“This really does suck.”
Alex smirked as she set a cup of soda in front of Jessie. It was about a week after the proposal, and the blonde was proudly wearing the gold engagement ring that had belonged to Ryan’s mother. “Hey, you were the one who decided to go get knocked up.”
“That was not my intention.” Jessie took a sip of her drink. “Though I guess I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the process.”
“That’s what you get for not being careful.”
“Hey, we were careful.” She hesitated. “… mostly.”
“I got a better timeframe from my OB/GYN, and we did some calendar math. If it happened when we think it did… well, all I’ll say is that neither of us were sober.”
Alex snickered. “Might want to change that story if other people ask.”
“Already did for my parents.”
“How’s that going? They still mad at Ryan?”
Jessie shrugged. “My mom isn’t. She’s just thrilled to have another grandkid. Dad’s still a little miffed, but I reminded him that I’m the second kid to do a shotgun wedding, and he wasn’t mad at the first one.”
Alex raised her eyebrows. “Good story behind that?”
“Not really. Jimmy got his girlfriend pregnant, and girlfriend’s dad told him to put a ring on it or else it’d be the last kid he was capable of having.”
“Mm.” Alex shook her head. “They really aren’t very progressive in Wyoming, are they?”
“Not where we live, it isn’t.”
Ryan walked out of the kitchen, coming around the bar to Jessie with one of their plates. “Here you go,’” he said as he put it down in front of her. “Two slices of pineapple and ham pizza.”
Alex furrowed her brow as Jessie picked up a slice. “When the hell did we start putting pizza on our menu?”
“When my fiancée started craving it,” Ryan said simply. “I put a few frozen pies in our freezer. They’re just for her.”
She glanced at Jessie. “I didn’t even know you liked pineapples on pizza.”
“I don’t,” She replied plainly as she took a bite, quickly chewing and swallowing. “But apparently I’m not in charge of what I want to eat anymore.”
Alex snorted. “Bummer.”
“Agreed.” Jessie took another sip of her soda, before putting the glass down. “So. We have a favor to ask.”
Jessie looked at Ryan, before turning her gaze back to Alex. “Well, here’s the thing. The way we see it, this whole situation is your fault.”
“Excuse me?” Alex looked at them incredulously. “I was definitely not in the room when you went heels-to-Jesus with your boy toy. I accept zero liability for your sex trophy.”
Ryan snorted, snickering into his fist as Jessie wrinkled her nose. “Okay, first of all, gross,” she commented. “Second, you were the one who set us up. At the very least, that gives you peripheral responsibility.”
“Agree to disagree. What’s your point?”
“Well, we’ve been talking about the wedding,” Ryan mentioned as he laid a hand on Jessie’s shoulder. “Her parents were very clear that if they weren’t there, they would be very upset. But her mother has asthma, so traveling during a pandemic is not a great option.”
“And I really don’t want to get married with a baby bump,” Jessie added. “But at the same time, it’ll make things much easier insurance-wise if I’m married when the baby is born.”
Alex hummed. “Talk about a conundrum. You’re gonna have to compromise somewhere.”
“We already came up with one.” Ryan took a breath. “We’re gonna do a small ceremony right away. Only a few people. And we’re gonna stream it so her family can watch. Charlotte has a setup we can use, and a really good camera to take photos with, so she agreed to be our photographer.”
“Duckie volunteered to be the officiant,” Jessie continued. “Eleanor and Riley are gonna do flowers for us.”
Alex had a confused look on her face. “You’ve got everything covered, sounds like. What do you want me to do?”
Jessie took a deep breath. “I want you to be my Maid of Honor.”
Alex stared at her, blinking several times. “… what?”
“Maid of Honor. You know, the one who-”
“I know what a Maid of Honor is. You really want me to do it?”
Jessie nodded. “For this one, and the bigger wedding we plan on having when people can travel again.”
“Are you sure?” Alex asked hesitantly. “Not that I’m not flattered as hell, but… I mean, that’s a big level of responsibility for me to fuck up. You wouldn’t rather have someone else?”
“I… don’t really have a ton of female friends out here, except for our group,” Jessie confessed. “I’m not really that close with any of my sister in-laws, either. Besides, like I said, this is mostly your fault.”
“What about Steph?”
Ryan shook his head. “I already asked her to be my Maid of Honor.”
Alex raised both eyebrows.
“Yea, I know, it’s weird. But she’s my best friend.”
“I was actually thinking about how she almost beat the crap out of you.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“It was last week.”
“No reason to dwell on the past.” He shrugged. “Besides, I know she’ll plan a kick-ass bachelor party when it’s time to have one.”
“… yea, she will.” Alex looked at Jessie. “I, on the other hand, have never done anything like this before.”
“If it helps, I don’t really have a high bar,” Jessie offered.
“I know.” Alex thumbed towards Ryan. “That’s why we’re in the situation to begin with.”
Ryan smirked back, using his middle finger to scratch the side of his nose. “Does that mean you’ll do it?” Jessie asked hopefully.
Alex took a long breath. “Sure,” she agreed. “Why not. Can’t mess it up too bad, you’re already committed at this point.”
Jessie looked relieved. “Thank you,” she said sincerely. “It seriously means a lot to me.”
“Of course.” Alex smiled. “So… when is the wedding?”
Ryan nodded at the door. “We’re doing it in the park next door on the seventh.”
“Wh- in two weeks?”
“We’re kind of in a rush,” he reminded her.
“Yea, but still.” Alex hesitated. “Do I have to wear a dress? Because full disclosure, I don’t actually own one.”
Jessie furrowed her brow. “Really?”
“Closest I’ve got is my skirt.”
“I mean, I’m planning on wearing a dress,” Jessie pointed out. “So…”
“This is not what I had in mind.”
Steph looked at Alex, as they followed Jessie into the dress store. Since there was little in the way of fashion outlets in Haven Springs, they’d carpooled for an hour to a dress shop in the next town. It was pretty expansive, with lines of dress racks going all the way to the back. “What were you expecting?”
“An actual store that sells wedding dresses,” Alex answered as she looked around. “These don’t seem particularly fancy.”
“Given the circumstances, I’m opting less for appearances and more for functionality,” Jessie reminded them. “Besides, wedding dresses go for at least a thousand bucks.”
“I thought SubTerra pays you really well.”
“They do. But if I’m spending a thousand dollars on a dress, there’s going to be more than ten people to watch me wear it.”
Alex snorted in amusement. “Fair enough.”
They began walking down the first aisle, coming upon the white dresses almost immediately. “Ooh, this one looks nice,” Steph proclaimed as she pulled out a hangar.
“So does this.” Alex touched another one. “You are wearing white, right?”
“I had planned on it,” Jessie affirmed, stepping up behind her.
“I think these are mostly sun dresses,” Steph mentioned as she flicked through the hangars. “I mean, they’re nice, but they’re pretty casual. What’s Ryan wearing?”
“Just a button-up and slacks.”
“Also pretty casual, given the circumstances,” Alex offered. “Maybe if we find one nice enough, it’ll work.”
“Sure,” Steph agreed. “Put on some nice heels or something, maybe a- oh!”
They both whipped their heads around. “What?” Alex asked.
“Check THIS out!”
With a flourish, Steph whipped an amazing-looking dress off the rack. It was strapless, a slightly off-white color with intricate lace woven around the edges. The dress trailed longer in the back than the front, and looked absolutely elegant.
“Tell me this isn’t a dress to drool over,” Steph stated.
Alex looked at Jessie as the blonde smiled brightly. “Damn, Steph, I think you might’ve nailed it,” she agreed. “That’s a great… dress… to…”
Her voice slowly petered off as her smile faded. Alex looked back at her as the blonde adopted a blank look and exhaled slowly. Steph noticed too, finally lowering the dress. “… Jessie?”
“Holy shit, I’m actually doing this,” she breathed.
Alex and Steph exchanged glances. “Um… isn’t that why we’re here?” the brunette asked.
“I… yea… it’s…” Jessie swallowed, taking a shaky breath. Alex watched her aura slowly turn blue, with shades of purple around the edges. “I, uh, I need to sit down. Can we sit down?”
Steph tossed the dress back on the rack as Alex took Jessie’s arm, guiding her to a love seat by the wall. Then she stepped away before the aura got brighter.
“Thank you.” Jessie licked her lips, staring at the ground. “I… I just… Jesus, I don’t even know.”
Steph stepped up to Alex’s side. “Are these wedding jitters?” she whispered quietly.
“I don’t know. I think so.” Alex looked the blonde over. “… maybe you should sit with her for a second. Rub her back or something.”
Steph looked at her. “Are you gonna…”
“Maybe. Just… go be with her.”
The brunette nodded and did as instructed, sitting beside Jessie and rubbing her shoulder comfortingly. The blonde paid her no mind as she continued to stare at the floor and breath quietly.
Okay. Let’s see what’s wrong.
Alex tentatively reached out her hand, feeling the purple aura surrounding Jessie. The aura grew brighter and brighter, eventually exploding as it coalesced throughout their corner of the store.
Her view darkened, like it had the last time she used her powers on Steph. But, oddly, Jessie stood out amongst the darkness, brighter than anything else. Even Steph, sitting right beside her, looked cast in shadow. Almost like…
She’s in a spotlight, all by herself.
Alex looked around, trying to figure out what was setting Jessie off. The first item she focused on was the dress Steph had picked out, carelessly tossed over the clothing rack.
“Wow, Mom, that dress is… really, really poofy.”
“It was the eighties, Jessica. Everything was poofy. Besides, we had to hide the baby bump that Tommy was giving me.”
“God, how scandalous.”
“You joke, but if your grandparents had known, there would’ve been hell to pay.”
“Well, when I get married someday, my dress is definitely not going to be this poofy.”
“But I saved it just for you. It’s in the attic right now.”
“Oh, I’m kidding, honey. When it’s your turn, we’ll go somewhere and get you the perfect dress for your big day.”
Mm. I suppose that’s one puzzle piece.
Alex kept looking, finally noticing another bright spot on the floor near where Jessie had dropped her purse. She focused on a small silver compact that poked out from the zippered compartment.
“It’s only a little bit of powder, Trish. Just enough to cover the bags under your eyes.”
“Bite me. You’re not the one running to the bathroom every hour because someone won’t stop kicking your bladder.”
“I’m not judging. I’m just fixing it.”
“I know. Which is why you’re my favorite bridesmaid.”
“Then why is Kim your Maid of Honor?”
“Because she’s my sister. If I hadn’t picked her, we would’ve had to call in the National Guard to save us from my mother’s conniption fi- ouch!”
“Aw, is my future niece playing soccer again?”
“Ugh, ten minutes before we walk down the aisle, too. Not quite how I wanted my big day to go.”
Alex let the memory fade as she caught another bright spot, coming from a silver bracelet on Jessie’s wrist.
“It’s not that far, Dad.”
“It’s a nine-hour drive just to get to the border from the ranch! Why can’t you stay in Wyoming?”
“They asked me to move. It comes with a stupidly high raise and a promotion. I’d be the lead engineer, not just some flunky.”
“A lead engineer? So soon out of college?”
“I told you that Master’s was worth it.”
“Yea, you did. You always were the smartest one in the family. Sometimes worryingly so.”
“What does that mean?”
“We love you, sweetheart. I don’t think we could bear the thought of you running off, living your own best life, and forgetting about us.”
“I could never do that, Dad. I can’t imagine you guys not being there for me.”
And here she is, about to get married without them. Alex sighed. No wonder she’s upset.
She stepped over to the couch to kneel in front of Jessie, reaching out to lay a hand on the blonde’s arm.
“This isn’t how you wanted this to go.”
Jessie looked up to meet her gaze.
“Your mother’s supposed to be helping you find a dress,” Alex continued. “You’re not supposed to be pregnant. And your family’s supposed to be here with you. Nothing’s going according to plan.”
“… no,” Jessie agreed quietly, rubbing her arms. “All the thought I gave this when I was a little kid, and… nothing’s going right.”
Alex nodded. “Man plans, and God laughs.”
“I guess so.”
Steph leaned forward. “You know you don’t HAVE to get married right now,” she offered. “I get that it’s convenient, but Ryan’s not gonna care if waiting will make you feel better.”
“Hell, you don’t have to get married at all,” Alex added. “It’s twenty-twenty. Couples have kids without being married all the time.”
“I do want to marry him,” Jessie said quickly. “And I want to do it sooner rather than later. It just makes sense.”
“How you feel doesn’t have to make sense. All that matters is what you want.”
Jessie took a slow breath as she rubbed her hands together. “I want to get married,” she stated. “I want to be married before the baby’s born. And I don’t want wedding photos of me with a baby bump.”
“And?” Alex pressed.
“… I want my mom to help me find my wedding dress,” Jessie admitted. “And my dad to walk me down the aisle.”
“Dude, this isn’t your wedding dress,” Steph told her. “These are just really nice sundresses. The one I found is only, like, a hundred and fifty bucks.”
Jessie let a brief smirk cross her face. “True,” she allowed. “But still.”
Alex hummed. “I have an idea.”
“Can you see? Is it a good connection?”
“It’s a little fuzzy,” Jessie’s mother, who’d introduced herself as Debra, admitted through the screen on Alex’s phone. “But I think it’ll work. Where is she?”
“Still changing. Steph is helping her zip up.”
“Steph is… who again?”
Alex smirked. “Ryan’s Maid of Honor.”
“That’s a little odd, but okay. And you’re Jessica’s Maid of Honor, right?”
“She asked me yesterday.”
Debra nodded as she scribbled something on a notepad. “Sorry, I’m trying to keep track of everyone. I’ve heard my daughter mention your name a few times, but she didn’t mention how she knew you.”
“I was the one who introduced them to each other.”
“Ah ha.” Debra folded her arms. “So this whole thing is-”
“I take ZERO responsibility for what happened,” Alex interrupted. “Any further questions can be directed towards my lawyer.”
Debra was still laughing as Steph slipped out through the curtains. “Are we ready?” she asked.
Alex flipped the camera on her phone. “Go for it.”
Steph held the curtains open for Jessie to step out, wearing the white sundress they’d found. She tucked a loose hair behind her ear as she looked at the phone. “What do you think?”
Debra sucked in her breath. “Oh my God, sweetie, that looks GORGEOUS!”
Jessie giggled. “You think so?”
“Jessica, you look stunning. Ryan might not be able to contain himself until after the ceremony.”
Alex snorted in amusement as Steph started laughing. Jessie had a horrified look on her face. “Mom!”
“I’m kidding, sweetie. But that is an amazing dress.”
“We’ll hang in the good pile,” Alex told her. “We’ve got six more you need to offer input on.”
“It’s a big store. And then Steph and I still have to figure out bridesmaid dresses.”
“Wow.” Debra nodded. “Do you have unlimited data? Because this sounds like it’ll be a long phone call.”
“We’re good.” Alex looked at Jessie, pointing back at the changing room. “Next.”
Alex looked over as she buckled her seat belt. “For what?”
“Making me feel better.” Jessie started her car, backing out of their parking spot. “And getting my mother on FaceTime. I didn’t even think about that.”
“Oh. You’re welcome.”
“Are you okay?” Steph asked from the back seat. “With everything going on?”
Jessie hesitated. “… I think I’m still processing it,” she admitted. “There’s a lot of stuff moving really fast. I mean, two weeks ago I wasn’t engaged, and had no idea I was pregnant. I thought I was handling it.” She sighed. “I guess not.”
Steph nodded. “You can’t let this kind of stuff get bottled up. Trust me, it’s not good for you.”
“I know.” She looked at Alex. “You should go be a psychic or something, with how well you nailed what was stressing me out.”
Alex smirked. “It’s my superpower.”
“Yep.” She pointedly ignored the look Steph was giving her. “I can tell what’s bothering people.”
“Oh yea?” Jessie smirked. “What’s bothering me now?”
Alex inhaled slowly. “You’re hungry,” she stated after a few seconds.
“… shit. I am hungry.” Jessie chuckled as she pulled out of the parking lot. “You’re good.”