Bridesmaid To Be

Author's Note: So it's been a while. Nothing unusual there, if you know me. But this is a longer chapter, and actually, this story is longer than I thought it would be, so when it finally is all up here, at least it will be more? And in the meantime I did manage to actually finish writing this story. It just needs proofing and typing. So the next chapter will be up sooner than this one, though maybe not until next year since I've got a few chapters of fanfic that I have to post first, and then there's NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 3: The Wedding Planner

I pretty much just have exams to go, then it's back home for summer holidays. I can't believe I'm actually, with any luck, going to have finished one year of my degree. That's a third of the way to starting my line. Oh crap. I've just realised what a big deal that is. I can't imagine that at twenty-one I'll be ready to do anything. For one thing, my sewing skills are sub-par despite the fact that I've been doing it forever.

Exams are crazy and so is Caden. He's freaking out because he'll probably be at home for months while Alex has to stay in the city to work until he gets his Christmas break. Apparently going back for weekends isn't going to be good for their relationship. I'm not quite sure what the big deal is. We own our apartment, so Cade could still live there, and even though I know his mum misses him, she's his mum, she'll get over it. She knows she has to let him go eventually. My mother, of course, can't care less that Alex is in Sydney since she isn't his mother and only ever tolerated his presence. I'm the first to admit that my mother is a bitch but I love her all the same.

"Cade," I say. "I won't be offended if you stay here until Alex comes home for Christmas."

"I know," he responds. "But if I stay here and you're not here what am I going to do while Alex is working?"

"Hang out with other people? Get a job?" I suggest.

He makes a face. I know that Cade pretty much has no plans to ever get a job. I, on the other hand, have my fashion plans. Which I will hopefully put into place sometime in the next ten years. I think I might be able to call in enough favours from friends to be an instant success. So sue me if I'm trying for a little optimism here! And if that falls through, at least I'll still have my commerce degree. I don't want to become my mother. Cade doesn't mind turning into his. Neither of us have to aspire to be more than our parents, but that's what I want. I want my own company. I want to be successful in my own right.

When Cade finally realises that while helping plan the wedding we'll probably end up in the city every so often he finally doesn't feel so bad about coming home. As though it would have been so hard to decide to come down every weekend. Personally, I think he needs a helicopter. There's a helipad on top of our roof here for some reason. We've been here almost a year now and no one's used it. Someone should put it to good use and it might as well be Cade.

x x x

It's strange being back home in East Peaks. Someone's always making my meals and I keep forgetting that I have to tell someone other than Cade if I'm not going to be in for a meal. Not to mention now I have to ring Cade if I want to talk or hang out instead of just pulling him out of bed. But as always, the house is kind of empty without Alex around and I can still see Caden every day as we help Hadley and Dodger with the wedding prep.

The first day after we got home Cade and I meet Alana Bennett, the wedding planner. Personally, I think she's a witch disguised as a wedding planner, but she came well recommended. She did Grover's uncle's wedding last year. That was the social event of the year and all our parents went and pretended they were having fun while they secretly talked business. I didn't even know Grover back then because we didn't run in the same circle.

But one good thing can be said about Alana Bennett: she absolutely adores Caden and me as well as Hadley and Dodger. I think she must have her heart set on doing Cade's and my wedding. We usually get along with people but the moment she first spoke we shared a look. There's just something so disingenuous about her. I know that most of our world is based upon false flattery and gossip, but everyone knows it. That means that everyone knows that no one actually means what they're saying so it's not fake at all. Alana doesn't seem to realise that we can see right through her.

"Hello darlings," Alana twitters at us. "You really must sit down. There is a lot we need to do today and the wedding is only in three months' time."

Cade and I make our excuses and sit down. The bitch in me is going to enjoy paying her out to the camera later. Maybe I shouldn't. I don't want everyone to think I'm a bitch. Enough people already do.

Today it's just Hadley, Dodger, Cade and me, their publicists and the TV crew, and Alana. We're all sitting around Hadley's afternoon sitting room. I did think Jasper would be here but since no one's mentioned him I guess he's not coming. It's strange since I heard he was in the country and what's the point in being in Australia if he's not here in Hadley's house?

Alana hands us each a schedule. Mine and Cade's are highlighted with events we're welcome at, and those that are bride and/or groom only that we're unwelcome at. Mine is also marked with private meetings with Alana about the hen's night and other things the maid of honour is meant to do. Good thing I'm off uni. I'm beginning to long one of the other places in the bridal party. I wonder if Cade will trade with me.

Despite Alana's insistence that this meeting will be busy, only two interesting things happen during the meeting. About half an hour after the meeting begins, Jasper walks in like he owns the p lace. Seriously, did they give him a key or something? Because I did not hear the doorbell ring. How rude. He doesn't even apologise for his tardiness, he only asks what he missed. As Dodger explains, I see Alana giving Jasper the evil eye. Apparently it is possible for someone to not be on her good side.

"So," Alana says, trying to move the proceedings along. She turns to Hadley. "How is your gown coming along? Who are you having make it?"

"I'm still not exactly sure," Hadley states.

Alana looks horrified. I can understand how she feels. Three months to make a wedding dress is nothing. If I hadn't been so busy with uni I might have reminded Hadley. But she has been busy with publicity and everything. "But darling you only have three months left." She picks up her phone and starts dialling. "I'll get someone to look after you right away." And with no further excuses, she's off, rapidly firing off orders to someone.

"Bandy, help!" Hadley whispers. "I can't let her pick my dress for me."

I give her a look. "It's not like I could make a dress for you in three months. Not with everything else going on."

"I know," Hadley acknowledges. "Or I'd have asked you already. But you must know someone."

I've taken a grand total of one two-week design course since I left high school, and back then the only thing I did was textiles class. A bridesmaid's dress I'm sure I could manage, but a wedding dress is a wedding dress. I try to think of the last couple of weddings I've been to, but no one springs to mind.

Caden gives me a look.

What? I ask with my eyes.

"Didn't you say that the best wedding dress you'd ever seen was the one your aunt wore to her second wedding?" Cade says. "You said that if anyone other than you was going to make it that it would be her."

I remember now. "Lavinia Marlow," I say. She's a way cool Australian designer. Like our version of Vera Wang, but Vera Wang can be too traditional at times and Lavinia is always fresh. And absolutely perfect for a movie star's wedding. Even more so if that movie star is Hadley.

"Lavinia Marlow?" Hadley doesn't seem to have heard of her before.

"You're so out of touch," I complain to Hadley. "You should quit Hollywood and move back here permanently."

Hadley smiles. "I wish."

Dodger turns away from the conversation he'd been having with Jasper so quickly I think he must have pulled a muscle. "Do you, honey? Because I don't want you to think that Hollywood is your entire life. That is has to be everything. We can do whatever you want to do. I'll make it work."

Behind his back, Jasper mimics gagging as Hadley reassures her fiancé. I frown. He's five years older than me, not five years old. He catches my look and smirks.

Oh my garters he looks so much hotter when he smirks. When he's being a jerk I can forget that he's probably the most handsome man I've ever met in my life, but there are times when his good looks override. I swoon internally. Thank goodness for etiquette lessons.

Hadley manages to interrupt Alana with Lavinia's name and the meeting continues. I admit I'm distracted by Jasper's fingers. They're long and slim and elegant despite the fact that they're currently engaged in wringing a ballpoint pen. I wonder what his deal is. I guess he doesn't like Alana either?

I'm back in the interview room before I know it, divulging my first impression of Alana. "I don't mean to be a bitch, but that woman is so fake and annoying. You're probably thinking that's just like me, but I'm not. And neither is Caden." Lisa indicates that I've gone off track so I reel it in. "Alana did my ex-boyfriend's uncle's wedding, so I'm sure she can do the job. There was almost some drama with the wedding dress designers, but I remembered one in particular that I hope Hadley likes.

"Actually, last year when Hadley and Dodger weren't together yet, she was angsting about whether or not she should go out with him. I told her that if she got married I'd make her wedding dress. It's too bad I don't have that kind of time. I don't think any of us thought the wedding would be so soon."

x x x

When the interviews are over, those of us remaining aren't quite sure what to do next. It's still early afternoon and meeting Alana has stressed out Hadley because there's still so much more to do. Luckily the documentary crew are in charge of tackling the paparazzi or I don't think we'd manage. I'm sure Hadley would just want to elope and I'm more sure that Dodger wouldn't deny her.

"Where do you party around here?" Jasper asks in that superior tone of his. Immediately I try to picture Jasper Briars in any of our local hangouts. He's probably too cool for the golf club, where a lot of our parents' generation hang out. The only other place in town is the club EP which is mostly full of tourists. We definitely wouldn't want them to know that movie stars are in the neighbourhood. There's a pub, of course, filled with those members of society we try to avoid mixing with. On the plus side, I doubt they'd know who Jasper Briars is.

"Nowhere I'd want to take you guys," Hadley says.

"Unless you're up for disguises," Caden puts in. Frankly, even with disguises I think the cameras would give us away. It's pretty obvious they're not going anywhere for the moment.

Jasper makes a face. "I'm going back to the city, then."

I know Jasper says it because he's a party pooper, but I think it's a great idea. "Let's all go," I say. "Cade and I know a place."

"The Holly," Cade says, knowing exactly what I'm talking about immediately.

"Elite, but not too elite," I add.

"Which means," explains Caden. "That Bandy and I are deemed famous enough to skip the line."

"So there is no queue?" Jasper, of course, doesn't think well of us. We're semi-famous here. Obviously more so in East Peaks than in Sydney, but you can't have a certain amount of money without people noticing.

"I've heard of it before," Dodger says. "Live music every night."

Jasper brightens at that. "Count me in then."

"Excellent," I say.

"I don't know," Hadley says. "There's so much to do and how would we get back later?"

"Your appointment with Lavinia's tomorrow," I remind her. "And that's in the city. You can crash at our place." Hadley doesn't see the need to keep a Sydney residence. If we didn't go to uni there, neither would we.

Cade agrees with a nod. "We don't have an extra bedroom, but we do have a sofa bed."

Hadley looks at Dodger, seeming to want to be convinced. "Come on," he said. "When's the last time we partied hearty?"

The assonance makes Hadley laugh and so she agrees. "That's okay, isn't it Lisa?" She's the only one who remembers that we actually need to check with the crew. We can't go some place where they won't let us film.

"Just give me one second," Lisa says, lifting her phone and typing something into her laptop. What an effort. The things famous people have to go through...

"Let's pack a bag," Dodger says, taking Hadley by the hand and leading her upstairs. He's staying at her place for the duration of the filming.

Cade zips to the side to call Alex, and Jasper and I are left alone, individually pondering the state of the universe.

Eventually he looks at me. "Aren't you a little young for clubbing?" he asks, condescension clear in his tone. As though he isn't only five years older than I am.

"I'm nineteen," I inform him, wishing I was taller so that I'd look my age. It's amazing how many people think I'm only fourteen. "Legal drinking age is eighteen here, remember?" I add, just in case he really just thinks I'm under twenty-one.

"Right," he says and doesn't say another word to me while we're by ourselves.

"Alex says he'll meet us there," Cade says with a grin.

I smirk back. "Does that mean we will have a spare room tonight?"

As much as the thought of Caden and my brother having sex disgusts me, it's fun to tease him about it. I don't even know if they've had sex or not. I'd really rather it stay that way. As much as I know Cade needs a friend to talk to about stuff like that, as long as he's with my brother it's not going to be me.

Cade blushes, then smirks. "Who says he's not coming back to our place?"

"Ew." I wrinkle my nose.

"So you're gay?" Jasper asks, showing he was listening to our conversation.

"Yes," says Caden. "Got a problem with that?"

I turn my fiercest glare onto Jasper. It's impossible to insult the gay population without insulting my best friend and brother. That can turn anyone into a gay rights activist pretty quickly... not that I'm an activist.

"I once played a gay guy in a movie," is Jasper's only explanation. For all I know he is homophobic but smart enough to disguise it without lying.

"I saw that one," Hadley interrupts, overnight bag in tow. "The guy who kisses you is hot."

"Hey!" Dodger is faux-indignant.

"Don't worry babe, you're hotter." Hadley's patronising. It's hilarious.

"Anton's a good friend of ours," Dodger puts in.

Hadley raises a suspicious eyebrow. "Then why haven't you mentioned him before?"

Dodger sighs. "Okay so I've never met him before in my life."

"And I hate his guys," Jasper adds, flippant.

I'm shocked by the casual way he says it. There are cameras monitoring his every word and light though his tone is, I can tell he's serious. Anton could see this one day. And doesn't he care about his reputation at all? On the other hand, it's nice to see that he could be professional and even kiss a guy that he happens to hate... Jasper didn't hate him until after that day. Maybe he had a crush and they secretly went out and broke up over it.

I shake my head and go back to paying attention to the conversation. That's way too much speculation.

Lisa comes in with the news that we may proceed to the Holly. Of course, the city's an hour away but it's still afternoon.

"Let's go, Cade," I say. "I need a new dress."

He rolls his eyes but turns to leave with me. We're followed by a two-person camera crew who sit in the back seat of Cade's Jeep, and we begin the drive back to Sydney. Who knew we'd be back so soon.

x x x

At the door to our apartment I'm suddenly worried that we left the place in one gigantic mess. We did remember to clear the perishables out of the fridge, but we had a going away party the night we left and I don't remember if we cleaned up, or which day the cleaner usually comes.

Caden unlocks the door and I'm pleased to note that not much is in disarray. There's a jumper I accidentally left behind on the back of our couch and piles of last semester's uni work under the coffee table. It's untidy, but not unclean.

"I'm getting changed," I declare to the room before grabbing the bag containing my new dress and heading into my bedroom. I lock the door behind me, though I don't usually bother. I trust Caden, but I'm not so sure about the camera crew.

Cade and I have separate bathrooms. We never would have been able to share such a small space, no matter how much Cade claims he doesn't do anything to his hair. Cade's probably busy telling the camera what ridiculous things he suspects I'm up to right now, but I can't care less.

x x x

An hour and a half later, I'm ducking into the Holly with Hadley, Dodger and Jasper. Cade's staking out the front entrance, waiting for Alex who decided to go home and change after work. His apartment's not far from ours but is in a different building. We had to be pickier about choosing because of our insistence upon two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

There aren't too many people here, but there's enough of a crowd for them to not fall silent when we enter. It takes longer for people to notice. You can tell who has by whether or not they have their phone out either held to their ear or text messaging their friends. There are a few camera flashes, but I'm sure the pictures won't turn out very well. Dodger saunters off to buy the first round, and the rest of us crowd a booth. I'm sitting next to Hadley, across from Jasper. It's easy for me to appreciate the lines of his face without actually making him think I like him.

The music playing is unfamiliar but not un-likeable.

"I thought you said there was live music," Jasper complains.

As he says it, the song fades out and is interrupted by a mellow voice. "Welcome to the HOLLY everyone!" I join in the cheer that comes up, smirking at Jasper.

He pointedly ignores my look, turning to get a better view of the band on stage.

The lead singer introduces himself as Kyle. He lists off the rest of the band members too quickly for me to catch. And then they begin playing the Holly's theme song. This is the first time I've heard this version of the house band play. The last time I was here it was a keyboardist in his thirties and one blonde chick who sang like an Idol contestant and looked like one too. And I don't mean a finalist. As sung by her, the Holly's theme was completely different. For one thing the other guy didn't sing at all, and this band's version had no keyboard at all.

When the theme is over, they launch straight into the sort of music that I can't sit still for. Cade still hasn't come in so I grab Hadley's hand and begin rocking out with her. The lead singer had just the sort of voice that was perfect for it. I can't help but think that Kyle seems familiar, but I can't place his face. It's only when Alex comes in that I remember. He's one of my brother's Newcastle friends. I recognise him from a picture Alex keeps in his bedroom. A quick exchange with Alex confirms it. The lead singer is Alex's friend Stephen's younger brother.

For the most part, I know very little about Alex's life back in Newcastle. He doesn't like to talk about it. Sometimes he doesn't even mention that he's going back there to visit. I get the feeling he did things he wasn't proud of back then, and that being there reminds him too much of his mother. I never got to meet her, but the way Alex talks about her, I wonder why my father ever left her for my mother.

Jasper is on the dance floor with some blonde bimbo who looks like she's about to keel over because her entire diet consists of Skinny Bitches. And well, if you are what you eat... To get my mind off Jasper, I survey the rest of the room. Man-wise there are slim pickings. Why did I never notice that before? Oh yeah, because the last time I was here I still had a boyfriend.

I head back to our booth and slump in. Well if thinking about the ex isn't a mood-killer, I don't know what is. I still like Grover as a very good friend, and most days I still find myself missing him, even though we've now been apart longer than we were together. I know I was the one who broke it off, and I don't want to get back together, but I liked having a boyfriend. It was so much easier than having to chase one down. That's much less fun now that Caden's attached.

My eyes are drawn back to Jasper unthinkingly. He's now dancing with a brunette as well as the blonde. I can see a redhead obviously making her way toward him and just like that he has a full set. What an arse. But I can't deny his appeal in this room. Who wouldn't rather dance with a movie star over the assorted ugly drunks?

The band finishes their set and Cade and Alex slide in across from me, thankfully refraining from touching, though they're sharing secret smiles. My brother does take a moment from Cade to spend on me. "You don't look like you're having much fun."

I shrug. "Slim pickings."

Alex casts his eye over the dance floor and agrees with me. It's still kind of awkward knowing that my brother's bisexual. I don't want to ever have these sorts of conversations with him.

"You wouldn't be in this situation if you hadn't broken up with Grover." Alex can't seem to understand why we broke up. It's not like he ever even liked Grover. I hope it's just because he feels like Grover is all that I want, not because he feels for Cade what I felt about Grover and is still staying with him. I'd have for them to be together just because they liked each other. I'm pretty sure he just wants me to have someone because he feels guilty about taking my best friend away from me.

Alex backs off when Cade shoots him a look and I want to laugh and cry at the same time. They both share a concerned look.

"I'm going to get you something," he says. He gets up and I suppose he's getting me a drink.

"You're too good for Jasper." Cade voices the thought I know has been on his mind since he walked up on me staring at him a moment ago.

"I think you have that backwards," I say. I can't deny that I was staring at Jasper... or that I still am.

Cade follows my gaze as Jasper's harem increases.

"Besides," I add. "You're the one who said he was just my type."

"You're always too good for your type. I don't understand why you want them."

Sometimes I wonder that myself. Why was I always attracted to the boy smoking behind the staff toilets during period two? Or the one who unashamedly had two girlfriends at once? "I guess it's just that controlling need to change them into a better person."

The DJ's blasting yet another song I've never heard before. I'm partial to the sort of dance music they play in clubs, but what I love more is the sort of stuff they play at weddings and birthday parties. Songs that come with a dance, extremely yellable chorus or almost anything from the nineties. The decade of my childhood shaped me and my taste in music and I am too sentimental to let it go.

Alex isn't back yet, and I can see Cade getting antsy. I'm just not in the mood to talk tonight. Finally he glares at me. "Well if you aren't going to talk then let's dance." He grabs my hand and tries to drag me onto the dancefloor but I really don't want to.

"Go on without me," I say.

Caden frowns and sits back down.

A moment later Alex returns, not with drinks but with Kyle, the drummer and the bassist from the house band.

I have to hand it to my brother. Cute boys do usually improve my mood. But not right now. I don't want to sound like an elitist snob but I already know they're not the sort of guys I'd want to go out with. I just don't know how to go out with a guy who doesn't understand what it's like to have money. I tried once and it was the most miserable month of my life. And that was one of my longer relationships, since I didn't want to seem prejudiced.

But that doesn't stop me from making friends with them after we introduce ourselves. Alex probably wouldn't have brought them over if he actually thought I was seriously considering dating one of them. The most fascinating thing about the conversation is that I finally get to hear a little about Alex's life back in Newcastle. It turns out that before Alex was my big brother he was a big brother of sorts to Kyle. Apparently the other two only really became his friends after Alex left for East Peaks.

Alex looks uncomfortable. It's obvious that he's been in contact with these guys, but he'd never given me that impression before. I have to get Kyle's number if only because he'll tell me a million little things that Alex never will. It's not wrong to find out more about my brother, is it? I don't think there's anything he'll have done to lower my opinion of him.

"So," says Alex, trying to get the conversation away from him. "Drinks?"

The guys all seem pretty enthusiastic. I know Alex is trying to get away from the questions, but I follow him anyway, leaving Cade with the rest of the band.

"You didn't mention you were still in contact with them," I say.

"I know," he says. "Didn't think I had to."

"Well no, I guess not. But it always seems like you're hiding something."

"Well I'm not," he says, ending that line of conversation. I'm put out, but I can't make my brother speak. I guess since he's kept quiet this long he's got his reasons for what he does.

We catch a bit of a lull at the bar, so we actually get served pretty soon. Alex orders a jug of something by pointing to the tap and I order margaritas for me and Cade. We make our way back to the table and I happily deposit Cade's drink in front of him and take a sip from mine.

The conversation turns to the band, and the previous house band. Then they see their lead guitarist dancing with the same redhead who'd been dancing with Jasper earlier. At least, I think it was the same one. I must say it's difficult to tell skanks apart. The bassist goes to talk to him.

I turn to Cade while they're distracted, wanting to know what Cade thinks about their Newcastle stories.

"He's told me more than he has you," says Cade, confirming what I'd suspected. I hate it. I hate that my own brother doesn't feel like he can tell me things. But I'm guilty of the same. There are still things that he doesn't understand about my life. Things that only Cade will ever get.

"It's nothing bad, is it?" I ask.

"No," Cade shakes his head. "It's just hard for him to talk about."

It probably is about his mother, then. "You'd tell me if it was something I needed to know, right? Like if there was some topic I have to avoid around him."

"Of course," says Cade. "But I'm sure he'll tell you eventually. He'll be ready some day."

I've been too distracted by our conversation to notice that the band guys had all left. It looks like they're involved in some sort of argument on the dance floor. Then my eyes are drawn to Jasper for the millionth time that night and he looks like a crazy man. He's obviously trying to draw attention to himself, shouting and dancing. He even starts to take off his shirt and my eyes start tracing his ab muscles before someone gets in the way and blocks my view.

"What was that all about?" I wonder.

Cade shrugs. "I don't think I want to know."

"You're probably right," I say, even as a million different reasons why he'd do that start running through my head. "He's just an attention whore." I have to force myself to look at Cade so that I don't keep craning my neck trying to look for him. Somehow the rest of the night passes similarly, and while I start to have a better time later on in the evening, I think it's really just the alcohol talking.

x X X x

A/N: Within a day or so, I should have chapter one of the next story in this series "The House Band" up. It is, as you may be able to guess from the title, the story of the four guys in the band that made its first appearance in this story. It will actually be posted concurrently to this story because it's more of a spin off since it covers a period of time squarely within the "Bridesmaid To Be" time. That actually means that the first chapter of that story is set on this exact day. So you get to see the other side of the last scene.

It is not going to stop me from posting chapters of "Bridesmaid To Be" because it has already been written (and typed) in its entirety. It was last year's NaNoWriMo project.