Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Married. Book 8, Part 7

Rowena Fills In

Fiction by S. D. Youngren



Rowena tossed the report onto the table. “So I've got homework of my own,” she told Sammy. “I can quietly keep you company in your labors, so to speak, or I can be boring right alongside you. Your choice.” In a way, then, the timing wasn't too bad. In a way.

“Keep me company, then,” Sammy said. “Why did they give her a report just before her maternity leave?”

“They didn't. She wasn't going to leave quite yet, but she developed complications and had to go on bed rest or something. So . . .”

“Well,” Sammy said, “I hope everything turns out for her.”

“So do I.” Rowena barely knew Tracy, who did the same sort of work Rowena did, but on the next floor up. Still, under the circumstances, one could hardly hold a grudge, even with an unfamiliar report to finish in three days.

“Three days,” Rowena told Sammy, gesturing at the folder. “Three days.”

“You'll do fine,” said Sammy. “I have faith in you.”

“But three days!” said Rowena. “Three days!”

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

“Three days!” she said into the phone, about two hours later. “Three days, Mom.”

“And less than a year to plan your wedding. So, let's see, I contacted—”

“Mother! Listen, I really don't have much time. Why don't I call you back when—”

“Not much time is right! So, let's see, there's the caterer—”

“Mother. Please. I have to get this report done. So if—”

“Rowena! I'm talking about your wedding!

“And I'm talking about my job. Mom, it's only three days. I'm—”

“Your wedding!” her mother cried. “This is your future! How can you—”

“It's my wedding,” Rowena said, “not my marriage. It's just one ceremony, which I certainly hope will go well, but it's just one day out of—”

Just one day!” her mother cried.

“And I have plenty of time to plan it, really. These three days—”

“Rowena! Your life—

“And my job is a part of my life, and if I don't get this report done in three days—

“Your job,” said her mother stiffly, “is all very well and good for the moment, but you are about to embark on your real life, and to sacrifice that for some silly job . . . Well!”

Rowena took a deep breath. “My job may be silly,” she said, “but I need it.”

“Rowena—”

“Sammy needs it. Have you forgotten? Law school is not free. He's going to have to pay tuition and fees and things, and buy books, and he's going to have to cut back on his hours while he's in school, which means he'll be earning less . . . Please, Mother. For our future. Okay?”

For a second or two, silence. Rowena all but held her breath, waiting. At last her mother said, “Three days?”

Rowena exhaled, quietly. “Three days.”

“And then you can get back to business? About the wedding?”

“Yes,” Rowena said.

“Three days,” her mother repeated. “That means the . . . sixteenth?”

“Yes,” Rowena said. “Thank you.”

“All right. So on the sixteenth—”

“In the evening,” Rowena said. “After work. Better make it after dinner. We don't want to keep Sammy's dinner waiting.”

“Of course not. So on the sixteenth, after dinner, I'll call you and let you know.”

Rowena froze. “Let me know?” she managed.

“Let you know what I arranged,” her mother said. “If you can't do it, I had better. So—”

“Mother! Don't—don't make any decisions, okay? You can go ahead and call people, make notes, whatever, but don't—”

“Don't be silly, Rowena. Time is running out, and this is your Very Special Day we're talking about.”

“Mother, I—”

“Now you go and finish your project and make lots of money for Sammy while I take care of the plans.”

“Mother! Mother, listen.”

“I'll talk to you in three days,” her mother said, and hung up. Rowena stared a while at the phone, then slowly put it down.

Suddenly three days seemed like a long, long time.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

For the rest of the evening Rowena tried to concentrate on her report. This was made only a little easier when Sammy reminded her that it was probably too late for her mother to actually contact any caterers, florists, or anybody else until morning. It was made rather more difficult, though, when he tried calling her mother himself only to find the line busy. Rowena kept finding her gaze drifting from the papers in front of her to blur somewhere in the middle distance. What was her mother doing on the phone? And what would she do tomorrow? And was there any way Rowena or anybody else could stop her? The phone did ring once, but it wasn't her mother.

“Relax,” said her friend Terese. “Just concentrate on your report.”

“But my mother—what if she—Terese, she doesn't understand that it's my wedding and not hers.”

“Yeah, I've noticed. But don't worry; everything will work out.”

“Remember,” Rowena warned, “if she picks out a dress for you, you'll have to wear it.”

“Naw,” replied Terese cheerfully. “She can't order my dress on her own 'cause I'd have to be fitted for it first. Besides, I've seen the list. Bridesmaid's dresses don't come up for another month or so, by which time you'll be back in the saddle and fully in charge.”

“Fully in charge? Of my mother? Since when?”

Terese laughed. “Don't worry,” she said again. “It's only three days.”

Only three days for Rowena's mother to do as much damage as she could.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

At work the next day Rowena was, predictably, distracted. It didn't help that everyone around her—otherwise fairly cooperative, for once—kept reminding her of her main distraction.

“. . . So my mom takes me shopping,” Carla said, “and she picks out this horrible dress for me, puce or something, with these enormous ugly buttons down the front, and she insists I try it on and unfortunately it fit and I had to find some kind of excuse not to buy it and she wouldn't believe it wasn't my color and she wouldn't believe the seams were loose and she wouldn't believe I already had one like it; and it was on sale, of all things; I wonder why, actually . . .”

“. . . So we went to the stupid party,” Janet told her, “and they had this inept caterer; you never saw anything like it in your life. Not only was the food lousy, but they spilled tomato sauce on the hostess' mother-in-law, or specifically on her mother-in-law's pale-green silk dress . . .”

“. . . So I tried to complain,” said Steve, “but they just kept telling me we had this agreement, and it was too late to change anything, so there was nothing I could do about it. So I demanded to see the supervisor, and she said they couldn't change anything, so I demanded to see her supervisor, and he said the same thing, so it looks like I'm stuck.”

“But then on Search for Our Lives,” Marjorie noted, “Bunny and Jesse played back their wedding video and found out their wedding video guy taped their wedding over a dirty movie that had a guy in it who looked at lot like Jesse, and since the video guy was a friend of Jesse's and Bunny's sister was there watching too, and she has a thing for Jesse although she'll never admit it, except maybe to Chloe, who . . .”

“Marjorie,” Berna said, “shut up.”

“But Bunny and—”

“I don't want to hear about it. Neither does Rowena; do you, Rowena?”

“Not really,” Rowena said.

“See? It's just some stupid fake soap-opera fantasy that—”

“Fantasy? It could happen. It—”

“Bungled wedding videos,” Berna scoffed.

“It could happen! Couldn't it, Rowena?”

Rowena was sure that it could, though she didn't know whether her mother would want to arrange for a wedding video and was confident in any case that, even if a few seconds of previously-recorded porn survived the taping process, her groom would not be involved. But still.

“It could, couldn't it?” Marjorie insisted. Rowena sighed.

“Maybe,” she said. She drained the last of her tea, and thought about going for more.

“I bet it happens all the time,” Marjorie said.

Rowena put her head in her hands and stared down at her report.

“All the time,” Marjorie said.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

That evening, Rowena's mother's phone was still busy. Rowena accepted a shoulder rub from Sammy, as well as a takeout dinner and a cup of one of her favorite teas, but she still had a hard time concentrating on her report. At least she was familiar with it now; surprisingly so, considering her state of mind. But it was hardly finished.

“Don't worry,” Sammy told her.

“Don't worry,” Terese said, over the phone.

But Rowena couldn't help worrying. All she could do was to try to worry less. But how could she not worry, with the condition her report was in, and her mother . . .

Two more days.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

At breakfast the next morning Rowena had a sudden idea—report-related, not mother-related, but she found it exciting all the same. She resisted the temptation to get a head start while she ate and instead hurried in to work, where for a while she was very productive. For a while.

“Hey, Rowena, I need some advice.”

Rowena put her finger on a passage that had, up to that morning, seemed especially problematic. She did not, however, look up. “What is it, Sara?”

“It's Boris,” Sara said. “What do you think? He won't commit.”

Now Rowena had to look at her. “Commit? Commit to what?”

“To anything! He won't move in because I don't have a good enough link thing for his damn computers. He won't spend the night because he can't leave his damn computers alone that long. He won't go out with me because he has to stay home and play on his damn computers. What do I do?”

Rowena sighed. “Resign yourself to the fact that Boris' computers come first and always will,” she said. “If you want to change your ‘network thing,’ you can; but keep in mind that even if he moves in with you he's still going to spend all his time—”

“I don't want him to spend all his time on his computers! You have to help me.”

“Sara, the guy is obsessed. You may be able to distract him somewhat, but—”

“Well, help me distract him somewhat! Anything would be better than this!

“Sara,” Rowena said, “are you sure Boris is really boyfriend material? I mean, you can really only do so much, and—”

“Boyfriend material? Compared to the rest of the losers here?”

“So find a guy somewhere else. Look, Sara, go think it over and I'll see if I can come up with anything. Right now I'm on a deadline and I really have to get back to work. If you decide it's really worth it to you to try to reform Boris—”

“What do you think I came here for?”

“—I'll try to help you, but in case you haven't noticed, the guy is, um, pretty stubborn, and—”

“Stubborn! I'll say he's stubborn! He's a royal pain!”

“Um, well, if you really want him I'll try to help, but frankly I don't think you should get your hopes up. So—”

“C'mon, Rowena! I'm desperate!”

“So am I. If I don't get this report done I'm not going to be in a position to help anybody with anything. Sara, I'll do what I can for you as soon as I can, but I can't do anything any sooner. Okay? You and Boris can wait a day or two. Right?”

Sara sighed. “If I must,” she said. She shook her head. Rowena, doing her best to keep her relief to herself, prepared to go back to her report. With luck she would still be inspired. She might make her deadline after all. “Boy, you've got it easy,” Sara was saying. “Your guy gives you the ultimate commitment, and now all you have to do is pick out a nice wedding dress and go off and have your Big Day. How lucky can you get?” She shook her head again, and strolled off. Rowena sat and stared after her.

She had entirely forgotten about her wedding-plans debacle.

She took a deep breath and looked down at her report, but could not concentrate. She closed her eyes.

One more day, for the report and her mother both.

If Rowena could make it that long.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

Rowena arrived for work on Day Three with a slight headache, a blueberry muffin, and a fair chance—provided she could stay sufficiently awake, alert, and focused—of finishing her report. She hadn't even reached her desk when she saw Sara come at her. “Tomorrow,” Rowena said, before Sara could begin. “Tomorrow, I promise. Not before.” Sara opened her mouth, then closed it and left. Not a bad start, Rowena thought. Not bad at all. She dumped her things on her desk and sat down. Her work day didn't officially start for another eight minutes, but considering all the work she'd been doing at night this hardly mattered. She opened the report and reached for her pen.

“You'll survive,” Terese had assured her.

“You'll manage,” Sammy said. “There's a reason they chose you for this.” Rowena took a deep breath and began.

Five minutes later, Leslie Campbell came by to tell her about something he'd seen on television involving a young woman who, overcome by the pressures of planning her wedding, had started an affair with another man. “I bet that happens all the time,” Leslie concluded, with a leer. “And I bet it's pretty helpful too, getting rid of the tension and everything.”

“Leslie, you are a source of tension, and a major one at that. I have all—”

“C'mon, give me a chance!”

“Leslie, no. And I give you three seconds to clear out.”

“But—”

“You know, Leslie, Eloise will be by on her rounds pretty soon, and if she catches you here . . .” She let the sentence dangle, ominously, and Leslie, grumbling, took the hint.

Rowena went back to her report. She crossed something out, twiddled her pen, recalled Leslie's comment on wedding-planning stress, and wondered what her mother would have to report to her that evening. She had a bite of muffin, thought about getting some tea, and mused glumly on the inevitability of Leslie's returning to pester her some more. She closed her eyes a moment, then picked up the phone.

“Hi, Sara; it's Rowena. No, I told you; I can't get into all that today. I've got to get this report done by this afternoon, and Leslie Campbell . . . Right, he thinks he has a new angle. Yeah. Yeah, really. Listen, Sara, if you could run interference for me today and keep Leslie and the rest of them away, I will be in a much better position to give your problem full consideration tonight. Right. Thanks, Sara. Thanks. Right. 'Bye.”

And for the rest of the day Sara found excuses to pass Rowena's desk, sometimes running off coworkers, sometimes just cruising silently by. On a few occasions Rowena found herself having to reach for the phone, but even this left her unperturbed; it was a great comfort to know that she could actually summon help.

And so her day passed, and forty-two minutes before quitting time she handed in her completed report.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

Her relief at having finished her work project almost faded by the time she got home, eclipsed by mother-dread. She greeted Sammy and the pets, told of her triumph (“See?” asked Sammy, “what did I tell you?”), had dinner, and was helping wash dishes when the phone rang.

“Go on,” said Sammy, “I'll take over from here.” He tried to make it sound as though the dishes were more of an ordeal than the upcoming conversation, but he crossed his fingers for her as she picked up the phone.

“Hello, Rowena; this is your mother.”

“Hi, Mom.” Already she was trying to analyze her mother's voice, to figure out what had happened before she was actually told.

“Such a day I had!” her mother said. “And yesterday, and the day before! Really, Rowena, you wouldn't believe it!”

“Oh?”

“First your friend Terese called,” her mother said. Rowena sat up straight. She held the phone in both hands. “She wanted to discuss the plans with me,” her mother was saying, “and she talked me into letting her come with me to the shops and places.”

“Did she?” Rowena asked faintly.

“And she roped in your friend Beth, and between this and that and your cousin Claudia having the day off yesterday and coming with me then, and all of them disputing everything every time I turned around, this one or that one or Rowena would want this one I know she would—”

Rowena put her hand over her mouth, then removed it again and managed to say, “Oh?”

“—and the canapés are all wrong and what about the wine and yellow flowers would look better with green bridesmaids' dresses but Rowena would rather have blue dresses so we should do pink flowers but yellow looks so good with blue, let's do it that way, yes that would be nice but I know she'd want green dresses really—Rowena, I couldn't hear myself think! All that running around, and I didn't get one thing decided!”

Somehow Rowena manged to say, “That's too bad,” but she sounded as though she were choking. Her mother was too overwrought to notice.

“Can't you do something about your friends?” her mother begged. “I tried to sneak off without them, but they were here first thing in the morning to pick me up! I know they mean well, but it was not very considerate of them. Whose wedding is this, anyway?”

Rowena coughed. “Whose indeed?” she said.

“Anyway, I'm all worn out by this point, thanks to them. I think I'll have to take the rest of the week off.”

“You deserve a rest,” Rowena said.

“Will you talk to those friends of yours? Tonight?”

“I'll talk to them,” Rowena said.

“Well, I should go and let you do that, then. You might have a lot of persuading to do. Anyway, I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful.”

“Well—”

“Good luck with your plans,” her mother said.

“Thanks.”

She all but danced over to Sammy to give him the news, then back to the phone to call Terese. She would talk to her friends, all right. She would call them and thank them and she would send them flowers or take them out to lunch or maybe do both.

Both. She would do both.



_____________________________/


Next Story:
Rowena Thinks Ahead

Book 8, Part 8

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