Authors: Tamara Summers
For all the brides I’ve ever known, none of
whom were remotely as crazy as these. And for
my own sister, the best bride ever.
I’m never having a wedding.
It’s a Saturday in early May, and Mom is organizing…
Mom actually faints. One moment she is gaping at Paris,…
We have cupcakes for dinner that night, because Mom is…
Sofia goes back to school on Sunday night, so I’m…
It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that Victoria has decided…
I manage to focus on finals for the next couple…
His lips taste like honey and chocolate (and surprisingly not…
The following weekend is Sofia’s college graduation, not that anyone…
Victoria and Paris somehow manage not to speak to each…
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MY EYES! LOOK AT MY EYES!”
As my hands move across Leo’s back and he starts…
When I open my eyes the next morning, there is…
True to her word, Sofia plans the whole bachelorette party…
The strangest, craziest, best, and worst weekend of my life…
“Jack?” A hand is stroking my shoulder softly. “Jack, wake…
I wake up curled in Leo’s arms, all the covers…
The week flies by, and there’s no sign of Leo.
I open my eyes slowly. Sunshine is pouring in my…
“Leo!” I cry, throwing my arms around his neck. He…
I’m never having a wedding.
When I meet my dream boy—who will not be (a) boring, (b) obnoxiously fit, (c) an enormous role-playing dork, or (d) a Taiwanese model I barely know, like certain other people’s husbands I could mention—my plan is to skip the whole inevitable wedding catastrophe. Instead we’ll do it the old-fashioned way. I’ll club him on the head, drag him off to Vegas, and marry him in a classy Elvis chapel, like our caveman ancestors would have wanted.
None of my five older sisters will have to be bridesmaids. In fact, they won’t even have to come if they don’t want to, except Sofia, who
will be my maid of honor. And I won’t force her to wear the most hideous dress I can find, because I, unlike most of my sisters, am a kind and thoughtful person with, I might add, a terrific sense of style.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my sisters. I’m the baby of the family, so they’ve always taken care of me and treated me like their favorite toy when we were growing up. In fact, they were always super-nice to me, until they turned into brides. So despite the bridesmaid dresses they have forced me to wear and the weirdos they’ve married, I do love them.
It’s just not safe to get married in this family, at least not if I, Jakarta Finnegan, bring a date to the wedding, which presumably I will to my own wedding. This is because the Finnegan family suffers from a terrible Wedding Curse, or at least I do. I don’t know what we did to deserve it.
I didn’t figure this out until after Wedding #2. I thought all the insanity at my oldest sister’s wedding (#1) was normal behind-the-scenes craziness. When the best man got stuck in a
snowstorm in Indiana—in JUNE—I was like,
and then when the organ player at the church came down with the mumps (in this century?), I thought it was strange, and sure, we were all a little freaked out by the flock of seagulls that crashed through the skylight in the reception hall during the cake cutting, but at no point did I think
Oops, my fault
Maybe I should uninvite Patrick to the wedding.
Afterwards, when this very first boyfriend I ever had broke up with me and fled in terror, it did cross my mind that maybe fourteen-year-old boys aren’t cut out for nuptial ceremonies.
But it wasn’t until the next wedding that alarm bells started to go off in my head. For instance, the day I asked my new boyfriend David to be my wedding date, the groom broke his wrist playing tennis and all three hundred invitations arrived back on our doorstep in a giant pile because they were missing two cents of postage. The day before the wedding, on the phone, was the first time I told David I loved him, and at that exact moment I got call waiting.
When I switched over, it was one of my uncles hysterically calling to tell us that the hotel where all the guests were supposed to stay had burned down. And
, on the way to the wedding, when I kissed David in the limousine,
struck the car in front of us, causing a massive six-car pile-up in which no one was hurt, but everyone involved in the ceremony was an hour late.
Lightning. Mumps. And
. I’m telling you, I’m not crazy. This is a very real curse. And that’s not even getting into the emotional wreckage afterwards with David, but I don’t like to talk about that.
So you can see why I’m not crazy about the idea of having a wedding myself. Besides, all the good ideas have been taken. There’s nothing else I could possibly do that hasn’t been done before. That’s what happens when you have five older sisters.
But I should start at the beginning—Victoria’s bridal shower, where it all started to fall apart.
Or maybe I should go back to Sydney’s and
Alexandria’s weddings, so you get the big picture of what it’s like to be a bridesmaid…over and over and over again.
Or maybe it goes back even farther than that, because to tell the truth, the trouble really started when my parents had Victoria and Paris only ten months apart.
Let’s start with who I am (since I’m pretty sure that’s not where anyone else would start). We’ll get one thing out of the way right up front. My name is Jack. Under no circumstances will anyone call me Jakarta. It’s not
fault that my parents are crazy and travel-obsessed, and none of us are going to encourage them by using my real name.
My parents are the Ken and Kathy of the Ken and Kathy’s Travel Guide series. You must have seen the books—all about how to travel to fascinating places and have crazy adventures even with a pile of kids in tow. They travel all the time, always to exotic, fabulous, far-flung locales, and their house is full of wild foreign art and knickknacks. But it’s one thing to hang an African mask on your wall or put down a
Peruvian llama rug. It’s another thing altogether to name your children after the cities you’ve traveled to, don’t you think?
Mine is by far the worst, of course. I mean, it figures; I’m the youngest, with five older sisters, so they had obviously run out of decent names for girls by the time I came along. I think they were hoping I’d finally be a boy so they could get the Santiago they always wanted.
My sisters don’t have it so bad: Alexandria, Sydney, Victoria, Paris, and Sofia. Those could totally be normal-person names, couldn’t they? Not like Jakarta. I mean, seriously.
I guess it could be worse. My name could be Tlaquepaque, or Irkutsk, or Pyongyang. Or, you know, Pittsburgh. Sometimes I flip through the atlas just to remind myself of all the names that would be worse than mine.
That’s me. Looking on the bright side.
Alexandria, the oldest, is twenty-eight now. She’s a lawyer, and she’s tall and thin and blond and perfect-looking all the time. Sofia and I seriously can’t believe we’re related to her. She got
married two years ago, to another lawyer, Harvey the Boringest Man on Earth. That was the wedding with the snowstorm and the mumps and the seagulls. The one where Patrick broke up with me.
Then there’s Sydney, who’s a year and a half younger. She’s athletic and short and full of energy, and she’s a pediatrician. She married her tennis instructor a year ago. When I say “obnoxiously fit”? You have no idea. Marco makes me tired just looking at him. Even when he’s sitting at our kitchen table reading the newspaper, you can tell he’s burning major calories. Their wedding was the one where the hotel burned down and lightning hit a car and David was a majorly enormous jerk.
After Sydney came Victoria and Paris, only ten months apart and about as different as two people can be. Victoria, our “romantic” sister, is willowy and pale, wears her hair long and flowing like a nymph in a Pre-Raphaelite painting, and is very sweet and quiet…or, at least she was until she became a bride-to-be. Paris, on the
other hand, has bright red hair cropped close to her head, a nose ring, and a burning desire to be the world’s most famous female glassblower. My mom says she’s “an individual.”
Paris was enough to keep my parents busy for four years. Personally, if I had a daughter like Paris, I wouldn’t ever have sex again, just in case there was another one like her lurking in there. The world couldn’t SURVIVE two Parises.
Luckily, what they got instead was Sofia, my twenty-year-old sister who is also my best friend and the biggest genius in the universe. She’s graduating from college this year—she triple-majored and still finished in three years.
Then there’s me. Recently turned seventeen. I have normal curly brown hair, shoulder-length, and normal gray eyes. I try not to make a fuss because I saw my parents endure Paris’s wild teenage years and it didn’t look like fun for anyone. By being a regular good kid, I get to do mostly whatever I want, and there’s a lot less shouting. Also, it’s hard to stand out when I’m with my sisters. If I tried to be loud (or naughty), Paris
would be louder (and much, much naughtier). If I tried to be sweet, Vicky would be sweeter. If I tried to be bossy, Alex…well, you get the idea. So I try to stay under the radar, and I try to be helpful, because once Mom told me: “Jakarta, honey, we love that you’re such an easy child,” and that’s probably the only thing that she’s never said about my sisters—even Sofia, who was too gifted to be easy. (And you know what’s nice about being the easy child? I’m the one they still take on their travel excursions. Not making a fuss has gotten me to India and Egypt and Paraguay and Portugal, so even when Paris gets all the attention, I still think I’m winning.)
I’m not blond or super-fit or perfect. Not romantic, not “an individual,” and definitely not a genius. So what am I? I’ll tell you what: a bridesmaid.
It feels like I’ve been a bridesmaid for three years straight, and we’re not even halfway through my sisters yet. Victoria’s wedding is this summer and then Paris…well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
It’s a Saturday in early May, and Mom is organizing and hosting Victoria’s bridal shower at this fancy tea room in town. It couldn’t be more Victoria. All the chairs have big puffy flowered cushions on them and all the teacups come in different sizes with little matching plates—all covered in flowers, of course. When I walk in the front door, I nearly impale myself on a giant angel that takes up the entire foyer, its massive marble wings blocking the entrance to the tea room. It stares at me forbiddingly. Even the enthusiastic arrangements of fresh flowers piled on top of its head don’t make it seem any friendlier.
“Can I help you?”
I jump and look around. As far as I can tell, I’m alone in this very pink room. I squint at the wallpaper, which looks like a rose garden went mad and tried to escape by climbing the walls. I kind of know how it feels.
“I said, can I
I turn slowly and look at the angel. It’s definitely glaring at me. But it also definitely looks like it’s made of marble. I glance around to make sure I’m alone and then lean toward it.
“Are you talking to me?” I whisper.
says a sharp voice, and I suddenly realize it’s coming from above the angel.
I look up. I stand on tiptoe. Impatiently, the person scoots some tall vases to the side so I can see her, and I realize that the angel is sort of a reception desk, with the welcome person standing on a step behind it and leaning over its head.
Although “welcoming” isn’t exactly how she looks by this point.
“Um, hi,” I say. “I’m here for the—um, the bridal shower.”
“Which one?” Grandmother Grumpy snaps.
There’s more than one?
“Victoria Finnegan?” I say.
says the old woman with, I think, unwarranted skepticism. It’s true Victoria and I don’t look much alike, and I also don’t fit the spacey, hippie-skirt-wearing, Elvish-speaking mold of most of her friends. But hello, we
sisters, so yes, I do deserve to be here, Madame Grouchypants.
“My sister brought my mother over earlier,” I say lamely, wondering if I should have come with Alex and Mom. I’d opted for the extra half hour of sleep instead, plus the bonus of getting to drive the car over by myself, which I can finally do now that I have my license instead of just a permit.
“Oh, there you are, Jakarta,” my mother says, bustling into the lobby. I shoot the receptionist a fierce look to make sure she isn’t laughing at my name. My mom and dad never remember to call me Jack, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings by making a fuss about it. But they’re the only ones who can get away with it.
“Did you bring the favors?” Mom asks, her voice already full of panic, even though I am clearly holding two giant shopping bags.
“Of course I did,” I say. After spending the entire night wrapping translucent lace and lavender ribbons around lilac candles, I hardly think I’d then be dumb enough to leave them at home. Oh, and if you’re curious about which of the other bridesmaids suffered through this along with me? None of them. Alex had too much work to do at the firm, Sydney was on call, Sofia was clever enough not to come home from college until this morning, and nobody’s heard from Paris in about a week.
Don’t worry, that’s not unusual. She’s a freewheeling crazy-artist type, after all, and she’s actually sold a couple of big pieces so she can afford to do freewheeling crazy-artist-type things (especially since she still lives at home and doesn’t pay rent, ahem). She usually leaves us notes like: “Absolutely MUST see Chihuly exhibit in Philadelphia. Be back Friday. Toodles!” or “Have fallen desperately in love
with baby panda. Off to recreate it as a vase. Call you from China!” The most recent one said cryptically: “Found something hotter than glass. Will share with you all next week. See you then!”
Mom takes the bags from me and sticks her nose in them, inspecting the candles to make sure I haven’t crushed them on the way over.
“Where are your sisters?” she frets. “Paris and Sofia both promised they would be here before the shower started.”
“There’s still half an hour to go,” I say. “Don’t worry…Sofia will be here.” That’s about the best reassurance I can muster. Paris could easily be windsurfing in Australia for all we know. It would be fairly typical of her to forget Victoria’s bridal shower. I’ve been getting this weird vibe that she’s jealous of all the attention Vicky’s getting, but Paris is too loud and flashy to let anyone know what she’s really feeling. And seriously, has she met Vicky’s fiancé? You’d have to be crazy to be jealous of Kevin. He is the world’s weirdest guy.
“Alexandria is finishing the decorations, and Sydney is on her way with the cupcakes,” Mom says anxiously. “I think. I hope she is—I didn’t call to remind her—do you think she forgot?”
call to remind her,” I point out.
“You called her this morning at seven o’clock, and you’re lucky, because of all of us, I think Sydney’s the only one who’d actually be up at that hour. Jogging or weight-lifting or throwing javelins or whatever.”
“Yes, but then I meant to remind her again and I didn’t. Maybe I should call her. She’s supposed to bring the monogrammed lavender napkins, too…I’m sure she forgot those. Oh, I’d better call her.”
This is why we hired a wedding planner for Victoria’s wedding. Sydney tried to do her entire wedding herself, and it nearly made Mom’s head pop off. For some reason navigating foreign countries doesn’t faze her, but choosing between orchids and calla lilies sends her right out of her mind.
Speaking of our inexhaustible wedding plan
ner, Carolina Trapelo, here she is now, appearing magically the way she always does when my mom’s voice gets into that alarming upper register. Carolina’s thick dark hair is piled on her head in a twist that looks both messy and elegant at the same time, and she is impeccably tailored, as always, in a suit that perfectly fits her sizable curves.
, you look sooo beautiful today,” she says, kissing both my cheeks. This is a blatant lie, as I am wearing a shapeless lemon yellow sundress—YELLOW—on my mother’s strict instructions. It’s one of Vicky’s wedding colors, along with baby pink, baby blue, and lavender, any one of which would at least look better on me than yellow, but I learned way back during Alex’s wedding that the path of least resistance is the one that gets me to the end of the reception with the least stress.
“And Kathy, darling, don’t fret, I got the napkins and Sydney is right behind me with the cupcakes.” She turns to wave out at the parking lot, and through the window I suddenly spot the
most gorgeous guy I have ever seen.
He’s leaning against a black hybrid car, wearing jeans, sunglasses, and a dark blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His dark hair has just a hint of curl in it, and he’s playing with a yo-yo. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone make a yo-yo look sexy and mysterious.
As I’m watching him, Sydney’s car pulls into the spot beside his. He glances up, but much to my approval, does not ogle my sister’s toned biceps and evenly tanned legs. Instead he looks back down and spins the yo-yo around again.
I have to get out there. I have to get closer to the mystery dreamboat. True, I am not at peak hotness in this dress, but I’m not trying to get
attention. I just want to see if he really looks that much like a young Clive Owen from up close.
“I’ll go help Sydney with the cupcakes,” I say, dumping the bags of favors on the floor and zipping out the door before Mom can stop me.
I scoot up to Sydney as she is leaning into
her trunk, stacking three long flat boxes of cup-cakes on top of one another. Her dress is a little too vibrant to be “baby” pink, but I’d bet she doesn’t own anything pastel, so it’s close enough.
Sexy Yo-Yo Guy has really nice arms. Can you get really nice arms from lots of yo-yo-ing? He may or may not be looking at me through his sunglasses. And he does, in fact, look a bit like Clive Owen, without the five o’clock shadow and tired eyes. Not that I can see his eyes. It’s just a guess.
“Oh, teriff,” Sydney says, spotting me. “Hold out your arms.” Sydney can be very brisk. I guess she’s saving her energy for sports. I let her pile two boxes in my arms while I try to stare at Sexy Yo-Yo Guy without looking like I’m staring at him. The sunglasses are an unfair advantage, since I can’t tell where he’s looking.
“Careful, Jack,” Sydney orders. “Keep them level so the frosting won’t smush. Hey, look, it’s Sofia.”
I nearly fling the boxes into the air with
excitement, but I manage to restrain myself. Finally, the one sister I want to see is here—and just in time for me to share Sexy Yo-Yo Guy with her. Thank God she found an Ivy League college less than two hours away to go to, because I need at least a monthly dose of her sanity to handle living with Paris. I haven’t seen her in three weeks because she’s been working hard-core on her thesis. (Something involving physics and music. I know—
Maybe I’ll understand it once I get to college, which, thank God, is only a year away. I’m counting on college to be virtually wedding-free.)
“Jack!” Sofia cries happily as she bounds up to us, her dark curls bouncing. She’s wearing lavender per Mom’s instructions, and is carrying a silver gift bag.
How many of these stupid things do I have to go to before I remember to bring a present? Isn’t staying up all night wrapping candles present enough? I ask you.
“I missed you!” Sofia says, giving me a half-hug around the boxes. “Hi, Sydney.”
“Careful!” Sydney admonishes. “The cup-
cakes!” She leans back into the trunk to get the last box.
“Chhkk oot y-y gyy,” I whisper to Sofia through my teeth, shaking my hair back casually in his direction.
Sofia, of course, understands what I’m saying right away. Her eyes flick over my shoulder and back so quickly there’s no way he could have spotted it.
“Ooooooh,” she murmurs. “You want I should take the cupcakes and you go get his number?”
“No way!” I say, blocking her move toward the boxes. “You know my rule. No dating until the weddings are over.”
“Jack!” Sofia protests, but I’m already heading back to the tea room. She hurries to catch up with me. “Jack, you’re being daft,” she says. Sofia likes goofy words like “daft” and “impropriety” and “muddle.” She continues, “What happened with Patrick at Alex’s wedding was not the wedding’s fault, it was Patrick’s. Normal guys wouldn’t be freaked out
by something like that.”
“Oh, really?” I say. “Let’s see. For starters, he had to see me in that horrendous red bridesmaid dress with the poofy hip and butt rosettes, which would never have happened if it hadn’t been a WEDDING. Then he had to dance with me—terribly, I might add—in front of everyone because I was in the bridal party and Alex insisted—which, again, would never have happened if it hadn’t been a WEDDING. Then the wedding singer made fun of him for wearing the same blue tuxedo as the waiters—also a uniquely WEDDING problem. And THEN Alex threw the stupid bouquet
right at me
it! And of course Paris was immediately like, ‘Ooooooh, Patrick, look out, I guess you guys are next, ooooh, I think you should get maaaaaaarried on the beach, that’d be romaaaaaantic, oooooh.’ To a fourteen-year-old guy! Of course he ran for the hills! And that’s not even getting into the mumps and the seagulls.”
Sofia rolls her eyes. “Yeah, because thinking that was your fault is totally crazy, Jack.”
“Well, what about the guy you brought to Sydney’s wedding? We haven’t seen a trace of Ben since then, have we?”
“That was different.” Sofia blushes. “He had to go back to Oxford.”
“And then there’s what happened with David at Sydney’s wedding, which we are not talking about.”
“Not talking about it,” I say firmly. “I’m telling you, Sofia, there’s a Wedding Curse, and I’m not losing any more guys to it. Weddings scare boys, and that’s all this family does nowadays. No.” I shake my head. “If I’m ever going to have a successful relationship, it’s not going to be while this family is still in the throes of wedding madness. And we’re going to have a chaos-free wedding this time if I have to be celibate for the next three years.”
“You’re not going to wait all the way until
get married, are you?” Sofia asks in mock horror. “Because trust me, at the rate I’m going, you could be waiting a long time.” Sofia hasn’t dated
a lot of guys. Ben was the big Love of Her Life, according to her, and he was only in the country for six months. Mostly she spends a lot of time studying, which I find hard to understand. College guys are
cuter than high school boys. Believe me, the selection at my high school makes it awfully easy to keep my not-dating resolution.
“We’ll see,” I say. “I was thinking maybe after Victoria’s wedding I’d try again. I mean, I figure that should give me at least a couple of years before you and Paris turn into crazy brides—right?”
“Ooooh, yay!” Sofia says. “That means you’ll be on the market again in about six weeks. Maybe we should tag and release Yo-Yo Guy so you can find him again when the wedding is over.”
“That would be awesome,” I say. “You keep a tracking device and a tranquilizer gun in your purse, don’t you?”
“Or, you know,” Sofia points out gently, “you could date a guy and
bring him to
Vicky’s wedding.” She holds the door open for me as I maneuver the cupcake boxes into the foyer. Grandmother Grumpy scowls at us over the angel and points down the hall to the left.
“Please,” I say to Sofia. “You haven’t seen the look in Vicky’s eyes lately. If I so much as blink at someone, she asks if I want him to be my plus one. She nearly invited the guy from the coffee shop because I said he had a nice smile.”
“Really?” Sofia says. “Is he cute?”
“He’s like fifty years old!” I cry. “I meant that he reminds me of Grandpa! But she’s got romance on the brain. Trust me, it’ll be much safer for Yo-Yo Guy if I don’t get him involved in all this.”
Sofia giggles. We pass under a bower covered in fake roses and find ourselves in The Parlor That Strawberry Shortcake Threw Up. Just about everything is pink, or lacy, or pink
lacy. At the far end of the room, Carolina is helping Alex pin a pink
! banner to the swarming roses on the wallpaper.