Excerpt from A Newport Christmas Wedding
Meri Calder-Hollis, soon to be Meri Calder–Hollis Corrigan stood on an antique wooden wash tub in the middle of her grandmother’s living room. The tub had seen many incarnations. First as the receptacle for Saturday wash days, then as a bed for several litters of puppies, kittens and once a wounded fox.
For several summers, it held geraniums by the front door, ice for the church picnic and was even borrowed for a photo shoot for a brochure of one of the mansions Meri was restoring at the time. Today it was covered with a white sheet and served as a platform for the hemming of Meri’s wedding dress.
Meri couldn’t help but fidget as Gran and Edie Linscott pinned and consulted and pinned again. Meri’s mother, Laura, had worn this dress when she married Dan Hollis and in the midst of Meri’s excitement her eyes would well with tears to think that her mother would never see her daughter wed.
She’d died several years ago unleashing a secret that Meri thought would upend her life. It had, but in the best possible way. She was getting married to her oldest friend.
Meri smiled at Nora, her soon to be step-daughter, who was sitting on the couch, hugging a throw pillow and looking starry-eyed. Meri felt a small frisson of nervousness. Step mother to a seventeen year old. And thirteen year old Lucas. She’d know them all their lives. She’d even babysat them. But mother? She had no experience and the idea was a bit overwhelming.
“It’s so beautiful,” Nora said for about the fortieth time that afternoon and squeezed the throw pillow tighter.
It was beautiful, Meri thought. She’d stared at this dress through hours of fittings and never got tired of looking the intricate patterns of the lace on the bodice, the edging that finished the three quarter sleeves, just like she never tired of following the intricate details of a ceiling or mural in her job as architectural restorer across the bay in Newport.
Only the dress was more special because she could feel her mother when she put it on. Her mother. Laura Hollis was her mother. Truly. If there had ever been a question about that, there was no longer. A frightened lonely teenager had given birth to Meri, but Laura Calder Hollis was her mother.
The sound of a car stopping in front of the farm house had Nora running to the window. “More presents from Treasures. I’ll go get them.”
She tossed the pillow onto the couch and ran into the hallway to open the front door.
Alameda Webb opened the back of the white paneled truck with her gift store, Treasures, emblazoned across the side. “Lot’s of boxes today. Meri and Alden are two popular people here about.”
“They are,” Nora agreed. peering over her shoulder at the contents of the van.
Alameda was short and muscular, what Gran called “a sturdy New Englander.” She was certainly strong, Nora thought as Alameda shoved two heavy boxes out of the way and pulled out a long flat box and handed it to Nora.
“So Nora, are you going back to live with your mother after the wedding?”
“No. I’m living here with Meri and Dad.”
“Oh?” Alameda placed another rectangular box on top of the first. “You okay with those boxes?”
Nora nodded. “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I live with them?”
Alameda shrugged. “No reason. I just thought, you know, being newly weds and all . . . though how nice of them to include you. Here are the last two.” She handed Nora the last two packages and closed the hatch.
“Can you get those inside okay?”
“You tell Meri and Therese I said hello.”
Alameda got into the truck, backed up and beeped the horn as she drove down the car track to the main road.
Nora watched her go. Suddenly her stomach didn’t feel so good. Why wouldn’t she live with Meri and Dad? They never said she should go back to her mother’s house. They hadn’t discussed it at all. Nora had just taken it for granted that she would live with them.
She didn’t want to go back to her mother and Mark’s house. But what if Dad and Meri did want to be alone? They could be alone with her there. Corrigan house had about a hundred rooms, well only twenty something, but that was plenty of room for them all, Lucas, too when he was home from boarding school.
Dad said Lucas could live with him too, when Nora came to live with him last spring. But Lucas had this science high school he’d heard about, and it was too far away to commute. He sometimes came home for the weekends, when he wasn’t working on some experiment or project or something.
But maybe that wasn’t the real reason he didn’t come back much. Maybe he didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t want to be in the way. Or maybe he didn’t want them to get married at all.
Nora gripped the packages. She wanted them to get married. Her dad was so happy these days. Well, for him anyway. He never acted silly, or laughed until he couldn’t stop, it wasn’t his personality. But these days he didn’t go around all gloomy and deep all the time. They’d always had fun, even after the divorce when he’d visit on weekends, even though he never got to see them without fighting their mother.
These days he was much less . . . solitary. She’d even caught him and Meri singing in the kitchen one morning. Her dad never sang, he was the contemplative type. Or at least that’s what Gran said and what Nora’s psych book confirmed. Introvert. Plus as a book illustrator, he did sort of live in his imagination.
They’d stopped singing when Nora came in. Meri said they had been arguing over the words of the song. Did Nora know them? She didn’t. But they didn’t sing anymore after that. Just had breakfast like nothing had happened. And Nora hadn’t thought about it. But she remembered now. Would they have kept singing if she hadn’t come in? Maybe they would have more fun if Nora wasn’t around. Maybe they really would rather be alone.