She takes some tissue and wipes my face gently. “God, you’ve made a mess. C’mon. I have to redo your face. You look like a bee stung you. And the bee was on crack.”
Away from the music and sounds of the wedding, Nina leads me into the bathroom, carrying her makeup kit. She sits me on the edge of the tub while she sits on the closed lid of the toilet. She attacks me with a powder brush. It tickles my nose and I want to sneeze and laugh all at once, but I don’t dare interrupt Nina while she does her thing. I take a moment to slow my breathing and calm my erratic emotions.
Being a hairdresser, Nina has been assigned hair and makeup duties today. She really did an amazing job. Nat looks positively stunning. Nina was careful with her, took her time, and her time paid off. Nat looks like an angel.
When we arrived last week, Nat shocked us all by making an announcement. Flicking her fire-engine red hair, she admitted, “I’m done with this color.” Smiling at Nina, she asked, “Feel like making me a brunette?” It had been years since I had seen Nat in her natural shade of chocolate brown, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how Ash would take it. It’s not like she warned him or anything. In typical Nat style, she cornered him.
Nina had just finished styling the newly dyed hair when Ash came home. Nat stood with her cape still on and strode over to him. Once she was toe-to-toe with him, she placed her hands on her hips, widened her eyes, shook her head lightly and asked expectantly, “Well?”
But the tall, strapping, ash-blonde didn’t move. He just looked down at his wife, his warm brown eyes following the length of her now-brown hair. I could tell the exact moment Nat went into panic mode. I knew this, because she started rambling, “It’s just that I’m not getting any younger and I wanted you to see me. You know, me me. Not hiding-behind-bright-hair-and-boobs Nat. But I can change it—”
Her words were cut short when she was tugged into his arms. Legs splayed, Ash held Nat tight in his hold, lightly rocking her. I don’t know what he said to her, because his words were whispered, but as his lips met her ear and started moving, I caught her expression. Her eyes closed slowly and her mouth parted in relief before she smiled softly.
Asher is not a man of many words, but he’s getting better. The thing with men who don’t talk much is they make the words they say count.
Poor guy never stood a chance.
You can’t exactly stay quiet in our family. In order to be heard, you need to yell over the other four people talking.
Nina applies more powder. “So, you seeing anyone, kid?”
Eyes closed, I respond quietly, “Nah.” I gesture weakly to my body. “Who could handle all this?”
She huffs out a laugh through her nose. She remains silent a moment, but I can feel it. She wants to say something. And before I know it, she does. Nina is not the type to hold back. She liked to speak what’s on her mind, but she doesn’t talk about herself. Her private life has always been just that—private. Her tone is gentle, but serious. “Take it from me; don’t wait too long.” My eyes open at the wistful note in her voice. She smiles sadly. “Don’t want you to regret putting it off.”
I understand what she’s saying, but it doesn’t change the way things are. “It’s a little hard dating right now, you know? I just finished my studies, and I’m about to be offered a placement God knows where. I think I need to concentrate on my career. The thought of having a boyfriend right now,” I cringe, “it’s exhausting.”
Firm fingers grip my chin. Blazing eyes meet mine. “Excuses.”
Nina loosens her grip on me and applies a little blush. “You’re making excuses.” Her voice gentles once more. “What if you found the person who’s right for you and you turned them away, because of your so-called career. Then, when it came time to settle down, you realize that person didn’t wait for you. And they shouldn’t have, because you were selfish. That career you did it all for, you’ll resent. They’ll always be the one who got away, and those kinds of things play on your mind.”
I take my sister’s hand, pausing her mid-brushstroke and ask gently, “Who was yours?”
Her face voids of expression. She quickly dips her chin and clears her throat. When she looks up again, all I see is sadness. Sadness so cutting, my chest aches. She mutters a hoarse, “Doesn’t matter. They’ll always be one who got away, and I can only blame myself.”
Nina carefully adds the last of the makeup, restoring my puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks to near perfection. I stand and pull her close. Her arms wrap around me and hold me tight, and for the first time in forever, I think Nina needs this hug more than I do. “Thank you, Neens. I love you.”
She responds on a squeeze. “Love you too. Now, go talk up some guys. There’re some real Johnny’s out there.” When my sisters and I talk about guys, the hotter they are, the more Johnny-like they are. In fact, I still have a Johnny Depp poster in my room. He sets a high standard.
I love you, Johnny. They’ll never be you!
Pulling apart, I smirk. “Are you telling me I should hook up or somethin’?”
Nina smirks right back. “No harm in a little diddle here and there.”
I chuckle and shake my head, but she’s right. I mentally roll my eyes at myself. Here I am, crying and pouting, when I could be talking to a Johnny. And Lord knows, I haven’t diddled in a while.