Present Day, Winter 2019
The first snowfall of Winter had started. Luna pulls up the collar of her black coat, all the way over her earlobes.
She stares at the entrance of the hall. The venue was vast and immaculate. The architecture straight out of a medieval historical drama. She half expected the Queen’s Guard to pop up behind the concrete pillars.
She treads unsteady as she makes her way up the flight of steps. The 5-inch heels of her burgundy peep toe, t-strap stilettos clattering against the concrete. Echoing against the crisp night air.
The rustic double wooden doors with ornate hinges fit perfectly with the exterior of the building. She pushes open the heavy door, steps inside.
It felt as though she had stepped inside a fairytale. A live orchestra playing in the background, crockery clinking as they’re being moved along, laughter and chatter from the guests. Soft light adding a necessary warmth to the enormous interior.
As Luna stepped into the main area of the hall, she looks up. Her eyes widen at the colossal crystal chandelier at the center of the high ceiling.
“Good evening ma’am” a young girl with fiery red hair walks up to her, “May I check your coat?”
Her teeth were almost as blinding as the lights of the chandelier.
Luna nods quietly, slipping out of her coat.
She was nervous enough going to this engagement party and didn’t feel like being the odd one at the ball. So, she bought a new dress for the occasion. In hindsight, she was second-guessing her decision now. Seeing all the bright, shimmering fabrics around.
She landed on a black tea-length long-sleeved cocktail dress. The sleeves made up of lace, the embroidered bodice also had a lace-covered sheath across the chest. Black tulle flowing from the waist down to just below her knees. A black satin ribbon tied around her middle.
Her wavy hair side-swept over her right shoulder. Finishing the look with her favorite lip color, Forbidden Fuchsia.
Jason sneaks up on her, as she takes in all her fabulous surroundings.
“You know you’re not supposed to upstage the bride, right?” he leans in and whispers. He holds out a flute of champagne.
Luna smiles, nervously “Jase… good to see a familiar face… amongst this… grandeur…”
“It is a bit… much… right?”
She shrugs, taking a sip of champagne to settle the nerves.
He urges her with a push of the elbow, “Come on… they have the best hors d’oeuvres”
She stumbles further into the room. “Easy…”
“Leo is living his best life right now… and you’re the first friendly face.”
“Where’re your sisters and parents… your brother?”
“Around… and… nitpicking, hiding, mingling and stressed…”
“Cooper is stressed?”
“Ha! I don’t even need to spell anything pertaining him out to you…”
“Should I go talk to him? Or should I talk to Hannah first? What do I say to Hannah?”
“Hors d’oeuvres Lunabeam… the rest will follow”
“Okay, lead the way.”
Jason finally flags down a cater waiter holding a tray of hors d’oeuvres. Luna cautiously picks up a mushroom-olive bruschetta, takes a tinier bite.
Jason loads up his cupped hand with a few options. The mushroom-olive bruschetta; the crab and avocado; tuna and red pepper mousse.
“Thanks bud, will find you on the refill” he winks
Luna shakes her head. She turns to face the crowd of people. She barely recognized any of them.
“Who are all these people?”
“Work colleagues, past and present… her family, extended family, anyone basically in her lineage”
She tilts her head, glancing at him out the corner of her eyes.
“I may not survive this marriage”
“Well it’s a good thing you’re not the one needing to do anything for this marriage”
“She’s not you Luna!”
“… from Marketing”
Luna smiles, “Cooper doesn’t like that we call her that… you might want to go with just Hannah?”
“I call you Lunabeam, and that’s not your name!”
“That’s because the nickname is endearing. ‘From marketing’ sounds like she’s just one of the many out there, that you’d have to give a specific to remember her.” Luna takes another tiny bite of the bruschetta.
Luna’s breath snags in her chest when she looks up to find Cooper and Hannah approaching.
Hannah looks stunning in her wine-red evening dress, the chiffon flowing from the embroidered bodice down to the floor.
Suddenly Luna became nervous, her mouth dry and her cheeks flush. She looks to the floor, wishing it would open to an abditory just for her. She takes another sip of champagne, to find the flute near empty. She grabs Jason’s flute and downs the champagne in one go. A confused Jason looks at her and then follows her eyeline.
“I don’t think I’m ready for this interaction Jase…”
Cooper and Hannah were now standing in front of them.
“Hello” Hannah smiles, her teeth immaculately white as well. Frown lines set between Luna’s eyes.
“Hey Lu…” Cooper adds, smiling nervously. “You’ve met Hannah…”
“Of course, we’ve met silly” Hannah playfully slaps at Cooper’s forearm.
Hannah moves closer, stiffly wrapping her arms around Luna. Luna squeezes her eyes shut, cautiously hugging her back.
“How are you Luna?” she steps back, flattening her dress with her palms. As though the hug that she initiated somehow could’ve ruined it.
“I’m…” cottonmouth still, she clears her throat, “…I’m good”
Luna nods and shakes her head at the same time. She rolls her eyes, inhales a deep breath.
“You look amazing” Luna says more confidently.
“Thank you” Hannah twirls around, “My friend…” she holds her hand up to her mouth, to indicate it’s a secret, “… who’s working for a famous designer…”
She cackles at her own revelation. “… she designed and made it for me… special… just for the occasion. How great is that?”
“… great” Luna parrots.
Cooper wipes at his brow, shuffling uncomfortably. He settles on shoving his hands in the pockets of his black slacks.
Hannah purses her lips, seemingly annoyed at Cooper’s reaction.
“Hon’ you know I hate when you do that…”
She reaches for his wrist, pulling his hand from his pocket. He reluctantly removes the other hand out of her sight as well, letting out a heavy sigh.
Luna hated seeing Cooper being treated like a petulant child. But it was not her place to comment.
“Are you guys enjoying the party?” Hannah asks, a smile plastered on her lips.
“The hors d’oeuvres are amazing…” Jason mentions between bites.
“Aren’t they the best?”
A lady in presumably her early forties walks over. She wore a lavender pant suite, blonde hair pulled back in a tight bun. Her make-up immaculate and done with precision, not too bold but you could tell it had been applied.
“Sorry to interrupt the happy couple…”
Jason snorts, nearly choking on his crab and avo. Luna elbows him.
Cooper looks at him with disdain.
“No interruption Magdalena. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing Miss Abbot. The photographer would just like to get a few shots of you two by the fountain.”
“The fountain?” Luna mouths to Jason.
He shrugs, looking sadly at his now empty hand. He cranes his neck to find a cater waiter.
“Of course!” Hannah exclaims, turns her focus back to Luna and Jason, “If you’ll excuse us… being a host… am I right?”
Again, she cackles at what she thought to be a humorous one-liner.
She weaves her arm around Cooper’s and leads him off in the direction Magdalena was heading.
Cooper looks over his shoulder at Luna. His face relaxes when Luna smiles back at him.
After the photoshoot at the fountain, which led to candid shots of the happy couple with their guests, and then another photoshoot at the entrance outside – Cooper heads to the bar and asks the bartender for any beer on tap. The bartender slides across the tulip glass filled to the brim with beer.
“Thanks buddy” Cooper takes a sip, foam clinging to his top lip. He flicks his tongue across.
Luna stands next to him, her palms flat on the surface of the counter. She smiles at the barman.
“Jack and Coke, single… please”
“Coming right up gorgeous”
Cooper gives the barman the side-eye. Luna giggles.
She turns to face him, resting her forearm on the counter now.
“This is pretty fancy shit, Cooper Thindrel”
He lowers his head, embarrassed. He chuckles. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing Lu… I just know to keep Hannah happy, for my own sanity…”
She sits down on the barstool next to him, carefully crossing her legs. Not to expose in the fluffy skirt of her dress.
The barman returns with Luna’s drink.
“Thank you” she smiles coyly
“My pleasure” he winks before tending to another guest.
Cooper raises his eyebrows, “This fucking guy…did he really just wink at you?”
Luna takes a sip of her drink.
He looks her up and down. “You look really pretty tonight”
She looks across at him, her lips in a straight line but her eyes were smiling.
“Nothing compared to Hannah’s red dress… she’s a knockout”
He nods, staring blankly ahead.
He narrows his eyes, “You can see it right? I mean, Hannah and I”
Luna swallows hard, takes a sip and nods enthusiastically.
“Ma keeps asking me if I’m sure… like whenever next she’d ask; I’d have a different answer. That’s weird, right?”
“She’s your mom… she just wants you to be happy. They all do.”
“It’s like they’d expect every girl I’m with to be like you…”
“I don’t think Hannah and I are that different… I mean she likes you; I like you… liked you…” she needlessly corrects herself. This gets a smile from Cooper.
“You two are nothing alike… Han is the girl that leans into being taught something, being mansplained to… you hate that sort of thing!”
“Not always… I can play along…”
“We were playing pool once and I quote, you said ‘If you even dare try to pull one of those douchebag moves… coming up behind me and motion how to hold the cue coz God forbid I’d be dumb enough to play without this knowledge… I will punch you in the nose.’ End quote!”
“I did say that…” she laughs, “… I am a piece of work”
“I always said you were fearless and honest to a fault. There is no one more authentic and genuine than you”
“Well…” she traces her finger along the rim of the glass, “if we’re trading compliments… there’s no one more caring, selfless and compassionate than you”
He zones his focus on the glass in front of him but couldn’t hide his smile.
“You’ll be fine Coop, you always are. And you’re the most loving partner ever, so being someone’s husband won’t be any different. Hannah is a lucky girl.”
“How are you so graceful doing this? I mean, if I were at your engagement party… I’d have cussed out your guy about a dozen times, given him the third degree and how he should be treating you right… I’d be losing my shit”
“I know you… I trust you. So whatever decisions you make, I’d know you’d have not done so lightly. And most of all, I want you to be happy.”
“I want that for you too…”
She nods, “and I’ll get there, I promise. I just need to start looking at the world through a different lens… kind of like the lens you always see me through.”
He seems genuinely surprised.
Luna smiles, “You always saw me as way more than I ever did. You didn’t see a scared, defensive, broken, brute of a girl. You saw a fighter, never a survivor but a warrior. You didn’t look at my walls and thought ‘Oh my God, this is so much work’, you peeked around the corner and offered a helping hand to take them down brick by brick… at my own pace, in my own time. I’ve always loved the way you look at me, the way you made me feel. So yeah… I want to see myself as you did. I want to love myself the way that you loved me, completely and without condition.”
“I’m so proud of you”
“I guess I’m proud of me too, but there’s a lot of work to be done. This is all just words right now. Lip Service. That’s why I’m going to look up my birth parents, work my way from there.”
“That’s amazing Lu!”
She folds her hands in her lap, pensive look across her face.
“I don’t know what exactly I’m walking in to… so I’m trying to keep my expectations low…” she chuckles, “… lower than they already are…”
He reaches out, clasps his hand around hers.
“You’ll be fine… I could…”
She interjects, “No Coop… I have to do this on my own. And plus, you have… a lot… on your plate.”
He lowers his gaze, eyelashes gently resting on his upper cheeks. His rosy lips curve up into a smile, as he looks up and meets her gaze.
“You don’t need me anymore huh?”
“I wouldn’t go turning in your cape just yet superhero…” she unlocks her intertwined fingers and takes his hand in hers, “Besides, you have a new damsel in distress Prince Charming.”
He laughs, “Funny you should mention… had a chuckle the other day, sat at the piano and played some Disney tunes again…”
“Phwha…” she holds a hand up to her chest, exaggerating the response, “You sang her Disney songs, is nothing sacred Thindrel”
He tosses his head back laughing, takes a swig of his beer.
“… anyway…” he teases
“You sang Beauty and the Beast, and she let you…” Luna shakes her head
“And she liked it!”
They share a moment of unadulterated laughter.
“Okay, I take it back! We are nothing alike!”Cooper’s laughter settles into a smile. He knew that to be fact. Hannah and Luna were nothing alike. In his mind, Luna was incomparable. Realization settled on his face. For the first time the thought manifested in his mind. Why was he marrying Hannah?