“Big Papi? Really? He pitched to BIG PAPI?”
Molly laughed at Noemi’s open-mouthed expression, which was half surprise and half envy. Okay, probably more than half envy. “So Schrodinger says,” she assured her. “And that was apparently only the beginning.”
“How many arrest warrants did they acquire?” Jade asked, dropping down into the beach chair next to Molly. Her swimsuit was a deep blue, covered with snowflakes; her silver hair fell in an intricate braid down her back, and she sported large sunglasses, which hid her dancing green eyes.
“None that I know of,” Molly said, marveling again at the sight of the Snow Queen lounging on the sand, the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean nibbling on her dainty toes. “Well,” she corrected herself, “none that Drew or Schrodinger would admit to.”
Sworn to secrecy, the CrossCat said from his blanket. What happens at the bachelor party stays at the bachelor party. That’s what we were told.
“You have to ask Pavel,” Jade told her. “He doesn’t consider it a successful evening unless he collects at least one, and he’s always willing to boast, provided you get him drunk enough.”
I wouldn’t count on it this time, Schrodinger told her.
“Well, Drew and Schrodinger came dragging in at dawn, and I can only imagine the hangovers at the Station this morning, so it was apparently a very good night,” Molly said. “He wouldn’t tell me where they went after the ball game, though.”
“Luke wouldn’t say anything either, but he’s got a lovely bruise he tried to hide in the shower this morning,” Sue said, giggling. “So I’m betting there was at least one bar fight.”
Molly, Jade, Sue and Noemi turned as Lily, Jack and Zoey came running up the beach, with Corrine and Lai behind them. Lai was dragging a large wagon, and Corrine pushed a baby carriage. The other four jumped up to help them, as Lily and Zoey went whooping into the water.
“Don’t go too far!” Corrine shouted at them, and then shook her head ruefully. “Oh well, hopefully they heard me.”
Jack paused at the edge of the water and turned back to them. I’m on it, he assured her. Coming, Schrodinger?
In the water? The CrossCat looked dubiously at him. Are you sure you want to get wet?
Yes! The dog barked enthusiastically. It’s fun!
“Go on,” Molly said to Schrodinger. “We’ve got plenty of towels if you don’t like it.” Then she turned back to the carriage and cooed, “How are you, beautiful?”
Her newest niece Kaylee blew bubbles at her and waved chubby fists in the air.
“Let’s get her under the pop-up, and then you can play with her to your heart’s content,” Corrine said, pushing the carriage under the brightly-colored shade that Molly and Sue had erected when they’d arrived. The sand was covered with a rug and then blankets, and pillows were scattered around to lounge on. There were large coolers at the back of it, and Lai had dragged her wagon over to that area, where she was now unloading a portable grill.
In short order, everything was unpacked, and Kaylee was lying on the blankets, being adored by everyone. Lily and Zoey had convinced Schrodinger into the water, and the foursome were body-surfing on the waves that rolled in.
“Okay, ladies, let’s get this party started,” Lai said, handing around champagne flutes. “Peach bellinis, with a virgin one for the new mom,” she added, handing one to Corrine. “And while there may be some new holes in the wall at the Hanging Scorpion, I am pleased to report that there are no new outstanding warrants for anyone in the wedding party.”
“Good lord, they went to the Scorpion? No wonder Luke had bruises,” Sue said, laughing. “What convinced them to go there?”
“Not what, who,” Jade said. “Pavel loves the Scorpion, and I’d not be surprised if he set it up.”
The Hanging Scorpion was one of the most notorious bars in the nearby realms, and Molly was not surprised to hear the bachelor party had ended up there. Nor did it surprise her to learn Pavel was a regular there. He probably had a permanent tab there.
“How did you find out?” she asked Lai, who winked at her.
“I have my sources,” Lai said mysteriously.
“Will we meet this source at the wedding?” Noemi teased her.
“Maybe,” Lai said, and forestalled any other questions by turning back to the grill. “Did you bring the burgers, Molly?”
“Of course, they’re in the cooler next to you, along with everything else.”
“You know, it seems a bit much to have the bride bring the food for her own bachelorette party,” Sue said.
“Yeah, but who else was going to do it justice?” Corrine said. “And did you really want to hear her complain all night about it?”
“I would not!” Molly said.
“Yes, you would, especially after a few more of those bellinis,” Noemi said, and they all laughed.
“Hey, at least you let me take care of the catering for the actual wedding,” Jade said, leaning back against a pillow and dangling her fingers in front of the baby’s face. “I think Drew about fell over when he heard that.”
Molly didn’t mention how hard it had been to do that, smiling instead at Jade. “It was a very thoughtful gift, and we all appreciate it.”
Especially Drew, who didn’t want to deal with Molly trying to cook enough for 125 people and the cafe at the same time, Schrodinger said, padding up to them, water streaming from his fur.
“Don’t you dare shake yourself off here,” Molly warned him, and he backed up obligingly, then shook himself vigorously.
“Well, she’s a kitchen witch,” Jade said. “It’s a hazard of the job. And luckily, Aunt Margie gave you the week off.”
“True,” Molly said. “But that just means I’m at home, making stuff for the next two weeks while we’re gone.” She drained her bellini and held it out to Noemi. “Since you’re up.”
“There’s a pitcher of mix,” Lai told her. “And the champagne is next to it.”
The afternoon passed in a haze of sun and champagne, watching the waves and the girls swimming. Lai handled the grill and Noemi opted to bartend. Molly thought it was the best bachelorette party she could have asked for.
As the sun was starting to fade towards the trees at the back of the cove, they dug a pit in the sand and built a bonfire, then dragged the chairs around it and settled in with marshmallow sticks.
“So this is a s’more,” Jade said, looking suspiciously at the graham cracker sandwich Lily handed her. “Is it good?”
“It’s the best part of summer after swimming,” Lily told her, and the Snow Queen took a small bite. Her eyes widened in surprise. Lily clapped in delight. “See, I told you!”
“We totally need a picture of this,” Sue said, grabbing her camera. “The Snow Queen, in a swimsuit, on a beach, eating a s’more. The world will never believe it actually happened otherwise.”
Molly laughed, agreeing. “You’ll have to get Jack to put a fire pit in at the cottage,” she told Jade. “That way, you can have s’mores any time you want.”
The Snow Queen sniffed. “I can put one in myself, you know.”
“Sure, but why expend the effort when you can have him do it?” Lai said, waving her marshmallow stick in the air. “Besides, it keeps him out of trouble for a bit.”
“Only for a bit,” Jade said. “Remember, he and Pavel are friends.”
They all laughed at that. Then Corrine sighed regretfully and looked at her watch. “Okay, girls, it’s time to go. We’ve got to get Kaylee home.”
Lily and Zoey pouted a bit, and Molly hugged them. “Hang on a minute. I’ve got something for all of you, and this is as good a time as any to give them to you.” She went over to the pop-up, now softly lit by thousands of tiny sparkling snowflakes that Jade had conjured up, and came back carrying a soft grocery sack.
“These are for you,” Molly said, handing Lily and Zoey wrapped boxes. “I hope you’ll wear them Saturday.”
The two girls ripped off the paper and opened them, then gasped. “Oh, Molly, really?”
“Really,” Molly assured them, as they lifted out coronets that sparkled in the firelight. Jade raised her hand, and a globe of softly-glowing light drifted up, illuminating the group.
The coronets were covered with crystals that reflected both the light and the fire interspersed with sapphire roses, with ribbons trailing off the back that fluttered in the slight breeze.
“We’ll be the prettiest flower girls ever!” Zoey breathed, and Lily nodded.
“I hope so!” Molly said, and then she handed out small bags to the others. “This is just a small thing, but thank you so much for being a part of this with me.”
The bags contained a small clutch purse in various shades of blue, Molly’s color. Noemi was the first to open hers, and she squealed in delight. “Really?”
“Yeah, I had fun with these,” Molly admitted, as the others opened theirs to discover, not an empty purse, but a portable drink kit, complete with monogrammed flask, a rocks glass, and, tucked into the glass itself, a silver chain with a sapphire rose in the middle of it, with emerald leaves. “And I’m sure you could all use them.”
Then she turned to Sue. “And for you.” She held out a small bag. “I hope you like it.”
“It” was a similar clutch purse, but instead of a flask, inside Sue’s was an envelope. Molly held her breath as she opened it, and even in the dim light, she could see the blood drain from Sue’s face.
“You aren’t serious.”
“I am.” Molly hoped this was a good thing.
“How…how did you get this?” Sue whispered, looking up at her.
“I know a few people.”
“What is it?” Lai demanded. “You’re killing us with the suspense!”
Sue swallowed, and looked back down at the envelope in her hand. “It’s tickets,” she said finally. “To the Undercity.”
“The Undercity?” Noemi said. “The REAL Undercity?”
Sue nodded. “To their museum,” she clarified. “A season pass.” She looked back up at Molly. “This is…amazing. Thank you so much!”
Relief flooded through Molly, and she grinned. “You’re welcome! I know you’ve wanted to go there forever, and, well, Pavel helped me…” The rest of her words were lost as Sue hugged her tightly. “Just take lots of pictures!”
“I will, oh, I will!”
The Undercity was a realm usually closed to outsiders, which meant the rumors of what was there ran rampant. The dwarves who supplied CrossRoads towns with the generators that ran the Gates lived there, creating all sorts of magical mechanical miracles. The museum there was the only place that they allowed non-citizens, and those passes were hard to get. But the look on Sue’s face had been worth everything Molly had done to get them.
“Now, before they go, we have a gift for you,” Lai said, and Corrine nodded. “Did you girls bring it?”
Zoey and Lily handed their coronets to Corrine, and then ran over to Kaylee’s stroller. From underneath, they pulled out something that looked suspiciously like a flower box.
“It’s tradition for the bridesmaids and maid of honor to make sure you have something special for your wedding night,” Sue said, recovering herself.
“Can I open this in front of these two?” Molly asked, as the girls handed her the box with great ceremony.
“Yes,” Corrine said. “And Drew will adore it.”
Molly eyed them all skeptically but pulled the ribbon off the box and opened it. Then she burst into laughter.
“Pull it out!” Noemi said, so Molly pulled out what she’d found.
Far from the slinky lingerie she’d been expecting, there was a Red Sox jersey and a pair of baseball shorts, with “Molly” on the back and “2015” instead of a number. She showed it off, still laughing, and then realized a second, smaller package was still in the box.
“That one you can open later,” Corrine said hastily. “Come on, girls, it’s time to go home.”
Zoey and Lily pouted a little, but then went with Corrine after Molly said, “We’ll see you guys tomorrow – it’s the shower, remember? Besides, we’re just going to bed soon too.”
“Well, sort of,” Noemi murmured. “For loose interpretations of the word bed.”
“Hush,” Jade told her.
After the girls had left, Molly opened the smaller package, which contained lingerie, as she’d suspected. Then the others started to clean up, after shoving her and Jade over to the fire.
“This was a great idea,” Jade said, settling down into her chair. “I had no idea the beach was so much fun.” She glanced over at Molly. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Molly said, shaking her head. “Probably nothing, anyways.”
“If it’s worrying you, it’s not nothing,” Jade said. “Tell me.”
“It’s Drew. He’s been acting weird the last two days.”
“He’s getting married in three days,” Jade reminded her. “Nerves, for both of you, are not unexpected.”
“No, it’s more than that. He looks…” Molly broke off, not sure how to continue. “He’s distant.”
Schrodinger had come to join them, and now he said, I think he’s not looking forward to seeing his family again.
“I think you’re right,” Molly said. “But he won’t say why.”
“There has to be a reason,” Jade told her, reaching out and taking her hand. “And when he’s ready to tell you, he will.”
“I hope so,” Molly said, looking at the remains of the bonfire. “I hope so.”
- (advent) Day 2 – The Bachelor Party
- Day 4 – The Wedding Shower