Not for the first or last time, Franny marveled at Marilyn’s wisdom. Sure enough, the little house expanded effortlessly to hold the crowd of people who arrived to celebrate. Franny stopped counting at about sixty people, because she couldn’t keep track of who’d she already counted. At first she tried counting by attire colors: “One yellow shirt, two pink dress, three baby blue scarf…” but her imagination couldn’t keep up with generating new color names. “Fifty-nine puke green and buttercup yellow plaid pocket square” did her in.
Franny found a tiny shady spot in the garden to stop and sip her glass of sparkling water. She re-envisioned the ceremony, which had taken place under an arbor on the patio a few hours earlier. Leo perched on his rickety stool in a corner, playing his guitar to welcome the guests, shifting to Bach’s chorale to indicate the start of the ceremony. Somehow his night of nursing vanished without a trace on his face or body. His eyes sparkled, his white jeans sparkled, and his music sparkled. The few friends who gathered for the ceremony grew hushed, and organized themselves into a semi-circle around the arbor.
Douglas stood on the far edge of the patio, handsome in a relaxed linen shirt and grey trousers. Only his eyes betrayed any concern at all, as he gazed at the back door of the house, waiting for his bride.
And Marilyn – oh, Marilyn. Franny fought a tear as she remembered seeing her friend in a simple dove grey silk dress, carrying lily of the valley and sprigs of rosy dogwood blossoms; seeing her trademark short-cropped white hair and red glasses as always; radiating love and peace in her smile. She remembered watching Marilyn step out her door and walk slowly across the patio, seemingly in time to Leo’s music, and she remembered the flicker of relief in Marilyn’s eyes when she arrived close enough to take Douglas’s hand, to lean (almost imperceptibly) on him as they stood and recited their vows.
How many of the friends gathered there, watching the lovely scene, could read the horrors of the night before in the faces of the bride or groom? Who among them could imagine that only a scant hour or so before their arrival, the final scrub of the tile in the bathroom was completed by Leo, the fouled bedclothes were flung in the washer by Douglas, and Franny sat with Marilyn in front of her bedroom mirror, holding her friend’s hand, assuring her that the light touch of blush and lipstick brought all the color back to her face?
In her quiet shady corner of the garden, Franny wept as softly as she could, from worry and joy and relief.