Gift-Wrapped in Her Wedding Dress(5)

By: Kandy Shepherd

 ‘It might seem that way, but hear me out,’ she said, a determined glint in her eye. If one of the other planners had said that, he would have looked pointedly at his watch. This one, he was prepared to listen to—he was actually interested in her story.

 ‘We had to clear our desks immediately and were marched out of the offices by security guards. Shell-shocked, we all retired to a café and thought about what we’d do. The magazine’s deputy editor asked could we organise her sister’s eighteenth birthday party. At first we said no, thinking she was joking. But then we thought about it. A big magazine shoot that involves themes and food and props is quite a production. We’d also sometimes organise magazine functions for advertisers. We realised that between us we knew a heck of a lot about planning parties.’

 ‘As opposed to enjoying them,’ he said.

 ‘That’s right,’ she said with a smile that seemed reminiscent of past parties enjoyed. ‘Between the three of us we had so many skills we could utilise.’

 ‘Can you elaborate on that?’

 She held up a slender index finger, her nails tipped with orange polish. ‘One, I’m the ideas and visuals person—creative, great with themes and props and highly organised with follow-through.’ A second finger went up. ‘Two, Gemma trained as a chef and is an amazing food person—food is one of the most important aspects of a good party, whether cooking it yourself or knowing which chefs to engage.’

 She had a little trouble getting the third finger to stay straight and swapped it to her pinkie. ‘Then, three, Eliza has her head completely around finances and contracts and sales and is also quite the wine buff.’

 ‘So you decided to go into business together?’ Her entrepreneurial spirit appealed to him.

 She shook her head so her large multi-hoop gold earrings clinked. ‘Not then. Not yet. We agreed to do the eighteenth party while we looked for other jobs and freelanced for magazines and ad agencies.’

 ‘How did it work out?’ He thought about his eighteenth birthday. It had gone totally unmarked by any celebration—except his own jubilation that he was legally an adult and could never now be recalled to the hell his home had become. It had also marked the age he could be tried as an adult if he had skated too close to the law—though by that time his street-fighting days were behind him.

 ‘There were a few glitches, of course, but overall it was a great success. The girl went to a posh private school and both girls and parents loved the girly shoe theme we organised. One eighteenth led to another and soon we had other parents clamouring for us to do their kids’ parties.’

 ‘Is there much money in parties for kids?’ He didn’t have to ask all these questions but he was curious. Curious about her as much as anything.

 Her eyebrows rose. ‘You’re kidding, right? We’re talking wealthy families on the eastern suburbs and north shore. We’re talking one-upmanship.’ He enjoyed the play of expressions across her face, the way she gesticulated with her hands as she spoke. ‘Heck, we’ve done a four-year-old’s party on a budget of thousands.’

 ‘All that money for a four-year-old?’ He didn’t have anything to do with kids except through his anonymous charity work. Had given up on his dream he would ever have children of his own. In fact, he was totally out of touch with family life.

 ‘You’d better believe it,’ she said.

 He was warming to Andie Newman—how could any red-blooded male not?—but he wanted to ensure she was experienced enough to make his event work. All eyes would be on it as up until now he’d been notoriously private. If he threw a party, it had better be a good party. Better than good.

 ‘So when did you actually go into business?’

 ‘We were asked to do more and more parties. Grown-up parties too. Thirtieths and fortieths, even a ninetieth. It snowballed. Yet we still saw it as a stopgap thing although people suggested we make it a full-time business.’

 ‘A very high percentage of small businesses go bust in the first year,’ he couldn’t help but warn.

 She pulled a face that told him she didn’t take offence. ‘We were very aware of that. Eliza is the profit and loss spreadsheet maven. But then a public relations company I worked freelance for asked us to do corporate parties and product launches. The work was rolling in. We began to think we should make it official and form our own company.’

 ‘A brave move.’ He’d made brave moves in his time—and most of them had paid off. He gave her credit for initiative.

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