On an impulse, Kassandra rose from the lawn chair she’d been sitting on in Marilyn’s garden and made her way through the crowd. She intended to hug the bride and leave, unsettled by feelings of sadness and anticipated grief on what should be a happy occasion. But she had trouble locating the art professor and stumbled on a threshold that separated the patio from the house.
“I knew that would trip someone up. I recommended a mat or something across there. But in all the, well, we didn’t have time. I’m so sorry.”
Kassandra turned to see who was speaking. “I’m sorry?” She inadvertently repeated the speaker’s words.
“Not your fault. I hope you’re okay?” She recognized the man’s face as someone she’d seen around town quite a bit, but not a coffee shop regular. Grey hair, kind eyes, gentle smile, and tanned skin.
“Oh, I’m fine. I was just, I wanted to find Marilyn.” Kassandra smiled back. “Do I know you?”
The man’s smile expanded. “I don’t think we’ve met formally. I’m Leo.”
“You played the guitar and sang. Sorry, I’m so flustered, I didn’t place you right away.”
“And you work in the coffee shop, right?”
“I do. Kassandra. Nice to meet you, Leo.” She reached out a hand and he took it, holding it for a moment before letting go.
“Thank you for coming. I know it’s important to Marilyn to have everyone she loves here today.”
Kassandra was jostled by someone else trying to make a path. Leo put his hand on her elbow. “Let’s step over here.” Somehow he managed to find a pocket of space in the crowd. “So many people can be a bit overwhelming, can’t they?”
“A bit.” Kassandra knew her expression indicated she was overwhelmed, but it was not because of the crowd. It was that word Leo had used, “love.” Marilyn wants everyone she loves around her… but I never thought she loved me.
As if he read her mind, Leo continued. “She loves you or she wouldn’t have invited you. She doesn’t always express emotions directly. Thoughts and ideas? No one is clearer than Marilyn in describing those. But she’s very private about her feelings.”
“I love her too,” Kassandra said. And you know, she thought, I do. I love her. “She’s been kinder to me than my own mother. That’s why, I…” Kassandra trailed off. She was not sure what she wanted to say. That’s why I wanted to be here, why I’m crying, and why I need to leave? Because I love Marilyn and I can tell something is very wrong?
“I’m sure you deserve it. Marilyn is picky about her friends.” Leo’s smile seemed designed to send Kassandra back into a cascade of tears, so she refocused on the crowd. “Come on,” Leo continued. “I’ll help you find her.”