Molly blinked at me, her face flushed. Then she burst into tears.
“Oh, man,” Kristy said.
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I didn’t mean—”
“It’s not about the forever,” her mother told me, sliding her arm over her daughter’s shoulders.
“It’s all about the forever!” Molly wailed. But then her mother was steering her out of the kitchen, murmuring to her softly. We watched her go, all of us quiet. I felt completely and totally responsible. Clearly, this had not been the moment to show off my grammar prowess.
Delia wiped a hand over her face, shaking her head. “Good Lord,” she said, once they were out of earshot. She looked at us. “What should we do?”
Nobody said anything for a second. Then Kristy put down her tray. “We should,” she announced, definitively, “make salads. ” She started over to the counter, where she began unstacking plates. Monica pulled the bowl of greens closer, picking up some tongs, and they got to work.
I looked back over at the door, feeling terrible. Who knew three dots could make such a difference? Like everything else, a love or a wish or whatever, it was all in the way you read it.
“Macy.” I glanced up. Kristy was watching me. She said, “It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”
And maybe it wasn’t. But that was the problem with having the answers. It was only after you gave them that you realized they sometimes weren’t what people wanted to hear.
“All in all,” Delia said three hours later, as we slid the last cart, now loaded down with serving utensils and empty coolers, into the van, “that was not entirely disastrous. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it was half decent.”
“There was that thing with the steaks,” Kristy said, referring to a panicked moment right after we distributed the salads, when Delia realized half the fillets were still in the van and, therefore, ice cold.
“Oh, right. I forgot about that.” Delia sighed. “Well, at least it’s over. Next time, everything will go smoothly. Like a well-oiled machine.”
Even I, as the newbie, knew this was unlikely. All night there’d been one little problem after another, disasters arising, culminating, and then somehow getting solved, all at whiplash speed. I was so used to controlling the unexpected at all costs that I’d felt my stress level rising and falling, reacting constantly. For everyone else, though, this seemed perfectly normal. They honestly seemed to believe that things would just work out. And the weirdest thing was, they did. Somehow. Eventually. Although even when I was standing right there I couldn’t say how.
Now Kristy reached into the back of the van, pulling out a fringed black purse. “Hate to say it,” she said, “but I give the marriage a year, tops. There’s cold feet, and then there’s oh-God-don’t-do-it. That girl was freaking.”
Monica, sitting on the bumper, offered what I now knew to be one of her three default phrases, “Mmm-hmmm.” The other two were “Better quit” and “Don’t even,” both said with a slow, drawled delivery, the words running together into one: “Bettaquit” and “Donneven.” I didn’t know who had christened her Monotone, but they were right on the money.
“When you get home,” Delia said to me, running her hands over her pregnant belly once and then resting her spread fingers there, “soak that in cold water and some Shout. It should come out.”
I looked down at my shirt and the stain there I’d completely forgotten about. “Oh, right,” I said. “I’ll do that.”
About halfway through dinner, some overeager groomsman, leaping up to make a toast, had spilled a full glass of cabernet on me. I’d already learned about gobblers and grabbers: at that moment, I got a full tutorial on gropers. He’d pawed me for about five minutes while attempting to dab the stain out, resulting in me getting arguably more action than I ever had from Jason.
Jason. As I thought his name, I felt a pull in my gut and realized that for the last three hours or so, I’d forgotten all about our break, my new on-hold girlfriend status. But it had happened, was still happening. I’d just been too busy to notice.
A car turned onto the road, its headlights swinging across us, then approaching slowly, very slowly. As it crept closer, I squinted at it. It wasn’t a car but more like some sort of van, painted white with gray splotches here and there. Finally it reached us, the driver easing over to the curb carefully before cutting off the engine. A second later, a head popped out of the window.
“Ladies,” a voice came, deep and formal, “witness the Bertmobile.”
For a second, no one said anything. Then Delia gasped.
“Oh, my God,” Kristy said. “You’ve got to be joking.”
The driver’s side door swung open with a loud creak, and Bert hopped out. “What?” he said.
“I thought you were getting Uncle Henry’s car,” Delia said, taking a few steps toward him as Wes climbed out of the passenger door. “Wasn’t that the plan?”
“Changed my mind,” Bert said, jingling his keys. In a striped shirt with a collar, khaki pants with a leather belt, and loafers, he looked as if he was dressed up for something.
“Why?” Delia asked. She walked up to the Bertmobile, her head cocked to the side. A second later, she took a step back, putting her hands on her hips. “Wait,” she said slowly. “Is this an—”
“Vehicle that makes a statement?” Bert said. “Yes. Yes it is.”
“—ambulance?” she finished, her voice incredulous. “It is, isn’t it?”
“No way,” Kristy said, laughing. “Bert, only you would think you could get action in a car where people have died.”
“Where did you get this?” Delia said. “Is it even legal to drive?”
Wes, now standing by the front bumper, just shook his head in a don’t-even-ask kind of way. Now that I looked closer at the Bertmobile, I could in fact make out the faintest trace of an A and part of an M on the front grille.
“I bought it from that auto salvage lot by the airport,” Bert said. You would have thought it was a new-model Porsche by the way he was beaming at it. “The guy there got it from a town auction. Isn’t that the coolest?”
Delia looked at Wes. “What happened to Uncle Henry’s Cutlass?”
“I tried to stop him,” Wes told her. “But you know how he is. He insisted. And it is his money.”