Read an Excerpt
Wedding Bell Blues
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
Twelve years later ...
The fact that Kaitlin first misunderstood her grandmother was entirely her own fault.
They had gone out to breakfast together, just as they did every Wednesday morning. But the Seashell Sunblock commercial presentation had to be given to the company VIPs that afternoon, and even though Kaitlin was prepared, she was restless. This was her own ad agency, and the account was a very important one. And the verdict had just come in on a particularly scandalous assault trial and she couldn't help but notice the headlines on the Miami Herald, so she was reading the story out of the corner of her eye when Gram first spoke.
"Kaitlin, I'm going to be mur—"
Mur—and something garbled. It didn't help any that after fifty years in this country Gram still spoke with a brogue so strong it could be sliced clean through with a knife.
Mur-something. Gram was going to be mur-somethinged. That was all Kaitlin heard. She looked up, but Gram was looking down. It had sounded very much as if she had said, "Kaitlin, I'm going to be murdered."
Murdered. Well, it was natural that Gram would be nervous. She was nearly seventy, and alone. She had refused to live with Kaitlin, who had offered her separate living quarters on her own property. Gram liked the condominium where she lived; the building was filled with other active retirees. She missed children, of course. Gram loved children, and she missed them when she was in Florida. But she went north every winter to spend the holidays with the family. She had ten great grandchildren, aged eight months to eighteen years, to greet her lovingly on each visit. Gram was precious to all of them. She was their link; she was, in essence, the Ireland of their ancestry. She told wonderful stories, and when Kaitlin had been a little girl, Gram had her really believing in leprechauns and convinced that if men practiced evil deeds, the banshees, the wailing death ghosts of Eire, might really come for them.
So, with her brogue, she was difficult to understand at best. But then, that big hairy German shepherd of hers had eaten her best set of teeth, and Gram hated the new ones, said they didn't fit right.
So she was afraid of being killed. There had been a rash of robberies—home invasions, they called them now—and it was natural that she should be frightened.
"Oh, Gram!" Kaitlin said. She took Gram's hands in her own. "Now, listen to me. You are not going to be murdered. This is a very scary world that we live in, but you're really not going to be murdered. Gram, if you want, you can come and stay with me, just for a while—"
"And I'll be damned if I do, that I will!" Gram said, her tone surprised—and her words startlingly clear. She was still such a beautiful woman, small, with brilliant blue eyes. And she kept her hair a very attractive silver-blue color. She still looked as sweet as a saint, and to hear such a statement come so explosively from her seemed quite an irony.
"But if you're afraid of being murdered—"
"I didna say 'murdered,' Kaitlin O'Herlihy. I didna. You didna listen to me."
Kaitlin folded her hands on the table. She tried not to glance at her watch; she would be at work in plenty of time, and this—whatever it was—seemed important to her grandmother. She lowered her head, smiling with a certain relief. "I'm sorry, Gram. What were you saying?"
"Kaitlin, I'm going to be married. Not murdered—what did you think, that I'd become a hysterical old recluse? Married, Kaitlin. Married."
Kaitlin couldn't have been more stunned if her grandmother had been absolutely certain that she was going to be murdered in the next five minutes.
She'd been a widow for nearly forty years. She'd raised five children on her own in a new country, and she'd gone these many, many years without even dating.
And now she was going to be married.
Kaitlin's jaw wouldn't quite work. Then she managed to repeat the word. "Married?"
"Married, young lady. Aye, now you've heard me right," Gram said with a sigh. "And shut your mouth, love. People will start staring at us."
Kaitlin didn't know whether to smile or laugh or worry. Then she managed to say, "But, Gram, you haven't even been dating—"
"Oh, but I have. And I didna say a word to you or your mother or any of your cousins, because I didna intend to take the likes of the teasin' you'd all be givin' me. But I've been seeing Mr. Rosen every week at bingo for over a year now. And we've been meeting Sunday night for dinner, and going to the theatre and movies and—"
"Rosen? Gram, is he a Jewish gentleman?"
"Aye, that he is. And don't you be sayin' a word about it to me, Kaitlin O'Herlihy. At me age, it just don't seem to matter anymore. He's got a beautiful house by the water, and we're going to move into it. And we'll have Hanukkah candles and a Christmas tree, and don't ye dare be sayin' a word to me about it, eh, Kaitlin?"
She was going to laugh. She was going to burst into laughter. She could remember how terrified they had all been to go to Gram and tell her that Kaitlin's cousin Mary Elena was going to marry outside the church—and Lance Hendricks was merely a Lutheran.
"Kaitlin—" Gram warned.
She caught her grandmother's hands again. "Gram, I'm delighted."
And then the tough determination that had brought her through many years of hardship left Gram's eyes, and a charming, girlish uncertainty filled them. "Are you certain, Kaitlin? Will the family mind? I've not even told me sons and daughters yet."
"They'll be thrilled," Kaitlin promised her. And then she laughed again. "Gram, you little devil, you. All this activity, and we didn't know a thing. It's wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. When is the big occasion? And when do I get to meet Mr. Rosen?"
"This weekend, for dinner, Kaitlin. I thought that maybe you wouldn't mind having something small at your house."
Kaitlin grinned. "Not a bit. I'll be delighted. When is the wedding?"
"Two weeks from now. At the Lotus Gardens. Justice of the Peace Merkin has promised to wed us, and both Rabbi Nathan and Father Tangini have promised to bless the ceremony."
"Aye, Kaitlin. And I'm countin' on you, girl, that I am. Will you stand by me?"
"Be your witness?"
"My maid of honor."
"Oh, Gram, of course! But what about your daughters, or your friends—"
"You're family, Kaitlin. Me daughters will understand. You're the one who's looked after me down here all these years, don't ye be denyin' it. I want you with me when I wed Mr. Rosen. Will you stand for me?"
"Of course! I'd be honored, Gram! I'll charge right into it. The Lotus Gardens! It will be beautiful. Have you chosen a dress yet?"
For the remainder of the meal they planned a night to shop for dresses, then a night to go by the florists, then a day to find the proper cake.
Kaitlin was thrilled, although for a moment it was there—a tiny little jab of pain in the center of her heart. It always came, despite the pleasure she often felt for others. She loved weddings, but things just ... Sometimes they just still hurt.
Then the pain ebbed away. She'd never been bitter and she'd never been jealous. And she loved Gram almost as deeply as she loved her own mother. This was funny, sweet, charming—and wonderful. Nothing in the world seemed quite as wonderful as getting to help plan her grandmother's wedding.
Kaitlin forgot her commercial until she happened to glance at her watch. Then she was truly sorry that she was going to have to leave. "Gram, where can I drop you? I've got to get to work."
Gram didn't want to go anywhere; she wanted to stay in the mall and maybe buy "a wee bit of new under-type things." Kaitlin smiled, kissing her goodbye and watching her disappear into a throng of shoppers. She looked great, Kaitlin decided. Truly radiant. Just like a bride. A beautiful woman with those ageless eyes and her wonderful peaches-and-cream complexion. And after all these years ...
Kaitlin seemed to float in to work on her grandmother's euphoria. Janis Epstein, her assistant, was waiting in her office, gathering together the storyboards for the presentation. "Hey, boss." Janis grinned. "I thought you'd be early today. Worried, chomping away at those nails of yours."
Kaitlin made a face and set her handbag beneath her desk. "Janis, guess what?"
"My grandmother is getting married."
Janis's brows shot up with surprise, then she laughed. "Married! I didn't even know she'd been out on a date!"
"Neither did I," admitted Kaitlin. Janis handed her a cup of coffee, and she sat in her chair for a moment, telling Janis all about her grandmother's plans.
Janis clicked her tongue. "Can you imagine? All of us, supposedly in our primes—or semi-primes, at least!—out there looking for Mr. Right, and Lizzie Boyle sweeps him right out of a bingo game. Can you imagine?"
Kaitlin grinned and admitted that it was tough to picture.
Then Janis jumped up. "Hey, we've got about ten minutes before we need to show up in the boardroom."
"Um. And face Mr. Harley," Kaitlin admitted. "I'm rushing into the ladies. I just need two seconds."
The "ladies" was actually her private bath in the corner of her office. She went in quickly, drawing her brush from her handbag even as she did so. In the mirror above the handsome marble sink, she surveyed her reflection. Not bad, she reflected. Not when she had turned the corner this year and celebrated her thirtieth birthday just a month ago.
She smiled suddenly, wondering if she would grow old like Gram. Maybe she would, with luck. She still possessed a headful of wild strawberry blond hair, thick, wavy hair that curled around her shoulders and halfway down her back. Today it was all neatly tied into a French braid, to complement her deep maroon paisley skirt and loose blouse. It was an outfit that was all business but still very feminine. Her eyes, she thought, were her best feature, wide and light blue. She had Gram's skin, too. Maybe she would age well. So far, she assured herself, she hadn't done too badly for thirty. The company was hers. Eventually she wanted to make Janis a partner, just so that she could have more spare time. She had a good reputation in the business, and she worked very hard and loved it.
The only thing that she didn't have at thirty, the only thing ...
Was anything that resembled a personal life, she told herself dryly.
Well, she reminded herself, she hadn't wanted a personal life, had she?
She smoothed back the loose strands of hair over her forehead and applied a little lipstick, then decided that she was as presentable as she was going to be.
She turned out the light and headed back through her office. She was just about to leave the room when she heard her personal line buzz. She picked up the receiver to tell Samantha that she'd have to call whoever it was back, but before she could say anything, Samantha spoke quickly.
"It's your cousin Donna from Massachusetts. She says she just needs two seconds. Is that all right?"
"Yeah, fine, thanks, Sam." She pushed the extension button on the phone. Donna would understand her need for haste, and if she wanted to say something, it must be important.
"Donna, hi, me. I am in a hurry, but—"
"I know, I know. Seashell Sunblock, right?" Donna didn't wait for an answer; she plunged on. "Kaitlin, I'm getting married."
"Married?" Kaitlin gasped. Married, the same as Gram had told her. Donna had all her teeth—there was no mistaking the word for "murdered" this time.
Kaitlin shut her mouth. How many times had she already said that word—and as stupidly—today? She recovered much more quickly this time. "Oh, Donna, that's wonderful. Congratulations."
"Bill?" Kaitlin asked hesitantly. The last time she had spoken with Donna, they had been going through a rocky patch, even though they were both great people. Kaitlin had known Bill Piccolo all her life and liked him very much.
Bill would have been in her own wedding. If there had been a real wedding.
The little jab of pain was sharper this time. She exhaled and willed it away.
"Yes, Bill, who else?" Donna said. Then she rushed on. "I just wanted to tell you now because I couldn't stand waiting. I'll let you go, and I'll talk to you tonight. Kaitlin, I want you to be my maid of honor. Will you think about it, please?"
"It's an honor. I don't need to think about it," Kaitlin assured her. "But when is it? We've got time, don't we? You're never going to believe this, but I'm standing up for someone else."
"Who?" Donna asked.
"Gram!" Donna shouted over the wires. "Gram?"
"Yes, Gram. Don't say anything, though. She just told me this morning, and I'm sure she wants to tell the aunts and uncles herself."
"Why, that little devil!"
"That's exactly what I said, and straight to her face!" Kaitlin agreed. "She's being married very quickly, though—she says she doesn't want to waste time at her age, or something like that. Anyway, she can tell you, which I'm sure she'll do."
"She'll get to her grandchildren after she makes it through all her children!" Donna laughed. "But no, we won't be married right away. We've got an awful lot of planning to do. Thanks for saying you'll be my maid of honor. Now hurry up, knock 'em dead, and I'll talk to you later. Oh, Kaitlin, I'm so excited!"
"Right, talk to you soon," Kaitlin promised, and hung up the phone.
But she didn't rush out of the room. Instead she stared at the receiver. First Gram and now Donna. It was wonderful. She loved both of them dearly. And they were both asking her to be a part of their joy.
She couldn't even blame it on the water. They didn't live in the same cities.
Seashell Sunblock, she reminded herself sternly. She marched out of her office and down the hall.
In the conference room, Mr. Garrett Harley, president and chairman of the board of Seashell Products, was already seated at the long mahogany table, with Tom Pinchon, his promotions man, and his sister, Netty Green, the VP.
"Good morning." Kaitlin greeted them all, sweeping into the room with a broad smile. The storyboards were already set up in the front of the room, and Janis had seen to coffee and ashtrays. Garrett Harley, fortyfive and broad as a barn, but smart as a whip to have put Seashell Products where it was, grunted. Netty, older and much, much thinner, murmured a thin-lipped reply, and Tom nodded.
This was not a cheerful group, Kaitlin reminded herself. It never had been. There wasn't going to be any light, comfortable repartee in the room today, so she might as well plunge in. Janis was standing in the back of the room, ready to give her silent support. Kaitlin walked straight to the storyboard to make her pitch.
"Mr. Harley, you told me that you want your new sunblock to appeal to the young men and women flocking the beaches. Since there's been so much publicity about the dangers of the sun, we didn't want to concentrate on the product's tanning qualities, but rather on its protective virtues."
"I told you to sell sex," Harley said. He looked at his sister and said flatly, "Sex sells."
"Harley, I won't have anything lewd," Netty began irritably.
Kaitlin quickly interrupted her. "I think we have a commercial that you'll both like very much. It's sexy, but not lewd, I promise." She flashed a smile to Netty, whose face didn't seem to crack.
Harley, however, grinned broadly. "Let's see it."
Kaitlin showed them her first picture. "We've got a nice couple on a beach. A really good- looking couple."
"Not kids," Netty protested.
"No, not kids," Kaitlin said. Then she grimaced inwardly at the term she was about to use. "Yuppies. Late twenties, early thirties. She's in a two-piece suit, as you see here—"
"Not one of those string things," Netty said.
Excerpted from Wedding Bell Blues by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1990 Heather Graham Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.