Alice’s face was full of Isabelle’s black hair and she wondered whether it would be considered unsportsmanlike to pull it. And then she wondered why she was worrying about rules considering that she’d just attacked her mother’s fiancé’s daughter. Isabelle began whimpering and Alice realized she was now on top of Isabelle and had her arm pulled awkwardly behind her back. Taking hold of her senses and not wanting to do any permanent damage, she let up on the pressure. Suddenly, a hulk of a man grabbed Alice around the waist and lifted her off of Isabelle.
“This is the part where I escort you out and you never come back,” he hissed in her ear as he manhandled her to the door. “Celeste has your name and information. We’ll be sure to send you a bill.”
Alice couldn’t believe that bridal boutiques had security. But then she couldn’t really believe she’d attacked Isabelle. As she began to recall Isabelle’s comments and how her mother’s hand had been slapped away, however, she was livid again. The adrenaline was still coursing through her body. As the guard unceremoniously led her out the door she caught a glimpse of Ruthanne looking shell-shocked. The front of her sweater set was splattered with coffee. Apparently she’d taken the brunt of Isabelle’s latte when Alice had attacked.
The security guard finally deposited Alice on the sidewalk in front of the store and then folded his arms in front of him and blocked the doorway. “I suggest you go on home now,” he counseled.
“What about the other one?” Alice protested. “She was so awful, she started it all! Why aren’t you going after her?”
“Her?” the security asked, jerking his thumb inside. Alice shifted so she could see in the window and saw Isabelle bawling in a corner, arms around her knees while Celeste and Ruthanne fluttered nearby, not sure if it would be dangerous to approach. “I’m going to let her calm down first.”
Ruthanne turned from Isabelle and saw Alice looking in. Her one hand clenched Keith’s ring around her neck, the other covered her mouth.
Alice turned away from her mother and slumped her shoulders. This was not the way she had planned the day. She should be in there right now with her mom alternating trying on dresses and oohing and aahing over each other. Alice caught sight of herself in the reflection of the window. She put a finger up to her cheek and winced. It looked like she’d gotten a pretty good rug burn on her face. And maybe a black eye. Time would tell.
“Hope that heals before the wedding,” the guard said, still barricading the door and not looking directly at Alice.
“Thanks for your concern,” Alice retorted. “You can stand down, you know. I’m not going to rush the boutique.”
“Considering your recent behavior, please try not to be offended when I don’t trust you.”
Jim pulled into the parking lot and hurried toward Alice. He had made it to the bridal shop in record time. Alice wondered if he had been on-call for this type of emergency.
“Your mom sent me the craziest text. Are you okay? What’s going on?” Alice shook her head, not quite sure what to say and pointed inside the boutique. Jim patted her shoulder and reassured her saying, “We’ll figure it out.” The security guard moved aside and Jim hurried inside and gave Ruthanne a hug and exchanged a few words. Ruthanne pointed toward Isabelle huddled up in the corner. Jim squeezed Ruthanne’s hand as he left her side and squatted down next to Isabelle, one hand around her shoulder. Isabelle let herself be held.
If only I could go back to this morning and start over without Isabelle, Alice thought.
“Your dad seems awfully calm, considering the damage you just did,” the guard said.
“Oh, he’s not my dad. He’s my mother’s fiancé. So I guess he’ll be my dad . . . I mean not really. . . sort of . . . my step-dad anyway,” Alice trailed off. “At least I hope he still wants to be.”
“And your sparring partner in there?”
“His daughter. I guess that makes her my future step-sister if you want to get technical.”
The guard shifted and looked straight at Alice. A hint of a smile played around his mouth and his eyes were even a little kind as he said, “Well you know what they say, ‘You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family.”
Alice choked back a laugh/cry. The guard’s words were something her dad used to say to her.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion to "Starting Over".