"You did what?" Bailey asked, trying to keep her voice calm instead of screaming at her best friend.
"I know. It was crazy. But Jeff's mom was driving me nuts, and we were already in the wedding capital of the world..." Stacy's words dropped off, but she kept her eyes on Bailey's eyes through the bathroom mirror.
Bailey began to smell a bitter burning and realized she'd had her hair curling in her straightener for far too long. She quickly let go of her hair so that she wouldn't replicate the poor girl whose hair burning video went viral. How quickly did one's hair grow back after something like that? Bailey didn't want to find out. Besides, she had more important things to think about. Like how her best friend had just eloped.
"Did you go to a drive through and order what...one lifetime of happiness?" Bailey asked, trying to imagine what her best friend's wedding must have looked like. But she was having a hard time doing so since she never imagined that she wouldn't be there. She had been by Stacy's side since preschool. They'd done everything together, and Bailey was trying not to show the hurt that she felt, having missed the moment she and Stace had been dreaming about for years.
"No. You know me better than that." This time it was Stacy trying to hide her hurt. "It was actually really nice. It was in a beautiful chapel with gorgeous flowers. Vegas doesn't only do those kinds of weddings you know," Stacy said as she dropped her eyes so that they were no longer looking at Bailey.
Bailey heard Stacy suck in a deep breath and was hit with immediate guilt.
"I'm sure it was," Bailey said, feeling bad that she'd let her feelings come before Stacy's. The day was hers after all. She could do whatever she wanted with it. Well, hers and Jeff's. "Where is Jeff?" Bailey was reminded that the groom was nowhere in sight.
"I thought it would be best if I sprung the news on you by myself. He's telling his mom and packing up his stuff," Stacy said.
Bailey nodded as the part Stacy had left unsaid hit her. Dang it! Bailey hadn't even considered that portion of the news. Of course Jeff would be moving into the home that she and Stacy shared. The tiny, two bedroom, one bathroom cottage that was barely big enough for Stacy and her as it was. The cottage that was owned by Stacy, while Bailey was just a month to month renter. Jeff had moved back in with his parents after he and Stacy got engaged. It was always understood that he would move in after they got married, but Bailey thought she still had a year before she had to think about finding a new, newlywed-free place to live.
Bailey swallowed as she finished her last curl, then ran her fingers through them before spraying in some texturing spray. Her blonde locks were neither straight nor curly, kind of an always frizzy in between, and if she didn't want to look like she'd just stuck her finger in a socket, she had to do something with them. Easy curls were her typical go-to.
But now wasn't the time to think about where she was going to live nor her always-a-hassle hair. She'd already been selfish enough that morning. She'd figure out her future soon enough. Now was the time to celebrate with her best friend of twenty years.
"I really am so happy for you." Bailey leaned in to give Stacy a giant hug, and Stacy jumped at the opportunity. "I was in shock for a second there, but oh my gosh. You're married!" After sufficiently jumping around the two feet of empty space in the bathroom in celebration, Stacy, and then Bailey, calmed.
"So you didn't want to be around to break the news to Jeff's mom?" Bailey teased Stacy. They both knew Jeff's mother would not be happy with the turn of events. She'd lived in Blue Falls her whole life and had already been planning an event that would be the toast of the town. Stacy was far more laidback and hated being the center of attention. Jeff was the same. Bailey had no idea whose idea it was for them to elope, but she had to imagine they were both grateful to miss out on the event their wedding would have been.
"She's going to kill him, isn't she? And then she'll kill me," Stacy said as she leaned against the light green bathroom door. "What have we done?"
Bailey stopped spritzing her perfume to look at her best friend. She took her by the shoulders, causing her to stand upright again, and looked her square in the eye. "Did it feel right at the time?" Bailey asked.
Stacy nodded, but her face was a little yellow. Bailey wondered if she was going to be sick.
"Then you can't second guess yourself now," Bailey said, stepping up to the best friend plate. She may have missed the big day, but that didn't mean she couldn't be the best maid of honor ever. She'd have Stacy's back, come what may.
Stacy nodded again and looked a little less like she might be dashing for the toilet. "You're right," Stacy said as she pulled away from Bailey and stood up straight all on her own. "We did what was best for Jeff and me and the start of our new family. We needed to break away from his mom and what she wanted. Because that's what the entire day would have been about."
This time Bailey nodded. There had been a total of two wedding planning meetings, and both had ended with Stacy in tears. This was what was best. Bailey smiled at Stacy before adding a swipe of lip gloss to her mouth.
Bailey just wished she'd taken Jeff and Stacy up on their invite and gone on the trip with them. But the last thing Bailey had wanted to do was be a third wheel on the happy couple's trip. She’d used her job as an excuse since they’d wanted to take off early Thursday morning, and Bailey hadn't wanted to ask for the time off. Stacy had teased her that the only reason Bailey didn't want to miss work was because of Bailey's gorgeous boss, Rafe.
Rafe might have been easy on the eyes, but Bailey was smart enough to know nothing would ever come of her ridiculous crush. How cliché was it that she liked her handsome, billionaire boss? Bailey rolled her eyes before turning back to her friend.
"Do you have any pictures?" Bailey asked, putting down her lip gloss and turning her full attention to her friend. She was finally out of her selfish stupor and back to being the best friend she could be.
Stacy squealed as she pulled out her phone, and Bailey followed Stacy to the cute yellow themed living room that had always been cozy. And it still was, but thinking about a third person joining them made it feel a little cramped.
She and Stacy had spent countless hours decorating the place after Stacy had bought it, and they'd made good use of the small space. They'd put light wood shelving on the light-yellow walls and mounted their TV above the shelves. But that didn't make the space any less small.
When they sat on the only couch, which Stacy also owned, it felt like yet another reminder that Bailey needed to move. She could just imagine Jeff and Stacy curling up on the couch and then Bailey going where? She'd deal with that later.
Bailey's cheeks hurt from the perma grin that was etched onto her face as she scanned through Stacy's pictures, while Stacy kept up a running commentary. It was almost enough to make Bailey feel like she'd been there. The wedding venue was exactly the classy and pristine venue Bailey had imagined for her best friend. She stopped on a picture of Stacy smiling so hard that her eyes were barely open and Jeff staring down at her with so much love in his eyes. Bailey knew her best friend was in the right hands.
It was hard not to feel a twinge of yearning for that same kind of love, but Bailey focused back on the couple in the picture. "Your dress is beautiful," Bailey gushed, staring at the knee-length white lace dress that was perfect for Stacy's curvy shape.
"Isn't it?" Stacy said. "The decision actually started with the dress."
"So, you had no plans to elope before you went down to Vegas?" Bailey asked. The answer to the question didn't matter much, but she would have thought Stacy would have warned her that the big day was around the corner.
"No! Of course not. Is that what you thought? No wonder you were upset. You should have been more upset. If we knew anything, we would have told you and made you come. You know not having you there was my only regret, right?" Stacy said.
"What about your mom?" Bailey asked.
Stacy waved a hand in front of her. "Mom's married off four daughters already. She and dad are just happy to not have to foot another wedding bill."
Bailey laughed, knowing Stacy was right. Her parents loved her, but there would be no sadness in knowing they had been able to save thousands of dollars. Since Stacy was number five in a family of seven that tended to ease the pain if Stacy or any of her siblings did anything outrageous, like elope.
"Did you tell them?" Bailey asked.
"I called mom on the way home from Vegas and she said, 'That sounds nice, Sweetie. Be sure to send me a picture that I can add to the wall of wedding photos.'"
"That was it?" Bailey asked. She knew Stacy's mom would be cool with it, but that was even beyond what Bailey would have imagined.
"I think she's overwhelmed that both Shyla and Sydney are having babies in the next few weeks. Being a grandma always trumps being a mom," Stacy said.
Bailey wouldn't know since she was the oldest of three kids, and her mother had yet to enter the grandma zone.
"So the dress led to the wedding?" Bailey asked, returning Stacy to her story. She might have lied to herself a little when she said the answer to her earlier question didn't matter. She had really hoped Stacy hadn't gone behind her back to plan their elopement, and now that she knew, there was nothing to mar the joy she felt for her best friend.
"We went shopping on Friday and I saw it. I told Jeff that if it were up to me, that would be the type of dress I would want to wear on my wedding day. Jeff asked what I meant by ‘if it were up to me.’ I laughed, thinking he was joking, and that started a pretty intense dialogue. He didn't realize how overwhelmed I was by his mother. He assumed she was just bringing to life everything I wanted. When he asked what I really wanted, I told him a simple ceremony with lots of flowers. Jeff wanted the same (well, he didn't really care if the flowers were there), and then he asked me to marry him again. That night. And I said yes."
Stacy's eyes were wide as she told her story. "Was I crazy?" she asked Bailey.
"No. I think you did exactly the right thing."
Stacy nodded slowly. She'd needed to hear Bailey say the words.
"Sorry, I've made this all about me. I totally didn't ask you what you did this weekend," Stacy said, causing Bailey to laugh.
"I think getting married overshadows anything I could have possibly done," Bailey said after she'd laughed for a full minute with Stacy watching her like she was crazy.
"You didn't just work, did you?" Stacy asked.
In the days before Jeff, Stacy and Bailey had often gone out with their coworkers on the weekends, but with Stacy not around to push Bailey out of her comfort zone, a new typical weekend for Bailey was to work until she was no longer needed, then to come home to a movie and a bowl of ice cream for dinner.
"No." Bailey defended her choice of how she had spent her weekend.
"Watching a movie on this couch with some Chunky Monkey does not make your weekend any better," Stacy said. "Did you at least ask Mr. Heathcliff to join you?"
"Stace. It's never going to happen." Bailey regretted ever telling Stacy about her small crush on her boss. Okay, maybe it wasn't a small crush, and Bailey would have exploded if she hadn't revealed her feelings to someone, but it would be a fruitless crush. Rafe was so out of her league in every way.
Rafe, the name he'd asked her to call him when she’d become his personal assistant, was Raphael Heathcliff, grandson to one of the richest men in the world and a brilliant businessman to boot. He was the kind of man who graced the front of tabloids with his model girlfriends, not the kind of man who fell for his personal assistant.
"Rafe dates girls like Ariel." Bailey reminded her best friend of the woman who had graced Rafe's arm for nearly two years before the two had broken up abruptly almost a year earlier.
"He used to date girls like Ariel. They broke up forever ago," Stacy said.
"But he hasn't dated anyone since."
"Maybe he's waiting for the right time to ask out his assistant."
"Or maybe he's still hung up on the supermodel who broke his heart." Bailey stated the way more likely scenario.
Bailey had come to work for Rafe a month after the breakup, and she swore he didn't smile for a full thirty days. Ariel had done a number on her boss. Her boss. She needed to continue to think of him in that way. Because at work the lines were becoming a little blurred, and it wasn’t helping Bailey with her crush. Sometimes she swore Rafe's eyes lingered on her a little longer than necessary, and now with Stacy pumping up her hopes, Bailey was in trouble. Especially since she needed to be heading for work in the next few minutes.
"You mean the supermodel who cheated on him very publicly and then announced she was pregnant a month after their breakup?" Stacy asked.
Bailey swallowed, hating that everyone knew that about Rafe. She, of all people, knew how private of a guy he was. The last thing he would want was for anyone to know his business, much less every person who had visited a grocery store magazine aisle in the last year.
Ariel had never come out and said the baby was Rafe's, but it was what the world assumed. Yet she'd left him and gone off to raise the baby with her new photographer boyfriend, leaving a distraught Rafe behind. Bailey had never hated anyone in her life, but Ariel was close to being the first to earn that emotion from her.
"If the baby is his, it isn't a wonder he's still holding a torch for her. What Ariel is doing is messed up. Right now he needs as many people in his corner as he can possibly have," Bailey said. That was another big reason why Rafe could never know about her crush. He didn't need to think his assistant was some lovesick girl he couldn't trust.
"You don't know if it's his?" Stacy asked. "I just assumed he would have told you and you were keeping the information a secret from me."
Bailey shook her head, thinking back to the day the news that Ariel was pregnant had hit the internet. It was one of Bailey's first days of work, and Rafe had left the office immediately after he'd heard the news. She had heard that he'd holed up in his suite for a few hours before Emma, Rafe's sister, was able to get him to open the door for her. She'd stayed in there for another two hours before both came back down to his office, neither saying a word about what had happened. Bailey had waited for Rafe to file for paternity rights or do something, but he acted like the morning had never happened, so Bailey‘d done the same.
It was hard to put the Rafe she knew with a woman like Ariel. Sure, Ariel was stunning. She was voted by multiple magazines as one of the most beautiful women in the world. But Bailey thought she knew her boss well enough to know that looks wouldn't be enough for him, and from what she'd seen of Ariel, there didn't seem to be more to her than that. She was known to the world for being a beautiful party girl.
She'd earned that image when she’d started partying in places the paparazzi would be sure to catch her in the months before she had cheated, and she’d continued to party throughout her pregnancy. Bailey had worried about the effects of her lifestyle on her unborn baby, on Rafe's baby. But he hadn't so much as asked his attorney about what his rights were.
Rafe didn't seem like the type of man to walk away from his child, even if the baby's mother would allow him no type of access. Rafe never let anything stop him in business, so why was he allowing Ariel to be a roadblock in his personal life? Especially when he'd told Bailey, on a night when she'd stayed at work too late, that he wanted nothing more than an entire basketball team of kids of his own one day. She just didn't get it. But it wasn't up to her to get it. She was supposed to work for Mr. Heathcliff, and that was it. No matter what Stacy said.
"Speaking of my job, I better get out of here," Bailey said looking up at the clock that read seven-thirty. She'd spent way more than enough time thinking about her boss. She needed to get his personal life out of her mind and focus on his professional life, the only reason she was in his life at all. "But I want to hear every last detail about your wedding as soon as I get...." Her words trailed off before she could say home. This place couldn't be her home for very much longer. And Stacy would likely want to spend her evening with her husband, not Bailey. "During our lunch break," Bailey finished, hoping Stacy wouldn't notice her flub.
Stacy smiled and nodded as Bailey rushed out the door.
She knew Stacy wouldn't want her to move, or at least that's what she would say. But the last thing the newly married couple needed was a roommate. She needed to find a new place ASAP. And if she was on the topic of finding new things for herself, she should add a new crush to the list. Liking Mr. Heathcliff, even from afar, was just too complicated.