Authors: Linda Kepner
Tags: #romance, #historical
. I’ll see you in the morning.” She kissed him.
Louis looked unhappy. “This is so difficult.”
, don’t think so. Go home and sleep.”
He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. “Bishou, I want you with me!”
, go home and sleep. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.” Bishou kissed his lips again. “
, ma Bishou.” It took almost a physical effort for him to leave her and get back in the car.
Bishou thought of her mother’s words,
the man gives you his body.
Maman had been right enough. She had felt it tonight.
Bishou noticed that it was barely sunset, but didn’t care. She washed up, changed into her pajamas, and fell asleep.
Bishou woke up to the jangling of her little alarm clock. She shut it off, climbed out of bed, and made a visit to the bathroom at the other end of the hall. Her hair brushed into place easily, and makeup could wait. This wasn’t an ordinary day.
She opened the closet door. The dress still took her breath away, so she imagined the effect it would have on other people. It was made of white satin-cotton fabric with the barely visible swirls in it, and a lightweight lace train attached that could be swept up conveniently behind and buttoned in place almost one-handed by the bride herself. Nadine had definitely caught on to the fact that Bishou was a utilitarian bride.
She donned the sexy underwear, new garter belt, new stockings, and the pretty high heels. She was working the dress over her head when there was a tap at the door. Bishou pulled the dress down in place and called, “
Denise Campard wore a pretty knee-length blue dress, and a nice little pair of heels. “How are you doing?” She helped Bishou with the dress and hooked it shut. Bishou still wished heartily that French dresses had zippers.
“How do I look?” asked Bishou, regarding herself in the mirror.
“So far, so good,” Denise answered with a smile.
Bishou sat down so Denise could brush out her hair and help with makeup. Denise applied it ably, although she admitted she never wore it herself. “But it’s fun to dress up someone else,” she concluded with a smile, using a lip-brush on Bishou. “You have such beautiful full lips, Bishou, a lot of cosmetics would be wasted on you. Just be natural.”
“Usually, I am natural,” Bishou replied. “Except for powder and lipstick, and I admit, more makeup when I go out in the evening. I want this to be just right, though — it needs a colder eye than mine.”
Denise laughed. “I am glad you are taking such pains over it, because I want Louis to be happy almost as much as you do.”
,” Bishou said fondly, patting her hand. Then she stood up suddenly. “Oh, oh, I knew I was forgetting something.”
“Bishou! Taking care of you is my job. I am your attendant, remember?” Denise scolded.
Bishou only laughed, and reached toward the end table. She held up a jewelry box. “This is for you, Denise, your bridesmaid’s gift.”
“What — ?” Denise stared as Bishou opened the box. Inside was a little silver charm bracelet, with two charms: a little blue stone and a silver square shaped like a cigarette box. The familiar stripe ran diagonally across the box, and in tiny letters it read DESSANT. Denise stared in wonder. “Bishou — it’s beautiful. Thank you so much.”
Bishou opened up the second box, and removed a matching bracelet. “As you put more charms on, yours will differ from mine, but today, they are the same.” She slipped it on her right wrist.
“I am amazed you did this, on top of all the other things you’ve done in the past week,” Denise said. Then she shook her head. “But no, you’ve been raising boys and getting a third college degree in your extra time, haven’t you? So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.” Denise, too, slipped on her bracelet, and clasped it in place. “Now. Sit down and let me pin your hat and veil in place.”
“Who’s driving us there?”
“Bat. I understand he had both boys cleaning the sea sand out of the rental car this morning, so there would be nothing left to soil a white dress.”
“Nothing the Sergeant-Major does can surprise me anymore,” Bishou said wryly.
“Oh, oui. When Etien telephoned this morning, it was Bat who answered. He completely threw Etien off when he said, ‘Dessant residence.’ For a moment, he wondered where on earth Louis had recruited a butler. Oh, be still. I can’t pin this on while you’re laughing that hard.”
“I’m sorry,” said Bishou. “No, I’m not.”
Denise laughed, too. She finished her task. Now she herded her charge down the stairs.
To Bishou’s astonishment, the lobby was full of people, who all oohed and aahed at her. The pension ladies were there, and Joseph, and the kitchen and cleaning staff, as well as Bat himself, dressed in his finest black-tie suit. He wore a white boutonniere. Bat regarded her approvingly. “Something old — ”
She touched the lace train. “Maman’s lace is sewn in there, too.”
“Something new — ”
“The dress and shoes.”
“Something borrowed — ”
“I’ll send Maman’s lace back with you.”
She held out her engagement ring.
Bat knelt. “And a sixpence for your shoe. Hold still, I’ve got a bit of wire, to wire it in place.”
“Is that an old American wedding tradition?” Marie asked.
“Mademoiselle Bishou, you look so lovely,” Eliane said.
Bat stood up. “
Prêt, ma soeur
?” Ready, my sister?
,” Bishou replied. Bat held open the door, and the women stepped outside. There were more people on the sidewalk, admiring them as Bat opened the rear door for them. Their bouquets awaited them on the car seat. Bat closed their door, slid into the front seat, started the car, and began driving toward the church.
“We’ll probably see most of those onlookers there,” Bat commented to his passengers in the back seat. “The church is a public place, and Louis is well-known.”
“Oui,” said Denise. “That is much as it was the last time.”
“I hope he doesn’t have any flashbacks,” said Bat.
“Me too,” Bishou said. “I’m more worried about that than anything else.”
“We will be careful,” Denise promised.
It felt like an eternity before they reached the church, only a few blocks away. Bishou recognized Louis’s and Etien’s automobiles. Bat pulled in beside them. Bishou waited for him to open her car door, but even that short delay was torture. Denise slid out the other door by herself.
Gerry and Andy waited outside the front entrance. They, too, stared at their sister as she climbed up the steps. In turn, she stared at them. “Wow,” she told them. “You both look as handsome as Bat does.”
The boys grinned. Gerry reported to Bat. “We came out here when Louis and Mr. Campard came onto the altar with the priest, just like we were supposed to.”
“Okay,” Bat prompted. “Now what do you do?”
“Sneak up the stairs and tell the organist to start playing.”
“Quietly,” he ordered. Bishou grinned as they took off like shots and did their best to tiptoe up the balcony stairs.
Bishou reached back and let the lace train drop to the ground. Denise fussed with it for a moment, spreading it out behind her.
Bat held out an elbow. It looked like he had taken a lesson from Louis on this. Bishou slid her hand under his arm, holding her bouquet firmly with the other, and said to Denise, “Are we ready?”
“We are ready,” Denise replied, adjusting her own blue veil, shifting her small blue bouquet in her hands, and stepping in front of them. “If you faint or fall,
, I won’t know until I hear the thud. So hiss if I need to stop. Otherwise, a stately step to the altar.”
“Oui, madame,” the twins chorused, and they grinned.
Denise led the way, with as stately a step as she promised. Père Reynaud stood with Louis and Etien. Denise stepped to one side as Bat and Bishou kissed. Then Bat placed Bishou’s hand in Louis’, and stepped back to the first pew. Louis brought her to the priest, and the ceremony began.
They had agreed to a full Mass as part of the ceremony. Bishou had wanted it for an additional reason. The Mass, its marriage readings, and the full ceremony progressed, as the bride and groom and attendants knelt and sat at the appropriate times. When they knelt for communion, the Campards received theirs first, then Bishou. She turned to watch Louis receive communion for the first time in ten years, with special dispensation. He was willing to pay his dues. Bishou might have cried if she hadn’t heard Denise stifle a sob.
They stood before the congregation to exchange rings. That had been a conscious decision on their part, because Louis and Carola had knelt. First Bishou repeated her vow to love, honor, and obey, and slid the wedding band on Louis’s finger. Then it was Louis’s turn. He said the words, to love and honor, and she heard the quaver in his voice. He lifted up the ring, and almost dropped it. But Père Reynaud was on the alert, too. He grasped Louis’s hands firmly as he realized how bad his tremors had become.
So did Bishou, as Louis reached for her hand to slip on the ring. Here was where the ring had not fitted Carola’s finger, and Carola had taken it herself and forced it on — which should have been one of their first clues that she was not the intended.
Louis felt the pressure of their hands. And a third: Etien Campard placed his hand on Louis’s shoulder at that moment. Bishou realized also that Denise stood beside her. If that ring hit the floor, she would pounce on it like lightning.
Louis Dessant’s face changed. His brown eyes lit up. He smiled. At Etien, at the priest, at Denise, and last of all, he smiled into Bishou’s eyes. Love and support — that was what he had now, like never before. Louis slipped the ring on her finger easily and repeated the wedding vow at Père Reynaud’s prompting.
At last, Père Reynaud turned them toward the congregation, and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Monsieur et Madame Louis Dessant.” The congregation burst into applause. The organ music swelled. They walked swiftly down the aisle together, and back outside, where another crowd of
awaited them, all the locals.
“Throw that bouquet,” Louis advised, laughing. Bishou pitched it into the crowd amid squeals of delight. Photographers took candid pictures.
“What a pitch!” Etien exclaimed. “What sport do you play?”
Bat was there, too. “Hey, Denise, do you want yours, or will you give it to Bishou to pitch, too?”
“I want mine,” Denise replied, laughing. “Don’t touch me.”
Louis laughed, sounding like himself. “
Viens, ma femme
, into the car,” he said, taking her hand. She gathered up the lace train with her other hand, and ran with him to the white Mercedes. Mercifully, no one had gimmicked it up, perhaps feeling that it would be too cruel a trick on Louis’s sensibilities. The Campards quickly followed them out of town, with the gray Ford behind that. Walkers, cyclists, and rickety vehicles straggled after them.
Bettina, Madeleine, and a squad of caterers were waiting in the Dessant front yard. The wedding table was festooned with flowers. A silver ice bucket containing champagne bottles waited near the table.
The wedding guests found their places at the table, if they had been part of the original plan, or set up picnic cloths and neighboring patio tables and chairs if they were add-ons to the party. The Howard boys and the Campard boys made themselves a backyard fort where they brought their own food and drink. There were people everywhere, eating and drinking and laughing. Louis hadn’t done this the first time around, either. They had just got married and gone home. There had been no family.
Bat and Etien laughingly opened champagne bottles, and distributed drinks. Then Etien toasted the new couple. “
Monsieur et Madame Dessant, a votre sante, et toute nos felicitations. Fait heureux.
” Be happy.
“Brief and to the point,” said Bat, toasting them also. “Mine is in the form of a threat. Make my baby sister unhappy, and I will be back here to deal with it, because I know where you live.”
“Oui, Sergeant-Major,” Louis laughed, entwining goblets with his wife. They sipped from each other’s glasses long enough for the photographer to get another photo.
Bishou dug into the chicken marsala, salad, and rice. “I didn’t realize how hungry I was.”
“Nor I.” Louis ate, too. “I didn’t realize how my appetite had been affected.”
did, Monsieur,” murmured Bettina behind him. He turned and smiled at her.
“A good staff is a blessing beyond measure,” he said, and both Bettina and Madeleine blushed. “Merci, you two.”
Bishou leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Did we give them a gift?”
“This morning,” he murmured. “White silk handkerchiefs.”
Louis looked in his new wife’s eyes, four inches from his, and smiled. “My companion, I had not forgotten.” He looked pleasantly surprised as she leaned forward, champagne glass still in hand, and kissed him.
They walked around to the picnic blankets. One large blanket party were Creoles. There were Dessant Cigarette employees, and also Mama Jo and Papa Armand. Louis asked Mama Jo for a kiss, saying it was good luck; she told him no, he must kiss her. And he did. He also kissed the hands of both his secretaries, at another picnic blanket, and personally made sure their glasses were full of champagne. Nadine and
Ross were there, too; Louis made certain they had champagne as well. Louis and Bishou made the full circuit, and Bat covered anyone they might have missed.
Claire Aucoeur stood before Bishou, and handed her a package. “Pardon, Madame Dessant, but I know this is something you wanted. I was able to get you a copy.”
Bishou smiled, knowing what it must be as she pulled off the ties. Louis, coming over while she unwrapped it, asked, “What is that?”
“Claire remembered that I wanted a photograph of someone I loved,” Bishou explained.