- Pub. Date:
Five Others Are Put to the Test.
Drawn to Lakeside Inn from a variety of locations as diverse as they are, Elizabeth Anderson, Suzette Burke, Ingrid Campbell, Margaret Simpson, and Laura Fairbanks–the bride’s aunt, family friend, bridesmaid, grandmother of the bride, and sister of the groom–seemingly share little more than their collective joy for the couple marrying at the mountain resort. During the course of one unforgettable day, however, each woman reaches a point of reckoning in her own most intimate relationship.
As their stories unfold, the women of necessity turn to one another–upholding each other through the pain of postpartum depression, doubts about an upcoming wedding, the discovery of a husband’s affair, reflections on the ups and downs of life as a war bride, and plans to end a 25-year marriage. Through it all, their connection with one another deepens and grows, as does their understanding of themselves and of the healing power of love, perseverance, and friendship.
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About the Author
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On This Day
By Melody Carlson
Random HouseMelody Carlson
All right reserved.
Chapter 1- Elizabeth
I've always loved weddings. The smell of orchids, the rustle of a white satin gown, the first strains of the wedding march it rarely fails to bring tears to my eyes. And I never arrive late. Who would want to miss one single minute of this blessed event?
But not today. I would rather be anywhere else on this particular
day. Not that I don't love my niece and wish the very best for
her and her handsome young man, but how do you smile your
way through a wedding when it feels as if your own marriage is in
serious peril? How do you celebrate the holiness of matrimony
when you're questioning whether marriage really works or not? It
feels slightly hypocritical to me. Phony. And I hate being false.
That's why I plan to confront Phil tonight after the wedding festivities
are over. I have no idea how he'll react, or whether he'll even
care. Perhaps he'll be relieved to get whatever it is that's driving us
apart out into the open. I think that's how I'll feel. And if this is
really the end well, I'll deal with that later.
Being a somewhat considerate wife, I have tried to give Phil
some gentle hints that all is not well between us. For one thing, I
came up to this lovely lake with the unrealistic hope that the combination
of these beautiful surroundings, being away from the distractions
of home, and the romance of what promises to be a sweet
wedding would ignite something between us. And in a way, I guess
it did. It ignited my anger when Phil decided to take a before dinner hike that left me sitting alone in the restaurant until nearly
eight. Of course, he had an excuse.
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth," he said. "I got totally turned around on
"What about your GPS?" I asked with irritation, trying to
remember how much he'd paid for that ridiculous state-of-the-art
compass device, which apparently doesn't even work. We were back
in the room by then, and I'd hastily removed my sexy outfit of a
slinky turquoise dress and an incredible pair of sandals with killer
heels and replaced it with baggy boxer shorts and a T-shirt.
"I forgot it." He sat on the edge of the bed and began to untie
his shoes, meticulously loosening the laces one by one, then carefully
removed first his shoes and then his socks, as if it were the
most important thing in the world.
I looked back down at my O magazine, quickly flipping past
Dr. Phil's column, titled "Healing Your Marriage," and sighed
loudly. Why don't men understand how a real apology works? I
mean you can't just say, "I'm sorry," like that and expect those two
simple words to erase everything. We want sincerity.
Of course, it didn't help matters when I became somewhat
emotional at that point and subsequently got so rattled I'm sure I
failed to make any sense. Why is it so easy to be sidetracked by silly
little things like shoes and shoelaces when there are really big issues
eating away beneath the surface?
"Elizabeth," he said in that patient tone he uses on me when
he assumes I'm having a hormonal meltdown or being overly dramatic.
"You're just tired. You've been too consumed with helping
out with the wedding lately."
I tried to explain to him that it was not about the wedding or
about me being tired or even a hormonal ambush, because I knew
that was what he was thinking. "It's about you and me," I finally
shouted at him, instantly regretting my lack of volume control,
since we are staying in the room right next to my sister and her
husband at the Lakeside Inn.
Not that Jeannette isn't somewhat aware of my marital concerns--
although we haven't really spoken of it directly. But sisters
just get these things, and under normal circumstances she's a helpful
and sympathetic listener, that is, when she's not obsessed with
"important" details like getting the bridesmaids' tussie-mussies
arranged perfectly. Consequently, I'm not sure whether she completely
grasps that my marriage may be in serious danger right now.
"I'm sure it can't be too serious," she commented, somewhat
absently, just last week. We were assembling about a hundred little
net bundles filled with environmentally friendly birdseed. We
securely tied these with burgundy and pink ribbons, which I suspect
will be difficult to open in time to be thrown at the lucky
couple when they climb into the horse-drawn getaway buggy that
the groom's mother insists is necessary (although Jenny says she
thinks Michael may have other plans). "I mean, Phil is about the
sweetest guy on the planet," my optimistic sister continued.
"Other than the regular stuff we all go through, I can't imagine that
it's possible for you guys to have any real problems."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Okay, then what's going on, Elizabeth?"
"It's hard to explain," I began. "But it's about those little
things, you know? Those things we all probably take for granted
but notice when they're missing. That's what got my attention at
first. Like the way he used to fix the coffee in the mornings just the
way I like it. Or the way we used to read the Sunday paper in bed
together. Now Phil gets up at the crack of dawn, laces up his running
shoes, and takes off, without even saying boo."
Jeannette just laughed. "That doesn't sound like grounds for
divorce to me."
So I decided to keep these disturbing thoughts and suspicions
to myself for a while. Maybe I was imagining things. But then,
especially during these past few weeks, I had become more concerned
than ever. Still, I told myself to simply bottle it up, pretend
everything is okay until this big wedding is over and done with. No
use in burdening others with my marital woes right now. Besides,
what kind of aunt does that to her favorite niece? Jenny deserves
better from me. So like the proverbial kettle that's about to boil, I've
been desperately trying to keep a lid on my pot. And that's probably
the reason I lost it last night. And it wasn't just about the shoes
and socks, either. Although the socks eventually did play the lead
role in our little fight, it was simply a last-straw sort of thing, symptomatic
of all the things that plague our relationship.
For starters, Phil has always been the worst sort of packer. I'm
sure that's only because he knows I will eventually step in and save
him, like I always do. But I'd decided to let him pack his own bags
for this trip. Maybe it was because I was concerned for the future
of our marriage and thought it was about time he got used to doing
this little chore on his own. Naturally, it never occurred to him to
pack a pair of black socks to go with his black suit. Of course, he
did pack hiking socks to go with his hiking boots, as well as several
pairs of short white cotton socks to go with his running shoes,
because it is his goal to jog around the lake every morning while
we're up here. He wouldn't want to get out of shape now, would
he? But did he remember that we're here to attend a wedding and
that he's expected to don a suit and tie for this event, complete with
black socks? Of course not. And as usual, he expected I'd bail him
out. That's what finally pushed me over the edge.
And that's also the reason I had to drive to town first thing this
morning, or so I told myself when I stormed out of there: I have
to find a place to purchase a pair of black dress socks. Trust me, that's
not easily accomplished in a little tourist town that caters primarily
to outdoor enthusiasts and people looking for a trinket to take
home to the kiddies. I found water socks and crew socks and hiking
socks and even skiing socks, although it's late June and not
exactly ski season, but it took three shops before I finally located a
pair of black socks. And even then they were the cheap kind that
show skin if you pull them too tightly and might even allow a toe
to pop through before the evening is over. Naturally they cost as
much or more than the good ones. But that's what I get for letting
Phil pack his own suitcase. Maybe it's a bit like packing your own
Still, it was a good excuse to get away from him. So now I'm
sitting in this cute little coffee shop that also sells books, both new
and used, and I am enjoying a calorie-laden snack of a raisin scone
and a cup of cafe mocha--and not a skinny, either. Suddenly I'm
thinking maybe this is exactly what I need. I don't mean this little
coffee break, although that's welcome enough. But perhaps, after
my marriage falls completely apart just like it seems to be doing,
I'll sell my half of the decorating business to Carmen and invest
my share of the money in a little book-and-coffee shop in a small
tourist town, just like this. And I'll spend my days fixing specialty
coffees and reading good books--like the ones Oprah features in
her book club, those promising books I always bought with great
hopes, started with real enthusiasm, but never seemed to find the
time to finish.
I study the twenty-something woman behind the counter and
imagine that it's me. Oh, except for the pierced nose and magenta-
tinged hair--although I might consider rinsing my dark hair in
something more along the color of eggplant, if I really wanted to
feel wild and free. But I do wonder how it would feel to live in a
place that's totally unlike our suburban home in the hills next to
the city. I imagine what it would feel like to be completely on my
own--away from Phil. Maybe I would get a cat. Or maybe even
several cats. Phil has allergies that make pets unrealistic--that and
the fact we're not home very much during the daytime to take care
of them. His allergies also cause him to snore at night if he forgets
to take his little yellow decongestant pill. I try to imagine how it
would feel to sleep alone in my own bed without any snoring to
awaken me. This idea is surprisingly appealing to me. And I'm
slightly shocked at myself. Am I actually planning an end to our
marriage? Or perhaps it's already over, and I'm simply going to be
the last one to know.
Although it cuts deeply to think that this could really happen
to us, yet I know it happens to couples all the time, I decide to continue
playing this little what-if game. What if our marriage did
end? I wonder how we'd tell the kids our sad news. Of course,
they're grown now, with lives of their own; maybe it wouldn't matter
so much. And Conner's been talking about taking a job overseas,
and Patrick is consumed with his new job. They'd probably
get over it--in time. Okay, holidays might be tricky, but I assume
these things can be worked out. Other people manage.
I tell myself to stop these foolish imaginings, that nothing
good will come from it and that I should get back to the lake and
the ongoing wedding festivities, which will last late into the
evening. But this padded window-seat bench is begging me to stay
longer, and the girl with the magenta hair just put in a Norah Jones
CD, one that I haven't heard before. So I lean back into the cushions
and take a nice deep breath, followed by another. How often
I forget to really breathe.
Seriously, will anyone out at the lake really miss me for another
thirty minutes or so? I'm sure Phil is relieved that I'm gone.
Besides, the first actual activity on the wedding day schedule isn't
until 12:30. It was supposed to be an "intimate" luncheon (only
"close family and friends") to be served lakeside. But according to
Jeannette, "It's really just an excuse for a schmoozy affair that's
being hosted by the in-laws-to-be." She knows they've invited
some "important" people, wealthy people who are potential clients
for their son, and my poor sister is terrified that she will embarrass
Jenny in front of them. So she made me promise to come and
make a "good impression."
"I don't see what difference my presence will make to anyone,"
I told her last week.
"But you're so much more polished than I am," she said. "And
you're good with people. And you can talk about your design studio
and even drop names if you need to."
I laughed. "You must really be desperate, Jeannette."
Naturally, I promised to be there. I can't see how that will make
her look any better, but these are the kinds of requests a good sister
doesn't question at times like this. I glance at my watch. By my calculations, Phil should've finished his jog around the lake an hour
ago, and he's had enough time to cool down and take his shower
as well. If I'm lucky, I might even get the room to myself for a bit.
Just long enough to get my bearings and brace myself for the day
ahead. I have a feeling it'll be a long one.
So I force myself to leave this sweet little bookish oasis, and I
slowly drive back to the inn. I love this winding road that climbs
up toward the mountainside lake. I've got all the windows down
as I breathe in the fresh smell of pines warmed by sunshine. As I
drive, I go back to my what-if game. If my marriage really does fall
apart and if I quit the design business, perhaps I can get a different
car, something small and sporty. Maybe a convertible or at least
something with a sunroof. I won't need this bulky SUV when I
start running my little coffee-and-book shop. Maybe I'll get an
older European car. Maybe even a Jaguar, if it's never been smoked
in. Most of the Jaguars I see are driven by older people, who all
seem to be smokers. I'm not sure why that is or why it bothers me
that it is. Maybe I'll settle for a BMW, a classic that's in mint condition,
the style with the boxy body design, and with leather that's
nicely broken in. I can see myself driving something like that. Phil
would give me his old line: "Cars like that are the owners' nightmares
and the mechanics' dreams come true.&
Excerpted from On This Day by Melody Carlson Excerpted by permission.
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