Wedding Bell Blues

By: Meg Benjamin

Call it a statement. With his mother, of course, it was more like a call to battle.

He gathered a couple of her suitcases together. “How was your flight, Mom?”

“Oh, fine. Of course, I had a middle seat. But that’s all right, it all worked out. I had a nice man on the aisle to talk to. The woman in the window seat went to sleep, but I can’t sleep on airplanes.”

She gathered up her spring coat, which she carried even though the temperature outside hovered in the mid-nineties. Pete wondered if she didn’t trust the weather forecast or if she didn’t trust Texas. Probably some of both.

“Let me carry something.” Cal reached over and picked up a large shopping bag.

“Well, just don’t look inside,” his mother cautioned. “It’s your wedding gift from Aunt Roslyn. Since she can’t come all the way down here herself, she sent it with me.” She took up a position between the two of them as they walked out the door, looking deceptively small and vulnerable between two towering hulks.

“Aunt Roslyn didn’t feel like wrapping her present?” Pete negotiated the crosswalk between taxis and shuttle buses, heading for the parking lot. “Doesn’t sound like her.”

“No, it’s wrapped,” his mother explained, “but Cal shouldn’t see the present before his fiancée does. They should see it at the same time. It’s a present to both of them. It wouldn’t be right for him to look at it without her.”

Pete debated pointing out that seeing a wrapped package before it got to Docia didn’t strike him as much of a betrayal. But what did he know? He wasn’t the one getting married.

“Oh, Cal, there’s another problem I needed to talk to you about.” His mother’s voice hadn’t really changed, but Pete heard a new undertone that set the hairs on the back of his neck prickling.

Cal apparently got the same message. Pete saw his shoulders stiffen. “What’s that, Mom?”

“Erik’s invitation still hadn’t arrived by the time I left.” His mother’s lips thinned in a tight smile. “Maybe you’d better send him another one. Or call him. That would be better at this point.”

Cal unlocked the SUV and began lifting suitcases inside the back. “I didn’t invite Erik, Mom. I haven’t spoken to him in over five years. I don’t see any point in asking him to my wedding.”

Cal’s jaw had taken on a rigid set. Pete’s shoulders tensed too.

“Well, I just thought this would be a good time for the two of you to work out your differences.” His mother’s eyes had a hard brightness that said she wouldn’t back down on this one. “It’s a family occasion, after all.”

Pete had a sudden memory of fourteen-year-old Erik holding eight-year-old Cal by the back of his shirt, laughing at Cal’s attempts to get loose.

Twelve-year-old Pete had grabbed the first thing his hands touched and whacked Erik across the back of his head with it. Unfortunately, the first thing his hands had touched was a large plastic Easter bunny. At least the surprise had made Erik drop Cal on the lawn rather than the sidewalk. But then both Cal and Pete had collapsed, giggling at the sight of the decapitated bunny’s head hanging from Erik’s shoulder.

Erik hadn’t seen the humor, of course. He’d beaten the crap out of them both. Typical.

Cal sighed and turned to face his mother. “Mom, we can’t work out our differences. Erik’s not any more interested in having a relationship with me than I am with him.”

His mother’s smile was gone, her lips taut. “Erik’s changed. He’s trying to make up for things he did when he was younger. And he’s your brother. You need to give him a chance.”

“Come on, Mom.” Pete snapped the trunk closed. “Time to get back to Konigsburg.”

His mother turned her head quickly, giving him a narrow-eyed look that would have sent him running for cover when he was ten years old. Then she sighed, moving on to her next topic. “All right, all right, let’s go. How are you feeling now, Peter? Are you taking your pills like the doctor told you to? What about the stomach problems?”

Pete opened the door for her. “Yes, ma’am. I’m doing fine.” Or he would be, once he got this wedding business over and got back to work.

Chapter Three

Otto arrived at seven to take Janie to dinner with Docia and Cal’s families at Brenner’s. Seven was around thirty minutes late, and five minutes before Janie would have been ready to go without him. She felt an emotion oddly like regret as Mom opened the front door to let him in, beaming.

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