|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Married.||Rowena Gets Ready, Part 2|
Rowena and Sammy woke to a bright clear morning. They were cuddled together, Sammy's arm over Rowena, both of them warm and content. Rowena raised her head a bit to find that Linus and Caesar were both on top of the bed with them, both looking adorably snoozy, though Linus watched his mistress with a hopeful half-opened eye and Caesar was purring. Rowena snuggled back into her pillow, back close in to Sammy, who helped by drawing her nearer. It was Saturday. It was Saturday morning, and they had been engaged for a week.
A week, Rowena thought—and then she remembered what Sammy had told her on Sunday, the day after he proposed, when she wondered why her mother wasn't calling to pester her about wedding plans. “I told her she'd have to leave you alone for a week,” Sammy had said. “I said that what with everything coming at once and so on . . . I told her you'd need a week to adjust, and that if she didn't solemnly swear to . . . well, it was dire.”
A week. And now it was up.
Sammy kissed her on the neck, and she closed her eyes.
She was mixing waffle batter when the phone rang. She looked at the clock; she and Sammy had slept in, but it was fairly early still. “Here it comes,” she said to Sammy, and picked up the receiver.
“Hello, Rowena; this is your mother.”
“Mom, hi.” She looked over at Sammy, who turned from the skillet he was tending to smile encouragingly.
“I just wanted to know how you're doing,” her mother said, significantly. Significantly . . . and sounding very, very pleased. “Checking up on the lovebirds.”
“We're fine,” Rowena said.
“How is my future son-in-law? Your fiancé? The future father of my future—”
“Sammy,” said Rowena, “is fine. Listen, could you hold off on the grandchildren thing until after the wedding? I mean—”
“Such a tone to take. And after all my work, getting him to propose. Why—”
No matter how annoying her mother got, Rowena was determined not to tell her that in fact she had nearly spoiled everything. “Well, everything's fine,” she said. “We're fixing breakfast right now, so—”
“I called your grandma and told her. She sends her congratulations.”
“Oh,” said Rowena. “Well, we appreciate that.” Why couldn't her grandmother call personally?
“And our neighbor, Mrs. Norris, she says congratulations too.”
Rowena thought she could see a pattern emerging. “Mom,” she said, “thanks for notifying people for us, but it's a little early in the morning still. If—”
“Oh, don't you worry about that! Anyway, I've been talking to people all week. I haven't called everybody in the morning.”
“Well—good. Glad to hear it. Listen, could I call you back? Sammy and I haven't had breakfast yet; I was just fixing—”
“Well! Well! I wouldn't interfere with my future son-in-law's breakfast! I'm sure he needs his—”
“Yes,” Rowena said. “So, I'll—”
“What are you fixing him?”
“Well, I am right in the middle of mixing up some waffle batter, so—”
“Oh, my, waffles! How wonderful! With bacon and eggs and—”
“Mother,” Rowena said, “I'll talk to you later.”
“You know, they say that bacon and eggs aren't—”
“Mom, I have got to go. The waffle iron is hot, it's just sitting there . . . hot. Talk to you later. 'Bye.” And Rowena put the receiver down.
“Well, my grandma says congratulations,” she told Sammy. “And my mom's neighbor Mrs. Norris. And, I gather, a lot of other people.” She picked up the whisk she'd been using to mix the batter. “You might not have needed to make her promise anything; sounds as if she's been too busy spreading the word to talk to me.”
“You make her sound like a missionary or something.”
Rowena laughed. “She's on a mission, all right,” she said. She raised the lid of the waffle iron and carefully poured in some batter.
“Now, now,” Sammy said, lifting the skillet. “Everybody needs a cause. Breakfast, for instance. Your plate ready?”
And Rowena was happy to let the topic of her mother drop in favor of her breakfast.
The phone rang again as they cleared the table. Rowena was not the least surprised, on answering it, to find that it was her mother again.
“Your fourth cousin Sophie says hello and congratulations,” her mother said. “Isn't that exciting?”
“Have I ever even met my fourth cousin Sophie?” Rowena asked.
“Of course you met Sophie! Don't you remember? She had the cutest little pigtails, and you had on your little sailor suit and—”
“Mother! I must have been, what, four years old. Are you calling everybody you've ever known?”
“Of course not,” her mother said. “I haven't kept in touch with everybody I've ever known. But Sophie sent me a Christmas card three or four years ago, and—”
“Mother,” said Rowena.
“I have a whole list here of people who send their congratulations,” her mother said. “Don't you want to hear it?”
Rowena took a breath. “Okay,” she said, and her mother read the list. Most of the people on it she did in fact know to some degree—most, but not all. When her mother was done, she said, “Thank you. That—”
“They're all so thrilled for you!”
“Mother, that's very nice, really. I—”
“Do you have the number for your old best friend?”
“My old best friend?” Rowena asked, cautiously.
“You know, from kindergarten. What was her name, Brenda?”
Rowena came very near to saying, “No, Bobbi,” but stopped herself in time. “I don't have her number,” she said. “I haven't seen or heard from her since she moved away in second grade.”
“Are you sure? Because I just know she'd be thrilled—”
“Mother,” Rowena said, “maybe you should leave notifying my friends to me. I mean—”
“Oh, Rowena, don't be a spoilsport.”
“It's just—a lot of trouble for you, and—”
“Oh, don't talk about trouble!” her mother cried. “What's a mother for but to save her child trouble? Think of all the phone calls I'm saving you!”
Rowena closed her eyes. “It is possible to have too many phone calls,” she said. “But—”
“And I'm happy to do it! I can't do the paperwork for you, of course—you have done the paperwork, I hope? File for the license, and—”
“Don't worry,” Rowena said. “We're off to a good start. We—”
“Well, I would just hate, after all the hard work—”
“Mother,” Rowena began, “we're fine. We found out what we need to do and we've done as much as we can at this point.”
“Well. I'm glad to hear it.” There was a pause; it seemed that Rowena's mother had run out of topics.
“I'm sure you have a lot to do still,” Rowena said. “We're planning to go out ourselves, and—”
“Oh, how lovely! It's such a nice day!”
“Yes,” Rowena said, “it is. So . . . talk to you later.”
“Talk to you later . . . and say hello to my future son-in-law.”
“I'll say hello. And, Mom? If you could keep it to one call a day? Two, at most? Because we have a lot to do, and—”
“There's a lot to do, and I don't want to neglect Sammy, especially at a time like this . . .”
“Well . . . we can't have my future son-in-law feeling neglected. Are you sure—”
“I'm sure. Like today, we were supposed to—”
“Well! I mustn't keep you! Say hello to my future son-in-law for me,” Rowena promised, once again, to do this, and ended the call.
“And if she calls more than twice a day, or if she calls twice every single day, I'll just have to negotiate something,” Rowena said. She shook her head. “It's a good thing we didn't expect a mere engagement to get her out of our hair.”
Sammy laughed. “One of these days it'll be your sister who's getting married,” he said. “You'll be forsaken back in the shadows. And you'd better enjoy it while it lasts.”
“Nah. She'll be calling me up, asking for advice, complaining about how terrible it is that Maralynne won't return her calls.” Sammy laughed again.
“You've known her longer than I have,” he said. He gave her a kiss and a hug, and they went to the sink. After the dishes, they would go out; they would take a drive, have a walk, have lunch out and maybe dinner. After their nice romantic dishes, Rowena thought smiling, they would have their nice romantic day.
She and her fiancé.
When Rowena and Sammy got home they found eight messages on their answering machine.
“Oh, boy,” Rowena said. “I'm afraid to find out.”
“It's just a machine,” Sammy reminded her, and pushed the button.
The first message was from an aunt in a distant state, calling with congratulations. Sammy grinned at her in a way that said, “You see?” Rowena gave him a skeptical look as her aunt hung up and the next message began.
“Hello, Rowena, this is your mother. I know you said not to call more than two or three times a day, but I figured that meant starting from when you told me, so I'll call back later . . . Anyway,” she went on, as Rowena, hearing her “one or two” inflated already, raised her eyebrows at Sammy, “guess what? I managed to find old Mrs. Timmons! Remember her? And guess what? She's even older now! So I told her the good news and she was so happy! She had you confused with Maralynne at first, but I got her all straightened out. Well, not all straightened out, but I think she knows who you are now. Anyway, can't talk now 'cause I have a lot more people to call, but I'll tell you more later. 'Bye now.”
The third message started, from a telemarketing firm. “Two calls not from my mother,” Rowena said over the sales pitch.
“Come on,” Sammy said. “They can't all be from your mother. Three minus one leaves only two more, after all.” The message ended, and the next one began.
“Hello, Rowena, this is your mother. Remember your old friend Betsy Smith? I found her!”
“Exciting,” Sammy offered, but tentatively.
“From third grade,” Rowena said.
“You know, Betsy?” her mother went on. “The one who knocked over my lamp and broke it?”
“Oh, no,” Rowena said.
“Well, let bygones be bygones, I always say; who can be bothered to remember all that, even when it was a favorite lamp and I never did find another one that quite matched—”
Rowena covered her eyes. “Anyway,” her mother went on, “there wasn't a Betsy Smith in the phone book, but I thought maybe she had some relatives or something, so I called all the numbers for Smith, all of them, I really did, until I found Tom Smith, who turned out to be her father, and he said Betsy had moved out of town and was married! She beat you to it!”
“Only my mom,” Rowena said, “would make that into a contest.” She waited fairly patiently for her mother to give her Betsy's phone number, but apparently this was not considered important. The message stopped, and Rowena shook her head. Two Mom-messages down, four messages of some sort to go.
“Hello, Rowena, this is your mother,” began the fifth message—Rowena's mother's third. “Are you still out? I thought maybe you had tried to call back but couldn't get through. So I'll talk to you later.”
Rowena stared in disbelief at the machine. “Is that all?” she asked.
“Right now,” her mother was saying, “I'll just tell you that your first-grade teacher, Mrs. Duckson, says she still remembers you! She says you were such a tidy little girl with your paste bottle and—”
“It's a good thing,” Rowena said as her mother went on, “that I'm not so insecure as to think that you'll call it all off over this sort of nonsense. It's a very good thing.”
“You kidding?” Sammy asked. “I've always wondered about your first-grade art projects.” She couldn't help laughing at that.
“I bet she's not done with me yet,” Rowena said.
“As this is her third message,” Sammy reminded her, “they can't all be from her unless she has some really serious math issues.”
“Bets?” Rowena said. But her mother's message ended before Sammy could reply.
The sixth message was from another telemarketer. The seventh was from Rowena's mother.
“I know this makes more than three,” she said, “but since they're just answering machine messages they can't really count as separate calls, 'cause you're getting them all at once. Right? So anyway.”
Rowena put her head on Sammy's shoulder. “I should have known,” she said.
“She's trying to behave.”
“Yeah, she is. I'll just have to . . . She is not going to call me at work like this. She is not.”
“She'll calm down eventually,” Sammy said. “In the meantime—”
“In the meantime, I'll just have to explain it to her.”
“Should I offer to get you a restraining order?”
Rowena laughed. And then she heard her mother say, “. . . and I was never so insulted in all my life! Would you believe it! She said, quote, ‘You have a daughter? You got married?’”
Sammy reached over and hit the Pause button. “That's her worst insult?” he asked.
“You forget whom you're talking about,” Rowena told him. “Accusing my mom of not getting married would be like accusing my dad of not knowing what a first down is. You may think,” she told him, “that a woman may simply fail to find somebody she wants to marry, or that she may even prefer to stay single. It would never occur to you that an unmarried woman has failed in her life's one true mission, or that she is necessarily rejected and unwanted and probably an embarrassment to her family and a jinx to her so-called friends. Honestly,” she concluded, crossing her arms in an offended manner, “you men never think these things through.”
Sammy grinned. “I wonder who this terrible person is, who accused your mother of such a thing?”
“You can play it back if you like,” Rowena said, “but not tonight.”
“I'll wait until you're not here. If there's anything interesting, I'll give you the highlights.”
“And if you can't get her to back off,” Sammy said, “I'll call her. I'll tell her that if she interferes with your job we won't be able to afford a house.”
“Kids. We won't be able to afford kids.”
Sammy laughed. “That'll get her for sure. I won't be able to go to law school and our lives will be completely ruined.”
“Think it would be morally justifiable to tell her the boss monitors our calls? And that—”
“Don't worry,” Sammy said. “She may not be terribly reasonable, but she's not completely impossible, and anyway, she's just one person . . . and I am her future son-in-law.”
“I suppose,” Rowena shook her head. “I'm not sure,” she said, “that this getting married is quite as romantic as it's cracked up to be.”
Sammy laughed. “You just wait,” he told her, reaching to play the rest of the message and to start the eighth and last. He drew Rowena to him as her mother rambled on and on . . . and finally said something of some interest.
“I called your father's Aunt Glad,” her mother said, “even though she's, you know, in an Old Folks' Home, and she said you'd already told her! That you went there in person! Really, Rowena, you'll tire yourself out running around like that!”
“Talk about tiring!” Rowena said, as her mother went on to other matters. “As if I'd rather listen to all this nonsense than go tell Aunt Glad we're engaged.”
“Oh, well,” Sammy said. He gave Rowena a squeeze and listened a moment to his future mother-in-law's message. “I think she's winding down now.”
“I guess,” Rowena said, “but I still think that last message is going to be from her as well.”
“Maybe,” said Sammy, “and maybe not.”
“I bet it is.”
Finally Rowena's mother said goodbye. And then the last message began.
“Rowena!” cried Maralynne. “Mom is driving me nuts! You have to do something! She's called me three times today! She says I have to help her think of a way to get Chester to propose! She says she's not nagging she's advising but I know a nag when I hear it! You have to do something!”
Rowena leaned against Sammy and started to laugh. And as she laughed, Sammy held her and stroked her and made her feel warm.
“You know,” Rowena said, “it is kind of romantic, you offering to solve a problem for me.”
“It's romantic,” said Sammy, “our being a single unit in that way. Isn't it?”
“It is,” Rowena said, holding him. The answering machine beeped to signal the end of their messages and then fell silent, but they continued to stand like that, together.
Volume III: Rowena Gets Married.
Book 8: Rowena Gets Ready.
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