A blast of frigid air ripped through the parking lot whipping Janet's long, dark hair. She gripped the front of her coat, pulled it tight around her, and ran for the entry door of the banquet hall. Shaking her head to sluff the snow out of her hair, she opened the door and stepped inside to the warmth of the lobby. There, she removed her gloves, shoved them in her pockets, and made her way through the lounge to the reception hall.
She was an hour late and most of the one hundred or so guests for her brother's wedding were already there. Her gaze swept over the sea of white linen-covered tables and searched for her father. When she saw him, she took a deep breath and headed in his direction.
“Where've you been?” he said, getting up to greet her. He pulled her into a practiced hug as if they saw each other every day. But the fact was, he hadn't seen her in over six months.
“Traffic,” she said. She flashed a smile toward his wife, Christine, and said, “Sorry I missed you at church. Love the gown.” She took in Christine's long, black, strapless formal and the necklace of gold winking back at her, wondering how much they set her father back.
“Thanks. How've you been?” Christine replied.
“Not bad. Nice place.”
“Nothing but the best for your brother,” Christine said, flashing a pretentious smile at her husband. When Janet saw her father frown, she wondered what was going on between the two of them.
Janet's father said, “This is John and Sarah Barrett, friends of Christine's. They're loaning their beachfront house to Craig for his honeymoon. Isn't that nice of them?”
“Yes, very,” Janet said.
“So, you're Craig's sister! The picture on your father's mantel doesn't do you justice,” Sarah said.
Janet took the compliment in stride, trying to figure out just what picture that might be.
“My daughter here is a freelance photographer for one of those nature magazines out west,” Janet's father said. “Is that what they call them these days?”
“Close enough, Dad.”
“All very exciting, I'm sure,” Christine said.
“Ah, there's my boy,” Janet's father said, cutting in. His graveled voice stormed across the room. “Hey, Craig, come over here and tell your sister about that new job of yours.” To Janet, he winked and said, “He hooked himself up with a firm down in West Palm Beach.”
Craig looked up from talking with the band and started for them. “Hey, Janny,” he said, giving her a brotherly hug. “Damned weather. Sorry we missed you at the church. How was the flight?”
“It was.” Janet said eying her brother affectionately. She had long gotten over her envy of her father's favoritism toward her brother. It wasn't Craig's fault her father had always favored him over her. Craig was his shining star. A high school football legend and M.I.T. graduate, Craig had carved a place out in his father's heart long before she arrived on the scene and it was a place she could never fill.
At six-foot three, his sleek, muscular frame towered over her. “Yeah, I know, shitty,” Craig said. “But you're here and that's all that counts.”
Janet pulled away from him, straightened his tie, and patted the lapel of his tux. Even though he was eight years older than her, she'd always thought of him as a little brother who needed looking after. “So, Dad tells me you have a new job.”
“Yeah, and I'm gonna need it 'cause Belinda has lots of plans.”
“I bet,” Janet said, knowing Belinda came from a large family.
“Say look, I gotta get back to her. Catch ya later?”
“Of course,” Janet replied and gave him the thumbs-up.