Authors: Trish Milburn
Dress Me in Wildflowers
Published by Trish Milburn at Amazon.com
Copyright 2012 Trish Milburn
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“Tell me you didn’t stay here last night.”
Farrin Taylor looked up from the half-finished sketches as Justine entered her office with a stack of mail in one hand and a steaming cup of Arabian Mocha Java in the other. She ignored her assistant’s accusatory stare.
“I didn’t stay here last night.”
“Is that the truth or are you humoring me?”
“I never lie.”
“Good. Because I’d hate to add lying to your list of sins. You’ve already tacked on biting off heads this week.”
“I do not bite off heads,” she said as she signed a material order form for Alexa, the intern who’d just zipped into Farrin’s office.
“Care to ask Bella if she agrees?”
Bella, the head seamstress. The person who’d borne the brunt of Farrin’s frustration only the day before.
Farrin tossed down her pencil, leaned back in her chair, and rubbed her tired and burning eyes. “How many wedding dresses have I designed? Why am I letting this one drive me insane?”
“Hmm, could it possibly be because it’s for the president’s daughter, and it’ll be seen by everyone in the world with a TV or newspaper? Add to that the mother of the bride is a top-of-the-line bitch and the fact you’re banking on this dress to take you to the next level in the designer stratosphere and, well, I can’t imagine why you’re stressed out.”
Not to mention she was mortgaged to the hilt and more was riding on this dress than her reputation.
“Thanks, O’ Mistress of Sarcasm. Your support is absolutely invaluable.”
“Glad to be of service.” Justine held up several phone message slips. “Charise from
called about meeting for lunch next week. Abby Freeman wanted to talk about a gown for the Oscars. And someone named Tammie Donovan called about your high school reunion. I didn’t know you went to high school. I figured you were born a fully formed adult, complete with sketchpad and overflowing schedule.”
“I’m fairly certain I pay you to do something other than give me a migraine.” Farrin shooed Justine away. “Go annoy someone else.”
Farrin leaned back and closed her eyes. It really did feel like a migraine brewing. She hadn’t had one in several months. Stress. She was allowing it to get to her. Annoying since she usually thrived on the frenetic pace of her life.
“Here are the swatches you wanted for the bridesmaid gowns,” Alexa said as she burst into the office again and deposited a stack of fabric on the edge of Farrin’s desk before rushing out just as quickly.
Farrin rubbed her eyes again and breathed deeply, willing the headache away. Too many tasks awaited her attention for her to be incapacitated in a dark room for two days. They were already behind on Cara Hutton’s wedding gown, and it was her own fault this time. She’d give a design to the staff only to come back a day later and tear it up, sure her newest idea was even better and more appropriate for the daughter of a president.
“I need this
ad approved,” said Adam, her business manager. “We’re barely going to make the deadline.”
Farrin opened her eyes to see Adam extending a sheet of paper toward her. She took it and examined the color printout that showed the back of a bride standing on a grassy expanse in Central Park at sunrise. The flowing script said, “Beauty. Style. Romance. Farrin Taylor.”
“This is going to cost me a bloody fortune, isn’t it?”
God, she hoped it was worth it. You had to spend money to make money, right?
She approved the layout, then with the ad copy repeating in her head, she bent back over her newest sketch. This time, she had the perfect design, a dress so flawless and elegant other top designers would admire then curse her originality and talent. Of course, she had to finish it first.
Justine popped her head in the office door. “The sexy Mr. Davenport is on the phone.”
Farrin glanced at the calendar. The hospital fundraiser was inked in at 8 p.m. She’d forgotten. “Tell him I’m in a meeting but I’ll be ready by 7:30.”
Justine gave her a questioning look, then shook her head and returned to her own desk to do Farrin’s bidding.
Farrin made a couple of adjustments to the sketch, then erased them. She leaned back, stared at the ceiling and made the moot effort to focus.
Tammie Donovan. When was the last time she and Tammie had talked? Christmas? She’d lost track.
She glanced at the silver trashcan beside her desk. In it lay the invitation to her fifteen-year high school reunion. Did they honestly think she’d come back? If she never saw Oak Valley again, it’d be too soon.
She’d call Tammie, but the Devil himself would be licking a Popsicle before she went back to Oak Valley, Tennessee.
Farrin’s headache worsened as the hours passed and her stress escalated. She draped a piece of silk over Erika’s shoulder then stepped back to see how it looked with the house model’s fair skin tone, which was similar to Cara Hutton’s.
“Turn to the side,” Farrin said.
Erika turned right.
“No! The other way.”
Erika and Justine stopped and stared at her, the new queen of biting off heads.
“Sorry.” She headed back to her office before she pulled another Jekyll and Hyde. Her phone rang as she sank into her chair. “I swear, I’m going to toss this phone out the window and let the cabs crush it to bits.”
“Yeah, that will help,” Justine said as she sat the folded silk on the glass-topped table lining one of Farrin’s office walls.
Farrin gave her an evil look as she answered the phone.
“Farrin, darling, it’s Emma at
. How are you?”
Just peachy. I’ve always wanted to have a nervous breakdown.
“Fine. And you?”
“Couldn’t be better. Well, yes, I could if you say yes to this marvelous new idea I have.”
A tingle of warning traipsed over Farrin’s skin. “What’s that?”
“I’d like you to do a monthly column on wedding fashion, an advice from the expert kind of piece.”
Farrin wondered why Emma hadn’t asked Vera or Carolina. Maybe she had. No one said she was the first choice. Still, she wasn’t one to pass up an opportunity to grow her business. Employees, office space, a wardrobe and home that added to the expected allure of elegance — those things cost money, and lots of it.
“Sure. Sounds great. I’ll put you through to Justine to settle on the details and scheduling.” She transferred the call and shook her head. Maybe she could teach herself to write in her sleep.
She closed her eyes, hoping to make the persistent pain go away. When she opened them, the headache was still there as were the swatches of cloth she was considering for Cara Hutton’s bridesmaid gowns. The first daughter wasn’t one for flashy or cutesy colors, so the pale sage and faint blue with a hint of silver were both viable choices. But each time Farrin thought she’d made up her mind, doubt reared. Every choice seemed like a mistake that would ruin the look of the entire wedding. Why couldn’t she have been an accountant where everything was black and white and not a never-ending rainbow of colors and shades?
God, she was going to die. A good night’s sleep, that’s what she needed. If she got a solid eight hours, perhaps she would be refreshed, headache-free and the myriad choices would prove easier to make. She shoved some sketchpads into her satchel, knowing that despite her best efforts she’d likely end up roaming her house at 2 a.m. and might as well make good use of that quiet time. Lord knew she didn’t get any during the day.
Her phone rang again. She looked up to tell Justine to take a message, but she saw through the glass front of her office that her assistant was on another line. Farrin was tempted to let the phone go to voice mail, but she’d always had this fear of missing a really important call.
“Farrin Taylor Designs,” she answered.
“May I speak…Farrin?”
“Yes.” It had been months, maybe even a year since she’d heard the voice on the other end of the line, but she’d know it until she was old, gray and so wrinkled she rivaled a shar-pei puppy. “Tammie, it’s good to hear from you.” It was, but her stomach twisted just the same. This wasn’t a “Hey, how are you doing?” call. No, Farrin knew the purpose before Tammie revealed it.
“Long time since we talked,” Tammie said.
“I know. I’m sorry, but it’s been so busy.”
“Yeah, here too.”
Farrin had no doubt Tammie’s bakery was thriving. The woman could tempt even the most dedicated low-carb dieter with her sinful confections. But the hurried tone in Tammie’s voice told Farrin that it was her own high-profile job and hectic schedule that had dimmed their close friendship. She hadn’t meant for it to happen, it just had.
“Did you get your invitation to the reunion?”
“Reunion?” Farrin winced. She hadn’t even uttered a lie yet and already she hated herself.
“Yeah, our fifteenth high school reunion. It’s October 14.”
“Fifteenth? Hard to believe.” The best fifteen years of her life.
“I know. Sometimes, it seems like we just graduated yesterday. Others, I feel twice my age and Mr. Krichter’s trigonometry class seems eons ago.”
She might be a designer for the rich and famous and a decade and a half removed from Krichter’s class, but the man’s name and the thought of trying to figure out sines and cosines still threatened to make her break out in hives. Despite Krichter’s dire warnings, she had yet to put any of those trig lessons to practical use in her adult life. Maybe she should look him up and give him extended lessons on fabrics and necklines.
“Are you still there?” Tammie asked from the other end of the line.
“Did I call at a bad time? I thought it might be best to try to catch you at the end of the day.”
Except there wasn’t a typical end of the day for her, not when she lived and breathed and dreamed her work.
“No, you’re fine. I’m just tired.”
“Well, I won’t keep you long, but I wanted to ask a favor.”
Tammie had been her friend from the moment they met, even when being Farrin Taylor’s best friend was detrimental to Tammie’s own social status.
“I got suckered into being on the reunion committee, and they want to have a really great speaker. They asked if I could get you to come.”
Farrin nearly laughed. The thought of those people — the same ones who’d teased her and avoided sitting next to her, all because she was dirt poor — wanting to hear anything she had to say was beyond ludicrous. It wasn’t as if they’d all been so wealthy they could roll in their money, but somehow she’d been marked as a target from the day in third grade she’d walked into Oak Valley Elementary School, the new kid in a dress ten years out of date.
How did she tell Tammie no without sounding like a bitch?
“Tam, this is such bad timing. I’m working on the dresses for Cara Hutton’s December wedding, and the orders for Oscar gowns are already coming in.”
Farrin hated the silence on the line, so she filled it.
“If I’d known earlier, perhaps.” No way in hell. “But the reunion is barely a month away. I would have thought they would’ve had a speaker chosen long ago.”
Tammie sighed. “Jeff Turner was going to speak, but he got the opportunity to work in Sydney for a year and took it.”
“Can’t say I blame him. Sydney’s beautiful. What does he do?”
“Books international group tours.”