Authors: Eliza Kennedy
He was a little shy at first, but not for long. We talked for an hour. He told me he was an archaeologist. I told him I was an astronaut. He said he was serious. I laughed at him. He showed me his museum ID to prove it. Then he told me all about his job, and he was so earnest and charming. I told him what I did, and he pretended to be interested. I asked him to speak Latin, and he did, but he wouldn’t translate what he said. Then he spoke a few more languages—Aramaic and ancient Greek, I think. Then we were kissing. Then we were leaving. My building was a block away. We barely made it into the elevator before we started tearing each other’s clothes off. Once we got inside the apartment, we didn’t leave again for three days.
The sex was amazing. The best I’ve ever had. Ardent and intense and dirty and … honest, is the only way I can describe it. We knew how to communicate with each other, right away. And it was so much
When I wasn’t coming, I was laughing. And I mean,
guy? This sweet, brainy guy? Will is good-looking, but he’s totally unaware of it. He wasn’t at that bar to pick up women. He wasn’t one of those men who are so impressed with themselves, so eager to telegraph their prowess. And yet he turned out to be this gifted, uninhibited sex maniac.
It was such a surprise. And I
Sometime in the middle of that first night, I woke up, aware that Will was touching me. Not like he had in the hours before, when it had been frantic and wild. Now it was slow, careful. Reverent. The light was on, and he was studying my body, inch by inch. Dwelling on my face. Combing his fingers through my hair. It was like he was memorizing me.
“You’re so beautiful,” he said softly.
I’m not, really I’m not, but who am I to contradict? Instead I raised my face and kissed his mouth and pulled him down to me again.
It came to an end, eventually, as it had to. I got dragged back into work on Monday, when the opposing side in one of my cases filed an emergency motion. I pulled an all-nighter at the firm, then another. I flew to California with Philip and Lyle for a hearing. By the time I got
back, Will had left for an academic conference in London. He was gone for a week. We’d been talking and e-mailing whenever we could, but I was swamped, and things kind of trailed off. Freddy and I went out one night while Will was gone. I met someone—the pickle guy. I went home with him. It was pretty great, which made me feel weirdly guilty. I barely knew Will. He had no claim on me. I had never felt bad before. Still. I did.
Two weeks after we first met, Will and I got together again. We went out to dinner, then back to his place and straight to bed. And it was nice. But not the same. He was reserved. Almost awkward. The same thing happened a few nights later, and the night after that. It was sweet, and tender, and romantic, but … a little dull. I didn’t say anything, expecting things to go back to the way they were. And I
liked him, so we kept seeing each other.
Two weeks after that, he proposed. He told me he’d had the ring made while he was in London, because even then he knew.
He knew! How crazy is that? No one had ever wanted to marry me before. I’m so not that kind of girl. But Will did. He loved me. I was shocked. I hated the thought of disappointing him. So I said yes.
Our sex life never reached the same heights, although I kept chasing those first three days. I finally concluded that Will didn’t have a very strong sex drive. Some guys are like that, I guess. I didn’t push matters. We’re busy people, we both work long hours—it’s just not a priority for him. Could I have forced the issue, demanded that we talk about it? Could I have initiated sex more? I suppose, and part of me is still mystified about why I didn’t. Maybe I was holding back a little. Or a lot. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea about me. Or the right idea. Whatever.
It doesn’t matter. After this morning, every average thing about our sex life is in the past. We’re back to where we started, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m not going to waste time wondering why. Maybe it’s the fresh ocean air. Maybe it’s the sultry surroundings. Maybe he couldn’t let loose and regain his lustfulness until now, the eve of our wedding.
I think the Amish are like that.
Bottom line? I am done,
done, with questioning my decision to get married. That business last night? The uncertainty, the
worry, the random flirtation and—let’s face it—mindless panic? So silly. So pointless. My initial instincts were right all along.
Everything’s going to be fine.
I sip my coffee. “What’s on the agenda this morning, Mattiecakes?”
“I’ve kept it light,” she replies, turning onto Whitehead Street. “After the restaurant we just have to stop by the new florist and go over the plan for the reception.”
“Great!” I say. “Wait. We have a new florist?”
“Yes. I fired the old one.”
Mattie sighs regretfully. “He wasn’t doing his best work.”
I think this over. “Shouldn’t I have been consulted?”
She turns to me, horrified. “Did you like Martin?”
“Well, no,” I admit. “I mean, I don’t have any idea what he was doing. And I probably would have gone along with whatever you wanted me to do. But …”
Why am I objecting? I’ve always given Mattie free rein. I need her to have free rein. Maybe I don’t like the pointed reminder of how uninvolved I’ve been in these proceedings. How disengaged.
Mattie pulls up in front of Blue Heaven, a funky island café on Thomas Street. She switches off the ignition and bursts into tears.
“I’m letting you down!” she wails.
Oh, Jesus. “Of course you’re not!” I assure her.
“Planning this wedding has been utterly overwhelming,” she confesses. “Your family is very …
And everything has been so last minute! I want it all to be perfect, but I haven’t gotten a great deal of direction from you. And now I’ve overstepped my bounds!”
“No no! You’re doing an amazing job, Mattie.”
She blows her nose and glances at me hopefully. “Really?”
“Absolutely,” I say. “This is my fault. I haven’t always responded as quickly as I should to your e-mails and texts and voice mails and Face-book messages and … everything else. But that’s going to change. Starting now.”
“Are you sure, dear?”
“Whatever you need me to do, Mattie, I’m here. Lay it on me. Let’s do it. Let’s
this wedding, okay?”
“Okay!” she warbles happily, and hops out of the car. We walk into the restaurant’s open-air courtyard, total besties. I realize I’m starving, and the owner is kind enough to give me a plate of fruit and a delicious Bloody Mary. We pore over the menu for the rehearsal dinner, and with the assistance of a second Bloody Mary, I make a number of critical bridal decisions (chicken
fish, bitches!). After a third, valedictory Bloody Mary, I follow Mattie back to the car.
“Key West has changed so much since you grew up here,” she tells me as she steers us back toward Duval Street. “We’re very cosmopolitan now. That’s an interesting shop over there.” She points at a cheerful yellow cottage. “It opened in November. They make … oh, what do you call it?” She snaps her fingers. “God bless it! Why can’t I remember? Comes from a cow.”
“No,” she says. “Harder.”
“No, it’s not sweet.”
” she cries. “They make their own cheese.”
“You forgot the word for cheese?”
“My memory is terrible these days,” she laments.
“Do you maybe need to, I don’t know, get that checked out?”
“Doctors can’t do anything for me, dear. It’s the Change.”
“The Change?” I repeat. “That sounds very dire.”
“Menopause. It’s relentless. The hot flashes. The metabolic shifts. The forgetfulness.” Her hand flutters to her forehead and flutters away again. “My mind is … oh, what do you call it? The thing with holes.”
“Yes! A sieve.”
I laugh. “You forgot the word that you wanted to use to describe how forgetful you are. That’s funny.”
She just looks at me.
“You’re right,” I say. “It’s not funny.”
Duval Street looks a lot less seedy in the morning light. The bars are shuttered. Tourists wander around sipping smoothies and Cuban coffee. The sidewalks are damp and clean.
“Do you see that church over there?” Mattie says, pointing at a white clapboard chapel.
“I have an idea! Let’s have Bloody Marys at the rehearsal dinner!”
Mattie cocks her head. “Isn’t that more of a morning beverage, dear?”
“Maybe we could do a breakfast-for-dinner theme,” I suggest. “With pancakes!”
“No,” she says. “Now, as I was saying. There’s a new pastor at that church. People adore her. I thought you might be interested in having her officiate on Saturday.”
Mattie launches into a story about the pastor while I watch a family of tourists buy palmetto hats from a ragged hippie. Teddy and I wove hats one spring break, when we were eleven or twelve. Our hats were terrible, but we were so cute. We made a killing. Then we blew all our earnings on ice cream and firecrackers.
“Lily?” Mattie says.
I turn. She’s waiting for me to say something. “Sorry. Don’t we already have a pastor?”
“Yes,” Mattie says reluctantly. “Leonard Garment.”
“Right. Will talked to him on the phone. He really likes him.” Actually, I think Will just wants our marriage certificate to be signed by someone named Reverend Garment. But he made the decision—I can’t overrule him.
“The last thing I want to do is second-guess your choices,” Mattie says. “But I think Len would be a serious mistake.”
Mattie slams on the brakes just in time to avoid crushing a small electric car puttering ahead of us. “I see your wedding as an elegant, storybook kind of affair,” she replies. “Quite formal and traditional.”
I have to laugh. “You’ve got me pegged, sister.”
“Len is so … countercultural.” Mattie frowns. “He’s very irreverent. I think he’ll send the wrong message.”
I gaze out the window while she keeps talking. We’re on Margaret Street now. Marriage certificates. Officiants. It all sounds so very … official.
“Lily?” Mattie is looking at me intently.
“What? Oh, sorry.” I roll down the window. It’s really warm in here all of a sudden. “If you think it’s a big deal, I’ll talk to Will about it.”
“Wonderful! You’ll be glad you did.”
My phone rings. I answer. “Hola, madrasta bonita!”
“If you marry that poor boy, you’re both going to regret it for the rest of your lives,” Ana says.
I lean back against the headrest. “Will you please fuck off?”
Mattie jumps a little in her seat. “Sorry!” I whisper. Back to Ana: “I’m not changing my mind. Deal with it.”
“Then how about this,” she says. “Postpone. Give yourselves time to get to know each other better. If you still want to get married, we all reconvene here in six months. What do you say?”
I have to be careful—Ana’s persuasive as hell, and her inner conviction can be contagious. When I was little, she was always conning me into doing things I didn’t want to do—attending rallies, campaigning with her, trying weird foods. She’s passionate and dramatic and always, always right. Which often makes her very, very annoying.
“Sorry,” I say. “Not doing it.”
“Dammit, Lilybear. You’re so stubborn.”
“Wonder where I learned that.”
“You worthless piece of shit!” she cries loudly.
I hold the phone away from my ear. “That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?”
“Not you,” she says absently. “I’m reading an e-mail.”
“Yeah? Glad to know you’re maintaining a single-minded focus on my concerns.”
,” she hisses, and I hear the clatter of keys as she starts typing angrily.
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No,” she says, her mind clearly elsewhere. “I mean yes. Give me your friend’s number. The designer. I need help finding a dress.”
“You don’t have a dress for the wedding?”
“When do I have time to shop?” she protests. “And frankly, I didn’t think you’d actually go through with it.”
I give her Freddy’s number.
“Now,” Ana continues, “if you start having second thoughts—”
I hang up on her as Mattie pulls up to a weather-beaten grey house with purple trim. The crooked front porch is bursting with plants and flowers. The hand-painted sign reads
ROSE’S FLOWERS AND GIFTS.
“Here we are!” Mattie chirps.
I gape at her. “You brought me to a sex shop?”
She looks mortified. “No no no! This is—”
“Mattie, that’s disgusting! I don’t go for that sort of thing!”
“I would never—”
I pat her thigh. “Relax. I’m only teasing you.”
“Oh,” she says, slightly mollified. “Well, that’s—”
“This is obviously a funeral parlor,” I say.
Three drinks on an empty stomach and I’m tormenting this poor woman. I apologize, and we go inside, where I meet Rose, a pleasant woman with pink cheeks and a halo of frizzy white hair. She has a folder of paperwork spread on the counter in front of her.
“These are the plans Martin worked up,” she says. “It’s a lovely start. But I think I can make a few improvements.”
Rose and Mattie bend their heads together. I check my e-mail and work voice mail. My phone pings with a text.
—Hw do I tzpe on ths fubking thig,
It’s Gran. I type back:
—pls stop spamming me
About five minutes later, I get:
This is fun.
—youre one of those internet perverts, arent you. im going to report you to the FTC
—youre sick, mister, you know that? sick
She finally calls, sputtering with rage.
“Texting is supposed to save time,” I tell her. “It doesn’t make any sense for someone in your condition.”
“What the hell?” she snaps. “What condition?”
“One foot and all ten fingers in the grave.” I pull a couple of sprigs of baby’s breath out of a vase and start crumbling them between my fingers. “What’s up?”