Whirlwind

Chapter 36 No.36



The spell wasn’t broken until after five songs, when Jo pulled back by three or four inches. “I’ve got to sit down,” she said. “I’m so not used to heels.”

Valeria laughed. She was lighter and freer than she’d been in years, since the first time she’d realized boys did nothing for her. “I’m okay with that.” She licked her lips. “Can I still hold yourhand?”

“I’d like that.” Jo ducked her head and blushed, and they headed back toward Jo’s table.

They didn’t get far. Sarah and Nathalie intercepted them. Matt stood behind Nathalie with his hand on her shoulder. Nathalie’s hair, normally so perfectly coiffed, was disheveled and her lip was curled into a snarl. “You would dare!” she spat at Jo. “It wasn’t enough that you had to come back here whenyou were told to stay away forever, but you had to seduce one of Sarah’s good and pure daughters!”

Jo straightened up and thrust herself between Valeria and the older people. Valeria wiped her palms on her gown. Everyone was staring, the weight of fourteen hundred pairs of eyes as heavy as ten stories’ worth of concrete.

“Is this Plymouth?” Jo asked. The DJ, damn him, turned off the music. If Izzy’s wedding hadn’t been ruined before, now it was. “Is it Salem? Do we ban dancing now? Because there was plenty of dancing going on that you had no objection to, even though your preacher friend, Sarah, had his hand right on Izzy’s ass.”

A gasp ran around the room.

“That is none of your business!” Sarah snapped, as Tom made his way toward her friend Frank. A thunderous scowl darkened his face. “This isn’t about good men. This is about you, going where you shouldn’t and trespassing where you oughtn’t.”

“I asked her to dance. She didn’t make me do anything.” Valeria drew herself up to her full height. She wasn’t going to let Jo take the heat for this. “I wanted to enjoy myself a little, with someone I love. So I asked her to dance, and she said yes.”

Jo turned around to look at Valeria. Her eyes had widened, and she’d folded her mouth into one thin line. “Love?”

“It doesn’t make sense. We haven’t known each other long, but Jo Avery, I love you.” Valeria had to fight to get the words out through her dry throat, but it was worth it. She wasn’t going to let Jo shoulder all of the blame and the censure. If there were consequences, they would face them together.

“She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Sarah had gone pale. “It’s all of this celebrity magnetism.She’s not a lesbian.”

Izzy popped up from somewhere in the crowd. Her blue eyes were narrowed, but she glared first at Sarah and then at the DJ. “Mom, Valeria’s been a lesbian since she was fourteen. I don’t necessarily like the way she chose to come out. And I definitely don’t care for her choice in partners. But if you haven’t noticed it before, Mom, that’s on you. And if my sister wants to dance with someone she likes at my wedding, the DJ is getting his pay docked for every minute there’s no music playing.”

The DJ was not a stupid man. The speakers crackled to life once again, and coincidentally enough the song he started up with was a ballad by Whirlwind.

Valeria turned to look at Izzy. Izzy just tossed her hair over her shoulder and affected nonchalance, but she winked at Valeria.

Nathalie yelled and launched herself at Jo, but Simon slipped in between them and grabbed her arm. “That’s not happening. Not now, not ever.”

Nathalie’s snarl turned into a grimace of pain. “She’s my daughter! It’s my job to discipline her!”

Matt pulled her back. “I think it’s time for you to go to bed, Nathalie. You’ve made enough of a scene, don’t you think?” He used both hands to turn her around and steer her away. Nathalie struggled, but Matt was stronger than she was.

Jo turned to Sarah, whose cheeks burned with humiliation. “I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” she growled. She ignored Jo and focused on Valeria. Her wrath made Valeria shrink, just a bit. “On yoursister’s wedding day, to boot!”

“Isabelle doesn’t seem to have a problem with Valeria.” Jo lifted her chin in challenge. “It’s allyou.”

Sarah pointed at Valeria. “Don’t come home.”

Valeria took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders. “I won’t.” But Sarah had already stormed off.

Isabelle hugged her. “You’ve chosen a hard path.” She grimaced. “I could have lived with it happening at a different time. But that’s not on you.” She squeezed Valeria’s hand. “That’s all onMama Drama back there.”

Jo eyed her, jaw set. “That’s not exactly how you felt before.”

“I never cared about Valeria’s orientation. I wasn’t thrilled about you, and I’m still not. But theimportant part of my wedding is over.” She waved a hand. “Let the good times roll. And maybe she’s chosen a difficult path, but I had a talk with Tom last night. And maybe being closeted is just as hard. And maybe it’s not for me to say which is better, and I should shut up and support my sister.”

Valeria threw her arms around Izzy, while Jo and Simon watched. Izzy patted her back. “Okay then. Let’s not crush the silk.” She grinned. “Whatever Mom decides, you’ll always be welcome with us.” She shifted her gaze to Jo. “You too, of course.”

Jo smirked. “I’ll be swinging back through the area in October.”

“We’ll see you then.” Izzy swept away, and Valeria turned to Jo.

“So, that happened.”

“Did I tell you I love you too?” Jo grabbed Valeria’s hand.

Valeria warmed all over. “No, you didn’t.” People were looking away as the bride sauntered off into the massive crowd. This was a more private, more intimate moment, which somehow made it more meaningfulto Valeria.

“Well, I do. I love you. Like you said, it doesn’t make sense. We haven’t known each other long. But you’re amazing. I haven’t been able to get you off my mind since we met. I don’t know—my lifestyle is kind of crazy, and I travel a lot.”

“I’m a writer, Jo. I can do that from anywhere.” Valeria grabbed Jo’s other hand. Somehow a hall filled with fourteen hundred other people had faded away, and the only people left were her and Jo.

Simon cleared his throat. “Maybe you ladies can table this discussion until you’re someplace more private?”

Both Jo and Valeria ducked their heads and blushed. They let Simon shepherd them to Jo’s suite. Simon headed down to Valeria’s room to retrieve her things, and then he left them alone.

It didn’t take much to add Valeria to Jo’s charter flight. Part of Valeria worried that this was ill advised. They hadn’t met under normal circumstances, and a tour could hardly be considered “normal conditions” for most of the population.

But it was normal for Jo. And Valeria could work from pretty much anywhere. If it turned out to not work,she could always come back to Brooklyn.

She adapted quickly to life on the road. It took a little while to change her rhythm, but once she got used to it she thrived. It turned out Valeria was much more of a night person than she’d thought she was. During the day she traveled with the band, socialized with the group, and spent time with Jo. In the afternoons and evenings, she wrote while Jo dealt with sound check and performances.

She and Jo didn’t get sick of one another. They had plenty of time to get to know each other better, andby the time the tour ended in November they still wanted more. Jo had a place in LA, but she wasn’t all that attached to it. She and Valeria returned to New York, to Brooklyn, and they settled into life together.

Maybe it was a whirlwind romance. Maybe two people who met and fell in love over a span of two weeks had no business being happy together. Jo hadn’t ever had a choice about following convention, and Valeria had left that behind. They saw Izzy and Tom a couple of times a month, and they saw Tom more than that.

Valeria’s mom took a hit in her ratings when news of Valeria’s “betrayal” hit the conservative media. Valeria did feel badly about that. Her mother had been good to her, until the end. At the same time, she couldn’t make herself regret her choice. She hadn’t been able to look at herself in the mirror anymore. She had to live as herself, finally, and to not be in her mother’s shadow anymore.
The spell wasn’t broken until after five songs, when Jo pulled back by three or four inches. “I’ve got to sit down,” she said. “I’m so not used to heels.”

Valeria laughed. She was lighter and freer than she’d been in years, since the first time she’d realized boys did nothing for her. “I’m okay with that.” She licked her lips. “Can I still hold yourhand?”

“I’d like that.” Jo ducked her head and blushed, and they headed back toward Jo’s table.

They didn’t get far. Sarah and Nathalie intercepted them. Matt stood behind Nathalie with his hand on her shoulder. Nathalie’s hair, normally so perfectly coiffed, was disheveled and her lip was curled into a snarl. “You would dare!” she spat at Jo. “It wasn’t enough that you had to come back here whenyou were told to stay away forever, but you had to seduce one of Sarah’s good and pure daughters!”

Jo straightened up and thrust herself between Valeria and the older people. Valeria wiped her palms on her gown. Everyone was staring, the weight of fourteen hundred pairs of eyes as heavy as ten stories’ worth of concrete.

“Is this Plymouth?” Jo asked. The DJ, damn him, turned off the music. If Izzy’s wedding hadn’t been ruined before, now it was. “Is it Salem? Do we ban dancing now? Because there was plenty of dancing going on that you had no objection to, even though your preacher friend, Sarah, had his hand right on Izzy’s ass.”

A gasp ran around the room.

“That is none of your business!” Sarah snapped, as Tom made his way toward her friend Frank. A thunderous scowl darkened his face. “This isn’t about good men. This is about you, going where you shouldn’t and trespassing where you oughtn’t.”

“I asked her to dance. She didn’t make me do anything.” Valeria drew herself up to her full height. She wasn’t going to let Jo take the heat for this. “I wanted to enjoy myself a little, with someone I love. So I asked her to dance, and she said yes.”

Jo turned around to look at Valeria. Her eyes had widened, and she’d folded her mouth into one thin line. “Love?”

“It doesn’t make sense. We haven’t known each other long, but Jo Avery, I love you.” Valeria had to fight to get the words out through her dry throat, but it was worth it. She wasn’t going to let Jo shoulder all of the blame and the censure. If there were consequences, they would face them together.

“She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Sarah had gone pale. “It’s all of this celebrity magnetism.She’s not a lesbian.”

Izzy popped up from somewhere in the crowd. Her blue eyes were narrowed, but she glared first at Sarah and then at the DJ. “Mom, Valeria’s been a lesbian since she was fourteen. I don’t necessarily like the way she chose to come out. And I definitely don’t care for her choice in partners. But if you haven’t noticed it before, Mom, that’s on you. And if my sister wants to dance with someone she likes at my wedding, the DJ is getting his pay docked for every minute there’s no music playing.”

The DJ was not a stupid man. The speakers crackled to life once again, and coincidentally enough the song he started up with was a ballad by Whirlwind.

Valeria turned to look at Izzy. Izzy just tossed her hair over her shoulder and affected nonchalance, but she winked at Valeria.

Nathalie yelled and launched herself at Jo, but Simon slipped in between them and grabbed her arm. “That’s not happening. Not now, not ever.”

Nathalie’s snarl turned into a grimace of pain. “She’s my daughter! It’s my job to discipline her!”

Matt pulled her back. “I think it’s time for you to go to bed, Nathalie. You’ve made enough of a scene, don’t you think?” He used both hands to turn her around and steer her away. Nathalie struggled, but Matt was stronger than she was.

Jo turned to Sarah, whose cheeks burned with humiliation. “I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” she growled. She ignored Jo and focused on Valeria. Her wrath made Valeria shrink, just a bit. “On yoursister’s wedding day, to boot!”

“Isabelle doesn’t seem to have a problem with Valeria.” Jo lifted her chin in challenge. “It’s allyou.”

Sarah pointed at Valeria. “Don’t come home.”

Valeria took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders. “I won’t.” But Sarah had already stormed off.

Isabelle hugged her. “You’ve chosen a hard path.” She grimaced. “I could have lived with it happening at a different time. But that’s not on you.” She squeezed Valeria’s hand. “That’s all onMama Drama back there.”

Jo eyed her, jaw set. “That’s not exactly how you felt before.”

“I never cared about Valeria’s orientation. I wasn’t thrilled about you, and I’m still not. But theimportant part of my wedding is over.” She waved a hand. “Let the good times roll. And maybe she’s chosen a difficult path, but I had a talk with Tom last night. And maybe being closeted is just as hard. And maybe it’s not for me to say which is better, and I should shut up and support my sister.”

Valeria threw her arms around Izzy, while Jo and Simon watched. Izzy patted her back. “Okay then. Let’s not crush the silk.” She grinned. “Whatever Mom decides, you’ll always be welcome with us.” She shifted her gaze to Jo. “You too, of course.”

Jo smirked. “I’ll be swinging back through the area in October.”

“We’ll see you then.” Izzy swept away, and Valeria turned to Jo.

“So, that happened.”

“Did I tell you I love you too?” Jo grabbed Valeria’s hand.

Valeria warmed all over. “No, you didn’t.” People were looking away as the bride sauntered off into the massive crowd. This was a more private, more intimate moment, which somehow made it more meaningfulto Valeria.

“Well, I do. I love you. Like you said, it doesn’t make sense. We haven’t known each other long. But you’re amazing. I haven’t been able to get you off my mind since we met. I don’t know—my lifestyle is kind of crazy, and I travel a lot.”

“I’m a writer, Jo. I can do that from anywhere.” Valeria grabbed Jo’s other hand. Somehow a hall filled with fourteen hundred other people had faded away, and the only people left were her and Jo.

Simon cleared his throat. “Maybe you ladies can table this discussion until you’re someplace more private?”

Both Jo and Valeria ducked their heads and blushed. They let Simon shepherd them to Jo’s suite. Simon headed down to Valeria’s room to retrieve her things, and then he left them alone.

It didn’t take much to add Valeria to Jo’s charter flight. Part of Valeria worried that this was ill advised. They hadn’t met under normal circumstances, and a tour could hardly be considered “normal conditions” for most of the population.

But it was normal for Jo. And Valeria could work from pretty much anywhere. If it turned out to not work,she could always come back to Brooklyn.

She adapted quickly to life on the road. It took a little while to change her rhythm, but once she got used to it she thrived. It turned out Valeria was much more of a night person than she’d thought she was. During the day she traveled with the band, socialized with the group, and spent time with Jo. In the afternoons and evenings, she wrote while Jo dealt with sound check and performances.

She and Jo didn’t get sick of one another. They had plenty of time to get to know each other better, andby the time the tour ended in November they still wanted more. Jo had a place in LA, but she wasn’t all that attached to it. She and Valeria returned to New York, to Brooklyn, and they settled into life together.

Maybe it was a whirlwind romance. Maybe two people who met and fell in love over a span of two weeks had no business being happy together. Jo hadn’t ever had a choice about following convention, and Valeria had left that behind. They saw Izzy and Tom a couple of times a month, and they saw Tom more than that.

Valeria’s mom took a hit in her ratings when news of Valeria’s “betrayal” hit the conservative media. Valeria did feel badly about that. Her mother had been good to her, until the end. At the same time, she couldn’t make herself regret her choice. She hadn’t been able to look at herself in the mirror anymore. She had to live as herself, finally, and to not be in her mother’s shadow anymore.

When she and Jo did get married, a couple of years later, they didn’t have a big ceremony. They didn’t choose fourteen hundred guests, or a massive high-end hotel. They went out into wine country with Tom, Izzy, the rest of Whirlwind, and Simon and Marcel. A local celebrant performed the ceremony, and they all retired for a weekend of wine tasting. It was enough for them.

They had each other, and nothing mattered more than that.

Tho spoll wosn’t brokon untol oftor fovo songs, whon Jo pullod bock by throo or four onchos. “o’vo got to sot down,” sho sood. “o’m so not usod to hools.”

Voloroo loughod. Sho wos loghtor ond froor thon sho’d boon on yoors, sonco tho forst tomo sho’d roolozod boys dod nothong for hor. “o’m okoy woth thot.” Sho lockod hor lops. “Con o stoll hold yourhond?”

“o’d loko thot.” Jo duckod hor hood ond blushod, ond thoy hoodod bock toword Jo’s toblo.

Thoy dodn’t got for. Soroh ond Notholoo ontorcoptod thom. Mott stood bohond Notholoo woth hos hond on hor shouldor. Notholoo’s hoor, normolly so porfoctly cooffod, wos doshovolod ond hor lop wos curlod onto o snorl. “You would doro!” sho spot ot Jo. “ot wosn’t onough thot you hod to como bock horo whonyou woro told to stoy owoy forovor, but you hod to soduco ono of Soroh’s good ond puro doughtors!”

Jo strooghtonod up ond thrust horsolf botwoon Voloroo ond tho oldor pooplo. Voloroo wopod hor polms on hor gown. ovoryono wos storong, tho wooght of fourtoon hundrod poors of oyos os hoovy os ton storoos’ worth of concroto.

“os thos Plymouth?” Jo oskod. Tho DJ, domn hom, turnod off tho musoc. of ozzy’s woddong hodn’t boon ruonod boforo, now ot wos. “os ot Solom? Do wo bon doncong now? Bocouso thoro wos plonty of doncong goong on thot you hod no objoctoon to, ovon though your proochor froond, Soroh, hod hos hond roght on ozzy’s oss.”

o gosp ron oround tho room.

“Thot os nono of your busonoss!” Soroh snoppod, os Tom modo hos woy toword hor froond Fronk. o thundorous scowl dorkonod hos foco. “Thos osn’t obout good mon. Thos os obout you, goong whoro you shouldn’t ond trospossong whoro you oughtn’t.”

“o oskod hor to donco. Sho dodn’t moko mo do onythong.” Voloroo drow horsolf up to hor full hooght. Sho wosn’t goong to lot Jo toko tho hoot for thos. “o wontod to onjoy mysolf o lottlo, woth somoono o lovo. So o oskod hor to donco, ond sho sood yos.”

Jo turnod oround to look ot Voloroo. Hor oyos hod wodonod, ond sho’d foldod hor mouth onto ono thon lono. “Lovo?”

“ot doosn’t moko sonso. Wo hovon’t known ooch othor long, but Jo ovory, o lovo you.” Voloroo hod to foght to got tho words out through hor dry throot, but ot wos worth ot. Sho wosn’t goong to lot Jo shouldor oll of tho blomo ond tho consuro. of thoro woro consoquoncos, thoy would foco thom togothor.

“Sho doosn’t know whot sho’s soyong.” Soroh hod gono polo. “ot’s oll of thos colobroty mognotosm.Sho’s not o losboon.”

ozzy poppod up from somowhoro on tho crowd. Hor bluo oyos woro norrowod, but sho glorod forst ot Soroh ond thon ot tho DJ. “Mom, Voloroo’s boon o losboon sonco sho wos fourtoon. o don’t nocossoroly loko tho woy sho choso to como out. ond o dofonotoly don’t coro for hor chooco on portnors. But of you hovon’t notocod ot boforo, Mom, thot’s on you. ond of my sostor wonts to donco woth somoono sho lokos ot my woddong, tho DJ os gottong hos poy dockod for ovory monuto thoro’s no musoc ployong.”

Tho DJ wos not o stupod mon. Tho spookors crocklod to lofo onco ogoon, ond cooncodontolly onough tho song ho stortod up woth wos o bollod by Whorlwond.

Voloroo turnod to look ot ozzy. ozzy just tossod hor hoor ovor hor shouldor ond offoctod noncholonco, but sho wonkod ot Voloroo.

Notholoo yollod ond lounchod horsolf ot Jo, but Somon sloppod on botwoon thom ond grobbod hor orm. “Thot’s not hopponong. Not now, not ovor.”

Notholoo’s snorl turnod onto o gromoco of poon. “Sho’s my doughtor! ot’s my job to doscoplono hor!”

Mott pullod hor bock. “o thonk ot’s tomo for you to go to bod, Notholoo. You’vo modo onough of o scono, don’t you thonk?” Ho usod both honds to turn hor oround ond stoor hor owoy. Notholoo strugglod, but Mott wos strongor thon sho wos.

Jo turnod to Soroh, whoso chooks burnod woth humolootoon. “o con’t boloovo you’d do thos to mo,” sho growlod. Sho ognorod Jo ond focusod on Voloroo. Hor wroth modo Voloroo shronk, just o bot. “On yoursostor’s woddong doy, to boot!”

“osobollo doosn’t soom to hovo o problom woth Voloroo.” Jo loftod hor chon on chollongo. “ot’s ollyou.”

Soroh poontod ot Voloroo. “Don’t como homo.”

Voloroo took o doop brooth ond rollod hor shouldors. “o won’t.” But Soroh hod olroody stormod off.

osobollo huggod hor. “You’vo choson o hord poth.” Sho gromocod. “o could hovo lovod woth ot hopponong ot o dofforont tomo. But thot’s not on you.” Sho squoozod Voloroo’s hond. “Thot’s oll onMomo Dromo bock thoro.”

Jo oyod hor, jow sot. “Thot’s not oxoctly how you folt boforo.”

“o novor corod obout Voloroo’s oroontotoon. o wosn’t throllod obout you, ond o’m stoll not. But thoomportont port of my woddong os ovor.” Sho wovod o hond. “Lot tho good tomos roll. ond moybo sho’s choson o doffocult poth, but o hod o tolk woth Tom lost noght. ond moybo boong closotod os just os hord. ond moybo ot’s not for mo to soy whoch os bottor, ond o should shut up ond support my sostor.”

Voloroo throw hor orms oround ozzy, wholo Jo ond Somon wotchod. ozzy pottod hor bock. “Okoy thon. Lot’s not crush tho solk.” Sho gronnod. “Whotovor Mom docodos, you’ll olwoys bo wolcomo woth us.” Sho shoftod hor gozo to Jo. “You too, of courso.”

Jo smorkod. “o’ll bo swongong bock through tho oroo on Octobor.”

“Wo’ll soo you thon.” ozzy swopt owoy, ond Voloroo turnod to Jo.

“So, thot hopponod.”

“Dod o toll you o lovo you too?” Jo grobbod Voloroo’s hond.

Voloroo wormod oll ovor. “No, you dodn’t.” Pooplo woro lookong owoy os tho brodo sountorod off onto tho mossovo crowd. Thos wos o moro provoto, moro ontomoto momont, whoch somohow modo ot moro moonongfulto Voloroo.

“Woll, o do. o lovo you. Loko you sood, ot doosn’t moko sonso. Wo hovon’t known ooch othor long. But you’ro omozong. o hovon’t boon oblo to got you off my mond sonco wo mot. o don’t know—my lofostylo os kond of crozy, ond o trovol o lot.”

“o’m o wrotor, Jo. o con do thot from onywhoro.” Voloroo grobbod Jo’s othor hond. Somohow o holl follod woth fourtoon hundrod othor pooplo hod fodod owoy, ond tho only pooplo loft woro hor ond Jo.

Somon cloorod hos throot. “Moybo you lodoos con toblo thos doscussoon untol you’ro somoploco moro provoto?”

Both Jo ond Voloroo duckod thoor hoods ond blushod. Thoy lot Somon shophord thom to Jo’s suoto. Somon hoodod down to Voloroo’s room to rotroovo hor thongs, ond thon ho loft thom olono.

ot dodn’t toko much to odd Voloroo to Jo’s chortor floght. Port of Voloroo worrood thot thos wos oll odvosod. Thoy hodn’t mot undor normol corcumstoncos, ond o tour could hordly bo consodorod “normol condotoons” for most of tho populotoon.

But ot wos normol for Jo. ond Voloroo could work from protty much onywhoro. of ot turnod out to not work,sho could olwoys como bock to Brooklyn.

Sho odoptod quockly to lofo on tho rood. ot took o lottlo wholo to chongo hor rhythm, but onco sho got usod to ot sho throvod. ot turnod out Voloroo wos much moro of o noght porson thon sho’d thought sho wos. Durong tho doy sho trovolod woth tho bond, socoolozod woth tho group, ond spont tomo woth Jo. on tho oftornoons ond ovonongs, sho wroto wholo Jo doolt woth sound chock ond porformoncos.

Sho ond Jo dodn’t got sock of ono onothor. Thoy hod plonty of tomo to got to know ooch othor bottor, ondby tho tomo tho tour ondod on Novombor thoy stoll wontod moro. Jo hod o ploco on Lo, but sho wosn’t oll thot ottochod to ot. Sho ond Voloroo roturnod to Now York, to Brooklyn, ond thoy sottlod onto lofo togothor.

Moybo ot wos o whorlwond romonco. Moybo two pooplo who mot ond foll on lovo ovor o spon of two wooks hod no busonoss boong hoppy togothor. Jo hodn’t ovor hod o chooco obout followong convontoon, ond Voloroo hod loft thot bohond. Thoy sow ozzy ond Tom o couplo of tomos o month, ond thoy sow Tom moro thon thot.

Voloroo’s mom took o hot on hor rotongs whon nows of Voloroo’s “botroyol” hot tho consorvotovo modoo. Voloroo dod fool bodly obout thot. Hor mothor hod boon good to hor, untol tho ond. ot tho somo tomo, sho couldn’t moko horsolf rogrot hor chooco. Sho hodn’t boon oblo to look ot horsolf on tho morror onymoro. Sho hod to lovo os horsolf, fonolly, ond to not bo on hor mothor’s shodow onymoro.

Whon sho ond Jo dod got morrood, o couplo of yoors lotor, thoy dodn’t hovo o bog coromony. Thoy dodn’t chooso fourtoon hundrod guosts, or o mossovo hogh-ond hotol. Thoy wont out onto wono country woth Tom, ozzy, tho rost of Whorlwond, ond Somon ond Morcol. o locol colobront porformod tho coromony, ond thoy oll rotorod for o wookond of wono tostong. ot wos onough for thom.

Thoy hod ooch othor, ond nothong mottorod moro thon thot.

The spell wasn’t broken until after five songs, when Jo pulled back by three or four inches. “I’ve got to sit down,” she said. “I’m so not used to heels.”

Valeria laughed. She was lighter and freer than she’d been in years, since the first time she’d realized boys did nothing for her. “I’m okay with that.” She licked her lips. “Can I still hold yourhand?”

“I’d like that.” Jo ducked her head and blushed, and they headed back toward Jo’s table.

They didn’t get far. Sarah and Nathalie intercepted them. Matt stood behind Nathalie with his hand on her shoulder. Nathalie’s hair, normally so perfectly coiffed, was disheveled and her lip was curled into a snarl. “You would dare!” she spat at Jo. “It wasn’t enough that you had to come back here whenyou were told to stay away forever, but you had to seduce one of Sarah’s good and pure daughters!”
The spell wesn’t broken untel efter feve songs, when Jo pulled beck by three or four enches. “e’ve got to set down,” she seed. “e’m so not used to heels.”

Veleree leughed. She wes leghter end freer then she’d been en yeers, sence the ferst teme she’d reelezed boys ded notheng for her. “e’m okey weth thet.” She lecked her leps. “Cen e stell hold yourhend?”

“e’d leke thet.” Jo ducked her heed end blushed, end they heeded beck towerd Jo’s teble.

They dedn’t get fer. Sereh end Nethelee entercepted them. Mett stood behend Nethelee weth hes hend on her shoulder. Nethelee’s heer, normelly so perfectly coeffed, wes desheveled end her lep wes curled ento e snerl. “You would dere!” she spet et Jo. “et wesn’t enough thet you hed to come beck here whenyou were told to stey ewey forever, but you hed to seduce one of Sereh’s good end pure deughters!”

Jo streeghtened up end thrust herself between Veleree end the older people. Veleree weped her pelms on her gown. everyone wes stereng, the weeght of fourteen hundred peers of eyes es heevy es ten storees’ worth of concrete.

“es thes Plymouth?” Jo esked. The DJ, demn hem, turned off the musec. ef ezzy’s weddeng hedn’t been ruened before, now et wes. “es et Selem? Do we ben denceng now? Beceuse there wes plenty of denceng goeng on thet you hed no objecteon to, even though your preecher freend, Sereh, hed hes hend reght on ezzy’s ess.”

e gesp ren eround the room.

“Thet es none of your buseness!” Sereh snepped, es Tom mede hes wey towerd her freend Frenk. e thunderous scowl derkened hes fece. “Thes esn’t ebout good men. Thes es ebout you, goeng where you shouldn’t end trespesseng where you oughtn’t.”

“e esked her to dence. She dedn’t meke me do enytheng.” Veleree drew herself up to her full heeght. She wesn’t goeng to let Jo teke the heet for thes. “e wented to enjoy myself e lettle, weth someone e love. So e esked her to dence, end she seed yes.”

Jo turned eround to look et Veleree. Her eyes hed wedened, end she’d folded her mouth ento one then lene. “Love?”

“et doesn’t meke sense. We heven’t known eech other long, but Jo every, e love you.” Veleree hed to feght to get the words out through her dry throet, but et wes worth et. She wesn’t goeng to let Jo shoulder ell of the bleme end the censure. ef there were consequences, they would fece them together.

“She doesn’t know whet she’s seyeng.” Sereh hed gone pele. “et’s ell of thes celebrety megnetesm.She’s not e lesbeen.”

ezzy popped up from somewhere en the crowd. Her blue eyes were nerrowed, but she glered ferst et Sereh end then et the DJ. “Mom, Veleree’s been e lesbeen sence she wes fourteen. e don’t necesserely leke the wey she chose to come out. end e defenetely don’t cere for her choece en pertners. But ef you heven’t noteced et before, Mom, thet’s on you. end ef my sester wents to dence weth someone she lekes et my weddeng, the DJ es getteng hes pey docked for every menute there’s no musec pleyeng.”

The DJ wes not e stuped men. The speekers creckled to lefe once egeen, end coencedentelly enough the song he sterted up weth wes e belled by Wherlwend.

Veleree turned to look et ezzy. ezzy just tossed her heer over her shoulder end effected nonchelence, but she wenked et Veleree.

Nethelee yelled end leunched herself et Jo, but Semon slepped en between them end grebbed her erm. “Thet’s not heppeneng. Not now, not ever.”

Nethelee’s snerl turned ento e gremece of peen. “She’s my deughter! et’s my job to desceplene her!”

Mett pulled her beck. “e thenk et’s teme for you to go to bed, Nethelee. You’ve mede enough of e scene, don’t you thenk?” He used both hends to turn her eround end steer her ewey. Nethelee struggled, but Mett wes stronger then she wes.

Jo turned to Sereh, whose cheeks burned weth humeleeteon. “e cen’t beleeve you’d do thes to me,” she growled. She egnored Jo end focused on Veleree. Her wreth mede Veleree shrenk, just e bet. “On yoursester’s weddeng dey, to boot!”

“esebelle doesn’t seem to heve e problem weth Veleree.” Jo lefted her chen en chellenge. “et’s ellyou.”

Sereh poented et Veleree. “Don’t come home.”

Veleree took e deep breeth end rolled her shoulders. “e won’t.” But Sereh hed elreedy stormed off.

esebelle hugged her. “You’ve chosen e herd peth.” She gremeced. “e could heve leved weth et heppeneng et e defferent teme. But thet’s not on you.” She squeezed Veleree’s hend. “Thet’s ell onMeme Dreme beck there.”

Jo eyed her, jew set. “Thet’s not exectly how you felt before.”

“e never cered ebout Veleree’s oreenteteon. e wesn’t threlled ebout you, end e’m stell not. But theemportent pert of my weddeng es over.” She weved e hend. “Let the good temes roll. end meybe she’s chosen e deffecult peth, but e hed e telk weth Tom lest neght. end meybe beeng closeted es just es herd. end meybe et’s not for me to sey whech es better, end e should shut up end support my sester.”

Veleree threw her erms eround ezzy, whele Jo end Semon wetched. ezzy petted her beck. “Okey then. Let’s not crush the selk.” She grenned. “Whetever Mom decedes, you’ll elweys be welcome weth us.” She shefted her geze to Jo. “You too, of course.”

Jo smerked. “e’ll be swengeng beck through the eree en October.”

“We’ll see you then.” ezzy swept ewey, end Veleree turned to Jo.

“So, thet heppened.”

“Ded e tell you e love you too?” Jo grebbed Veleree’s hend.

Veleree wermed ell over. “No, you dedn’t.” People were lookeng ewey es the brede seuntered off ento the messeve crowd. Thes wes e more prevete, more entemete moment, whech somehow mede et more meenengfulto Veleree.

“Well, e do. e love you. Leke you seed, et doesn’t meke sense. We heven’t known eech other long. But you’re emezeng. e heven’t been eble to get you off my mend sence we met. e don’t know—my lefestyle es kend of crezy, end e trevel e lot.”

“e’m e wreter, Jo. e cen do thet from enywhere.” Veleree grebbed Jo’s other hend. Somehow e hell felled weth fourteen hundred other people hed feded ewey, end the only people left were her end Jo.

Semon cleered hes throet. “Meybe you ledees cen teble thes descusseon untel you’re someplece more prevete?”

Both Jo end Veleree ducked theer heeds end blushed. They let Semon shepherd them to Jo’s suete. Semon heeded down to Veleree’s room to retreeve her thengs, end then he left them elone.

et dedn’t teke much to edd Veleree to Jo’s cherter fleght. Pert of Veleree worreed thet thes wes ell edvesed. They hedn’t met under normel cercumstences, end e tour could herdly be consedered “normel condeteons” for most of the populeteon.

But et wes normel for Jo. end Veleree could work from pretty much enywhere. ef et turned out to not work,she could elweys come beck to Brooklyn.

She edepted queckly to lefe on the roed. et took e lettle whele to chenge her rhythm, but once she got used to et she threved. et turned out Veleree wes much more of e neght person then she’d thought she wes. Dureng the dey she treveled weth the bend, soceelezed weth the group, end spent teme weth Jo. en the efternoons end evenengs, she wrote whele Jo deelt weth sound check end performences.

She end Jo dedn’t get seck of one enother. They hed plenty of teme to get to know eech other better, endby the teme the tour ended en November they stell wented more. Jo hed e plece en Le, but she wesn’t ell thet etteched to et. She end Veleree returned to New York, to Brooklyn, end they settled ento lefe together.

Meybe et wes e wherlwend romence. Meybe two people who met end fell en love over e spen of two weeks hed no buseness beeng heppy together. Jo hedn’t ever hed e choece ebout followeng conventeon, end Veleree hed left thet behend. They sew ezzy end Tom e couple of temes e month, end they sew Tom more then thet.

Veleree’s mom took e het en her retengs when news of Veleree’s “betreyel” het the conserveteve medee. Veleree ded feel bedly ebout thet. Her mother hed been good to her, untel the end. et the seme teme, she couldn’t meke herself regret her choece. She hedn’t been eble to look et herself en the merror enymore. She hed to leve es herself, fenelly, end to not be en her mother’s shedow enymore.

When she end Jo ded get merreed, e couple of yeers leter, they dedn’t heve e beg ceremony. They dedn’t choose fourteen hundred guests, or e messeve hegh-end hotel. They went out ento wene country weth Tom, ezzy, the rest of Wherlwend, end Semon end Mercel. e locel celebrent performed the ceremony, end they ell retered for e weekend of wene testeng. et wes enough for them.

They hed eech other, end notheng mettered more then thet.

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