Authors: Mary Beth Daniels
Tags: #Fiction, #Humorous, #Humor, #General, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Women, #Weddings, #gay marriage, #election, #Prop 8
By Mary Beth Daniels
Copyright © 2012 by Mary Beth Daniels. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.
Also available in paperback.
ISBN 13: 978-1470187729
How does one thank the girl lovin’ girlfriends who changed my life?
Through you I learned my first lesbian jokes.
Danced at my first gay bar (RIP Rainbow!)
Found friends after my divorce and subsequent dating trials.
Photographed several extraordinary weddings.
And met the love of my life. (You girls know the best boys!)
I hope one day Texas will honor the vows you made to each other.
Chapter 1: Wedded Bliss
I’d been staring at beautiful people all day and felt like punching one of them in the eye.
My neck and shoulders ached as I lifted the Canon 5D back to my face. The bride and groom checked to see that I was paying attention, then sliced a wedding cake the size of Mt. Rushmore. Miniature versions of the couple’s happy faces sat on top like shrunken heads, leering out at us in flesh-toned frosting. I shivered, creeped out anew when the bride accidentally severed the veil from the fondant version of herself.
I trained the crosshairs on her shocked expression and took the shot. I’d make a version for my private stash, this one Photoshopped with blood dripping from the sugar skull.
The bride attempted to reattach the veil, but it fell into the chocolate fountain. “Oopsie!” she said, peering out to see if I’d caught the moment on camera.
I gave her a thumbs-up. The groom lifted a fork full of cake to her lips. His eyes kept dropping to her tight bodice. The silicone Double Ds had probably run up his credit card.
The couple froze, staring at the door behind me. The guests began to hush, tapping each other and gesturing toward the entrance. Only the refrain of “Unforgettable” remained at full blast.
My neck hairs prickled. Might be something worthy of the Wedding Photography Hall of Fame. An enraged ex. A drunk relative. Maybe even a fistfight. Sweet. One of my photographer friends got to snap the teenage son of a groom mooning the guests, and I was utterly jealous. I turned to see what had captured the attention of the entire room.
A deputy in a brown uniform entered the hall, pausing right in the middle of the disco-speckled dance floor to look around. No one seemed to want to approach him as he clutched a clipboard and a manila envelope, searching the crowd through squinted eyes as dots of light slid over his face.
He spotted us and strode briskly toward the cake table. As he got closer, I made out a toothpick clamped between his teeth. Short-cropped gray hair. Red cheeks and loose jowls. He was completely out of place in the black-tie crowd. I wondered who was getting busted, checking the exit to see if anyone was trying to slink out the back.
But he stopped precisely three feet from ME.
How did he know my name?
The deputy cleared his throat. “You Zest Renald?”
“Who sent you?” No one knew I was here but my husband Cade.
He stood a little straighter. “By the power vested in me as an official servant of the Justice of the Peace Court 348, you are hereby served these documents for Cause Number 783, petition for divorce, by Cade L. Renald.”
My legs turned to cigarette ash. “Is this—a joke?”
He held out the clipboard. “Sign here.”
“No one serves divorce papers at—” I glanced around. “A wedding.”
“If you would sign here, please.”
This could not be happening. Cade had been fine that morning when I left. He didn’t have it in him to keep a secret like this. “You’ve got the wrong girl!”
He checked his clipboard again. “Zest Renald, wife to Cade Renald, at the Harbor House, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Photographer with frizzy brown hair.”
My free hand flew to my head, smashing down the crazy curls. Bastard. “I refuse to sign anything until I’ve talked to my husband.” And killed him. They could come for me then.
His fat lips clamped down on the toothpick, then relaxed. “Refusal to accept the documents does not negate the legality of them being served.”
“Unforgettable” whined to its aching conclusion, and the DJ let the music go silent as we stood there, the disco ball still splashing white light across the crowd. The guests stood silently, like party ghosts.
The man held out the clipboard again. He had a badge, a gun, the right look for a sheriff-type. So it was true. Cade had served me divorce papers without any sort of warning. In front of clients. At a wedding. Sorrow welled up, but I stuffed it down with rage. Just wait until I got my hands on that boy.
I snatched the pen from the deputy. After I scrawled my name, he passed me the envelope and turned on his heel.
The label blurred in the spotty light. I couldn’t even read it. Then slowly, maddeningly, I recognized the name in the corner. Winston Murray, Family Law. Winston Murray! He had been Cade’s best man. We’d lost touch while he was in law school.
Now I was furious. I’d always hated that snake. Different girl every five minutes. Bimbos, all of them, hair bigger than Dallas and fawning over him, always making catty remarks about my appearance when the men weren’t around. Yeah, I wasn’t a looker. Tell me something new.
Cade hadn’t cared five years ago when he’d married me. Sure, we were the last ones standing after all our college friends paired off, but we didn’t have to do it. We could have stayed single.
I capped the lens of my camera and stormed to the corner where I’d stowed my bag. No way was that womanizing drinking buddy going to pull this off with my husband. They obviously thought he could slink away while I was at a wedding since otherwise I worked from home. I’d show him. I shouldered the duffle and headed for the entrance.
The bride shrieked. “You can’t leave! I haven’t thrown the bouquet! Daddy, stop her!”
The wide-necked father blocked the exit. Like hell he’d stand in the way of a woman scorned. I burst forward in a hard sprint. He held out his hands, but I feinted left, then shot right, cutting behind an empty table.
He neatly sidestepped into my path and almost snagged me, catching the strap of my bag with his broad hand. But I jerked it away, jumped over the ring bearer, who sat on the floor stuffing dinner mints down his gullet, and flew out the door.
Next stop: track down my lying scheming son-of-a-bitch, soon to be ex-husband.
Chapter 2: The Dolt Bolts
The front door banged against the wall as I smashed through the foyer. I’d called Cade three times on the way to the house, but he had his phone off.
Where was he? Not in the living room. Not in the kitchen. I hurtled up the stairs.
I tripped on the last step, caught myself, and flung my body inside the master bedroom.
I bent over to catch my breath as I surveyed the room. His usual pile of clothes over the weight bench—gone. Ditto his alarm clock, his stack of gaming books by the lamp, and the robe he always hung on the bedpost.
I checked the closet. A good chunk of his wardrobe was missing. In the bathroom, no guy stuff, just my Frizz Ease and what little makeup I owned. My reflection in the mirror would have scared a small child, the wild mass of hair more puffed out than usual after my mad dash. I looked every bit the part of a harried housewife who’d been done wrong, worn out and jilted at twenty-seven.
I sat on the edge of the bed, anger dissolving into confusion. How long had he been planning this? We weren’t any great lovers, but we were friends. How could he not just tell me?
I sorted through our last conversation. As I’d descended the stairs with my equipment, he balanced precariously on his Wii Fit, pretending to snowboard down the cartoon landscape on the wide-screen TV. “Record score,” he said, running his fingers through his sparse hair as he peered at the monitor.
I was late, and mumbled, “Congratulations,” as I stuck my feet into my shoes on the landing.
He frowned, switched off the game, and shoved the plastic platform under the television stand. “I forgot that you’re too good for video games.”
We had this same discussion almost every day. He loved his X-box, the Playstation, Rock Band. I hated them. “But otherwise we’re a match made in heaven,” I said, another long-standing joke.
He flopped on the sofa. “Weren’t we always?”
Now that I thought about it, his tone had seemed off. Not quite the usual playful tease. We both knew we were not a match of any sort, just two ugly ducklings who didn’t really want to end up alone. But we did all right as friends, co-habitants, occasional sex partners.
I sat on the bed, leaning my head against the end post. A note sat propped against the lamp on my side table. I wasn’t sure which was worse, reading it, or never knowing what it said.
Zest, sorry I didn’t warn you about the divorce. My life is complicated. I figure you’ll need me to stay in the house since the payments are high, and we’re too upside-down to sell. Take a few days to find yourself a place. I know you’re mad, and I’ll stay away until you’ve moved.
The world went gray. This was real. My husband was divorcing me. I had to find another place to live. I’d need money for a deposit. And a lawyer. I’d just blown off that wedding. Did I even have access to any money? I didn’t do the bills. God.
I paced the bedroom, running my hands over the oak furniture, still on his credit card, then halted, realizing my studio was in the garage. I’d need the house.
The mattress sagged beneath my weight. But the payments. No alimony in Texas. We’d sunk all our money into the house at the absolute worst time, just before the mortgage crash.
I stumbled back downstairs where the manila envelope lay on a table by the door. I braced myself for the black-and-white finality of the words on paper.
But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to think about him and me, our relationship, or the loss of it. I wouldn’t let it matter.
A few inches away, the television remote beckoned like the Holy Grail. I picked it up instead. When the going gets tough, the wimps watch
I was drunk on talk shows. I’d blown through sixteen episodes on Tivo, spending the night in my rumpled clothes and photographer’s work vest, too lazy to empty the lumpy pockets stuffed with batteries and flash cards. I’d have to pull myself together eventually. Three biddies who had known my mother were scheduled to come by for a shoot in a few hours. Their drama radar would register seismic activity on the scale of Pompeii. I had the poker face of a toddler.
I picked up my phone. No calls. I’d text messaged my friend Fern to tell her I was single and destitute. She’d fired off a quick, “I’ll call in reinforcements,” but nothing else. Busy straddling the latest boy, no doubt. When it came to men, she’d done more banging than a drum corps in the Macy Parade.
I flung my spoon onto the coffee table, knocking over the fourth container of Skinny Cow ice cream. I didn’t care if it dripped melted goo everywhere. Not my house. Not my mess.
Barack Obama danced on screen, mimicking Ellen’s trademark moves before a crowd following his campaign trail. Ellen compared the clip to one of his wife and declared that Michelle owned the superior groove.
Not funny. Who cares. The distraction was wearing off. I started fast-forwarding through the recording. The only politician I followed was Sarah Palin, because she was just so hilarious. Republicans were hilarious. And they were going to lose the presidency next week.
My phone buzzed. Unfamiliar number. I picked it up and answered with what meager enthusiasm I could muster, “Photography with Zest.”
The woman sounded a little breathless. “We need a wedding photographer, kind of fast. Fern told us you were great and had time available right now.”
Holy cow, Fern had done it. “Great! Sure! Yes!” I fumbled through my vest pockets for a notepad. “Do you have a date?”
“The wedding is this Saturday. Can you do that?”
Hallelujah. “Yes, I’m free.”
“It’s in California.”
Location! My internal cash register went cha-ching. I could kiss Fern. She worked for a movie director in town and knew everybody.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Can you meet me at the Starbucks on Sixth so we can work out details?”
And pay a deposit.
“I have a shoot at six, but—”
“We could meet in an hour.”