Authors: Eliza Kennedy
“I need to add a guest. Assuming you’re still going through with this wedding nonsense.”
“Of course I’m still going through with this wedding nonsense!”
Mattie and Rose stop talking and look up. “Prank caller,” I explain. To Gran: “Sorry, aged relation. We’re at capacity.”
“You can fit one more,” Gran insists. “My all-time favorite client just got paroled.”
“Mazel tov. What was he in for?”
“She,” Gran replies. “Ran her husband over with a speedboat.”
“Did he deserve it?”
“They all deserve it,” she says darkly.
I start poking holes in a block of dank, squishy green florist’s foam. Rose is eyeing me. I make a
face and push it away. “Your friend sounds like a super-fun addition to the party, Gran, but—”
“Dawn’s a gas. And she’s lonely. I thought maybe she could meet someone.”
“You want to use my wedding to help a murderer find a hookup?” Rose and Mattie look up again.
“Manslaughterer,” Gran says. “She took a plea.”
“Oh!” I say. “That’s fine. Consider it done.”
We gab awhile longer, then I hang up. Mattie is in raptures over whatever floral wizardry Rose is performing. I listen to them idly. Rehearsal dinners. Stepmother-of-the-bride dresses. Last-minute guests. Since the moment Will and I got engaged, the wedding has been a little bit unreal to me. Slightly theoretical. I was in New York, working hard, living my life. Most of the planning was going on down here, in the hands of people I’d never met. All I had to do was send guest lists, listen to Mattie yak, and say yes, or no, or let me ask Will.
Now it’s all very real.
“—and a lovely spray of daisies here,” Rose says, sketching rapidly. “Some people say that peonies brown too quickly, but I entirely disagree, so we could have some
Real! That’s good! Realness is a good thing. I think about Will, how he was in bed this morning. If it takes a wedding, with its vows of faithfulness and constancy, to get a lifetime of that? No problem. No problem at all.
“I have something else to show you.” Rose leads us to a small table covered with scraps of cloth. “Mattie said that you need gauze bags to hold the wedding favors.”
“Candied almonds, stamped with your and Will’s initials,” Mattie explains. “In a drawstring bag sealed with a ribbon and a spray of silk flowers. I left you a voice mail about it?”
“I picked out a few fabric samples,” Rose says, “but I wasn’t sure which one matched the bridesmaids’ dresses.”
“Do they have to match?” I ask.
“Everything matches,” she replies.
“From a visual perspective, a wedding is all about symmetry and cohesion and continuity,” Rose says earnestly. “That’s why we want the flowers at the ceremony and the reception to be foreshadowed by the flowers at the rehearsal supper, and to be echoed, you might say, by the flowers on the tables at the Sunday brunch.”
Mattie chimes in. “That’s also the reason why the font used in the programs matches the font on the invitations and on the place cards for the meals.”
“So,” Rose continues, “the fabric used for the wedding favors should match the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses.”
“Which also matches the lining of the envelopes that held the invitations,” Mattie concludes.
They’re staring at me.
I’m staring back.
I’ve been kidnapped by a couple of obsessive-compulsive space aliens.
They’re waiting for me to say something.
“Ladies?” I clap my hands together. “Let’s match some motherfucking gauze!”
Rose looks a little startled, but recovers and presents me with six squares of champagne-colored fabric.
I gaze down at them. “These are completely identical.”
“No they’re not,” Rose says.
I turn to Mattie. “Rose be trippin’.”
“Take your time,” Mattie urges me. “Hold them up to the light.”
I look at her, then at Rose. “Ladies? To say that I do not give two shits about this vastly overestimates the value I place on shits.”
They puzzle that one out for a moment. So do I. Those Bloody Marys must have been pretty strong.
“It’s the second swatch,” Mattie tells me.
“It’s the second swatch,” I tell Rose.
She sweeps the others away with a smile.
“You’re an easy bride.”
“Honey,” I laugh, “you have no idea.”
“I have a few thoughts about how to decorate the restrooms at the Audubon House,” Rose continues.
“The Audubon House,” Mattie murmurs. “Where you’re holding your reception.”
“Right!” I cry. “Wait. We have to decorate the bathrooms?”
“It’s customary,” Rose informs me. “Tea candles, scented soaps, embroidered hand towels. Perhaps a posy.”
“A posy.” I nod. “But only perhaps.”
She’s rooting around in a plastic bin. “I have just the thing.”
My phone pings with a text from Will.
—Where are you?
It’s one fifteen. I’m late for lunch.
I leave Mattie
with Rose and hurry to the restaurant. As I turn onto Simonton Street I nearly collide with a woman leaving a salon. She’s wearing shorts and flip-flops, but her hair is swept up elegantly and topped with a veil. Another bride, doing a dry run for her big day. She looks so happy.
My phone rings. I answer. “Yo, dawg!”
“Lily?” Jane says. “I need a favor.”
“For you, mon cherie? Anything.”
“I take it you haven’t changed your mind about the wedding?”
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
“We suffer under a collective delusion that you might someday do something sensible.”
“Ha! When pigs freeze over. When hell flies.”
“Indeed,” Jane says drily. “Now please listen carefully. Two couples are coming to the wedding. They’re friends of mine. The Gortons and the Heydriches. They need to be seated at separate tables.”
“Uh-oh! Who bonked who?”
“Whom,” she corrects me, then hesitates. “Donald Heydrich and Mitzy Gorton.”
“No!” I cry. “Not Donald and Mitzy!”
I actually have no idea who these people are. I don’t know half the people my parents have invited to the wedding.
Jane sighs. “I’m afraid so.”
“You run with a fast crowd, Janey. Hey, that reminds me. Are the swingers coming?”
“As I’ve told you numerous times, Bob and Gloria are
swingers,” she says sternly. “It’s a vicious rumor started by that insufferable Sloane Kittredge.”
“I hope so. I’m trying to run a clean family wedding here.”
“Have you been drinking?” she demands.
“Oh, Jane!” I laugh uproariously. “The very thought!”
“Let me finish, please. The worst is over now, thank God. It was all so tiresome—the tears, the recriminations.” Jane sighs again, and I can just picture her, reclining on the sofa at Gran’s house, hair fanned out on the pillows. Admiring the rings on her fingers, looking down her long, elegant nose at these naive little people and their tedious tantrums. When I first met Jane, I thought of her as the Snow Queen—the beautiful fairy-tale bitch who steals children and makes them forget their friends and family. I thought she was deliberately wrenching me away from Ana, but of course that’s not what she was after at all. Eventually, she became fascinating to me—I’d never met another woman like her, so urbane and knowledgeable about things I’d never taken an interest in: power and money and beauty and relationships between men and women.
“You would have thought it was the end of the world, instead of some silly fling,” she continues.
“People can be so dramatic,” I agree.
“Now, their spouses have forgiven them, and everyone is moving on. Nevertheless, I promised that I would do my best to minimize contact among them this weekend. Can you help me?”
“Of course, the entire issue is moot if you—”
“The wedding is happening, Janey. I’m not changing my mind.”
“But Lily darling, think of—”
I’ve had enough of this for one morning. I hang up and turn onto Duval, where the heavy foot traffic slows me down. There’s a middle-aged couple walking ahead of me. They’re daytrippers off one of the big cruise ships. He’s wearing a Cubs hat, a camera slung around his neck. She’s got one of those no-nonsense midwestern haircuts. They’re fighting. I can tell. Walking side by side, but with six inches of militarized
distance between them. Not speaking, not touching, not looking at each other. They should be enjoying themselves. They’re on vacation, for God’s sake!
I bet Mitzy and her husband had ragingly hot morning sex at first. I bet Donald couldn’t get enough of his wife in the early years. These two ahead of me? Probably went at it like bunnies during those first heady days in Milwaukee or wherever. So what happens? Time passes. Boredom grows. The pressures and routines of daily life flatten the romance. And one night, after a few too many glasses of chardonnay at some fancy shindig, Mitzy glances at Donald across a room, and he glances back, and a spark ignites.
Or maybe it’s even worse—not physical temptation, but the slow, relentless accretion of slights and misunderstandings and annoyances and accommodations, until you find yourself walking down a street in paradise next to a stranger who you kind of hate. Love, gone. Affection, gone. Whatever brought you together in the first place, gone.
Jesus. Kill me now.
I find the restaurant and stop in the bathroom to freshen up. I have a quick drink at the bar to steady my nerves. From where I’m standing, I can see Will sitting on the deck with a pleasant-looking bald guy and a dark-haired woman in pink capris. Will says something, and his mom smiles widely. Gran wasn’t the only one to warn me about her. A few of the partners at my firm have gone up against Anita Field in white-collar cases. They told me to watch out for that smile. It’s how she bares her fangs.
I have one more drink and head out.
Halfway across the deck I bellow, “Hi there!” The men rise. The toe of my sandal catches on a slat and I pitch forward. Will catches me. He smiles as he guides me to my seat. “Easy, tiger,” he whispers.
We introduce ourselves. Will’s dad, Harry, seems like an amiable, easygoing guy. His mom is more high-strung, but pleasant. Hardly a—what was it? A killer? That was just the defense lawyer in Gran talking, with her reflexive mistrust of prosecutors.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” I say. “Our wedding planner had me running all over town.”
Will’s mom laughs. “I remember that so well,” she says. “Harry and I had a much smaller wedding than you two—only fifty guests or so. But the planning was endless! And it’s all up to the woman, right, Lily?” She zeroes in on me with her blue eyes.
She’s a pussycat! I begin to relax. “That’s right, Mrs. Field,” I say. “It’s so unfair.”
“Please,” she says. “Call me Anita.”
I smile. “Okay, Anita.”
She smiles back.
“Anita,” I repeat. “Ah. Nee. Tah. Ahhhhneeeeetaaaahhhh.”
She looks puzzled.
“Anita Bobita.” I bob my head. “Super Beeta.”
Why am I doing this?
“Lily?” Will says in a low voice.
I can’t seem to stop.
“Anita.” I go deep. “
Will is staring at me. I give him a reassuring smile.
Our waitress arrives. Anita orders the salmon, Harry has the tuna, Will has the grouper. “Scotch on the rocks,” I say when it’s my turn.
“And for your meal?” the waitress asks.
I smile up at her. “That is my meal, sweetheart.”
Will takes my hand. “You should order something.” He turns to his parents. “Lily works so hard she sometimes forgets to eat!”
“I’ll have a steak,” I tell the waitress. “Rare.”
“A steak!” Harry chuckles. “That’s how we know you’re a native Floridian.”
I smile at him. “I had enough fish in my first decade to last a lifetime, Harry. I’m up to here with the omega-3s.”
Anita is watching me closely. “Omega-3s,” she remarks. “Excellent for brain power.”
“Which I need, to keep up with your brilliant son,” I tell her.
We make some more idle chitchat. The waitress returns with our drinks. I help her out by taking mine right off the tray.
“The waitstaff is gorgeous here,” Harry remarks after she leaves again.
I slap him playfully on the arm. “Bless you, Harry. She’s a tranny!”
He freezes for an instant, then chuckles. “I suppose I forgot where we are.”
“You blush just like your son!” I cry. “Do you know that this morning, when he was—”
“Before you got here,” Will says quickly, “I was telling my parents the story of how we met.”
“In the bathroom,” I say.
“In the bar,” he says.
“In the bathroom of the bar,” I say.
Will reaches for my hand but knocks over a glass of water. Or maybe I do. Either way, we sop it up with our napkins. His mother is silent, studying me.
“Like I said, Lily works so hard,” Will says. “She barely gets any sleep at home. I think she really needs this week off before the wedding to,” he looks at me with a fixed smile, “chill out. Relax.”
“I remember those days,” Anita says, after a longish pause. “Before I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I spent eleven years at one of the biggest firms in Chicago. What a life.” She launches into some anecdote, but I can’t concentrate. I’m too distracted by her perfect hair. The breeze is stiff out here, but there’s not a tendril out of place. It’s superhero hair. I bet it could deflect bullets.
I start laughing. She stops talking.
“Sorry?” I say. “What?”
“I understand it’s even worse now,” she concludes, kind of grimly. “The hours are long,” I agree. “But I love the work.”
She looks surprised. “It’s rare to hear someone in our profession say that. Most young lawyers—”
“Lily,” Harry leans forward. “I think your nose is bleeding.”
I feel my lip. He’s right. “Sorry!” I say, standing up. “This happens sometimes. I have a nervous septum.”
Anita frowns. “A what?”
I excuse myself and clean up in the bathroom. I stop at the bar on the way back. “Triple pink squirrel please, Lloyd.”