Lisette walked outside into the night air. The limo driver opened the door, so she got in.
And nearly sat on the jewel encrusted queen’s gown. Yesterday she’d lusted after it, tonight, for all she cared, it could have been a rag.
Pia, in her white slip, knocked on the window, then opened the door. “May I come in?”
The three of them — Pia, Lisette, and the gown– shared the back seat bench. “He was doing it all for me. It was all my idea– the spa day with you getting the same makeup and hair as me, the gown– my wedding gown, which looks stunning by the way–“
Oh no! Lisette’s face and shoulders flamed all over again. Wearing Pia’s clothes even unintentionally was threatening to ruin Lisette’s life. “But why am I wearing your wedding gown?”
“So we could switch places. Honestly Lisette, you’re a smart girl. Haven’t you figured it out by now?”
Lisette looked to the ballgown, shimmering in the moonlight as Pia continued. “Mother and the Krewe would never be able to tell it’s you and not me. Our hair, our height, our figures– once you put that gown and all the frou frou on, it’s all they see.”
“But I still don’t understand why you didn’t just tell your mother.”
“Have you ever tried to tell your mother you didn’t want to do something that was so all out important to the family?” Pia made air quotes with her fingers around the last word. “Should you refuse to be queen deah, well, Ah suppose you should also refuse your shar-uh of the family biznezz. You could go strike out on somethin’else everybody likes to drink, besides coffee or tea.” Pia stifled her own laughs with her imitation of her mother. “Barilloux Beverages could always use some fresh new thinkin, Ah s’pose.”
Lisette had to giggle at Pia’s dead on mimicry.But Pia’s words hit the mark with a bullseye– hadn’t she kept all of this to herself in the interest of ‘family’?
“Are you sure you want to marry Dewey? I mean, now? Just before he goes overseas?”
“I love him. Yes, I want to marry him now.” Pia covered Lisette’s hand with her own. “He likes you very much, you know.”
Lisette bit her lip. She wasn’t ready to talk about CB liking her. This wound was still too raw.
“He did all this for me and with me. I really am the brainchild behind it all. The clothes, the shoes.” Pia smiled and squeezed Lisette’s hand. “Really. CB is all about ‘family’. He thought he had it all covered. He probably went about it all wrong, but don’t be too hard on him. He was really only trying to help me out.”
Just then a knock on the tinted glass window. “Everybody okay in there?” Dewey asked.
“You just go back up to that altar and wait for me. I’m coming out! Soon’s I get this dress on!”
Lisette shimmied out of the white silk, somewhat sorry to let it go. She’d enjoyed wearing it, if only for a short while, but not under the circumstances. “I hope I didn’t mess it up on the horse.”
“No worries, it’s perfect.” Pia hugged Lisette. “Got a guy waiting for me — gotta run.” And with a quick change, she was gone.
The gown shimmered in the moonlight now. Lisette couldn’t resist stroking the rich fabric. Could we really get away with it? Would I really do this?
She lifted the tiara to her head, and raised the scepter. It was heavy and ornate and really fun to pretend to be a queen. Lift your head, always… smile with teeth, but don’t crinkle the eyes… wave to your subjects….
“You’d make a beautiful Queen Nike,” Cb’s voice called from outside the limousine door.
Lisette squealed, clutching the wand to her chest. She had on nothing but a strapless bra and panties and thigh high stockings. But she remembered the windows’ reflective tint. Still…
“How did you know I was thinking about that?” she called out to him.
“Because you’re still in there, and you don’t have anything else to put on. So you may as well put on the gown and I’ll have the driver take you home.”
Lisette looked at the gown. “I’ll need some help.”
The door handle clicked open — “Not yet!” she squealed. She managed to wiggle into the highly structured garment , and slid her arms in the wide strapped sleeves. “Okay, you can come in now.”
CB bent inside, and managed to hook and zip and button and attach the garment together. It occurred to Lisette at exactly the same time it occurred to CB how backwards this seemed to be.
“You know, if this was under those former circumstances…,” he let his voice trail off.
“Back off peasant. Remember who’s the royalty here.” She tapped him lightly with the scepter. “Pia and Dewey all married now?”
“On their way to the airport.” CB turned to Lisette and reached up to straighten the crown on her head. “You make a beautiful, beautiful queen Lisette.” He took her hand, raised it to his lips and kissed it. “Forgive me?”
She had to smile. He was a good man, and yes, Pia was right. He would do anything for his family. Unlike her father, who’d shown nothing but selfishness, this man was the most selfless she’d ever known. And he had the respect of his family, his business partners, even the masked Krewe captain kidnapper. “I forgive you.”
CB’s thumb stroked her cheek. He angled her face so he could see her eyes in the moonlight. “Take a chance on a guy like me Lisette. I’m not like your dad, and I’m not your employer, and I’m not that other–“
Lisette put her fingers to his lips to silence him. “Shh. Stop talking and kiss me.”
He kissed her, his lips firm against hers.His body pressed into hers, pushing her down, until the heavy crown on her head slipped and conked him on his head. “oommph.”
Lisette broke the kiss, sat up, adjusted her crown and waved her scepter in the air. “I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go,” she trilled.
“I understand there’s a ball going on.”
“Ah yes. That’s where we’ll go.” She tapped the scepter on the window. “Think the ball needs a queen?”
“I think it does,” CB grinned at her. “Matter of fact, I know it does.”
And so do I.