A/N: Short, I know, but there's a reason I left off where I did.
Chapter Two: Arriving
Three days and a FedEx flight to Kennedy later, Willow found herself in a taxi on the streets of Manhattan. Flashing the business card at the driver, she asked, "Have you heard of this place?"
"No." The driver replied, with a heavily accented voice. He added, "Not hard to find."
Willow sat back, as comfortably as one could in a New York taxi, and fished her wallet out of her purse as they drove, pulling out twenties and fives from her wallet as the meter ticked upward. She always made it a practice to have the money ready before she got to her destination; it made it so much quicker for the next passenger, and drivers were always pleased about that.
Before long they were in what appeared to be a high-class shopping area, then the driver turned down one of the side streets about a block and a half. Then she saw the seamstresses' shop she'd been given the card for - a double height plate-glass storefront with vinyl lettering below a mid-rise tower, the windows filled with mannequins wearing dresses that looked as if they'd been drawn by the animators of Peter Pan, inspired by the robes of Lawrence of Arabia, and colors chosen from the palette of The Little Mermaid. Light, airy-looking fabrics made into dresses of every description, from cocktail dresses to the sort of grand ballgowns only seen at the Oscars or over-the-top weddings.
The driver slid the car to a stop directly in front of the door, and read off the charge fromt he meter. She passed the cash over the seat, asking him to keep the extra eight dollars' change, as she slipped out of the car. He smiled and then drove off, while she shouldered the bulky backpack she'd brought along. She'd shipped ahead a suitcase (FedEx of course) directly to the hotel; it made things much easier.
She pushed open the metal-framed glass double doors, much akin to those found at any Sears or JCPenney of her youth, and was immediately greeted by the tones of a sweet song she couldn't quite place; perhaps the newest Celine or Sara Evans or some such that she hadn't yet caught on the radio.
A dreamy-looking gentleman sat stiffly at a desk off to one corner, where it was artfully hidden behind the window displays. It seemed the desk doubled as the business office and receptionist's, since the rest of the 'shop' appeared to be filled with people actually making the dresses and a small display area. He looked... almost royal, Willow had to admit, in a silver lace-edged forest green broadcloth coat. And he sort of reminded her of the stuffy guy in "Sweet Home Alabama".
"I'm Robert, and welcome to Andalasia Fashions. Can I help you?"
She flipped the business card in her fingers. "I'm a bit early, but I was told I have a noon appointment. Willow Rosenberg, U.S. Marshal."
His eyebrows lifted. "I was unaware you were a federal marshal. Is there something I can help with?" He gestured at the papers on the desk. "Before all this I was a divorce lawyer."
Willow grinned. "It's not Marshal's business. I'm just here about a dress. My best friend is getting married and I'm the maid of honor."
"Ah." He checked the appointment on the computer, then rose from his chair, guiding her toward the display area. "The gentleman who made your appointment said you'd want a custom dress, which is our specialty. But since you're early, perhaps you'd like to have a look at ome of our off-the-rack dresses to pass the time?"
"And get a few ideas?" Willow suggested.
"Giselle rarely needs help coming up with ideas, but..." He glanced down at his hand, where a relatively new-looking wedding band shimmered, a pattern of Celtic knotwork in what looked like interwoven fourteen-carat gold and sterling silver. "You'll understand when you meet her. I'll warn you, she's a bit much to get used to sometimes."
Willow nodded, as Robert went back to his desk. She leafed through the beautiful creations, each of which seemed like it would seem right at home in a Broadway musical or a Disney film, depending on the mood of the piece. Some had layered skirts that looked like they'd come right out of "Gone With The Wind" or the wedding dress from "Shakespeare in Love", others a simple peasant cut like the armorer in "A Knight's Tale", and some were done in an iridescent green that screamed Tinkerbell.
The singing seemed to travel around the shop, until a tinny school bell rang and it suddenly stopped. Willow checked her watch, and it was indeed time for her appointment. She glanced over to Robert's desk, and a young lady stood near it, almost vibrating with joy. She stepped out of the display area, and the woman turned to look at her.
Robert introduced them, without rising from the chair. "Giselle, Willow Rosenberg. Her best friend's getting married, and she's the maid of honor. Miss Rosenberg, Giselle, our designer and master seamstress."
Willow fought the urge to curtsy at the formal introduction, and smiled. "Right this way!" Giselle exclaimed, seemingly extremely happy. As she turned to lead the way deeper into the shop, she started singing softly under her voice, and Willow realized that the sweet melody she'd been listening to wasn't a recording at all. It was Giselle.