Read Raising Rain Online

Authors: Debbie Fuller Thomas

Raising Rain (3 page)

They agreed to meet on the following Saturday to discuss Jude's Celebration of Life at Dulcinea's, an organic restaurant in Davis, where Mare could have something vegan and Toni could still have a mimosa.

Lastly, Bebe punched in Jude's number and waited, almost hoping she wouldn't pick up so that Bebe could just leave a message. How cowardly she felt. William answered, saying that, thank heavens, Jude was asleep.

“Please let her know that we're meeting at Dulcinea's in Davis on Saturday at noon to plan her celebration. Do you think she'll be feeling up to it?”

“She should be. She doesn't have a treatment scheduled until the following week, but she'll tire easily.”

“How is she, William?”

He sighed. “Difficult. She'd probably divorce me, if we were married. But we both know that would never happen.” He chuckled grimly.

“I'm sorry you're in a bad place. She can't be easy to care for.”

“No, she's not. Still, as cantankerous as she is, it's hard to see her like this.”

“Do you have a friend or someone to talk with about it?”

“Not unless my therapist qualifies.”

Bebe was surprised at his candor and imagined how isolated he must be feeling.

“Rain just told me about it yesterday,” she said. “Why didn't Jude tell anyone before this?”

“Pride. You wouldn't know now, if she hadn't thought up this Celebration of Life.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Bebe offered. “I could drive over.”

“That's not a good idea right now. She would probably see it as pity, since you haven't seen each other for a while. Just keep her involved in the celebration planning. She won't be satisfied unless she thinks she's in charge of the whole thing.”

Bebe heard the weariness in his voice. “It sounds like you could use a day off. Would you rather that we come to your house instead? San Francisco isn't that much farther for us than Davis. You could have the morning all to yourself.”

“No, I think I'll explore Davis while you're having lunch and come back when you're done. Don't worry about me.”

He promised to let Jude know about the luncheon, and Bebe hung up. She imagined William sitting in their living room with every piece of artwork leveled exactly one hand-width above the furniture, his architectural magazines stacked precisely on the glass coffee table, restacking them alphabetically with his fingernails clipped to a thin moon of white. Jude was the one thing in his life he couldn't control, no matter how he tried.

The strains of “Carry On Wayward Son” filtered through the bedroom wall. She wanted to go out to the family room and spend the rest of the evening with Neil and the boys, but the music made her uncomfortable, even though she found herself tapping her foot with the beat.

She didn't want to nag them or interfere with their “guy time.” Considering where they were each headed, the boys would both be exposed to much more than classic rock lyrics soon enough.

In a few weeks, there would be just her and Neil again, and, guys being guys, there weren't many ways for the boys to connect with her as it was. They'd gone out for pizza as a family every Friday night, until the boys started dating and preferred going out with friends instead.
They'd all gone to church together, until the college-aged class began meeting on Saturday nights instead of Sunday mornings. She longed for the days when they could all agree on a movie to watch and spend the evening together eating popcorn and laughing. Those days were gone. Perhaps it was the combination of the looming empty nest, the fact that Scott and Dylan were already distancing themselves, that Rain was broken and searching, or that Jude was terminally ill. Perhaps it was the music of a turbulent generation subtly underscoring everything. She suddenly felt overwhelmed and vulnerable, and got ready for bed.

But one question presented itself to Bebe in sharp relief about the celebration of Jude's life. Did she really want to celebrate the life of someone whose influence had almost caused her to lose her way?

B
ebe was already waiting at the table at Dulcinea's on Saturday when Toni and Mare arrived—Toni a fragrant and elegant orchid to Mare's simple sweet alyssum. They both hugged her and settled their high-backed rattan chairs closer to the table.

“So where's the guest of honor?” Toni asked, waving her manicured hand to the server. “Fashionably late again?”

“Toni, be good,” Mare chided.

The server came to their table and introduced himself as “Rolf.”

“Mimosa, please, Rolf,” Toni said, flashing him a sly smile.

Bebe ordered iced tea and Mare ordered hot chamomile.

Toni rolled her eyes at Mare when the server left. “You're still drinking that stuff? Honey, when are you going to grow up?”

Mare looked offended. “Chamomile is very—”

“Ladies,” Bebe said, “let's all play nice and this morning will move along faster.”

“All right. Sorry, Mare,” Toni said, air kissing her across the table. “I guess I'm a bit stressed about today.”

“I think we all feel that way,” Bebe said.

“So, what exactly did Rain say about her mom when you talked to her?” Mare asked.

“You can ask her yourself. Here she comes.” Bebe waved to Rain who stood at the entrance scanning the tables. She headed toward them, weaving through the elephant ear palms that made each table into an island of its own. They fawned over her like she was three years old again.

Bebe pulled out a chair beside her and Rain settled into it.

“What did Mom say when you called her about today?” Rain asked her.

“She was asleep, but William said he'd make sure she got here.”

Rain's countenance carried the weight of too many worries, and frown lines had already deepened between her brows. While Toni shamelessly admired the servers and Mare prompted her to act her age, Bebe took advantage of their distractedness to ask Rain how things were going.

“Hayden and I haven't spoken, if that's what you mean.” She glanced nervously at the entrance. “Did you say anything?”

“I haven't said a word.”

Rain frowned. “I don't care if they know Hayden moved out. They're going to find out anyway. I just don't want to discuss why yet.”

Toni's voice rose. “Not only is Marin closer than San Jose, but they were doing work on the Benicia Bridge and I had to allow two hours just to get here.” She immediately turned apologetic eyes to Rain. “Not that I'm complaining. You know I'd do anything for you.”

Mare
hmphed
and took the teacup from the server who appeared at her elbow. Toni threw an admiring look at the young man and daintily took the champagne glass from him with her diamond rings twinkling.

“Toni, you're shameless,” Mare scolded as he left. “You do realize he's young enough to be your son.”

“I don't want him to marry my daughter, I just want to look.” Toni took a sip of her mimosa.

“You don't have a daughter,” Mare pointed out, dunking her teabag into the hot water.

“I have a stepdaughter, poor old thing. And Rolf is decidedly too good for Alfie. She wears Birkenstocks.”

“Toni,” Bebe warned.

Mare's jaw dropped. “There is nothing wrong with—”

“I only meant that she's . . . boring.” Toni waved away the visual.

“Ladies, Mom's here,” Rain broke in.

Bebe looked from Rain's solemn face to the entrance. Jude stood looking down her nose at the restaurant patrons, framed by the arched doorway with her jacket draped over her arm like a modern-day Nero scanning the restaurant for survivors.

Toni turned back to the group. “We could duck under the table. She'd never find us in this jungle.”

Mare flapped her hand to shush her and Toni chuckled. “Just joking, Rain.”

Bebe waved and Jude lifted her chin when she saw them. “Here she is,” Bebe said under her breath. “Now behave.”

Jude carefully navigated her way through the tables and they greeted her with smiles.

“We'd give you hugs, but we know you're not the huggy type,” Mare explained.

“Thank you for that,” Jude said.

The only open chair was across the table from Bebe. As Jude settled into it, Bebe saw her take note of Rain's close proximity to Bebe.

“Would you like to switch places with me?” Bebe offered.

“Of course not. I'm fine right where I am.” Then she scrunched up her nose as though some smell offended her. “But I would prefer if Toni would switch seats with Mare. Your perfume is overwhelming.”

Toni opened her mouth to protest, but checked herself and gave Jude an overly sweet smile. “And I was so frugal with it this morning.”

Mare got up to switch seats. “What do you wear now? It smells nice.” She lifted her nose to an invisible scent. “It's different.”

“It's my own fragrance. The last time Lawrence took me to Cannes
we stopped by Gasse and toured the perfume shops. He had it specially made for me, and I'm almost out. You can tell it has base notes of cinnamon.” She extended her wrist to Mare, and then to Rain and Bebe. “It's obscenely expensive.”

Rain said that it was sensual, and Bebe added, “We always knew when Toni was home because of the cloud of Chantilly that settled over the house.”

Jude added, “We hung gas masks by the front door.”

Toni shrugged, lifting her hands in surrender. “It was my signature scent, what can I say?”

“I see you're still wearing purple,” Jude said to Bebe, nodding at her shirt.

Bebe glanced down at her V-necked top with the white camisole peeking from the front and didn't know how to respond. Was that supposed to be a slight? “It's not
purple
,” she said, shaking the word loose. “It's a tasteful, understated . . . plum.”

Jude hiked her eyebrows as though Bebe were only fooling herself. “Bebe, you look good in shades of purple,” Rain said, coming to her aid. “It complements your skin tone.”

Bebe flashed Rain a discreet grin.

Rolf returned to the table to take their orders since their entire party had arrived. Jude ordered only pomegranate juice. Mare took her time ordering, asking for detailed descriptions of each entrée she was interested in. Toni thought she took way too long, and told her so when the server left.

“I care what I put into my body. What's wrong with that?” Mare answered.

“Do you really think it matters? You used to eat sugar by the spoonful. It's a bit late to start worrying now.”

“It's never too late to be concerned about your . . . health.” Mare's eyes slid to Jude and her voice trailed off.

Rolf refilled Bebe's iced tea and slipped away before she could get his attention. “I was going to ask him if they had any sweetener.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she looked up at Mare. “Oops.”

“Bebe, sweeteners are just little packets of chemicals. How many times have I told you?”

“Too many.” Toni rolled her eyes and took another sip of her mimosa.

Rain nodded toward the next table. “There's organic sweetener over there. You want me to get some?”

“No, this is fine,” Bebe assured her, reaching for the raw sugar. She spooned it into her tea and it sank to the bottom of her glass like tiny aquarium pebbles. “So, how's your boutique doing, Mare?”

“Very well, since we reopened last February. We have a beautiful new line of natural fiber clothing from bamboo and hemp. But we're finding that we have to be careful about our suppliers, because not all the hemp clothing we're getting is organic.”

“Hemp?” Bebe repeated, stumbling over the word.

“Yes. In fact, you might be interested in a new line of hemp linen scrubs that I found recently. They're incredibly soft and easy to care for.”

Toni jumped in. “And if they shrink in the wash, you can roll them up and smoke them in your pipe.”

Mare dismissed her and continued. “And bamboo doesn't require fertilizers or pesticides, so it's ecofriendly. I just designed a line of gorgeous caftans in earth tones. You should visit our new website.”

Toni tilted her head and waggled her champagne glass. “Mare, I hate to break it to you, but friends don't let friends wear caftans.”

Mare turned to Toni. “Now, that's just your opinion.”

“It was on
What Not to Wear
just last week.” Toni pointed her finger at Rain. “Rain, back me up on this.”

Rain lifted her hands in defense. “No comment.”

“This woman had a closet full of caftans that were ugly and baggy with huge flowered prints, like these seat cushions. Very ‘old lady'. They gathered them all and tossed them in the trash.”

Mare shot back, “Well, you're an old lady now. Maybe I'll whip up a very special caftan for you. One with a wild tie-dyed print like that tunic you wore every single day of your freshman year.”

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