Of Taffeta and Lace
Bella refuses to take part in the planning of her most memorable wedding, and Alice is frustrated to breaking point and has devised an ingenious plan to involve Bella, particularly in choosing the wedding dress. Too bad Bella unwittingly makes the shopping trip, and the boutique attendants, go berserk!
My story for the following prompt posted in twilightathon on LJ: Alice goes shopping (perhaps with Jasper or Rosalie's help?) for the wedding and constantly changes her mind on what to get because Bella's decisions on how she wants the wedding to take place change constantly (thus driving the poor saleswoman insane ;)
1. Of Taffeta and Lace
Rating 4.5/5 Word Count 3694 Review this Chapter
Of Taffeta and Lace
by Marauder by Midnight
I bring the mug of cool lemonade to my lips and pretend to swallow. Years of training has helped me mask my grimace at the sour smell the lemons bring to my nostrils, yet the time will never allow me to part my tightly sealed lips and allow even a trickle of the foul drink into my mouth. I see Edward glance at me with amusement from the couch and pointedly stare at his own cup clasped tensely in his hands.
I lower my glass and smile sweetly at Angela and Ben who have agreed to help Bella with the wedding invitations and keep her subdued while Edward and I do our work. Ben sips idly from his glass while Angela flips through the wedding crafts book she has brought along.
Some lemonade find refuge in the reservoirs of my lips, and I turn my back to our company, as if I am casually looking out the window, to hide my contorted face as my lips pucker at the sourness of this putrid drink.
The grey clouds Forks had seen peeking out from beyond the mountains have rolled directly over us overnight. Though pregnant with its heavy rainfall, I know the downpour will come tonight at the earliest. The usual sounds of the woods surrounding our home are absent, a silent prelude to the music of plinks that is to come.
A perfect day to shop.
Seeing my eager expression, Edward stands up. Bella glowers at him from her spot on the sofa next to Angela. “I suppose we should be leaving now, if we want to beat the rain.” He moves behind Bella and places a kiss on her forehead, almost as a father does to soothe his grumpy daughter. “We’ll be back soon, Bella.”
After waving a goodbye to Ben and giving Angela a tiny wink, I practically skip alongside Edward toward the door, Bella right on our heels. Finally able to seethe unhindered, Bella hisses, “I don’t see why I have to make the invitations alone. It’s your wedding too, Edward. I can’t believe it, but I’ve been putting more effort in this than you have.”
Before Edward can respond and give away our plans, I respond sweetly, “And we will remedy that soon. But Edward has promised Esme a car of her own for her birthday, and that, as you know, is coming up this weekend.” Bella scrutinizes first me then Edward as if she is the one with the power to read minds. I pat her hand reassuringly. “And you’re not alone, Bella. This will be a moment to remember with Angela and Ben. After all, they’re going so far away, and…well…”
That seems to do the trick. Bella’s suspiciousness slowly melts away to apprehension which has now appeared more regularly on her pale face these days. Edward has turned away to open the door so Bella cannot see the blank face he always assumes when he lies.
I kiss Bella’s cheek before following Edward. As I flounce down the steps, I yell back over my shoulder, “Remember, Bella! The more frills and sequins on the invitations, the better!” I laugh when I hear the door slam shut in response.
“Don’t taunt her like that, Alice. She’s already having a hard time as it is.” Edward grimaces at me above my Porsche.
“Relax, Edward,” I chirp, “I don’t see her leaving you at the altar…yet.” I settle myself comfortably in the front seat.
Edward slides behind the wheel. I do not miss the furtive glance he throws to the sitting room window from which I am sure Bella is still watching. He starts the engine and backs the car out of the long driveway, his eyes never leaving the window until I sigh exasperatedly and say, “She won’t disappear if you blink, Edward!”
The drive to Port Angeles is a silent one, except for the aria of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Edward is focused on the task at hand, and one glance at his pursed lips tells me not to distract him. I stare out the window at the scenery zipping past and concentrate on the decisions Bella is making on the wedding. However, the only thing I get from the forty-five-minute drive is that the wedding invitations would be decorated with only glued-on gems and Elmer’s glitter glue. I grimace as Edward pulls into Black Diamond Bridal and make a silent promise to redo all the invitations when Bella goes to bed.
“You’ve had your fun planning your own weddings,” Edward chastises me, “Let Bella have hers.”
I wave him off as I climb out of the car. “She’ll have many more to come. A human girl only has one chance to have the wedding of her dreams.”
He is silent as I dance toward the front entrance, though I can tell he will try to stop me from changing the horrid invitations.
A bell tinkles somewhere when I open the door, and I step lightly in as if dancing to the soft music of its chimes. A willowy middle-aged woman with round spectacles looks up from her bridal magazine behind the counter, smiles a large horse-like smile, and approaches us. Immediately I pull off to the side and whisk out my cell phone, leaving Edward to greet the woman and receive her congratulations.
I dial Angela’s number and wait impatiently for her to pick up. While it rings, the woman glances at me, and I smile as sweetly as I can.
“Angela, it’s Alice,” I say cheerfully, still smiling at the woman who now is staring openly at me. Alice takes in a breath to speak, but I cut her off before she can reveal my identity. “We’re here. Start pulling out the magazines. Flip through them casually with Bella.”
I hear her breath catch with excitement. “Um…should I call you back?”
“No need.” Angela’s question lingers in the air. “Edward and I are just driving around town for appropriate spots to shop, that’s all. I just want Bella to have a good idea of what she wants, and we’ll take her some other time.” I hate having to lie to Angela like this, but involving anymore of us in this scheme would make Bella suspicious.
We say our goodbyes, and I flip my phone shut. The saleswoman, who now resembles a hungry vulture, inches toward me. I smile widely at her, and she hesitates for a fraction of a second, her eyes flickering at my canines. Nevertheless, her salesmanship helps her overcome her animalistic instinct to flee, and she puts out a hand. “Hello! You must be Isabella. Congratulations to you both.” She beams proudly at me and Edward, who has moved beside me, as if she has a personal stake in this wedding.
“No, actually, I’m Alice. Edward’s my brother,” I correct fluidly. “I’m here on behalf of the bride.”
The woman looks startled. “Oh! I’m terribly sorry! It’s just that we usually have the bride herself come in to pick her gown.” The sickly sweet smile on her face never falters, but from Edward’s sudden stillness, I know her impression of Isabella is not the best.
“That’s all right,” I glance at the golden tag pinned neatly on the woman’s cream-colored suit, “Cindy. It’s an honest mistake.” I do not offer the explanation Cindy is obviously waiting for and turn around to survey the boutique. The walls of the small shop are a monochromatic pale shade of pink. At the opposite side of the shop, there is a well-lit niche with mirrors that formed a half-circle. To the side is an archway, covered with a curtain of soft silk, which, I assume, leads to the dressing room.
“Where are the dresses?” Edward asks.
I roll my eyes. Even with our frequent weddings, Edward had, not once, participated in the planning process.
Cindy, however, seems eager to answer Edward’s naïve question. She sidles closer to him and responds, “We keep our dresses in the back in a temperature-moderated storage facility. Safe from the humidity and dust that comes in through the door.” She bats her eyelashes.
Edward, always the gentleman, politely thanks her and slides closer to me.
“Now, first, I have to ask. What is your desired price range?”
“We have no price range set, Cindy,” Edward cordially responds.
“What Edward means,” I clarify smoothly, “is that there is no price limit. We are prepared to pay all expenses for the wedding.”
Cindy makes an “oh” sound, her eyes widening. I don’t need Edward’s talents to know that her thoughts have flickered toward the shiny canary-yellow Porsche outside.
Cindy seems much more excited now that she knows we’re not interested in price tags. “The bride tries on the dress. But seeing as how she has a….representative here instead, will you still require the dress fitting?”
“Yes,” I answer right away. Trying on all those dresses is the best part of any wedding planning; I had been afraid they wouldn’t offer and had asked Edward, to his distress, if I could pose as Bella just for the day.
Cindy hesitates before excusing herself to summon girls from the back to help with the dress selection.
“Alice,” Edward frowns warningly at me, “this is to be Bella’s choice. That was our agreement.”
I sniff at him with mock disdain. “Of course I remember, you fool. I have Bella’s interests at heart.” I dance up to pat him on his head.
“For some reason, I have a feeling that’s not going to be the same thing,” he mutters ungraciously.
Cindy walks back toward us, her heels landing purposefully on the beige carpet. Behind her, three girls, all of whom resembled the human Rosalie was, strut in her footsteps. Two are lanky blondes, one with hazel eyes and one with green eyes. Each is carrying a bundle of white enveloped in plastic covers. The other is a shorter brunette with spectacles perched on her angular nose. They glance at me cursorily, deeming me as unimportant as the several brides they have seen this week. However, when they see Edward, they stare at him with disbelief. One blonde girl even parts her lips in a slight ‘o’, her arms growing slack and her gowns trailing to the floor.
“Alice, Edward, this is Lisa, Griselda, and Jeannette. Lisa and Griselda,” she points to the two blondes, “will gather the dresses from storage, and Jeannette will help you in the fitting rooms. As for me,” she grins widely, and her eyes take on a new sparkle, “I will sit with the groom here and try to entertain him while you have your fun.”
I raise my eyebrow and almost giggle out loud when I see Edward’s dismayed expression. The three younger girls look incredibly put-out as well.
“Firstly, as is custom,” Cindy glances pointedly at the girls, “we will present four of the more popular gowns.” Immediately, Lisa and Griselda hold up the dresses in their hands with new-found energy.
I move closer and stare at each dress intently. Each is more stunning than the next. I reach out to feel the silk satin of a spaghetti-strapped gown, tapered at the waist. Cindy is beside me in a flash. “This is a Vera Wang creation. The silk is spun from the very best silk farms in Indonesia.” I smile vaguely and imagine the feel of the richness of the cloth between my fingers. Just as I am about to touch it, Cindy speaks up again, this time, snatching my fingers away. “Please do not touch the dresses. The oils from your fingers will cause residue and damage!”
I look up to retort that I do not produce bodily oils, but one look at Cindy’s frenzied expression makes me stop. These dresses, fleeting fancies in every girl’s mind, is her life. I could imagine her head being filled with nothing but ruffles and satin. I almost quite pity her. Instead I nod and apologize humbly.
Miles away, Bella has made a choice. The whole dress reminds me of a petticoat worn in Edward’s time. I almost wrinkle my nose; leave it to Bella to single out the most boring dress in the catalogue.
Edward regards me sternly from his place behind Cindy. I sigh. “Cindy, would you mind showing me a dress design I saw in a magazine…It’s got this sequined bodice and this ruffled train.” Cindy taps her forehead as she goes over the entire store inventory in her mind. “It’s sleeveless?” When her expression doesn’t change, I add, “It looks like a rather moldy spring dress?”
Her eyes widen in recognition then surprise. “You’re interested in the Attola dress?” She bites her lip. “That dress is…rather unique and isn’t chosen often.” Polite speak for, “It’s actually one of the ugliest dresses I’ve touched.”
“Oh yes, well, my future sister-in-law has a rather unique taste in clothes…and men.” I nudge Edward playfully.
Cindy regards me for a moment longer before speaking, “Griselda, one-five-zero-seven.”
The two blondes leave once more, their rejected dresses in hand. I gaze longingly at the Vera Wang gown and make a mental note to order the gown for my own wedding. An awkward silence descends upon the four of us remaining. I know I have fallen out of favor with Cindy after choosing such a dreadful wedding dress, for she does not attempt to make conversation with us. I pretend to seem deeply interested in the smoothness of the pink walls and welcome the return of Griselda and Lisa, who now carry only one gown between them.
The dress is as ugly in reality as it is in my head.
I throw an angry glare at Edward. “It is a beautiful dress,” I chirp. “It’s just like…well, it’s just like what the old English wore…in the country! Oh, it is just the dress for Bella!”
“Would you like to try it on?” Jeannette steps up with a shy smile.
I cringe at the thought of this next to my skin. “Yes,” I declare bravely. I follow Jeannette, who is only slightly taller than me, to the fitting rooms.
Changing into the dreadful thing is a breeze. Jeannette slips the peasant dress over my head, but not before donning latex gloves. She shivers slightly from the coolness of my skin and makes a quiet remark on my paleness. Jeannette also fastens the veil, which is little more than an oversized tissue.
When I emerge, my audience politely claps. I glance at the mirrors that surround me. The dress is nothing more than a long smock, and it takes everything within me to keep from making a face.
Thankfully, something else has caught Bella’s eye.
“This is very nice and all,” I turn to Cindy, “but I was wondering if you had more of a pearl-themed dress. Bella’s got this taste for pearls very recently. A halter-top with a larger, wider train. I realize now that,” I laugh delicately, “she has a more elaborate taste than this!”
The girls join in with relief. Cindy’s large grin is back. “I’m very glad you feel this way, Alice. Lisa, Raffaele Ciuca’s number seven would do nicely.”
I beam, more satisfied with Bella’s second choice, and prepare to step off the slight pedestal when another image and its matching description flashes through my head.
“Oh just a moment!” Lisa stops in her tracks, looking at me quizzically. “I think my dear sister-in-law may be interested in a gown with a tulle skirt. Preferably with a sequined bodice and dropped waist?”
Cindy looks ecstatic. “Cynthia C creation!” she sings to Lisa. “It’s one of Jeannette’s favorites, too!” Jeannette nods her head excitedly in agreement.
“Oh! And Bella would be very interested in this Valenti dress I saw recently! It’s champagne-pink, multi-layered silk. Has these gorgeous crystals sprinkled on the bodice.”
Cindy jumps giddily. “The Swarovski crystals?!”
“Yes!” Behind Cindy, Edward shakes his head in disbelief.
Cindy shakily instructs the bewildered Griselda to bring out the gown and beams at me proudly.
Poor Lisa totters back in on her thin heels, two rather large dresses stacked in her arms. Cindy immediately berates her for taking too long. She offers a gown that resembles an extra-long tutu to Jeannette, who accepts it with her gloved hands.
We retreat back to the changing rooms, where I don the fluffy dress reluctantly. Jeannette looks teary-eyed. “This is one of my favorite dresses,” she whispers and runs a hand along the tulle skirt.
I emerge from the fitting rooms to a much louder applause. Griselda is back, holding what I believe to be the largest gown in the store. I see that she has kicked off her heels to help relieve some pain.
“Oh, this dress is gorgeous!” Cindy has hopped onto the pedestal to admire the dress. “Notice the intricate details of the sequined designs on this. And the quality of the tulle of this skirt.”
I merely smile and nod; in my opinion, I look like one of the ballerinas who would be stationed in the back row.
Jeannette has the next dress, the pearled halter-top, cradled in her arms. After I inspect my gown once more, I follow her back to the dressing room. Taking the gown off is a bit of a struggle; Jeannette has to stand on a chair to help me lift the dress above my head. The next gown requires more assembly to put on, and Jeannette frowns at the corset strings.
“I’m afraid I’m a bit new at this,” she admits. “Usually Miss Cindy is good about remembering that I can’t tie corsets.”
It’s lace, I correct in my mind, lace corsets. Out loud, I offer my sympathies and slowly walk her through the process.
Half an hour later, I give up and ask her to cover the loose strings with a longer veil.
“There you are!” exclaims Cindy when I reappear. Any scolding remarks on the tip of her tongue are immediately stilled. “Oh Alice! You are a sight to behold!”
I turn to the mirror and silently agree. The gown is a beautiful shade pale beige with pearls cleverly lining my cleavage. The train is extraneously long and would make walking hard, for a clumsy human like Bella. The halter top fits snugly and accentuates the lean back I, and Bella, have.
I smile, deciding to accept Bella’s taste, and realize poor Griselda is still holding the Valenti dress. “One more,” I sheepishly proclaim.
One gown soon becomes ten. Two gowns were too large for me to walk back out the entrance. Two gowns demanded the assistance of Cindy, Griselda, and Lisa before Edward was finally summoned to lend a pair of hands. And one gown seemed too heavy for Bella to wear.
As I re-enter, sporting the thirteenth gown, I see that Cindy has finally relented in the girls’ complaints and gathered chairs for everyone to sit in. Edward lounges indifferently on one side, his chair a good distance away from the cluster in front of the pedestal. He glances at me swiftly before flipping idly through the pages of a bridal magazine he’s found.
I half-listen to the less enthusiastic gushing of the girls and groan as a gown of a completely different style from the previous nine gowns flashes in my mind. This gown has a flair of French couture and looks as if the bride would need a whole crew to help her in it.
I almost make a sound of dismay. I feel emotionally drained from this experience. Gown-picking had never been such a long ordeal for me; I always knew whatever I didn’t pick this time, I could pick next time. Before, I had tried desperately to explain Bella’s erratic decisions on the necessity to make her one human wedding memorable.
It hits me.
Bella must have found out what Edward and I are out-of-town for. Angela might’ve let slip. Or Esme had returned and seemed puzzled at the idea of getting a car for her birthday in January.
And to spite us, Bella has “picked” any dress she sees in Angela’s magazines and catalogues. I sigh as I realize which dress is Bella’s true selection.
“If you don’t mind, Cindy, I’d like to buy the first dress I tried on. Number one-five-zero-seven.” I hear her scandalized gasp as I quickly leave for the dressing room.
With supernatural speed, I undress myself in less than half the time it takes Jeannette to. I am pulling on my jeans when I hear Jeannette rushing down the hall. I pull on my shirt just in time for her to burst in.
She gasps. “Oh no! If Miss Cindy knows I’ve let you touch the gown!”
“Don’t worry. She won’t,” I assure her roughly. I push past her.
No one has moved from their spots back in the main part of the store. “Please,” I announce, “I still think Dress one-five-zero-seven is the best I’ve seen today. I thank you truly for your patience and your unwavering support, but I don’t think I’ll ever see a gown that will rival the first one.”
Cindy stiffly instructs Griselda to fetch the dress in Bella’s size. When she leaves, we stand in stony silence. Edward has quietly put down his magazine and now stands at my elbow defensively.
When Griselda returns, Cindy rings up the total for me coldly. As Edward offers his credit card and signs the appropriate receipts, Cindy pointedly looks everywhere but at us. She does not offer to have the dress tailored for Bella.
We leave the store, again at the tinkering of bells that, this time, do not seem so merry.
Across the top of the Porsche, I see Edward vainly trying to hide his smile. I slide into the car, defeated. “Well,” I sniff, “that is the last time you’ll see me offer to help with the wedding. Or anything else for Bella for that matter.”
As we leave the parking lot, I realize we have not yet picked out bridesmaids gowns. Edward sighs exasperatedly as he drives to the next bridal shop.