A Bone to Pick


Chapter 1


In less than a year, I went to three weddings and one funeral. By late May (at the second wedding but before the funeral) I had decided it was going to be the worst year of my life.

The second wedding was actually a happy one from my point of view, but my smile muscles ached all the next day from the anxious grin I'd forced to my lips. Being the daughter of the bride felt pretty peculiar. My mother and her fiancé strolled between the folding chairs arranged in her living room, ended up before the handsome Episcopalian priest, and Aida Brattle Teagarden became Mrs. John Queensland.

In the oddest way, I felt my parents had left home while I had stayed. My father and his second wife, with my half brother Phillip, had moved across the country to California in the past year. Now my mother, though she'd still be living in the same town, would definitely have new priorities. That would be a relief.

So I beamed at John Queensland's married sons and their spouses. One of the wives was pregnant - my mother would be a step grandmother! I smiled graciously at Lawrenceton's new Episcopal priest, Aubrey Scott. I oozed goodwill at the real estate salespeople from my mother's business. I grinned at my best friend, Amina Day, until she told me to relax.

"You don't have to smile every second," she whispered from one corner of her mouth, while the rest of her face paid respectful attention to the cake-cutting ceremony. I instantly rearranged my face into more sober lines, thankful beyond expression that Amina had been able to get a few days off from her job in Houston as a legal secretary. But later, at the reception, she told me my mother's wedding wasn't her only reason for coming back to Lawrenceton for the weekend.

"I'm getting married," she said shyly, when we found a corner to ourselves. "I told Mamma and Daddy last night."

"To - which one?" I said, stunned.

"You haven't been listening to a word I said when I called you!" Maybe I had let the specifics roll over me like a river. Amina had dated so many men. Since she'd reached fourteen, her incredible dating career had only been interrupted by one brief marriage.

"The department store manager?" I pushed my glasses back up on my nose the better to peer up at Amina, who is a very nice five feet, five inches. On good days I say I am five feet.

"No, Roe," Amina said with a sigh. "It's the lawyer from the firm across the hall from the place I work. Hugh Price." Her face went all gooey. So I asked the obligatory questions: how he'd asked her, how long they'd dated, if his mother was tolerable... and the date and location of the ceremony. Amina, a traditionalist, would finally be married in Lawrenceton, and they were going to wait a few months, which I thought was an excellent idea. Her first wedding had been an elopement with myself and the groom's best friend as incompatible attendants.

I was going to be a bridesmaid again. Amina was not the only friend I'd "stood up" for, but she was the only one I'd stood up for twice. How many times could you be bridesmaid to the same bride? I wondered if the last time I came down the aisle ahead of Amina I would have to use a walker. Then my mother and John made their dignified exit, John's white hair and white teeth gleaming, and my mother looking as glamorous as usual. They were going to honeymoon for three weeks in the Bahamas .

My mother's wedding day.

I got dressed for the first wedding, the January one, as though I was putting on armor to go into battle. I braided my bushy, wavy brown hair into a sophisticated (I hoped) pattern on the back of my head, put on the bra that maximized my most visible assets, and slid a brand-new gold-and-blue dress with padded shoulders over my head. The heels I was going to wear were ones I'd gotten to go with a dress I'd worn on a date with Robin Crusoe, and I sighed heavily as I slid my feet into them. It had been months since I'd seen Robin, and the day was depressing enough without thinking of him. At least the heels probably hiked me up to five foot two. I put on my makeup with my face as close to the illuminated