Darren was excited and nervous about his wedding, but he couldn’t wait to share the big event with his closest friends! The first guests to arrive were his best man, Joshua Lords, and their good friend, Ricky Jordan. Strangely, when Darren came out onto the porch, he overheard Joshua and Ricky arguing, then both of them fell silent when he came through the door.
“What’s going on here?” Darren asked Joshua, as Ricky pushed by and went straight inside the Randall estate. Darren added with amazement, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear before, Joshua! Care to repeat that?”
Joshua grumbled and explained, “Ricky just decided now would be a good time to reveal that he saw Skylar the day after she left your family!”
“What?” Darren gasped. By then, Ricky was already inside the house and couldn’t answer Darren’s question.
Joshua told him, “In all of Skylar’s activity, including public video cameras and service access of any kind, there was never a hint of activity after that afternoon. How she could’ve reached Oasis Springs without using the Tube or being seen is a complete mystery.” He sighed again, but with less anger in his face. “Sadly, I can’t stay for your wedding now,” Joshua stated.
“I completely understand, and I really appreciate everything you’re doing to find her!” Darren replied. “I wish I had a little more time to arrange this, but you know why…”
Joshua nodded and added, “It’s about time, too!” Darren asked quickly about Clara and the baby, and Joshua announced, “We had a boy! I thought it would be twins, but it just turns out he’s a little warrior or something. We named him Tristan, after an ancestor of mine.”
“Well, now you have an official heir, so I’m thrilled for you! Send Clara mine and Daria’s love. When things settle down more, let’s get everyone together,” Darren suggested. Joshua agreed and left the wedding party to search Ricky’s house with a team of crime scene investigators.
Darren went inside, and Daria greeted the next batch of guests who arrived: Persephone Marchand and Indra Moreau. Daria was a little surprised by the way the other women were dressed, and she joked when she greeted them, “Darren did tell you it’s a wedding right, not a funeral?”
Indra scowled at her and Persephone said, “We don’t actually know that, do we?”
Daria maintained her poise and refused to let a few harsh looks ruin the happiest day of her life. She sat down on one of the antique sofas in the front room and invited the ladies to sit with her. “I know we haven’t had a chance to meet, but I appreciate you being here for Darren.”
As she walked by, Indra declared, “I’m here for Skylar, actually.”
“Thank you so much,” Daria said to Indra, with the most deliberately cordial smile.
Persephone interjected with her trademark flare, “I’m actually here for the open bar.”
Meanwhile, Ricky had already hit up the open bar, and was working on a stiff drink in the kitchen. “How was I supposed to know she was missing?” Ricky asked himself out loud, although he wasn’t alone. “She showed up acting crazy and I already heard about her messing around, so I thought you just had enough of her Drama Queen antics.”
Darren sighed, “I don’t want to talk about this right now, Ricky. I’m trying to make my second marriage start the best way possible. I cannot be wondering what might’ve happened if you’d contacted me or Joshua that day…” He took a deep breath and added, “And I can’t be wondering where she is right now, or if she’s alive. I have to bake a wedding cake here!”
“Why don’t you let the caterer do that?” Ricky wanted to know.
“Because the only caterer I trust is a guest, obviously,” Darren rolled his eyes at Ricky when he said it.
“Will you hate me,” Ricky wondered, “if she’s gone? If something happened to her and I could’ve stopped it? Do you already hate me–I never see you or Joshua anymore.”
In the front room of the house, the ladies were getting along much better already. Persephone made the other women laugh with her jokes about being a drunken socialite, and she also complimented Daria on her music. “You’ve heard my music?” Daria couldn’t hide her surprise.
Persephone nodded and explained, “I get in these moods sometimes and your album is my favourite to listen to on days like that. You should sing that song, ‘Derelict Hearts’ after the wedding. So romantic…”
“You think so?” Daria felt so flattered, and felt hopeful that she would be able to make some friends at last, despite Indra’s demeanor.
Darren stood alone outside for a moment. The gazebo in the backyard was done up beautifully for the wedding ceremony, and the view was especially picturesque. He looked around and memorized every detail of the scene while trying to make sense of his own emotions. He pretended he was inviting an invisible crowd, “Come and witness my spectacle!” Finally he worked up the courage to begin the ceremony for real.
Indra and Persephone hurried to pass through the kitchen to the backyard, and Ricky was actually flirting with the caterer. “You never change,” Indra pointed out as she walked by him.
Daria led the procession to the wedding arch, as is the custom in the District. She wished she had close friends to be her true bridesmaids, but she was grateful to have new friends that cared about her husband and her step-children, at the very least.
As she climbed the steps to the gazebo, Darren turned around and they saw each other for the first time that day. In an instant, Darren’s aching heart was filled with love and excitement once again, and he smiled at his bride. “You look amazing!” he complimented her. As she got closer, he looked back toward the river and said, “I hope you like the setting.”
“It’s so beautiful,” Daria replied, as the other women exited the house and began making their way to the gazebo as well.
There was a little chaos about seat selection, as there often is at weddings that don’t have specific seat assignments planned in advance. Darren and Daria had only a few hours to plan their ceremony, so they didn’t mind the brief delay. Darren took the opportunity to whisper to Daria, “Joshua had to leave; there could be a break in the investigation.”
“That’s great news,” Daria whispered back as the other women shuffled around and disagreed about seats.
“I’m sitting right here,” Persephone whispered.
“Fine. I’ll sit on Darren’s side then,” Indra practically hissed. As she turned her back, she could feel the sting of Persephone’s evil eye.
Indra ignored it–she didn’t care if Persephone got upset with her. Weddings always make Indra cry, but only because they make her feel alone. This time, Indra also felt like crying because her best friend’s life-as-she-knew-it was over, and she worried she’d never see Skylar again.
As she walked over to the groom’s side of the isle, Darren grabbed Daria to make-out with her like a love-sick little boy. Indra struggled harder to keep her emotions in check.
“It’s a wedding; they love each other,” she reminded herself silently. She took a seat and breathed in and out slowly a couple of times, until she felt a little stronger.
Darren said to his bride, “I’m sure you dreamed of something a lot nicer than this for your wedding.”
“No, it’s perfect!” Daria told him. “Everything is so beautiful. And then there’s you!”
Darren took Daria’s hand, saying, “And then there’s you,” before he kissed her hand gently.
The bride and groom were lost in each other, and their love was obvious to everyone in attendance, but Indra’s heart could not bear it. In that moment, she thought of a thousand things she wanted to scream at them. Then a little voice in the back of her head told her, “You’re as much to blame as anyone else–where were you when she needed you?”
Just as the bride and groom got into position to begin exchanging their vows, Indra bolted from the gazebo with hot tears streaming down her face.