One Down, One to Go

Nisan 15, 2024 Yazar admin 0

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“So..what do you think?”

“Mom. It’s…beautiful! I love it!”

“And the timing is pretty much perfect, wouldn’t you say?” her mother reminded her recently-engaged daughter.

“No kidding! Oh, Mom. This is just so incredible, and I’m really, really happy for you!”

Brooklyn Maxwell was 43 and the new owner of Brooklyn’s Bridal Boutique which was now fully stocked with wedding dresses to fit any budget as well as everything else a bride-to-be could possibly want for her big day.

It had taken everything she’d saved since her divorce ten years ago plus a small-business loan, but here she was giving a private showing to her 22-year old daughter, Kristi, who would be getting married in just four short months.

“I already see it, Mom!” she said as Kristi’s eyes fixated on her one-and-only dress.

“It’s beautiful, honey. Do you want to try it on?”

“Yes, of course. I mean, I don’t need to to know it’s the one, but I do want to get a feel for how much it might need to be taken in,” her daughter said excitedly.

Just minutes later, both of them knew why she’d chosen it. It looked absolutely gorgeous on her. When she was done, Brooklyn carefully hung it in the ‘sold’ rack after also tagging it as such with a bright red card that said ‘SOLD’ in gold letters.

“Okay, we’ll have you come in for your fitting whenever you’re ready, and it will be right there waiting for you,” her mother told her.

“You’re the best, Mom. And the best Mom—ever!” Kristi said before hugging the mother who’d raised her alone and sacrificed so much for her since her father abandoned them for another woman when she was 12 years old.

Kristi Maxwell had just graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle a month ago then three days after that had accepted a marriage proposal from her college sweetheart, Ryan James, a 24-year old graduate student majoring in geological engineering.

Brooklyn had foregone college in favor of marriage, and although she deeply regretted not going, she never once regretted having had her daughter at the age of 21. And now, all those years later, she couldn’t be more proud of the beautiful young woman who’d grown up to become her best friend.

“Okay, one down, one to go,” Kristi said cheerfully.

“What? What are you talking about?” her mom asked as she moved the dress to the sold rack.

“Well, I’m engaged so now…it’s your turn!”

Brooklyn spun around and said, “Hold on there, little Susie Q. That is not happening. Fool me once, shame on you, right?”

“Mom? Don’t be such a cynic, okay? There are plenty of great guys out there and you’re so beautiful! Please at least keep an open mind. Please?”

Her mother rolled her eyes then said, “You know I’d do anything for you, right honey?”

“Yes. Of course, I do,” Kristi said. “Thank you for agreeing without another big argument!”

“Um, no. I did not agree. I was trying to say, ‘There’s an exception to every rule’, but you didn’t let me finish.”

Kristi playfully stuck her tongue out at her mother who, knowing they were alone, did the same thing back causing them both to laugh before hugging one another again.

“How about we move onto something practical? You know, something that might actually be possible like choosing a wedding photographer or the live entertainment or maybe even your wedding cake?” Brooklyn suggested.

Kristi heaved a sigh then said, “Okay. You win. For now anyway.”

It wasn’t just that Brooklyn had been left for another woman by her ex-husband. After waiting eight long years, she finally met someone she fell in love with. To her great delight, he’d proposed, and she’d happily said ‘yes’.

A re-born-again believer in true love, she couldn’t wait to say ‘I do’ and, nothing could have been more perfect than that day until the wedding was supposed to start and the groom didn’t show up.

An hour later, sitting alone, and worried sick something might have happened to him, and still wearing her beautiful wedding dress, Brooklyn received, not a personal visit and not even a phone call, but an ‘apology text’. A text in which her handsome, 40-year old fiancé told her he couldn’t marry her because he’d fallen back in love with his high school sweetheart who’d looked him up a few months ago. He admitted he’d been seeing both of them before and after he’d proposed, and thought it would be ‘comforting’ for Brooklyn to know ‘this was the hardest decision he’d ever had to make.’

She took off her wedding dress, and swore she would never marry—or even get serious with anyone—ever again.

And now, just a couple of years later, although she’d never admit it to her daughter, or even to herself, she still yearned to love and be loved, and while she held out little hope of that ever happening, embers still glowed warmly somewhere deep inside her.


One week later

“Okay! Welcome to bridal boot camp, everyone!” the perky young instructor said. “My name is Becca, and for the next four weeks, I’ll be helping you get into the best shape kayseri escort of your life! I mean, come on, ladies, who doesn’t want to fit into that dress, right!”

There were hoots and woot-woots and lots of applause from the dozen or so new brides-to-be who’d signed up for the class, as well as the husbands-to-be they’d persuaded to come with them.

“All right. Before we get started, let’s get to know each other, shall we?” she said just as cheerfully.

Kristi beamed as she introduced her handsome fiancé while Brooklyn stood off to the side observing. Her daughter had asked her to come and take a look and find out what ‘bridal boot camp’ was all about.

Brooklyn had no personal interest in going, but she did have a professional one. If clients were going to be talking about this new (well, new to her) craze in pre-wedding routines, she wanted to know what it was all about. Also, she’d been promised a plug for her new boutique, so she stood there casually observing while taking note of the kinds of things the couples did as they followed Becca’s lead.

After the introductions, the class did some warm-up exercises then moved into a ‘trust exercise’ where the ‘bride’ would fall into the ‘groom’s’ arms as a way of building trust.

“Or break skulls,” Brooklyn thought to herself.

Right in the middle of it, Becca called out, “Oh, ladies! And gentlemen, of course. May I have your attention real quick?”

Everyone stopped, turned, and turned to look at her.

“The very handsome guy who just walked in is Serge Harkhov, a local wedding photographer…hint, hint…who’s taking photos for the gym here where I hold my boot camps. So ladies, look all you like but be good. Remember, your husbands-to-be are watching!”

There was a lot of laughter along with applause as the handsome young photographer held up one hand in a kind of wave/acknowledgement.

“Oh! I am SO sorry! Before I forget, let me also introduce someone else you’ll want to get to know, ladies. This gorgeous woman is Brooklyn Maxwell, the owner of the newest bridal boutique in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Fittingly, it’s called Brooklyn’s Bridal Boutique. Try saying that really fast three times,” Becca said as she asked Brooklyn to say hello.

“Go, Mom!” Kristi hollered out and drawing several stares of unbelief.

“She’s your mom?” one of the brides-to-be said. “She looks like your big sister.”

“And you just got 10% off any dress in the store!” Brooklyn said with a smile as she pointed to the younger woman who’d complimented her.

“I think you look younger than your daughter!” another shouted loudly. “Was that enough for 20% off?”

More laughter followed before Brooklyn told them where her boutique was located and the products and services she offered.

“I have a stack of business cards so when you leave, please take one and I hope to see all of you soon!”

She thanked them for their attention and smiled in thanks for the mild applause when she finished. After that she faded into the background as Becca put them through their paces while the photographer moved around taking action shots of the happy couples in motion.

Several minutes later he was right in front of her trying to get the perfect shot when he realized he was in her way.

“Sorry!” he said stepping aside.

He turned around to look at her and did a double take.

“Wow. She was right. You do look like your daughter’s sister,” he said flashing a gorgeous smile at her from an even more gorgeous face.

Brooklyn forced a smile and said, “Thank you, but everyone here knows that isn’t true.”

“Um…no we don’t,” he said cheerfully. “You look like you might be 30. Maybe. In fact, I think I’d need to see some ID to believe you’re anyone’s mom.”

“Oh, my goodness. That’s ridiculous!” Brooklyn said as she got a really good look at him. He wasn’t just drop-dead handsome he was also very positive and upbeat, something she loved in the men she dated. Or rather…used to date.

“I didn’t mean to block your view,” he said in his upbeat manner.

He smiled at her again then said very seriously, “People tell me I’m a good man in a way.”

He paused for effect then added, “That’s right before they tell me, ‘But who needs a good man in the way’.”

Brooklyn rolled her eyes but couldn’t help but laugh. Yes, it was very corny, but he was just so…cute. She allowed herself to admit that, but she wasn’t going to let it go any further.

“Okay! Before we start getting all sweaty—or glistening, if you’re old school,” Becca said interrupting their conversation, “we always have one practice dance for your big day.”

She looked around then said, “Actually, it’s for the guys with two left feet. And you know who you are, right guys?”

The women all laughed and one of the guys said, “Oh. I see my fiancé has been talking about me,” which drew even more laughs.

Becca told them they’d be dancing to We’ve Only Just Begun by the The Carpenters this first week and that she’d have another wedding classic for them during each of the remaining classes, as well.

“Okay, everybody! Get paired off and get ready to strut your stuff. If you need any help, just let me know. If I see anyone tripping their bride-to-be, I’m going to come offer it anyway so don’t be afraid to speak up!”

“She’s really high energy,” Serge said to Brooklyn as he stood beside her.

“Kristi, my daughter, says she’s the best. I’m not sure this is quite my style, but whatever works, right?” she said back to him.

The music started and Serge said, “Maybe I’m a sap, but I really love this song.”

Becca overheard him as they were standing next to her boom box so she said, “Then get out there and dance! Brooklyn? Come on! How about it?”

“Me? No. I don’t think….”

Serge grabbed her hand and pulled her causing her to nearly lose her balance.

“Go, Mom!” Kristi called again as Serge kept pulling.

“I am so going to hurt you…what did you say your name was again?” she asked as he took her hand in his and began dancing with her.

“Serge. Serge Harkhov. It’s Russian in case you were wondering. My parents came over here in the 70s in one of the waves of emigres from the Soviet Union.”

He did a Russian accent and said, “No worries. I am Amer-ee-kan cee-ta-sin so iz no problem, no?”

In spite of herself, Brooklyn laughed again then said, “Okay, maybe I’ll let you live.”

“Oh. Is werry good. I am thanking you for note keel-ing me, pree-tee lay-dee.”

His smile and his positive attitude were infectious, and Brooklyn found herself having fun with a man for the first time since, well, since before she’d been stood up.

“So how long have you had the bridal boutique?” he asked her seriously but not overly so.

“Less than a month now,” she told him.

“Nice. How’s business? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“It’s been pleasantly brisk,” she told him. “I think we did a pretty good job of marketing, so we’ve had a lot of folks stop by. I just hope we can keep it going.”

“Maybe a photo spread in The Seattle Times would help,” he said even more seriously.

“That would be great, but my marketing budget is on fumes,” she told him.

“I’ll do it for free,” he said with a smile as he impressed her with his dancing ability.

“You’re in business, too. You can’t make any money doing things like that. It’s very kind of you, but I couldn’t.”

“No, it wouldn’t be free, free. It would just be free…upfront,” he explained as he whirled her around.

“How so?” Brooklyn asked.

“Well, we’d show photos of your boutique and in the advertisement, we’d give 10% off to anyone who told you, ‘Serge sent me.’ Then you pass the 10% along to me for the first ten dresses. We both get publicity and…money.”

“Who pays The Times?” she asked.

“Ah. Well, you see, I have a very close friend who works there so…you let me worry about that, okay?” he said with a smile.

Brooklyn raised an eyebrow then said, “Handsome, smart, an excellent dancer with a head for business. I’m impressed.”

“Honestly? So am I,” he said, clearly meaning with her.

As the song ended Kristi made her way straight to her mom and introduced herself to Serge.

“Nice to meet you,” he said as they shook hands. “So you’re this beautiful woman’s sister?”

Kristi laughed then said, “Um, yes. That’s correct,” as she hooked her arm in her mom’s.

“Two things,” Kristi said. “My fiancé and I are looking for a photographer and…my mom…er, sister…is available to be taken to lunch or dinner so….”

“Kristi Ann Maxwell!” her mother said pulling away from her.

“What? Mom, he’s…gorgeous. I mean, just look at him.”

She leaned over and said, “If I wasn’t engaged….”

Serge laughed then said to Kristi, “Let me give you my card. If you’d like to hire me, please let me know as soon as possible. I’m booked solid for several months out, but for the sister of a woman this beautiful, I may just be able to fit you in.”

“You see. He agrees with me,” Kristi said grabbing her mom’s arm again. She also pulled one of her mom’s business cards out and handed it to Serge then said, “Her personal cell number is at the bottom so you can….”

“Enough already!” Brooklyn said feeling oddly embarrassed and a tad flustered.

He looked at the card then said, “Okay. I know exactly where this place is.”

He looked up at Brooklyn then asked her if they were on for their business deal.

“What…business deal?” Kristi asked. “You guys just met.”

“Serge has a plan I think I like,” she replied.

She looked at Serge then said, “If you’d like to stop by we could discuss the details.”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll do that,” he said smiling happily. “Um…if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and hand out some cards then I’ve got another shoot to get to. It was very nice meeting both of you.”

He smiled then gave them a puzzled look before saying, “So which one of you is the younger sister?”

Kristi laughed loudly and Brooklyn tilted her head trying to ignore him but found herself smiling then laughing along, too.

“He is so cute!” Kristi said after he left.

“Um…he is so young,” her mother added.

“So?” Kristi said as though it didn’t matter.

“So…he’s your age, for crying out loud.”

“So?” she said again driving her mother crazy.

“So…so I’m going to pass out my cards and leave, too,” she informed her daughter.

“Oh, I see. Serge left early and you’ve agreed to meet him for a hot tryst, huh, Mom?” she said pouring salt into the growing wound.

“You keep talking—sis—and your free dress won’t be free much longer!” she said trying to sound serious.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. All talk and no action. And in your case, that’s literally true, Mom,” Kristi teased not knowing it actually stung.

It had been well, here again, since before she’d been stood up, that she’d had any ‘action’, let alone a ‘hot tryst’, and as much as she hated admitting it, she was desperately in need of some. Seeing and dancing with someone as attractive as Serge had only thrown gas on the fire, or more accurately, on the embers that seemed to doing a little more than smoldering.

“You know what? He really is cute. And he’s a great dancer and…I enjoyed talking to him. So I suppose if he were to ever ask me out, I might consider going with someone, you know, a tiny bit younger than me,” Brooklyn told her daughter.

“Seriously? Mom, that is so good to hear! I think I might be able to drop a subtle hint for you if you….”

“Don’t you dare!” her mom said. “I was just sort of thinking out loud. That’s all.”

“But you do like him, huh?” Kristi said wishing her mom would start dating again.

“Yeah. I think maybe I kind of do,” she said causing Kristi to squeal as she hugged her mother.

Neither of knew for sure, but Serge wasn’t Kristi’s age. He was only four years older, but 26 wasn’t 22, whatever that meant.

After leaving, Serge stopped by his older brother’s house on the way to his next job and told him, “Dude, I just danced with the most amazing, interesting, beautiful woman I think I’ve ever met.”

“Danced with? At this time of day? Bro, I want your job,” his brother kidded. “Seriously, that’s great, but I don’t think Chloe is gonna be as happy for you as I am.”

“Yeah, I know,” Serge said resignedly.

“What’s bugging you, Serge?” his brother Max asked him. It was short for Maxeem, a name no one but his parents were allowed to call him.

“I don’t know. Same old thing, I guess.”

“I tried to warn you, bro. But would you listen to your older and much wiser brother? Oh, no. Little Serge has to learn everything the hard way.”

Until recently, Serge would have fought back or at least weakly defended himself. But now, he was coming to the realization Max had been right all along. Chloe was hell bent on some kind of quest for perfection, and in his mind at least, perfection didn’t exist. It was just a concept. People should strive to be their best, but perfection was unattainable. And yet Chloe wanted everything to be perfect, and it was wearing on him the worst way.

“It kills me to admit it, but you may have a point,” Serge said begrudgingly.

“A point? No, I’m right. I’m absolutely right, and you know it. That’s what bothering you.”

“Maybe things will settle down after the wedding,” Serge said not even believing that himself.

“Sure. And if fishes were wishes….”

“I know. We’d all have a fry,” Serge said finishing the old saw.

“You’re the guy who asked her to marry you, bro. The ball is way into your court now, buddy.”

“???? ??????,” Serge muttered cursing mildly in Russian.

“Man, you must be bummed. You never speak the mother tongue.”

“Well, I wasn’t lucky enough to find a beautiful girl like Elena who does,” he said referring to Max’s gorgeous, Russian-American wife of a year and a half or so.

“Thank goodness she understands no one is perfect. If not, I’d be screwed,” Max said with a laugh.

Serge shook his head and said, “Even that has to be perfect.”

“What? Screwing? No. Don’t tell me. I don’t even want to know how that works, okay?” he said putting his hands up.

“No. No, you don’t,” his younger brother said. “Anyway, I mainly needed to take a piss so if you don’t mind….”

Max laughed knowing his brother had really needed to talk. Using the restroom was just a guy-excuse to cover for having an emotional need.

“Okay, well let me know if everything comes out all right when you’re done,” Max told him with a slap on the back drawing a middle-finger salute from his little brother which made him laugh.

Two days later, Brooklyn was showing dresses to another new bride-to-be when she heard the front door open.

“I’ll be right with you!” she called out as she sent the young woman in with her seventh dress to try on.

She weaved her way through the racks of poofy dresses and nearly ran into Serge when she got to the main aisle.

“Oh, my goodness! What a pleasant surprise!” she said with a big, happy smile. “I was wondering when you might stop by.”

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