'Say, "Bachelorette!"' I shouted.
'Bachelorette!' beamed my client and her friends.
SNAP! My cheap blue camera flashed, capturing the moment.
'This is the happiest day of my life,' gushed Elizabeth. 'Well, after Christmas and my birthday, of course.'
'Where's the honeymoon?' I asked, taking a swig of apple juice.
Beth giggled drunkenly. It seemed the sugar was getting to her. 'Oh, Chuck E. Cheese. Mummy's taking me and Harold on the weekend - she booked the kid's special and everything.' She giggled again. 'She thinks it's a "playdate", and this bachelorette party is a "sleepover". Adults, am I right?'
'Right,' I agreed. 'Never know what's going on around them. Speaking of ... is my deposit going to be candy or cash? Personally, I think candy is much more efficient.'
'Yes, yes,' murmured Beth. She reached into a pocket, pulling out some gummy bears, gobstoppers and sherbet lollies. 'Huh. That's a lot less than I thought there was.'
'Never mind,' I said briskly. My hand swept over her's and I removed the candy. 'You may pay me more this Monday. At lunch.'
'Noooo!' howled Beth. 'Lunch is when me and Harold are holding the wedding!'
'Okay, okay, how about Tuesday after school?'
'Noooo! That's when me and Harold are holding the wedding reception!'
Beth was a spoiled brat.
'Alright. This is enough,' I sighed.
'Yay!' cooed Beth. 'Thank you, thank you, Allegra!'
Beth bounced away, slightly woozy from her apple juice intake.
'Tsk, tsk, Little Miss Allegra.' said a voice.
'Ack!' I cried, looking around. 'Who's there?'
'Why, it's me,' said Elizabeth's scary older sister, Abigail. She was in Grade 10, and absolutely everyone in Year 3 was petrified of her. She seemed to haunt the Eating Area.
I squeaked in terror. 'What are you doing here?'
Abigail rolled her eyes. 'I live here, midget. Anyway, let's talk about this little photographing business of yours.'
My fear faded away, but a little bit lingered. Finally, someone to talk to about my passion for photography! 'Yes. It's called Picture Perfect Wedding Photography.'
I nodded eagerly. 'Yes. After my favourite movie, Picture Perfect. Anyway, this is my first wedding project, and I want to completely ace it. But soon, I'mma be arranging photos for Barbie and Ken!'
Abigail raised her eyebrows. 'Sure. But let's just take baby steps first. So, is there, like, a team involved, is it just you?'
'Just me,' I replied proudly.
'How much does a session cost?'
'Ten candies, or ten dollars.'
'How much did my sister pay you?'
'Umm ... six candies.'
'So are you intending to also receive your other four candies?'
'Well ... no.' I answered uncomfortably.
'Well, Beth couldn't afford it!' I cried. 'I didn't want her to lose all her money.'
'Oh, Allegra,' said Abigail, shaking her head. 'Sweet, innocent, naïve, Allegra. Is this really how you run you business? You have to be tough on your clients. You need to stick up for yourself.'
'I don't need your help,' I huffed. 'I can run this business myself, Abigail.'
Abigail shrugged. 'Fine by me.'
I stormed off, that little voice in my head, saying, she's right, you know. You are such a pushover, Allegra.
'Do you, Elizabeth June Cassidy, take Harold Mason Adair to be you lawfully wedded husband, to love and cherish him until death do you part?' asked my BFF, Lucy.
'I do,' grinned Beth.
Click, click click, went my camera.
'And do you, Harold Mason Adair, take Elizabeth June Cassidy to be you lawfully wedded wife, to love and cherish him until death do you part?' said Lucy.
'I do,' smiled Harold.
'Then you may kiss the bride!'
Harold pecked Beth on the cheek.
My camera clicked again.
The Year 3 cohort clapped and catcalled, the Eating Area echoing with applause.
After I had taken a few more photos, I started to hand out my business cards. I had taken forever on them, using my extra-special crayons to decorate it. I wandered around, giving them to guests and saying, 'Picture Perfect Wedding Photography. For all your wedding needs!'
Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched.
'Oh no,' I mumbled.
Slowly, I turned around until I saw Abigail leaning against the brick wall, her brown hair covering her eyes. She looked up. I froze.
I am not a pushover, I thought determinedly. I am not a pushover.
I paraded bravely toward her. Abigail seemed to loom over me. I realised how much taller she was then me. I am not a pushover. I shoved the business card into her hands. 'Here. For all your wedding needs.'
I ran away.
The wedding reception's feast was an extravagant one. Dinosaur chicken nuggies, hot dogs, pepperoni pizza. My mouth grumbled greedily as my blue camera clicked photos of Beth and Harold. Beth grinned at me, apple juice dribbling down her lips.
As I finished the last photo, I sidled toward Beth.
'You have an apple juice problem.' I said.
'What can I say, Agera? Elizabeth likes her sugar,' she slurred.
I reached toward a pizza slice, when Beth swatted me away.
'Nuh-uh, Agera! Is for stuff only.'
'I am part of the staff, Beth.'
Beth rethought her words. 'Is for the guess only. Guess. Am Beth said that alright?'
Beth was so sugar-drunk, she couldn't even speak properly.
Well, I had enough of this.
I am not a pushover.
Think of what Abigail would do.
'Okay, Little Miss Elizabeth.' Elizabeth looked startled at the use of her full name. 'I expect better from you. From now on, you treat me as a guest, and you pay me the expected amount. Or else you are gonna have to find new wedding photographer. Got it?'
Elizabeth stared at me, her eyes glassy. Then, she giggled. Then she laughed. 'Oh, Elizabeth. Silly Elizabeth. Elizabeth did have some leftover candy in her pocket, actually, funny Elizabeth. Funny, funny. Let me tell Elizabeth to get the candy-wandy, okay Agera?'
Elizabeth blanked out again. I stood there in utter disbelief.
'Ah-ha!' snickered Elizabeth. 'Yes yes yessy yes yes. Elizabeth's got candy!' Elizabeth reached into her pocket. She extracted such a huge handful of candy, I couldn't believe my eyes. There were lollipops, chocolate bars, toffees, liquorice galore. Way more than the expected amount.
'Oh, Elizabeth,' I sighed. 'I only need four candies, you know.'
'No way, Agera! Elizabeth's feeling very generous today.' She put on a loud whisper. 'Is her whole stash of candies. Yummy yummy yum yum.'
I took four. 'You can take it back now, Elizabeth.'
'NO!' shrieked Elizabeth. 'Take the candy! Elizabeth don't want candy no more!' Elizabeth looked down shamefully. 'No more candy for Elizabeth.'
'Alright, alright.' I grabbed the candy and left.
'Good work, Allegra.' chuckled Abigail from behind me. 'Looks like you're finally sticking up for yourself.'
'Thanks for helping me, Abigail,' I murmur. 'I guess ... I guess I couldn't have done it without you.'
'Call me, Abby, midget,' smiled Abigail.
I mean, Abby.
16 years later...
'I know, Lucy, but I’m just too jam-packed for that day! Yes, I know Princess Barbara - yes, a.k.a Princess Barbie - and Ken are future kings and queens, but I just can't cancel that day! I've scheduled four couples, including some famous celebrity or something, for that Tuesday, and this is just so last minute.' I sighed. 'Yes, Lucy, the night before a wedding is last minute.'
As Lucy pressed on, I said sternly, 'No, Lucy. Tell them to reschedule. Okay? Thank you.'
I hung up.
'Miss Whitlock?' said my assistant, poking his head in my office.
'Call me Allegra, Jared,' I said shortly.
'Yes, Miss Allegra. Um ... so earlier today, someone tried to get into your room. Of course, the security guards stopped her. They said she demanded to see … a midget of some sort. An urgent wedding, she said. She knew you personally, apparently. And she handed us a piece of paper. Here.'
Jared handed me a small rectangle piece of paper. I took it from him and inspected it.
Picture Perfect Wedding Photography, it said in an attempted cursive handwriting. There was crayon-drawn pink flowers decorated around it. For all your wedding needs! it cried.
'It looks quite a bit like the business card the design team made. Looks like she tried to replicate it. Pfft. Not very well,' snorted Jared.
But I recognised the terrible cursive writing. I recognised the way the pink flowers were drawn. I recognised the motto that I had invented all those years ago.
'Would you mind leaving the room for a sec, Jared?' I asked quietly.
Jared hurriedly left the room.
I grabbed my phone. 'Lucy? Alright Lucy, I need you to cancel all weddings on Tuesday. No, I'm not going to do the royal wedding.' I smiled. 'I have an even more important client.'