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Authors: Sylvia McDaniel

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BOOK: The Relationship Coach
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Lacey followed them into the shop where hundreds of white gowns filled over half the store. The other section was devoted to bridesmaids and mother of the bride gowns.

“Wow,” Lacey said. “This place is really big.”

Kerri smiled. “Okay, let’s get started. We need a sales consultant.”

They began at the front of the store where some of the mannequins had samples of the more popular dresses.

There were long ones, short ones, halter, bare-shouldered, long sleeves, full skirts, slim empire skirts, lots and lots of strapless, and anything else you could think of.

Kerri found a consultant, and soon the woman had them ensconced in the fitting area with a rack of over twenty dresses for Kerri to try on. She went into the dressing room while Lacey and her mother sank into some chairs in the outer dressing area that was surrounded by mirrors.

“You’ve got to quit trying to hold up this wedding. They’re getting married, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” her mother said, frowning at Lacey.

Kerri came out of the dressing room and turned before them in the room. “What do you think?”

“It’s okay. Keep trying on,” Lacey said.

“Yes, we need to see the others.”

Kerri went back into the room, and Lacey turned on her mother.

“I’m no longer trying to stop her from getting married. It’s her life and if she wants to marry him, that’s fine. I’m not trying to be difficult; my life has just been crazy the last few days.”

Her mother made a harrumphing sound, and Lacey glared at her. “I’m sure that searching for an apartment with Dean has kept you very busy.”

Kerri came out of the dressing room. Her gaze flickered between the two of them. “Is everything all right?”

“It’s perfect,” Lacey said, trying so hard to keep the focus on Kerri, knowing if she said she’d broken up with Dean, the focus would turn to her. “I really like that dress. It fits your body type and makes you look very slim.”

“Keep trying on,” her mother responded, and Kerri returned to the changing area.

“Now is not a good time for us to talk about Dean,” Lacey snapped, not wanting to tell them she’d broken up with Dean.

“As far as I’m concerned, there never is a good time to talk about that man,” her mother said in a loud voice that made Lacey wince.

Kerri came out of the dressing room. “What do you think of this one?”

Her mother gushed. “I really like that style, dear. You look like a princess.”

“All wrong for you,” Lacey decried. “You need a more form-fitting style.”

Her sister frowned at the two of them. “Okay, we’ve still got at least seven more.”

When Kerri disappeared, Lacey spun on her mother. “I wasn’t going to tell you—”

“Hey, can one of you come in here? I’m stuck.”

Her mother stood and strode toward the dressing room. She helped Kerri into the gown and then returned to her chair.

When Kerri came out a few minutes later, Lacey looked at the dress as her sister spun around. “I like it.”

“Not right for you,” her mother said. “Keep trying on.”

“It’s modern, not old-fashioned,” Lacey said, realizing her mother would disagree with every dress she liked.

“There’s nothing wrong with something a little old-fashioned. But then, I guess you consider marriage to be out-of-date,” her mother snapped.

“What? I do not. I just don’t want to be married more than once!” Lacey took a deep breath more determined than ever to keep the dialogue between them civil and not ruin Kerri’s day.

“And you think I wanted five marriages?”

“Probably not.”

“You think it was easy after your father died? You think that raising you girls alone, working a low-paying job, and paying the bills was easy? I made mistakes, but I always tried to do my best by you kids. I can’t help it if men turn out to be jerks or alcoholics or even worse,” her mother ranted, while Lacey stood back, determined not to argue.

A sob came from behind them, and Lacey and her mother whirled around. Kerri stood there crying.

“Oh, Kerri, I’m sorry,” Lacey said, knowing she would probably take the blame for this fiasco. She went towards her sister, who held up her hand to stop her.

“We’re supposed to be having fun. I’m marrying the man I love. We’re picking out my wedding dress, and the two of you are making this a miserable trip.” She sniffed. “I’m going to go in and try on another dress, and when I come back out here, we better start having fun, or I’m going home.” She went into the dressing room and slammed the door.

Lacey sighed. “Mom, we have to do this for Kerri. It’s not fair to her.”

Her mother frowned. “You’re right. But you hurt me when you say things like that. I didn’t want to marry multiple times.”

“I know. And later I’ll be happy to tell you I think you were right about something in my life, but not now. Kerri deserves to have fun today, so we have got to do this for her.”

“I was right about something?” her mother said, her forehead wrinkled with surprise.

“Yes, but drop it for now. Let’s find Kerri a wedding dress,” Lacey responded. God, she was trying; she really was trying to keep the focus on Kerri and her happy day.

Her sister came out of the room in a strapless dress that had a fitted bodice full of bead work and fell into an A-line skirt. The dress was stunning on Kerri, and she looked absolutely beautiful.

Lacey and her mother gazed at Kerri and then at each other. Tears welled up in their eyes, and they wrapped their arms around each other’s waists. Together, they stared at Kerri and smiled. “That’s the one.”

Kerri smiled at the two of them. “I thought so, too.”

She came into their arms, and the three women stood there and hugged while tears flowed. Finally, Lacey said, “Oh, you look so beautiful, and I know that Matt is going to be a great husband for you.”

Kerri sniffed. “You do? I mean you think I’m doing the right thing?”

“If he makes you happy and you love him, then I think you two should make it official.”

“Thanks, Lacey, to hear you say that means a lot to me.” She stepped away and looked at the back of the dress in the three-way mirror. “Do you think Dean would be a groomsman? I mean you and him are probably going to be married some day. I just thought it might be a nice touch to include him in the wedding.”

Lacey smiled. “That’s very nice of you to consider him, but we’re no longer dating.”

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

A
manda held onto Jason’s hand as they walked up the drive to her family reunion. “I’m so glad you came with me,” she said, staring into his brown eyes. “All of my cousins are married. I stick out ‘alone and available’ at the family picnic. Everyone else is showing off their kids, grandkids, and then there’s me.”

He shrugged, his body tensing. “I’m not going to know any of these people.” He had been less than thrilled when she’d told him their date destination today.

“You’ll know me,” she said, giving his hand a squeeze.

“They’re not going to have a lot of strange food, are they?”

“No, only the sacrificial goat on the altar of the barbeque.”

He glanced at her, his forehead drew together in a frown. “I don’t like weird food.”

“What’s weird to you may be normal to everyone else,” she said, realizing he was a real whiner when they weren’t doing something he wanted to do. “It’s a barbeque. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and the usual condiments. Plus, all the homemade ice cream you can eat.”

“Now, that sounds good.”

“And my parents will be here.”

There was a long silence as they continued walking up the driveway. Did he not want to meet her family?

“You know by bringing me, everyone is going to assume we’re serious,” he said, gazing at her.

Surprised at his comment, she glanced at him. A frown sat on his face like he’d just learned the Rangers had lost.

“Yes, and if we aren’t seriously dating, what are we doing?”

“I mean they’re going to think we’re getting married.”

If things worked out between them, wouldn’t they eventually get married?

“Usually a period of dating leads to the couple pledging their undying support of one another in front of a minister and committing the rest of their lives together. I’m not ready to commit myself to you, but we are dating. Right?”

He let out a sigh and shook his head at her. “You always break it down to the basics.” Jason opened the gate to the backyard, and they entered the family zone.

“Hi,” Amanda’s cousin, Mary, cried as she ran to hug her. “I’m so glad you came. And you must be Jason.”

“Nice to meet you,” he replied.

“Later, I’ll grab you and tell you all kinds of horrifying family stories about Amanda.”

Jason laughed.

Amanda frowned at her. “We’re not going to bore him to tears with stories of our misbegotten youth.”

“Catch me later, Jason. I’ll fill you in on all the gory details,” Mary teased.

Amanda spotted her mother. “We better go check in. See you soon.”

She led a reluctant Jason over to her mother and father, who stood talking to several of her aunts and uncles. As she walked towards them, her mother separated herself from the group and hurried to her.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she said, kissing her on the cheek. “And you must be Jason. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Thank you, it’s nice to meet you, too,” he said, his voice less than excited.

Well, he wasn’t exactly wowing them. In fact, he didn’t even seem to be trying to impress her mother. Her father would be the most critical one, her mother more laid-back. But so far, Jason was just being there, and that was a huge disappointment.

“Amanda tells us you work at Ramson and Company,” her mother said.

“Yes,” he answered.

Her mother stared at him. “What do you do there?”

“I’m a technical engineer.”

Just then her father strolled over, and Amanda watched him size up Jason. Her mother introduced the two of them, and her father shook Jason’s hand.

“Dear, Jason is a technical engineer for Ramson and Company.”

“What kind of business do they do?” her father asked.

“Oil and gas equipment.”

“That’s a great business here in Texas,” her father responded, making polite conversation.

Obviously, he didn’t appear impressed with Jason either. She was just reading their body language, but so far her parents seemed to be less than thrilled with her date.

“Yes, it is. We stay busy.”

Her father waved at someone. “Excuse me.”

Amanda stood there with her mother. “Where is Aunt Rose?”

“They’re not coming till later,” her mother said, taking her by the arm and walking across the lawn.

“How long does this last?” Jason asked, looking bored as he followed alongside them.

“Usually until midnight,” her mother said.

He turned and gazed at Amanda. “Babe, I’ve got to be home by five.”

“Oh, I know I told you it would last all evening. After dark, we bring out the guitars, and everyone sings and dances.”

“I don’t sing, and I definitely don’t dance,” he said, raising his brows.

Amanda frowned, and her mother stepped away from the two of them to speak to another family member. Frustration seized her insides and wrung them out, while she kept a carefully controlled smile on her face. It wouldn’t be good to have her first fight with Jason in front of the family.

“You can take me home and then come back,” he said, looking into her eyes. “I’ve got things to do.”

“This is our date day. What is going on after five?”

“I’ve got to work,” he said.

She wasn’t born yesterday, and he hadn’t mentioned anything about working this weekend. Lying to get out of spending time with her family irritated her, but what could she do? “Okay, well, let me at least introduce you to the rest of the family.”

She dragged him around the yard, introducing him to her aunts, uncles, and cousins, who politely spoke to him.

Afterwards, they sat with family members until her cousin, Mary, came up to her. “Hey, girl, come with me. You’re needed in the kitchen.” She glanced over at Jason. “I’ll bring her right back.”

Thirty minutes later, Amanda walked outdoors, hoping to find Jason with a coke in hand, standing around talking to her uncles or at least her father.

Instead, she found him sitting close to the pool, his phone out, playing a game. How could you bring someone around to show them off, when they didn’t even try to blend in with your family? Was this what being married to him would be like when they visited her family?

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, there you are. I got bored, so I dug out my phone. I’m playing Bejeweled.”

“I thought maybe you would get to know some of my family. I hoped you’d be talking to them,” Amanda said, her insides tightening with frustration.

He looked around and shrugged. “Maybe later. Do they serve alcohol at these functions?”

“No, my uncle Jim is a pastor. Not going to happen at the family picnic at his house.”

Jason snickered. “I guess not.” He glanced at his watch. “When’s lunch ready? I really need to get home by five.”

Again, his insistence that he be home by five. Did he have another date tonight? Or was this just his excuse to get out of the family gathering?

Her uncle Jim came to the door. “Let’s all gather around in a circle for prayer before we eat.”

Amanda walked over to join in the prayer circle. When she glanced around, Jason sat in the same chair by the pool, his phone in his hand, still playing games.

“Jason, come on,” she said, trying to keep the frustration out of her voice. She took her father’s hand.

Her father looked down at her and smiled. “Coming around the family is always a good test.”

She nodded, her stomach clenching, her insides seething. “Yes, it is, Daddy. Yes, it is.”

Jason put his phone away, ran over and grabbed her left hand. “Okay, I’m ready.”

Amanda glanced over at him and smiled, but somehow the smile didn’t reach her heart.

***

Lacey sat in her office and glanced at her watch to see the time was after seven. Her last client had just left, and exhaustion oozed from her every pore. After her roller coaster weekend of highs and lows, Monday had drained her batteries of all reserves.

BOOK: The Relationship Coach
2.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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