All Tracey wants is to get hitched without a hitchbut as the calendar marches toward her late-October wedding date, suddenly she and her fiancé can't agree on anything. From where to get married (New York City or Buffalo?) to how many attendants they're going to have (she's already asked eight; he was thinking of just a best man). Meanwhile, Tracey's friends are caught up in their own dramas. There's newlywed Raphael, who just had his gay wedding; newly pregnant Kate, who is trying to adjust to impending motherhood; and Buckley, who is acting inexplicably strange. When Buckley unexpectedly breaks off his own engagement, all but leaving his fiancé at the altar, Tracey is stunned to learn that he might be in love with her.
With plenty of snafus to keep them distracted, is being Slightly Married the road to happily ever after, after all?
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Meet Jack Candell, the man who bought a lifetime subscription to TiVo without first trying it out, yet spent six painstaking months in possession of an heirloom diamond engagement ring and no clue how—or when—or, I suspect, if—he should propose to me.
But all that excruciating will–he–or–won't–he suspense is behind us now. Jack has finally committed to a lifetime subscription to Tracey Spadolini, live–in girlfriend of two–plus years.
What can be more romantic than getting engaged on Valentine's Day?
I'll tell you: getting engaged on Valentine's Day on the heels of your best friend's gay wedding while wearing a redand–black brocade bridesmaid's gown, your scalp coated with sleet and the Aussie spritzed remnants of an elegant updo, as your fiancé kneels in the slushy gutter on West Broadway.
Maybe you had to be there.
Well, I was, and believe me, hearing Jack's long–awaited, heartfelt proposal—and saying yes—was the most romantic, exhilarating event of my life.
The afterglow has lingered all the way uptown on the subway and throughout the short walk home from the Ninety–sixth Street station to our building. At this point, I'm bursting with joy, anxious to share the news and show off the ring. Too bad Jimmy, our favorite doorman, is off duty most Saturdays.
In his place tonight is Gecko, a dour old chatterbox who, if you say anything more than a polite hello in passing, will hold you captive in the lobby for hours with his ongoing monologue about his gout and diverticulitis, what he can and can't eat these days, and graphic detail about the effect on his various bodily functions if he disobeys the gastroenterologist's orders.
I wisely keep my hand in my pocket and afterglow to myself as we pass him.
But the glow resumes as Jack puts his arm around me on the journey up to our f loor, even though we're sharing the elevator with a trio of yapping terriers and Quint, the effete neighborhood dog walker, clad in what looks suspiciously like lederhosen.
You know how some things in life can never quite live up to the anticipation? Like Christmas, losing your virginity and biting into your first Hostess Twinkie after a week on Atkins?
Well, for once, I'm not even slightly disappointed. I'm pleased to report that so far, being engaged is every bit as exhilarating as I thought it would be.
I walk on air toward the door to apartment 9K with a marquis–cut diamond newly twinkling on the fourth finger of my left hand and my future husband—husband, people!–by my side.
My mental string orchestra is launching into yet another lilting version of "Isn't It Romantic" when my beloved glances down, grimaces and informs me, "My feet are soaked. They're going to stink to high heaven when I take off these shoes."
Yeah,well,better stinky than cold, I think, undaunted, and my private orchestra plays a little louder to drown out any other unromantic proclamations Jack might be inclined to spout.
At least he hasn't informed me that he has to piss like a racehorse, which is a frequent mood–dampening line of his.
Jack retrieves his keys from the pocket of his overcoat as we cover the last few steps to our apartment. I do my best to focus on the afterglow lest my thoughts wander to his potentially stinky feet or my own throbbing ones crammed into fugly bridesmaid's shoes.
You're getting married! You're finally engaged!
Amazing. Does life get any better than this?
I imagine that from here on in, everything is going to be different. Food will taste more delicious, sex will be more fulfilling, plans of any sort will be more meaningful.
Watching my fiancé—I so can't wait to use that word out loud—literally unlock the door to our one–bedroom apartment, I can't help but feel as though he's figuratively opening it to our future together.
As we cross the threshold, I prepare to see our place in a whole new light.
Not that there is much actual light, this being a sleet–drenched February dusk.
Everywhere I look are signs that we raced out of here at the last minute this morning. My pajamas are in a heap on the f loor in the doorway of the bedroom. The jelly and butter are still out on a crumb–littered countertop. On the small dinette table amid piles of sorted and unsorted mail and newspapers sit two untouched mugs of tea with the bags still in them.
Tea…for two…two…for tea, plays the jaunty orchestra in my head.
"Home sweet home," Jack announces with a contented sigh, tossing his keys on the table and throwing his sopping trench coat over the nearest chair.
"Uh–huh, we've got to move," I can't help but blurt in response.
This isn't an impulsive inspiration. It's something I've been thinking about for a while now.
Nor is this the first time I've shared the thought with Jack. His gaze is promptly steeped with panic, same as it always is when I bring up trading our little love nest for something a little less—well, nesty.
Not that I have anything against nesting. Hell, I'm all for it. But I'd prefer a two–bedroom nest, at the very least. I'd love a heating system that isn't prone to clanging or wafting the aroma of other people's ethnic cooking. A view would be nice, too. Doesn't have to be of Central Park or the river, even—just something other than the ugly, claustrophobically close building next door.
Jack runs an agitated hand through his hair, which is normally the color of melted milk chocolate, but right now is more like dark baking chocolate because it's soaked with sleet. When we met, he wore it longer and it was kind of wavy. These days, it's really short and a little spiky on top, kind of retro–little–kid.
"Listen," I say reassuringly, "we don't have to move right away—"
"That's good, because one major life change per year is my quota."
Okay, this year's life change is obviously going to be marriage.
I can't help but wonder, though, what was last year's major life change? TiVo?
"But Jack," I proceed gingerly, unwilling to let it go yet determined to tread carefully in the wake of today's momentous occasion, "look at this place."
He does, quickly, before his brown eyes settle again–somewhat warily—on me. "What about this place? It's great."
"I thought you said it was 'cozy.""
I did, but that was back when I was trying to convince him that we were better off going for a one–bedroom in an Upper East Side doorman building than a more spacious Junior Four so far out in Queens that we'd have to take a bus to the subway.
"It is cozy," I agree, "but we've outgrown it."
Kind of like I've outgrown these dyed–to–match pointy red satin bridesmaid's pumps, which I kick into a corner of the living room. They collide with a heaping plastic basket of laundry that's been there for at least forty–eight hours. I wonder whether it's dirty, or clean and waiting to be folded, and note that I'm in no rush to find out. "Yeah, well, this place is rent controlled." That's Jack, of course. Under the assumption that I may need to brush up on my New York real estate glossary, he adds, "Meaning, we can afford it."
"I know—" duh "—but I just got that raise with my promotion."
Yes, you read that right. As of a few weeks ago, I, Tracey Spadolini, former waitress and aspiring copywriter, am now account executive at Blaire Barnett Advertising.
I know, I have a hard time believing it myself. But I have the business cards and frequent stress headache to prove it.
"You haven't seen a penny of it yet, though," Jack points out re: my big raise.
"It should kick into my next paycheck. Or the one after that," say I, the eternal optimist. "And anyway, Carol said it would be retroactive."
Jack, who has been employed at Blaire Barnett since before I ever even started temping there, looks dubious.
It occurs to me that maybe he just doesn't want to face the fact that as an account exec for McMurray–White, a major packaged–goods client, I'll be making more than he does as a media supervisor. I read somewhere that some men are intimidated by their wives out–earning them. But not Jack. He doesn't have a chauvinistic bone in his body, I assure myself.
Wife! I'm going to be Jack's wife! "Come on, we're getting married," I remind him gently. "Don't you think it's time to get a real apartment? Maybe even buy a place?"
Jack doesn't answer for a moment.
That's because he's pretty much hyperventilating.
When he can speak, he chokes out, "Do you know what Manhattan real estate costs?"
"Who said anything about Manhattan? We can always look in the suburbs…or not," I add hastily, lest he hurtle himself out the nearest window.
"Come on, Trace, you were the one who convinced me that we had to live in Manhattan in the first place. I would have been more than happy to stay in Brooklyn—"
"You wanted to look in Queens."
"Or Queens," he says amenably. "But you had your heart set on the Upper East Side. Remember?"
"I do remember. But that was a long time ago, you know? I've changed my mind since then."
"Queens. Living there? No." I suppress a shudder. It's not that I'm opposed to the outer boroughs in general. I'm the first one to hop on the subway to Yankee Stadium or the Staten Island Ferry for a weekend outing at my friend Brenda's.
Maybe not the first one. But I'm generally open to visiting the boroughs, with good reason, advance notice and nothing better to do.
I'm just not open to moving to a borough at this stage of the game. I mean, if I'm going to live in the city, it's going to be Manhattan. And if I'm priced out of the city…
"I can see us in the suburbs, can't you?" I ask Jack, who grimaces. "Like Westchester or Long Island, Jersey, maybe…"
For a second he just looks at me. Then his famous dimples reappear in his lower cheeks at long last as he laughs. Hard.
Maybe a little too hard.
When he stops, he says, "We've been engaged less than a half hour, and you've already got us buying a house in the suburbs, Trace."
"Or a condo." Two bedrooms, two baths and a permanent parking spot for the car we're going to get the second we move. Nothing fancy. Maybe a little sporty, but not red. Sleek and black might be nice.…
"House, condo, whatever." Jack shakes his head. "Why are you suddenly worrying about moving?"
"Because not only are we running out of room here, but things keep breaking down on a daily basis."
"That's an exaggeration."
"Name one thing that broke down today."
You, I think, when you decided to pop the question at last. Bwa–hahahahahahaha…that's one quip meant for my personal amusement only. No need to remind Jack that he dragged his feet all the way to the fateful waterlogged gutter where he finally proposed.
Jack blinks. "The toaster?"
"It refused to pop after I shoved it down this morning. I scorched three pieces of bread."
"But the toaster isn't part of the apartment. That's ours. Let's just buy a new one. It'll be cheaper than a colonial in Scarsdale by, like, one point four mil and change."
I crack a smile, but also point out, "The toaster wouldn't be on the blink if there weren't something wrong with the wiring in the kitchen outlet."