“Four people.” Bridget’s voice was little more than a squeak as she tried to keep the smile plastered on her face, and to keep from being overheard. “The bride, the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom, the wedding planner. There were supposed to be only four people!”
Lindsay shared with her a look of dismay. “Guess we should have taken time to read all those e-mails after all.”
“I have to make more soup!”
“Forget that. Make more mimosas.”
Bridget hurried into the house, and Lindsay went down the steps, plastering a welcoming smile on her face. “Hello,” she said, extending her hand to the woman in black. “I’m Lindsay.”
The woman did not smile, and did not take Lindsay’s hand. She tilted up the oversized white-framed sunglasses just enough to get a good look at Lindsay, and she said, “Well, this could hardly be more inconvenient, could it? Giving up my entire Sunday to drive into the middle of godforsaken nowhere. I certainly hope you people are better equipped at keeping your commitments on the day of the wedding.”
Lindsay’s smile faded. “As I explained to Catherine,” she said coolly, “we had an emergency. Our friend’s daughter is in the hospital.”
The dark-haired woman looked at Catherine. “Really, Catherine, what were you thinking? I can’t believe all this nonsense was inspired by Michelle Obama’s ridiculous little garden. I mean, it’s not as though you can’t have an organic wedding in the city, and no one is going to drive all the way out here no matter how trendy it is. Where are the guest cottages?”
Lindsay’s eyes widened. “Guest cottages?”
Catherine looked slightly more harried than she had on the occasion of their last meeting. “Darling,” she said to Lindsay, “meet Margaret Thornton, the mother of the groom. And these”—she waved in the general direction of the bevy of chattering young women who were flitting like butterflies around the car—“are the girls.”
“Catherine, you know we never made any arrangements for guest accommodations ...” And then she stopped, looking around. “Where’s the wedding planner?”
“I’m afraid she didn’t work out at all,” Catherine confided as she came forward. “Impossible to work with, and she just didn’t understand our concept from the beginning. After all, we’re just talking about a small affair, here. That’s why, my dear”—she slipped her arm cozily through Lindsay’s—“we thought it would be easier all around for you all to manage the entire project from here. Don’t you agree? It will save all kinds of confusion.”
Catherine suddenly pivoted and raised her arm, pointing her key fob at the car. With a small
the trunk of the car lifted, and she shouted, “Girls! Bring in the dresses! And don’t try to carry them all at once!”
“Dresses?” Lindsay repeated.
“Traci’s had just a teensy bit of trouble making a final decision on the dress,” Catherine confessed, “since we were
the emphasis on this word was directed at Margaret-” to change the location.”
“Oh, yes, it was all my fault,” Margaret said. “Traci
me to help her find the first venue, if you recall, since
were far too busy with your Save-the-Whale ball ...”
“So, naturally”—Catherine spoke over her, loudly—“we thought the thing to do would be for her to try them on in the actual location. I’m sure the right dress will simply sing to her once she sees it against this magnificent backdrop. Now, darling, we have so much to cover and such a short time I hardly know where to begin.” She turned her head and shouted, so loudly that Lindsay winced, “Traci! Bring the book!”
“Lindsay,” Lindsay said, trying to tug her arm away. “My name is Lindsay.”
“Yes, of course, dear. Now about the rehearsal dinner ...”
They had reached the steps, where Bridget was standing with a tray laden with sparkling orange mimosas. “Welcome,” she declared with a big, bright smile, “to Ladybug Farm.”
The two mothers ascended the steps without Lindsay, removing their sunglasses, surveying the table arrangements with a critical eye. Each of them plucked a mimosa off the tray without acknowledging their hostess before moving around the porch.
“Well, now,” said Catherine, smiling. “Isn’t this sweet?”
“Very farmer-in-the-dell,” agreed Margaret. She sipped the mimosa, made a face, and set the glass on one of the tables. “Catherine,” she murmured, “we really must talk about your champagne budget.”
Lindsay moved forward quickly. “I know you wanted a farmhouse theme,” she said, “so I set this up to show you what we could do with the reception. I wanted to evoke an old-fashioned tearoom feeling, and of course mixing china and silver patterns is very trendy ...”
Catherine lifted an eyebrow. “I thought we had decided on
Lawrence of Arabia
Lindsay bit down hard on her first reply and managed pleasantly, “That was several e-mails ago.”
“Well, it is sweet,” Catherine said carefully. “I only wish we were doing the bridal luncheon here.”
“Bridal luncheon?” croaked Bridget in alarm. She set the tray down on one of the tables with a clatter.
“Unfortunately, we’ve already reserved the Fairmont,” Catherine said, and Bridget sagged visibly with relief.
“Traci!” Catherine shouted. “For heaven’s sake, where is the book?”
“Don’t have a freakin’ cow.” Traci took the steps two at a time, carrying an overstuffed three-ring binder under one arm, and glaring at her telephone as she repeatedly pushed buttons. “When are you people
going to get with the twenty-first century? Jeez, how can I have a wedding in a place I can’t even make a telephone call?”
She dropped the heavy binder on the table beside the tray of mimosas. The table round, which was never designed to hold weight, began to tip. Bridget lunged for it, but too late. The candles, the plates, the silver, the napkins, the centerpieces, the tray of drinks, and the three-ring binder crashed to the floor.
In the aftermath, there was a moment of horrified silence. Then Catherine bent and picked up the binder, checked it for damage, and declared briskly, “Well, then. Let’s look at another plan, shall we?”
At seven o’clock, they left.
Calico was out; Apricot Delight and Hint of Spring green were in. Heavy hors d’oeuvres were out; a hot and cold buf fet was in. Peanut soup was out, so were crab cakes, so were asparagus, catfish, and anything containing goat cheese. A mashed potato bar and Virginia ham were in.
The only thing on the entire menu of which Margaret approved was Ida Mae’s fried chicken. The only thing on the menu of which Traci approved was the fruit.
The bride, after five changes, had decided upon a strapless shift of embroidered ivory silk caught at the hips with crystal studded rosettes and cascading to a half-circle demi train into which would be woven a faint ribbon design in Apricot Delight. It was imperative that the table settings and all decorations include an abundance of Apricot Delight roses, which had already been special-ordered from a florist in Richmond.
The bridal procession would approach through a set of three arches—surely they would have no trouble arranging to rent or build those—which Catherine envisioned decorated with cascading roses and fluttering satin ribbons, and would arrive at a raised podium covered in white satin—simple enough to build—and strewn with apricot rose petals. The buffet should be arranged on the lawn, and of course they would have to arrange for a tent of some sort. The porch of the house was far too casual and much too small for the table setup; but perhaps the interior of the house could be cleared of furniture and twenty or thirty tables could be set up there. The final RSVPs had come in at just under one hundred.
“You’re all invited to bring a plus-one, of course,” Catherine offered generously, “and mingle with the guests. Who knows how much extra business you’ll pick up!”
“But if you’re going to be serving at my wedding,” Traci said, eyeing them critically, “you’ll have to be dressed. I don’t want any clashing colors.” She handed them each a photocopied sheet of paper. “Here are the stores and the style numbers of some of the dresses I like. You can order them online, but you’d better do it tomorrow if you want them to get here in time. Shoes and stockings, too. No jewelry, and I’d like everyone’s hair up.”
Bridget took the paper hesitantly. “We’re not actually in the wedding party, you know. I don’t think it’s customary .. .”
Catherine gave her a long-suffering smile. “Every bride deserves to have things just so for her wedding, don’t you agree? And don’t forget your plus-ones. We don’t want the seating to turn out uneven.”
Lindsay smiled thinly. “Do our plus-ones have to wear Apricot Delight, too?”
Catherine loved Noah’s one-fold brochure design, with its classic charcoal sketch of the house on the front. Margaret was horrified that the nearest hotel was an hour away.
“Which brings us to the rehearsal dinner,” Catherine said at last. “We’ll be a party of fifteen—no, twenty, is that right, Traci? Nothing fancy—salad, entrée, and dessert—but I’m sure you’ll come up with something just delightful. I expect everything will go perfectly smoothly. After all, this is just a small affair. Nothing elaborate.”
And so, when they were gone, Bridget and Lindsay sat on the front porch steps with their backs to the wreckage that was left of their elegant little tasting, too stunned to even go to the porch and find their rocking chairs.
“One hundred people,” Lindsay groaned. “Where are we going to put all those cars?”
“I have to make one hundred miniature gift baskets.” Bridget’s voice sounded heavy and thick with disbelief. “Plus twenty big ones for the wedding party.”
“Cici is going to kill us.”
“There are no rental places around here,” Bridget said in growing horror. “Where are we going to get a tent, a hundred chairs, tables—how are we going to set all of that up by ourselves?” She caught her breath. “Oh, my God, did I just volunteer to bake a wedding cake?”
“I told you not to serve dessert. They didn’t ask for dessert. They don’t deserve dessert.”
Bridget moaned. “Whenever anything goes wrong at a wedding, the cake is always involved. Someone drops the cake, someone sits on the cake, someone falls into the cake ... I don’t even know how to start to put together a wedding cake. It’s going to be a disaster, I just know it.”
“The wedding cake is the least of our problems, if you ask me. Do you have any idea what we’ve gotten ourselves into?”
“A rehearsal dinner,” Bridget said, “for twenty people. The night before a buffet for one hundred.”
“Three arbors and a podium. Cici is going to kill us.”
They sat in silence, shoulders slumped, arms resting on knees, staring dully at nothing for a long time. Then Bridget said, uncertainly, “What are we going to do?”
“I guess ...” Lindsay let the sentence drop, and for such a long time that it seemed she wouldn’t say anything else. Then she looked at Bridget and sighed, “We are going to do the best we can,” she said.
September 24, 2009
As I look back over everything I’ve written to you over the years Irealize there’s one thing I never told you, maybe because until now I didn’t know how true it was. I am so proud of you. I don’t know how I ever deserved anyone as strong and smart and talented and thoughtful and beautiful, inside and out, as you, and I guess the truth is that I don’t. If I could have dreamed up the perfect man, down to the last detail, he wouldn’t have been half as perfect as you. I want to tell you that in person. I hope you’ll understand one day why I can’t.
Clusters of balloons were tied to the front porch columns and bobbed gaily in the breeze. Rebel circled the car, barking madly, and from the chicken yard Rodrigo perched atop the chicken coop, flapped his wings, and screeched out a welcome. Bambi bounded across the shade-speckled lawn, cowbell clanging, as the front door opened and everyone inside hurried out.
Lori smiled for the first time in days as Lindsay and Bridget rushed down the steps to greet her. Noah followed at an easier pace, and Ida Mae brought up the rear, flapping her apron at the dog and shooing him away. There was a confusion of hugs and questions and welcomes, adjusting doors and crutches and distributing suitcases, and everyone hovering around as she carefully maneuvered her way up the small temporary ramp that Farley had built at the side of the house. She was home.
Noah carried in the boxes she’d brought from her dorm, casually congratulated her on only breaking one leg, and went back to working on the goat house. Ida Mae brought peanut butter cookies and milk to her room, and hurried back to the kitchen to attend to something that was simmering—and smelling wonderful—on the stove. Bridget, Lindsay, and Cici brought in the last of her luggage, and Bridget said, “We have you all set up in the sunroom, honey. It’s only ten steps from the bathroom—I counted—and we put your bed right next to the electrical outlet so you can plug in your laptop. Farley hooked up the cable for your TV, and Ida Mae even made new curtains!”