I tried to look at the clock, but without my glasses, I wasn’t certain of the time. The sky was no longer dark. It had a purplish cast, yet the streetlights were still on.
I stumbled into the bathroom and started the shower.
Trying to cram in quality time with my niece and her husband meant we sat up late and chatted until one in the morning. The warm water felt good as I chased the sleep from my eyes and got the kinks out of my shoulders. Having Penny helping was a godsend. And watching those young women laughing as if they were still in grade school was a delight.
We dipped a gallon of strawberries in chocolate along with pretzel sticks. Then there were all the molded chocolates. Plus I must have made enough marzipan candy flowers for a small army. Tess made her signature wedding bell cookies that were bagged for the guests, and tied with ribbon and tiny gold wedding bands.
She made three hundred taquitos. I have no clue how many lettuce wraps, and a half dozen other types of finger foods. I kept telling her that this is a small wedding and she swore she knew what she was doing. I hope so. I will admit those lettuce wraps were delicious. Tess says she always provides food that will fit any diet including a vegan one.
Well, between sampling the icing and testing all the finger foods, I refuse to step on the scale for a few days. But it was her little sausage and hamburger balls wrapped in filo that were to die for. Talk about perfect finger foods.
I stepped out of the shower and realized my back still hurt from standing in the kitchen for two days fixing foods. I blew my hair dry, tossed it into a twist, and held it in place with a big claw clip. A few minutes later, I was dressed and fixing coffee.
I’m not used to little children who get up at the crack of dawn and ask me a million questions before I’ve had my first sip of java. But there was Ana and Nina jabbering away. I handed them each a small box of orange juice, hoping that filling their mouths might stop the flow of words. It didn’t.
The clock on the microwave glowed four fifty-five. Inwardly, I groaned. If I’m lucky, I had three hours of sleep. I opened the pantry and handed Ana a box of toaster pastries. That’s when I realized that Tess’ big SUV was missing from my driveway. I cooked bacon in the microwave, while I fixed a huge batch of scrambled eggs and hash browns.
Jose soon joined us with Joey in his arms. English language vanished from my kitchen as the children conversed with their father in Spanish, or well, I think it was Spanish, but it might have been Portuguese. As long as I didn’t have to talk, I was happy standing over the stove with two big fry pans, two spatulas, and my first cup of morning caffeine.
Then I heard Jose say, “Tess go with her father to nursery.”
“That’s good,” I answered, hoping it was a statement and not a question. I wondered why I was even awake or how I’d made it this far. I handed a loaf of bread to Ana, pointed to the toaster, and put the butter on the counter. In morning speak that normally would have only consisted of grunts, I forced myself to say, “Here, you fix.”
At six o’clock, I was at the coffee shop and smiling at my regular customers. It’s not their fault I didn’t have fours of sleep. They come for the best coffee and smile. My walk-in refrigerator was stuffed with foods and two big cakes. I crossed my fingers that the health department wasn’t going to pull an inspection. They have the strangest rules that normally don’t apply to me, but I knew from the classes that I had to take, that things like meat could not be stored on a shelf over vegetables even if they were in tightly sealed containers. And this morning, I had no idea what anyone had put on any shelf. At least, I didn’t have to worry about potted plants or flowers.
When I saw Pepper Phillips, I breathed a little sigh of relief.
“Hi,” she said brightly.
“Hi, grab a cup before I put you to work.”
“Where’s Tori? I thought she was supposed to be here today.”
“She’s not even certain she’ll be back in time for the wedding. She took her grandson to college in North Caroline for a special summer program.”
“That was this week?”
“And Mona just released hers. To Love a Hero. Didn’t you just release a new River City novel?”
“Surely did. A Child’s Heart (Trent and Cassie’s Story). It’s my sixth River City novel.”
“This has been a busy month for the Authors of Main Street.”
“It has. And it’s not over!”
Tess wiped her hands on her jeans. “What do you think, Dad?”
Tess looked around Samuel and Nancy Hunter’s backyard. Tess knew Mr. Hunter had been going nuts, since the forsythia bloomed in the early spring, trying to make the lawn look perfect for his daughter’s wedding reception. It was as green as a golf course, with at least a few tons of mulch spread several inches deep over the flowerbeds. It made it easy for Tess and her dad to hide the pots of the borrowed potted plants from the nursery. She watched her friend’s dad, pulling the hose with a hand-held sprinkler to water it all in.
Tess pulled the gloves off her hands and realized she still had managed to get dirt under and around her nails. Her smiled returned as she watched Mr. Hunter filling the little black, pre-formed pool, rigged with a fountain that blocked the back doorway to the Hunter garage. Tess’ dad had managed to camouflage the door with a grouping of trellises and tall ornamental grasses behind the pool.
Images of playing on a swing set that no longer existed in the Hunter yard, ran though her head. If she wasn’t at the Hunter house, then Sammie was at hers. They dragged little suitcases filled with Barbie dolls back and forth. When they got older, they were carrying CD’s of their favorite music and practicing for cheerleading, although neither one of them made it on the squad. Then one day, everything changed. She’d met Jose and fell in love.
She remembered Sammie’s tears at the wedding. Sammie was certain that the childhood friendship had come to a screeching halt. No amount of reassurances would curb those tears. Tess had done the unthinkable. She married Jose. What a wedding.
Jose’s mom barely spoke English, and Tess’ family and friends didn’t speak Spanish. Samantha had taken French in school and Tess had taken Spanish. Seemed all the translating fell on her.
For ten years, she and Samantha had faithfully called and kept in touch. Samantha had been her maid of honor, which was nothing more than being a witness at Tess’ tiny wedding. Today the rolls would reverse, and she would stand as matron of honor for Samantha. That thought snapped in her mind like a giant rubber band. Ohmigod! How am I going to do it all?
She ran and hugged Samuel Hunter, then hugged and kissed her dad. “I gotta run!”
A half hour later, she was in the shower scrubbing the dirt off her body and from her nails. She put on clean clothes, barked orders to Jose, and scooted over to the coffee shop.
“Hi,” she said breathlessly, as she came through the back door.
I rolled my eyes at my niece. “Chill. It’s not even ten o’clock. You’ve got plenty of time.”
“No. I don’t Auntie Eez. I’ll never get it all done!”
“The wedding isn’t until six thirty this evening, and Pepper assured me, she’ll help.”
I pulled a key from my pocket. “Nancy gave it to me a week ago. That way you can be with Samantha and I can set-up all the food.”
“You can’t move those cakes by yourself.”
“And that’s why you are here and I borrowed that truck out there.”
“We get to use that?” Her face lit up.
“Yes. Let me tell Pepper that we’re going to take the cakes over to the house.”
I stepped from the kitchen to the shop and spotted Ty and Bill drinking coffee. My policy is to give any first responder on duty, free coffee. And there sat two of our men in blue. “Hey, guys, can I get a hand with something heavy?”
They were on their feet in a flash.
“I’ve got Samantha’s cakes that need to go into the truck. Are you willing to help?”
I shot Pepper my best smile. “Hold down the fort for me?”
Pepper gave me that look that said I really owed her for all her help today.
I jerked my thumb towards the front door. “You got help. Here comes Carol DeVaney.”
I wondered how I would survive without my author friends? Ty and Bill followed me into the kitchen. “Tess, I brought two our finest hunks of testosterone to lift those cakes.”
Tess came around the corner, and I watched her jaw drop. Yeah. I giggled to myself and wondered how Ty even managed to find a shirt that would fit over his broad shoulders and biceps. The closer Ty got to Tess, the more she had to look up. Bill stood taller than the average man, but Ty towered him. I don’t think Tess came to his solar plexus.
“Th-th-the cake is in-n-n there,” she stammered.
I bit the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing at her. I showed the guys what we needed moved and where it was going. Ty and Bill picked up the main cake that sat on a heavy round piece of wood. That strong base was covered in white paper, which was cover in paper doilies. On top of it, sat a cake that stood over three feet tall. The guys carried it to the truck as if it weighed less than three pounds.
Once the cakes were secured to Tess’ satisfaction, they bought out the supplies and packed them into the truck.
“Need help getting these out?” Bill asked.
“If that’s an offer, I will never turn it down.”
“As long as we don’t get a call, we’ll follow you over to the Hunter’s.”
Tess and I jumped into the truck. With a police escort, complete with flashing lights, I approached every stop sign with caution, panicked that I’d dislodge something and ruin all of Tess’ hard work. Samuel Hunter was waiting for us, looking more like a gardener than the father of the bride. But his expression was priceless. I guess he thought I was deep trouble with those flashing lights following me.
It didn’t take us long to get everything inside. Samantha appeared in her robe for a few moments and squealed with enthusiasm when she saw the cake in her mom’s dining room.
I pulled the key from my pocket and dangled it in front of Nancy. “Don’t worry. I’ll bring the food over about five and set up before I go to the church. Everything will be ready by the time the guests arrive.”
“You really won’t need the key. Our neighbor, Edna Davies and her husband should be here. She wanted to help.”
“That was sweet of them to offer.” I knew the older couple. Edna didn’t like leaving her husband for any length of time, and he hardly ever left the house. “Other than getting your daughter into her dress…it looks like everything is ready. But I don’t see the flowers.”
“They are to arrive any second.” There was a quiver in her voice.
I nodded. I’ve often though it was the mother of the bride who had the most stress. I made mental notes. Most of the food would be set up on the patio, but the cake was on a round, wheeled table that Tess had brought with her. Someone, correction, several people would be needed to drag that cake out to the area under pretty white canopy. For now, it would stay in the dining room. All the serving dishes, etc were in the kitchen waiting for me to fill them and put them in the proper place. Along with all the big coffee urns that had come with the cakes.
It looked as though they rented chairs along with the tables that filled the yard. Or could they have borrowed them from the church? I glanced up at the pretty blue sky. There was no rain predicted until late. This was one time I hoped the weather forecast was wrong and those late evening showers came very late. It was hot, but by evening, the temperature should drop to a more comfortable level. So many people were trying to give Samantha the perfect wedding. I didn’t want to see all the hard work go down the drain
I slipped back into the house and realized Ty and Bill were gone. I called up the staircase, “Tess, are you leaving with me?”
“Be right down, Auntie Eez.”
I looked at my watch. I was pushing the noon rush hour. Pepper is going to kill me. “Hurry up!”