All the Maybes and Ifs
Society weddings were Iris Garrett's least favorite events to work, but the pay was good and few people ever recognized her as the Other Garrett Daughter – the Unremarkable One – and, bottom line, she needed the money.
Still, it was hot – a garden wedding, during summer! - And the damn silver trays were heavy. There were children running all around and the entitled little beasts were making a sport of trying to knock down the waitressing staff.
In Iris's experience, the children of Easton Falls always acted like they owned the world and the sad part was that they probably did. Less than an hour away from New York City, Easton Falls was just like one of those places they made TV shows about where everyone was unbelievable wealthy and tan. And Iris had been born in the middle of it all, so she knew.
In fact, she had gone to school with Chelsea Gold, the bride du jour, not that Chelsea would remember, but Iris did.
With a sigh, Iris plastered her best 'Bite Me' smile on her lips and stepped forward, narrowly avoiding a couple of girls in frilly, pastel colored dresses than ran by, giggling in that evil, cruel way some girls had, leaving another little girl seating on the grass, crying.
"What is it?" Iris asked in a kind voice but knowing this was as likely as it was not to end badly.
"Mindy and Kim took my new hair ribbon. And they said my dress was ugly and that I couldn't play with them." The little girl sobbed.
"I'm sorry." Iris said, patting the girl's head awkwardly with one hand. "I think your dress is pretty, though?"
"Yes! Prettier than theirs!"
Iris knew what it was like to be attacked by the Mindys and Kims of the world, having them take your things and make you feel like a failure. So she felt and instant kinship to this little girl.
The little girl smiled and used the skirt of her dress to wipe her face before Iris gave her one of the napkins she was carrying, and helped her to stand up and brush the grass blades off.
"I'm Sarah." The little girl said and offered her hand.
"Iris." She said, and shook the small hand. Sarah was wearing tiny, lace-gloves that made her seem like a doll. A very sad-looking doll at present, in fact; so Iris decided to do something to cheer her up. "Do you want to see the cake?"
"Okay," Sarah said with a little more enthusiasm, and she followed Iris to the table. People weren't supposed to be around the cake but Iris knew these people never noticed waitresses… or little girls.
The cake was massive, all fondant, marzipan, sugar work and all type of fillings. It stood five tiers tall and was so pretty it was almost a shame to cut it. Iris had heard it had cost close to 10 grand.
To Iris, 10 grand would mean rent and food for months, and she had a hard time figuring out what made this cake so expensive. Though it was all white perfection and it smelled delicious.
"Do you think I'll get one of the flowers when they cut it?" Sarah asked.
"Maybe," Iris said though she knew the odds weren't on the little girl's favor. Iris studied the cake for a moment. "You could have one now…" and moved to the left, quickly sweeping her hand near the mix of sugar, paste and real flowers at the base of the cake. "Woops!"
"We are not supposed to touch it!" Sarah whispered.
"I was just…swatting away a fly." Iris said with a wink. It was a trick she had mastered as a child. She knew that decorators sometimes overlaid certain types of flowers, rather than attaching them more firmly, when they were settling the table, just to make it look pretty. You just needed to figure out which decorations were loose.
Sarah watched incredulously as Iris put the delicate sugar-flower in her hand. It was pretty and it sparkled… and smelled sweet.
"I don't recommend eating it." Iris said. "But it sure is pretty."
"Thank you!" Sarah said with the biggest smile Iris had ever seen on a child of Easton Falls. "I'm going to go show it to my dad!" she said and scampered off.
"Just don't say it was me!" Iris said and Sarah paused just long enough to nod. Iris was a bit worried she would get in trouble but decided she would just play dumb if she did.
She was still debating if it was safer to just stick to the kitchen for the rest of the reception and help there when someone grabbed her arm roughly, nearly causing her to drop her tray and a voice hissed in her ear: "What are you doing here?"
Sebastian Danvers hated Society weddings.
He had even hated his own wedding.
With rich people, everything always tended to be a circus, but a very repetitive circus at that. The Brides always tended to be pretty and young, the grooms older and rich. Still, the wedding of Chelsea Gold and Aaron Silverman was the event of the season and a great opportunity to network… or rub it in the face of whichever businessman Sebastian had most recently outsmarted.
This week, it was Rick Garret of Garrett Communications, which as of Monday morning would be officially 55% Danvers Incorporated owned. Sebastian had always hated Garrett and his son, and he couldn't resist the urge to gloat, even if the wedding of the season turned out to be insufferably dull.
"Having fun?" The voice of his best friend Carter brought Sebastian out of his reprieve.
"That's because you have a twisted idea of what fun is." Carter said, taking a sip of his champagne flute. "Which is not to say that this party isn't completely cookie-cutter and boring."
"My idea of fun is no more twisted than yours."
Carter shrugged as if to say 'If you say so'. Then he affected a false high voice to call out to Rinna Prescott "Darling! Those shoes are fab! We have to go shopping sometime soon!"
Rinna gave him a tight smile and a wave but didn't come closer. "Homophobic bitch," Carter said under his breath.
"I don't think I've ever heard you talk about shoes when we are not around these people."
"That's because I don't give a damn about shoes." Carter said with an evil grin.
Carter liked to pretend to be everything a cartoonish gay man was supposed to be whenever he was among the highest society of Easton Falls. It was a loudly whispered secret in Easton Falls that the heir to the Baxter family was gay and Carter liked to put on a show, daring people to come out and say it. But no one ever did.
When Sebastian had first met him, his behavior had been a bit disconcerting but he had taken a liking to Carter, the heir and black sheep of the Baxters – and even though it had been over 4 years since he had divorced Carter's sister Cameron, Sebastian still thought of the other man as his brother.
Gay or not, Carter was a great CFO, the only executive of Baxter Networks that kept his job once Danvers had taken over, and later he had been promoted to CFO of all of Danvers Incorporated. Carter was a mean son of a bitch when it came to budget cuts, under the table negotiations and tax law, but he was the only person in Sebastian's life that was unfailingly honest with him.
"Can we go now? Garrett might not even show up."
"He will," Sebastian, said though internally decided to wait just another 15 minutes then take his daughter home and eat some pizza.
Thinking that, he turned to look for his daughter… and found her standing next to a waitress who was… doing something to take cake. Even from the distance he could see Sarah's eyes widen and her mouth drop a little in amazement at whatever the waitress had said or done.
And next thing he knew, his daughter was scampering toward him, clutching something in her hand while the waitress stared after her.
"Look, Daddy!" Sarah said as he reached him, showing him a sugar flower. "Isn't it pretty?"
"Just like you,"
"Iris gave it to me." Sarah said and they both turned to where the waitress was standing a few seconds before. And she was still there, but she was no longer alone. Rivers Garrett was with her, and he had her arm in what appeared to be a rather painful grip if the girl's expression was of any indication.
It was hard to top Rick Garrett in pompous-ass-ery, but somehow his son Rivers always managed to do so. And Sebastian hated his guts. And this girl, Iris, was upsetting Rivers… now that was interesting.
"Pumpkin, why don't you go with your Uncle Carter to the dessert table? Grab me some cake before we go home."
"Are we going home now?" She asked.
"Yeah, just get me some cake for the road."
"OK!" Sarah said, taking her uncle's hand and pulling him toward the buffet table.
Once she was safely out of earshot, Sebastian advanced, catching just the tail end of something the girl said, "…Needed the money."
"Rivers, I always thought you were too much of a snob to tangle with the help." Sebastian said, not even bothering to put the pretense of false cheer.
Rivers let go of the girl, not before giving her arm one last painful twist; he was just that kind of bastard. "What do you want?"
He pretended to think about it for a moment, "Nothing at all, really." Then he paused and let his lips curve into a cold smile. "You no longer have anything that could interest me."
"Just because Father let you buy into our business, that doesn't mean it's your company. It's a partnership."
"Since I own 55 percent of the company – for now – I would say that I do kind of own it, Rivers. At least, more than you. What's your portion, again? 2%?"
"Ten." He said angrily.
"You're a smug bastard, you know that?"
Sebastian shrugged as if to say that this conversation had grown too tedious, "See you at the office on Monday." He said, turning and walking away. "Don't be late or I might have to dock your pay."
Sebastian allowed himself a small laugh of self-satisfaction, and then went to collect his daughter, his best friend and head home. Maybe he would take Sarah out to buy some real food. Like pizza.
He looked around as he left, suddenly remembering the waitress. He hadn't been lying when he said that he hadn't thought Rivers the type to mingle with the help, so he doubted the girl was his mistress or ex-lover, but whoever she was, she had provoked a reaction on a man who was a notorious cold fish. And that was worth noticing, as it might come to his advantage later on…
"Here is the food." Carter said, handling him a plate with a long-suffering sigh. "Can we go now? Noah called and he has tickets for a game tonight."
"Yankees?" I asked, taking a bite of the piece of groom's cake Carter and Sarah had brought.
"Mets." Carter said in vague disgust. He was so not a Yankee's fan. He only went to Yankees games to mock and cheer when they lost, much to his boyfriend Noah's amusement. That's how they had met, actually, about six years before, when they were at the VIP section of Yankee stadium bad-mouthing the Yankees. They got thrown out together, and then they went for drinks and ended up drunkenly making out in Noah's house. Carter hadn't left ever since.
Sebastian took a last look around, checking to see if the elder Garrett had showed up or not, and finally decided it didn't matter, Rivers would tell him about their little talk anyway. So they left and while Carter went off to see the Mets, Sarah and Sebastian stopped on their way home to get the pizza and later they settled into their house's private theater to watch Tangled – for the 20th time– and just spent the rest of the afternoon together.
It was rare that they got a whole afternoon all alone, and Sebastian really wanted to enjoy it. His daughter was the only blood-tie he cared to acknowledge and the center of his life. For such a long time his life had been all about business and getting ahead, and then Sarah had been born and he had fallen truly in love for the first time in his life.
There was nothing at all Sebastian wouldn't do for his child, so he took notice when, as he was tucking Sarah in for the night, she asked him, in a voice so sleepy that it slurred her voice: "Do you think I'll see Iris again?"
"The girl who gave me the flower." Sarah said.
"Oh, Iris." Sebastian said, remembering the waitress that had so annoyed Rivers. And noticing how old-fashioned the name sounded. Iris. "I don't know, pumpkin."
"She was nice."
"And you are adorable." He answered, kissing her forehead and making sure her teddy bear was tucked under the covers with her.
"You have to say that because you're my dad."
"I have to say that because it's true."
"You're silly, daddy."
Sebastian gave her one last pat on the back and left, smiling at his daughter who was the only person who ever called him silly anymore.
As he closed the door, he noticed the little sugar-flower sitting on his daughter's night table… and he wondered who this Iris person was.
End of Chapter One