previous: Run it! ch18
It was two years before we finally got married. I had a dream in mind but between work and the complexity of my girlhood ambitions, it took a while to pull the pieces together. Hopefully, it would all be worth it. Now, here I was on my grandmother’s yacht, doing my makeup with Gigi by my side and the rest of my family and friends awaiting the big moment.
The bridal suite was the main bedroom, an elaborately decorated space on the top floor, with a window overlooking the back of the boat. Giovanna, in her red lace bridesmaid dress, brushed my long black hair. “Elena, you look so beautiful in your mother’s dress. It’s like you were destined to make it your own.”
I was wearing the same white dress with black lace that my mother had married my father in. (Yes, the cow dress.) However, unlike my mother, I was absolutely not pregnant at the present time. The expensive couture gown had been recut to my size, and my mother couldn’t have been happier. I could remember that day at the castle. With my grandmother and the family tailor present, my mother actually smiled with the purest sense of joy. I could have sworn I even saw a tear. She told me this was the dress that had changed her life for the better and now it would do the same for me.
For the ceremony, I had my father’s bandana wrapped around my wrist, gripping it like an emotional support plushie. “Thanks, G.” The bright red cloth clashed with the color scheme of my dress, and from a distance, it would look like a bloody cut on my arm. That just made me love it even more.
The wedding and reception were to be held on the massive boat, docked in neutral waters. I would have liked to have gotten married in my father’s hometown of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, but for various reasons that was not something that could be accomplished (not without a metric crap-ton of legal paperwork.) The island was a Russian territory and as such the passport and visa standards were abnormally high. My grandmother compared the city to a slum, on par with getting married on a Caribbean island (beautiful scenery in an otherwise 3rd world country.) Floating at sea just off the coast of the Russian island, we had the most amazing view of the historic city and fishing community. And the best part was the fact that there was plenty of space on board the ship so we didn’t need to reserve any hotels.
“So, Gigi, what’s this I hear about you getting kicked out of the kitchen by your own father?” I asked. I’d overheard the fight and knew that was the reason my vegan supermodel friend had been sent to the bridal suite (to stay out of trouble.)
“Are you serious?” Giovanna was laughing at her own misfortune, but less than an hour ago it had not been so funny. “You want the complete truth? Here it is: along with my dress I had packed a few vegetables; spaghetti squash, cherry tomatoes, etc. Since the wedding party was flying in on your grandma’s private plane, I figured I could sneak a few things through customs.”
“Really?” I was almost upset at her. I couldn’t even imagine what would have happened if she got arrested.
“Yes, really,” she said with a sigh. “My plan was to create a vegan dish to serve at the reception. I admit, my primary motivation was a little self-centered. I wanted something I could eat. But I also wanted to be part of the celebration, as something more than just a bridesmaid. Actually, the more I think about it. What I did was also pretty self-centered. You might say I had it coming.”
“Just get to the funny part,” I said, bouncing in my chair like a toddler.
“Fine,” Giovanna groaned. “I snuck into the kitchen with my produce and my knives. Lo and behold, to the surprise of no one every single burner is taken, every single prep table is covered in other’s people’s projects.”
That was one of the privileges of being the daughter of academy graduates: my guests wanted to have full control of the menu. I didn’t mind. As a chef, I knew that every culinary idea was a work of art coming from the heart and soul of the individual. “So, tell me. What did you see?”
“My father was making various rainbow pasta. My uncle was making pizza dough for the appetizers. Jamie’s father was assembling the cake and then there was Isla Mito.”
“What about Kyle’s mother?” I asked, already knowing the answer. Gigi had taken it upon herself to take the millionaire heiress down a peg.
Gigi bit the inside of her cheek, sneering in visible discomfort. “Her chunks of pig and cow flesh were just everywhere.”
I raised my eyebrow, to feign surprise. “I thought you were tolerant of non-vegans?”
“I am, I can eat a meal with a non-vegan. It’s not difficult, I’ve done it all the time,” Gigi replied, her tone becoming noticeably agitated. “but to see all of that raw meat- it was turning my stomach. So I took it upon myself to move her stuff.”
I started laughing so hard I was crying. “Oh my God! Not even Prayikina would pull a stunt like that!” And Prayikina was the only person I knew who would even have the balls to touch someone else’s station.
Gigi shrugged, nervously crossing her arms. “Isla Mito’s focus was on her prime rib so I thought I was safe to move her stuff; her seasoning, cutting board, and her knives.”
That was the ultimate power move and I had a feeling she was playing down just how badly she screwed up. “You moved Isla Mito’s knives? Did you have a death wish? “
“I know, I know. I mean the moment I came near the table in my dress it was as if I set off the fire alarm. Everyone was probably frozen in place, but I was too oblivious to notice. Hell, I didn’t even notice Jamie’s mom was there until after they all started yelling at me.”
I was about to reply when Prayikina entered the room looking elegant in her red sari. As my maid of honor, she was allowed to choose her own gown as long as it fit the color scheme so she chose to stay true to her Indian culture. She was also snacking on a very unusual bruschetta that looked to be made of metallic marbles. “Hey, I thought I’d find you here. Did you tell Elena about how her mom had to swoop in and pull your vegan butt out of the main kitchen before the rest of the academy alumni turned you to shish-kabob?”
Giovanna rolled her eyes. “Come off it, P. Don’t be overdramatic.”
Prayikina then took the opportunity to do her best impersonation of my mother. “Giovanna, sweetheart be a dear and go help Elena with her makeup. With your pageant experience, I’m sure you can draw her away from her overuse of eyeliner.”
“Did my mom seriously say that?” I asked with a pout. I always stayed true to my goth-punk style. It was a little disheartening that my mother would disapprove, especially after the great time we had reworking the dress.
Prayikina placed her hands upon my shoulders. “Did you seriously plan on wearing eyeliner like your rockstar dad?”
“Maybe,” I said with a pout.
That got a laugh.
I stuck my tongue out like a child. “You guys are mean. Just because it’s my dad’s style doesn’t mean I’m copying him. It’s my style too and my wedding.”
“Aww, you’re breaking my heart.” My cousin handed me the partially eaten hors d’oeuvre. “Here, taste it before I eat it all.”
I did as she asked, taking a small bite, as to not mess my lipstick. “That’s really good.” The flavor was savory, cold like a salad set with gelatin. As expected, the metallic powder left residue on my lips. “That’s actually kind of cool. Maybe I can rock an 80’s punk-glam look.”
Giovanna lifted my face turning me to continue with my makeup. “Do not worry, I’ll make you look beautiful.”
Prayikina grabbed Gigi’s hand. “You too.”
“What?” Gigi briefly turned.
In less than a second, my cousin slipped the remainder of the bread in her face. “Taste now, by order of your father and your uncle.”
“Sure.” Giovanna opened her mouth to take a bite. “Spaghetti squash bruschetta with cherry tomatoes and green peppers, topped with nutritional yeast and a coconut milk reduction.”
“And margarine instead of butter,” Prayikina added.
“My dad used my ingredients?”
“No, your father, had this idea long before you almost got yourself arrested,” she pointed out. “Hence why the whole thing is covered in edible mica powder.”
“Yeah Gigi, you’re smart but you’re not that smart. Security dogs searched the plane, we all knew you smuggled food. Thankfully, our party was already cleared for all of the items you brought.”
Giovanna laughed as she shook her head. “So, I am truly an ass.”
Prayikina patted her shoulder. “Don’t make this about you, today is all about Elena and Jamie. I’m going down to the main deck to check on my little brother.”
“Yeah, you probably should,” I chuckled. “Your brother is likely to shove my brother into the ocean.”
When Prayikina was gone I looked in the mirror. I liked the idea of wearing under-eye makeup the way my father used to, but then again, this was more than just my day. So many people had worked so hard to make my dreams come true, I’d hate to be disrespectful. “Should I really not wear it today?”
“Does it make you happy?” Giovanna asked.
“Yes, it does. I think that’s why I wanted to wear it.” Despite what I said earlier, part of me wanted to look in the mirror and see a glimpse of my dad looking back.
“I have an idea.” Giovanna pulled from her purse a metallic eyeshadow palette along with gold and silver liner pens. “Look up at me.”
I did as she asked since she was the expert.
“I’m going to start with a dark smoky eye.” Gi used her shadows to create a smoky effect, highlighted with metallic accents. She flipped her small compact mirror to show me. “Thoughts?”
“I look like I stepped out of a chimney,” I said with a smirk. “But I like it.” I reached for her eyeshadow applicator and drew a line down my cheek, similar to the Crow (also known as the movie that killed Brandon Lee.) The goth, spooky vibe was just what I was looking for. “I should have gotten married on Halloween.”
“Uh, no,” Gigi muttered. “I watched that movie, I know the couple gets murdered on their Halloween wedding day.” She took back her shadows and switched focus to her metallic colors. “My father loved his time at the Academy. He stayed in touch with most of his friends, mainly Sam and Erica’s families. That’s why I grew up with Prayikina, Moma, and her brother Kintaro.”
I watched in the main mirror, as Giovanna swept gold, silver, blue, and purple creating a galaxy effect. “He told me he kept in touch with your dad when your mom was pregnant with you at the same time my mom was pregnant with me. I mean imagine how awful it must have been to live with a pregnant version of your mom.”
“I think that’s one of the rings of hell.”
Gigi paused to laugh, her usual graceful laugh. “From what my parents tell me, your father took it in stride. He went out of his way to discover new ways to help her body, from massages to cooking for her. That was just your dad. He struggled his entire life but at least with nine months of trying to keep your mother calm and relaxed, he was rewarded with the opportunity to raise an amazing daughter.”
I cupped my hands over my mouth, unable to hold back tears.
“Hey, don’t start crying until after I use the setting spray.” Gigi reached for a tissue and folded it into a perfect shape to blot under my eyes.
“Sorry.” I blinked my eyes in a fruitless attempt to steady my emotions. “And I’m sorry your mom couldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, me too. I miss her every day. The hardships of being an opera singer, I guess.”
“I thought she was a director?” Gigi’s mother was a remarkable artist who devoted her life to the pursuit of perfection.
“That was last summer,” she said with a defeated sigh. “But what do I know?” She searched her bag emerging with a package of bobby pins. “Hold still, I want to get your hair out of your face.”
“Sure,” I said, adjusting my posture. From the nearby window, I could see the ocean. The waves shimmered like jewels in the afternoon sun.
“My mom would have loved to be here. I could see her going wild with her camera. Actually, I think this is one of the few places she hasn’t filmed or performed. Kind of makes me think about my own dream wedding.” With my hair in place, she started to lightly mist my face with a sweet-smelling liquid.
“So, what’s your dream wedding?” With her glamourous sense of style, I assumed she had big visions in mind.
“I don’t know, probably someplace in Italy.”
“Like where; Venice, Rome? Italy’s a big place.”
“Wherever was easiest for my parents, I guess. I know my dad would have my back if I ever found a guy.”
“You would just let your parents plan your wedding?”
“At this rate,” she said as she fished out a large fluffy brush. “I figure, I’ll likely be asking them for an arranged marriage with whatever boy they can pawn me off on.”
“What about Kyle?” In the past few years, she always loved to play down their relationship. In truth, it got kind of annoying at times.
“We live on opposite sides of the world,” Gigi said with a sigh, accompanied by a condescending eye roll.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Everyone knows you and Kyle go on a break roughly every six months, but like clockwork, you’re back together hooking up at his New York apartment.”
“While I can’t disagree, those moments are just the bare bones. We’re friends with benefits, at best. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to find someone like Jamie; a guy who’s a perfect partner and best friend. Right now, my career is what matters.”
I started to laugh. With her blonde hair and posh demeanor, I was getting some serious Deja Vu. “You sound just like my mom.”
Gigi’s cheeks flushed as she giggled. “Even more reason for me never to get married. The last thing I want is to break a sweet, beautiful man.” She paused, biting her lip with a sense of shy flirtation. “The first time I saw a picture of Remy Moceanu, I think I was two or three. Probably why this is a core memory.”
“A core memory? Wow, now who’s being dramatic.”
“One of those life-changing moments. The first thing I noticed was his gentle doe eyes, so innocent and dreamy. He looked like a fairytale prince.” She looked out the window with a look of longing. “Then I saw a picture of him wearing the bandana and I had nightmares for weeks.”
“Oh, yeah right.” I knew she was kidding. Even his fierce competition form was nothing that would frighten small children (just his opponents.) “I’m so grateful little Leo has my dad’s eyes. There are no pictures of my dad as a small child since he came to live with my mom’s family when he was ten. So, I’d like to think Leo looks like a mini version of my dad. Like Remy Moceanu version 2.0.”
“He’s an upgrade?” Gigi asked. “A little early to be putting that kind of pressure on him.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?”
“I could care less if he lives up to his potential. He could decide to become an artist or a videogame streamer for all I care. As long as he’s happy. That’s what I want to upgrade; his happiness, his peace of mind.” I strived to give Leo the childhood my father never had. He was the reason I came home for the holidays. And I was proud to say, I had yet to miss his birthday.
Gigi smiled like a Disney princess. “Yes, your darling little brother is such a miracle, I wonder where he is right now.”
Suddenly we heard a crash followed by two small children crying. “I hate you, Leo!” The screech was unmistakable.
“I hate you too! My grandma should throw you off this boat!” My brother replied. Even from where I was, I could hear the innocence in his voice. He did not start the fight.
“At least my daddy’s not dead!” Those were the words of a true spoiled brat.
I cupped my mouth, narrowly avoiding my makeup. “Not again.”
Gigi snickered. “I thought Prayikina was leaving to go check on him?” The coldness of her comment was downright annoying but I would forgive her on the grounds that she had no younger siblings.
“Doesn’t mean she can actually handle that little brat on her own.” I got up from my chair, not even bothering to put on shoes.
“Come on, Elle. Just let her handle it,” Gigi sighed, reaching for a bottle of champagne. “It’s your wedding day, you don’t need to play nanny. Plus, I know for a fact your mom is down there someplace.”
I didn’t actually hear Prayikina, so there was a very real possibility she wasn’t going to get there in time. And my mother, well, let’s just say if she gets to Praykina’s little shit of a brother before I did, the kid might not survive. “I’m going. My baby brother needs me.” I held the hem of my dress to allow me to run faster but if it came down to it, I would be more than willing to sacrifice my mother’s wedding gown.
next: Run it! ch20