Thursday, December 14, 2006
Friends are forever Pt. 2
“Mandy, we’ve got a problem!”
I looked up as my business partner Susan Ashby walked into my office, waving a pink folder. As usual, she was impeccably dressed: pale green Donna Karan pantsuit, pearl accessories and tan Balenciaga sling backs. Older and wiser beyond her 35 years, Susan often made me forget that only seven years separated our ages. Not that I was a giddy-headed, impetuous youth either. Running one of the top event planning companies on the island didn’t leave much room for rashness. Susan and I had met while we were undergoing training and we decided to team up to realise our dream of running our own event business.
Susan continued. “Debbie is home sick with the flu and she has a couple coming in at 10 for their first consultation. Trust me, we don’t want to lose this one, it’s going to be the society wedding of the year! Can you fit it into your schedule?”
I flipped through my diary, trying to see if I could reorganise my morning to accommodate the additional appointment. I knew that Susan had to spend the entire morning at the reception site of the nervous bride of a local Parliamentarian, and that left two junior event planners who were still getting their feet wet.
“It’s going to be tight but I think I can do it and still make it to Turtle Beach to meet the decorator for the Holloway wedding.”
She sighed in relief and handed over the folder. “Have fun. I hear the groom’s a serious hottie but the bride’s a code red,” she grinned mischievously and waved before heading out the door.
I groaned and flipped open the file. At Ashby-Harris Events we jokingly coded our brides based on the stress level they were likely to cause. A code red meant I was in for a long morning.
My eyes widened when I read the information gathered on the couple I would be meeting in an hour. Oh yeah, I thought, it was going to be a very long morning.
An hour later, my secretary Liz buzzed to let me know that my clients had arrived. I asked her to show them into the conference room and I rose from my desk, smoothing my white Nicole Farhi pantsuit nervously. I checked my reflection in my compact and smoothed my shoulder-length, honey-coloured dreadlocks into place.
The conference room door was still ajar and I stood in the doorway, checking out the altar-bound couple. The groom was standing at the window, arms folded across his broad chest, gazing down at the busy City street four stories below. His bride, slim and attractive in a silk designer skirt suit, was seated at the conference table, engaged in a heated discussion on her cell phone.
I took a deep breath and walked in, closing the door behind me. “Good morning, I’m Amanda Harris. Welcome to AshbyHarris Events.”
Steven Carmichael turned sharply when he heard my voice. “Mandy? I didn’t know you worked here!”
He hesitated, then came over and shook my hand. I tried to ignore the thrill that ran through me when we touched. “I actually co-own the company. How’ve you been?”
“Pretty well, can’t complain. You look well,” he smiled softly. I nodded my thanks and repaid the compliment. I hadn’t set eyes on him in three years and the years had been very kind. His expensive dark suit complemented his muscular body nicely, and his closely shaved head and neatly trimmed moustache and goatee accentuated his dark-brown skin. If possible, he was getting more handsome with age.
He signaled to his bride-to-be, who was still deep in conversation. She held up a finger and launched into another tirade. I didn’t envy the person on the other end of the line.
“Look, Steven, if this is going to be too awkward let me know and I’ll re-schedule you with another planner,” I began.
“Well, if you can deal with it so can I. You tell me,” he replied frankly, placing his hands in his pockets.
I frowned and pondered on the situation. His bride, Veronica McFarrell, was the daughter of one of the richest men on the island and planning her wedding would be a financial and PR coup. But could I honestly help her to marry the man I once loved?
The decision was taken out of my hands by his fiancée, who finished her call and approached us. “I told Stevie that we must have the Ashby-Harris Events that planned Eleanor Wilthshire’s wedding. Only the best for a McFarrell, right darling?”
I suppressed a snicker. I guess I knew which surname she was planning to use after marriage.
“Veronica, Mandy is an old friend of mine from Brighton. We were neighbours for many years,” Steven smiled, placing his arms around her shoulders.
I tried to ignore the casual intimacy between the two and extended my hand, which she shook limply. I ushered them over to the large oak table to get down to the business of planning their wedding.
“Are you married yourself, Mandy? You don’t mind if I call you Mandy, right?” Veronica began as soon as she was seated.
“No, I’ve never been married, Ms. McFarrell. I’ve never been that lucky,” I responded coolly, and Steven raised an eyebrow.
“She was engaged once, Veronica, to another friend of ours,” he returned, smiling thinly.
“Some friend,” I muttered under my breath, then turned my attention to planning the McFarrell-Carmichael wedding.