Tiff took one look at my face and grabbed Mimi and drug her backwards out of the room by her scruff. Before I had a chance to recover my equilibrium River and Crystal ran in, took one look at my face, and then burst out laughing.
If there had been a hole I would have gladly jumped in it. “I swear, I’m gonna die … I’m just … gonna … die!”
River hiccupped another laugh. If I hadn’t known better I would have said both of them had been into some of the Special Recipe at some point during the morning. “Oh Dovie, your face is priceless.”
Even Crystal was laughing. “You poor thing. Would it help if I was to tell you that Clewis was almost exactly like Mimi on our wedding day? We had written these really beautiful vows. They were just about the most romantic thing you could imagine and took weeks to get just the way we wanted them. Only Clewis somehow dropped the copy of his someplace between the car and the little chapel we hiked to for the ceremony and wound up adlibbing the whole thing. We were married at a mountain overlook and I swear it took me a few moments to decide whether to say I do or to throw him over the cliff edge.”
“Do you regret choosing the ‘I do’ over the toss?”
She stopped short like she hadn’t expected the question. Then her face got real soft and she said, “No. I don’t regret it.” But then she got a thread of deviltry in her eyes and voice, “But don’t tell him, I still threaten to find something to throw him over on occasion.” A voice in my head wondered if maybe Clewis didn’t need to be told after all; he’d had a funny look on his face when he was giving me his gift of advice.
River, focusing on their intentions told me, “We’re here to do your hair.”
“My hair? I was just going to …”
“Braid it. Yeah, we heard. Now sit down but try not to crinkle your dress.”
Looking at their faces I realized I had better resign myself to their “help” or we were liable to be there long enough that Jude might wonder whether I had changed my mind. By the time they were finished frizzing and teasing my hair, it looked to me my head was covered in schizophrenic tornadoes. I had no idea how they’d managed to get the heavy, straight mess of my hair to actually stay the way it was. I was concerned that I might not ever be able to get the mess brushed out.
“Perfect,” they both pronounced.
“Oh yeah. This hair style was all the rage in Hollywood when what’s her name got married.”
“Humph. What’s her name, if it is who I think you mean, had scads of money, scads of friends, scads of time to undo all the mess she got done up in, and got married during the summer. She didn’t have to go home and cook dinner for a house full of kids or sew the back end of a pair of men’s underdrawers back together where an ornery mule decided to try and take a chunk out. And just in case you two haven’t noticed, this isn’t Hollywood, it’s Tennessee and it’s the middle of the flaming winter.”
“Ok fine … instead of Hollywood try thinking of it as Dollywood then or the Opry. And look at this gorgeous thing that Mrs. Hopkins donated to the cause; at least you won’t be cold.”
“I don’t care if it was as hot as Beezlebub’s back forty, I’m just happy to be covered up. I swear, if those shoe strings give out during the ceremony someone is gonna get seriously injured from all the things popping and going every which direction.”
That set them laughing again. Aunt Frankie stuck her head in the door and said, “Y’all stop playing and start behaving. It’s time to be seated. River, Crystal … you walk down with the boys. Dovie, you wait here. Paulie will give the all-clear sign that Jude has gone down to the front near the altar … Rochelle thought she was going to have to give him oxygen there for a minute he was just that blue around his lips … then the little girls will walk forward and then he will walk you down.”
With that I was alone in the room once again only this time I wasn’t mad or frantic … I was scared. “Dear Lord, you’ve watched over me my whole life. I know you have. I’m sure it has been quite a bit of work too. You got me through losing the twins, losing Dad, losing Mom, having to grow up before I expected to, and helping me to get the kids to where we are now. I’m pretty sure that maybe you made Jude such a hard head to begin with to make him like he is now so that I would have the man that I need and that would understand me. And he is a good man but I know he has some problems, same as I do. I know he needs me in his way the same as the kids need me in theirs; that he is troubled by temptations that he needs me to bolster him for. Help me to be up to this. I want it to work but I can’t do this without your help. And please, while I’m asking, can you make sure nothing falls out that isn’t supposed to? I know Aunt Frankie and the girls meant well, and I admit the dress is pretty, but I’d just as soon get married in a bathrobe as have to worry that all my parts might not stay moving in the same direction if you know what I mean. Amen.”
Thinking of Jude I realized his lips could be the “something blue”; I just hoped he wouldn’t pass out like everyone was worried, that’s all we would need to turn this into a Chinese fire drill. Right on time Paulie knocked like a gentleman and then stuck his head in the door. “Wow. You look … er … nice.”
“I look like ten pounds of potatoes stuck in a five pound sack and we both know it. Can you do up the latch on this wrap thing? I’m afraid of wiggling around too much.”
He blushed a little and said, “I reckon so.” When it was hooked he stood back and said, “That’s better. You don’t look all … you know …”
“Boy do I know. Aunt Frankie got a hold of the dress before I knew what was happening and then there wasn’t time to do up a new one.”
“Well … it’s not bad. I guess it is kinda nice looking. It just don’t look like you none. And what happened to your hair?”
I snorted. “River and Crystal. They think I look fashionable.”
“Yeah, me too.” I looked at him and we both smile understanding exactly our opinion of the dress and the hairdo. I said, “I guess it’s time?”
He nodded. “Yeah.” We were about to go out of the room when Paulie stopped and asked me, “Dovie, will this change things?”
“Things … you know.”
I thought for a second. “Some things it might. But we’ve already worked a lot of stuff out. It’ll change more for Jude and me than it will for you guys. Are you ok with that?”
“I … I guess. Do you want things to change for you and Jude? You know, the … the grown up stuff. Uncle Roe isn’t making you is he? Or Jude?”
I gave my brother a quick hug. “No. They aren’t forcing the grown up stuff on me. Jude and I really want to be together. We just didn’t expect to be able to this fast. It kinda startled us.”
“Ok, so long as you’re sure.” Then he stopped and stuck out his arm like someone had shown him. I pretended I was a lady and took the proffered limb he’d offered. It was time to get the show on the road.