Chapter 24 : Makeshift
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“More up in the front, though.”
“Seamus, I’ve told you, I don’t know what that means.”
He eyes his reflection in dissatisfaction. Meanwhile I impatiently thwack my wand against his chair. After not seeing each other in weeks, his head randomly appeared my fireplace today. He had asked brightly to come over; I had thought to catch up. Really, he just wanted somebody to fix his hair for the wedding.
“Y’know, like, more…” he gestures vaguely to his head.
“That isn’t even a complete sentence!”
“Yeesh, calm down,” he chides. “You’re more neurotic than usual, aren’t you? What’s got you so wound up?”
I stammer before landing on, “I have to be in Italy soon.”
This is only partially true—yes, I am anxious about that. Long-distance Portkey travelling always gets me on edge. What’s appealing about spiraling through nothingness across countries? Plus Lisa wants all of the bridesmaids to be there, like, twelve hours early (okay, five.) And I haven’t even begun to think about my Maid of Honour speech.
But mostly I am beside myself because Oliver is going to be at this wedding. And weddings make me particularly, erm… hormonal.
I glance over to my messy bed. The December issue of Witch Weekly is peeking from beneath my pillow. I’d shoved it there when Seamus Apparated into my room, unannounced. I wasn’t, like, reading the magazine to be weird or anything. I was, of course, only interested in my article. Making sure that the margins were to my liking and all. It had nothing to do with the photographs of Oliver. I haven’t dog-eared the page featuring a full spread. And I certainly haven’t memorized the way he looks lying across the locker room bench. His knee drawn, looking somewhere between humiliated and smoldering, lips parted just so, jaw unshaven...
“…So really, that’s what I’ve been trying to say,” Seamus finishes, gesturing to his hair.
I fan myself, “Is it hot in here?”
“You weren’t even listening!”
He’s right. This daydreaming is getting out of hand. I’ve been spending most of the week re-playing images from Puddlemere’s last match against Holyhead. The day after meeting Ada, I rushed from Witch Weekly to sit alone in a dingy pub, and watch the match on their two-way mirror. (Mum doesn’t believe in these newfangled devices.) Puddlemere won by a landslide. After several very impressive saves, Oliver is back on the fans’ good side. The look of pure elation on his face when Puddlemere caught the Snitch was infectious. When I recall it I start grinning like an idiot.
There is a knock at my bedroom door and my Mum pokes her head in, “Edie, do I hear a boy?” Honestly, I’m too distracted to be annoyed at her barging in. Her eyes land on Seamus in obvious disappointment, “Oh, hello Seamus. Ready for the big day then?”
Trust me, you’re not the only one who wishes Oliver was in my bedroom.
In fact, I’ve spent the greater portion of this week imagining what could have happened that day at Oliver’s house. If Ginger would have just played fetch, Ada would not have come back inside, when Oliver had pushed back my hair. There would have been two electric seconds, and then we would have been at each other from across the counter. I would have clambered across it, and he would have suddenly pulled away, muttering, “Watch the kitten mug!” He would have moved it to safety and then in one movement of super-athletic fluidity and prowess, grabbed me by the backs of my knees and slid me over onto his lap. I would have run my hands through the hair that’s always sticking up in places, and he would have squeezed my thighs and…
“Edie, are you feverish?” my Mum’s voice sounds miles away. “You’re quite red.”
I open my mouth but no words come out. Thankfully, Seamus the Talker sighs dramatically, “Anyway, I would be ready, if your daughter could get her act together with this hairstyling!”
My Mum says delicately, “Oh, well you know Edie just isn’t very good at all of that. She could never do her own hair growing up.”
He laughs, gesturing to me with his thumb, “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, am I right?”
“I’m right here!” I shout. “Mum, I have to go. I’m supposed to be all the way in another bloody country. Could you fix this twat’s hair?”
“Language,” she whispers, but nods anyway. “Of course, Pickle. Run along, and I’ll help your friend. Seamus, would you like anything hot to drink? Or perhaps a chocolate biscuit?”
Seamus ooohs excitedly, kicking his feet. Soon they’re giggling together like schoolgirls. Grumpily, I grab the bridesmaid’s dress hanging on my door and stomp downstairs.
She didn’t offer me any biscuits, I pout.
When I first heard that the Turpin-Finch-Fletchleys were getting married in Vernazza, I rolled my eyes. A seaside Italian wedding is just so… Justin. Why can’t he just grumble “I do” in an unassuming garden wedding like the rest of the lot? A little cake, dancing, and bubbly would have suited Lisa just fine. But Justin’s dream wedding probably required a twelve-hour ceremony officiated by the bloody Pope himself, followed by a Pegasus-drawn carriage and trumpets and fireworks and LOOK MUM I’VE REALLY MADE SOMETHING OF MYSELF.
From what Lisa’s told me, though, she has toned it down. The only over-the-top nonsense to be had is the location: old castle ruins barred off to Muggles, and charmed to come to life once we step inside.
So, given my preexisting mental image of this lavish wedding, one can imagine my shock when the Portkey (a nauseating figurine of two birds singing “All You Need is Love,” thank you Justin) drops me directly in the middle of a bar fight. Perhaps “bar fight” is a bit strong—really it’s two drunk, bro-y looking wizards causing a scene in a very posh vineyard.
“Oi!” I duck the spell cast by a bloke in a pastel blazer and loafers. He would have missed spectacularly anyway. He’s so drunk that he topples onto the perfectly preened, sun-dappled, prenuptial grass. The early afternoon sun is high, and little glimpses of the sea peek out from beyond sprawling rows of grape vines and olive trees. It would be very beautiful, were I not almost just hexed in the face.
A hand clasps on my shoulder. I raise my fists in imitation of a 1920s boxer, but it’s only Dean (who doesn’t bother to cover his hoot of laughter.) He scurries me away just as the two men, who are either laughing hysterically or doing some kind of new war-cry, come at one another again. I am led over to the shady little table where Dean has staked out. On the table are two empty wine glasses, a sketchbook and his artist’s quill. Sensing the warm air, I remove my cloak.
“Quite the setup. How picturesquely Mediterranean of you,” I tug on the tie he’s wearing with a gingham shirt and gray suit. His glasses are gone and I can actually see his face now. “What’s all the fighting about?”
“Some of Justin’s law school mates, apparently. Bunch of idiots. They’re arguing over who won the pub crawl of 2001.”
One of them bumps into a nearby display of expensive-looking cheeses and grapes—with a Freezing Charm I stop it just in time. My Maid of Honour senses are tingling. “Lisa never hears about this,” I order, my wand righting the last bottle back to its proper place.
Oh! Lisa! She’s probably losing her mind right now, her little hummingbird heart beating a thousand miles an hour. I’m supposed to be here for her. “Speaking of Lisa, I need to go help her with… getting married,” I fumble. “Why are you here so early, though? Came to get pissed and reminisce with the boys?”
Dean shrugs, “Nothing better to do. And I haven’t seen you in ages.”
He says it and suddenly I’m aware of how true it is. Merlin, when was the last time our little trio spent any time together? (I am not counting Seamus’s “hair appointment” as quality time.) It must’ve been after we all broke into Witch Weekly. That was over a month ago… and only because I begged them for help. I reckon it all got so messy, with my constant lying, that I couldn’t remember what they knew and what they didn’t. Eventually it was easier to avoid my best mates.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “Things have just been so insane lately…”
Even I’m aware of how rehearsed it sounds. Dean presses his mouth into a line and nods. There is silence, other than the wind in the trees and the chatter of the crowd. He seems at a loss without his go-to move of pushing his glasses back up his nose. His hands flutter at his sides before he puts them in his trouser pockets.
Shoving him gently, I force a smile, “Well save me a dance at the reception, eh?”
He grins but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, “Yeah, sure.”
“Two Galleons says they recite that Bible verse. Y’know. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast…”
“Oh, Merlin,” he covers his face. “Alright, I bet you three more that Justin recites some original poetry.” We shake on it, and only a hint of tension remains.
Offering one last pathetic smile, I head out of the vineyard—or start to, before recalling the cheese display. I do a rather impressive back-leap and grab a handful. The skinny attendant witch casts a disdainful look, but I don’t care. I’m on a quest to find an abandoned castle, where a bride in distress awaits. This is a bloody fairytale wedding, after all.
When I finally arrive at Lisa’s changing room, she is not the one in distress. I throw the door open and slam it behind me, leaning heavily. I’ve just sprinted up multiple staircases and am panting like a goat in labor. My eyes lock with Lisa’s. She sits before an enormous mirror, powder brush paused midway to her cheek. There is a beat of silence.
“My mother found you, didn’t she?” she says just as I heave, “Claire is here.”
It’s true. I’ve been detained for the last thirty minutes by Claire Turpin, who is just as beautiful as Lisa in a severe way. She likes me, I have at last realised after ten years of deciphering her code of affection. But she’s a very intense woman, her icy blue gaze enough to render me a babbling idiot. She always seems to know when something has gone horribly wrong in my life, and that’s when she chooses to “check in.” More than anything, she’s interested in my love life.
“I’m sorry,” Lisa groans. “She really does mean well.”
“So what if I don’t have a boyfriend!” I shout the words that I wanted to say to Claire, “I have a job now. I’m a fully-functioning adult!”
Lisa returns to her mirror, “You’ve got cheese on you.”
“Aw,” I try to wipe the residue from my jumper before resolving to lick it off. Lisa snorts, rolling her eyes. I poke her in the back, “Hey. You’re getting married today.”
She flushes beetroot and beams, “I know!”
“And you’re going to have a baby.”
She swats my hand and I give her a tight hug, verging on suffocation. “I’m so happy for you,” I say in a rare moment of sentimentality. Weddings, mate, seriously. Her cream-coloured lace dress hangs from the wardrobe door. She’s charmed the waist higher, to hide the small bump in her belly. “I see you don’t want to do the big reveal today.”
“You mean telling Justin’s extremely conservative great-aunt that I’m pregnant? No, thank you. I’m hoping she won’t notice that I’ll be giving birth only six months into the marriage.”
I shrug, “Great-aunt Annette is getting up there. And six months is a long time.”
Lisa laughs in shocked horror, but I can see the cogs turning hopefully. She’s a little more devious than she lets on. I perch on the bed, watching her struggle with makeup charms. This goes on for some time until I tut, “Oh, come here.” As I perform minimal charms (since when has Lisa needed makeup anyway?) we chatter on and on. The open window lets in a warm breeze, the likes of which England hasn’t felt in months. In the distance, a cluster of brightly coloured stucco houses perches over a small harbour. The water is still and very blue.
“So you’ve invited Oliver,” I broach at last.
She drops her head in sudden remembrance, “Oh, I honestly completely forgot about that. It was before you two knew each other. Totally Justin’s doing. I’m sorry, is it going to be awful?”
“Have you spoken with him? Is he bringing Rose? I can’t even remember everyone we’ve invited.”
I can’t help my triumphant tone, “Not bringing her, nope.”
Lisa looks at me knowingly. I should tell her everything about Oliver, and how I’ve developed a crush on a famous athlete who is dating my narcissist coworker. But on her wedding day? Seems a little selfish. Also seems like a pretty legit excuse to put it off again.
As delicately as possible, I ask, “How do he and Justin know each other, anyway?”
Lisa looks uncomfortable. Her answer shocks me, “Justin was Oliver’s lawyer. They knew one another distantly, and I reckon became sort of friends during the trial.”
“His lawyer! For what?”
She’s fidgeting now, “Um… I can’t really say… But it has to do with the St. Mungo’s children’s ward—EDIE!”
I’ve lost control of my wand spectacularly. Her left eye, where I have been applying the faintest touch of smoky colour, is now ringed in an explosion of inky black. “Sorry! I can fix it! But you’ve known about this the whole time?”
“Edie, I know your articles are important to you, but I am getting married in a matter of hours and LOOK AT MY FACE!” Her rarely-heard screeching makes me peep a quick apology and set to working the counter-charms. In a matter of moments she is, thankfully, back to normal.
Even though I am dying to ask more about Oliver, the look on her face tells me not to. Yeesh, she is really aggressive these days. The subject is dropped. Ignoring the hippogriff in the room, we set back to our idle chatter. I change into my navy blue bridesmaid’s dress. It’s nice and swishy, with only one shoulder strap and some kind of sparkly waist cinch. I feel pretty, but I can’t let it go. What could Oliver have hired a lawyer for? Does it have to do with the death of his parents, or Ada? Trouble with the Magical Mob? Illegally trading dragon eggs, maybe?
As I twist my hair into some kind of formal-looking knot, I think about Lisa’s reaction to my article. She’d chided me for being mean—I hadn’t realised that it was because she knew something about the St. Mungo’s fiasco. It seems that I haven’t been the only one keeping secrets.
Standing next to four insanely beautiful part-Veelas was not something I had taken into account. Lisa’s other bridesmaids are all family, with impeccable posture and very shiny skin. We look like a “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” puzzles on the Prophet children’s page. Especially after I spent approximately thirty seconds in the sun and am now covered in freckles.
We are all clustered in a small room like sardines, waiting for the music to cue us. Through the crack in the doors, we can see that the atrium of the castle is teeming with guests. Lisa is making a game of pointing out all the people she’s never met, who were eager to escape the London chill. The shattered windows have been magically repaired, and the late afternoon sun streams in. The vines and leafy overgrowth still crawl along the walls, charmed with white flowers and bobbing fairy lights. Benches full of people line the long, hallway-like room. At the head, where Justin is waiting, is a round stained glass window. It looks like the sun, in whites and yellows and pinks.
Alright, so it’s a damn beautiful wedding. Justin did well.
I glance over my shoulder to Lisa. I wish I could be standing with her, but I have to walk in first. She is absolutely stunning, flawless, the most beautiful person to have ever walked the earth—of course. Her blue teardrop earrings are the same colour as her eyes, but nowhere near as bright. She touches her hair for the eighteenth time and I give her a reassuring look that it is still in place. As we all wait in silence, several things are going through my mind.
Lisa doesn’t look like she’s going to bolt. Is she going to bolt? Probably not. But if she does I have to tackle her, that’s all there is to it.
Also, Justin’s brother is at least a head shorter than me. I shouldn’t have worn heels. Hopefully he won’t notice the sweat when we link arms.
And lastly, but more than anything, Oliver is somewhere in that room.
Then Lisa and Justin’s song begins to play, interrupting my thoughts. Within the first two notes I start hyperventilating like a well-exercised pony. Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry. The last thing I need right now is to be swollen-faced and runny-nosed. The doors to our room are charmed open and everyone’s heads turn in one giant wave. I spot Dean and Seamus, the latter of whom is sporting a trendy hairstyle. Nice work, Hypatia. He gives me a hugely inappropriate wave as I wait for the EXACT MOMENT in the song when I am to step out, as previously designated by Justin. I spot the groom and stick out my tongue; he makes a face back.
Under the music is the barely audible sound of a door closing. I glance behind me and my heart stops—Oliver is late, like he is to everything. He’s standing in the enclosure with us, looking embarrassed. He offers a small wave hello to Lisa. They really do know each other. How could I have been left in the dark about this? Everyone in our little huddle is staring at him. Then our eyes meet and I feel my stomach drop, because even though he is surrounded by five stunning Veelas, he is smiling at me.
Justin’s brother Peter links his arm through mine, jarring me. I glance his way—and see that he is positively blubbering. One glimpse of his red, tear-streaked face and I nearly burst into laughter. I glance over my shoulder at Lisa. She’s struggling to keep quiet as Peter blows his nose tremendously into a kerchief. I meet eyes with my best mate and we grin at each other. Then the music is in the exact right spot and I step out, giving Peter’s arm a consoling little pat.
After a blissfully short ceremony—wherein they did not recite Corinthians, but Justin did indeed allude to his own poetry—the applauding guests part like the Red Sea. Half herd themselves like cattle towards cake and hors d’oeuvres, while the others swarm the bride and groom. I distinctly hear Seamus cry, “They have lobster puffs!” He and Dean sprint away. Although I want to hug Lisa and Justin and physically cling to the past, refusing to admit that they are moving on, there is Peter to deal with. He’s refusing to unlink his arm from mine, now sobbing hysterically into my shoulder. Throughout the ceremony he emitted little bursts of emotion at particularly touching moments, such as the exchange of vows and when their cat, Philip, served as ring bearer.
“There there,” I mutter disinterestedly as I pat his head. We’re back in the small room where we began. I’ve whisked him away for the sake of everyone’s embarrassment.
“It was so—so—” he breaks into fresh sobs. “D’you think we’ll ever find a love like that?”
Not if you keep crying in public, mate.
“Am I interrupting?” Oliver raps on the door, glancing from me to the sobbing mess on my arm. He’s clearly trying not to laugh.
“Oh,” Peter says dejectedly, “You’ve already found your somebody. Well, congratulations I suppose. Looks like I’ll be leaving alone tonight. ‘Peter Finch-Fletchley, party of one.’”
“Oh, uh, Peter, this is my… my friend…”
“Oliver,” he interjects, extending a hand which Peter shakes limply. “Edie, darling, shall we have a drink?” Before I can answer he steers me away gently by the elbow.
“Erm, ‘bye Peter!” I call pathetically, “Hang in there, champ!”
Oliver snorts and I shove him. Instead of following the overwhelming mass of people, he grabs two glasses of bubbly from a tray that magically floats by. It’s the expensive kind, with the bubbles that float into the air and pop like fireworks. We head outside onto a stone patio overlooking a flower garden, where a dozen other people mill about. The sun is still over the horizon, settling down into a cool evening.
Although I’m trying not to, I’m staring at Oliver. It’s killing me. I want to know why Justin was his lawyer, but I’m not sure why I want to know. So that I can publish the information? Or because I’m genuinely interested in his past? He catches me staring. I avert my gaze to a young woman with long chestnut hair. Oh no. My heart stops, but with a huge sigh of relief, I realise that it isn’t Rose.
That’s right—Rose. Oliver’s girlfriend.
He hands me one of the champagne flutes but I don’t sip from it. I’m staring at the little fireworks display. I can feel the questions fizzing inside me in the same way. So, we’re just going to sit here and have a pleasant evening, ignoring everything. Chat about how Justin and Lisa are a good match, then I’ll ask how Ada is doing, and he’ll ask me about my plans for the Christmas holiday. How long can I keep my mouth shut?
Oliver begins, “Poor guy. Couldn’t keep it together—”
“Why didn’t you bring Rose?”
Apparently not very long.
He stills and I plow on, “Really. Because I know that she doesn’t hate weddings. And the other day, at your apartment, I swear you almost…” I can’t say anything else. My face has turned perma-beetroot and will never go back to its normal colour.
“Do you really want to talk about it this time?”
I furrow my brow, “’This time?’”
“Yes! I’ve tried to explain all of this a thousand times. I tried to meet with you at the coffee shop, the morning after The Hanging Moon. You never showed up. And then I explained it all in a letter, which you set on fire, you lunatic. And then I bloody tried again during that photo shoot, against my better judgment. It’s become pathetic, really.”
My heart is hammering so loudly I almost can’t hear him. It's happening. Everything is coming to a boiling point here, now, at this wedding. I reckon it’s about time to get it all out on the table. I suppose I’ll hear the full-on rejection story now. About why he chose her over me, and how he’s sorry to have led me on, but he hopes we can remain acquaintances. Maybe I can join them for lunch sometime soon, just to catch up, and he’d really like it if Ada could still play with Ginger. A horrible image surfaces of Oliver and Rose, watching arm-in-arm as Ada finally teaches Ginger how to fetch. Meanwhile I will be in the bag, Clear-Up Charming dog poo.
“Listen,” I start, hot with anger for something that hasn’t even happened yet.
This time he interrupts me, “I only started dating Rose because I didn’t want you to get in trouble for that photo. The one from the Muggle shop, when I wanted to kiss you.”
He scratches his head. I see that his champagne flute is trembling. He’s nervous. “Obviously your boss would be furious. And I know how much your career matters to you.”
You mean my fake career. The one I used in attempting to ruin yours.
This is quite possibly the last explanation I had been expecting, in all of my sleepless nights. This was all something that he did for me? I drop clumsily onto the stone banister overlooking the garden, nearly dropping my glass. Oliver reaches out a steadying hand but doesn’t touch me. “Astonished” doesn’t even begin to explain it.
“But what does Rose have to do with anything?”
“If she and I were dating, then everyone would assume the girl in the picture was her. Instead of you.”
“You saw the picture?”
“I… I found it, yes,” he sits down next to me. Oliver never reads his own publicity. Did he buy a copy, like I did? Tear out the picture and stare at it for hours on end? “Rose likes the publicity, and going to big events, and having her photograph taken. I don’t have feelings for her. She’s a distraction. And don’t give me that look,” he says before I can speak. “She isn’t in love with me either, Edie. Nobody is being wronged here.”
I remember my relationship with Cormac, all those years ago. Neither of us had a shred of emotional investment. We’d used each other. Nobody was hurt in the end. But we’d certainly taken advantage of our situation physically. Part of me wonders if Oliver and Rose are… But I can’t ask. And does it really matter? I’ve slept with Jae since having feelings for Oliver. I have absolutely no grounds for judgment.
“But isn’t Rose worried about her career? She could still get in trouble, maybe.”
He shrugs, “She isn’t the one writing about me.”
Forgetting that I’ve actually spent time on my hair today, I run my hands through it stressfully. I don’t know whether I want to smile or pass out. Oliver puts a hand on the small of my back. I shut my eyes, forcing myself to notice everything: the warmth of his palm, the slight tremble in his fingers.
Things begin falling into place. Rose talking about how she never sees him outside of public events. The way she’s always showed off their relationship, even from the time when she was only interviewing him. “It’s such a strange feeling to be dating a celebrity. We can hardly go anywhere without people following us.” I had distracted him during the Puddlemere match, and Rose had been so defensive about it. There was press there, I realize. There was a chance for me to publicly outshine her again.
She’s in love with the limelight, not with Oliver.
“I thought you would have figured it out,” he says. “Then you were always so hostile that I eventually stopped trying. I thought everything had completely backfired, and that you wanted nothing to do with me.”
“You come to Witch Weekly to see her all the time,” I still can’t let myself believe this. “I see you there almost every time I work.”
He shakes his head, cheeks flushing, “Not to see her.”
The breath whooshes from my lungs and I hunch over in bewilderment. I look up at him. This is the same person who I’ve been blindly fighting against for months. I have been immensely wrong. As pathetic as a Fourth-Year, I whimper, “But I thought you didn’t fancy me.”
Oliver smirks, rubbing my back, “Quite the opposite.”
“This is all true.”
“All of it.”
His hand is still on the small of my back. I realise that I’ve never touched him. Even though I’ve wanted to for so long, I’ve always sat stonily at a distance, watching with hard eyes, a deeper part of me smoldering away, waiting. But it was there. There was never a sudden moment when I realized that I had feelings for him. We have been a long, slow-winding and catastrophic landslide. Everything that fell apart horribly has settled and collected together, and created something imperfect; something very real. Makeshift. And then the landslide was over, and somewhere along the way I’d already fallen for Oliver Wood.
With decidedness, I reach up and place my hand on the back of his neck. He freezes, staring ahead of him. I run my fingers through the wavy pieces I’ve always liked for their unruliness. He closes his eyes. And then, because I really do want to—and because I reckon I owe him at this point—I turn his head towards me, lift my chin, and press my lips against his. This time, I kiss him.
Author's Note - PHEW. It is done. Well, the story isn't done, but there is the big explanation about Oliver and Rose. What does everyone think about that? Is he still a jerk? Was it totally predictable? Is anybody back on the Ediver ship? We're sending out life rafts...
So other stuff. Justin is Oliver's lawyer! And Dean is being sulky again! And Seamus loves lobster puffs!
Well, I hope everyone liked this (SUPER LONG THANK YOU FOR READING) chapter. I've been waiting for this moment for almost two years(!!) and it was gratifying and fun to write.
I do not own the Corinthians "Love is patient" verse, or the Beatles' "All You Need is Love."
(A big thank you to visenya at TDA for this super-sparkly chapter image!)
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