My jaw fell open. I floundered around in my head, trying to remember how to close it.
I had never been Rosalie's favorite person in the world. Then, making things even more strained between us, she was personally offended by the choice I was making now. Though she had her impossible beauty, her loving family, and her soul mate in Emmett, she would have traded it all to be human. And here I was, callously throwing away everything she wanted in life like it was garbage. It didn't exactly warm her to me.
"Sure," Alice said easily. "You can start braiding. I want it intricate. The veil goes here, underneath." Her hands started combing through my hair, hefting it, twisting it, illustrating in detail what she wanted. When she was done, Rosalie's hands replaced hers, shaping my hair with a feather-light touch. Alice moved back to my face.
Once Rosalie received Alice's commendation on my hair, she was sent off to retrieve my dress and then to locate Jasper, who had been dispatched to pick up my mother and her husband, Phil, from their hotel. Downstairs, I could faintly hear the door opening and closing over and over. Voices began to float up to us.
Alice made me stand so that she could ease the dress over my hair and makeup. My knees shook so badly as she fastened the long line of pearl buttons up my back that the satin quivered in little wavelets down to the floor.
"Deep breaths, Bella/7Alice said. "And try to lower your heart rate. You're going to sweat off your new face."
I gave her the best sarcastic expression I could manage. "I'll get right on that."
"I have to get dressed now. Can you hold yourself together for two minutes?"
She rolled her eyes and darted out the door.
I concentrated on my breathing, counting each movement of my lungs, and stared at the patterns that the bathroom light made on the shiny fabric of my skirt. I was afraid to look in the mirror - afraid the image of myself in the wedding dress would send me over the edge into a full-scale panic attack.
Alice was back before I had taken two hundred breaths, in a dress that flowed down her slender body like a silvery waterfall.
"Alice - wow."
"It's nothing. No one will be looking at me today. Not while you're in the room."
"Now, are you in control of yourself, or do I have to bring Jasper up here?"
"They're back? Is my mom here?"
"She just walked in the door. She's on her way up."
Renee had flown in two days ago, and I'd spent every minute I could with her - every minute that I could pry her away from Esme and the decorations, in other words. As far as I could tell, she was having more fun with this than a kid locked inside Disneyland overnight. In a way, I felt almost as cheated as Charlie. All that wasted terror over her reaction...
"Oh, Bella!" she squealed now, gushing before she was all the way through the door. "Oh, honey, you're so beautiful! Oh, I'm going to cry! Alice, you're amazing! You and Esme should go into business as wedding planners. Where did you find this dress? It's gorgeous! So graceful, so elegant. Bella, you look like you just stepped out of an Austen movie." My mother's voice sounded a little distance away, and everything in the room was slightly blurry. "Such a creative idea, designing the theme around Bella's ring. So romantic! To think it's been in Edward's family since the eighteen hundreds!"
Alice and I exchanged a brief conspiratorial look. My mom was off on the dress style by more than a hundred years. The wedding wasn't actually centered around the ring, but around Edward himself.
There was a loud, gruff throat-clearing in the doorway.
"Renee, Esme said it's time you got settled down there," Charlie said.
"Well, Charlie, don't you look dashing!" Renee said in a tone that was almost shocked. That might have explained the crustiness of Charlie's answer.
"Alice got to me."
"Is it really time already?" Renee said to herself, sounding almost as nervous as I felt. "This has all gone so fast. I feel dizzy."
That made two of us.
"Give me a hug before I go down/7Renee insisted. "Carefully now, don't tear anything."
My mother squeezed me gently around the waist, then wheeled for the door, only to complete the spin and face me again.
"Oh goodness, I almost forgot! Charlie, Where's the box?"
My dad rummaged in his pockets for a minute and then produced a small white box, which he handed to Renee. Renee lifted the lid and held it out to me.
"Something blue," she said.
"Something old, too. They were your Grandma Swan's," Charlie added. "We had a jeweler replace the paste stones with sapphires."
Inside the box were two heavy silver hair combs. Dark blue sapphires were clustered into intricate floral shapes atop the teeth.
My throat got all thick. "Mom, Dad... you shouldn't have."
"Alice wouldn't let us do anything else," Renee said. "Every time we tried, she all but ripped our throats out."
A hysterical giggle burst through my lips.
Alice stepped up and quickly slid both combs into my hair under the edge of the thick braids. "That's something old and something blue," Alice mused, taking a few steps back to admire me. "And your dress is new... so here - "
She flicked something at me. I held my hands out automatically, and the filmy white garter landed in my palms.
"That's mine and I want it back," Alice told me.
"There," Alice said with satisfaction. "A little color - that's all you needed. You are officially perfect." With a little self-congratulatory smile, she turned to my parents. "Renee, you need to get downstairs."
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