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Motherhood Is Murder
Chapter OneDial M for Momby Mary Daheim
Serena Grover Jones staggered in the front door, stepped on a roll of gold foil, and tumbled into the open coat closet. She swore a blue streak as she struggled to get up without crushing the parcels she'd dropped on the floor.
A moment later, her husband Bill walked into the house, glanced at his sprawled wife, and proceeded upstairs.
Renie, as she was known to family and friends, swore some more. As she finally got to her feet, the phone rang. Having lost her sandals in the mishap, she dashed to the phone in her bare feet.
"Hi, coz," her cousin Judith Flynn said in a cheerful tone, "how long have you been home? I tried to call you half an hour ago, but you didn't answer. Did you get my message?"
"No," Renie said sharply. "What do you want?"
"Nothing important," Judith replied, sounding taken aback. "What's wrong? Has the triple wedding ruined your disposition?"
"My disposition's been ruined for years, as well you know," Renie retorted, carrying the phone to the refrigerator to get a Pepsi. "Bill and I just got back from downtown. He's gone upstairs to take a nap. I'm going to call an ambulance."
"For what?" Judith asked in alarm.
"For me. I fell down coming into the house. I think several bones may be broken and I'm certain I have a concussion."
"Are you serious?" There was panic in Judith's voice.
"I'm fine," Renie responded after slurping down about a quarter of the Pepsi can's contents. "Bill didn't even bother to ask. He's used to me flailing away around here. As long as I'm moving and there's no pool of blood, he figures I'lllive without medical attention. Or any of his, for that matter."
"But your poor shoulder," Judith said, "are you sure it's all right?"
"Yes," Renie assured Judith. "I don't have the same risk dislocating like you do with your artificial hip."
"I know." Judith sounded relieved. But ever since the cousins had undergone same-day surgery a year and a half earlier, they both had their limitations, along with recurrent bouts of pain. "Did you get everything you needed?"
Renie had knelt down by the shelves next to the fridge, searching for dinner possibilities. "I think so. I finally found the right shoes for the wedding. They're ugly, but they match my dress."
"Nobody will look at your feet," Judith assured her cousin.
"Nobody will look at me at all," Renie retorted. "Parents aren't actually people when it comes to weddings. Maybe you've forgotten how it was when Mike and Kristin got married. Of course your son gave you more than two months' notice and he didn't get married the day before Mother's Day. The way I see it, Mom and Dad become known not ashuman beings, but as commodities, services, and funds. Especially funds. Pay this, do that, buy such-and-such, pick up whatever, drive hither and yon, check out whazzits on the Internet, and the children's recurring question, 'Do we really have to invite So-and-So just because he/she is a childhood friend of yours who once saved you from a firingsquad?'"
"You sound underappreciated," Judith noted. "Just think, three days from now, it'll all be over."
"My life may be over," Renie grumbled. "Damn," she went on, moving can after can on the lowest shelf, "why is it hot this early in May? None of our kids wanted a warm weather wedding. They're native Pacific Northwesterners. They wanted rain, like normal people."
"But Tom and Heather are being married outdoors on the Bogawallish Reservation," Judith pointed out. "Surely they hope for sunshine."
"They can move to the long house," Renie replied, grabbing a can of pork and beans. "At least it's only a half-hour's drive from here."
"That's good," Judith agreed. "But did you everdream we'd return to Good Cheer Hospital unaccompaniedby medics?"
"Lord, no." Renie had hauled a ham out of thefridge. "Anne's intended didn't get assigned as an intern at Good Cheer until three months ago. Odo was glad they kept the chapel intact after the hospital buy-out from the nuns."
"Count your blessings. The receptions will all be in one place after Tony and Cathleen's wedding at SOTS," Judith said, using the nickname for the family's parish, Our Lady, Star of the Sea. "How can I help?"
"You're helping already, putting up with the out-of-town relatives at the B&B," Renie replied. "How many have arrived so far?"
"Mmm ... " Judith was either ticking names off in her head or checking Hillside Manor's guest register. "Fourteen, including three children under twelve. Three more adults and one kid are still due. I'll admit it's getting kind of crowded with only six guest rooms."
"I don't care if you have to grease them up and pack them in like pigs in a blanket. Since Bill and I are paying for their stay, comfort isn't our priority."
"I told you I wouldn't charge," Judith contended.
"That's not fair," Renie responded. "You lose a whole weekend of business. Aren't you always booked up for Mother's Day because some women get pampered and pleasured as a present from their grateful offspring?"
"Well ... " Judith hesitated. "Yes."
"You see?" Hearing a loud vehicle rumbling up the steep street, Renie looked outside. "Goody. It's an armored car. I'm going to wave them down and ask for a box of money. We're going broke. How can I work to pay for everything and still make wedding plans?"
"That's a problem," Judith conceded.
"A big one." The phone began to slip between Renie'schin and shoulder ...Motherhood Is Murder
. Copyright © by Carolyn Hart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.