Chapter 1: The Wedding
I hated flowers.
I glanced at the people clicking beautiful pictures on the fully decorated photo booth at one corner—exclusively decorated with pink and white roses, according to today’s wedding theme color. How could people adore flowers so much—that too roses? Anyway, it was none of my business.
“Zinnia, dear,” I heard a familiar female voice calling me from behind, so I turned to face the person, putting on a bright smile on my face. “You did a wonderful job. Everyone is complimenting the flowers you chose and designed the place with. So I ended up recommending them your place.”
“Thank you so much, Mrs. Kapoor,” I said politely. “It’s my best friend’s wedding, of course, I had to give my best.”
Mrs. Kapoor gave me a warm smile. “I know that, but dear, why are you addressing me so formally? I told you to call me by my first name.”
“I would, but you know when I get assigned with work, I choose to remain professional until the work is completed.”
She arched an eyebrow. “So you intend to call me by my last name until Kavita’s wedding?”
I nodded, making her chuckle.
“Well, since we are talking about being professional, how about you give me some of your visiting cards so that I can spread around your good work more appropriately as I am extremely pleased with the service I am receiving?”
“That will do,” I responded and took out my phone from the pocket of my jeans, sending the picture of my online visiting card. Mrs. Kapoor’s phone chimed, and she checked it, only to find a text from me. Before she could say something, I said, “You should give this to the guests instead. They might lose the visiting cards, but this online one will be saved in their gallery.”
Mrs. Kapoor laughed out at my words. She placed her hand over my head—this was something they would do as a sign of blessing me, so I didn’t mind. “I am proud of you, Zinnia. Informing the guests through social media didn’t even cross my mind. Now I will promote your shop on all of my social media.”
She glanced at me from head to toe before saying, “Now go and change your clothes. Almost all the people have arrived.”
“Yes, I am just going to check on Kavita once and see if Zara got ready. Then she can keep Kavita company while I check the arrangements for the last time after getting ready,” with that, I walked inside the mansion, leaving the fully decorated lawn, where the wedding was supposed to take place.
I stepped into Kavita’s bedroom, which was swarmed with young girls—Kavita’s cousins who came to the States from India just to attend the wedding. All the pairs of eyes turned to me.
“Girls, let the bride have a breather,” I announced. “Also, I heard the groom’s family will be here shortly so there are some rituals y’all have to perform from the bride’s side, right?”
Her cousins nodded and rushed out of the room.
My eyes went to Kavita, who was decked up fully wearing a white long dress, which was called a lehenga. Her hair was designed with a bun thoroughly, and her makeup was on-point.
Before I could open my mouth to say something, Kavita looked at me and narrowed her eyes. “What took you so long to meet me today?”
I raised my hands in surrender. “I was busy with the arrangements.”
“Where the heck is that Zara?” she inquired.
“She didn’t get ready yet?” I asked, getting confused. As I took my phone to call Zara, the door opened, and a woman appeared with a smile on her lips. She was wearing a light-pink full-sleeve gown along with a designed hijab. She didn’t apply a dark shade of lipstick as she hated applying makeup in the first place.
“I am so sorry, guys,” Zara mumbled, making her way to us.
Kavita crossed her arms against her chest, a frown appearing on her lips. “It’s my big day and my two best friends aren’t by my side. How can I survive this day?”
Zara and I exchanged a look and smiled. Kavita was definitely getting nervous, and as her best friends, we knew we should stay by her side all the time. However, the workload was heavy. It wasn’t easy to organize an Indian wedding in the United States. Moreover, I had to give her relatives the Indian wedding vibe.
Zara was my assistant as I was the event planner by profession.
“Kavita,” I started speaking and making my way to her. “You are looking absolutely gorgeous. You are going to be the bride everyone will be jealous of, trust me. This will be the wedding of the year.”
“Yes,” Zara chimed in. “You have no reason to be nervous. You got this.”
“And if something happens, just show us a sign and we will help you out in a heartbeat,” I reminded Kavita. “You do remember the sign, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she answered with a brief smile.
The three of us crossed two fingers on one hand and showed it to each other, bursting into laughter.
“I can’t believe we fixed this sign since we met the first time,” Zara commented as we laughed for some more. “By the way,” Zara glanced at me and continued, “Now that I am ready, I can stay with Kavita. Go and get ready, Zinnia.”
“Yes, please,” Kavita uttered.
“It will only take me a few minutes, don’t worry you guys. I will just slip into my gown and be done,” I announced and got out of the room, making my way to the guest room where Zara and I were staying together for the wedding.
I was wearing a peach pink, deep V-neck floor-touching gown that flowed smoothly from my waist while my hair was tied into a messy bun with a pencil. I did a very light makeup and applied a nude pink colored lipstick.
Currently, I was standing on the lawn, waiting for the bride to arrive, as Kavita’s relatives were busy with the rituals they had to do with the groom.
Soon enough, the groom sat in his place and the priest started to chant some mantras before calling out the bride. Meanwhile, my eyes wandered around, checking whether everything was perfect or not. The lawn was filled with people.
Everything was going smoothly until my eyes fell on a person, who looked heavily out of place amongst the sea of smiles and happy faces. He was wearing a black mask, looking here and there anxiously.
Not wanting any trouble, I walked toward the man, to be sure whether he was from the groom’s side or not. Because he couldn’t be from the bride’s side, that I was sure of.
The man didn’t notice me as he was standing behind the photo booth decorated with fresh flowers, so I tapped on his left shoulder to get his attention by standing behind him.
He turned to me with a sudden jerk. His hazel eyes showed the sign of momentary fear until they turned into normal with a sigh.
“Oh,” he let out with a husky voice.
I raised my eyebrows. “Oh?”
“You scared me, kid.”
I was offended by his choice of words. Just because I was five feet three inches and he was hella taller than me didn’t mean I was a kid.
“Who are you calling a kid?” I placed my hands over my hips.
He looked at me, amusement lingering in his eyes. “Don’t tell me you aren’t fifteen or sixteen.”
I formed a ball with my fist and said, putting on a smile, “From which side did you come to the wedding? The bride or the groom?”
“The groom,” he uttered without any hesitation.
If he had answered that he was from the bride’s side, I could’ve easily caught his lies. Despite the fact that he said he was from the groom’s side, I was finding it quite hard to believe. My instincts screamed that this person was a danger and I knew my instincts were never wrong.
“I assume you are from the bride’s side?” he inquired, bringing me back from my trance.
I gave a curt nod. “Take off your mask.”
This time, I said sternly, “Take off your mask.”
“You know, this is COVID times, and it’s—” I cut his words short.
“All of us here are vaccinated, and I am the event planner, so I assure you that I can recognize every person who is attending this wedding. I want to see if you are really one of the people on the guest list or not,” I lied bluntly. Of course, I didn’t know who was attending from the groom’s side, though I knew how many people were there. But if this man was lying, he would hesitate to remove his mask.
He chortled, much to my dismay. “Why don’t you ask for my name instead and check it on the guest list?”
“What if you saw the guest list and chose a name of a person who didn’t appear yet for yourself?” I pointed out, which made him arch an eyebrow at me.
“Smart kid, I see.”
I rolled my eyes. “Take off your mask and show me your face.”
He sighed and started opening his mask.
As soon as I saw his face, my eyes widened.