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Elle Rose: (Chapter Two) A Romance Novel
Just as Elle had suspected, Sabrina’s wedding started late, but it wasn’t just because of the family’s tardiness. Quite a few things were going wrong. The groom’s family was coming in from Texas, and instead of being smart about it and coming in a day or two early, they decided to wait until the eleventh hour to come and still hadn’t made it to the church yet because they kept getting lost. How in the world they were finding it so difficult to follow a GPS, Elle would never understand. Furthermore, the officiating minister had gotten into a fender-bender accident on the way to the wedding, which put him a little behind as well.
Sabrina’s side of the wedding was packed out, almost every chair occupied. Her husband’s side, however, was sparse. Turtle and Elle decided to sit on Eric’s side, not only because they had more elbow room there, but also because her family was already casting her looks like “I wish you would sit over here.”
“Come on, baby. This way,” he said, and led her across the room, past her family.
There was her mother and father seated on the third row. As Turtle and Elle passed by them, her parents didn’t even spare her a glance despite the fact that they hadn’t seen her in months. It didn’t surprise that her mother would act stubborn and crude, but Toby? Elle’s father? She felt like if she could just get her father to herself, maybe she could talk some sense into him. Her father was still reachable, since Big Mama was only his mother-in-law. However, Elle’s mother had such a hold on her father that it was almost as though she had him brainwashed. Which saddened Elle. Before Big Mama’s death, her father and she had been close. She missed that. She wanted it back so badly.
And there was her baby sister, Clementine, seated with her husband and three kids. When they walked past her, Clementine turned her head from them in a very dismissive manner. Turtle shrugged his shoulders like her flippant response didn’t bother him. Of course it didn’t bother him. Clementine wasn’t his sister, and those three beautiful children that were being kept away from her weren’t his nieces and nephews. Her brother Nicholas was there as well with his Caucasian wife. He no longer spoke to her either, and they used to be close, talking on the phone almost every other day.
Elle sighed heavily and forced herself to keep her head held high as she clung to Turtle’s arm and followed him down the aisle.
They came to two vacant, black-cushioned chairs and took a seat. He rubbed her arm and his touch comforted her. He leaned his head close, his mustache tickling her ear. “You okay?”
“I’m just ready for this to be over with,” she whispered back.
He smacked his lips. “I didn’t know it was this serious. This has got to be the pettiest shit I’ve ever seen in my life. Nick isn’t talking to you either?”
“Nope. I haven’t spoken to my brother since Big Mama’s funeral.”
“Ahh, come on, man. I thought Nick was better than this. I’ma have to talk to dude.” As he looked around the room, Turtle shook his head. “Big Mama oughta get out her grave and whoop everybody’s ass in here, especially yo’ mama. You see how Mrs. Vette looked at you when we walked past her?”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Everybody up here tripping, but ain’t nobody focusing on the fact that Big Mama up there in heaven, doing her Holy Ghost dance with God, no more worries, no more pain. You really think Big Mama care that you didn’t pay for that alternative treatment that probably wasn’t gonna work anyway?”
Before she could respond, a tall slim woman dressed in a midnight purple satin dress with a platinum blond braided updo, too much blush on her cheeks and fake eyelashes that were so extravagant, they were almost comical, rushed over to her, snapping to get Elle’s attention.
“Yes?” Elle asked curtly as the woman came to a stop beside her. Elle didn’t like for people to snap at her. She felt like you snapped to get a dog’s attention, not a human being’s.
“You’re Elle Rose, right?”
“Oh God, thank you Jesus,” the woman said, clutching a midnight purple and teal blue bouquet against her chest. “I need you to come with me.”
Turtle inconspicuously elbowed her in the side, his expression telling her to chill out with her attitude, to give the woman a break.
The woman leaned over and cupped her hand near Elle’s ear. “Your cousin is back there having a breakdown. She done took down her hair, she’s coming out of her dress, Eric is in there trying to calm her and you know the groom is not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. Everything is just going wrong, and I need you to talk to her because I did not put all of this together,” she whipped her hand around in a tight funnel, “for it to come undone. I’m not having a runaway bride, not on my watch.”
Sighing heavily, Elle smoothed down her dress before standing.
“What’s going on?” Turtle asked.
She shook her head. “Sabrina’s back there having a—”
It seemed like the venue had suddenly become so quiet. Instead of hushed speaking voices, the only sound she heard now was the low volume of Luther Vandross’s voice coming through the speakers. Which could only mean one thing: everybody was up in her business, clinging to her every word.
And since she was now on center-stage with even her parents looking her way, Elle decided to use the spotlight to her advantage. Just because Turtle and she had walked in the room together, that didn’t mean a thing. The family was used to seeing her and Turtle together all the time. But what the family wasn’t used to seeing was…
“Well, I gotta run to the back, talk to Sabrina about the song selection for the ceremony,” she said, giving Turtle a heated stare, hoping that he’d pick up on her cue. “And then I’ll be right back. Is that okay with you, baby?”
“Yeah, that’s fine, sweetheart, as long as you hurry back,” Turtle said and then whispered, “Should we kiss now? Everybody’s looking at us.”
Oh, she could strangle him! Rolling her eyes super-hard, she took him by the ears and whispered, “You’ve been doing great so far. Don’t mess up now. Stay in character.”
Then she leaned forward and caught his offered lips in a brief but oh-so-spicy kiss. A collective gasp filled the room. Elle walked away from him swishing her hips with a smile on her face, and when she glanced back at him, he was watching her walk away, his bottom lip tucked between his teeth, his arm casually thrown across the back of the chair she had just vacated. Yes, honey. Now he was playing the role like a paid actor should. The looks on the faces of her family members were worth a million bucks. Especially her mother’s face. Her mother had ignored her all this time, but after witnessing that kiss, even she couldn’t hide her surprise. Oh,
they were playing this part so well! She would forever be in debt to Turtle for agreeing to this.
“How long have y’all been married?” the wedding planner asked as she led Elle down the corridor.
“Who? Me and Turtle? God, no, we’re not married. We’re just—” She caught herself. Stay in character; play your role. “We’re just dating and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
“Mmm-hmm.” She cut her eyes at Elle. “Honey child, I’ve been doing this wedding planning thing for twenty-two years. I can look at a couple and tell which ones are gonna make it, and which ones are wasting their time. You and that fella in there? Y’all have a lifetime of bliss ahead of you. Mark my words.”
Elle stifled a laugh. This woman was just as coo-coo as she looked. But she wasn’t about to correct her on her assumption. If the planner thought that Turtle and she were destined for marital bliss, then that could only mean one thing: they were playing the hell out their parts. Forget singing; maybe she needed to break into the acting industry. Maybe then she could finally win an award, a nomination, a trophy, a plaque—hell, a something.
The wedding planner led Elle to one of the back rooms where she found her cousin sitting in a slip, her eyes blood red, her tumbled curls a hot mess around her face. Sabrina was a red-boned woman, her skin so fair that on first glance, she could past for a white woman. But at the current moment, her face was flushed almost as red as her eyes, and Eric was doing and saying everything he could possibly think of to console her.
When he saw Elle, Eric threw her a frustrated and desperate look. “Elle, help me. Please. I don’t know what else to do…”
“Sabrina Powell, if you don’t pull yourself together,” Elle said, walking over to her cousin. “What is wrong with you?”
At the sound of her voice, Sabrina’s head whipped around and when she saw Elle, she rushed to her and threw her arms around her, nearly knocking her down. “Elle! You’re here! I thought you wouldn’t come. I thought—” She paused a moment to sob some more, then rested her head against Elle’s shoulder, still hugging her. “They said you weren’t gonna come because the family doesn’t want you here.”
“I don’t care what they say about me; you know I wasn’t gonna let you down.” Elle sat on a wooden bench and pulled Sabrina down beside her. “Talk to me. What’s going on?”
“Tell her what’s wrong with you,” Eric said, crossing his arms and glaring at her.
“It’s just…everything’s wrong!” Sabrina cried, and her bottom lip trembled like a plucked guitar string as she fell into another crying fit.
“She’s tripping because the cake is messed up,” Eric said over his soon-to-be wife’s sobs.
“What do you mean the cake is messed up?”
“His cheap ass,” Sabrina yelled, “wanted a guy he works with to make our cake, instead of spending a couple more hundreds to hire a real professional.”
“He makes cakes all the time, baby. I’ve seen his work. I know he’s good. It’s just this time, something went wrong, and now the cake is…looks like it melted or something.”
“Melted?” Sabrina sprung to her feet. “No, it doesn’t look like it melted. It looks like a sinkhole. The cake basically imploded on itself. How in the hell am I supposed to serve my family a sinkhole cake?”
“Well, the top layer of the cake looks fine. We just have to be creative. We could just—”
Sabrina launched after her groom and Elle had to literally grab her around her waist and hold her to keep her from clawing Eric’s face to shreds.
The wedding planner held out her hands to either side and shook her head. “Now you see what I mean? It’s a circus back here.”
It took a lot of struggling and a hell of a lot of upper arm strength, but Elle was finally able to drag her cousin over to the chair seated in front of the vanity table and all but shove her into the seat.
“Eric, can you give us a moment, please?” Elle asked, hoping that if she got Eric out of the room, perhaps she could speak some sense into her best friend. Cursing under his breath, Eric stepped out of the room.
The wedding planner remained there, arms crossed, standing too close for Elle’s comfort. “Can you bring me some water, please?” Elle asked her so that she could leave the room as well.
“I’m a wedding planner, not a maid, baby.”
“Ms. Pree, I’d appreciate it if you’d bring my friend some water.”
Rolling her eyes and issuing a “humph,” Ms. Pree finally left the room.
With all distractions gone, Elle said, “Now you listen to me, Sabrina, and you listen good. You know for a fact that I did not want to come to this wedding because I knew I wasn’t welcomed here. I cancelled two concert performances just to make it on your special day because I love you. What I refuse to do is waste my time and my money catching a flight and cancelling events because you’re pissed off about a damn cake.”
Her face changed from anger to desperation again. “But that’s not it, and you know it. It’s more than just the cake.”
“Then what is it?”
“Eric’s family’s not even here yet—”
The wedding planner stuck her blond head into the room and held out a bottle of water. “They’re here now; they just pulled up. His side of the room is full.”
Elle gladly accepted the water, unscrewed the top and took a sip. The swallow of water burned her throat going down, which caught her by surprise. It was only then that she realized how sore her throat was. Maybe she shouldn’t have had that last cigarette.
Elle cleared her throat and made a face at her cousin. “So his family is here now. Next excuse?”
“Well, the minister hasn’t even—”
Once again, her blond head popped into the room. “He’s here as well. A little shook up from the wreck, but he’s in place, at the front of church. Everybody’s in place. Except for you.”
Lips still pursed to the side, Elle said, “Next excuse?”
One trembling hand pressed against her lips, Sabrina swept her hair back from her face and looked down at her lap. “Marriage changes people, Elle. I don’t want to get married to get divorced.”
“Whoever said anything about divorce?”
“Statistics. The general population. I mean, think about it. How many happily married couples do you know?”
“I said happily married.”
Elle couldn’t help but issue a laugh, but when she saw how serious Sabrina’s expression was, she put on a more somber face.
“Big Mama was happily married.”
“Yeah, she was,” Sabrina admitted, “but I could never understand why. Grandpa treated her like crap, and you know it. She was married by herself, to herself.”
“You ain’t lying about that.”
“So let me ask you again. How many happily married couples do you know?” Sabrina sat up straighter in her chair and pointed a finger at Elle. “Exactly. You want to know why it’s taking you so long to answer that question? Because you don’t know any happily married couples. And if you do know some, it’s probably one out of a hundred. They’re the ones who got lucky. And look at you and Sidney, you know? You and Sidney were engaged and before y’all could even make it to the altar, he had a baby by his mistress.”
“Sidney is a basketball player. Sidney got caught up in the fame of all these women throwing themselves at him. You can’t even use that as an argument, Sabrina. Eric is nothing like Sid. Eric is nothing like grandpa. You can’t compare Eric to every man that you know. Eric Weatherly is Eric Weatherly, and Eric Weatherly loves you. Give him a chance to prove to you who he really is.”
“I know who he is. He’s perfect. He’s—” Her throat clogged with emotion. “He’s perfect for me. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a man. But people change, Elle. People change.” Her voice dropped to a dramatic whisper as a tear dropped on her lips. “What if we get married and Eric changes? What if we get married and I change?”
“If you come out of a marriage the same way you were when you first entered the marriage, then that whole marriage was a complete waste of your time. You’re supposed to change in a marriage, Sabrina. But change isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes people change for the better.” Elle took her friend’s hands and squeezed them. “You’re nervous. I understand why; marriage is a huge life event. But you gotta understand that those couples who are happily married, baby, it ain’t got nothing to do with luck. Happy couples are hardworking couples; they worked hard to make it pass all the reasons to not be happy and all the reasons to not be together. So as long as—”
Just then, the door swung open and Sabrina’s maid of honor, Rayiesha, which was also one of their first cousins, came flying into the room in her midnight purple and Dodger blue one-sleeve dress. She looked at Elle with her mouth hanging open, her eyes two wide circles in her face. “Is it true?”
Elle frowned at her. “Is what true?”
“Is it true that you and Tamaris are an item—like, y’all are in a relationship?”
Elle felt her face heat up as she looked away from Sabrina.
“What?” Sabrina stared at Elle surprised. “You and Tamaris are dating? Since when?”
Elle sucked at her teeth. As much as she wanted to tell her cousin the truth about Turtle, she didn’t want to blow their cover either, not with Rayiesha, the family’s gossip reporter, standing right by her side. Giving her cousin a wink that only she could see, Elle said, “I’ll talk to you about it later.”
“No, talk to me about it now. Since when did you and Turtle become…involved?”
Elle gave her cousin a look, trying to tell her the truth with her eyes and the way she was holding her lips, but Sabrina clearly was not understanding. So finally she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I was gonna tell you, Sabrina, when it became a little more serious. I mean, why the hell not date Turtle? He is cute.”
“Cute? No, boo, he ain’t cute. Tamaris gives fine a whole ’nother meaning. Ooh, Elle, that’s crazy! They said he sucked your lips off up in that place walago!” Rayiesha exclaimed. “Y’all grew up like brother and sister. That’s like, what, incest or something? Ooh, that’s kinda nasty.”
“Turtle is not my brother.”
“Yeah, but he’s like a brother to you. But I thought he was a hoe though?”
“Which brings us back to our main point that we were just talking about. People can change.”
“If you changed him into a one-woman man, you must have that thun-tha-dun,” she said, glancing down Elle’s body. “Or else, maybe he’s using you for your money and stuff—no shade, boo—cause you know how men is, and they will use you in a hot minute if you let them, and you all famous and whatever, so you know you got money like it ain’t nobody’s business. And you know how Tamaris do; hook up with chicks and let them buy him. I bet he spending yo’ money up,” Rayiesha said giggling and pointing upward at the ceiling with both hands. “No, shade, tho. I got nothing but love for you, Elle Rose. The rest of the family hate yo’ yella ass, but you always been cool with me. I love telling people I got a famous singer for a cousin cause they be like hatin’ on me and I be like, it ain’t our fault that greatness runs in our family, you know what I’m saying, Elle? If we is the best, then we is the best,” she said laughing and held her hand up for Elle to hi-five her, but Elle just looked at her.
“Anywho,” Rayiesha continued, “Sabrina, you need to get yo’ ass dressed. Ain’t nobody sit up here and pay all this money to be in yo’ wedding, buying a bridesmaid dress, getting my hair did, for you to be sitting up her having a Lifetime moment. Get yo’self together and stop being dramatic like you always is.” She then snaked her arm through Elle’s. “Be honest. I bet Tamaris is a beast in bed.” Her face took on a dreamy expression. “He looks like he know what he’s doing, like he’ll beat that thing up then kiss it to make it feel better. Oop!” she said, clutching her legs together. “She flowing, boo. She flowing.”
Thankfully, the wedding planner came in and ordered Rayiesha to get into place.
“And why is she in your wedding again?” Elle asked Sabrina.
For the first time since walking back there, Elle saw her cousin crack a smile. For that alone, Elle felt like the torture Rayiesha had just put her through was worth it.
Ms. Pree cleared her throat in an exaggerated manner. “So,” she said in a sing-song manner, “do I have a wedding to announce or…do I need to ask everyone to go home?” It sounded as though she was holding her breath.
Elle looked over at Sabrina and tilted her head to the side, non-verbally asking her cousin the same question.
Sabrina wetted her lips, clutched her hands together. “Well, if you’re willing to give Turtle a chance—out of all people, Turtle— then…” Sabrina sighed and lifted her chin in Elle’s direction. “You think you can fix my hair and makeup? I can’t go out there looking like this.”
As she worked against time to get her cousin dressed, made up, and beautified, Elle decided to tell Sabrina the truth about Turtle. She explained everything to her, the concept behind the madness, and even the loan stipulations.
“Close your eyes for a second,” Elle said so she could fix her eye makeup.
Sabrina obeyed. With eyes closed, she said, “Be honest. Can he kiss, though?”
“Can he?” Elle gave her friend a look that said it all. “I’ll give it to him on that. The man knows how to work his lips.”
Elle grinned and pinched her fingers close together. “Maybe this much.”
“Ooh, y’all nasty,” Sabrina said laughing and Elle laughed with her. “That’s a dangerous game you and Tamaris are playing. I hope you two know what you’re doing.”
“Sabrina, we got this.”
“You sure about that?”
“Positive. Ain’t nobody falling in love over here.” Elle grabbed the bobby pins and glanced at the clock behind them. Thank God her stylist had taught her a few tricks of the trade. “Only got two minutes to do this,” she said and stuffed a few pins in her mouth as she French-braided Sabrina’s curls to the top of her head. “Let’s make magic, baby.”
***********************************************End of Chapter Two
Reader's Participation: You Be the Judge
If two friends cross the line even once, can they ever go back to being "just cool"?
Reader's Participation: What Do You Think?
Who was your favorite supporting character in this chapter?
About the Author
A North Carolina native, Jessica N. Barrow-Smith loves writing African-American romance novels. Holding an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English (both from National U.), she is also the author of Confessions of a Diva (2006), the co-author of Desperate (2012), an English instructor and a professional tutor. As the founder of S&B Manuscript Editing & Critique, she wears the hats of writing coach, editor, copyeditor, and ghostwriter. During her free time, she enjoys performing as an actress at the semi-professional Gilbert Theater located in Fayetteville, NC, singing at church, and being a phenomenal wife to her husband and mother to their four children.
© 2015 Jessica Barrow