Authors: Mary Martinez
Tags: #General Fiction
Fanny gave a bark of a laugh as they stepped from the building to the sidewalk. “Somehow I doubt the jilted fiancé will appreciate the joke.”
“It’s not a joke.” Cecelia wanted to protest more because using the name wasn’t what Fanny thought.
Her new surname was a symbol of her growth as a person. She thought her ex-groom would someday understand.
Fanny shook her head. “No more discussion until we meet up with the others. Then you can tell them and we’ll see what they have to say.”
“Okay, but I bet they appreciate it.”
Fanny didn’t smile, just began walking south. “It’s a nice day and not that far to Whitehall.”
“Sounds good to walk.” Linking her arm through her friend’s, she cleared her mind to enjoy the day.
There was still the surprise for her mother and Mrs. Evans, and the bank to get through. She had a good feeling all would work out.
“Where have you two been?” Skye screeched when they finally reached the building.
Fanny let out a ragged breath. “We decided to walk.”
“You’re kidding, do you know how far that is?” Joy asked.
“We do now.” Cecelia let out a ragged bit of air of her own.
For the second time that day, she blessed the fact she’d worn sensible shoes. Her feet had to have at least three blisters she knew of without taking off her shoes. She didn’t want to consider how many others might be breaking out.
“Let’s get these bags in the apartment. And go over the rest of the plan,” Joy said. She nodded a greeting to the doorman who helped them with their burdens to the elevator.
Cecelia directed the doorman where to stash the bags. “Skye, I have everything figured for spending. I didn’t think about furniture. Tomorrow while all of you are stuck waiting for me at the church. I will be free to shop.”
“I only shop at second hand stores.” Skye nodded at the others. “You guys?”
A chorus of “Yeses” echoed around the bare room.
“From now on I will too. I have a lot in savings. I can’t afford to assume I’ll be able to support myself before the money runs out. Frugal is my new middle name.”
“Yeah, I saw the F. on the documents.” Fanny replied her tone dry as toast.
“You’re shittin’ me.” Joy gasped in horror.
“Yes, she is. Come on, let’s find a place to eat I’m starved. I’ll tell you all about the name then.” All the others filed into the hall toward the elevator. Cecie paused. Too bad, she couldn’t just start her life now.
Seated for lunch, they’d all given their orders. Apparently, Fanny was ready to end everyone’s suspense even if she wasn’t.
Rae placed her water glass she’d been about to sip, back to the table with a tiny rap. “Tell us what?”
“Her new name, you are not going to believe it.” Fanny folded her arms over her chest and glared at Cecelia.
The waitress arrived to give Cecelia a reprieve and set their Cosmo’s on the table. The drinks were Skye’s idea, she said it would prepare them for the coming evening. They’d all have to give academy performances at the rehearsal dinner.
After the young woman left promising to be back in a few minutes with their salads, Rae raised her glass. “To all of the BFFs and the pact to watch each other’s back.”
The sound of glass clinking together sent a shiver of anticipation down Cecelia’s spine. It was a good premonition. She knew, though she didn’t know how, her plan would work.
“Tell.” Joy delicately bumped the table with her glass.
“My new name is…” It was too much fun to draw out the suspense. Of course, after Fanny’s build up it would be a letdown. That wasn’t her fault.
“Come on.” Rae squinted her eyes it was a habit, one that she’d had for as long as Cecelia remembered.
“Don’t blame me if it’s not the big deal Fanny thinks it is.”
Skye glared at her over the rim of her pink drink. “Stalling again.”
“Let me introduce myself.”
“Okay, ladies, who had the walnut-pear salad…” Startled at the chorus of groans, the waitress glanced around the table. “…I’m sorry, did I interrupt?”
“No, that’s fine. I had the walnut-pear.” Cecelia moved her drink out of the way so she could place the bowl in front of her.
“The coast is clear. Spit it out before we’re interrupted again,” Skye demanded. Her voice came out sharp as razor blades.
It was so hard for Cecelia not to laugh at her friend. She almost felt bad imparting the name. She knew it was going to be anticlimactic after all the stalling and interruptions.
“Your middle name is Frugal,” Joy squealed.
Rae rolled her eyes. “Joy, Cecie’s middle name is Faith. Duh!”
Joy’s face turned a beautiful shade of scarlet as she mumbled, “I forgot.”
“Well?” Skye prompted.
“Cecelia Faith Chandler.”
Silence settled over the group. Cecelia had known they wouldn’t think it was as terrible as Fanny thought.
“Oh…my…God…” Skye grabbed her Cosmo and chugged the rest down. “Chandler is going to shit-a-brick.”
“Oh, Cecie, are you sure you should have done that? After all it’s like rubbing salt in his wounds.” Joy was, as always, the softhearted one.
Shame washed over her. Maybe it had been a mean thing to do. Unfortunately, it was a done deal now. No, they didn’t understand.
Fanny raised her brows over the rim of her drink as she sipped.
A very ‘I told you so’ look if you asked Cecelia.
“I admit it when you put it that way it doesn’t sound very nice. I’m beginning anew and Chandler had a big part of that. Cecelia Chandler has a nice professional ring to it. It’s a reminder I have to be true to myself. I don’t want to walk all over others to do it, but I want to always remember how I almost let myself be railroaded into an unwanted marriage because of money and the good of the firm.”
“I doubt Chandler will appreciate the reminder,” Fanny commented with an even dryer tone if possible.
“You’ve known for years you’d have to marry Chandler to keep your inheritance, why the change now? It’s not because of Chandler. I know you told us about your father and how he’ll never be the way you dreamed of when you were young. Again, you’ve known that for awhile, or maybe didn’t admit to yourself. What was the catalyst that brought you to your senses?” Rae shrugged as if to convey her bewilderment.
“Bella.” Each of her friends gave her a startled look. “Yes, I’m referring to my wedding dress. The beautiful gown I’ll never wear.”
“It’s a dress for God’s sake, how can it be the reason you’re making a
life change?” Skye asked.
“If I told you all the reason’s you’d cart me off to the loony bin. However, I think you’ll all understand this reason. When I stood in front of the mirror at Heidi’s, I’ve never been so angry in my life.”
“What?” Rae exclaimed.
Cecelia could understand. It took her a few days to come to the answer herself.
“What’s the happiest moment supposed to be in every girl’s life?” She took a sip of her drink, then without waiting for their answer continued. “Her wedding. There I stood with Bella hugging me as if Heidi had made her for me. And all I could think of was that the dress symbolized the worst day of my life. She’s—yes I feel as if Bella has a personality all her own—has been with me ever since. I knew in that minute my dream wouldn’t come true of my father ever looking at me with love and approval. I swear the dress hanging in my room was a constant reminder of the huge mistake I was about to make, it’s what finally brought me to my senses. I couldn’t marry Chandler. It wouldn’t be fair to me or him. I know he’d agree.”
“Are you sure? He’s a man. He’ll see that you’re costing him his place in the company. The spot he’s worked long and hard to reach.” Rae reminded her, as if she needed it.
Remorse flowed over her in tiny waves. As it had every day since she’d made her decision. “I know. I spoke with him, and he doesn’t want to marry me either. Knowing he’ll lose his job and position is the one thing I’ve been battling. He’s intelligent he’ll be able to go anywhere and build a career. His clients will follow him.
“The firm may not fire him. He’ll be there tomorrow to marry me in good faith. I hope Broderick will understand and not take it out on Chandler. Which is why I didn’t confide my plan. He’ll be as surprised as everyone else. I have a feeling someday he’ll forgive me.”
Silence settled over the table, a nice way of letting her know none of them thought Broderick would be so forgiving. “Okay you’re right perhaps I’m hoping for too much. I do feel guilty. In the long-run I have to believe things will work out best for both myself and Chandler. What other options do I have?”
Joy sipped her drink then slapped it on the table. “Guys, we all know Cecie doesn’t have any other choice. We promised to watch her back. Making her feel guilty isn’t helping. Let’s toast to things unfolding as planned and then I believe we all have our duties to accomplish before the rehearsal dinner.”
“Where, we will all put on an academy award-winning performance.” Fanny clinked her glass to each of theirs, then waited for Joy to lift hers.
“Here, here!” Skye agreed.
After the toast, Cecelia brought up the subject of furniture and the discussion turned to a debate of the merits of rent-to-own while she searched the furniture stores for bargains or spending the next day scouring the second hand stores for bedroom furniture. She finally decided to rent her bedroom furniture and decorate the rest of the apartment one piece at a time.
“Cecie, I believe it’s time we pick up the mothers’ surprise then it’s off to the bank.” Skye waived for the check.
Now for the hard part, did Broderick Wilson have the bank manager monitoring her account for what she was about to do?
She wouldn’t put it past him. The very reason she was doing it close to the end of the day on a Friday. Cecelia hoped the bank manager would be gone for the day.
She needed luck to be with her.
With a pendant for each of the mothers’ in her bag, she was on her way to deal with her account and meet Skye at her bank. The plan was simple; withdraw everything except a few dollars. That way she wouldn’t actually be closing the account.
She hoped it would avoid any type of alert.
The next step would be to place her savings in Skye’s safety deposit box until her name change was final and she could open her own. Everything except the money she needed for her lease and spending money to buy necessities until then.
She stepped into Bailey’s Bank with only fifteen minutes to do her transaction and meet her friend. A feeling of accomplishment began to swell over her. That is until she spotted her father in the manager’s office. A fireball ripped through her tummy in dread.
Why now? Oh good Lord, it was the last Friday of the month he always dropped off the deposit. She’d been too busy worrying he’d have her accounts monitored, she completely forgot to consider she’d run into him.
Broderick could ruin everything. She could not let that happen. Gulping down the dread of a public scene, she went to the teller and calmly handed her the prepared withdrawal slip. No alarm crossed the teller’s face that would indicate her father had alerted anyone. While the girl counted out the money, Cecelia glanced over her shoulder. Her father stood, he shook the man’s hand. She quickly faced the teller again so he, hopefully, wouldn’t notice her.