Excerpt from Marriage & Mayhem
"Really, Mom? You think I look like a 'lumpy snowman' in this wedding dress?" The expression on Wendy's face was that of a woman who'd just been told she was too unattractive to risk producing offspring, lest she pass that hideous "ugly" gene down to her children. Perhaps honesty wasn't always the best policy, but I didn't want to lie and let her buy a wedding dress that didn't do her beautiful figure justice.
"It was the best comparison I could come up with at a moment's notice. I'm sorry, but you did ask me to be brutally honest."
Wendy stared at me in horror. My mind raced for a way to escape from the hole I'd dug for myself. "I meant to say you looked like a well-rounded snowman, not a lumpy one."
A lone tear ran down Wendy's cheek. "I don't want to look like any kind of snowman, Mom. I want to look like a beautiful bride. I've tried on over a dozen dresses and you haven't liked the way I looked in any of them."
"Not true, sweetheart. Even though it's too expensive, I thought you looked lovely in the cashmere silk dress with the pearl-studded neckline."
‟How many times have I told you I'd kill to have your figure?" I asked. Standing four inches shorter than Wendy's five-foot-six, and with quite a bit more padding, my height, shape, and curly mop of blonde-highlighted brown hair were in sharp contrast to her slender build and long, straight auburn hair. Luckily for her, she'd taken after her father. Wendy had always been thin, so I was happy she'd recently put some much-needed meat on her bones.
‟I just don't think you should invest half-a-year's salary in a dress you'll likely wear only once."
Wendy glanced at the price tag on the gown she wore. ‟I know this is over my budget, but I haven't found a reasonably-priced wedding gown I look good in."
"There are other bridal shops offering beautiful wedding gowns for far less money. You'd surely get a better price if you shopped in a less ritzy neighborhood."
We were at a designer bridal shop on the County Club Plaza, a fifteen-block section along Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri. The affluent shopping district was known for its beautiful Spanish architecture and numerous fountains. During the holidays, every building was outlined with Christmas lights, horse-drawn carriages click-clacked down the streets, and the air held the scent of pine trees, with just a hint of horse manure. It was truly a magical place where many of the wealthier locals shopped.
Unfortunately, Wendy was having trouble accepting the fact that we just weren't in the right tax bracket to shop on the lovely Plaza. With pouty lips, she said, ‟Yeah, there's nothing like wearing a cheap ugly dress on the biggest day of your life. Should we try the dollar store first?"
‟Don't be so melodramatic, Wendy. You've been awfully moody recently. Are you sure you aren't pregnant?"
‟For the umpteenth time, Mother, I'm not pregnant! You know I'm on the pill."
Wendy's indignant voice and snippy attitude were obvious signs I should back off and let the subject drop. Unfortunately, my mouth didn't get the memo. ‟That doesn't mean anything, honey. I was on the pill when I got pregnant with you."
‟Oh, really? I was an accident? So you didn't even want―"
‟Now, wait a darn minute, missy!" I was indignant now, too. ‟Just because your father and I weren't planning to get pregnant, doesn't mean that finding out we were going to be parents wasn't the happiest day of our lives. I just wish Chester was still alive to see what a successful and beautiful woman his daughter's become. He would've been so proud to walk you down the aisle."
‟Yeah, I wish he was still here, too, but Stone's been like a father to me since the day I met him. I'm pleased to have him stand in for Daddy."
"Good. Stone's looking forward to it."
Stone Van Patten and I had married a year ago, though I'd kept my maiden name, Alexandria Marie Starr, or more simply, Lexie. Stone and I own a bed and breakfast facility called the Alexandria Inn in Rockdale, Missouri, where Wendy and Stone's nephew, Andy, were scheduled to be married in the very gazebo Stone built for our own wedding.
I could hardly wait to see the taillights of Andy's truck as they drove off to begin their honeymoon. Hours and hours of mind-numbing details and non-life-threatening decisions, like whether to serve butter mints or mixed nuts in the bowl next to the guest book, nearly bored the frigging life out of me. So why had I volunteered to help plan their wedding? Because that's what loving mothers do, damn it! But there was no time to dwell on the tedious and drawn-out process ahead. I needed to keep my daughter focused so we could make progress on our list of tasks.
‟Wendy, let's try this shop called 'The Hitching Post' on Quivera Road in Shawnee, Kansas. I've heard their prices are incredibly reasonable. I'd hate to see you two be one of those couples who are still making payments on a wedding dress after the ink on their divorce settlement has already began to fade."
Bad choice of words, and I regretted them even before my lips stopped flapping. The meltdown had officially begun when a blubbering Wendy starting ranting loud enough for every shopper in the store to hear, ‟Holy crap! No wonder you want me to go cheapo on my dress! You think our marriage is doomed to go down the tubes."
‟Whoa! Calm down, dear. You're making a scene. I wasn't inferring I felt your marriage was destined to fail, because you two were absolutely meant for each other. I just meant it'd be a shame to have a debt hanging over your heads when it's not necessary."
I studied Wendy for a moment and could tell she was taking in every word, so I continued trying to talk some sense into her. In retrospect, my decision to keep talking was a mistake.
‟I'm certain we can find a gown at The Hitching Post that doesn't cost as much or make you look hippier than you actually are, like that dress you have on."
After an audible gasp, Wendy screeched, "Now you're saying I look like a fat-assed brideglobzilla?"
"No, dear, and I don't think brideglobzilla is a real word."
"Neither is hippier, but that's beside the point. The point is I have less than a month to get ready for my wedding." Wendy was flustered― a hot mess, to be exact―and I knew she was overwhelmed with frustration. I feared she was going to rip the expensive gown she'd been modeling. As if the fabric was searing her skin, she clawed at it in an effort to undress.
"Relax, sweetheart. You're being overly sensitive. Your derriere is anything but fat. In fact, you're figure is exquisite. We still have plenty of time to get all the details worked out. After all, I planned my wedding to Stone in about forty-five minutes."
"Maybe so, but you guys are old."
"Excuse me? I'm only fifty-one."
"I'm sorry, Mom. I apologize for being offensive, but this is my first marriage, and Andy's too. Both you and Stone had previous marriages, so weren't expected to have a ceremony that's, um, well . . ."
"Insanely over-the-top? "
Wendy shook her head and sighed loudly.
‟What about your ill-fated marriage to Clayton Pitt?" I asked.
‟That was annulled, so it doesn't count."
Despite the fact her marriage to Clay had dissolved quicker than a stick of butter in boiling water, the ceremony had been elaborate and expensive―and at my expense! But I chose not to rain on Wendy's parade. ‟I see."
‟I heard Sally and Stephen Morgan's wedding cost over twenty-five grand, and he'd been married before," Wendy said.
"And do you know why you heard that?" I asked, not appreciating her huffy tone. ‟It's because everyone was talking about it―for all the wrong reasons! The few people I chatted with all agreed it was a frivolous waste of money. Who cares how elaborate the ceremony is? The most important objective is to join you and Andy in holy matrimony, isn't it, dear?"
"Yeah." A hint of a smile was evident on Wendy's face. "It would be a lot easier and cheaper to just fly to Vegas and elope."
"There you go! Stone and I will even spring for the ladder." We both laughed at my dated quip about eloping. ‟It can be your wedding gift from us."
"Don't tempt me."
I put my arm around Wendy's shoulders as I spoke in a soft voice. "I wouldn't actually want you two to elope, but the ceremony doesn't have to be overly extravagant, or ridiculously expensive. Not to mention, you seem to be putting way too much stress on yourself."
‟I know. I just want our wedding to be a day we'll never forget."
I gave my daughter a warm hug. ‟No matter how simple, or how elaborate, I promise your wedding day will be a day you'll never, ever forget."
I didn't know it at the time, but my words of encouragement could not have been more spot on. As it would turn out, it'd be a day no one who attended the ceremony would ever forget, no matter how hard they tried!