Her sister’s bedroom was a mess. The cruise wear purchased for the honeymoon sat in heaps in the corner. The bed was unmade. On the dresser a box of saltine crackers shared space with a large bowl. In the bowl was a single peach.
“Birdie?” She heard shuffling in the bathroom.
It was a shock to find her sister kneeling before the toilet.
“Are you wearing perfume?” Birdie asked.
A bizarre question, but she played along. “Of course. Why?”
“Stay where you are. One whiff, and I’ll start puking again. It’s on my no-no list.”
“Since when do you have an allergy to perfume? You love Flowerbomb.”
“Not lately, I don’t.”
“How will you get through the reception if perfume makes you sick? We’re entertaining hundreds.”
“Menthol cream. I’ll dab it under my nose. Hugh says morticians use it when they’re examining dead bodies.”
“That’s disgusting.” Would the goo show in the bridal photos? Talk about a disaster.
“It’s the best plan I’ve got. Any and all perfume unsettles my stomach. If the invites hadn’t already gone out, I’d ask people to refrain from using it.”
Birdie looked dreadful. Her thick blond hair was banded tight at the base of her neck and her skin was splotchy. “How long has this been going on?” Meade asked. Earlier this week her sister had been fine.
“A day or two.” Birdie grabbed the edge of the sink and pulled herself up. She resembled a seasick passenger on savage seas.
“Are we canceling the florist?”
“Oh, yeah. Unless you’ll take care of it.”
“Let’s wait until the morning.” Dragging her to the appointment was unthinkable. She was too sick. “If you’re not better tomorrow, I’ll go alone.” Meade hesitated. “Do you need anything? A glass of water? Aspirin?”
“No, but thanks.” Birdie pressed her hand to her stomach. “Give me a sec. I’ll meet you in the living room.”
Meade retraced her steps to the living room. She sent a text to the florist to reschedule. Hector was gone, the ripe peaches thoughtfully set out in a glass bowl on the coffee table.
Ears perked, she listened to Birdie shuffling around in the bathroom. A virus was nothing but an inconvenience. Half the town would attend the reception. Meade had also invited a select group of business associates and a few friends from her father’s years in the banking industry. How would people react if the bride, smelling of menthol, kept them at arm’s length? What if Birdie fell ill during the reception and dashed out? Hosting the affair with the bride absent was a prospect too awful to contemplate.
Her worries vanished beneath a deeper concern as Birdie trudged down the hallway and sank on the couch. She’d donned Hugh’s robe and slippers. The slippers were large enough to pass for clown’s shoes.
At Meade’s appraisal, she said, “No fashion critiques, okay? I need Hugh’s gear. His scent keeps my stomach settled.”
“I’m not.” She dragged a fluffy throw blanket across her knees. “I should ditch the wedding gown and wear his pajamas. If I skip laundry day, they’ll really smell like him.”
“PJs in Daddy’s ballroom. That would be a first.” And a last. When the photographer snapped the wedding pics, Meade knew she’d hide.
“Does it matter? It’ll keep me from turning green while entertaining your cast of thousands.”
“I thought you liked the idea of a large wedding.”
“Hey, I thought we’d do a small thing in Liberty Square. Family and friends. You’re the one who turned this into the event of the season. If it makes you feel any better, Hugh’s on your side. He loves the idea.”
“I’m glad. By the way, I’d appreciate your assurance you won’t change into his pajamas at the reception.” Birdie was an iconoclast of the first order. If an idea lodged in her head, there was no telling what she’d do.
Birdie picked at the blanket, her expression clouding. “I’ll stay in my bridal gown, but only because it’s a big deal to you. The way I’ve been feeling, I couldn’t care less.”
“Talk to Mary. She’ll give you something to help.” Vitamins, a stern reprimand—anything sure to keep the testy bride from bailing out of the wedding would do just fine.
“Believe me, there’s nothing she can do.” Birdie’s eyes held a hint of deviltry. “Meade, it’s not what you think. I don’t have a bug.”
“What then? Cold feet? If you’re having second thoughts after all the work I’ve done—”
The announcement hung in the air.
For a split second, Meade thought she’d misheard. Less than an hour ago, she’d driven a very pregnant Glade back to the estate. Now another pregnancy? The coincidence was mindboggling.
Meade’s lips were numb. “You’re having a baby.” She rubbed them together, which didn’t help. It dawned on her that her brain was suffering the deep freeze of shock. “Are you sure?”
“The OB thinks I’m in my ninth week. I’ve never been good at tracking my periods. The due date is a little dicey.”
“Wait. Aren’t you on the pill?”
“I meant to fill the script. You know how it is. Since we opened the Post, I’ve been running non-stop.”
“Birdie, who forgets to fill the script when they’re living with a man? You and Hugh have been together since Christmas.”
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