|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Married.||Rowena Gets Ready, Part 10|
Rowena sighed as she hung up the phone. Catering. Flowers. Even the small part of the wedding checklist with which she was currently struggling could be a nightmare. Dresses, including one for her sister, whose schedule just now was proving to be as much of a problem as her mania for scandalous attire likely would if Rowena ever did manage to get her into the bridal shop. Rowena was prepared to compromise just a bit on the cleavage—just a bit—but it was her wedding, and she would not have her bridesmaids wearing micro-miniskirts and stilettos.
“Ever hear of a fait accompli?” her Maid of Honor, Terese, had asked. It was a tempting idea, if not entirely honorable. Besides, the dress would have to be tried on, and anyway Rowena was in no mood for one of—or several of—her sister's tantrums. She returned to the list in front of her, scribbled over with notes. It had never, ever occurred to her that some people might be allergic to lilies. And what about food allergies? Her friends were fine there, but there were other people to worry about, people she didn't know so well. And she had to feed some of them twice, what with the rehearsal dinner. She sighed again. Her weekends and evenings were sometimes harder on her than her workdays.
The phone rang, and with a feeling of dread Rowena picked it up.
“Oh, Rowena!” her mother cried. “How will we ever manage?”
“Manage what?” Rowena asked. It was always possible that her mother had called with an actual crisis, but then a lot of things were possible.
“Your wedding!” Her mother managed somehow to sound both panicked and dumbstruck. “Don't tell me you've forgotten!”
Rowena put her hand over her eyes. “No,” she said into the phone, “I have not forgotten. Mother, what was that agreement we had? The one about hysterics?”
“Oh, but Rowena, it's different now.”
“With the Big Day so close and—”
“Close?” There was still a lot to do, of course, but they were keeping to the schedule. And even if Rowena had been worried, there was no way she'd admit it to her mother. And certainly not now. “Mother, the wedding is months away. Still. In fact—”
“Oh, but Rowena, you have no idea how quickly—”
“Like childhood.” Her mother giggled. “When your children come along, you'll find out—”
“So anyway, what about the color? I've decided on yellow.”
There was no escaping her mother. Rowena took a deep breath. “Have you?” she asked. “Mother, I—”
“Such a happy color, don't you think? You could—”
“Mother, I don't want a yellow wedding. Thank you for all your work and everything, but in this case I—”
“And just a tiny touch of pink to set the yellow off. It'll look so sweet.”
“Oh, Rowena, what's wrong with a little pink to set off your yellow?”
“The main thing that's wrong,” Rowena said, “is that there isn't going to be a great deal of yellow to set off.”
“Rowena! I made a lovely picture—”
“All cut out of magazines. You can have daffodils and yellow roses and—”
“What's wrong with yellow roses?”
“Nothing,” said Rowena, “except that I'm not having yellow as my ‘color.’”
“But, Rowena, it's all decided.”
“Yes,” Rowena said. “I have decided. Would you like to hear what I've decided?”
“Rowena!” her mother cried.
Rowena resisted a very strong urge to tell her mother to grow up. “Mother, this is supposed to be my wedding. Really. And—”
“Does Sammy know what a willful wife he's getting?”
“Yeah, he knows.” If he were home he would probably rescue her from all this. Rowena looked at the clock.
“Well,” her mother was saying. “It seems to me that if a person goes to all the trouble—”
“I've gone through a lot of trouble,” Rowena began, when she heard Sammy's key in the lock.
She was pleased to have an excuse to hang up.
“She's driving me nuts,” Rowena said. “Completely nuts.”
“It's a mother's prerogative,” Sammy told her.
“Especially my mother's.” Rowena closed her eyes. “Sammy, I don't know what to do. Short of changing our phone number, which seems just a little extreme—”
“Just a little. Of course, we could if we had to, but for your parents not to have our phone number at all—”
“No, no. That's silly. Anyway, she'd just come over and harass me in person.” Rowena took a sip of the tea he had brought her.
Sammy nodded. “I imagine,” he said, “that this is just one of those things you have to keep working at.”
“Like a relationship.” Rowena laughed. “It is a relationship, isn't it? Just not as rewarding as some.” She reached out and took his hand. “I just—between her and all these arrangements—if I don't find some way to—”
The phone rang. Rowena collapsed onto the table with a groan. Sammy got up, went calmly to the phone, and picked it up. “Hello? Yes. Oh, hi, Mrs. Masters.”
Their landlady. Rowena looked up. “Yes, she's here,” Sammy said, looking over at her curiously. “I'll put her on. Thanks; you, too. 'Bye.”
Rowena took the phone from him. “Hi, Mrs. Masters,” she said. She couldn't imagine what Mrs. Masters had to say to her that couldn't have been said to Sammy.
“Hello, dear,” Mrs. Masters said. “I hope I'm not calling at a bad time.”
“No,” Rowena said, rolling her eyes towards Sammy. “It's not a bad time.” Since when, she wondered, did Mrs. Masters worry about that?
“Oh, good,” Mrs. Masters was saying. “I know you must be very busy right now with all your wedding preparations and everything; my, I remember when I was getting ready for my wedding, I was so busy . . .”
“There's a lot to do,” Rowena agreed.
“. . . Running around, talking to people, arguing with people, making a million decisions . . .”
“. . . Being polite to people, fending off busybodies . . .”
Rowena closed her eyes. “I know,” she said.
Mrs. Masters laughed. “Yes, I imagine you do,” she said. “Actually, that's why I called. I thought it might be nice to give you a break from all that.”
“Oh,” said Rowena. She had no idea what Mrs. Masters was talking about.
“Yes,” Mrs. Masters said, as though confident that Rowena had understood her. “I thought, ‘Why not invite the poor thing to lunch tomorrow? I could fix her a nice Sunday lunch and for one afternoon she would have nothing to worry about.’”
“Well,” Rowena said. “That's very nice of you, Mrs. Masters.”
“Oh, think nothing of it,” Mrs. Masters said. “I remember what it was like.”
“How's one o'clock sound, dear?”
Rowena put her hand over the receiver. “Mrs. Masters is inviting me to lunch tomorrow,” she said. “One o'clock.”
“Sure,” Sammy said. “If you want to go.”
“One o'clock is fine,” Rowena told Mrs. Masters. “Thank you.”
“Not at all,” Mrs. Masters said. She paused, just slightly. “I know you feel as though you'll never survive this, but take my word for it, dear; you will. All you need is a little time to relax.”
She could, of course, relax with Sammy. Except that Sammy was spending so much time now studying. “Thank you,” Rowena said again. “Thank you, Mrs. Masters.”
Rowena set Sammy's glass on the table within his reach. “Okay, well, I guess I'm going.”
“Have a good time,” Sammy said, looking up from his book. “As good a time as one can expect to have socializing with one's landlady, at least.”
Rowena laughed. “Hey, this is a State Occasion,” she said. “Lunch with Mrs. Masters! I've never heard of her inviting a tenant over before.”
“Told you you were special,” Sammy said, reaching to touch her face.
“Anyway, how entertaining does she have to be? My mom doesn't have her phone number, and while I am over there I am on vacation as regards all decisions and/or wedding arrangements.” As if on cue their telephone rang. Rowena gave Sammy a quick kiss and dashed out.
“Oh, thank you for coming,” Mrs. Masters said. “I hope you like sandwiches.”
“Um, sandwiches are fine,” Rowena said, feeling very inane. She could just imagine what her friend Terese would say about this.
“I have soup too.”
“Soup is good.”
“And there are crackers and I have some muffins and some fruit and some leftover lasagna.”
“And there's sausage and cheese and peanut brittle.”
“The peanut brittle can be for dessert. But I also have some sherbet and doughnuts and chocolate morsels, if you like those. You know, the little ones to put in cookies.” Mrs. Masters clapped her hand over her mouth. “Cookies! I don't have any cookies.”
“That's fine,” Rowena said. “It's all fine. I'm sure we don't need any cookies.”
“You're so polite,” Mrs. Masters said.
“Really, Mrs. Masters, you have so much food here—”
“And so many kinds of food, that—”
“I should have had some cookies for you. I almost always have cookies; I don't know what happened here.”
“Mrs. Masters, really. It's fine. It's all lovely. I don't want any cookies.”
“No cookies? What about—”
“It's fine. Really. It's very nice. I'm looking forward to eating it.” This last was meant as a hint; Rowena had had quite enough of standing there arguing about food. Mrs. Masters frowned just a bit, considering what Rowena had said.
“Well,” she said at last, “all right, then.” Rowena smiled at her. Mrs. Masters turned in a brisk, businesslike way.
“Well,” she said, “let's start, then. What would you like to drink? I've got apple juice, cranberry juice, sparkling water, regular water, orange juice, cola, root beer, grape juice, orange soda . . .”
Rowena took a deep breath and followed her hostess to the table.
At the table she had to endure, all over again, Mrs. Master's lists and choices. This or that? How about . . . ? Wait, I almost forgot . . . She managed, somehow, by taking a series of deep breaths and reminding herself, repeatedly, that none of this actually mattered, to choose her sandwich, her fruit, and her beverage. Plus a very small bit of lasagna. And a little cup of soup.
“Now,” said Mrs. Masters, once they got themselves settled, “What about your wedding plans? Do you have a color picked out?”
Rowena took another deep breath. “Well, I—”
“I think pink would look just so sweet. And there are so many lovely pink flowers to choose from.”
“And maybe just a tiny touch of yellow, to set off the pink. And it's such a happy color, isn't it?”
“And some lovely pink table linens at the reception. Speaking of which, I know a wonderful caterer . . .”
By the time Rowena got home, she was worn out. She slumped into a chair next to Sammy and put her head down.
“Whatever happened?” Sammy asked.
“Never again,” said Rowena. “Never, ever, ever.” She rolled her head to face him and opened her eyes. “First I had to decide between about a million different food items she had for me—”
“And then she wanted to grill me about the wedding plans and give me all kinds of suggestions—”
“Whatever was I thinking? Did my mom have my brains so fried I forgot that Mrs. Masters is a busybody too?”
“Maybe.” Sammy began rubbing the back of her neck. “I guess this is the wrong time to tell you that your mother didn't call while you were out.”
“And that call just before you went? That was Terese. No big deal, she says; she just wanted to talk. I told her you'd call her back.”
Rowena let out a loud groan and then began to laugh. It had all been in vain. Worse than that, in fact. Sammy gave her shoulders a few squeezes, then stood.
“I'll make you a cup of tea,” he offered. “What kind would—sorry.” He grinned at her. “Maybe I'll just pick something out myself.”
“Maybe that would be best.” Rowena smiled at him. “Thank you,” she said.
He moved off to the stove, and the phone rang. Rowena buried her head under her arms just as he said, “Stay there. I'll answer it.” The ringing stopped abruptly as he picked up, and she heard him tell her mother that she couldn't come to the phone. “Sure, Babette,” he said. “I'll tell her. Thanks. 'Bye.”
Rowena took a deep breath. “What was all that about, or do I want to know?”
“Nothing,” Sammy said. “She was calling to make sure we noticed that she hadn't called for a while.” Rowena raised her head and tried to say something, then gave up and only watched him as he filled the kettle and went to her tea cupboard. Nice hot soothing tea; one thing, she thought suddenly, that Mrs. Masters had not offered her. She began to laugh.
“What is it?” Sammy asked, smiling already. She told him, noting as she did the Darjeeling in his hand.
Darjeeling. He had made the exact right choice. And after they had laughed together at Mrs. Masters' attempt at thorough hospitality, she told him so.
Volume III: Rowena Gets Married.
Book 8: Rowena Gets Ready.
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