Wedding Bell Blues

By: Meg Benjamin

Janie slid an arm around her shoulders—not the easiest thing to do since Docia was almost nine inches taller. “She’ll love you, Docia. Trust me. This is all going to be terrific.”

Docia sighed. “I swear, Janie, I had no idea what I was getting into when I told Mom she could run the wedding. This whole production has gotten bigger than most grand operas. Maybe we should just have hightailed it to Vegas.”

“That would have broken your mama’s heart.” Janie picked up a stack of books from a customer and began clicking the cash register. “And mine. Besides, this way you get to meet all Cal’s brothers at once.”

“All of them except the oldest. Cal wouldn’t invite him. I guess none of them have forgiven him for being such a bully when they were growing up.”

“Pete seems…nice.” Janie kept her voice neutral. Actually, Pete had seemed nicer this morning, but who knew how long that would last?

Docia smiled. “Pete’s great. Once you get to know him.”

Janie wasn’t sure how well she wanted to get to know Pete Toleffson. Even if he had apologized this morning, he’d still been a jerk last night. On the other hand, he had great shoulders, especially in those T-shirts he usually wore.

“Oh, I meant to ask you—” Docia half-turned again, “—is Otto coming to the wedding? He hasn’t RSVPed yet.”

Janie yanked her unruly thoughts away from Pete Toleffson’s shoulders. Otto’s shoulders were equally broad and sort of her property. “Yes, I think so. I’ll remind him the next time I see him.”

Janie tried to remember if she’d mentioned the wedding to Otto last night. They’d gone to the movies—some comedy with a lot of men who were apparently obsessed with bodily fluids. Otto had laughed so hard he’d had to wipe away tears. Janie had dozed off about two-thirds of the way through.

“Janie, are you sure you want Otto at the wedding?” Docia’s eyes were suddenly sharp.

Janie managed a slightly tight smile. “Of course. I need somebody to dance with, after all.”

The bell above the door tinkled, and Docia’s mother, Reba Kent, bustled into the shop. Docia groaned, softly.

Reba was wearing a sky blue tunic over white slacks, her dangling earrings jingling as she moved. “Honey babe, don’t you look yummy! Come on now, we need to check on those place cards before the boys get back with Mrs. Toleffson.”

Docia grabbed her purse from behind the counter and started toward the door. Just before she went out, she turned back to Janie, the corners of her mouth slipping up in a dry smile. “You know, kid, there are a lot of dance partners out there. Maybe you should think about it.”

Janie watched the two Kent women sail down the street toward Reba’s Mercedes. A lot of dance partners were out there. But sometimes she thought Docia had grabbed the last good one.

A multi-car collision on Highway 281 made Cal and Pete late in getting to the San Antonio airport, but Pete was pretty sure their mother would have found something to be unhappy about even if they’d gotten there an hour early. Mom wasn’t big on traveling, no matter how good the cause. Leaving Iowa always struck her as a somewhat subversive idea, particularly leaving Iowa for Texas.

They found her sitting in a leather chair in the baggage claim area. Pete had a few moments to study her before she saw them coming. She had on one of those outfits she always wore when she traveled—mint-colored knit slacks and a long white blouse with bright green flowers, a purse the size of Dubuque slung over her shoulder. Her baggage was heaped at her feet—a series of tapestry-covered suitcases decorated with fluorescent tape so that she could find them on the baggage carousel.

She looked up then and saw them, her face slowly smoothing out of a frown into a tight smile. Pete figured she was glad to see them, sort of. Maybe.

Cal gave her a quick hug, patting her on the back. “Sorry, Mom, a wreck on the highway closed down some of the lanes, and we got held up. We tried to call your cell.”

His mother waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, I never turn it on when I’m traveling. I don’t want to forget to turn it off on the airplane. They make such a fuss about that.”

Pete sighed. No point in explaining she was supposed to turn the phone back on again once the plane landed. He kissed her cheek dutifully. “Hi, Mom.”

His mother took a quick inventory of his outfit, her smile becoming even tighter. “Well, you certainly look comfortable!”

He managed not to grimace. Cal had put on khakis and a knit shirt. Pete still wore the jeans and souvenir T-shirt from Myrtle Beach he’d put on that morning.

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