End of December
Wes Rhymes could use some sleep, instead he was headed to Vegas for the evening, an obligation to fulfill –a quick turnaround trip returning early tomorrow morning. Tired down to the bone was his companion of late, mostly from his musical commitments. The ones that brought in boatloads of money, and gave him private planes in which to travel, but kept him in a state of perpetual exhaustion. He needed a break, and he would give himself one. One more year on tour and he was taking at least a year off for a long-term breather. But in the mean-time he was headed to a shorter break in his schedule, another commitment, this time for someone other than himself.
Two things he loved most in this world, were his music, and his younger brother. So, there was no way would he miss his brother’s tying of the knot wedding-ceremony, however hastily arranged-last-minute-dash-to-the-alter out of the blue it was. Schedule or no, he would be present, to support always, that’s what brother did, but more importantly to lay eyes on the woman who had talked the second most confirmed bachelor into marriage. He removed his phone from his pocket, it was vibrating and of course it was Noel, calling him again. A morning full of calls, had been his brother this morning.
“Hey.” he said.
“You’re going to be late picking up Angie.” Noel said.
“Who says I’m late. I’m at the airport, walking to the plane as we speak?”
“Have you spoken to her, told her you’re running late.”
“I’m not running late and Hailey’s talked to her, right Hailey?” Wes said, meeting his assistant’s gaze.
“Yes sir,” the young woman said. No nonsense and on top of his life was his assistant, keeping up with him stride for stride as they cleared the back door of the small waiting room for outgoing flights. They were walking across the tarmac now, headed to the plane.
“See, Hailey has it handled.”
“You bringing her with you?”
“Nope, she only going as far as the airplane.” he said.
“I glad you’re coming. I wasn’t sure you would.” Noel said.
“The tour I can manage, It’s the short notice that was harder to work around.”
“My apologies, it couldn’t be helped.”
“So, who is this you’re marrying? And why haven’t I met her before today?” He said, serious now.
“You’re too busy to meet anyone. The last two years, have been crazy for you.”
“Not that crazy. I would have made time.”
“It’s okay, you’re meeting her today.”
“So you fell in love?”
“Something like that.”
“What does that mean. I thought we were the same, didn’t believe in marriage.”
“We were, but people change.” Noel said, interrupting him before he got started with all the reasons marriage wasn’t for the Rhymes men diatribe. He heard it all life—women were for everything but marriage. He was right, he had believed that most of his life, but things changed. “I met someone that made me want to change.”
“You have a lot to lose if this goes south, so I hope you know what you’re doing.” He said, stopping. He waved for Hailey to continue on to the plane. He wanted a little privacy for this part.
“I do. It’s not going to go south.”
“You run it by the brother’s W?” Walden and Walden were the law firm Wes had found before he blew up. They’d helped guide him and eventually Noel when his career took off.
“Yes, going to see them in an hour, one final time.”
“That’s something at least.”
“Don’t worry so much about me.”
“Too late, I’ve been at it all my life, couldn’t stop now if I tried.”
“I know. So, on to wedding details. Stardust, that’s my bride’s name, is picking you and Angie up from the airport, delivering you two back to the hotel.”
“The other groomsman huh, what does she think about Stardust?”
“She hasn’t met her either.”
“What? Your best bud, why not?”
“She just hasn’t.”
“Wouldn’t go over well huh. Losing you to another woman, has to be hard to accept after all the time she’s put in with you. All that work and you’re marrying someone else.”
“We’re not like that. We’re friends. Only ever been friends and before you get started on that topic again, I’m hanging up. I’ll meet up with you and Angie afterward, at the hotel for my mini-bachelor party. Since you have to be back tomorrow morning, we’re doing everything tonight.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing?”
“Last thing I’m going to say on the subject, since you’ve worked it out with the brothers W. I’m a less worried that you lost your brains.”
“Nope, my brains are intact.”
“Okay then. You’re an adult and whether or not I understand your reasoning, I’m always with you.”
“I know this.”
“You need anything else from me?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Okay then, I’m turning off my phone to try and get some sleep.” Wes said.
“Sure no problem. I’ll call Angie and let her know you’re on your way, and make sure she has Hailey’s number in case of an emergency?”
“That’ll work.” Wes said, sliding the phone into his pocket, almost to the plane. He loved his brother. They only had each other, had only ever had each other, and although the front end of their lives hadn’t started out well, the back half was way more than either of them had imagined, and lots to be thankful for. The last two years had been a blur of concerts and tours and festivals and raking in the money. With his singing career and his brother’s song writing ability they’d survived their childhoods. No more money worries for either of them, at least the once brought on by scarcity.
There were other worries, always worries in life, and two of his more pressing ones he’d have an opportunity to address today. Fiancé of his brother of course, was the first one. There was a reason Noel hadn’t introduced them before today and yes, he believed that Noel’s life was his to live as he wished, still old habits of watching out for his baby brother were hard to relinquish. Yes, he was less worried, having the Brother’s W working on Noel’s behalf, still there wasn’t nothing like seeing things for oneself.
The other, and smaller worry he’d get to put to address, was the one he held for the other groomsman, the famous Angie or AJ, as his brother called her. She and Noel had been friends since high school, well before he or Noel became anything, which is the reason his worries about her were small. Still, he’d carried this persistent thought that she was in it for herself, really it was his fall back and hard worn assumption when it came to women. So it would be nice to put a face to a name, and to see if good that Noel had always proclaimed her to be was true.
Angie Johnson checked the GPS again against the scene outside her window. She was quite possibly lost on the way to some bum fuck Egypt airport out in the middle of who knows where town to catch a ride with the rich, famous, and handsome brother to her best friend, Wes Rhymes. Austin Bergstrom Airport while excellent enough for the poor people in town, was not apparently sufficient for the likes of him. No, he needed the one that required her to drive an hour out, to a place, surrounded by nothing and in the middle of nothing.
That was purely her mind talking, her heart and body were all a flutter, at the possibility of meeting him for the first time. Something she’d put off for a long as possible for this very reason. He was handsome and she hadn’t wanted to be swept up and away with it. Not that he was interested, he wasn’t. Putting off meeting him was all self-protection. She’d heard plenty stories from Noel, or on social media, news of his exploits when it came to her gender and she wanted no parts. She was so over men with attachment disorders for whatever reasons, which used to include Noel. Him getting married she’d yet to wrap her head around.
Her phone rang. It was Noel. “Hey.” She said.
“Where are you?”
“Lost I think,” she said, scanning the area outside her windows, of mostly trees, hills, grass, and all totally unfamiliar.
“Just kidding. I’m not lost, haha, nah, I’m halfway to the airport I think?”
“I just hung up with Wes. He’s on the way to the plane. You’re his first stop.”
“I know. His assistant just sent me a text.”
“She loves my brother.”
“So do a lot of people I’ve read.”
“He has to leave Saturday morning early, so I booked you on the regular airline. Sorry it’s not the private jet round-trip.”
“I know. Hailey told me that too. No worries. When did I need a private jet to travel?”
“Still nothing. Now, on to the important stuff like who is this woman you’re marrying? It’s quick this getting hitched to someone. You know this, right?” Something she’d been dying to ask, since he’d called bright and early Monday morning, inviting her to be a participant in his wedding, in Vegas, this weekend. For nobody but him would she rearrange her life on such short notice.
“It’s not that quick.”
“Long enough to know she’s the one.”
“What happened to no way with anyone?”
“Stardust happened.” He said, deadpanned into silence.
“Stardust? That’s her name? For real?” She said, scanning the horizon for what might be the airport? Her GPS said she was point two miles away.
“It’s her stage name. She wants to be an actress.”
“Is she the reason you’re never in Austin?” she said, making the next left, a road that looked like someone’s driveway.
“You noticed huh. I thought you were too busy with your marriage to notice.”
“I noticed. So this Stardust lives in Houston. Is that’s where you two met?”
“No more questions.”
“She’s pregnant. Is that what you’re hiding?” She asked, coming to the end of the road, that was in fact the entrance to the airport.
“An ant at a picnic after food has nothing on your tenacity.
“Someone has to ask the tough questions. What does your brother think about your marriage?”
“He trust me?”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you.” She said, pulling into of the empty stops in the parking lot, or what she hoped was the parking lot. It was a small airport, so there were plenty spots to park in. “Gosh, you’re sure this plane is safe. Somehow I can’t see it. Give me a big as 747 any day of the week.” She said, hoping it was safe to leave her car here, had to be right?
“It’s safe. I’ve left my car there a bunch of times.”
“Right. So Wes is behind this marriage of yours?”
“As much as he can be. You know how he is about women and settling down.”
“So that would be a no.”
“You know him, slow to trust people, particularly women.”
“May I remind you that you two used to be the same.”
“People change Ang.”
“Usually they have a reason for changing. Do you?”
“I’m happy. You want me to be happy?” He asked.
“What kind of question is that. You know I do. You can see it’s sudden, right and you’re not very forthcoming about any of it. It kinda makes it all suspect. To go for never marriage to Vegas in a hurry. It’s strange and sudden. You can see that, right?”
“So was yours, I hate to remind you. You survived it, you learned from it, right?”
“Yes, but if I could do it all again. I know I would have taken more time, probably wouldn’t have married him.”
“Your story is not my story.”
“So what is your story exactly?”
Noel laughed. “Let it go. It’s my life, my mistakes to make. Just as yours were.”
“You love her?”
“You don’t sound sure.”
“Let it go Angie. I would love to have you here, sharing this special occasion with me, but you don’t have to be.”
“A threat huh.” She said, chuckling. “She must be something.”
“It’s not a threat. I just want you to trust me and to let it go.”
“Okay, fine. I’m letting it go.”
“So I’m finally meeting the famous Wes Rhymes huh.”
“Yes, who you’ve always avoided. Be nice to him.”
“Why wouldn’t I be nice.”
“You know why? I think you’ll like him, once you two get past his suspicions.”
“If there ever was a reason for not being nice, being thought of as a gold digger would be high up on the list.”
“Yeah, yeah. Suspicions aside, he’s loves you, and anyone that loves you can’t be all bad. I’ll be nice.”
“Thank you. There’s no one I loved more than the two of you.”
“Ahhh, except your fiancé . . . Stardust maybe you love her?” she asked again.
Noel laughed, shaking his head at her tenacity. Something he loved about her, but still. “Let it go. Let it go. Stardust will meet you and Wes at the airport. I’ve got something to take care of. A trip to the brother’s Walden.”
“Yep, `cause you got lots to lose,” she said, noting his silence to the love questions, leaving her even more concerned.
“I know this. I’m no dummy.”
“Finally something that makes me feel better about all of this. You are protecting yourself at least.” She said, staring out the window at the empty stretch of runway. “Where’s the plane?”
“It’ll be there soon. And Angie.”
“I really do have it under control. You don’t have to worry.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” She said.
“So when you and Wes arrive, Stardust will bring you back to the hotel for your fittings. I should be done with the brothers and back to the hotel by the time you guys arrive. I’ve got to go. I love you. See you on the other side.” He said.
“Love you too,” she said, smiling at her best friend’s happiness in spite of her reservations and she had plenty reservations. About Noel in general and then specifically about his upcoming nuptials to a woman she knew next to nothing about.
It was one of many in the pattern of things that felt off about him. Things and or signs that bothered her enough she planned to broach the subject with his brother. A wedding to a woman he hadn’t introduced her to, being the last in line of things she thought off. Yes, she should have met this person, well before the day of. She’d met all of the other girlfriends or not girlfriends before and by girlfriends she meant that lasted two weeks or longer, even if she hadn’t approved of most. Of course, she should have met Stardust by now.
It didn’t change her desire to show up for his wedding. Nothing could. She and Noel had only ever been friends, since forever too. She wasn’t surprised he wanted her in his wedding. She thought she’d been tucked in with the women folk on the bridesmaid side, but nope, she and the brother were to be groomsman. Whatever, if it had to do with Noel, she would now and forever be in.