Home > Spring Fever(8)

Spring Fever(8)
Mary Kay Andrews

“Um,” Annajane stalled, not wanting to rat out her best friend.

Mason rolled his eyes. “That’s what I thought. She never even showed today, did she?”

“She might have had summer school this morning,” Annajane lied. “She’s trying to get her Spanish grade up to a B.”

“Riiight,” Mason said. “What do you wanna bet her lazy behind is lying right beside the pool at the club, while you’re stuck here at the plant, counting bottle caps?”

“Summer school could have run late,” Annajane said, loyal to the end.

“If you do see Pokey, tell her I came by,” Mason said. “I’ll stop by Voncile’s desk and let her know I kinda messed things up in here.”

“Thanks,” Annajane breathed.

“And don’t worry,” he added. “I won’t blow Pokey’s cover story. Not this time, anyway.”

4

Annajane never told Mason she’d fallen in love with him that first day at the plant. She’d never told anybody. Not even Pokey. After all, she’d been fifteen, he was nineteen, working in the warehouse for the first time that summer after his freshman year of college, at his father’s insistence. As far as Mason Bayless was concerned, Annajane was just some goofy girl who hung out with his baby sister.

He hadn’t given her a second thought, or a second glance. It would be another four years before they exchanged their first kiss.

Her cheeks burned now at the thought of that first time. She shook her head violently, trying to dislodge the memory.

“You okay?” Pokey whispered. “It’s not too late to make your escape.”

But it was too late. The music swelled again, and the violins and flutes and organ began the fluttering notes of the Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Every head turned toward the back of the church.

“Ahh.” Annajane heard the chorus of approving sighs, and in a moment she spotted Sophie.

The five-year-old tiptoed slowly up the aisle. Somebody had attempted to tame the wild mane of blond curls, but the circlet of baby’s breath and pink rosebuds rested at a crooked tilt, listing slightly over her right ear. She was angelic in the ankle-length pink organza dress with its delicate pin-tucked bodice and bell-shaped sleeves. Annajane held her breath as Sophie made her way up the aisle, flinging fists full of rosebuds from the satin basket dangling from her skinny wrist. Her sparkly pink cat-eye glasses slid down her nose, and she paused once, to push them back into place.

The sight of Mason’s daughter caused Annajane unexpected tears. Sophie was not her child, although she should have been. Mason had fathered her during a brief one-night stand not long after their separation and had legally adopted her after the mother couldn’t care for the baby.

People in Passcoe expected that Annajane would be outraged by the child’s birth, so soon after her split from Mason, but Sophie had stolen her heart the first time she held her in her arms. How could anybody resent bossy, enchanting, Disney-princess-loving Sophie? Her Aunt Pokey’s house was Sophie’s second home, and since Pokey’s best friend, Annajane, was there nearly as often as the child, Sophie considered her family. Which she was. Sort of. Leaving Sophie, losing her to Celia—the prospect of it felt like the unkindest cut of all to Annajane.

As always, Sophie seemed to move to her own inner soundtrack, which was unfortunately nowhere in sync to Canon in D. The little girl was anxiously scanning the aisles as she walked, looking, Annajane knew, for familiar faces. Finally, she spotted Annajane and her aunt Pokey and nodded solemnly. But behind the thick lenses of her glasses, her usually impish gray eyes were dark-rimmed and heavy-lidded. Her cheeks were hot pink in contrast to her alabaster skin.

Pokey leaned into the aisle. “You’re doin’ great, baby,” she whispered encouragingly, and Annajane nodded silent agreement and blew her a kiss. Finally, the child gave a tremulous smile and pressed a wad of rosebuds into Pokey’s outstretched hand. As she moved past, Annajane noticed that the streamers of the long satin sash were lopsided, and wet, which surely meant that the sash had somehow gotten dunked during a prewedding potty stop.

Why, Annajane wondered, hadn’t somebody spotted the wet sash? Perhaps, somebody like Sophie’s about-to-be stepmother? The dress was Celia’s own design, and no matter what Pokey or Annajane thought of her as a person, it was no secret that Celia’s successful children’s clothing business, Gingerpeachy, had recently sold to a national chain, netting Celia and her backers a rumored ten million dollars.

A few steps past their pew, two-thirds of the way to the altar, Sophie came to a dead stop. She was looking uncertainly, right to left. The music kept playing, but Sophie was not moving. Annajane held her breath.

She looked up at the altar. Father Jolly seemed oblivious, but Davis and Pete were frowning, exchanging worried asides. Mason had taken a couple steps forward. He was half-kneeling, smiling, his arms extended to his little girl, encouraging her to finish her triumphant voyage up the aisle.

Annajane could read his lips, even from this far way. “Come on, sweetheart,” he was telling her. “You can do it.”

She could not see the child’s face, only the slightest nod of her head, and then Sophie began to tiptoe forward again.

Only a few steps behind Sophie came a willowy redhead in an ankle-length cerise organza gown, cut so tightly through the skirt, she was forced to take tiny, mincing geisha-girl steps. The woman was in her late twenties and looked as though she’d just stepped off a Paris runway.

“Who’s that?” Annajane asked.

Pokey shrugged. “Never laid eyes on her before. Just another of Celia’s legions of best girlfriends, probably.”

Six more women in silk gowns of the same hue followed the maid of honor. Annajane knew most of the women, some of them only slightly. But when she saw a familiar brunette with long, wavy, blond highlighted hair, Annajane felt a stab of jealousy. McKenna Murphey Kelleher was her friend. They’d known each other since junior high, and Annajane had introduced McKenna to Jimmy Kelleher, the man she’d ended up marrying. When had McKenna defected to Team Celia?

There was no time for further discussion. The processional music faded, and the heavy wooden doors at the rear of the church opened with a theatrical boom. The congregation stirred and stood, and in the brief silence the rustle of satin, silk, and good wool filled the church.

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