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Authors: Jackina Stark

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BOOK: Things Worth Remembering
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“Well, your nails certainly do, all twenty of them.”

I hold up my hands and look at the shiny cranberry nail polish, expertly applied.

“You’re quite right. That’s thanks to Jackie. I told her all of us were getting the works Saturday, but that didn’t deter her; she said we needed to look great for the rehearsal too, so after lunch, out she came with the box of manicure supplies.”

“Like old times, huh?” Paula asks, pulling up a chair, plopping into it and using my lounger for a footstool.

“It was. When they were in grade school, I don’t think the four of them ever spent a night when we didn’t play beauty shop. I was usually the nail tech, exhausted and ready for bed after painting eighty little nails.”

“One more reason I’m glad I had boys.”

“Today they did each other’s nails while I watched. But when they were through, Jackie insisted on doing mine too.

She tested three colors on my thumbnail before she decided this one was just the thing. She’ll be glad you approve.”

“The girls about ran over me when I was coming into the house. Where were they off to?”

“They have a final fitting for their dresses. One or two of them are still too long. They’re tea length apparently, and Maisey wants to make sure they’re just right. Jackie was telling her to relax when they headed inside earlier. Her exact words were, ‘I’m getting your meds.’ ”

“They showed me their bracelets. Quite nice, I must say.”

“They are, aren’t they? All three of them came out and showed them to me too. Jackie said it was a good thing they did their nails, because they’ll be holding out their hands all day long to show off their bracelets.”

“It sounds like things went well.”

“Very well. I don’t know why you’ve been so worried.”

“Oh really?”

Paula is nothing if not observant, and though we’ve talked little about it, she is borderline angry that I have not so much as seen Maisey’s wedding dress and have not been consulted about anything related to the wedding except the menu for the reception dinner and the whereabouts of our checkbook. She said one Saturday in March that it was “awfully nice” of Maisey to finally tell me that her wedding colors were black and white so I could buy a dress. We actually managed to laugh that day.

“The girls enjoyed being together so much,” I say. “And Marcus, well, he’s an angel.”

“He seems like a good guy, all right. Maisey chose well. He’s the silver lining in all this, isn’t he?”

“Pure gold, as a matter of fact. Every time Marcus comes to visit, I like him more. In fact, I love the boy already. Did I tell you I wrote his mother after they became engaged? I told her I considered Maisey blessed to be marrying her son.”

“Do you suppose I’ll get one of those letters someday?”

“You should. Your boys are a gift to the world too. As are you.”

“Since you feel that way, I’m sure you’ll agree to go to Indy with me. I need a dress for the wedding.”

“You’ve got a dress.”

“I hate it. I don’t know what I was thinking. I look downright frumpy in it. Why in the world did you let me buy it?”

“You do not look frumpy in it or anything else.”

“I do too, and I’m taking it back. I’ll embarrass you if I show up in it.”

I laugh at the absurd statement. “You’re making this up, aren’t you?”

“What is it you and Maisey used to say? I’m ‘embellishing’ a bit. I
am
returning the dress, though; the hem is coming out, and I don’t think I should have to put a hem in a brand-new dress. And I have decided to buy something else.
You should go with me. It might do you good to get away for a few hours.”

“I don’t really want to send you off by yourself, but I think I’d better hang around here. I have to fix something for dinner tonight. The kids aren’t going to be here long, you know. We have what’s left of today and tomorrow. Friday hardly counts, so much will be going on.”

“Well, I’m off, then,” Paula says, standing up and stretching.

“Are you absolutely sure you don’t want to come?”

“I’d better not.”

“I knew you’d say that.”

“And still you came. I don’t deserve such a good friend.”

“Oh, but you do,” she says as she heads around the house to her car. “You really do.”

Maybe I should have gone with her. Marcus and Luke went to check on tuxes shortly before the girls left. For one who enjoys blocks of silence, I suddenly feel more lonely than alone. I should have asked someone to find my book and bring it to me before they all disappeared. Instead I sit here, defenseless.

Wouldn’t I love it if he were playing in the pool?

Wouldn’t I love to hear him shouting, “Mom, watch this dive!”

He would be nine years old now. He might have been in Paula’s fourth-grade class next year. I think he’d be pretty gangly at nine, and I imagine him having my dark hair and Luke’s brown eyes. I suppose he’d be too old to be a ring bearer in his sister’s wedding. But perhaps he could have escorted his mother down the aisle in his new black dress coat and sat beside me, holding my hand, whispering, “Don’t cry, Mom.”

Maisey

Until he calls my name, I don’t see Marcus on the floor of the living room when I walk in.

“What are you doing down there?” I ask.

“Looking at your albums.” One is in his lap; another is on the floor beside him. “Kendy was looking at them when your dad and I came home. All three of us sat here and looked at them for a while. I’m not sure where your parents have gone, but I said I’d put them away because I wanted to look through them some more. They’re great. I have to say the baby one is very cute. And the basketball one records in amazing detail what a star you were.”

“I told you that,” I say.

“Yes, and I’ve seen your prowess with my own eyes, watching you and your dad play. But this album tells the complete story, Most Valuable Player and all. It has some great pictures too. Why haven’t you shown these to me?”

“That seems a little narcissistic, don’t you think? Do you make me sit down and look at your albums or home videos?”

“If I had some, you’d want to see them. Besides, you
have
looked through our family photo albums, even though everyone had about quit taking pictures by the time I came along.”

“Well, that’s different.”

“I don’t see how. In fact, you’re the one who stole my second-grade school picture and put it in your billfold, so don’t pretend this stuff isn’t important.”

Marcus slides the albums back into the cabinet, stands up, and stretches.

I change the subject. “Were the tuxes ready?”

“They were, and they’re in my room, safe and sound, except for your dad’s.”

I must look distressed.

“His is safe and sound in
his
room. That’s probably where he and your mom are.”

“Good.”

“Relax, honey. Everything will be fine. You’ve checked and double-checked every detail.”

“Do you know what we’re doing for dinner? I thought we could go to a movie and share a tub of popcorn for dinner.”

“I think your mom’s making a salad.”

“They won’t mind if we go.”

“It’s okay with me, but let’s see if your parents want to come with us.”

“They won’t,” I say.

Marcus looks at me like I’ve said something inconceivable.

“Let’s go up to your room,” he says.

“Why?”

“I want to talk to you.”

“We’re talking.”

“Privately. I don’t want to be interrupted.”

I walk up the stairs with Marcus behind me. As soon as we go into my room and shut the door, his face and body language verify what I suspected downstairs: I am not going to like this private conversation. We walk over to my bed and sit on the edge of it.

“Maisey,” he begins. This is the first time his saying my name has made me apprehensive.

“What?”

I suddenly wish Marcus and I were in the kitchen or on the porch talking to Mom and Dad about our fabulous lunch with the girls. I feel like I’ve been called to the principal’s office. I feel the urge to clean my closet or reapply my nail polish, but I make myself sit here and wait for Marcus to explain his weirdness.

He takes my hand. Why would a principal do that? I look into his gorgeous brown eyes and feel slightly better.

“I just want to know what’s going on,” he says.

That could have been my line.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Something’s wrong between you and your mom.”

I gasp as though he’s slapped me.

I can’t believe he has uttered those words. Spoken aloud, I can’t believe the impact they have on me. Out of the void, he has given form to what should have remained, at most, only a vague suspicion. And I hate it! If I’d known he was going to say such a thing, I would have put my hand over his mouth to stop him. If I could, I would shove the words back into his mouth. My face feels hot, and my heart is racing.

“Are you crazy?” I ask as calmly as I can. I want my hand back, but if I jerk it away, he’ll read who knows what into it.

“You know I’m not.”

“What has she said?”

“She hasn’t said anything.”

“What has she done?”


She
hasn’t done anything.
You
have, Maisey.”

Now, there’s a bit of irony.

I pull my hand away now—he can make of it what he will.

I get up from the bed and walk over to my windows and look out at the familiar scene: patio, pool, field, woods. I can see, but only because I know it’s there, my old tree house on the edge of the tree line. On our first trip here together, I walked with Marcus across the field and showed it to him. I wish I were bewitched like Samantha and could transport myself there now with a twitch of my nose.

Marcus comes up behind me and puts his arms around me. “I don’t want to upset you,” he says.

“I’m not upset.”

“Well, Maisey, we both know that’s not true.”

I move out of his arms and turn to look at him. “So now you’re calling me a liar?”

“Not really. There’s a difference between what I said and calling you a liar.”

“You think so?”

“I know
so. I think you do too. You’re avoiding more than you’re lying.”

This is too much. I thought I was marrying a lawyer, not a psychiatrist.

“I just want to know why you treat your mother like you do.”

“This is our wedding weekend, Marcus. If I
had
an answer for you, if I
wanted
to answer your question, I most certainly would not want to go into it now.”

“I want to go into it for that very reason. I love you, and I want you to be happy.”

“I’m very happy. I’m about to marry the love of my life. I’ve just started a great job. You know I’m happy. Good grief—I’m absolutely ecstatic!”

“That’s true,” he says, smiling for the first time since he asked to speak to me privately. “But, Maisey, you’re happy and not happy at the same time. You can’t be happy treating your mother the way you do.”

Even though I’m sure love is motivating Marcus, I’m suddenly as angry as I am agitated. “That ticks me off, Marcus. I treat my parents as well as you treat yours!”

He looks at me and I hear his words again, though they’re unspoken this time:
That’s not true.

But it
is
true—as far as Dad’s concerned anyway. Him, I adore, which should be obvious. Of course, even in my growing state of delirium, I know this does nothing to build a case for my defense.

Marcus knows it too. “I wouldn’t say you deliberately try to hurt your mom, but you shut her out. You all but ignore her most of the time.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“It’s not ridiculous. You fooled around so we couldn’t make it for dinner Monday night, and when we finally got here, you hardly spoke to them before you went upstairs to bed.”

“You know I was tired.”

“I know you slept three of the five hours we were on the road.”

My room has been transformed from a safe haven to an arena. I stand frozen in the sand, waiting for the lions to be released.

“Marcus, I don’t want to talk about this now. Why are you insisting we talk about this
today,
for goodness’ sake?”

“Because I was embarrassed for your mom.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I felt sorry for her when you made it clear this morning that you didn’t want her to join our team.”

“Our team?”

“Our team, in the pool this morning. It would have been fun. I really don’t get it. The girls didn’t seem to notice. Maybe you do that sort of thing all the time, but I noticed. And Kendy noticed. I saw her face.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re so concerned for my mother.”

“I’m concerned about both of you.”

“Don’t be.”

“I don’t know if that’s possible. And, Maisey, what’s wrong is wrong whether I point it out or not. There are more examples, you know. It has finally occurred to me that you’ve shut her out of the whole wedding. Why was she sitting here alone looking at your albums this afternoon while you went off with the girls to check on their dresses?”

“How would I know?”

Before Marcus can come up with a response, I grab my purse from the doorknob and stomp out. I feel bad leaving him standing there alone, but I have to get out of here. I will not talk about this any more.

My car is filthy. I need to take it to a car wash. But first I must get down these stairs and out of this house.

And I will, I really will—if I can just keep from dying of sadness.

CHAPTER TEN

Kendy

“Ummm,” I say, “that was nice.”

“Yes,” Luke says, tugging a strand of my hair playfully, “it was
very
nice.”

We were simply going to put away Luke’s tux, and the next thing I knew he was closing the door and then the shutters, and I was throwing the decorative pillows off the bed and folding back the duvet. We were being wildly impulsive, and didn’t it feel good? Impulsive isn’t our strong suit. It’s been a while since we’ve made love in the middle of the day. Well, it’s almost six, not quite the middle, but still. Not to mention the fact that we have a guest in the house. I should not be smiling!

Luke said no one would miss us and that the important thing was that
he
was missing me. My goodness, it seems I was missing him too. One of the greatest pleasures of married life is the ability to comfort each other in this tender way. Today, sex provided comfort even more than pleasure or pure relief.

BOOK: Things Worth Remembering
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