Home > The Fiancee(3)

The Fiancee(3)
Author: Kate White

“Great to see everyone,” I say, hugging them all. “We had dinner with these two just last week,” I tell Wendy, cocking my head at Marcus and Keira, “but it seems like ages since we’ve seen you and Blake.”

“I know, that’s the problem with moving to the burbs,” Wendy says, flicking a strand of her chin-length hair off her face. “Plus, we’ve both been crazed at work lately.”

“Everything good in the art world?”

“Definitely, but you can’t make some of this stuff up,” Wendy says. She’s an art dealer who now runs her own gallery. “I sold two very expensive candle sculptures to a collector in Texas a month ago, and his wife accidentally lit them at a party she gave. He ended up ordering two more.”

“Why would an artist bother making candles if he didn’t want anyone to light them?” Marcus asks.

Wendy smiles, unruffled. She’s been married to Blake for ten years, and she knows this is a typical response from Marcus. He’s the quietest of the brothers, but when he does have something to say, he cuts straight to the chase.

“Blake asked me the same thing. He thinks a lot of modern art is the emperor’s new clothes. But a good artist simply wants you to pause and stare and be provoked and maybe see things in a totally different way.”

“I guess the wife missed the point . . . . Speaking of Blake, I may take a dip, too.” Marcus glances at Keira. “You want to join me?”

“You go ahead,” she tells her husband. “I’m going to wait until tomorrow.” He nods and her eyes linger on him as he strides off toward the pool.

“I was just hearing about Keira’s wonderful new job,” Wendy says to me.

“Well, not wonderful yet,” my other sister-in-law insists, shaking her head. “I’m still trying to get my bearings.”

I don’t consider either Wendy or Keira to be close friends, but I get along well with both of them, as different as they are. Wendy’s outgoing and self-possessed, thirty-eight as of last month. Though she seems to favor mostly black designer clothes for work, on weekends she goes for more of that preppy-bohemian Tory Burch style of dressing, which fits well with her white-blond hair and blue-eyed good looks. I’ve seen her be snooty to waiters but never toward anyone in the family. It drives Gabe nuts that she talks with a faint British accent, even though she only lived in the UK for a year—and it was the year she was twenty-two. But if Madonna can be forgiven for doing it, so can Wendy, I suppose.

Keira is thirty-three like me, supersmart, and as of a few weeks ago, a relationship manager for an organization that guides philanthropists on where to donate. She’s attractive, with long brown hair, brown eyes, and flawless light brown skin, and though she dresses nicely enough, it’s a classic, fairly conservative style that suggests fashion didn’t make the cut on her list of major priorities. Mostly she’s friendly and thoughtful, though less self-assured than Wendy. Sometimes she can even be a little awkward in social situations, maybe due to anxiety. She’ll walk into a room and for no obvious reason will be wearing this worried frown that makes you wonder if she knows something you don’t about an approaching swarm of killer bees or a massive asteroid headed straight toward the earth.

“I hate to be a party pooper, but I have to excuse myself,” Wendy says. “I need to check in quickly with a client.”

“No problem,” I tell her. “We’ll have plenty of time together this week.”

She sets down a half-empty glass of ice water and as she turns to go, I notice a tiny swell at the waist of her sundress. Could this mean she’s finally pregnant? I know from Gabe that she and Blake have been trying on and off for ages, and we’d all be thrilled if they’re expecting.

I turn back to Keira. “Were you able to get the whole week off?” I ask her.

“No, I’m going to take the bus back to the city early Tuesday morning, and then come out again on Friday.”

“Oh, that’s a bummer.”

“I know, but I really need to get up to speed in the new position,” she says, not looking all that sad about it.

I can’t help but wonder if work is the true reason she’ll be here only part of the time. She’s an only child, whose parents—a Black father and Caucasian mother—divorced when she was three. Though Keira says they were both loving and did a good job of coparenting, neither remarried or had other children, and perhaps as a result, she sometimes seems uncomfortable in a big family group, especially one that can get as loud and rowdy as the Keatons.

“Of course, maybe I should be sticking around,” she adds. “You heard about Nick’s mystery guest, right?”

“Oh, yeah. But don’t worry, I promise to text you regular updates if you want.”

“It’s not that.” The tiny fissure between her eyes deepens. “She used to date Marcus.”

“You’re kidding,” I say, taken aback. “When?”

“Around two years ago, right before he met me.”

I can’t imagine having one of Gabe’s exes show up during our family vacation. “Ugh, I’m sorry. Will this be weird for you guys?”

“Marcus swears not, at least on his end. They apparently only went out a few times before he broke it off. Says she wasn’t his type. So I guess I shouldn’t be bothered, either.”

“Of course not,” I assure her. “How did Nick end up meeting her, anyway?”

“Through the same friend Marcus did. Someone they know in the city.”

“Well, I feel confident you have nothing to worry about,” I tell her, and I do. She and Marcus clearly have a strong bond.

The sun has now sunk low enough in the sky that it’s cast a shadow across most of the water in the pool, and though Gabe and Henry are still happily splashing around, I take it as my cue to freshen up before dinner. I tell Keira I’ll see her shortly and walk around to the western side of the house, then make my way down a long path to the stone guest cottage, which sits nestled against the edge of a wooded area.

Because Gabe and I often come out here on weekends, Claire offered us first dibs on the refurbished carriage house, but the little cottage will always be my first choice. In our early days of dating, it gave me a needed sense of privacy, as comfortable as I felt with Gabe’s parents right from the start.

The cottage is actually an old springhouse, dating back at least a hundred years. It’s where food used to be stored before refrigeration because the spring below cooled the building. The lower level features a cozy sitting room with a fireplace and a small kitchen; upstairs are two bedrooms and a bath.

After unpacking my duffel bag—and discovering that Gabe, in his typical thoughtful way, has already hung my dresses—I brew myself a cup of tea, then carry it out to the small patio in the rear. It’s rimmed by a gorgeous border garden bursting with reds, blues, and purples. After settling at the table, I sweep my gaze over the Monet-like setting.

I wish I could really savor the scene, but my anxiety about the morning’s recording session has somehow crept back in. I have to do better at not letting stuff like that eat at me. Besides, I shouldn’t let a setback in this arena bug me. Though I enjoy voice-over work and appreciate how well it pays, the jobs are only a means to an end. If I had to spend my life recording prompts like “Please listen carefully because our menu options have changed” while people I knew were acting in movies and series or scoring lead roles off Broadway, I’d shoot myself.

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