Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 46
By her birthday--six days after Bruce's--and after living with Alfred for over a month, Selina was convinced what sneaky instincts that training had honed into Batman Bruce had learned from the English butler. Anita and Jen had ambushed her after the meal at the party and had a low-key gush about helping Selina choose a wedding dress next week. Selina didn't remember picking a dress store, much less making an appointment, but her weekly schedule Alfred presented at breakfast yesterday showed she had an appointment on her birthday at one of the most prestigious bridal salons in the city and Alfred told Bruce he better find some gasoline for the Rolls for the trip. "I'm surprised he didn't make them bring the merchandise here," she said to Bruce after the door shut behind the older man.
"He wants to make sure you get the full bridal experience," Bruce answered as he frowned at his own schedule. "And he does love that Rolls."
She fell in with Alfred's plans, saving the fight against being managed for a later date. Bruce took Stephanie to the meetings he had with Jerry Cruncher and then a trip to St. Swithin's before meeting Selina, Jen, and Alfred at the Carlyle at the end of the day. Jen and Selina piled into the rear of the Rolls. "I'm glad nobody trashed the car," Jen said as they headed to the Cruncher's home.
"It got left in the Wayne Enterprises parking garage," Selina said. "Bane kept people away from the building during the Occupation."
Jen stopped flipping through the bridal magazine she had brought. "Sorry I brought it up, sweetie. I hate thinking we owe that asshole anything. Oops, sorry, Alfred."
"It is fine, Miss Jen. I feel the same way about that villain even if I do not phrase the sentiment that way."
Selina let it go. They both knew how she registered her complaints to Bane and any discussion about that would bring up what Jen didn't know.
Anita fell into the car with an aggravated groan. "School would start this week."
"My classes start tomorrow," Jen said.
"Young Jerry's started yesterday and he doesn't want to go. By the time I get him back into the routine, it'll be summer vacation." She growled behind her clenched teeth.
"If this store serves champagne, Anita gets all of it," Jen said.
"Sorry, I'll be better once the coffee kicks in. Where are you and Bruce enrolling Stephanie?"
"We haven't talked about school yet. We still haven't heard if the adoption is approved."
"They won't turn you and Bruce down," Jen said.
"You could hire someone to home school her," Anita added.
"I don't want to end up one of those rich people who never touches their kids." Selina frowned. She was better at long term planning than this.
"The schools in the Palisades are supposed to be the best in the state," Anita said. "And they'll make room for Bruce Wayne's children."
That was likely true, but Selina hadn't put any research into it. She knew Bruce had attended boarding schools after the death of his parents. Did he think that was best for their children?
The bridal shop was on Fifth Avenue just a few blocks away from old Wayne Tower. Selina had no chance to see how Talia al Ghul's crash had been repaired before Jen and Anita shoved her inside the other building. Jen laughed. "You can't get married in a dress you already have. Besides, they won't fit in two weeks anyway."
"Stop harping on how fat I'm getting."
Their sales consultant met them at the front sales counter. "Hello, I'm Tasha, you're the Selina Kyle party?"
"Hi, I'm Selina, the bride. This is my sister Jen and my friend Anita, and we can't leave without a dress."
Tasha smiled as she led them past the blank-faced mannequins wearing sumptuous white gowns and less-detailed colored ones for bridesmaids or evening wear. "The ceremony is on the nineteenth at Liberty Church? So you need a cathedral train?" She stopped inside a small room with a large mirror propped against the wall and a brown velvety couch behind the round stand in front of the mirror. She sat down in a small chair next to the mirror frame.
Selina hung onto Jen's arm as she eased down onto the armless couch. "No cathedral train. We are getting married at Liberty Church on the nineteenth but in their Meditation Chapel."
"Bruce is wearing morning dress since it's an afternoon wedding," Jen said. "Alfred said to make sure you know that."
"And Alfred is?" Tasha asked.
"In charge of everything," Anita explained with a laugh.
"Yeah, we got out of the stereotypical mother of the bride and ended up with a butler of the groom." Jen giggled.
"He raised Bruce and wants everything perfect and proper," Selina said and ignored her inner quail that wouldn't be the result of this wedding. "My wedding dress needs to go from a morning dress wedding to a black-tie reception at Wayne Manor."
"You can change at the reception," Anita said.
"I still have to show off the wedding dress for a while."
Tasha nodded. "What about your personal style? What do you love to wear?"
"The more classical, the better," Jen answered.
"That's true, I like tailored suits and gowns, but I'm pregnant." Selina rubbed her baby bump through her blouse.
Tasha nodded. "That rules out Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and Inbal Dror. Mira Zwillinger will fit your pregnancy, but that style is probably too diaphanous. Let's try concentrating the tailoring to your shoulders and cleavage, and let the rest of the dress float free from an empire waist. Unless you have your heart set on a ball gown. We can find a way to make one fit."
Selina's eyes widened. "The first option, I can't even fathom functioning in that much skirt."
"Aw, I want to see you as a powder puff!"
"Ignore my sister. Everything goes quicker that way."
Tasha nodded as she stood up. "Let me get some samples."
"This is nice." Anita ran her hand along the couch's upholstery. "I bought my wedding dress from David's Bridal. I don't know how they fit that many people in the building."
"I wanted to go see Kleinfeld, but Alfred pointed out we're having enough trouble with television cameras." Jen shook her head.
Selina forgave Alfred the wedding dress shove since he kept her from getting mobbed by the producers of Say Yes to the Dress. She could only imagine how they'd react trying to get Bruce Wayne's bride on their show. "We have to arrange the taping of an interview for Gotham Tonight between Bruce's meetings and the wedding stuff."
"Bruce's meetings?" Jen tilted her head. "I thought they just wanted Cinderella?"
"Bruce insisted on both of us."
"He wants to protect you from the big bad reporter," Anita teased.
"You're joking but that's exactly how Bruce sees it. I've told him scowling on national television won't make them leave us alone."
"That would be a good topic for your unavoidable Barbara Walters special."
Selina shook her finger at Anita. "That's not funny. They're already contacted us about surviving the Occupation."
Tasha returned with an armful of dresses and they settled down to the serious business. Mira Zwillinger gowns were too lacy and frothy for a winter wedding and felt too exposed for a proper church wedding. Tasha brought forward a Jenny Packham gown that Selina loved only the lines would be ruined if the silver belt moved up from the waistline. Tasha got them refreshments and headed back for the gowns with empire waistlines.
Selina modeled three gowns from the Jenny Packham collection for Jen and Anita. They all agreed she looked best in the Muscari. Rhinestones created the halter, covered her sternum, wrapped around her ribs under her breasts and met the cascade covering the shoulder blades behind her back. The loose silk crepe floated over her baby bump without drawing attention to it.
Jen blinked rapidly. "Oh my god, Selina, if you don't buy that dress, I'm telling Alfred!"
Anita nodded. "That's the dress. That's the one."
So that dress and an extra-long bead edge tulle veil were bought and alterations scheduled for next week. Selina passed on the store's jewelry accessories; she knew where to get better bling. The shoes had to be bought elsewhere because her pregnant feet couldn't stand in what they offered.
Alfred drove them to their lunch reservations. Anita started ticking off the remaining items. "Foundation garments and shoes before the next fitting, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."
"Leslie already offered me something borrowed," Selina said. "A pair of diamond earrings her parents gave her when she had her debutante ball."
"Diamonds?" Jen smirked. "You'll accept diamonds from her?"
"And I'm giving them back. Can't my engagement ring count as something old? This is fun, but I can't spend the whole two weeks before the wedding shopping."
Anita and Jen laughed at her as they entered the restaurant. Selina didn't resent their amusement, though she remembered a time when she would have because she had no attachments to the ones laughing and there was nothing in her life worth laughing about. She couldn't trust her life to any attachments and only allowed Jen in because she never should have left her sister behind. Now look at her, attachments she didn't deserve all over the place.
Taking things she didn't deserve was her skill set and she was damn proud of her skills.
During lunch and dropping Anita back at her home, they decided the cat's eye ring counted as something old, Selina needed to get something new to anchor the veil to her head, and nobody had any ideas for something blue.
"Fall back is jewelry." Jen leaned her head against the head rest. "A nice sapphire necklace maybe."
Selina shook her head. "Even if there weren't other issues, a necklace would clash with the neckline of the dress. It's covered in rhinestones," she added for Alfred's benefit.
Alfred glanced at them with the rearview mirror. "Other issues? You have a ban on sapphires as well, Miss Selina?"
"Not a ban; if Bruce's mother hadn't worn sapphires to her wedding, I'd be willing."
"Bruce's list of superstitions is longer than the wedding industry's." Jen waved her bridal magazine.
Selina saw the question in Alfred's blue eyes, but shook her head slightly. She didn't object to telling him about Bruce's reaction to finding his mother's jewelry in the safety deposit box but not in front of Jen. "The garter can be blue to cover the rhyme," he suggested as he maneuvered the car through the road construction detours.
"I thought you promised me we weren't doing anything as gauche as the bouquet and garter tosses."
He smiled. "Just because Master Wayne will not dive under your skirts for it doesn't mean you cannot wear one."
"What happens to the bouquet if you don't throw it?" Jen asked.
"We decided on an anniversary dance and will give it to the couple who has been married the longest."
"So we are having dancing at the reception even though we aren't hiring a DJ?"
Alfred sniffed. "The string quartet has provided suitable dance music for countless affairs without turning the Manor ballroom into a nightclub."
Jen shifted in her seat. "No nightclub right, but we're still doing bride and groom's first dance and et cetera?"
"I don't know about the traditional parental dances given the personal circumstances, but yes, the musicians can provide a tune for the bride and groom's first dance." Alfred pulled in front of the Carlyle while Jen frowned.
Bruce and Stephanie waited in the lobby, the four-year-old with crossed arms and a red, pinched face and the adult wary. Bruce saw Selina and Jen first and moved to intercept them. "You need to talk to her."
"What happened?" She passed him the overnight bag.
"I'm not sure and I don't know how I made it worse."
Jen shook her head. "You usually better than that with her, but I've got a question for you."
Selina trusted Bruce could manage Jen and sat next to Stephanie on the bench. "You look mad," she lied. Now that she was closer, she saw the puffed-up face was to keep tears in. "Did something happen at the office? Or St. Swithin's?"
"One of the boys said you and Bruce didn't really want me cause you have a baby coming and called me a public stunt."
Cynical little brat, thanks for passing it on. "You're not a publicity stunt and we love you very much." She soothed the blonde hair.
"Bruce, that's completely morbid. It's a wedding!" Jen exclaimed and then covered her mouth when everyone in the hotel lobby looked at her. Bruce pulled her closer to the outer door.
"If you love me, why do you want a night away from me?" Stephanie's chin wobbled as she stared at the floor.
"Bruce didn't say that."
"He said everybody."
Selina sighed. "Bruce got the wrong idea why I wanted this for my birthday." Stephanie looked at her. "This is where I realized I loved Bruce and where he did something stupid that he needs to make up for."
"He didn't say sorry?"
"He has, well in Bruce's way. This isn't about apologizing; it's about him not repeating the same stupid."
"So you don't want to get rid of me?"
"You are stuck with us forever, sweetie. But sometimes we'll have to take trips away from you and you'll take trips away from us. That doesn't mean anybody wants to get rid of the rest of the family, okay?" Stephanie nodded. "And if another kid tells you lies to hurt your feelings, you kick him in the leg," Selina added.
Tara Ross, daughter of Blake's former partner and Blake's first honorary niece, had become Stephanie's friend on the first trip to St. Swithin's. "I like her a lot," Selina said.
"Me too." Stephanie stood up on the bench and hugged Selina's neck. Selina wrapped her arms around her body.
"Everything better now?" Bruce asked as he and Jen returned.
"I think so," Selina answered.
Stephanie let go of Selina and looked at him. "What stupid thing did you do here?"
Surprise flickered over his face. "I tried to leave Selina behind, but she followed me. I know better now."
Jen snickered. "I bet you do. Come on, short stuff, we're having a sleepover marathon of Disney movies."
"And we'll have birthday cake and ice cream tomorrow when Bruce and I get back."
"Yay, ice cream." Stephanie jumped off the bench and grabbed Jen's hand. "Bye-bye."
Bruce and Selina waved at her while they left, and then Bruce turned to her. "Wait here while I check us in." It didn't take long at the empty front desk. He carried their bag and his briefcase and escorted her to the elevator. "She was upset about us leaving for the night?"
"A boy at St. Swithin's told her that her adoption is a publicity stunt, so when you told her we were getting away from everybody--"
"She thought we want to be rid of her," he finished. "She should have told me."
"Kids don't always do what they should."
"I should know, I was the best at that. That reminds me, we need to keep the greenhouse locked. I think Alfred let the gardeners start using it again when we rebuilt the Manor." He pulled his cell phone out and typed a note on it.
"Do we have dangerous plants in the greenhouse?"
"No, an old well that I fell into and sprained my arm. I couldn't fill it in when it made another entrance to the Batcave. But Stephanie or her friends don't need to find that ladder."
That didn't make any sense, but his cell phone rang as the elevator door opened on the thirty-third floor. "You got the same room?"
He nodded as he answered the call. "Wayne." She smirked as she pressed up against him and lifted the key cards. He followed her down the hall to 3312. "The twentieth? The election is this weekend and they think all the new city officials will be ready to go by the twentieth?"
Selina opened the door and went down the smaller hallway to the living room. The window's view over Trillium Park showed the winter wonderland the city always made out of the snow-covered green space, but the street lights twinkling on didn't distract from the construction zone on the one street she could see.
"It can't be helped, but it sounds like someone thinks they've manipulated things so we won't win the bid. Who else is competing for it?" He paused behind Selina, but she didn't turn around. "I'll do some digging into those companies, and we'll make the meeting. We'll talk strategy on Thursday. Good-bye." He stepped up behind her, lifted her long brown hair over her shoulder, and kissed the back of her neck. "The honeymoon is out. I have to go to a city planning meeting on the twentieth."
She leaned against him as his arms wrapped around her. "We were planning a honeymoon?"
"I had hopes of locking us up in the master suite at the Manor and telling everyone to enter at their own risk for the rest of the week. But the meeting is bidding on repairing Gotham Stadium and I want Revitalize Gotham to get the job."
She rubbed his arms covered by his suit jacket. "It's fine. I wasn't counting on a whirlwind trip to Europe or the Caribbean right now. Not with everything that's going on. What did Jen coerce you into doing?"
"Oh the reception dances. I agreed that my dancing with her and you dancing with Alfred would make a good substitute for the mother of the groom, father of the bride dances. She didn't think you'd have a problem with it."
"Springing a deviation on Alfred where he can't hide behind I'm just the help or make a scene because everyone's watching?" She grinned. "I'd call that karmically poetic revenge for the party he's making us have."
His chuckle vibrated through her back. "Was wedding dress shopping that awful?"
"No, it wasn't, but I don't like being managed like you have to be."
"Give him time. He'll develop a whole new way to manage you." Bruce released her with a kiss behind her ear. "I'll put our stuff in the room; you figure out the room service."
She flipped her hair off her shoulder and moved to the desk. "What are you in the mood for or should I just surprise you?"
"Not chicken," he called back.
"He wants to be surprised then," she muttered. The Carlyle's edited menu offered a Beef Wellington that sounded delicious. The sides listed were okay, but she wanted a salad with a ginger dressing. She flipped through the menu when a necklace box with a red ribbon tied around it slipped over the pages.
"Happy birthday," Bruce said behind her and kissed her cheek.
"I guess neither one of us listens when it comes to no presents." She smirked as she put down the menu and took the box.
He moved around to see her face. "I bought it for you without plans to give it to you for your birthday. But you might want it for the wedding." He glanced away before her sliding the ribbon off pulled his gaze back to her and the box.
Inside was a gorgeous mass of turquoise stones. The horseshoe-shaped pendent would hang below her breasts, but the rows of paired stones making up the chain were too pointed to wear with the wedding dress. "You definitely inherited the Wayne ability to pick out fabulous jewelry, but I can't wear it with the dress I picked out."
He shrugged. "So I suppose it's fine for me to see you in it now?" He lifted it from the box and put it around her neck.
She looked down as she pulled her hair out of the way. "It will snag on this sweater." The black mohair would catch in all the metal backs of the stone.
"I have an idea." He slid the necklace under the collar and then pulled the thin sweater up over her head. His long fingers slid against her skin until the sweater was in his hands. He tossed it aside as he moved around her to see the necklace. "It still isn't hanging right."
She raised her eyebrow, enjoying the tingle his gaze on her was setting off. "Well, fix it."
His hands ran up her arms, over her shoulders, and down her back. Her skin shivered. He unclasped her bra and reversed his hands, drawing her bra down with them. The turquoise stones fell between her freed breasts. "Much better." Her bra flew through the air to join her sweater.
"I think you have a fetish with women only wearing jewelry." She planted her hands on her hips.
He drew her toward the sofa. "Not women, only you."