"You did not tell me you were not allowed to smoke anywhere in this cursed city."
Carrie recognized the articulate French accented voice, but was surprised to hear it. She glanced in the mirror and confirmed it was her.
"Juliette," she said, unable to hide the shock at seeing Aleksander's ex-wife here. "How did you find me? I mean, you are here to see me."
"Yes, I decided it was time I saw this New York you are so passionate about. What better excuse to do it than an American wedding."
"You got it. I'm so glad."
"Oui. And I must say I was surprised. In a good way."
"No need to thank me."
"Well, I'm not sure I wouldn't still be in Paris if we hadn't met."
"Oh, please, do not tell that to Aleks. He would have my head I'm sure of it." She smiled widely, so Carrie knew she was joking.
"How is he?" Carrie had not spoken to the Russian since leaving Paris. He had called, sent her flowers, and even an apologetic letter. Unlike Big it had been fairly easy to cut him out of her life. Carrie had known then that she had made the right decision.
"The same. But that's how it goes, yes?"
"I suppose so."
"But you look different. And I don't mean the hairstyle. Happy and in love. I can see it in your eyes. You, what is the word, glow."
"I am very happy and in love."
"This is good. I'm glad for you. New York suits you. I admit I cannot fathom why, but it is not my place to judge."
"I know I was only in Paris for a short time, but it made me realize that this is home."
"There is a lot to be said for that. And this man you are marrying? He is home to you as well?"
"This is good."
"I think it is." Her hair stylist finished so Carrie stood after looking in the mirror. "What do you think?"
"I think you will look lovely no matter the style of your hair, Carrie, but it's lovely. Really. You will make a beautiful bride."
Carrie's heart was pounding, realization dawning on her that soon she would be a married woman. It was not that far fetched an idea, but she was marrying a man who still made her go weak in the knees at the thought of him.
There were some who had warned that if he was unfaithful once chances were good he would be again. But she believed he had grown up since then, matured. He had partied himself out and was ready to settle down. And, really, Carrie was not sure she would have been ready for this type of commitment before now.
It took a trip to Paris to make her realize she liked her life and the way she was living it. She had done some things wrong and would continue to do so, but she was confident she had the right person to help her through those times in Big. Living in Paris had been a dream. The things fairy tales were made of. Dreams were nice, but Big, the girls, and New York would always be the loves of her life. They were real and she knew what to expect from them.
"Thank you," she said finally as she came out of her thoughts. "I'm so glad you came. But how did you know I was going to be here?"
"I did not. I came to get my nails done and saw you here."
"I'm going back to my apartment after this to get ready with my friends. Would you like to join us?"
"I would love to, merci."
"You'll love them. We're a little boisterous at times, but we have fun."
"That's what matters most."
"I'm done here so we can go if you're ready." She had paid for the appointment earlier in the week so she did not have to worry about money today. It was the last thing she needed to think about.
"Oui, I finished moments before seeing you. Will it be uncomfortable for your friends to meet me? Your ex's ex?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Carrie said as they left the salon.
"My car's over here. Unless you have your own."
"No. It's not worth the hassle to have a car in New York."
"I've come to learn that, but you should not be walking with your hair like this."
"Does he know?"
"No. I did not feel it was my place to tell. I think he would be happy for you, Carrie." Carrie loved how Juliette said her name. It sounded so elegant with the French accent. "If I've learned one thing about Aleks over the years it's that he wants the women in his life happy."
"Meanwhile, he's alone."
"He's always alone, even when he has someone to spend his time with." Carrie knew that to be true and was glad she was not living like that anymore. She never really thought of herself as being high maintenance, but she required more than Aleks could provide her. "And I'm not so sure he could share the limelight with someone regularly."
"Not that I'm a limelight seeker."
"But you have a recognized name, a column many read, and a book."
"I suppose that's true." Carrie really never thought of herself as being recognized. She was a writer. One of several in New York. Sure she had her picture on the side of buses, but that was not her idea. Even if it was exciting.
They made small talk in Juliette's rental car before arriving at Carrie's apartment. "I've packed everything up for the most part, so it's nothing to look at."
"Please Carrie, do not apologize to me for this. I am here as your friend not as a critic of your housekeeping habits."
"I know," Carrie said as she stepped onto the sidewalk. The girls were most likely upstairs, the champagne flowing freely between them. They all had reason to celebrate beyond Carrie's wedding. For the first time in years they were all in stable if not permanent relationships and their lives were going smoothly. She knew there would be bumps along the way but that was normal and to be expected.
As Carrie thought her friends and Juliette hit it off. The conversation was open as the four of them dressed for the ceremony. Carrie told the story of the time she had followed Big and his mother to services at the church they were getting married in. She had been so sure he was hiding her, ashamed of her. It was funny now, but at the time it had not been.
Juliette took lots of pictures of the four of them, capturing the day forever. Soon, the limousine pulled up to take them to the church. All Carrie had left to do was step into the Manolo Blahnik's that had been custom dyed to match her dress. She figured if she could splurge on Manolo's for every day affairs, she certainly could for her wedding day.
"That is my cue to leave the four of you and find my way to the church. I am not prone to being fashionably late unlike someone we both know. Thank you for including me, Carrie," she said, kissing both of her cheeks. "The next time we speak you will be a married woman."
"Thank you for coming and for taking so many pictures."
"It was my pleasure, Carrie."
Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha said their good byes and soon it was just the four of them. They were looking at her as if she was a model for one of the statues placed on top of a wedding cake. "You guys, you're going to make me cry before the ceremony even starts."
"We're sorry, Carrie. It's just, we've seen you dressed up but never like this," the reasonable Charlotte said.
"You're going to be able to knock him over with a feather when he sets his sights on you. You're hot enough to burn the church down." The more brazen Samantha offered.
"You're marrying Big," Miranda said simply.
And that about summed up how Carrie was feeling. She was not just getting married, but she was marrying the man of her dreams. The kind of dreams she could build a life and a future on. Not pipedreams or little girl fantasies.
She had her something old in the form of a handkerchief that her mother had used at her wedding. Her something new was the pearl ankle bracelet. The something borrowed were the pearl earrings and necklace the traditional Charlotte had lent her. Her something blue was in the form of a garter she wore on her leeg. She was set. There was nothing left to do than meet the limousine and be taken to the church.
Her heart lurched as she took a final glance at her apartment. Her friends would come and pack the things left out for today while she and Big were on their honeymoon. They were going to Europe for a month. Paris was not currently on their itinerary but that was subject to change. Carrie would never be back here. It was exciting yet sad at the same time. It was odd to see it like this, but she was closing a chapter of her life and opening another one. This was different than going to Paris had been. This was permanent; her apartment would belong to someone else soon.
The girls had gone on before her so she was alone as she flipped the light switch, turning the overhead light off for the last time. "Good bye," she whispered before picking up her skirts with her gloved hands and joining the others waiting for her by the limousine.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com