Springtime Reactions

When spring came, the trees unfroze from their long slumber, the animals uncurled in their dens, and the flowers bloomed in their neat rows. The sun shone and warmed peoples’ skin and the wind blew and chilled them when they stood in the shade. The world took its course, as it does every year.
But inside Gray Gardens, the old fashioned townhouse that Laura and Bill occupied, things were changing in an entirely new way and everyone was out of sorts.
“Bill! Bill, where are you?” Laura pounded down the stairs, yelling at the top of her voice and making the chandelier rattle.
“I’m up here!”
Laura stopped, turned, sighed, and climbed right back up the wide staircase. She tracked Bill’s voice to the second upstairs bathroom, where he had taken to shaving in the mornings after Laura had complained that she was sick of finding his tiny face-hairs stuck to the main bathroom’s sink. As she pounded on the door, he nicked himself and swore loudly.
“Can’t you knock like a human being?” he said. “Geez, it’s like having an untrained chimpanzee for a wife sometimes,” he added under his breath, rolling his eyes at himself in the mirror.
“The catering company called and they’re saying that the sushi is non-kosher. Your father is going to murder me. Literally.”
“No, he’s not. He might flay you but he won’t kill you.”
“Well, I won’t look very attractive without my skin on, will I? You need to call them and tell them that we’re not going to pay for it if it’s not kosher.”
“Why can’t you do it? I thought you were taking care of the caterers.”
“I tried, didn’t I? Their secretary got very snippy with me. It was as if she forgot that I was the one paying her.”
“You’re not. The catering company is paying her.”
“Whatever. Will you call them?”
“Fine, fine, I will.”
Bill and Laura’s daughter was getting married and the wedding was that evening, in Gray Garden’s spacious backyard. Nothing was going right, and it wasn’t even nine in the morning yet. Bill had already gotten an angry email from the band they’d hired, telling him that they couldn’t possibly arrive two hours earlier than planned, because they were on tour and that their management was already pissed off that they’d agreed to a private engagement like this one. Laura had wept twice that morning – once on the phone with her daughter, who was sobbing about how scared she was and a second time because her beautifully manicured nail had broken inside her expensive hairdo. Bill had been on the verge of tears himself when he’d found out that there was mold growing out of the corner of the bathroom wall again – he’d thought they’d gotten that taken care of last year.
Spring calmly hovered in the air outside, but inside it seemed to be only eliciting allergic reactions.

Di’s Date

“Amazing.”

“Do I detect a hint of sarcasm there, Mister?”

“No, no, not at all… Me? Sarcastic?”

“If I had a dollar for every time I saw that angel face, I’d be very rich by now.”

He snorts his laughter and goes back to digging into his apple pie. This is a normal Tuesday afternoon for us. We sit in the corner booth, I have a banana-blueberry milkshake, and he has a slice of apple pie with a big dollop of vanilla ice-cream. I tell him things about my life, and he doesn’t take them seriously. Next up, he’ll tell me things about his life, and I’ll be sympathetic, interested, emphatic. At the very least, I’ll pretend to care.

“So listen, Di,” he talks with his mouth full, and I cringe a little. “I hear you’ve got senior-prom coming up, yeah?”

Uh-oh.

“Yeah… Why?” I know what’s coming. I just know it.

“Only I’ve got this friend, he’s my age, and he never went to his prom, and I was thinking that, you know, you could go together.”

See? I knew it.

“I’ve got a date already, thanks.” I take a huge slurp of my milkshake, hoping that my full mouth will stop me from wringing his thick neck. Stupid Brian. He always thinks that I just have to meet his friends. He just knows that they’re all perfect for me. Truth is, I think that’s the main reason we have these little Tuesday meetings. He’s had a girlfriend for years – not that I know how she can stand him – and his friends make him exploit the fact that he’s got a step-sister, a fresh-faced high-school girl, to try to get set up. I don’t know about you, but I find that mighty sad.

“Oh, yeah? Who? Only, you know, that guy in your chemistry class works for your dad, remember? So my mom started talking to him the other day, and she asked about you, and he said that no one knows why you haven’t got a date since you’re so pretty and all.”

I swear, he almost leers at me. Almost, but never quite really. Thank goodness he seems to actually be devoted to that Anna he’s been with since they were both twelve or something. Thank goodness she’s got theĀ diamondĀ on her finger and the caterers booked for July. Thing is, I know who it is who blabbed to Brian’s mom about me. It’s Rob, and he’s my best friend, and he thinks that my quote relationship unquote with my step-brother is hilarious. He thinks that I’m a complete nincompoop for having agreed three – yes, three – times to go on blind dates with Brian’s friends. I mean, come on! Statistically, one of them had to have been nice, right? Well, apparently not. I swear, if Brian’s going to talk me into just giving one more of his bad-mannered, greasy-haired, wandering-hands friends a chance, well, I don’t know if I’ll be responsible for what I might do to him on prom-night.

“No, Brian. NO. I’m not going out with another of your little friends. I can’t even believe that I agreed to those three idiots you tried to foist on me.” I’ve finished my milkshake, and Brian’s busy scraping his plate with his fork. It’s almost over, and I can’t wait to get out of here. If my dad hadn’t insisted that me and his new step-son try to get along… I mean, I love my dad, and I guess Mary’s okay and she makes him happy so whatever, but why on earth did they both think that this would be a good idea? Sure, he makes me laugh, and sure, we’ve been doing these meals for a year, but still, he’s such an ass.

“Well,” he sighs, leans back, and pats his stomach a bit. I can just see him in twenty years, turning forty, leaning back exactly the same. I can’t really see Anna in the picture then, but hey, I don’t know her that well so who am I to judge, right? “Well,” he repeats. “I guess that’s your choice.” He throws some money on the table – Dad always pays for these meals – and we head outside. He gets into his car, this banged up old thing that he’s got, and rolls down the window.

“Hey, Di!” I’ve been looking the other way, since my mom’s supposed to come pick me up. I turn my head to look at him. “Just don’t come crying to me when you realize that this friend of mine is that guy you were couldn’t stop talking to Rob about – the smart, motivated, classy guy who came to speak at your class about how good it is to go to college!”

Wait. No, seriously, wait. Matt, the adorable junior at the U who came to class last week is Brian’s friend? Holy cow!

“Brian, wait!” I shout, but he’s already rolled up the window and he’s pulling out into traffic.

Damn.