet to occur to him, what with all his fretting that could easily outmatch Bell’s.
“As I was saying,” Benley captures my attention as he repeats the phrasing of his question, “are you alright?”
I shoot him a thumbs up, trying to stay optimistic despite the immense pressure. I look around the church, “Where’s the cake?” I ask him when noticing that it is missing. “I asked you to bring it out,” I remind him.
I offered to help arrange the wedding so that Bell’s parents won’t end up paying too much for costs and expenses. I’m trying to make use of the rest of my idiots to help me organize it all before the wedding, which is supposed to commence in the next five hours. We’re kind of running short of time.
He scratches the back of his neck nervously, “About that...”
I run a hand through my locks and frown up at him in panic when sensing that he has more terrible news for me, “Benley, I swear to you today is not the day, I will personally punch you in the face so help me-”
“Blubber and Simo devoured it,” Benley comes out with the truth quickly, hoping to lessen the blow of pain and pure agony.
I fall silent, my eyes widening in horror before I end up lashing out at him after having processed his words, “How could you let this happen?!” I glance around frantically, “Where are they?!” I hiss sourly. “I will kill them! I will kill them all!”
“Which is exactly why I’ve hidden them away for their own safety until you cool off,” Benley explains himself and the purpose behind his evil deeds. “Trust me, as a lawyer, you don’t want a lawsuit on your hands.”
Blubber, Simo, Oog, Gland, and Jam are all in hiding. The hiding places are not of my knowledge. How is that thought not supposed to petrify me?! The idea is not sitting well with me, at all.
“You’re a lawyer?” I question in shock, that being the only thing I took from his long, boring speech.
“Who am I?” he questions in distaste, “Chandler Bing? Barney Stinson?” He shakes his head at me in disbelief, “How can you not know what I do for a living?”
Yeah, ’cause that the main issue here...
“Well, you never mention it,” I defend myself. “Plus, you used to be a waiter. How did you jump the gap to being a lawyer? It’s a big gap, Benley,” I point out intelligently.
“In the five years that you disappeared, and yes, five years is a big gap, Aqueela, you’d know,” he points out in a matter-of-fact way, answering all my questions with skill that one was not born with - he ain’t no natural talent like me.
“Ooh, I felt that one,” I feign a wince. I contemplate it for a little longer, “Oh yeah...” I trail off in thought, “it sometimes feels like I never left to being with,” I confess truthfully. I change the subject as the current one is touchy for me, “What does Grey do then?”
I don’t know what half of my friends do. The thought has only occurred to me now. I am a terrible human being - awesome, but just plain terrible.
“Chemical engineer,” Benley answers with a roll of his eyes, “it’s like you know nothing.”
“Guy is smart,” I give Grey credit where credit it is due. I don’t understand how he’s even able to balance a social life with the intense work he does.
Benley gets back to the subject at hand, “But listen, I got you covered. I’m not your second-in-command for nothing-”
“I thought I was her second-in-command,” Grey scoffs bitterly, having eavesdropped, as he walks on by with a shake of his head, probably seeing to other things gone haywire.
You’d think Grey would know me by now. I only said that so he’d help me.
Benley sends me a flat glare for lying to him. I send him a sheepish shrug for practically bribing him and everyone else with the ‘second-in-command’ label for their assistance on this wedding. I manipulated all of them, except for the few who wanted to help willingly - Jay, AJ, FeeBee (unfortunately...she’s a walking trainwreck), Sarah etc.
BoyBand rolls his eyes and gets back to the main topic of debate yet again, “AJ and FeeBee are in the venue’s kitchen working on a new cake as we speak,” he assures me as if his stupid solution is supposed to suddenly put me at ease.
FeeBee is more harm than good and AJ is a little too light and breezy for this kind of pressure.
I slap my forehead in despair, “You put the two most....” I trail off in a stammer, careful not to insult anyone, especially when Benley raises an ‘I dare you to continue’ eyebrow at me. “Why them together?” I end dully on a well thought out note.
“AJ’s baked all sorts of cakes before, including wedding cakes. Baking is her pastime. She’s a pro,” Benley insists, confident in her abilities.
“FeeBee?” I quiz, still concerned about that one.
“She wanted to do something to help,” Benley explains himself, “and as you know, AJ is way too nice to say ‘no’.”
“So long as AJ is in control,” I pretend to wipe a bead of sweat off of my forehead, “then I’m good.”
If that cake isn’t ready by the time the wedding starts then Bells will, no doubt, go bridezilla on my ass.
I follow Benley into the kitchen. As soon as the door swings open, we’re greeted by white puffs of flour and mess everywhere. I immediately start coughing on the air, patting my throat to try and stop the involuntary action. I’ve just stepped into a war zone.
“Hi, Aqueela!” AJ chirps ecstatically upon seeing me.
FeeBee waves the flour floating in the air out of her face before offering an enthusiastic wave my way when seeing me.
“It’s like I’m invisible when you’re around,” Benley whines childishly.
“We saw you like two minutes ago,” AJ rolls her eyes at his overdramatic antics. She also went beserk and ignored Ben when she met her favorite band - ‘The Dung Beetles’.
I grin when I take in the chef hats they’re both currently sporting, only to see that they’ve given each other food nicknames. FeeBee is Chef Buffet and AJ is Chef Crème Brûlée. The both of them are covered in raw egg, flour, and sugar. It appears as if an explosion of sweetness has taken place in the kitchen. If anything, it seems as if they’ve had a food fight instead of doing any actual baking.
“Hey guys,” I say slowly, sending them an unsure smile, as I greet them. I turn back to Benley accusingly, a scowl on my face, as I whisper-shout at him, “I thought you said it was under control!”
“It is,” Benley insists.
“Hey AJ, do eggs go into cakes?” FeeBee asks aloud, clueless. AJ nods at her. She drops the entire egg into the bowl without first cracking it.
I send Benley a flat stare, my confidence in this cake having been shattered and shaken by what I’ve just witnessed. FeeBee is murdering the cake!
“Okay, it’s not,” Benley admits, having instantly changed his mind.
AJ, up and down trying to mix up the batter, stops to send Benley a look when hearing FeeBee’s absurd remark and when seeing her drop the whole egg in. She motions to us to get FeeBee out of the room as she can’t work with her taking up space in the kitchen.
Benley and I shrug at her, unknowing what to do. I don’t want to get on FeeBee’s bad side, especially since Jay - for the life of me - absolutely adores her.
“Hey Feebs,” AJ suggests meekly when seeing that Ben and I will be of no help on this one, “maybe you can help with something more important than this measly old cake. This task is too easy for you,” AJ tries to persuade her into leaving the kitchen for good. “Maybe you can help look for ‘The Dung Beatles’ seeing as everyone is on the lookout for them. They’re on the run. You were their biggest fan. You know them better than any of us.”
“You’re right,” FeeBee agrees after three minutes of deep contemplation, “I’m too intellectual for this,” she throws the cloth aside, the one she’d been using to clean up her mess, not bothering to apologize to AJ when it whacks her directly in the face due to poor aim. “Chef Buffet out!” she, convinced, leaves with her head held high and none of her dignity intact.
“Thank goodness!” AJ blows out a breath of pure relief. “If she’d stayed a second longer I swear I would’ve shoved her face-first into the wedding cake itself before baking her in the oven,” she quickly adds, “and I say that in the nicest way possible.”
Benley and I share a laugh as the stress leaves my shoulders and apparently adds to AJ’s as she shoos us out of her supposed kitchen with a wooden spoon in hand.
I end up telling Benley, once we lapse back into conversation again, about how my grandparents tried to replace me.
Benley, unfortunately, finds the need to fill time with another of his lame jokes that no one ever seems to find funny, “Where did they find Kaleela anyway? What, did they rig the system? Clone.org? Doppleganger.net? Twinzies.com?”
“Haha, you’re hilarious,” I say sarcastically, sending him a glower for his taunting teasing.
“I know I am, but what are you?” he asks back, deliberately being immature as to annoy me further.
I push him away with a frown. I open my mouth to fire back another insult but stop short when I see Troy enter shirtless with fire sticks in hand, ready to perform a fire dance of some sort as if it’s an ancient ritual - a must.
“What do you think you are doing?” I question in terror as he swings the sticks around and over his head. Thankfully, they’re not lit. I’m already having visions of him setting himself light and melting his own neck off. “I said no fire!” I remind him aggressively, frustrated.
“Aww c’mon Squirt, it’s just some tricks for my sis on her special day,” he tries to persuade me into agreeing to it.
"No, I said no!” I yell at him, hoping to get it through to him that this is not on. “You’ll burn down the entire church before the wedding even starts. Hell, you’ll burn Max and Bells themselves or something,” I tell him knowingly, my predictions accurate. “Now put those sticks away. I don’t want to see anything related to fire today.”
“Come on, Aqueela, just let me swallow a little bit of fire!” he begs, relentless. “I won’t even set Bell’s wedding dress on fire or anything like I was planning. I’m over the whole ‘no one can be happy if I’m not’ thing. I just want to breathe fire, that’s all I ask,” he pleads with me, trying to reason with me. He’s failing. I will not be swayed on this. He’s acting as if it’s no big deal with his ‘that’s all I ask’ wording.
Like brother like sister, he suddenly grabs my shoulders to whine some more at me, “Just let me breathe fire! Please, Aqueela!”
I run both my hands through my hair in aggravation, ”Look, Troy,” I say through clenched teeth, “it’s not my fault that you’re not a fire-breathing dragon, alright?”
“Yes, it is! You always crush my hopes and dreams,” he complains with an unsatisfied pout, pinning all the blame on me. Where’s Grey when you need him?
“Besides,” I add, “terrible things always happen when we combine fire and...you. Trust me, you do not want a lawsuit on your hands,” I advise, “and I say that not as a lawyer.”
Benley sends me a glare for stealing his line before shaking his head at me in disapproval.
“You’re not a lawyer?” Troy asks me in surprise, shocked by the revelation.
Benley slaps his forehead in frustration at our stupidity. “I can’t deal with you people right now,” he says before retreating back to the kitchen to see how AJ’s coping, obviously not having enough patience to take on the rest of us.
Troy huffs in defeat, throwing his fire sticks onto the floor before storming off angrily, a march in his step to add emphasis on the angry part.
I sigh and pick up the heavy sticks from the floor.
“What’s his problem?” Jay asks me as he stops to chat for a second. He notices the sticks in my hands and raises a questioning eyebrow. “Need help with that?” he asks with an amused grin and then takes them from me before I can even answer.
“Thanks,” I smile at him appreciatively. “So Ryland?” I break the lingering silence with a question, still curious as to how the name came about.
“Give me a break,” he chuckles. “When you mentioned kids, my thoughts jumped to Ryan and Landon because I know both don’t want any kids. You put me on the spot,” he shrugs in explanation, “so I just combined the names and formed Ryland.” He pauses, “Now I kind of like it.”
“Yeah?” I laugh, amused myself.
“Yeah,” he nods in confirmation.
We share a smile but are interrupted by the sound of his phone ringing once again.
He sends me an apologetic expression as he places the sticks under one arm before answering his phone. “Yeah man, what’s up?” he asks the person on the other side of the line. He listens for a while and then frowns. ”Dean, buddy, I’ve explained to you how to get here like a billion times. I’ve sent you the address and everything. How are you still lost?”
I stifle a grin twitching at the corner of my lips. This is so expected and typical of Dean Wyatt. The guy’s a real idiot sometimes.
Jay sighs at Dean’s apparent suggestion. “Fine, tell me where you are and I’ll come and get you. At this rate, you’ll be here after the bride.” He groans in despair after listening some more. ”Dean, what do you mean you don’t know where you are? I can’t fetch you if you don’t know where you are.” He listens again before scoffing, “No, I’m pretty sure you’re not anywhere near Miami.”
Nope, I take it back, he’s an idiot all the time.
“I’m getting Landon. He can deal with your logic,” Jay tells Dean before sending me another apologetic face as he heads out in search of Landon - the only guy who speaks Dean’s language.
“Hey, Aqueela,” Emma greets me out of her own, sending me a warm smile. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss her friendly smiles. She was mad at me for quite some time, but luckily that’s all in the past now.
Surprised that she initiated the greeting, I manage a small smile in turn, “Hey.”
“How are you doing?” she asks, trying out some small talk as she attempts to get back on my good terms, despite the fact that I’d never considered her to ever be on my bad terms to begin with.
“Great! Always great!” I hum happily, content with life. “And you?” I question, motioning down to the barely visible baby bump.
She nods, “Good.” She rubs her stomach and frowns, “It’s just the morning sickness I can’t stand, otherwise good.”
“Oh look Em,” Xavier makes an appearance as he ruffles my hair teasingly in acknowledgment, “it’s Kitten.”
I roll my eyes at him and grin up at him playfully, “Hello, you nuisance.”
He grins and places his hand over Emma’s hand - the one resting against her belly.
“And the moving thing?” I query for the sake of not being awkward.
“Xavier’s looking into places, but sometimes I get the feeling that he doesn’t want to go at all,” Emma explains and stares up at him lovingly as if awaiting a confession, but he says nothing in turn as if afraid to admit to it in fear of hurting her.
“So good weather we’re having huh?” Xavier says, he now being the awkward one, hoping the subject would be dropped.
“You know I wouldn’t make you leave if your heart is still set on Minnesota,” Emma tells him earnestly. “I wouldn’t force you into anything you don’t want to do. You know that right?” Emma asks him, doubt lingering in her eyes.
“Em, I’m going to obviously miss my friends, but if this is something you want to do, then I’m all in,” Xavier assures her, the both of them sharing a bittersweet moment knowing that they’d have to say goodbye to Minnesota and its memories soon. “You know that I’d do anything to make you happy,” he assures her in confidence.
“Including greeting Melinda of all people?” Emma places her hands on her hips and glares up at him in jealousy.
“Leban is with her now. I couldn’t just ignore her,” Xavier defends himself.
“You slept with her, so yes you could have,” Emma argues.
I should not have to be here for this.
“So you guys packing yet?” I ask them for the sake of asking, for the sake of surviving their current argument. No one dislikes Melinda and Leban more than me and you don’t see me whining about it. I am in full control of my emotions.
Emma laughs, momentarily forgetting their debate, “You kind of only do that part when you’re certain you’re moving and when you’ve found a definite place to move to. Although I have to admit, it’s gonna be weird without my brother being so close. He raised me, you know. It will be quite a change. I’ll have to adapt.” She smiles up at her husband knowingly, pregnancy memory clearly kicking in, “We both will.”
In secret, Xavier truly loves Landon like a brother. He’ll never ever admit it. He’d rather die first. As for Landon, I can’t be sure that he likes anyone but his sister and Sarah, oh, and my grandparents.
“I will definitely miss you guys,” I say sweetly.
“Us too,” Xavier returns the smile, having a soft spot for the opposite gender. He acts all tough but upset women are his weakness.
“And Jay,” I thoughtfully add.
“Jay?” Xavier raises his eyebrows in confusion. “What do you mean? Where’s he going? Is something happening with him too?”
“I’m uh...” I trail off, faltering in my thoughts and words, “nothing,” I end on a dull note. “I’m going to go and check on Max,” I say quickly and practically sprint away from them.
I successfully escape their budding interrogation. I’m certain that they’d question me on what I’d accidentally let slip about Jay. I just assumed he’d told his friends already. He only has two months to. I figured he’d get a head start, but evidently so, I was mistaken.
I make my way over to Max’s preparation room and enter without first knocking.
“Max!” I hiss in panic when I catch him in the act red-handed.
My eyes just about fall out of my sockets when I spot him casually lounging on the edge of a seat, reading a book whilst still in jeans and high-top sneakers, indifferent to the fact that he’s selling his life away today.
He lifts his face from his book and acknowledges me, “Oh hey you!” he greets with nonchalance, yet contradicts it with enthusiasm.
“What is the matter with you?” I step up to him and knock his red baseball cap, the one that he always wears backward because he thinks it looks cool, right off of his stupid head. “Why aren’t you ready yet?!” I exclaim menacingly. “It’s your wedding day, not paradise sunshine day. Today you start your first day of suffering!”
“Do you know that when you’re trying to be supportive, you’re really only doing the opposite?” Max asks bluntly, frowning up at me in distaste for my famous theory - ‘first the ring, then the suffering’. With Bells, it ought to be just suffering.
I sigh apologetically before changing tactics and approaching him in a calmer manner, “Why aren’t you dressed, Maxy? Talk to me. Cold feet?”
He lifts up his shoe to my face and points downward, “I have socks on. My feet are snug.”
I cross my arms over my chest and send him a flat stare before I yank off his shoe and throw the distraction aside, ”Max,” I coax, “what is going on?”
“It will take me like five minutes to get ready, Aqueela,” he informs me with a roll of his eyes, “so just chill mom.”
“I will hurt you,” I threaten him vindictively.
“I don’t get what you’re all panicky about. Try relaxing a little,” he suggests soothingly, not concerned as to whether this day will be perfect or not.
I hear what he’s saying and so try a different approach on him, “Fine,” I agree. “I’m sorry,” I apologize and elaborate, “it’s your very soon-to-be wife that’s making me like this. She’s making me nervous and anxious. It feels like I’m the one getting married over here and I’m far from ready for it.”
Max chuckles, “Just a tip, I’ve discovered that agreeing with her on everything really helps...” he hesitates in thought, “well unless she says she looks fat,” his eyes widen in warning, “then do not agree, whatever you do, do not agree,” he finishes, adding emphasis on the ‘not’ as if having experienced it himself.
I laugh and then change the subject, hoping to ease his mind before the wedding, “What happened to your bachelor party? I didn’t take you for one to cancel that sort of thing,” I admit aloud, still curious about what exactly went down. Benley and Jam were going to be invited to both the bachelor and bachelorette party.
“Let’s face it, Troy was going to go all out and probably invite like a million strippers - knowing him, magicians too, no doubt. I just didn’t and don’t feel up to that stuff anymore, not when I have Bell and not when I have had kids with her,” Max explains himself, his mature choices coming to light. He’s aging lamely and boringly - so, badly.
I nod, “Considering that this is coming from a guy that always wears his caps backward, your life is now running smooth forwards,” I end with a teasing grin.
“I’m not sure that wording makes sense,” Max grins mockingly. He then comes out with it and confesses, “I don’t have cold feet about the wedding, it’s just...Bell’s family hates me. I got her knocked up and they’ve yet to let that go. They think I’m just marrying her because I have kids with her.”
“Don’t worry,” I reassure him, offering him some support, “in my speech I will mention just how much you love her.”
“Oh no,” he shakes his head profusely, “we talked about this, you’re not allowed to give any speeches of any kind, not after your speech at Emma and Xavier’s wedding.”
I pout in dismay, “Fine.”
He still has the audacity to ask me for a favor, “Listen, could you please check if Sarah’s got the triplet ready? She offered to see to them, promised Bells to dress them appropriately, and I just want to know whether she lived up to Bell’s expectations or I’m already a dead man walking.”
I salute him playfully, “On it!” I pause in my steps and call over my shoulder before exiting the room, “Get ready because if I come back here and you’re still in sneakers, I will throw you to the wolves, that being Bells herself.”
“On it!” I hear him call back to me.
I smile in satisfaction and head for the room where I know Sarah currently is.
“Hey, Sarah,” I greet politely. I then do as Max asked of me and take a look at the triplet all dressed up nice and classy, “Oh you did such a fantastic job, they all look so cute!” I ‘aww’ at the sight of them.
“Thank you,” a smile spreads across her lips.
Rhys immediately holds out his arms for me upon seeing me, all the while gurgling and talking gibberish. Sarah smiles again and hands the overly eager baby to me. I take him from her and plant a kiss atop his head, admiring the little tux Sarah has him dressed in. He reaches up to touch my face and I can’t help but giggle at his cuteness.
“I thought you disliked babies, toddlers, kids in general really,” Mason remarks from the doorway, puzzled at the sight of me with Rhys.
I shrug and explain, “That was ‘high school Aqueela’.” I raise an eyebrow at him, “You want to hold him?” I motion down the little friendly one wrapped up in my arms and love.
He begins to shake his head, “I don’t think that’s a good ide-”
I hand him Rhys before he can object further.
“Hey, little guy,” Mason says awkwardly as he holds Rhys away from his frame, some distance away from him entirely. Even so, Rhys still smiles and drools happiness.
I laugh at how uncomfortable Mason seems. I can relate as I was like that at first.
“Loosen up Mas, he doesn’t bite...much. You can hold him against your chest, you know?” I grin teasingly, hoping to reassure him that it’s okay - that it’s okay Bells is getting married today, that it’s okay he chose career over family, that it’s okay to be a little down in the dumps today.
“What’s his name?” Mason asks as he hesitantly shifts Rhys so that he’s holding the baby closer to his torso.
“‘Aqueela the Great the Second’,” I answer him immediately, with conviction too.
Mason glances to quiet, peaceful Sarah instead, “What’s his real name?”
“Rhys,” she laughs lightly.
I pick up Blanche and Melby next, only to see that they’re both in blush pink dresses - as requested by their mother - with adorable flower headpieces. Bell’s color theme happens to be blush pink...poor Max, not that he seems to care much anyway.
“You two look so precious!” I fawn over the girls in joy. “You girlies are going to be lookers just like your mommy,” I talk to them just as Blanche starts crying. I quickly hand them both back to Sarah, still afraid of the babies that cry mercilessly. If I have a child, he’d better be like Rhys. If it’s a girl, she’d better be like Rhys too.
“I hope you know, Squirt, that I’ll be walking down the aisle with Jelly Bean in my arms,” Troy appears beside Mason in the doorway. He’s clearly still mad at me about the whole ‘no fire’ rule.
“No way,” I argue, “I’m walking down with Rhys. I forbid you from even trying to pull a fast one on me.”
Sarah sends me an apologetic stare, “Bells asked that the little boy is held by the giant boy known as the best man,” she motions to Troy mockingly, “and that the girls be held by the beautiful woman who happens to be the maid of honor,” she points over to me, purposely flattering me with a compliment as to keep me from complaining.
Landon scored himself an intelligent yet sly one.
Troy sticks a tongue out at me in response to her words, “Huh! Suck on that loser!” He fails to notice that Sarah insulted him and practically just called him childish and immature.
“Fine,” I groan in defeat, submissively. I don’t want Bells after me. I want to live!
“Hey!” Troy snatches Rhys from Mason’s arms, only noticing Mason’s presence now, “Don’t you dare!”
Mason sighs miserably. I send him a smile and hold out Melby to him, hoping to cheer him up and lift his spirits, even if it’s ever so slightly. He shakes his head, sending me a faint half-smile before leaving the room.
I glare up at Troy as soon as Mas is out of hearing distance, “Eee-dee-ot!”
“Have you created a secret language without me?” Troy whines, not clicking.
I roll my eyes at his absurd assumption - like I’d ever create a secret language with him of all people. “Where’s the rings?” I ask him. I’d given him the rings because Max insisted that Rhys be the ringbearer. Seeing as Troy was to hold Rhys from the beginning, I stupidly gave him the responsibility of keeping the rings safe.
“What rings?” Troy questions, feigning confusion, still within his moon boot. He has two weeks left. Fortunately, Max’s fractured toes have healed.
“Troy, I swear, if you lost them-”
“I lost them.”
I place a hand over my mouth in shock before shoving him out of the room, “You better go and find the rings right now! I don’t care if you search high and low, you just find them. If you don’t, you’ve already got your own grave waiting for you!” I threaten him. “Your number one priority is to find them!”
“It’s not my fault. Oog stole them when I broke it to him that Bells doesn’t want ‘The Dung Beatles’ playing at all tonight, especially not as the wedding band. This is all in spite of what Max said. Max just didn’t want to offend Gland, that’s the only reason why he agreed to them in the first place,” Troy explains himself.
“Where is he now?” I ask in a hurry seeing as the time for the wedding to begin is nearing rapidly.
“He disappeared up into the vents about an hour ago. Haven’t seen him since,” Troy explains in nonchalance, unfazed, as if this isn’t a big deal at all. “The others are still in hiding too. Haven’t seen Gland or Jam.”
“Then get up into the vents and find Oog now!” I shout, aggravated that he isn’t even being accountable for his endless list of mistakes.
“Oh, I wish I could Aqueela, I really wish I could, but you see...” he motions down to his moon boot in a matter-of-fact way.
“Then get Goku, I mean Kyle, to do it. He’s nice enough,” I suggest, in search of reliable people who will get the job done. “If you don’t, say goodbye to your other foot!” I threaten him venomously a second time.
“I refuse to be trapped inside an enclosed space with Oog. I go up there and I’ll never come back down,” Troy insists with fear and rightly so. “I’ll get Simo to do it,” he informs me insensitively as he makes an attempt to leave the room, “no one will miss him.”
“If anything, Simo will get stuck in the vents,” I say irritably.
Also, he’s incapable of successfully completing a task. He won’t be able to take on Oog and win. It’s impossible. Hell, no one even knows where Simo is. Benley hid him and Blubber away for their own safety.
“Just go!” I shoo Troy away, unable to be in his presence a second longer.
“Aqueela,” Sarah calls quietly, “the baby,” she reminds me.
I send her a thankful smile for the reminder.
I yank Troy back by his arm before he can kidnap Rhys, “The baby, Troy," I say, narrowing my eyes at him in warning.
“Oh yeah,” Troy, forgetful, hands Rhys back to Sarah before turning back to me, “just a heads up, I will perform my fire dance whether you approve or not. I will breathe fire on this wedding and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
He leaves before I get a chance to break his other foot.
“I’m telling you, this wedding is going to be a complete disaster and I’m going to laugh it up,” Landon, the pessimist of our group, enters the room, obviously having been in search of his girlfriend.
“Lan,” Sarah scolds him, “don’t always be so negative.”
“He’s never negative when with my grandparents,” I point out, making my presence known as he finally acknowledges me with an impish grin. I glance from him to Sarah accusingly, “Kaleela? Really?” I shake my head for emphasis on my disappointment in the both of them.
“I only put up with her for him,” Sarah defends herself and gestures to Landon.
“I only put up with her for them,” Landon tries to justify it in reference to my grandparents as ‘them’.
“Why do you love my grandparents so much?” I interrogate him. “It boggles my mind. I don’t understand it.”
“Me neither,” Sarah sighs as if Landon’s frequent visits to my grandparents have been bothering her for some time now.
“When I’m with them, I’m home,” is his pathetic answer.
“Oh my word,” I gape in astoundment, “you’re literally insane.”
He grins in ease, deflecting the insult, “I’ve heard worse.”
“Did you talk to Dean?” I ask, giving up on the current topic. Bells will freak if any of her invited and uninvited guests miss her wedding.
“Yeah...he’s probably going to miss the wedding,” Landon says, uncaring. “I have no idea where he is. He’s convinced that he is somewhere in Miami.”
I drop the subject for another, “Listen, Lan, you know you’re the man, so I’m asking you if you can please surround Troy with guards in order to prevent him from starting a fire. You’re the best at putting fires out. You could have a legit career in it. Carry a fire extinguisher around if you have to, just make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid, which he will undoubtfully try. I’m convinced of it. He’s as stupid as he is deceptive and cunning.”
“You got it,” Landon agrees as he heads out in search of Troy who happens to be in search of Simo who will happen to be in search of Oog for the rings.
I follow him out and head down the aisle.
I pass down in between the pews only to be stopped by a sultry, flirty voice, “Why hello there,” I turn to see Laiken spread across one of the pews, his head flopping just over the edge of the seat as he hangs half upside down, “how you doin’?” he says in a deep voice, lifting his head to meet my gaze before dropping it again to smirk to himself. He lets out a low, suggestive whistle as he stares downwards, “Great legs.”
"Laiken,” I reprimand, grabbing him by the ear as I drag him upwards into a seated position.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!” he whines like a two-year-old.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” Susie, the chosen flower girl, huffs as she motions over to her wasted brother, “he’s been like this since he got here.”
“Did you seriously come drunk to a wedding?” I question him as I take in his slack appearance. “You smell of alcohol,” I thud him upside the head, “and in front of your sister too,” I reprimand him, putting him in his place.
“I’m love drunk, Law,” he yawns before slurring his words, “I’m in love with my best friend’s girl and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Mason has a girl?” I question, stunned at the revelation.
“My other best friend’s girl,” Laiken changes his wording, correcting himself.
“Mia?” I ask and he nods lazily, a stupid grin on his face. “But you didn’t even know who she was like a week ago!” I protest in disbelief.
“But now that I do, I am in love!” he argues back as if truly believing it.
“I’ll deal with him,” Mason reassures me as he gets Laiken up onto his feet. “I’ll handle this, I’ll handle him.”
Beyond stressed, I turn to Susie to see her arguing with Blubber:
“I don’t care if you put on a dress and wear heels, you are not going to take this from me! For the last time, you can’t be the flower girl!” Susie yells at him as if infuriated - no doubt that she is.
“Oh please, Susie, please!” he begs. “I need this. I feel unfilled. I need to be walking down that aisle with you. We can both be flower girls. Just let me walk you down the aisle!”
If Laiken were sober, he’d flip out.
“I’m storming away from you now!” Susie shouts at him in exasperation, giving up with his insistent nagging.
“I’m storming away with you!” Blubber follows after her like some lovesick puppy, currently resembling Laiken in nature.
“No, you’re not! Go away!” Susie stops to slap him on his arm.
“Don’t hit me!” he complains just as she whacks him again. “Owe Susie!” he complains and then hits her back on the arm. “I don’t like tough love!”
“Did you just smack me?” Susie gasps and begins to hit Blubber repeatedly.
One thing leads to another and soon I’m witnessing a catfight with hands flaying and flapping all over the place.
Susie shoves Blubber so hard that he trips and hits the floor with a loud thud.
“Fine,” I hear him groan in defeat, “you win, you can be the flower girl.”
I would punish him for eating the cake, but it seems he’s been punished enough.
“I’ll handle that too,” Mason assures me with a wince, feeling for me and the predicament I’m in. Landon is right, this wedding is going to be a full-blown disaster.
I nod at him, grateful, before making my way over to check on where Troy is at getting the rings back.
I happen to walk past Grey and notice that he’s lit yet another cigarette as if stressed himself, in spite of the fact that he hasn’t lifted a single finger to help. I scowl at him and angrily whack the cigarette out of hands before stalking off, ignoring his annoyed expression as he lifts his hands up as if to say ’what the hell did I do now?’. I’m taking my fury out on him and he’d better just handle all my frustration...or else.
So much for one of my many second in commands...
I only stop when I hear his irritated tone of voice, “Nice going, Lawson. Burn the vows while you’re at it.”
I spin back around to face him, “What are you talking about?”
He gestures down to the table where the fancy pieces of paper are now in flames, his cigarette lying atop them. “I was in charge of the vows,” he explains himself, “and you just hit my cigarette onto the table where they were lying.” He motions to the table’s surface, “Even charred the wood as well. You’re so stupid.”
“You’re stupid!” I hiss at him in panic, more annoyed at myself than at him. “Put out the fire!” I command bossily.
“With what, Lawson?!” he raises his tone back at me as if now riding on my emotions alone, “My hand?!”
“Yes!” I shout back, “If that’s what it takes, then make the sacrifice!”
“Why don’t you?!” he yells back. “You go ahead and burn your hand off!”
“Maybe I will!” I insist, refusing to back down now.
“Great, see if I care!” he replies back in determination.
“Fine!” I huff angrily.
"Fine!” he snaps back at me.
Tired of arguing or whatever it is we’re doing, on impulse, I reach forward to grab the fiery papers, but before I can, Grey quickly swats my hand away, acting on swift reflexes, “Are you crazy woman?! You’ll burn yourself!” he warns, taken up in my hype.
“I thought you didn’t care!” I call back loudly, manipulating. I’m hoping he’ll just use his brain and find a way to put the fire out somehow. Chemical engineers...good for nothing.
“I don’t!” he repeats, sticking to his guns.
“Then you shouldn’t care if I do this!” I reach forward, over him, for the paper yet again.
Grey picks up the burning paper himself so that I have no choice but not to. He curses beneath his breath in pain as he lifts the paper into the air where I cannot reach it. Just as he does so, as if smelling out the fire, Landon appears with his fire extinguisher (he took me seriously on that one) and puts out the fire, freezing Grey’s hand in the substance.
“Why is everyone yelling?!” Landon yells.
“Why are you yelling?!” I yell back at him frantically.
“Because you guys are yelling!” he yells a second time.
“There was a fire!” I yell again.
“Not anymore!” Landon yells, his temperamental side coming back in full-fledged force.
“Stop yelling!” Grey shouts out in agony as he cradles his burnt hand to his chest.
“Sorry,” Landon and I apologize simultaneously.
Landon mumbles to himself irritably, “You save the day and don’t even get a simple ‘thank you’.”
“I swear the fire was not me this time,” Troy states calmly as he strolls on by with the fire guards armed around him, “just ask my groupies,” he boastfully grins at the guards that were assigned to him by Landon, thinking them to be his fans or paparazzi.
“Where are the rings?” I question him.
Troy stops short to give me his time of day in spite of thinking himself to be a celebrity, “I think I need be inform you,” he grins to himself, “that sounded professional,” he gets back on track, “that Simo is stuck in the vents just like you predicted. Oh, and by the sounds of things, Oog is either really hungry or Simo is definitely being mauled.”
My right eye twitches in aggravation upon hearing the news, but I’m too concerned with Grey’s ordeal to care right now, especially when I hear him let out a low groan of pain. I turn back to him, giving him my full attention as I cautiously and carefully take his hand into mine to see that a small section of his skin is all raw and blistery.
“Oh my goodness, Grey! This looks awful! I’m so so so sorry,” I apologize in sincerity. “You burned your hand for me. That is the sweetest thing you’ve ever done for me. You do have a soul!” I chirp excitedly, but by the same token, I try to be sensitive and offer sympathy and comfort to him during this literal painful moment.
“Stop touching me!” he pulls his hand away from me to glower down at me in pure fury.
“I’m really sorry,” I apologize a second time, feeling extremely guilty and responsible for his excruciating pain.
“Let me check that out,” Nancy, our personal nurse, offers her services freely to Grey. She has a soft spot for him. Concerned, she takes him by the arm and leads him away.
He turns back to glare at me accusingly. I wink at him suggestively and glance at Nancy with a waggle of my eyebrows. As expected, he catches on and pulls a finger at me before the two of them disappear out of my view.
“Drama!” Ryan’s shrill, taunting voice breaks the heavy silence.
“Are you not going to help with anything at all?” I ask, knowing full well that Ryan has a knack for getting out of work. He managed to escape even my grandparents...well before Grams smashed his car to smithereens, that is.
He pretends to think about it, “Um...no.”
“Why not?” I ask him, inquisitive to hear his excuse.
“Because I don’t want to,” he answers as he continues to play games on his dumb iPad. I guess that excuse is fitting. I envy his bluntness.
I sigh softly to myself, worried and dreading this wedding.
“Woah,” I hear a voice from behind me before Jay comes into view, “what’s the matter?”
I use both my hands to talk as I start my panicked ramble, “I burned the vows and Grey’s hand, Simo’s stuck in a vent with Oog, Max won’t get dressed, Zac and Mia are at it again, Laiken’s wasted, Mason is miserable, Bells keeps yelling at me, Keagen is stressed, I think Ramos will suffer serious head injuries tomorrow, the rings are missing no thanks to Troy and so is the original band, Oog wants to eat Simo, the cake’s been eaten by Simo, I’m pretty certain Oog has the rings, ‘The Dung Beatles’ are in hiding, Susie might kill Blubber, Benley’s a lawyer, Ryan’s more useless than Grey, Sarah is awesome, AJ wants to cook FeeBee, Landon is actually being helpful for once, Dean’s in Miami and Bells is on her period, and I-”
Jay grabs my hands in his own and stops me right there. “Hey listen, I’ll take care of all of it, okay?” he assures me in an act to comfort me, intertwining my fingers with his. He glances down at our joined hands. “Your hands are shaking,” he points out quietly.
“Sorry,” I flinch back and apologize, “I’m just stressing out and the feeling is new to me.”
He lifts his eyes to mine and meets my anxious gaze once again, “I’ll send Kyle and Xavier up into the vents to get the rings, Oog and Simo. I’m sure Keagen has sorted the band stuff out. I’ll personally talk to Max. I’m sure that all the injured people will be okay too. I know there’s got to be a second copy of the vows. I will take of care everything, I promise...” he hesitates and releases my one hand to scratch the back of his neck with his free hand, “well except for the last one, I think you’d better handle that one,” he concludes as if uncomfortable with the topic.
“You don’t have to-”
“Just relax,” he ends as he begins to busy himself with everything that I’d just been busy with.
He must pull through for me in the end, because soon enough, things begin to fall into place.
Max makes his way, fully dressed and looking confident, to the front of the church. The guests begin to fill in and take to the pews.
Grey’s back with a bandaged hand, yet still taking the liberty to pull out another cigarette as if he needs it. I don’t miss stressed out Keagen begging him for a smoke too, selling his pride away. Grey denies him just as Nancy takes the cigarette box out of his hands and throws it away. Grey clenches his hand into a fist upon having his cigarettes taken from him a second time.
A few minutes pass and still no bride in sight. It’s an hour later when we all begin to grow impatient. I get that brides can be late, but Bells is taking it overboard.
It’s just a pity that Gland and Jam are still missing. They’re going to miss the wedding if they don’t come out of hiding soon. They won’t because their leader, Oog, has told them not to. Oog is not all pleased that his band will not be performing today - Jay made it explicitly clear to him. In Oog’s eyes, Jay’s no longer ‘Jaykie’.
Eventually, the bride enters and makes her way to the front. It’s odd because Troy and I weren’t given our cue yet, nor has Susie skipped and pranced along down the aisle glittering it with flowers as of yet.
The music begins playing, the right band here, as Bells slowly makes her way up to Max. The rest of us involved hang back, too scared to interfere in the fact that Bells might want it to go down like this.
The church doors slam open as Dean enters with Bex as his date. He snaps his fingers in dismay upon seeing that the bride is already here, “Aww dammit! Again?!”
I guess it’s not the first wedding he’s been late to.
“Why?” Benley asks quietly before hitting his head repeatedly against the pew in front of him.
The lady turns around to see Benley hurting himself. She glances to AJ for an explanation, “Is your boyfriend alright there?”
AJ shakes her head before whispering in turn, “Nah-uh, never has been.”
I zone out of their conversation just as Bells stops in front of Max. He wastes no time in lifting the veil of his bride to see her face. He gives out a loud shout of terror when the face comes into view, “Oh no! It’s happening! My nightmare is coming to life!”
It’s then that we all see where Jam has been hiding the entire time...