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Authors: Jen Malone

You're Invited

BOOK: You're Invited
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TO MOM AND DAD,

FOR SUMMERS IN OCEAN PARK AND SO MUCH MORE

—J. M.

TO EVA,

WHO LOVES THE SAND AND THE WAVES

—G. N.

UNDER THE SEA

Mr. and Mrs. Patrick and Leslie Westfall

together with

Ms. Stephanie Jordan

invite you to be “Part of Our World” at the wedding of our (mer)children

Cassidy and Christopher

on Saturday, June 20,

at five o'clock.

Chris will “Kiss the Girl” aboard the
Windward Eclipse,

Slip seventeen at Sandpiper Beach Marina,

1004 Sandpiper Drive, Sandpiper Beach, North Carolina

Dress: Seaside Formal, “Tails” optional

Reception immediately following

RSVP to Lorelei Pleffer of Pleffer's Picture-Perfect Weddings at (910) 555-0192, by June 5

Sadie

TODAY'S TO-DO LIST:

■
 sync watch with Mom's

■
 buy seasick medicine

■
 pack backup bridesmaid dresses

W
hen I peer over the boat railing, it's not like I actually expect mermaids and mermen to be bobbing in the ocean below me. Buuuuuut then again, I wouldn't put anything past my mom. If her client wants a
Little Mermaid
wedding, her client gets a
Little Mermaid
wedding, no detail spared.

My pocket buzzes and I slide my phone out.

Plz check on photog. Thx.

I weave my way through the rows of chairs sliding back and forth on the deck. The one thing Mom doesn't
control on wedding days is the weather, and today isn't exactly offering ideal sailing conditions. I hope the bride has less wobbly legs than Ariel.

“Excuse me, sir, um, are you okay?” I ask a man hanging over the boat's side.

The three cameras hanging from his neck smack against his back as he straightens. Uh-oh. He does
not
look so hot. He mumbles something under his breath and I shake my head.

“Sorry. I didn't catch that. Would you mind repeating?” I ask, using my most polite voice. Mom's trained me well.

He stares at me for a second, then screams, “I SAID I'M A LITTLE SEASICK!”

Okay, so “please repeat” does not mean “scream at your highest possible volume,” but I'm kind of used to the vendors treating me differently. They think just because I'm only twelve, I'm not capable of the same things a normal wedding coordinator's assistant is.

They would be wrong.

I plant my feet hip-width apart for balance and get straight to business. “I have a seasick bracelet you can wear on your wrist, and if you give me five minutes, I
can grab some of the motion-sickness medicine I packed in my emergency kit. I also have a little sister who's a pretty decent photographer, if you're okay with her using one of your cameras. She could stand at the railing and grab the shots of the bride arriving by dinghy while you wait for the medicine to kick in.”

His face was already turning green when I mentioned the dinghy, but he adds a look of horror to that. “I can't allow a
child
to photograph this wedding!”

I consider telling him kids can do
lots
of stuff every bit as well as any grown-up, but then the boat rolls over a large swell, and with the way he clutches at his stomach, I don't have the heart.

Between sucking in big breaths of fresh air, he says, “My assistant will take all the important shots of the bridal party. Tell your sister she can help by getting photos of the guests.”

And just like that Izzy lands herself an assignment. Ick. She'll be totally annoying and gloaty about this all week now.

But the client comes first, and my job is to save the day. Good thing I really love my job, and even more important, good thing I'm really excellent at my job,
even if certain people (cough,
Mom
, cough) hardly bother to acknowledge it.

Half the time she doesn't even know I'm solving a crisis, like making sure the waiter knows the groom's grandmother is allergic to wheat or scuffing up the waxed dance floor before anyone has an epic wipeout. My job is to keep things off
her
plate, and that's what I do. Always.

My phone buzzes again. On wedding days, no one besides Mom would dare text me.

Sure enough:

All handled w/photog? Bride arrival in 6 min.

Not five minutes. Not ten minutes.
Six
minutes. And you could set your clock by Mom's schedule, too. I tell the photographer I'll be right back and race belowdecks to the staging area where all the various wedding paraphernalia is located, alongside my sister, Isabelle. She's sitting on top of the backup wedding gown with her face stuck in a book.

“Izzy, you're gonna get that completely wrinkled! The bride is gonna need to wear that if she gets something on her real dress.”

“Relax, Sadie. You know Mom would never let anything happen to the actual dress.”

“Well, what if . . .
what if a wave crashes into the dinghy on the bride's way out to the boat? How do you think Mom's gonna prevent that?”

“Umbrellas.” Izzy points out the tiny round window of the cabin at a wooden dinghy motoring toward us. It's too far to make out faces, but there are definitely umbrellas bobbing along either side of one of the figures. Mom thinks of ev-er-y-thing.

I scramble back from the window and pull my sister to her feet. “Hurry up! The photographer's sick and his assistant needs your help getting shots.”

Izzy squeals with excitement and follows me up the stairs. She's practically bouncing by the time we reach him. I think getting her to stop is the main reason he hands off what is probably a ridiculously expensive camera to a ten-year-old so quickly. His other hand reaches for the Dramamine and the seasick band I hold out.

He swallows the pill and then takes my advice to focus on the horizon. You don't grow up in Sandpiper Beach, North Carolina, without learning the best ways to get your sea legs.

“Izzy, head over to where the guests are and grab some shots of them watching the bridal party arrive,” I instruct.

She answers with a “You're not the boss of me,” but at least she does what I ask as I run to make sure the groom is in place. My favorite thing about weddings is also my least favorite: everything happens at once.

But this one is a success so far. Okay, so maybe the wedding party has a hard time getting out of their dinghies since their bridesmaid dresses have sewn-on mermaid tails, and it's true that the photographer throws up the Dramamine before it can even reach his stomach. But you can tell the bride and groom are really in love, what with the way he makes googly eyes at her as she comes down the aisle to a steel-drum version of “Kiss the Girl.”

Mom slides into place beside me.

“Thanks for your help today,” she whispers while giving me a squeeze around my waist.

Now it's my turn to glow. Ever since Dad died and Mom started her wedding-planning company, she's been totally preoccupied with her business. I get the whole I-need-a-distraction-from-the-grief thing, but it's almost like she wants a distraction from me and Izzy, too. So the times when she actually notices me, it's like . . . magic. Like it used to be.

I don't have that much time to savor the feeling,
though, because I need to get going on my next task. As the couple exchanges vows, I sneak belowdecks and creep over to the cage of the shaggy sheepdog who belongs to one of the bridesmaids and just
happens
to match the one in
The Little Mermaid
. I mean, what are the odds?

“You ready for your big entrance, Fake Max?” I ask, checking his collar to make sure the pouch containing the wedding rings is fastened securely around the buckle. I don't know what this dog's name is, but I've watched
The Little Merma
id
alongside my note-taking Mom enough over the past few months to know Prince Eric's dog is named Max, so it will have to do.

He woofs at me and plants a sloppy kiss on my cheek. Ick. This job has a ton of occupational hazards, and now I can add dog slobber to the list. I secure his leash and lead him above, sneaking him around the back of the seated wedding guests.

The minister smiles at the happy couple and asks, “Do you have the rings?”

That's my cue.

And then . . . it happens.

A big plop of seagull doo-doo drops from the sky and lands directly on my head, dribbling greenish-yellowish-whitish goop down my cheek. When I
scream, everyone swivels as one to face me. I freeze, horrified by both my interruption and the super-slimy, super-gross stuff sliding down toward my neck.

BOOK: You're Invited
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