Author's Note: If you haven't read To Feel the Sun, you might want to. It would explain a lot of the character relationships a lot better. It's not strictly necessary, I suppose but it might make things easier.
Hey all! I'm happy to be back with the characters from To Feel the Sun! I've missed them dearly. I've had this story in my head for awhile, and only during NaNo did I really hammer out some plot ideas. For those of you who don't remember, Danielle was Carlin's wife in To Feel the Sun. I kind of wanted to tell the story about what happened after she divorced Carlin, and I wanted to show Gracie's and Jonah's marriage from her newly cynical eyes. I figured it'd be interesting. 'So Real' is a Jeff Buckley song, and I highly encourage you to listen to it (I don't have the playlist finished yet, but I will hopefully soon). And not just because this story is inspired by it, but because Jeff Buckley is awesome. Anywho, I got the inspiration for the groomsmen singing the song from my brother's wedding back when I was like, fourteen.
I hope you like this new story. And don't worry, Danielle may be pretty mopey right now, but the humor will definitely come into play soon enough.
Chapter One: Dare to be Stupid
I couldn't help the feeling of jealousy that bubbled up when I watched the bride and groom dance. It was their first dance as husband and wife, and they couldn't take their eyes off one another as they twirled around on the dance floor. I'd been like that once... not much more than a year ago, in fact. I looked down at my hands with a frown. The boulder sized diamond I had worn for only a few short months was gone, given back to my ex-husband the moment I found out he'd tried to sleep with my friend.
In fact, the very woman who was now dancing in her new husband's arms.
So forgive me if I sounded bitter, but I wondered if their marriage would last. They hadn't even really dated before getting engaged. They went from acquaintances to engaged in like, two months. I was happy for them, no doubt. But I'd known Carlin two years before we got married, and dated him seriously in all that time. And now my life was in shambles, and I had nothing to show for my patience.
"Cheer up, Danielle." I looked to my left to see Sarah, the maid-of-honor and Gracie's twin sister, adjusting the straps of her sky blue bridesmaid dress. "Don't let him ruin this for you, okay?"
"More like ruining it myself," I muttered, and looked down at my own dress. High waisted with a flared skirt, they were terribly flattering, not that any of the three bridesmaids were less than pretty.
"Hey, you know Gracie wouldn't want you to be upset." Sarah leaned on the table, and glanced over to the groomsmen who were whispering in a conspiratorial way. "And Jonah's way too nice to want you to think about Carlin."
I made a grunt to let her know I acknowledged what she was saying. I felt weird accepting Gracie's request to be a bridesmaid. We'd grown close over the past year, that was true. But my husband had tried to sleep with her, and directly caused her to lose not only many of her friends and her boyfriend at the time, but nearly lose her twin sister as well. I felt especially weird as Jonah's best man, Zach Parks, was the husband of my divorce attorney. Valerie was damn good. I had a no-contest divorce in my hands two months after I served Carlin papers. And I had expected a horrific fight. Either Carlin's lawyer was terrible, or Valerie was just that good.
I glanced around the reception hall, where I saw Valerie talking with some of Jonah's other friends from law school. That was totally a world I didn't know. I knew about fashion, about wealth and affluence, and how the slightest mistake could turn into a scandal of epic proportions. The Tetras didn't involve themselves in lesser affairs. Apparently, since I hadn't suffered my husbands wandering ways with a blind eye and divorced him so quickly, I had something wrong with me. After all, I wasn't bound to find someone as influential and high society as Carlin Thompson again.
I snorted to myself as I sipped at champagne. My own family would slide their gazes right past me at get togethers, as if I was something they didn't want to deal with. It was ridiculous. My own divorce was nothing special. Divorces happened all the time amongst our peers. But the situation was indeed a bit unusual. Considering the 'other woman' had been the one to confirm Carlin's liaisons. I suppose the part that really made everyone I knew, outside of my current company, take with surprise was the fact that Carlin vehemently denied Gracie's claims. To the point where even her own sister didn't believe her. Some still believed Carlin.
And that was the crux of the matter. Some people still believed that Carlin was innocent in all this. And I divorced a man I'd barely been married to for no good reason. I drained my champagne and rested my chin in my hand as I watched Gracie and Jonah dance.
I hadn't eaten much of the rather expensive catered meal, and I feigned that I didn't want to get my dress dirty when asked by Cassie, Gracie's other bridesmaid. I hadn't been very hungry for awhile now. The fact that I was pretty lonely might have had something to do with it. I might have thought I was a pity friend for Gracie, if it weren't for the fact that she genuinely liked spending time with me. I didn't know how she could do it. She wasn't as effusive or outgoing as her sister, and was in fact kind of introverted like her new husband. But she had plenty of love to share.
I guess I envied her more than I realized.
"Hey, Danielle." The groomsman I'd been matched with, one of Jonah's oldest friends from college named Wyatt, crouched down by my chair. He was good looking, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a wide smile. He wasn't a lawyer. I couldn't remember what he was, but he was definitely not a lawyer. "We're going to be singing Jonah and Gracie a little song. Would you like to join us?"
"What song?" I asked, looking up as the DJ announced that Gracie's father and Jonah's mother should come to the dance floor.
When he told me, I had to laugh. "I don't know the words to 'Dare to be Stupid,'" I said. "But you guys go ahead. Cassie won't sing, but you know Sarah will join you."
Wyatt flashed me that grin, and touched my hand. He'd been giving me that look since Jonah had suggested the wedding party spend some time together to bond. I attempted a smile back, but to be honest, I didn't quite like being looked at that way anymore. I don't know what Wyatt wanted, whether it was a quickie in the bathroom with a drunk bridesmaid or a long term girlfriend. Whatever it was, I didn't want it.
He got up, and joined Zach and Jonah's brother Brandon. Sarah had joined them as well, and they continued whispering conspiratorially. I found myself smiling as I watched the three men and one woman. They certainly knew how to tease Jonah and Gracie. Weird Al wasn't something often played or sung at weddings I had frequented in the past. I liked that Gracie didn't hold so tight to convention that it smothered her. I hadn't had the courage to do anything like that at my own wedding. It had to be absolutely perfect. Because with my mother, the wedding was more important than the marriage.
I lost myself in my thoughts again as I gazed at the large gathering of people in the hall. Business associates were in plentiful supply, as was the bride's and groom's family. I spotted Jonah's father, watching his wife dance with their son. He looked rather dour. I didn't know details, just that Jonah's father wasn't the most pleasant of men to be around. His mother looked a lot nicer. His brother, Brandon, was a riot. Jonah's polar opposite in temperament. It was clear Jonah was the smarter brother, but Brandon was definitely the more fun-loving. His wife, Tammy, and their son Alex seemed to share Brandon's outgoing personality. Really, the difference between Brandon and Jonah was like the difference between Sarah and Gracie. I hadn't realized it before.
Finally, The three groomsmen and Sarah made their way tot he DJ, who announced that they had a special musical interlude. I felt the smile grown on my face. At least I wasn't completely a Debbie Downer.
"This song," Brandon was saying, "is dedicated to my dear baby brother and his new wife. Take this advice and follow it whenever things get boring."
When the first measures of 'Dare to be Stupid' started playing, Gracie started laughing so hard Jonah had to hold her up. He looked pretty amused too. The four standing in front of everyone launched into song, holding the microphone the DJ gave them. They sang along with Weird Al, and while many of those at the reception were mystified, most caught the joke. Jonah's father, though, looked annoyed.
After the rousing rendition, the real dancing started. Not wanting to be asked to dance by Wyatt, I escaped to the bathroom. I checked my makeup and tucked escaped wisps of hair back into place. I stared at myself in the mirror. I'd grown up hearing that I was beautiful, that I had to look my best at all times. Because beauty and breeding was more important than anything else. I dropped my eyes from my reflection. More important than picking a guy who wouldn't cheat on me. Maybe there wasn't that guy. Maybe Gracie was the only one who got a guy who wasn't a jerk.
I didn't like to think that. After all, Brandon seemed nice enough, and Mrs. Parks, my divorce attorney, seemed to like her husband Zach just fine. My own parents barely acknowledged the other one existed except at functions. I looked back up into my blue eyes. My contacts were drying out a bit. I frowned and shook my head. I'd suffer through until I could find my purse. With one last pat at my hair, and I slipped out of the bathroom and nearly collided with a man rushing out of the men's room.
"Sorry!" he said, grabbing my arm before I could smash into him. I looked up, and was greeted with blue hair. I racked my brain for his name. I didn't hang out with Gracie's other friends very much. In fact, when I hung out with anybody these days it was limited to Jonah, Gracie, and Sarah.
"It's all right," I said, and stepped back so the man would drop his hand. He smiled at me, and ran his fingers through that wild blue hair. He'd been very hard to miss at the wedding, but he'd disappeared at the reception. My eyes skipped over his facial features and settled on his hair, and then down to his ear where I saw he had a bar spanning the width of the outer shell, pierced in two places. I hadn't seen anything like it before, and I wondered how long it had healed and if he could even sleep on that side of his body. "I should have been looking where I was going."
"No worries," he said, and looked over his shoulder at the reception hall. "Should have figured they'd sing that at them. 'Dare to be Stupid', I mean. That was kind of Gracie and Sarah's theme song for awhile. In a joking sort of way of course. You're Danielle, right?"
Of course he'd know who I was. Even if I wasn't a bridesmaid, everyone knew I was the ex-wife of the man Gracie was in love with for ten years. "Yeah," I said, and started going back to the reception.
"Devon." He smiled, and disappeared into the crowd of people. I gazed after him for a moment, then walked back to the reception table. Sometimes, I wish I had the courage to do something totally crazy like dye my hair blue. I wouldn't, of course. Wild hair wasn't my thing. Neither were crazy piercings. I shrugged, and went back to my seat, where, inevitably, Wyatt asked me to dance. I let him lead me to the floor, and we danced to some song I couldn't place.
As the reception wore on, with bouquet tosses (Gracie's cousin Olivia caught it), and garter toss (Devon caught it, and promptly proceeded to snap it into Sarah's face, causing Gracie's twin to pull him into a headlock. The photographer loved that), and cake cutting and dancing and socializing. I did my part as a Tetra girl, smiling, being polite, rubbing elbows with lawyers and other society folk that had been invited. I danced a few more times with Wyatt, and some other young men Jonah knew. I suppose it was nice.
But my mind was a million miles away, and when I was in the cab going home, pulling pins from my hair, I wondered if it was worth it. Was getting married ever worth it? It just meant that the other person could hurt you more than emotionally when you split. I was grateful that I had found a couple good friends in Gracie and Sarah after most of the superficial society bitches decided I wasn't fun to be around anymore since I wouldn't join them in gossiping about Carlin. But that was the only good thing that came out of my marriage to Carlin Thompson. I went home to my lonely loft, washed off the make up, took out my contacts, and took off the dress.
I pulled on an old t-shirt of Carlin's, curled up in my bed, and cried myself to sleep.
I turned twenty-two a month after Gracie's wedding. Gracie had wanted to do something for it, but I wanted to pretend nothing special was happening. I let Jonah and Gracie get adjusted to living with another (an interesting hurdle, to be sure), and ignored Sarah's voice mails and went out by myself. I'd been doing that a lot lately. I went all over the New York, trying to find interesting places to think to myself and sketch clothing designs.
I found good restaurants no one had heard of, I found bad restaurants that were all the rage, bars that were no more than dives, hot dance clubs, tiny diner's, everything. I could more than afford cab fare all of the city, since I hated riding the subway. It was "beneath" me anyway, as I'd grown up riding in a limo until I went to college.
Which I'd never finished. Which was another black mark on me, I suppose, in my parents' eyes. I dropped out of college to get married, and despite getting some recognition with my clothing designs, that wasn't good enough.
On the night of my birthday, I ventured into a themed restaurant called Ruby and Fleur de lis. Gracie once told me about it, that her ex-boyfriend had taken her there on their first date. It was Roaring Twenties themed, and a live jazz band played in the corner. I was seated immediately, and I had to smile at the speakeasy ambiance. It was a gorgeous little place, and I could see why it was so highly rate. I was surprised I got in without a reservation, but then again it was a Tuesday night. Who went out on Tuesday nights?
I didn't eat much, but sketched the waiters and waitresses, and the jazz band. All of them were dressed in twenties' era fashions, and I figured I could incorporate some of the lines in some of my new designs. When I finished, I paid the bill, tipped well, and tucked my sketchbook under my arm. I would much prefer going back to Ruby and Fleur de lis when I had someone to chat with, to enjoy the music with. It would probably be too weird for Gracie to go, but Sarah probably wouldn't be averse to it, but she was leaving in a week to tour with a production of Gypsy. Where she was playing, of course, Gyspy Rose Lee. I wonder how that conversation went with her parents. "Guess what, mom, I got the part of the stripper!" Although, knowing Fiona Makepeace, the woman was probably thrilled. Gypsy was a great musical anyhow. Sarah had made me watch it when she was being considered for the role. There was a woman who did what she want, society be damned. Though I guess she didn't necessarily want it, her mother kind of made her, but whatever.
I left the restaurant, my mind abuzz with jazzy music and remembering lines from the musical. I was so lost in thought that I didn't see a very drunk man shoot out of the bar next door. I tripped over him when he staggered and fell into an ungainly heap. My sketchbook and pencil went flying and I let out a little shriek. It had rained earlier that night, and I landed on the wet pavement. I at least hadn't landed in the curbside puddle. Thank God for small favors.
"Oh, shit," the man slurred as he tried to get to his feet. "Sssorry."
I pushed my hair out of my face, and was utterly taken aback to be greeted with a familiar head of wild blue hair. "Devon?"
He leaned against the corner street sign, and blinked blearily at me. "Oh hey, it's that blonde chick from the wedding." His voice had cleared up somewhat, but he was still obviously ripping drunk. "Hey blonde chick!"
I bit back laughter as I gathered up my sketchbook. I couldn't find the pencil in the nighttime, so I just said screw it and decided to buy a new set. I stood up, and glanced back at Devon. He was still staring intently at me.
"Hello, Devon," I said, and brushed off a bit of grime off my pants. "How are you? Celebrating something."
"Hell no," he said, and shifted so that only his shoulders were pressing against the street sign. He arched his back. "Drowning my misery in the wonderment of hops." He looked up at the sky. "Ohmygod," it came out as one word. "The moon is fucking gorgeous!"
I looked up, and saw the waning moon, pretty much the only celestial body one could see at night in New York City. "Uh, yeah."
Devon chuckled, and looked back at me. "Did you know," he said, drawing out the words carefully, "that publishing houses don't give a shit if you have a BA in Creative Writing?"
"Ah, I'm not much of a writer," I said, wondering if that was why he was drinking himself into a stupor.
"It's like, you spend all this money and time learning how to write poetry and prose and shit, and like, the publishing house is all 'Stupid, just because you got a piece of paper with your name on it from some college in Kansas doesn't mean that you know how to write.' Fuck it, I should have majored in physics or something."
I laughed then. "Are you any good at physics?"
"Fuck no." He pushed off from the street sign. "And then I get fired from my stupid day job because some lady says I shorted her fifteen bucks. I counted the fucking drawer twice!" Though his words were angry, he still seemed somewhat cheerful in his delivery of the words. "And like, I need to pay rent before I'm evicted. And my roommate decided he was a pussy and went home because New York was too haaaard to be in."
I blinked a few times, and watched as several people hurried past us. No one gave him any mind, though he was being rather loud. Who would have thought there'd be drunk people outside of a bar?
"I'm sorry," I said, for lack of anything else.
"Do you know where my apartment is, blonde chick?" Devon ruffled his hair. "Because I can't seem to find it."
"You haven't begun looking," I pointed out, but Devon just stared at me blankly. Apparently, he wasn't a particularly sharp drunk, not that anyone really was. "Sorry, no."
"It was just here a minute ago." He looked up and down the street. "And I think I need to pass out so I don't do it here."
"Well, my loft is only a few blocks away," I said, in spite of better judgment. Asking a strange man over to my apartment, when he was shit-faced drunk, probably wasn't the best idea. But he was a good friend of Sarah and Gracie, and I trusted their judgment. Plus, you had to dare to be stupid sometimes. "You can walk me home and keep me safe from muggers, and the walk might sober you up some. I'll make you some coffee and call you a cab when you remember where your apartment is, okay?"
"Okay," Devon said. "But I don't know how effectual I'll be against robbers." He started walking with me. I didn't know whether to be impressed or amused that he could use the word "effectual" while he was three sheets to the wind. "I was always picked last for dodge ball."
"It's okay," I said, and patted his arm. He smiled blearily at me. What a pair we made. Me in my designer clothes and a sketchbook, and Devon with his blue hair, crazy piercings, and obviously drunken demeanor. "I was a killer dodge ball player in my day."