“Boy, am I in the wrong business,” Lindsay murmured.
Paul agreed. “Aren’t we all?”
Bridget’s eyes were shining. “Do you know how long I’ve dreamed about doing this? Planning menus, creating dishes, being
for my food?” She threw her arms around Paul in an embrace. “Thank you!”
He laughed as he hugged her back. “If anyone deserves to have their dreams come true, it’s you three.”
“I wish you could stay” Lindsay said, as she gave and received her hug.
“So do I.” He sighed. “The only thing I dread more than the three-hour drive is getting back to the city at the end of it.”
Cici embraced him with one arm and kissed his cheek. “Give Derrick our love. How is he, anyway? Why didn’t he come with you?”
Paul gave a small frustrated shake of his head. “Who knows? I never see him anymore. He works fifteen hours a day, and when he’s home he’s at the computer with the online art auctions. I couldn’t even get him away for a weekend in Vermont, never mind a real vacation this year.”
“This recession has been tough on the arts,” Lindsay said sympathetically.
“He had to let most of his staff go,” Paul confided, “so he’s doing almost everything himself now. He’s afraid if he hangs the Closed sign on the door for even one minute before normal operating hours it will mean the end of the gallery. I say, so what? It’s not like he hasn’t made a bloody fortune with the thing. Let it go, retire, buy a sailboat...” He grinned, and chucked Lindsay under the chin. “Spend more time in the country.”
“You could take your own advice,” Cici reminded him.
“You never know,” he replied. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his perfectly pressed khakis, he gazed over the sun-strewn landscape with its colorful blossoms and majestic old trees, the sweeping meadow and misty mountains beyond. In the distance, the mudled sound of clucking chickens, trilling birds, splashing fountains, and nothing else. His expression was tranquil and wistful. “Every time I come here... you just never know.”
There came a distant “Yoo-hoo!” from the vicinity of the front of the house, where the car was parked, and Paul roused himself from his reverie with a dry smile and a tilt of his head. “Meantime, the princesses await. Thank you for the incredible lunch and the exceptional company, as always.” He blew them a kiss as he left. “I’ll be in touch!”
The three of them followed him to the front and stood on the steps, waving, as he drove away.
“Wow,” said Lindsay when they were gone. “How about that, huh?”
“The bride is a little strange,” Cici said, “but she really seems to like the place. And the mother is nice.”
“They met Rodrigo and Rebel,” Lindsay agreed, “and they still want to go through with it. They must be really desperate.”
“A wedding, right here at Ladybug Farm,” Bridget said happily. “I mean, we talked about it, but did you ever think we’d actually do it?”
Cici laughed a little, shaking her head. “Wait until I tell Lori. Remember how she had this all planned out before she went away to UVA? The jams, the vineyard, and now the special events. Just like she imagined it.”
Lindsay stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jeans, grinning. “We might be slow to catch on, but we do catch on.”
“You know,” Cici said thoughtfully “at eight thousand a pop—and I’m not saying we should, mind you—but if we did two weddings a month, May through September, not even counting the catering or the decorating...”
“We could plant the rest of the vineyard,” Lindsay said.
“Not to mention pay off the small business loan,” Bridget added.
“And Noah’s college.”
“We could be solvent.”
“Well, eventually, maybe,” Cici said, and she smiled. “All in all, not bad for doing nothing, though, is it?”
“It couldn’t be easier,” Lindsay agreed. “All we really have to do is mow the lawn.”
“And I’ll touch up the paint on the arbor.”
“We should put padlocks on the chicken yard gate.”
“And do something with Rebel.”
Cici looked at Bridget sternly. “We are not putting that dog in a boarding kennel. Even if we could find one to take him, we don’t have enough insurance to cover the damage he’d do.”
Bridget just smiled. “Do you know, we’ve been through an awful lot since we moved in here. The roof, the plumbing, the heating, the sheep ... There were times when I thought we’d never catch a break.”
“Most of the time,” clarified Cici.
“But now...” She linked one arm through Cici’s and the other through Lindsay’s. “Just look at us. Our house is in a magazine! Lindsay has a real art studio with people paying her to give them lessons, and I get to cater an entire wedding, and people are coming all the way from Washington, DC, and begging us to host their party.”
“Lori’s doing great in college,” Cici put in.
“And Noah got that scholarship,” Lindsay said.
Bridget took a deep breath of the warm late afternoon air and declared, “Paul was right. Our dreams are actually coming true.”
“And it’s about damn time,” Cici pronounced, and they all laughed.
“The best part is,” Lindsay said as they turned to go into the house, “right now, for the first time in a long time, I can’t think of a single thing to worry about.”
But of course she spoke too soon.
September 10, 2000
It’s raining. I see your face in the droplets that form on my window. It’s a face I can only imagine, and I dream about it every night. Sometimes I ache for you so much I can hardly breathe. It hurts. I never thought there could be a hurt so big.
It was raining the day I left you, do you remember? I hope not. I hope you don’t think of me, and hurt like I do, every time it rains. I’d rather you not think of me at all.
Still, today I saw your face in the rain. I just wanted you to know that.
The Wonders of Modern Technology
Buongiorno, mi amore! How does the world regard the most beautiful of all Americans of my acquaintance today?
How many Americans do you know, anyway?
Only the beautiful ones, mi amore.
Maybe I’m not beautiful. Maybe that’s not even my photograph.
You would lie to Facebook?
Maybe that’s not your photograph either. Maybe you’re not even Italian.
Could anyone who is not Italian make the English this bad?
You have a point. You couldn’t do this much damage to the English language if you were translating it from Sanskrit.
I am slain!
I have for you the answer from my papa. But I think I will tell it to you in Italian if you cannot laugh no more at my English.
I’m sorry. No Italian please! I hate looking things up!
I know. This is why you make me to look up them for you.
What did he say?
He say you are very beautiful, too. And for beautiful American girl he will make introduction.
Sergio, you are the best! Thank you, thank you! This could make all the difference!
Yes, I am the best. I am happy you also see it.
Maybe. But I don’t believe everything I see on the Internet.
Do you have a lover?
Do you mean boyfriend? No.
Would you like to have one?
Thank you. But I’d rather have an internship.
You have very much mistaken priorities.
I also have a class.
You are funny to talk to Lori. Will you be online later?
I’ll e-mail you.
My breath is caught as I await your every word. Ciao!
Lori’s smile was tender, secret, and deeply happy, and it lingered long after she had logged off. “Ciao,” she said softly.
: Where were you?
waited three and a half hours. You didn’t even answer your freaking cell phone, if that even WAS your cell phone. Was this supposed to be some kind of joke???
So I guess now you can’t even be bothered to answer an e-mail. You must think I’m stupid. Well, I’m not. I thought you were a liar before and now I know you’re a liar. I don’t even know why I expected anything different.
One More Thing
By the way, don’t ever try to talk to me again, or e-mail me or even look at me if we happen to pass each other on the street someday. Nobody can say I didn’t give you a chance. And if you tell anybody—and you know who I mean—that I ever even thought about making things up with you, I’ll say you’re a liar. Because you are.
And I’m closing this e-mail account. So don’t even bother trying to answer. Not that you would.
But he did not close the account. And he did check for an answer, every single day, for the next two weeks.
The first call came half an hour after Catherine and Traci left the house—or, apparently, as soon as they could get cell phone reception. “Darling,” cooed Catherine, “we were just looking at these photographs, and we noticed this huge tree branch protruding right out in the center of the view. It really ruins the mountain backdrop we’d planned for the wedding album. It wouldn’t be any trouble to cut it down, would it?”
Cici, whose misfortune it had been to answer the telephone, was incredulous. “The tree?”
“Well, maybe just the branch.”
“I’m afraid I really don’t know which tree you’re talking about...”
“Wait, I’m e-mailing you the photograph.”
Cici cursed the day they had gotten high-speed Internet.
“Well, you know it’s possible that if you just stood at a different angle the tree wouldn’t be blocking the view at all.”
“But that would mean moving the entire wedding party.”
“Maybe only a few feet.”
Dead silence. Cici hoped the cell phone had lost the connection.
Catherine said, “Just look into having the tree trimmed, will you, dear?”
The next call was from Traci. “I was just wondering about the chickens,” she said. “They won’t be clucking like that on the video, will they? I mean, sheep are pastoral, but chickens are just... rustic.”
The phone calls continued into the next day. Catherine wanted to know the exact species of roses that would be in bloom on June 6 so that she could make sure the colors didn’t clash with the bridesmaids’ dresses. Then she wanted to know if it would be possible to screen in the wraparound porch in case of bugs, or, failing that, to build a cabana in the garden.
Traci wanted to know where the musicians would set up, and since cellos and violins really didn’t go with the outdoor ambience, could they be screened with potted plants—or even better, a trellis with ivy and climbing roses?
And they mustn’t forget about the dance floor. It would need to be at least twenty by thirty feet.
At six o’clock, they stopped answering the phone. At eight thirty, the answering machine picked up a call from Paul. “I hardly know these people,” he said. “Really.”
Lindsay observed worriedly, “I think I’m starting to understand why he kept wanting us to charge more.”
Cici was frowning. “Maybe we should have thought this through.”
“Don’t be silly” Bridget insisted briskly. “You just have to be firm, that’s all. We’re not cutting down any trees and we’re not getting rid of our chickens, and if they want a dance floor they’re going to have to pay someone to build it. Are we businesswomen or not?”
Cici was impressed. “You really want this catering job, don’t you?”