Valley of the Sun
Chapter Four: Reception
The wedding ceremony itself had gone off without a hitch, just as planned, and the hotel's arboretum had been a beautiful (and air-conditioned) setting for it. After a few minutes, the wedding party and then the guests had been ushered off to the hotel's main ballroom, which had already been set up for the reception.
Passing from one room to another, I heard a few whispers in the hotel lobby, mainly about the hunky policeman in the wedding, and it took me a minute to realize who they were talking about.... ewww. One parent getting remarried was enough, thank you very much.
The one thing I hadn't thought about and managed, that Grace and I had never even discussed, was what Charlie would wear to the wedding. We had just - wrongly - assumed he'd show up in a nice, plain suit, but no, he'd come in his Chief of Police uniform from Forks. Renee had been worried he'd cause a scene, but when the minister had made the traditional offer, "if anyone should object to this marriage", I'd glanced over my shoulder and Charlie was staring straight at Grace and I with a very small smile on his face. One I am sure nobody else would have noticed, since Charlie hid his emotions pretty well.
The reception was beautiful. The tables were all white tablecloths and crystal vases, filled with sunflowers (Renee's favorite), and the bartender and DJ were set up in the far corners under webs of white Christmas lights. A small stage in between was occupied by a table for two and the massive wedding cake.
"It's beautiful." A Spanish-accented voice over my shoulder drew my attention, and I twisted around. It was Maria-Elena, one of my friends from school. She was here because of her parents; her mother Mariana was Renee's college roommate, now a Spanish teacher at our high school whom I had to remember to call Senora de Portola when Grace and I were in her class. "Which one are you?"
was strange. The de Portolas were, mysteriously, the only ones outside the family who could reliably tell Grace and I apart, and Maria-Elena was particularly good at it. She had always
been able to tell us apart before, that I could recall. "Bella. You didn't know?"
She rolled her eyes at me. "You don't usually dress and act alike, Reina de Castilla.
" She gestured at the bridesmaid's dress, and I curtsied slightly. The royal nickname was a running joke between the three of us; Grace's was 'Infanta
', or Princess, after Grace Kelly. Maria-Elena gave everyone at school nicknames, usually in Spanish and usually jokes based on their real names, though I think she'd started with the two of us in first grade. "Chocolate brown really seems to be your color. It matches your eyes."
"Thank you." I gestured at the room. "And thank you for the compliment."
"That's right, you two did the planning, didn't you?" Maria-Elena smiled. "Who's the security guard? He's...." She started fanning herself, and I reached up and grabbed her wrist with a horrified look on my face.
"No swooning over the police chief
, please." I almost hissed.
"Why not? He's..."
"My dad." A familiar voice I couldn't quite place interrupted from over my shoulder. I turned as much as I could, still holding Maria-Elena's wrist, wondering who else would be calling Charlie that... oh, right, Grace.
"You two look beautiful." Maria-Elena looked back and forth between us a couple times, and smiled. "I think I've got it for today. You're wearing different necklaces. Red for Bella, purple for Grace."
"They're garnet and amethyst, actually." I corrected, letting go of Maria-Elena's wrist. "Gifts from our grandmother."
She glanced around the room. "I like the ice swan. Not as pretty as the real Swans, but..."
"Don't go there again, please." I pleaded. Grace nodded in agreement.
By that time, most of the guests had filed into the ballroom and taken their seats, though a small knot of thirty-something women - most of them I recognized as Renee's fellow teachers over at Desert Shadows Elementary, two or three of which who had once had Charlotte Swan, Isabella Swan, and Maria-Elena de Portola on their class lists - were standing around the DJ's stand. I wasn't all that religious, but in that moment I almost asked God to save us from the musical choices of elementary school teachers.
Sure enough, after a few minutes of rummaging through his collection, the DJ came up with some classical-style music. I faintly recognized the tune; it wasn't true classical, the DJ's collection had probably been found lacking, but was instead the opening theme from Saving Private Ryan
. Not exactly your traditional wedding-reception music.
The hotel staff was already floating around taking drink orders to go with the meal that would soon be served, and the three of us made our way to the front tables. The de Portolas, being close friends of the family, had been seated in the next table over from the bridesmaids. We would be sharing the table with the Tomlins, Miss Patissier and her boyfriend Mr. Sullivan, and Charlie. The eighth seat had been set aside in case Charlie brought a date, but he had not; a blank placecard would take the slot between myself and Grace instead.
The three of us approached our seats, Maria-Elena peeling off to her own table, and we took our places, Charlie in his police black on my left and Grace two seats to my right. A waiter came by to take our drink orders - we had set it up so that you only had to go to the bar for alcohol stronger than the ceremonial champagne - and I asked for a Martinelli's and a glass of lemonade; Charlie asked for a cola and Grace asked for a Martinelli's and a Sierra Mist or Sprite, whichever they had.
"How are you holding up?" Charlie whispered.
I turned, a questioning look doubtlessly on my face. "Fine."
"You looked a little... upset when you came in. With your friend. Or is it the wedding?"
I laughed a little. "Maria-Elena? We were just... no, I'd rather not talk about it. Nothing to do with Renee and Phil." I sighed. "I just hope it sticks. Phil's a good guy, but you know Renee."
Charlie smiled that secret smile of his. "I do know your mother. And your concern."
Grace leaned across the empty seat, and whispered, "Here they come."