Kristy handed me the tray of ham biscuits, plunking down a stack of napkins on its edge. This close to her, I still found my eyes wandering to her scars, but slowly I was getting used to them, my eyes drawn now and then to other things: the glitter on her skin, the two tiny silver hoops in each of her ears. “Work the edge of the room first. If you cross paths with a gobbler, pause for only a second, then smile and keep moving, even if they’re reaching after you.”
“Gobbler?” I said.
“That’s someone who will clear your whole tray if you let them. Here’s the rule: two and move. When they reach for a third, you’re gone.”
“Two and move,” I said. “Right.”
“If they don’t let you move on,” she continued, “then they cross over to grabber status, which is completely out-of-line behavior. Then you are wholly within your rights to stomp on their foot.”
“No,” Delia said, over her shoulder. “Actually, you’re not. Just excuse yourself as politely as possible, and get out of arm’s reach.”
Kristy looked at me, shaking her head. “Stomp them,” she said, under her breath. “Really.”
The kitchen was bustling, Delia moving from the huge stove to the counter, Monica unwrapping one foil tray after another, revealing the salmon, steaks, whipped potatoes. There was a crackling energy in the air, as if everything was on a higher speed than normal, the total opposite of the info desk. If I’d wanted something other than silence, I’d surely found it. In spades.
“If there are old people,” Kristy said now, glancing at the door, “make sure you go to them, especially if they’re sitting down. People notice when Grandma’s starving. Watch the room, keep an eye on who’s eating and who’s not. If you’ve done a full walk of the room and the goat cheese currant stuffed celery sticks aren’t finding any takers, don’t keep walking around.”
“Goat cheese currant?” I said.
Kristy nodded gravely.
“It was just one time, one job!” Delia hissed from behind us. “I wish you all would just let that go. God!”
“If something sucks,” Kristy said, “it sucks. When in doubt, grab some meatballs and get back out there. Everybody loves meatballs.”
“What time is it?” Delia asked, as the oven shut with a bang. “Is it seven?”
“Six forty-five,” Kristy told her, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “We need to get out there.”
I picked up my tray, then stood still while Kristy adjusted one biscuit that was close to falling off the edge. “You ready?” she asked me.
She pushed the door open with one hand, and some people standing nearby waiting for drinks at the bar turned and looked at us, their eyes moving immediately to the food. Invisible, I thought. After all the attention of the last year or so, I was pretty sure I could get used to that. So I lifted my tray up, squared my shoulders, and headed in.
Thirty minutes later, I’d discovered a few things. First, everybody does love meatballs. Second, most gobblers position themselves right by the door, where they have first dibs on anything you bring out, and if you try to sidestep them, they quickly move into grabber mode, although I’d yet to have to stomp anyone. And it’s true: you are invisible. They’ll say anything with you standing there. Anything.
I now knew that Molly and Roger, the bride and groom, had lived together for three years, a fact that one gobbler relative was sure contributed to the recent death of the family matriarch. Because of some bachelorette party incident, Molly and her maid of honor weren’t currently speaking, and the father of the groom, who was supposed to be on the wagon, was sneaking martinis in the bathroom. And, oh yeah, the napkins were wrong. All wrong.
“I’m not sure I understand,” I heard Delia saying as I came back into the kitchen for a last round of goat cheese toasts. She was standing by the counter, where she and Monica were getting ready to start preparing the dinner salads, and next to her was the bride, Molly, and her mother.
“They’re not right!” Molly said, her voice high pitched and wavery. She was a pretty girl, plump and blonde, and had spent the entire party, from what I could tell, standing by the bar with a pinched expression while people took turns squeezing her shoulder and making soothing it’s-okay noises. The groom was outside smoking cigars, had been all night. Molly said, “They were supposed to say Molly and Roger, then the date, then underneath that, Forever.”
Delia glanced around her. “I’m sorry, I don’t have one here . . . but don’t they say that? I’m almost positive the one I saw did.”
Molly’s mother took a gulp of the mixed drink in her hand, shaking her head. Kristy pushed back through the door, dumping a bunch of napkins on her tray, then stopped when she saw the confab by the counter.
“What’s going on?” she said. Molly’s mother was staring at the scars, I noticed. When Kristy glanced over at her, she looked away, though, fast. If Kristy noticed or was bothered, it didn’t show. She just put her tray down, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.
“Napkin problems,” I told her now.
Molly choked back a sob. “They don’t say Forever. They say Forever . . .” She trailed off, waving her hand. “With that dot-dot-dot thing.”
“Dot dot dot?” Delia said, confused.
“You know, that thing, the three periods, that you use when you leave something open-ended, unfinished. It’s a—” She paused, scrunching up her face. “You know! That thing!”
“An ellipsis,” I offered, from the across the room.
They all looked at me. I felt my face turn red.
“Ellipsis?” Delia repeated.
“It’s three periods,” I told her, but she still looked confused, so I added, “You use it to make a transition. Also, it’s used to show a thought trailing off. Especially in dialogue. ”
“Wow,” Kristy said from beside me. “Go Macy.”
“Exactly!” Molly said, pointing at me. “It doesn’t say Molly and Roger, Forever. It says Molly and Roger, Forever . . . dot dot dot!” She punctuated these with a jab of her finger. “Like maybe it’s forever, maybe it’s not.”
“Well,” Kristy said under her breath to me, “it is a marriage, isn’t it?”
Molly had pulled out a Kleenex from somewhere and was dabbing her face, taking little sobby breaths. “You know,” I said to her, trying to help, “I don’t think anyone would think that an ellipsis represents doubt or anything. I think it’s more, you know, hinting at the future. What lies ahead.”