Friday, February 11, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Nine}

Chapter Nine

            “You can’t quit, Kate.”  We sat on the floor of my living room assembling what were surely the world’s most elaborate welcome bags, except they were boxes. Matte silver boxes with lids that each took a good five minutes to put together and had seemed like a much better idea when I’d ordered them.
            “Why not?” Kate asked, popping a box top into place.
            I’d thought that giving Kate the rest of Sunday off after her heartbreaking encounter with Brody would have cooled her down a bit but she’d been just as convinced of quitting when she’d shown up at my office for a day of paperwork and box assembly. At least she’d shown up, I reminded myself.  Granted, she shown up wearing short shorts, a halter top and wedge heels, but since it was an “office work” day I didn’t quibble.
            “I can give you a lot of reasons,” I said. “First of all, we talked the bride into going forward with the wedding.”
            Kate held up a finger. “For now. She still might change her mind.”

“Okay.” I pushed up the sleeves of my white button-down shirt and reached for an unassembled box. “But you love this job. Where else can you meet so many men?”
            “Married men,” Kate corrected, leaning back against the leg of my pale yellow overstuffed couch.  “The good ones are always married. Or engaged. Or gay. The best ones are gay.”
            “Since when have you been looking for marriage material?” I brushed some beige carpet lint off my jeans and made a mental note to vacuum someday.
            Kate shrugged.  “It would be nice to have the option. Don’t you want to be on the other side of things one day?”
            This was something I tried not to think about. Planning other people’s weddings took so much time that I didn’t know when I’d ever be able to focus on having a normal relationship of my own.  With Ian’s erratic lifestyle and bad-boy persona, he certainly wasn’t exactly what anyone would call marriage material.  And Kate was right about one thing, our business didn’t offer up many straight, single men unless you counted intoxicated groomsmen, which I didn’t.
            “Right now I just want to be on the other side of this wedding.” I stood up and stretched my legs. “We still have to fill these boxes and tie them with ribbon.  Do you want something to drink?”
            Kate picked up the empty Frappucino bottle next to her and waved it. “Do you have anymore of these?”
            “Do you have to ask?” I walked from my living room into the kitchen that opened into it. I ignored the growing collection of dishes in the sink and opened the refrigerator, where I kept a supply of Diet Dr. Pepper, bottled Mocha Frappucinos and leftover takeout Thai.
            “So why are you not quitting?” Kate called from the other room.  “Don’t tell me you like refereeing fights between Richard and Jeremy Johns or trying to calm down the bride for the hundredth time.”
            I opened two bottles of Mocha Frappucino and tossed the lids in the metal trashcan in the corner. “If I quit every time something went wrong, I’d have to quit at least once during every wedding.”
            “Exactly,” Kate said. “There has to be an easier job. One where people don’t start hyperventilating over linen colors or insist on a South Beach meets the South of France mash-up motif.”
            “Not every wedding is like this,” I reminded her as I walked back into the living room and passed her a bottle.  I perched on the edge of the glass coffee table that we’d pushed over to the side of the room to make more floor space. The curtains were pulled back and the morning light poured in from the large widows that took up almost an entire wall.  I liked to keep my curtains open since I was on the fourth floor and didn’t have to worry about peeping Toms in Georgetown where most buildings didn’t go above three or four stories.
            “You’re right.” Kate took a drink. “Not every wedding has silver boxes that take half a day to put together.”
            I made a face. “You’re right. We’d better get back to work.”
            “Yoo hoo!”  A singsong voice came from the front door, and I saw dark brown hair pop through the crack in the door. Leatrice, my elderly downstairs neighbor, had a habit of dropping by unannounced.  She also had a habit of wearing her heavily dyed hair in a Mary Tyler Moore flip accented with a variety of headbands. Today’s headband had pink sequins and a fabric flower on one side and looked like it could have come from the Hello Kitty store.
            “Didn’t you lock the door?” Kate whispered.
            “It doesn’t matter,” I said. “She has a key.”
            Kate’s mouth fell open. “You gave her a key?”
            I shook my head. “She made a key. You know how she’s really into spy movies. I think she learned how to secretly copy a key on some show.”
            “Great.  What we really need is a little more crazy in our lives.”
            “Oh, there you are,” Leatrice’s face lit up when she saw me, and she bounded into the room. She didn’t stand over five feet tall but between her hair and her wardrobe selection, you could never miss her.  Today she paired her pink headband with what appeared to be a sailor suit.  The white pants flared into bell-bottoms and the matching shirt had a sailor collar edged in blue with a loose red bow at the neck.
            Kate openly gaped while I tried not to laugh. “Wow, Leatrice.  That’s quite an outfit.”
            She spun on the spot. “Do you like it? It’s nautical.”
            “I can tell,” I said. “But why are you wearing it?”
            “I want to be ready,” she said as she sat down on arm of the couch.
            “Ready for what?” I asked, almost afraid to know the answer.
            “In case you need me on the boat.”
            Kate spluttered and almost spit out a mouthful of Frappucino. “What?”
            I didn’t even bother asking how Leatrice knew we were planning a wedding on a boat. Leatrice found out everything about my life from either snooping or talking to Ian when I wasn’t around. While most people found Leatrice odd, Ian found her charming and ended up helping her with handyman jobs almost every time he stopped by. So maybe that gave him a little marriage potential, after all.
            “I don’t think we’ll need any help with the wedding, Leatrice,” I said. “But thanks.”
            “Maybe I could just drive.” She rubbed her hands together. “You know, be your wheel man.”
            Kate wiped coffee from her chin. “Why would we need a wheel man?”
            “I figured you’d want to beat the police there,” Leatrice said. “And I’m the fastest driver you know.”
            I felt a nervous flutter in my stomach. “What are you talking about?” I asked.
            “I just heard it on my police scanner.” Leatrice jerked her thumb in the direction of her apartment below. “Some accident on the big boat at the Harbor. They called for an ambulance.  So, are you ready to go?”
            I looked at Kate, whose face had lost a few shades of its tan. So much for a quiet day in the office.