Chris and I just looked at her. Across the table, Lissa burped.
“Oh my God,” she said as Chloe began snorting with laughter. “Excuse me.”
Jennifer Anne rolled her eyes, clearly offended at sharing a table with a bunch of peons and cynics. “Christopher,” she said, and she was the only one who ever called him that, “let’s get some air.”
“But I’m eating my salad,” Chris said. He had dressing on his chin.
Jennifer Anne just picked up her napkin, folding it delicately. She’d finished her salad already and left her utensils in that neat cross in the middle, signaling to the server that she was done.
“Sure,” Chris said, standing up. “Air. Let’s go.”
Once they were gone, Chloe hopped over two seats, with Lissa following along behind her clumsily. Jess was missing, having had to stay home with her little brother when he came down with a sudden case of strep throat. Quiet as she was, I always felt things were out of balance when she wasn’t around, as if Lissa and Chloe were too much for me to handle alone.
“Man,” Lissa said as Jennifer Anne led Chris out into the lobby, talking the whole way, “she hates us.”
“No,” I said, taking another gulp of my champagne, “she just hates me.”
“Oh, stop,” Chloe said, picking through her salad.
“Why would she hate you?” Lissa asked as she tipped up her glass again. Her lipstick was smudged, but in a cute way.
“Because she thinks I’m a bad person,” I told her. “I go against everything she believes in.”
“But that’s not true!” she said, offended. “You’re a wonderful person, Remy.”
Chloe snorted. “Now, let’s not get crazy.”
“She is!” Lissa said, loud enough so that a couple of people at the next table-Don’s dealership coworkers-glanced over at us.
“I’m not wonderful,” I said, squeezing Lissa’s arm. “But I am a bit better than I used to be.”
“That,” Chloe said, tossing her napkin down on her plate, “I can agree with. I mean, you don’t smoke anymore.”
“Right,” I agreed. “And I hardly get falling down drunk at all.”
Lissa nodded. “That’s true too.”
“And finally,” I said, finishing my drink, “I don’t sleep around nearly as much as I used to.”
“Here, here,” Chloe said, lifting up her glass so I could tap mine against it. “Watch out Stanford,” she said, smiling at me. “Remy’s practically a saint now.”
“St. Remy,” I said, trying it out. “I think I like that.”
The dinner was good. No one else seemed to think the chicken was a little rubbery besides me, but then I’d lobbied hard for the beef and lost, so I might have just been sore. Jennifer Anne and Chris never returned to our table; later, on my way to the rest room, I saw they’d defected to one where I’d put several of the local bigwigs Don was friendly with from the chamber of commerce. Jennifer Anne was talking away to the town manager, waving her fork as she made a point, while Chris sat beside her, a stain now on his tie, shoveling food in his mouth. When he saw me he smiled, apologetically, and just shrugged, as if this, like so many other things, was completely out of his hands.
Meanwhile, at our table, the champagne was flowing. One of Don’s nephews, who went to Princeton, was busy hitting on Chloe, while Lissa, in the ten minutes I’d been gone, had crossed over from happily buzzing to completely maudlin, and was now well on her way to flat-out weepy drunk.
“The thing is,” she said, leaning into me, “I really thought that Adam and I would get married. I mean, I did.”
“I know,” I said, feeling relieved as I saw Jess, in one of her few dresses, heading toward us. She looked uncomfortable, as she always did in anything but jeans, and as she sat down she made a face.
“Pantyhose,” she grumbled. “Stupid things cost me four bucks and feel like freaking sandpaper.”
“Well, if it isn’t Jessica,” Chloe said, her voice high and giggly. “Don’t you own any dresses from this decade?”
“Bite me,” Jess told her, and Don’s nephew raised his eyebrows. Chloe, hardly bothered, went back to her champagne and some long story she’d been telling about herself.
“Jess,” Lissa whispered, falling off my shoulder and onto hers, her head nudging Jess’s ear, “I’m drunk.”
“I see that,” Jess said flatly, pushing her back to me. “Gosh,” she said brightly, “I’m so glad I came!”
“Don’t be like that,” I told her. “Are you hungry?”
“I had some tuna fish at home,” she said, squinting at the cen terpiece.
“Stay here.” I stood up, easing Lissa back against her own chair. “I’ll be right back.”
I was just on my way back to the table, plate of chicken and asparagus and pilaf in hand, when I heard the microphone up front crackle, a few guitar chords jangling behind it.
“Hi everyone,” a voice said as I ducked between two tables, sidestepping a server clearing plates, “we’re the G Flats, and we’d like to wish Don and Barbara the best of happiness together!”
As everyone applauded this, I stopped where I was standing, then turned my head. Don had insisted on handling the band, claiming he knew someone who owed him a favor. But now, I wished more than anything that I’d just hired the local Motown group, even if they had played two of my mother’s previous receptions.
Because of course it was Dexter, the musician boy, standing in front of the microphone in a black suit that looked a size too big. He said, “What do you say, folks? Let’s get this party going!”
“Oh, my God,” I said, as the band-a guitar player, someone on keyboards, and in the back, the red-haired Ringo I’d met the day before-burst into a rousing rendition of “Get Ready.” They were all wearing thrift shop suits, Ringo in the same clip-on tie. But already people were crowding onto the dance floor, shuffling and shimmying, my mother and Don in the middle of it all, whooping it up.
I went back to the table and gave Jess her plate, then flopped down into my seat. Lissa, as I’d expected, was now teary-eyed, dabbing at her face with a napkin while Jess patted her leg, mechanically. Chloe and the nephew were gone.
“I don’t believe this,” I said.