Authors: Jenny B. Jones
© 2009 by Jenny B. Jones
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Publisher's Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
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This book is dedicated to my grandmother, Mildred Jones Griffin. She was my family, but most importantly, she was my friend. She taught me so much, but mostly taught my brother and me that our tails had better be in a pew on Sundays. She is the reason I'm saved. She was Jesus in my life. She was shopping trips, long talks, sugar cookies, outrageous laughter, and chicken and dumplings. Though she had dreams of a red convertible, she helped pay for my college instead and proudly drove a green four-door Ford.
ne year ago my mom got traded in for a newer model.
And that's when my life fell apart.
“Do you, Jillian Leigh Kirkwood ...”
Standing by my mother's side as she marries the man who is so not my dad, I suppress a sigh and try to wiggle my toes in these hideous shoes. The hideous shoes that match my hideous maid-of-honor dress. I like to look at things on the bright side, but the only positive thing about this frock is that I'll never have to wear it again.
“ . . . take Jacob Ralph Finley ...”
My new stepdad's middle name is Ralph? Okay, do we
one more red flag here? My mom is marrying this guy, and I didn't even know his middle name. Did she? I check her face for signs of revulsion, signs of doubt. Signs of “Hey, what am I thinking? I don't want Jacob Ralph Finley to be my daughter's new stepdad.”
I see none of these things twinkling in my mom's crystal blue eyes. Only joy. Disgusting, unstoppable joy.
“Does anyone have an objection?” The pastor smiles and scans the small crowd in the Tulsa Fellowship Church. “Let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”
my gosh. I totally object!
I look to my right and lock eyes with Logan, the older of my two soon-to-be stepbrothers. In the six hours that I have been in Oklahoma preparing for this “blessed” event, Logan and I have not said five words to one another. Like we've mutually agreed to be enemies.
I stare him down.
His eyes laser into mine.
Do we dare?
He gives a slight nod, and my heart triples in beat.
“Then by the powers vested in me before God and the family and friends of—”
The church gasps.
I throw my hands over my mouth, wishing the floor would swallow me.
I, Bella Kirkwood, just stopped my own mother's wedding.
And I have
idea where to go from here. It's not like I do this every day, okay? Can't say I've stopped a lot of weddings in my sixteen years.
My mom swivels around, her big white dress making crunchy noises. She takes a step closer to me, still flashing her pearly veneers at the small crowd.
“What,” she hisses near my ear, “are you doing?”
I glance at Logan, whose red locks hang like a shade over his eyes. He nods again.
“Um... um... Mom, I haven't had a chance to talk to you at all this week ...” My voice is a tiny whisper. Sweat beads on my forehead.
“Honey, now is not exactly the best time to share our feelings and catch up.”
My eyes dart across the sanctuary, where one hundred and fifty people are perched on the edge of their seats. And it's not because they're anxious for the chicken platters coming their way after the ceremony.
“Mom, the dude's middle name is Ralph.”
She leans in, and we're nose to nose. “You just stopped my wedding and
what you wanted to tell me?”
Faint—that's what I'll do next time I need to halt a wedding.
“How well do you know Jake? You only met six months ago.”
Some of the heat leaves her expression. “I've known him long enough to know that I love him, Bella. I knew it immediately.”
“But what if you're wrong?” I rush on, “I mean, I've only been around him a few times, and I'm not so sure. He could be a serial killer for all we know.” I can count on one hand the times I've been around Jake. My mom usually visited him when I was at my dad's.
Her voice is low and hurried. “I understand this isn't easy for you. But our lives have changed. It's going to be an adventure, Bel.”
Adventure? You call meeting a man on the Internet and forcing me
to move across the country to live with his family an
is swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean. An
is touring the pyramids in Egypt. Or shopping at the Saks after-Thanksgiving sale with Dad's credit card. This, I do believe, qualifies as a
“You know I've prayed about this. Jake and I both have. We know this is God's will for us. I need you to trust me, because I've never been more sure about anything in my life.”
A single tear glides down Mom's cheek, and I feel my heart constrict. This time last year my life was so normal. So happy. Can I just hit the reverse button and go back?
Slowly I nod. “Okay, Mom.” It's kind of hard to argue with “God says this is right.” (Though I happen to think He's wrong.)
The preacher clears his throat and lifts a bushy black brow.
“You can continue,” I say, knowing I've lost the battle. “She had something in her teeth.” Yes, that's the best I've got.
I. Am. An. Idiot.
“And now, by the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Finley. You may kiss your bride.”
Nope. Can't watch.
I turn my head as the “Wedding March” starts. Logan walks to my side, and I link my arm in his. Though we're both going to be juniors, he's a head taller than me. It's like we're steptwins. He grabs his six-year-old brother, Robbie, with his other hand, and off we go in time to the music. Robbie throws rose petals all around us, giggling with glee, oblivious to the fact that we just witnessed a ceremony marking the end of life as we know it.
“Good job stopping the wedding.“ Logan smirks. “Very successful.”
I jab my elbow into his side. At least I tried! You did
“I just wanted to see if you had it in you. And you don't.”
I snarl in his direction as the camera flashes, capturing this day for all eternity.
Last week I was living in Manhattan in a two-story apartment between Sarah Jessica Parker and Katie Couric. I could hop a train to Macy's and Bloomie's. My friends and I could eat dinner at Tao and see who could count the most celebs. I had Broadway in my backyard and Daddy's MasterCard in my wallet.
Then my mom got married.
And I got a new life.
I should've paid that six-year-old to pull the fire alarm.
here is nothing like watching your mother dance in the arms of a giant of a man who is
As I pick at my rubbery chicken breast and limp green beans, I stare at Jake. Wearing a goofy grin, he spins my mom to some Michael Bublé tune about how sweet love is. Sweet? I think it's nauseating. Totally hurl-worthy.
I watch my mom's aunt Shirley shimmy her girth under the limbo pole. My mother's parents died before I was born, so there wasn't a lot of family on the bride's side of the chapel.
My phone rings and I slap it open. “Hey.”
“Do I hear the chicken dance?” There is absolutely no sincerity in my best friend Mia's voice. “How's the wedding of the New York socialite and the merry widower?”
The ink on my parents' divorce papers is barely dry and my mom hauls me to Oklahoma, over a thousand miles away from my friends, my dad, and my home. And for what? To live with some oaf and his two bratty sons. On a
no less. If I have to slop some hogs, I am on the first plane back to Manhattan.
“Just counting the seconds until they leave for their honeymoon and I fly back to New York.” I'm staying with my dad while Mom and Jake rendezvous in Jamaica. Hopefully I can talk Dad into letting me stay. Forever.
“How are the stepbrothers?”
“Mutants, just like last time I met them.” I stab a piece of cake with my fork. “I don't trust these people, Mia. Especially Jake. What's that guy got up his sleeve that he would charm
mom into marrying him? I Googled the guy, and I found nothing. Don't you find that strange?”
“Er . . . no.”
“What if Jake Finley isn't his real name? It could be his alias. He could have a prison record.”
“You think he's a—”
“Psychopathic, serial-killing, online predator?” I nod. “Just one of the many possibilities I have to face here.”
“I think you're overreacting.”
“And I think I know trouble when I see it.” I write an advice column for our school Web site, so I deal with problems daily. I know all about catastrophe.
“Oh, Bella ...”
“My mom just married a total stranger, I will soon live at a zoo, and my new six-year-old stepbrother is dipping his Batman doll in the punch bowl.” I drag my hand through my chestnut locks. Am I the only one who sees the problem here?”