Meanwhile, in a nice residential section at a two-story house with a sign that dubbed it “The Tiger House,” mayhem had manifested itself in the guise of wedding planning.
Everything seemed to be a mess. The flowers were being sent to a cathedral in Italy instead of a couple of blocks away. The fabric for the bridesmaids dresses was totally wrong and Jennifer Dunne would be damned if her bridesmaids walked down the aisle in polyester.
Jessica Thomas sighed, and massaged her throbbing temples. At this point, she figured that if she ever got married, she would elope. Getting married with an Elvis impersonator officiating the ceremony sounded like paradise to her at that moment. However, she had to concentrate on getting her cousin married first. And if it didn’t kill her, she would consider it a triumph.
In the living room of the Tiger House of which Jessica was part owner, several young women sat around scribbling on notepads or on cell phones trying to correct the wedding disasters. Ami Mizuno and Moira-Selene Thomas, who were in charge of sending the invitations, wrote in exquisitely neat hand the names and addresses of relatives on envelopes. Ami’s friends Makoto Kino and Minako Aino stuffed the envelopes and sealed them with a wet sponge. They passed them down to Evangeline, Jessica’s youngest cousin, and Usagi Tsukino, who placed stamps on them. Rei Hino stood by the window, arguing with the DJ about music. Jessica sighed and decided to let her handle that. In the corner, Claudia-Michelle, Jessica’s oldest younger sister, and Samantha Dunne, Jennifer’s big sister, went over seating arrangements with Cassandra, their oldest cousin, who owned Belvidere’s, the site of the reception.
All the while, the bride-to-be sat beside Jessica looking anxious.
“Why do I feel like I’ve been running a marathon every day for the last two months?” Jennifer asked, sighing.
“Because this whole damn thing makes you feel like a hamster in a damn cage,” Jessica offered. “We’re being controlled by the likes of lilies and cream puffs. If that doesn’t make you feel caged, I don’t know what does.”
Jennifer sighed again and looked at her watch. Danie was late. She was supposed to be going over the live music she would play at the wedding with Jennifer. It was now a quarter till one. Where was Danie?
The door burst open like a herald from the gods.
Startled, Jessica stood and went to the doorway of the living room. Jennifer followed her. Being nosy, Usagi, Makoto, and Minako leapt up in Jennifer’s heels.
“Dios Mio,” Jennifer murmured.
“Hermana, what happened to you?” Jessica demanded.
At the sound of the affectionate nickname, Danie lifted her soot-filled face and bared her teeth.
“That motherfucking bastard turned on us,” she seethed.
“What?” the girls said in unison.
Before Danie could offer an answer, a woman appeared in the hallway behind Danie. Unlike Danie, her appearance was untouched. But she was grim.
“Fiona?” Jennifer said questioningly. “But–? What–?”
“I think we should all go into the living room,” Fiona suggested. “We can better discuss this sitting down. Sunfire needs rest.”
Danie snarled but allowed Usagi and Minako to lead her to a chair anyway. They all re-settled in the living room. Evie, upon seeing her cousin, ventured into the kitchen to retrieve the first aid kit. Ami and Moira-Selene sensed the tension and placed their pens to rest on the coffee table.
“Miss Fiona,” Moira-Selene started.
“I think you should let me explain,” Fiona broke in as Evie came rushing back into the room with the kit. “I came this morning at the bidding of Aidanne the first and Ingrid to warn you all about the coming danger.”
“Coming danger?” Danie spat. “Full of bullshit. It’s already here.” She hissed through her teeth as Evie applied alcohol to her wounds. “Alex turned evil on us. He’s pussy-whipped by that half-wit Amanda.”
“Alex?” Ami inquired.
“AJ McLean,” Moira-Selene clarified. She turned to Fiona. “I’m sure this has harmful ramifications, Miss Fiona.”
“Right you are, Miss Moira-Selene. If the balance is not restored, then bad things will happen. Unfortunately, we have not had this sort of thing to happen before, so we do not know what will happen next.”
“Then we must contact the rest of our allies,” Ami postulated. “That is the only thing we can do at this point if we do not know what we are in for.”
Samantha nodded. “That seems the right thing to do. It would be a good idea to find out if anyone else is affected.”
Jennifer bit her lip. “If things couldn’t have gotten any worse–”
“Hush, Jen,” Jessica interrupted. “This wedding will not be affected. I promise.”
“How can we make a promise like that?” Minako asked. “This problem is bigger than flower arrangements.”
“I know,” Jessica responded. “We’ll just have to get rid of Alex and Amanda quietly.”
* * *
The bell rang again an hour later, signaling the end of first block. Students leapt up out of their seats, glad that the first hour-and-a-half was over. Well, except in Orlando’s astronomy class. The guys hightailed it out of there trying to escape the stink of Orlando’s sexiness (or was that aftershave?), but the girls took their time leaving, lingering to talk to the cute new substitute teacher. Orlando was flattered, but, for fear for his job and his own skin, he remained polite to them and nothing more.
Most of the girls had left, but the Wolfe triplets lingered. Angelica stalked up to Felice’s desk and crossed her arms.
“Gee, don’t you come from the same place we come from?” Angelica asked Felice sarcastically.
Felice looked at her stonily. Meanwhile, Orlando, sensing the beat-down vibes (or what he thought were beat-down vibes), casually came up beside Angelique to stop whatever altercation that was about to ensue.
“Um, what’s going on here?” he asked. “If you ladies want to catfight, allow me a moment to get a couple of wet T-shirts or something.”
Angelica laughed a little too loud and a little too shrilly. Felice just blinked at him, then turned back to her books.
“Nothing’s going on, Mr. Bloom–I mean, Or-laaan-do.” Angelica drew out the syllables of his name languidly. “We just wanted to get better acquainted with Miss Antisocial over here.”
“Gee, I feel so special,” Felice muttered sarcastically. “I’ve been dubbed by Miss Status Glitterati.”
Angelica glared at her. Angelique shook her head and grabbed her older sister’s arm.
“Sorry Mr. Bloom, but we have to get going now,” Angelique said hurriedly. “We’ll be late for class. Come on Angelica, Angela.”
Angelica sputtered, but her tall athletic sister dragged her out easily. Angela followed demurely, trying not to show her continuous exasperation. Felice sighed and collected her belongings. She paused when she felt Orlando’s stare.
“Problem?” she asked.
“No,” Orlando replied. “None at all.”
Felice raised her right eyebrow again. How the hell did she do that?
“Okay,” Orlando contended. “Fine. Look, Felice–is it?” Felice gave him a stony affirmation. “If that young lady that just left here was bullying you–”
It was a rare thing to make Felice laugh, but Orlando didn’t know that quite yet. When she laughed at that moment, Orlando could tell that she didn’t do it as often as she should. Dimly he wondered about her past. Where exactly was she from? Who was this girl?
“Angelica Wolfe is not a bully,” Felice assured him. “At least not in the physical sense. That you don’t have to worry about.” She stood. “But I appreciate you looking out for me, Mr. Bloom. Real teacher-like and all.” She placed her books in her messenger bag. “Now, if you would excuse me, I have to make it to my next class.”
Felice strode out silently and blended into the students in the hallway. Meanwhile, a petite blonde sauntered into the empty classroom, looking upon Orlando expectantly.
“Angelia!” Orlando exclaimed. “What are you up to?”
Angelia Buchannan grinned at him, showing off two rows of white teeth. “Not much, love,” she replied jovially. “Just taking a break from class.” She frowned at him. “You having trouble on your first day?”
“Nah, not really.” He looked at Angelia sidelong while gathering his things. “What is it about girls that makes them fawn over guys like me?”
“Hormones, maybe?” Angelia chuckled and fell into step beside him as they left the room. “I see that your astronomy students have caught the nefarious teenybopper syndrome.”
“Or something. Luckily, it’s not all of them.”
“Well, for your sake, I hope so. The last thing you need is everyone drooling over your every word.” Angelia pinched his cheek. “You’re not that cute, Bloom. I don’t get what those girls see in you.”
Orlando pretended to be shocked and hurt. Angelia couldn’t help laughing at Orlando’s hang-dog look.
“Oh Angelia love, you wound me so,” he moaned.
She nudged him. “You love the beating.”
He grabbed her arm in earnest. “Oh Annie darling, forget that popstar bloke and come live in the Bahamas with me. We can live off of Sex on the Beach and coconuts forever.”
Angelia opened her mouth to laugh when a young girl ran into her and Orlando, breaking them apart. They were really more shocked than angry, however. Orlando glanced behind them, only catching a glimpse of long strawberry-blond hair and a purple blazer. Angelia had already shrugged it off and was chatting about lunch.
“Huh? What did you say?” Orlando asked.
Angelia looked to him, eyes dancing with mirth. “Thinking about the end of the day already, aren’t we?”
“No, but that is a nice thought.” He sighed. “You were saying something about lunch?”
“Oh yes…only that I had lost mine. I put it on top of my car hood this morning while I was loading those graded papers in my car and, well, I suppose you catch my drift.”
Orlando shook his head. “So I suppose you need lunch money now.”
Angelia raised her eyebrows. “How about paying me back for buying pizza last week? That would be nice, you know.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll pay you back. Lunch is on me.”
“Such a gentleman,” Angelia joked.
They turned the corner and came to the hallway where Angelia’s classes were located. Students slammed locker doors and chattered animatedly about everything and anything. At one locker, the door closed, and a girl slung her messenger bag over her shoulder.
Angelia stopped dazedly.
“Annie?” Orlando asked, a little concerned.
Angelia said nothing for a long moment. Orlando followed her gaze and saw Felice from his astronomy class. Felice walked past them without one glance in their direction. But Angelia’s face was white.
“Angelia–” Orlando began.
Angelia shook her head as if to shake herself out of a reverie. “Oh–I’m sorry. Were you saying something?”
“Is there something wrong? You looked really spooked a second ago. If there’s something bothering you that you haven’t told me–”
Angelia smiled thinly and shoved him along. “Oh hush, ‘Lando,” she interrupted him. “I’m fine. Go teach your next class. I’m sure all the girls are eager to get started.”
He could see the disquietude in her blue eyes but he didn’t press it further. He’d just ask her later. “If you insist, love.” He kissed her on the cheek in a sudden display of brotherly love. “Au revoir.”
“Au revoir.” Angelia sighed as she watched him walk away, feeling immensely heavy. She wished she could tell him her secret, but he wouldn’t understand that part of her, no matter how much he loved her.
She felt for the note that had been planted on her by the streak of strawberry-blond hair. She read the one line, and dread had her stomach plopping down to her feet.
Annie, we’re here.