Bridget smiled and read the comment again. “Secret admirer, hmm?” she murmured, and typed a reply.
wish you could see our meadow today—it’s covered with red clover! So glad you liked the stew. I’ll try to post some more one-dish recipes. I know it’s not much fun to cook fancy meals when you live alone.
“Secret admirer,” she repeated aloud. She was grinning as she clicked Post Comment. “What do you know about that?”
Cici sat in her rocking chair, a glass of white wine in her hand, and watched the mountains turn from gold to purple. Bambi the deer wandered across the lawn, cowbell clinking and head lowered to nibble the freshest sprigs of spring grass, and Rebel darted out from behind the corner of the house, barking furiously. When the deer raised his head and looked at him, Rebel lowered his tail and slunk back around the corner of the house, almost as though embarrassed to have been caught barking at a deer he knew.
The screen door closed with a familiar, friendly squeak as Lindsay came out and, with a sound that was half sigh, half moan, sank into her own chair. “I’ve done some calculations,” she announced. “The time-saving devices of modern life are actually
me about three and a half hours a day.”
Cici sighed heavily. “Boy, isn’t
the truth? Do you know it takes four or five times as long to type an e-mail or send a text as it would to convey the same information over the telephone? Why do people keep doing it?”
“To avoid conversation,” replied Lindsay succinctly. “If you talk to someone on the telephone, you actually have to listen to the other person’s opinion.”
“Which is a total waste of time.”
Cici sipped her wine. “Do you hate them yet?”
“Oh, dear God. Don’t get me started.”
“At least we know what happened to the previous wedding planners.”
Lindsay frowned. “Speaking of which, why isn’t she the one sending me e-mails telling me what a rotten designer I am?”
Cici slid a glance toward her. “I have a bad feeling.”
“Say it isn’t so.” Lindsay groaned. “Because if the wedding planner has quit, and I have to have one more interaction with that spoiled, pretentious, preadolescent, self-aggrandizing, social misanthrope—”
“Ah, come on,” Cici protested, though without much vigor. “Traci’s not that bad.”
“I was talking about her mother!”
Cici choked on laughter and spilled her wine. “And you, a teacher,” she accused, brushing drops of wine from her jeans. “I thought you were supposed to have patience.”
“Listen,” Lindsay said, “when you’re the last line of defense in a classroom filled with thirty-five little people plotting to kill you, the last thing you’re interested in learning is patience.” She tossed back a healthy portion of her own wine. “Especially for idiots,” she added.
Bridget came out with a plate of cookies, let the door slam unceremoniously behind her, and flopped down into her chair. “That blog is consuming my life,” she declared. “Who in the name of heaven ever went to bed and dreamed up such a ridiculous, pointless, self-serving way to waste time?” She offered a cookie to Lindsay.
“Here’s a hint. He was twelve years old.” Before Lindsay could select her cookie, Bridget jerked the plate away, agitated. “I mean, when people don’t read it, it’s pointless, and when people do, it’s pointless. And it takes up half my day!”
“Then stop doing it.” Lindsay held out her hand for the cookie plate.
“Are you crazy? It’s my business!”
Before she could snatch the plate away again, Lindsay seized it with both hands, took two cookies, and passed the plate to Cici.
“Besides,” Bridget added, and the smile that played around her lips was secretly satisfied, “I’ve got a secret admirer.”
Cici paused in the act of reaching for a cookie. “A secret admirer? Who?”
“Well, if I knew that, it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?”
Lindsay grinned at her. “Well, you be careful. That Internet dating business is risky stuff.”
Bridget gave her an impatient look and held out her hand for the cookie platter.
Rebel raised the alarm as Noah, returning from feeding the chickens, crossed the lawn. Noah dodged the lunging border collie absently, and Bambi didn’t even raise his head.
Cici said, “Not really, you know. Did you know that last year alone, more people met their significant others online than any other way?”
“Oh, yeah? Where did you read that?”
Noah mounted the steps, head down, hands in pockets. Bridget held out the platter to him. “Cookie?”
“Homework,” he muttered, without looking up, and the screen door banged behind him.
Cici watched him go. “I wonder what’s wrong with him.”
“He hardly said a word at dinner.”
“Teenage boys,” observed Bridget sagely. “Believe me, you don’t want to know what’s going on in their heads. But you can’t afford not to.”
Lindsay sighed. “Some girl at school, I guess.”
“It usually is.”
Bridget reached into her back pocket and took out a folded sheet of paper, passing it to Lindsay. “Here’s the menu.”
“The final menu,” queried Cici, “or the latest menu?”
“Final,” Bridget said firmly.
Lindsay unfolded the paper and held it at arm’s length, squinting in the dim light. “Wow. I didn’t know they made print this small.”
Cici snatched the paper from her and flipped down her glasses, which were nestled in her hair. She read out loud, “Brie en croute with Midori crème fraiche, chèvre and roasted pepper tarts, fried green tomatoes with bacon and bleu cheese crumbles, herbed-roasted pork with peppered peach chutney, fresh mozzarella with sliced vine-ripened tomatoes and olive oil, charred beef tenderloin with horseradish mayonnaise, honey-glazed fried chicken bites...” She looked up, leaning forward to stare at Bridget. “Are you serious? This sounds like the entire à la carte menu from the Waldorf Astoria.”
“It’s just for the tasting,” Bridget said wearily. “They’ll pick two meats and six accompaniments for the buffet.”
“It sounds incredible. But not exactly something you can whip up in your spare time. How many are coming to the tasting?”
“Just the bride, the wedding planner, and the mothers. It’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know, Bridge.” Cici looked worried. “Are you sure you still want to do this? That’s a pretty complicated menu and...” She cast a quick glance toward the house and lowered her voice. “It’s not exactly as though you have a lot of help. Is it worth it?”
Bridget grimly stuffed the menu back into her pocket. “For thirty-five dollars a head it is.”
“You go, girl,” said Lindsay, sipping her wine. “And Paul would say add a fifty percent premium for fresh, local, and prepared on-site.”
“Forty-five dollars a head,” replied Bridget determinedly. “Besides, Ida Mae can follow a recipe, and Lori will be here to help with the actual wedding.”
“Things must be desperate, if you’re actually looking forward to having Lori in the kitchen.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Bridget said uncomfortably. “But there are plenty of things she can do outside the kitchen.”
Lindsay said sourly “They want me to design escort cards.”
Cici said, “Escort cards? But I thought this was a buffet.”
“It is,” Bridget assured her.
“That’s what I told them,” Lindsay said. “Escort cards are for sit-down dinners.”
“And Traci’s matron of honor had escort cards with diamond chips in the corner. Traci has to have something better.”
They watched red streaks appear across the sky, and the apple blossoms soaked up the bright pink color. A bluebird visited the feeder that was hung under the eaves, gave the women a quick, bright look, and darted away.
Bridget smiled a little into the twilight. “Do you remember your own wedding?”
Lindsay nodded reminiscently. “The Fellowship Hall of El Camino Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas. We were just out of college, didn’t have two cents to rub together. Our parents flew in, and Mama bought me a wedding cake at the local bakery. It was awful.” She smiled. “I wore a white lace dress I bought in Mexico for twenty-five dollars, and twined baby’s breath in my hair. He wore a blue suit. They wouldn’t let us have champagne in the Fellowship Hall, so we had the reception in the park across the street, and danced to Cajun music until we were all too drunk to dance anymore.” She sighed. “The wedding was the highlight of the whole marriage. And lasted longer, come to think of it.”
Cici said, “I had the works. Six bridesmaids, all in buttercup yellow. A big puffy dress with a train halfway down the aisle. Freesia and candles and white satin bows on every pew. The groomsmen wore cutaways with gray satin cummerbunds.”
“Sounds like a fairy tale,” Lindsay said.
Cici shrugged. “I guess. I don’t remember much about it. I was too stressed to enjoy it, and Richard and I had a big fight at the reception. I dumped a glass of champagne over his head.”
Bridget and Lindsay chuckled. “Signs of things to come,” Lindsay said.
Bridget’s voice softened with fond remembrance as she said, “Jim and I were married at City Hall. Jim had just gotten a job teaching at Columbia and he had to be there the next day. I wore a pink suit with a corsage of sweetheart roses. My best friend Martha stood up with me, and afterward she threw rice at us on the steps and a policeman yelled at her for littering.” She grinned. “We were brushing rice out of each other’s hair all the way to New York.”
Cici smiled. “And you were married how long?”
“Well, then,” said Lindsay, leaning back in her rocking chair. “There you go.”
“Right,” said Cici. “It’s not the wedding; it’s the marriage that counts.”
“Try telling that to Bridezilla.”
“Or Bridezilla’s mom.”
Bridget said softly, “I miss him every single day.”
Lindsay reached across and squeezed Bridget’s hand. “You were lucky, Bridge. You got one of the good guys.”
“There aren’t many of them left,” Cici said.
Bridget smiled. “I know.”
They were quiet for a time. The mountains began to fade to black in the distance, and the warmth of the day leeched into the twilight, leaving a mild and not entirely unpleasant chill on bare arms and ankles. A light came on in Noah’s room overhead. Lindsay finished her wine. Cici ate another cookie.
Bridget said reluctantly, “Well, I guess I’d better go fax this menu to the blushing bride.” But she made no move to rise.
“And I’ve got to e-mail Catherine about the contract,” Cici said. “Again.”
“A lot of good our policy of not answering the phone after five did us,” observed Lindsay.
“That’s the price you pay for life in the modern world.”
“If you ask me, life was a lot easier before we got so modernized.”
No one argued with that.
They sat there for only a moment longer. Then one by one they got up, went inside, and went back to work.
August 12, 2003
Sometimes during the day I think of things I want to tell you, or I see something that makes me smile, and I think how it would be if you could see it, too. Here are some of the things I wish I could have shared with you today.
A vanilla-caramel swirl ice cream cone
A fat rabbit that darted right out in front of me when I went to get the paper this morning
A brown and white puppy with a red collar
Are you eating ice cream where you are? Is someone makingyou smile?
Please be happy. Because the truth is that I can never be until you are.
A Few Complications
The phone on the desk beside her began to ring, and Cici shouted up the stairs, “Fax!” Until the North-Deres had blown their way into their lives, the trusty old fax machine that Cici had kept for home use back in Maryland had been boxed up in the cellar behind Lindsay’s rowing machine, a garment rack, and three boxes of unused glassware. Now it was plugged into an extension line of the house phone, and when the telephone rang the women never knew whether they were going to hear the frustrating
of the fax machine or the sound of an actual human voice.
Until slightly more than a year ago, they had not even had cable television and had to drive to the library in town for high-speed Internet. But when Lori had finally convinced them of the practicality of bringing twenty-first-century conveniences to the nineteenth-century-house, they hadn’t counted on how much space—and time—those amenities would consume.
There was a small anteroom off the main entry that, according to Ida Mae, had once been a sewing room, and before that, a smoking lounge where men had enjoyed big smelly cigars. It had two sunny windows and a small coal heater which no longer worked, and the floor was covered with worn beige carpeting. The women had closed it off when they moved in, for it wasn’t as though they were in need of extra rooms. When technology came to Ladybug Farm, however, they found a purpose for the little room.