“Okay,” Delia said, putting her hands to her face, “God, just let me think . . . think . . .”
“What’s wrong?” Wes said as he passed through, picking up more ginger ale for the bar.
“We didn’t bring enough hamburgers,” I told him. To Delia I said, “Look, it’s fine, most people probably won’t even—”
“Three cases isn’t enough?” Wes said.
Delia took her hands off her face. “There were supposed to be two,” she said, speaking slowly.
“You said three,” he told her. “I remember.”
“I said two,” she said, sounding out the words carefully.
“I don’t think so.”
“Two!” Delia held up two fingers, waving them in the air. “Two boxes is what I said.”
“But there are three,” he told her, speaking equally slowly. “One in the first cart, two in the cooler. Go check. They’re there.”
I did, and they were. Not only were we not scrambling for beef, we had a surplus. And that wasn’t all. Bert and I almost collided and spilled condiments all over each other, but I was able to step aside at the last second, disaster averted. The ice cream scoopers were nowhere to be found, until they magically appeared, in the drawer beneath where they were supposed to be. And so on.
“I’m telling you,” Delia said to me later, as we stood in the back of the kitchen, surveying the yard, which was full of happy, well-fed people enjoying food, beverage, and each other’s company without incident, “this just makes me very nervous.”
“Delia,” I said, watching as Wes poured a glass of wine for a woman in a strappy sundress who was gesturing grandly, talking to him. He was just nodding, in an oh-sure-absolutely way, as if what she was saying was fascinating. As he bent down to scoop ice though, out of her sight, I saw him roll his eyes.
“I know, I know.” She chewed on her pinkie nail. “It’s just so weird. Everything is going too well.”
“Maybe you’ve just earned it,” I offered. “You know, the cumulative effect of all those bad nights.”
“Maybe,” she said. “I just wish we’d have one little mishap. It would be reassuring.”
The weirdest thing was, I could see her point. Once, this sort of night had been all I aspired to, everything going like clockwork, just perfect. But now it was a little eerie. Not to mention, well, boring.
I couldn’t help but think, though, as the hour crept from four to four-thirty to five, that maybe this was a trend that could work in my favor. After all, in about a half hour I’d get dropped off at the Commons, where I’d have to face my mother and explain quitting the info desk. The closer it got, the more nervous I became. Each time my stomach jumped, though, I reminded myself of what Delia had said to me, about how it might be hard to tell my mother how I really felt, but I had to try anyway. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was a start. And like my dad always said, the first step is always the hardest.
I was mulling over this as I stood by the buffet, spatula in hand, when a hand blurred across my vision. “Hello?” Wes said, as I blinked, looking at him. “Man, where were you?”
“The land of truth and consequences,” I said, poking at the vegetarian option (grilled marinated peppers and spicy black-bean burgers) which had, so far, had no takers. “Less than an hour before everything hits the fan.”
“Ah, right,” he said, eyeing the veggie burgers disdainfully, “Jason.”
“Not Jason,” I said. “God. He’s the least of my problems. My mother.”
“Oh.” He nodded. “Right.”
“I haven’t even thought about Jason,” I told him, using the spatula to stack the burgers so that maybe they’d look more appetizing. “I mean, I was dreading seeing him at the library, because that was not going to be a good scene. But now . . . now, everything’s different. I mean, we’re . . .”
Wes waited, not saying anything, as I searched for the right word. A woman passed by, eyeing the peppers before loading up from the next pan, which was full of steaks.
“Over,” I finished, realizing this myself just as I said it. I could only imagine Jason’s response to me quitting the info desk: he’d never want me back now, and that, I realized, was just fine with me. “It’s over,” I said again, testing how I felt as my mouth formed the word. Okay, actually. “We’re over.”
“Wow,” Wes said slowly. “Are you—”
“Excuse me, are these vegetarian?” I looked up to see a short, squat woman in a bright print dress, holding a plateful of potato chips. She had on thick, wire-rimmed glasses, which clearly were not strong enough for her to make out the sign that said VEGETARIAN ENTRÉE.
“Yes,” I said. “They are.”
“Are you sure?”
I nodded, then scooped up one of the burgers and put it on her plate. She squinted down at it, then moved on. To Wes I said, “What were you—”
“Lady at the corner table wants a white wine spritzer,” Bert reported as he passed by with a trayful of crumpled napkins and empty cups. “Pronto!”
Wes started around the table, glancing back at me. “Um, nothing,” he said. “I’ll tell you later.”
As he went back to the bar, Delia moved down the table, rearranging the items in the pans. “It is just so weird,” she said, taking in the black-bean burgers, “because I meant to bring more of those, and forgot them. I was so worried we wouldn’t have enough!”
“Nope,” I said, waving off a fly that was buzzing over them. “Plenty.”
“See, again,” she said, sighing. “Too good. Too good! I don’t like this. I need a sense of balance. I never thought I’d admit this, but I need chaos.”
Just as we were leaving, she got her wish.
It happened as we were packing the last of our stuff into the van. Wes and I were pushing in the carts, and Delia was at the top of the driveway, getting her check from the client, who was so entirely happy with her catering experience that she was paying full price and adding a bonus, which was another first. So all was great, wonderful: perfect. And then I heard a shriek.
It wasn’t Delia. Nope. It was the client, reacting to the fact that Delia’s water had just broken. The baby was on its way.
"Are you okay?”