The Weddings Part I

September 21, 2015

In London, England, Jennifer York, a 40-year-old travel journalist, entered her boss’s office at Global Travel Magazine.  Jennifer had brown spike hair cropped tight, a two thousand dollar Cartier watch and bamboo sandals — probably off the feet of a Sherpa in the Himalayas.  Her boss, the editor and publisher, Naomi Gibslow introduced her to her new partner, Jessica Pillsbury, the temporary photographer from Fredericksburg, Texas, USA.  Naomi said she was fired from her job in Fredericksburg a few months ago, but Jessica corrected her that she was laid off.  Jessica moved to London in late July because of this job.  Jessica was in her late 20s. She had a red-haired ponytail, blue eyes behind thick brown glasses, a birthmark shaped like a glob marked on her cheek, tennis shoes, and a conservative skirt.  Naomi resembled the film/TV star, Cloris Leachman except she didn’t have too many wrinkles.  Her hair was white as snow.

Jennifer protested that she rather work alone, but Naomi brushed her off.  She said the magazine was missing a wedding section and no other writers or photographers were available. The wedding announcements were spread all over her desk. Naomi handed them to Jennifer and Jessica.  

The wedding locations were London, Essex, Paris, New Delhi, Seoul, Ottawa, New York City, Washington D.C., Bloomington, Indiana; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco, California; Hopetown, Bahamas; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The couples from Quebec City, Vancouver, British Columbia; Los Angeles, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia had declined for their weddings to appear in the magazine for personal reasons.  The couples from Paris and D.C.  changed their minds at the last minute.  She also said that Las Vegas and Atlantic City were inconsequential since those cities were mainly wedding central.  

Jennifer said she recognized Neville and April Carlton. They were old friends of hers from Oxford University.  Neville and April were fraternal Protestant twins with red hair and green eyes. Neville was engaged to a Greek Orthodox, Peter Kostas, a gray-haired middle-aged man. April was engaged to May Braddock, an Afro-British Presbyterian woman with half-blond, half-dyed pink hair. Neville had a mole on his left cheek and April had a mole on her right cheek.

I wonder if the Carltons are still mad at me for what I did. Old grudges die hard. thought Jennifer.

“Ladies, you two will work together like a singing duet whether you like it or not. I don’t care if you don’t get along. You don’t get involved in anyone’s personal lives either. No badgering for details. Do not get involved in situations where you’re not wanted. That’s it!,” said Naomi. 

She sighed and added, “On the other hand, I want accuracy and intriguing articles and pictures. I’m getting a vision! Class, style, sophistication! Nothing boring, mind you! I want the truth! No lies, no libel, no slander. No fake weddings. No fictitious weddings. No exaggerations. No secret weddings. Lastly, there would be absolutely no provocative pictures. I want this to be stupendous! One toe over the line, you’re fired. If you succeed, you will be promoted. Think you can do it?”

Jennifer and Jessica each pondered for a moment.

Bloody h—! That’s a lot more travelling than before. I hardly know my partner. And I don’t believe in marriage. I’ve had better non-wedding journeys: celebrities, charities, cruises, festivals, jungles, deserts, spas, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, the nightlife. Oh, well, what the h—? I’ll give this a shot…only for Global Travel and the witch. thought Jennifer.

This is awesome! We could be friends or maybe both friends and colleagues. thought Jessica.

Jennifer and Jessica nodded as one.

“Ma’am, I guarantee you that this will be successful and stupendous! The best stories you have ever read. The best stories people will ever read,” said Jessica.

“I love your enthusiasm,” said Naomi sarcastically.

“What if some of the weddings turn out to be utterly disasters?” asked Jennifer.

“Cover them, anyway,” said Naomi.

“We’ll let you know if we get sick, right?” asked Jessica.

“Right. Also, notify me if something else happens like a wedding cancellation or something. If this plan doesn’t follow through, we’re screwed. I mean, you’re screwed,” said Naomi.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Jennifer and Jessica together.

“When do we start?” asked Jennifer.

“Tomorrow morning here in London,” said Naomi.

“When is our deadline?” asked Jessica.

“October 26th. The magazine’s next weekly issue will be published the day after that.  After every wedding, you write the article, add the pictures, email me the file, I review, etc., etc.,” replied Naomi. “Go on, dismissed.”

As Jennifer and Jessica leave—

“By the way, Ms. Pillsbury…”

Jessica stopped on her tracks. “Yes?”

Naomi looked up and down at her.

“Give yourself a makeover. Be more like Jennifer here.”

Naomi walked closer to Jessica and tugged at her sweater. “Those clothes you’re wearing—where did you buy them? Salvation Army? Ha!”

Naomi slapped Jessica a little on her face. “Oh, what a shame. That birthmark scarred your pretty little face. Didn’t your mother teach you how to cover it up with makeup?”

She tsks.  “Now, go away, I have work to do.”

Those comments hit Jessica hard.  She felt like she was being bullied on the playground.

In the lounge room, Jennifer and Jessica helped themselves with beverages and biscuits (in America’s terms: cookies).  Jennifer drank green tea and Jessica’s was coffee. She thought this coffee tasted a little different than the American coffee.

“Is she always a rude, condescending b—-?” asked Jessica. She was speaking of Naomi.

“Don’t let her get to you. It’s just the way she is. I have no idea why. It might have something to do with her second divorce. Sometimes, I can’t stand her either,” said Jennifer. “Now, about the assignment…”

“Oooh! This is so exciting! I’m really looking forward to it!” exclaimed Jessica. “We are going to have so much fun, girl! Tell me about yourself, Jennifer! What do you do for fun? Maybe we’ll go out sometime. You’re a fantastic writer! I love your articles especially the ones about the Safari jungle trek and the food and wine festival in Hawaii! You’re in adventure movies!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. But thank you for the compliment. This is your first wedding assignment, isn’t it?” asked Jennifer.

“Mmmmhmm. What about you? First-timer?”

Jennifer nodded. They took the elevator to the second floor.

Beforehand, they had attended the weddings of families and friends. Jessica was a divorcee. She’s been dating a lot, but nothing serious except two relationships. Jennifer has been single for a long time.

“What’s the point in everyone getting hitched?” said Jennifer. “Marriage ruins everything. Getting married for love is dumb. It barely has an upside. The downside is you’ve commingled your assets and will need to go through a bloody messy legal process when you no longer want to be with that person. That’s a coin-toss event.”

The elevator opened. They took the escalator.

Jennifer continued, “Happiness goes down the drain. Money goes down the drain even when the kids come along. You try so hard to please the in-laws, it makes you an uncool person. Marriage is never the solution to your problems. And you have to sacrifice yourself—hobbies, friendships, career, personality, etc.  People get divorced these days. It’s not the old days where you have to get married for financial reasons, to spare their reputations, or if there’s a baby on the way. Don’t get me wrong, I love to party at weddings, but not the hitching part. Speeches—meh.”

“Ok, ok, I get it, Ms. Bachelorette. So what? Sure, marriage isn’t for everyone. And it’s not always a bad thing. It’s a wonderful union between two people who are meant to be together.  Affinity, compatibility, and destiny,” argued Jessica.

They stopped at a water fountain.

Jessica continued, “Yes, marriage has its ups and downs, but some people work on them or some walk away when they stopped loving each other. They just aren’t compatible. Sometimes, they’re looking for something or someone else instead.”

She dug in her purse for her Rail Pass.

Jessica added, “Some people get married without kids.  Elizabeth Taylor got married seven times—Richard Burton twice.”

“For me, it is more fun being single than being committed or married. Aside from that, don’t get your hopes up for this trip. Some will be all glamour and fun, some will turn to s—…down the drains,” said Jennifer.

“Are you always that cynical and pessimistic?” said Jessica.

“Only when it comes to weddings,” said Jennifer.

Jessica chuckled. She pulled her Rail pass out and put it in her pocket.

“Come on, it’ll be fun! Give it a chance,” said Jessica.

Jennifer pondered for a moment.

“Ok, fine. I rather support than boycott. That applies to my ex-best friends. Let’s make a vow to set aside our differences whether we work together or not. Agreed?” said Jennifer.

Jessica saluted like a soldier.

“See you tomorrow,” said Jennifer. She left the building.

Jessica saw Naomi and her assistant, Brian, an Afro-British man with a beard, leaving the elevator. Jessica hid behind a plant. Naomi made a bet that if Jennifer and Jessica both fail, she would win thirty pounds. They will not be promoted. If they succeed, Brian wins the money and they’d be promoted.

“You know what, maybe we shouldn’t do this. Call it off. We can’t toy with people’s emotions behind their backs,” said Brian.

“Good idea,” said Naomi.

Jessica headed down to the loo. What she did not hear is that the bet was back on. Naomi threatened to expose his secret womanizing life on social media if he didn’t go through with it. At first, Brian said she was bluffing. Naomi said, “Am I?”

 

September 22

Jennifer and Jessica  arrived at Camden Town Hall a little early in the morning. They wore dark blue and purple dresses with matching purses.  Jessica also had a black bag of cameras.  Jennifer noticed Jessica watching the goldfinches sitting on the street eating bird seeds.  Just then, the Carltons and their fiancees arrived.  Neville Carlton instantly recognized Jennifer.  April was none too pleased to see her after all these years.

Neville wore a green tux and a golden tiara on his head. April wore a white sleeveless gown with matching gloves, silver jewelry, and a short veil.  Peter and May wore ivory tuxes.  May had a tiny pearl earring on her left ear.

“Jennifer!” said Neville Carlton.  He hugged her. “Good god! I haven’t seen you since Oxford! And I can’t believe you’re reporting my wedding.”

“Fancy seeing you, Jennifer,” said April sarcastically.

“Good to see you too, April,” said Jennifer sarcastically. “After all these years.”

Introductions were made. Although, Jessica was a little curious of why April didn’t seem too happy to see Jennifer.  She assumed that there was a falling out or something.  Eventually, she pushed those thoughts aside.  That was really none of her business.

Neville explained that their families and friends except a few supporting relatives and friends refused to come because they thought homosexuality was immoral, but the couples didn’t care about that.

“They’re bigots!” exclaimed Jennifer. “No offense.”

“None taken,” said Peter. “They’ll come around someday.”

“Either they accept us or we’ll never speak to them for the rest of our lives,” said May.

In fact, homosexuality was illegal in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Presently, homosexuality is legal anywhere especially in England. Gay marriage was made legal in the U.S. on June 26, 2015.

Peter tapped his watch meaning it was time.  A few minutes before the ceremony started in one of the rooms, Jennifer apologized to the Carltons for choosing her first ex-fiancé over their friendship years ago and admitted that they were right about him. He was a no-good lying cheater. Neville had already forgiven her.  He meant to contact her, but he was too busy with his life. April was silent. Jennifer suspected that deep down inside, April has never forgiven her. Neville looked at April, counting on her to forgive Jennifer.

“Oh, what the h—, it’s all water under the bridge. Let’s let bygones be bygones,” said April.

She hugged Jennifer, patting her on the back.

During the ceremony, the other witnesses were the supportive relatives and friends that the couples mentioned. First, Neville and Peter were married off by a tolerant officiant. Neville was the bride and Peter was the groom. They wrote their own vows. Then, April and May were next.  April was the bride and May was the groom. May wrote a romantic poem and April sang her wedding vows. First, she sang off-key. Then, it got better. Her voice was like an angel’s. On both grooms’ sides, Jessica snapped a few pictures with her Nikon D810 camera on quiet mode.   Finally, one of the friends sang John Lennon’s “All We Need is Love” in acapella during both couples’ exit.

The reception was located at the ballroom of the hotel next door. The food was very scrumptious. For starters, it was Spankopita (spinach and feat triangles wrapped in phyllo dough); steamed shrimp on seawood in cocktail sauce and lemon and Brushetta. For those who were vegetarian— chickpea and spinach. Guests were seated as the wait staff poured the wine. Afterwards, it was Greek Salads and rolls with butter. The main meals for the meat eaters were either sea bass, Athen’s stuff leg of lamb with pepperocini peppers served with red wine rosemary pilaf roasted vegetables, or the Chicken Souvlakia skewers. For the vegetarians, either potato rosti or the vegetarian souvlakia. The beverages were water, tea, diet soda, champagne, Roquefort wine, and British beer.

Two of the supportive relatives told hilarious, embarrassing stories and another guest made a weird, inappropriate speech about both of the couples. Jennifer saved the day by making a fantastic toast about their friendship and a hilarious story involving the twins and a donkey.

The friend who sang that John Lennon song earlier also DJed.  The couples’ slow dance song was the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows.  First, April and May had their moment. Then, Neville and Peter came to the floor in the middle of the song.  After the song ended, the DJ played a Ricky Martin song. Everyone else joined the couples.

Jennifer convinced Jessica to dance, but Jessica declined, not feeling like it. Jennifer shrugged and enjoyed herself. The playlist consisted of music from Elton John, One Direction, the Supremes, the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Adele, and various artists including Broadway music.  There were lots of eating, drinking, dancing, and socializing between songs.  Moreover, Jennifer and the Carltons did some catching up.  The Carltons worked in the technology industry.  Neville met Peter at a gay bar. They were on/off for three years.  April and May met through a mutual friend. They dated for two years. For the honeymoon, Neville and Peter were heading to Saba while April and May will go to Key West, Florida.

When it was time for dessert, Neville and Peter fed each other classic cream brulee. Then, April and May fed each other chocolate tarts.

“It’s too bad certain people couldn’t be here if you know what I mean,” said Neville.

“Would’ve been nice, but it’s for the best,” said Peter.

Surprisingly, the four newlyweds’ families showed up, handing out presents and cheering and yelling, “CONGRATULATIONS!” They all apologized for their ignorance.  Later, Jennifer caught April’s bouquet and Jessica caught Neville’s.  One of the guests must’ve called the families. 

Outside of the town hall, people cheered and threw rice and confetti at the newlyweds. Both couples climbed in their green mini-van.

Jennifer and Jessica left. They said in unison, “Our work is done.”

 

Essex

September 24

It was a small Catholic Church wedding of one hundred and fifty guests. Jennifer and Jessica wore the same dresses with matching purses.  The bride was Afro-British and the groom was Caucasian.  Prior to the ceremony, Jennifer interviewed the bride’s mother while Jessica did the photo shoot. Unfortunately, the bride only had a year to live because she had terminal brain cancer. It was her wish to get married in her parents’ church.  She already completed the other tasks on her bucket list: donating half of her belongings to the poor children in Africa, visiting London, Australia, and Hollywood; skiing on the Alps, seeing the new “Star Wars” movie before its actual release date, and singing on a hotel roof in Essex.  Her medical diagnosis derailed her plans of raising a family.

Meanwhile, Jessica took several pictures of the bride, the groom, their families, and the rest of the wedding entourage outside of the church.  The bride’s mother was included in the pictures after the interview.  Jessica used “The Wedding Lens,” the 24-70mm f/2.8. This lens was effective for capturing the entire wedding party. Jessica planned to do more afterwards, not during the ceremony as part of the restricted guidelines.

Jennifer and Jessica felt sympathetic about the whole situation.  This situation reminded Jessica of a story about Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old advocate for the “Right to Die” law. She died from a combination of terminal brain cancer and assisted suicide in late 2014.

In the church, as the bride’s father walked her down the aisle, Jennifer shed a tear and quickly wiped it away. Jessica raised her eyebrows.

The bride wore a white wedding dress to symbolize purity in the Victorian era and a blue garter under her dress. Something blue, something borrowed. She carried a bible for religious reasons. The groom wore a regular black tux. Everyone panicked when they heard gunshots outside. The police burst in the church. They said that no one was hurt luckily. They already caught the crazy lunatic attempting to assassinate the Prime Minister.

Afterwards, the wedding went on as if nothing had happened. The couple said their vows using touching poems and lyrics from songs, exchanged rings, and were married. After the ceremony, guests threw flower petals and confetti over the newly-married couple for good luck. The bride stopped and threw her bouquet. One of the bridesmaids caught it.  She wore a tacky blue dress like the other bridesmaids and the Maid of Honor.

The hotel reception in the ballroom was fancy and tranquil. The food was the same as the the wedding in London except the Greek food. The Best Man and the Maid of Honor made funny speeches. The bride’s parents’ speeches were sentimental. One of the groomsmen’ speech was so dull that it made a few people fall asleep. Finally, the couple made a lovely toast to each other. The wedding band played classical music while the bride waltzed with her father on the floor. The groom politely cut in halfway through the dance, symbolizing the bride to leave her father and join her new husband. The band’s tune changed to Etta James’ At Last.” Sadly, it was going to be the newlyweds’ last dance ever. A few tears slid down their faces like waterfalls.

Jessica used the wide-angle zoom on one of her five cameras for both dances, respectfully without distracting the bride’s father and the couple.  Afterwards, the couple, along with others guests, rocked out to a Rolling Stones song, the Bee Gees’ song, and  The Trammps’ Disco Inferno.”  When it was dessert time, the couple cut the lemon thyme cake and fed it to one and another. It symbolized their first meal together.   

During Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Jessica begged Jennifer to dance with her.

“We can’t. We’re not supposed to. We’re working,” said Jennifer.

“You danced at the other wedding,” said Jessica.

“That’s different. It was my friends’ wedding,” said Jennifer.

“So? Let’s take a break. Just a drink or two. What Naomi doesn’t know can’t hurt her,” said Jessica.

Jennifer sighed. “Fine. One drink. But that’s it!”

After a few glasses of champagne, the duo drunkenly danced with two of the ushers. Jennifer had sex with hers in the closet and Jessica wooed with hers in the men’s loo. Jessica walked away, disgusted because her one-night stand was so weird and disgusting. She was all sobered up by then.

Meanwhile, Jennifer had a better time with her one-night stand.  At 2 a.m., all sobered up, she woke up and discovered her purse was missing. She rummaged through the whole closet and the man she slept with was not here either. “Oh no! No, no, no, no, no! F—!” She quickly got dressed and ran into Jessica and two security guards in the hall.

“Are you Jennifer York?” asked one of the guards.

Jennifer nodded. She handed her her purse.

“Oh, thank you so much!” said Jennifer.

She rummaged through it. All of her important things were in there: wallet, money, hotel key, iPhone, makeup, notepads, writing utensils, etc.

“I saw the guy who stole your purse and summoned the security guards,” said Jessica.

“Rest assured, love, we caught the bloke who tried to get away. The police are on their way now. It turns out he was on their wanted list for robbing other weddings in London, Cambridge, Buckinghamshire, and Kingston. I guarantee you that his wedding crashing days are over,” said the security guard.

On the way to the hotel, Jessica apologized and blamed herself for what happened.

“Jessica, please, it’s not your fault. That bloke had no right to be there, anyway,” said Jennifer. “I don’t think the couple knew him. Nor did anybody. Look, we’ve had a long day. We’ll go to bed, get ready for Paris, and work at the airport.”

“If Naomi asks why she didn’t she get the Essex piece, what do we tell her?” asked Jessica.

“The wireless was out,” said Jennifer. “We didn’t get a good signal. Anything!”

“Do you know any French?” asked Jessica.

“Oui, mademoiselle. Two years at secondary school and one year at university,” said Jennifer.

“D’accord. One year at community college and the movie, Amelie,” said Jessica. “I studied Spanish in high school. That’s different.”

Jennifer said she never studied Spanish in school. She studied it online before travelling to Mexico, Spain, or other Spanish-speaking country.

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