It Had to Be You - Georgia Clark
Liv Goldenhorn stared at the cage of bristling birds and tried not to panic.
Like all career wedding planners, she knew tradition and ritual didn’t arise from some universal experience of love and commitment. Rituals were reinvented and reinterpreted all the time. The idea that an engagement ring should cost three months’ salary originated from the marketing campaign of a Depression-era diamond company. Bridesmaids dressed alike to confuse the evil spirits of ancient Rome. Wedding veils came from arranged marriages, when families didn’t want the groom to spot his wife-to-be at the other end of the aisle and think, No thanks, then slip out the back door.
Nothing symbolized love so well as a dove, but you never released actual doves at a wedding: you released white homing pigeons. Unlike their delicate cousins, who would get lost and eaten by hawks, pigeons were born with internal Google Maps and were a perfect match for the lovely winged creature so favored by Aphrodite and modern brides alike.
But this was a cage of scrappy gray city pigeons.
“Ugh!” Ralph Gorman, her florist and best friend, grimaced and took a step back. “What are they doing in here?”
The birds clucked and cooed, shedding feathers in a heavy metal cage that sat at the kitchen’s service entrance. Liv folded her arms. “Preparing to be a flying metaphor for everlasting love?”
A bird squirted a white stream of poop outside the cage.
Liv snatched a paper towel, thankful the caterers were busy setting up cheese plates in the ballroom. This was Eliot’s fault. Her husband coordinated all live-animal deliveries, from ponies to peacocks. Where was he? The flight from his semi-regular consulting gig in Kentucky had landed over an hour ago, and he’d promised to come straight from the airport. The minutes were falling away like raining confetti; guests would arrive in under an hour.
Gorman—who loathed his given name and only ever went by his surname—inched closer, fingering the patterned silk neckerchief knotted at his throat. “Should they be in the kitchen?”
“Oh, yes.” Liv whipped out her phone. “Yes, I’m certain I told the delivery man, please leave a cage of winged rats where food for two hundred is being prepared.”
The number for Birds Birds Birds went straight to voice mail—it was Thanksgiving weekend. Liv swore and hung up.
“I can’t believe some idiot just left them here! Eliot must’ve booked the cheapest bird-rental company on Long Island.” She toed the metal cage. It didn’t budge. “Do you think we could move them?”
“Darling, I do flowers. Not manual labor. And speaking of…” Gorman gave her a look. “We have a problem.”
From the expression on his face, the non-doves would have to wait.
Liv flung a tablecloth over the cage, then strode with Gorman through an obnoxiously palatial estate, stepping outside to follow the winding path toward the ceremony site: a boathouse overlooking a picturesque frozen lake. Gorman explained that the bushels of lavender the bride had insisted on, desperate to evoke the golden haze of late summer in Provence, were attracting unwanted guests.
“Guests?” Liv repeated, her breath fogging in the crisp November air. “What, have some horticulturally inclined ex-boyfriends shown up?”
Gorman flicked something from Liv’s choppy black bob. “Bees.”
A local hive had moved into the boat shed rafters for the winter. Gorman and his partner, Henry, had recommended flowers with no fragrance and low pollen. The bride refused. The lavender, coupled with the space heaters warming the shed, had clearly made the bees think that spring had sprung early.
“Well, we are out of the city.” Liv scanned a run sheet that was rapidly making a genre shift from sober nonfiction to slapstick farce. Where in the world was Eliot? Half the items on the run sheet were his responsibility. “We can’t ask nature to be less nature-y for the duration of— Ow!” Pain needled her arm. “One just stung me!”
Gorman gave her an I told you so look. “Henry brought an EpiPen.”
“I’m fine.” Ignoring the hives already forming on her arm, Liv pushed open the doors to the boathouse. She expected to see the two hundred white chairs draped in French satin and a thousand flickering flameless tea lights. What she did not expect to see under the triangular arbor—reclaimed wood, from the bride’s childhood home—was the DJ making out with a bridesmaid. Her hand was down the front of his pants.
Liv gasped. “Zach!”
“Shit!” Startled, Zach Livingstone backed up. His pants dropped to his ankles. He tripped and grabbed the flimsy arbor for support. He and the arbor toppled over, crashing to the