I ran my finger over the cuff links, then set the box aside. “They’re gorgeous, and it will be an honor to wear them tomorrow. And an even bigger honor that you are my date.”
“You know, William,” she said as she trailed her hands along my arm. “We should watch Anyone’s Dough sometime. Since that was the first movie we bonded over.”
“We should. But it’s going to be a long, long time before we get to it because I’m much more interested in doing other things with you.”
“Me, too,” she said with a sly wink.
Then I kissed her for a long, long time.
Weather: 70 degrees, Sunny
* * *
I would miss my cell phone. I kissed the screen goodbye, powered it off, and tucked it away in my desk drawer. A phone with all your contacts and access to your email is not something you want to chance losing, even if you have a secret storage area under the seat of your scooter. Besides, I’d picked up a dumb phone at the convenience store for twenty dollars. William and Anaka were the only ones with the direct number. He was already at the event—he’d had an early morning arrival time at the grounds, he’d told me.
I slung my heavy backpack, filled with my dress, my wig, my shoes, the purse, and the wedding gift onto my shoulders, and popped into Anaka’s room to say goodbye. Lying on her belly, decked out in a bright orange top, a miniskirt, and gray-and-orange striped knee-high socks, she was tapping away on her laptop.
“Jess! I’m working on my screenplay,” she said, beaming at me.
“Good. I figured that would be the only reason you’d be up this early on a Saturday.”
“It’s coming along. I’m right at the part where there’s a big misunderstanding.”
“And does everything fall to pieces and the audience thinks there’s no chance in hell for the leads to ever work out their problems?”
She nodded, a pleased look on her face. “Of course. I want to devastate the audience.”
“Perfect, because they want to be devastated.”
“Have you got the dress I left you for the wedding?” she asked. Anaka had loaned me one of the dresses she wore to charity functions with her parents since I didn’t have the type of attire a guest would usually wear to a celebrity wedding.
I nodded. “It’s folded carefully in my bag. I’m going to change into it when I get closer.”
“If you see my dad, look away,” she teased, since her father was on the guest list.
“Here’s hoping he doesn’t recognize me in my wig. But I will do my best to steer clear of him. Text me if you need anything.”
“Same for you. I’m heading to my parents’ house to do my laundry since they won’t be there the rest of the day,” she said. Saturday was laundry day for Anaka, and since she was particular about her wardrobe, she preferred to use her mother’s washer and dryer, with all the fancy settings and special cycles.
“Be sure the neighbors don’t spot you air-drying your lacy underthings on the deck,” I said with a wink, and she laughed. “By the way, did you ever get the details from your cousin on her romantic entanglements?”
Anaka rolled her eyes. “She’s being super evasive. She just keeps saying it’s complicated. I’m going to have to stop texting and resort to calling.”
“Such an old-fashioned way of communicating,” I said.
Then I was off, flying down the highway, weaving in and out of cars, on my way to the wedding that would change my life. I didn’t feel guilty any more either. I only felt a twinge of early victory. My heart beat faster, and I was bursting with anticipation and the kind of jumpy, happy jitters that precede a Christmas morning. This was it. This was my moment. My big shot. Everything had been planned perfectly.
I signaled, turned off the highway at the Ojai Ranch exit, and drove down the main drag in pursuit of a branch of the local public library near Chelsea Knox’s estate. I’d looked it up online, but I’d also seen plenty of photos of Chelsea reading picture books to her young children from the comfort of the beanbags in the kids’ reading room.
Pulling into the parking lot, I locked my scooter and headed inside. Libraries happened to have much nicer public restrooms than Starbucks did.
Inside the stall, I changed from my jeans, Converse sneakers, and T-shirt into the classy navy-blue dress from Anaka, along with beige pumps and the matching beige purse. I brushed out my blond hair, looped it into a low ponytail, then pulled it into a stocking cap. The wig went on next, and I adjusted the edges near my ears, so I’d look like a natural brunette. I folded my clothes, stuffed them in my backpack, and left the stall. At the mirror, I touched up my makeup, kicking it up a notch from my usual look, making my lashes longer and my lips a shade of light pink, outlined in a darker pink with lipliner. I was ready for a wedding. More important, I was ready to go earn my medical school bills for the next year or so. At precisely two o’clock when Veronica Belle walked down the aisle to the theme music from SurfGhost and pledged to honor, cherish, and adore Bradley Bowman for the rest of her life, I’d have everything I needed for my future.