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Cynics say getting married is a death wish.
Now, I'm no Pollyanna, but I try to ignore cynics. Anyway, what I usually say is that catering weddings is a death wish. My assistant, twenty-two-year-old Julian Teller, and I laugh at that. Yucking it up provides a bit of comic relief within the stress of serving trays of appetizers with drinks, then lunch or dinner with wine, followed by cake with champagne or Asti Spumante—and doing it all quickly—to a hundred guests. Trust me: if there's one thing caterers need at weddings, it's comic relief.
Unfortunately, the events surrounding Bridezilla Billie Attenborough's wedding proved the truth of the original axiom. Still, it wasn't a death wish that proved troublesome. It was death itself. And as the bodies piled up around the Attenborough nuptials, I began to think someone was gunning for me, too. Turned out, I was right.
I'm always telling my husband, Tom, an investigator with the Furman County Sheriff's Department, that I should adore weddings. The reason? I love being married—to him, that is. With his mountain-man build, handsome face, jauntily parted cider-colored hair, and eyes as green as a faraway sea, he's not only kind and loving—he's gorgeous.
"You're prejudiced," he says.
"So what?" I reply. "You're still the greatest."
"There are any number of criminals in our state penal system who would take issue with that assessment."
"I'm not married to one of them."
Actually, having Tom for a husband means I can watch brides and grooms kiss, laugh, andembrace, and I can smile to myself, knowing I'm going home to a great man. So when there are wedding glitches, I remind myself: I'm helping people get married. And by and large, this is a good thing.
Here in Aspen Meadow, Colorado, if someone is going to have a hundred or fewer guests at their ceremony and reception, I'm the caterer of choice, by which I mean, I'm the only caterer you can choose. Our town also has but one florist, one photographer, one printing press—for invitations and the like—and a few bands. But these days, most couples choose a DJ.
Aspen Meadow has one of those, too.
If the bride, groom, or either family wants a bigger celebration, she, he, or they usually do all their own arrangements, and have their wedding down in Denver, forty miles to the east. There, you can hire a wedding planner, book a fancy venue, and have your pick of caterers, stationers, florists, even chocolatiers. If you go that route, though, you're going to pay. What with the gown, limos, and all the rest, you're probably looking at about a hundred grand.
I can remember when a hundred grand used to buy a house. And a nice one, too.
But for a hundred or fewer guests, I can do all the arranging. Once I'm given a budget and specifics as to menu, flowers, photographer, music, you name it, I draw up a detailed contract, then get signatures, along with a down payment. After that, I call the vendors, set the schedule, and arrange deliveries. Any changes to the contract mean big bucks, so generally, people are content to leave well enough alone.
But Bridezilla Billie, as I'd come to call her, was never content. Billie's long-suffering mother, Charlotte, was footing the bill—Attenborough père having died of a bleeding ulcer long ago—and Billie seemed not to care that every single new arrangement she was demanding was costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
"It won't be a problem," Billie would say breezily, each time she called in April, then May, then June, to say we absolutely had to have lunch so she could talk about new things she wanted. "We can just put all this on my tab."
And then I would arrive at the appointed time, at whatever place she'd said she wanted to have lunch. And she would be late, usually more than an hour late. The reason? She'd say she'd gotten lost, never mind that she'd lived in Aspen Meadow all her life. Or her Mercedes wouldn't start. Or she'd thought we were meeting an hour after when she'd originally said. One time, when she didn't show up at all and I called her house, she said she thought we were meeting the following week.
Billie was, in short, a flake.
Like most of the weddings I cater, Billie's ceremony was taking place in the summer. Let the weather cheer you up, I told myself as I typed up contract change after contract change and faxed them through to Charlotte Attenborough.
And so I planned and ordered food, and waited for spring, which at eight thousand feet above sea level, generally doesn't arrive until June. By then, the thick crust of ice on our town's lake has melted. The fresh scent of pollinating pines and newly leafy aspens fills the air. With snow still blanketing the Continental Divide—visible in the distance—the setting is particularly idyllic.
But this summer was different.
"Maybe I should quit doing weddings," I told Tom when Bridezilla Billie stopped insisting we have lunch, and instead started phoning me an average of seventeen times a day. She'd already moved her wedding date twice. The reason? She said she wanted to lose twenty pounds to fit into a new dress she'd just bought. She claimed she was working with Victor Lane out at Gold Gulch Spa to get into tip-top shape. Getting into tip-top shape was the euphemism Billie used for trying to sweat off some of her rolls, the kind that had nothing to do with Parker House.
Did I know Victor Lane? Billie asked. Yes, I began, but she tossed her highlighted blond hair over her shoulder, helped herself to the Key Lime Pie I'd left on the counter, and cut me off just as she placed an enormous piece of pie on a plate in front of herself. Once she'd forked up a mouthful, she was eager to provide me with an update on embroidery that was being added to the waist of the new dress. Then I heard about the seed pearls that were being sewn into the train, and the lace now edging the veil.Fatally Flaky. Copyright © by Diane Davidson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.