“I don’t know, brother,” Daniel sighed. “I swear it gets harder every day.”
Hank nodded sympathetically. They were sharing a cup of coffee at Sally’s Café, tucked in the corner to the left of the front door, and the conversation had turned to Mina and Daniel’s distant wedding. At least, the June wedding date seemed distant to Daniel, since this was now only March. “I was lucky,” Hank responded, “Callie couldn’t wait to get married.”
“Well, it all made sense at the time,” Daniel said regretfully. “Mina said it would take months to pick out colors, and flowers, and all that stuff. I don’t know, it all sounded so complicated.”
“Maybe you could elope?” Hank suggested.
Daniel shook his head. “Can’t do that, Hank. She has her heart set on a fancy church wedding. I couldn’t take that away from her.”
“Well, can you move it up?”
“I don’t know, man, we’re talking about messing with women on a mission here.” Daniel rubbed his chin. “You know your mom is our wedding planner and your wife is the maid of honor – matron of – whatever.”
Hank tapped his finger on the table.
Daniel sat up hopefully. “What are you thinking?”
“I was just wondering … what would it take to move the wedding to, say, March 15?”
“An act of God? Oh okay, I’ll play along. First, we’d have to convince the women to move the date.”
Hank leaned forward, his elbows on the table. “I think I could convince Callie and Mom. Can you persuade Mina?”
“Maybe,” Daniel answered thoughtfully. “But what about all the arrangements that have already been made?”
“Paperwork,” Hank waved off that argument. “What else?”
“Wedding dress. I understand that takes months.”
Hank looked incredulous. “For a dress? Huh. Well, let’s table that for now. What else?”
“Mina’s family is coming in from out of town. That might be tough to change.”
“But not impossible,” Hank pointed out. “What do you think? Want to get married on March 15?”
Daniel grinned. “Uh, yeah. So what do we do first, General?”
“Flank ‘em,” Hank grinned back. “You talk to Mina. I’ll get Callie onboard and then we can tackle Mom.”
“Deal,” Daniel said happily, bumping fists with Hank. “Operation Wedding Bells is on!”
Callie shook her head, turning on the porch swing to stare at him. “Hank, that’s crazy! We can’t possibly have everything done by then!”
“Why not?” asked Hank. “We got married in three days.”
“Well, yes, but that was different,” she protested.
“Was there anything you wanted that you didn’t get?” Hank asked quietly.
Callie saw where that was going. If she said, yes, he would be sad he had shortchanged her and would move heaven and earth to make it up to her. She put a stop to that immediately. “No,” she said firmly, “nothing. After all,” she added with a slight smile, “I got you.”
“Well, don’t you think Mina would feel the same way?”
She saw that trap too late. “You’re sneaky,” she said accusingly.
He smiled, the slow lazy one that always got her to go along with whatever he wanted. That smile should be illegal! she thought in exasperation.
But then she sighed. Assuming that was what Mina and Daniel wanted, moving the wedding could be done. And there were some things she had been thinking about that an earlier wedding date might actually help.
He pulled her toward her side, rested his chin on her head, and waited.
Callie smiled, wriggling a little closer. “Okay, let’s say the wedding is moved to March 15. They don’t have a house yet and I was thinking – what if I gave my house to Mina?”
“That’s a big gift,” he commented.
“I know. But Mina and I are like sisters, and money isn’t really an issue now that the estate has made it through probate court. And the house would make a great wedding gift.”
“It would be a tremendous wedding gift.” She could hear the amusement in his voice. “Where would we live then?” The plan was that they would move into Callie’s house when Mina and Daniel moved into their home.
Callie sat up and looked at him earnestly. “Would it be terrible if we stayed here? I think Gramma and Grandpa would enjoy having us here, and everyone would feel better having us live close to them. Would you feel better?” she asked, watching him closely.
“I would,” he replied firmly. “I’ve had the same idea, but I thought you wanted your own home.”
“You’re my home,” she smiled. “And I really do want to stay here with Gramma and Grandpa, if they don’t mind.”
“Well, once Mina and David move into the house, I can get my office set up in Daniel’s building. That was part of convincing you that I wanted to stay here – investing money in my business.”
Hank laughed. “Oh but I’ve married you now, woman, you’re not going anywhere!”
“Suits me,” she answered, glowing. “But,” she said more seriously, “it was a kind of promise. I’ll feel better when I’ve done that.”
He kissed her forehead. “Okay. So, you’re on board with March 15?”
Callie nodded. “If you’ll help convince Gramma and Grandpa to let us stay.”
“Easy-peasy,” he agreed, holding out his hand. They shook on it, then he pulled her closer for a more proper, much longer kiss.
“You know,” she said breathlessly, “I really like it when you don’t play fair.”
Daniel persuaded Mina that they really shouldn’t wait any longer. He told Hank that Mina had been having second thoughts about June herself so persuading her was pretty easy. Now it was time for Hank to follow through on his promise to talk to his mother.
He stopped by his parents’ house the next morning and found his mother in the kitchen cleaning up the breakfast dishes. “Hi Mom,” he said cheerfully, giving her a hug and a kiss. “Here, let me help you with those.”
She made room with an amused smile. “How’s your rib these days, son?”
“Great, Mom, thanks,” he answered, taking a dish from her and drying it. “I am so happy to be working again!”
“I know that was hard for you,” she agreed. “I’m just glad you’re okay now. So, what brings you here today?”
“Wanted to ask you about something,” he said casually, reaching for another dish.
She shook her head and handed him another dish. “Son, do you know how hard it is to move a wedding date?”
He should have known. “I understand there’s a lot involved. But if there’s anybody on this earth who could do that, it would be you.”
“Umhm,” she said skeptically.
Hank raised an eyebrow. “Are you saying you can’t do it?”
His mother signed in resignation. “No. I’m saying it’s very difficult.” She started listing all the things that would have to be altered. Hank was impressed. He hadn’t realized just how much went into a wedding, and his admiration for his mother went up another notch. She had made it all look easy. “Besides,” she concluded, “they don’t even have a place to live yet.”
“Um, yeah, actually they do.” He set the dried dish aside and reached for the bowl she had just finished. “Callie wants to give them her house for a wedding present.”
“My goodness,” his mother gasped. She shook her head. “Then where will you and Callie live?” she wondered.
“We’re going to stay with Gramma and Grandpa. They like having us there, we like being there, and I think you and Dad have liked having us there too. It just makes sense for everyone.”
“Well,” his mother admitted, “I can’t argue with that.”
Time for the clincher. “They’re in love, Mom,” he said softly. “They want to start their life together. They just don’t want to wait any longer.”
“Oh all right,” she finally gave in. “But on one condition.”
He looked up, curious. “What’s that?”
She dried her hands with her apron and lifted her chin defiantly. “You have to finish the dishes by yourself.”
“Happy to,” he grinned and gave her a quick hug. “Thanks, Mom.”
She muttered something under her breath and then smiled, “Well, go on, get busy. I have work to do.”
Hank watched her bustle out of the kitchen with admiration. Mom missed her calling, he thought. She should have been a five-star general.
Callie stepped back to admire the wall she had just painted in her new office. “I’m so glad you could come visit, Aunt Phoebe,” she called over to her aunt who was painting the adjacent wall.
“Wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Phoebe said cheerfully. “I’m sorry I missed Mina’s wedding. How was it?”
“Anne outdid herself – again,” laughed Callie. “That woman is amazing! I’m so glad she agreed to help set up my office. Anyway, the wedding was beautiful. The church was filled with spring flowers, it smelled heavenly. Oh, and the dress! It was gorgeous. It was white satin, with an Empire waistline and long sleeves with seed pearl buttons. And Daniel looked so handsome in his dark suit. It was just perfect.”
A voice from the back of the building shouted, “Did I hear my name?” Daniel came in carrying some drywall panels.
“I was just telling Aunt Phoebe how handsome you looked at the wedding,” Callie told him.
“Thank you very much,” Daniel grinned.
Hank followed Daniel in, carrying a heavy pail. “Now you’ve done it. He’ll be hard to work with the rest of the day.”
Daniel set the panels against the wall. “Can I help it if your wife is so extraordinarily perceptive?”
“Well, I can’t argue with that,” Hank shrugged, setting the pail down next to Daniel. “She married me, after all.”
Daniel bumped fists with him. “She’s smart too, bro.”
Callie glanced up at the ceiling in a mute appeal, then brushed her hands on her paint-stained jeans. “You about done, Aunt Phoebe?”
“Yep, just finished,” Phoebe said, putting her roller brush down.
“Then let’s clean up and go have lunch.”
She picked up her roller pan and Hank took it from her with a smile. ”Hey, Callie, I’ll take care of that, you ladies go on.”
That’s Hank, she thought warmly, looking after me again. She brushed his arm with her hand to say thanks.
Phoebe came over with her roller and pan, and Daniel quickly took those from her. Phoebe asked, “Do you guys want to come with us?”
“Thanks,” Hank said, following Daniel into the kitchen. “But we’re going to finish up that divider for you.”
Daniel called from the kitchen, “You can bring some back for us, if you want.”
“Sure, burgers and fries?” Callie suggested.
“Yeah, and Cokes?”
“You got it,” Phoebe promised.
Phoebe and Callie went out through the rear entrance and followed a narrow pathway around the building to Main Street. It was a glorious April day, with sunshine spilling abundantly over the buildings, sidewalks, and street. “I’ve missed this place,” Phoebe admitted.
“Ware has that effect on people,” Callie smiled.
They walked down to Sally’s and got a table inside. Sally came over right away with a couple of plastic tumblers full of ice water. “Your usual, ladies?”
They nodded and she hurried away. They had arrived right in the middle of the mid-day rush and the café was packed with townspeople. But their meal – pork tenderloin sandwich for Callie, chicken Caesar salad for Phoebe – arrived very quickly. “That woman is amazing,” Phoebe shook her head in admiration.
“She’s one of a kind,” agreed Callie, biting into her sandwich. So good! she sighed happily – crisp pork, soft bun, fresh tomato – perfect. Phoebe looked equally happy with her salad.
“So where do you see the business going?” Phoebe asked, reaching for her water.
“I don’t know,” Callie mused. “I never intended it to be any big thing. But I’ve been getting more calls lately. The city wants me to organize the Fourth of July celebration, and I’m coordinating VBS this year for the church – though I’m not charging for that of course.” She counted on her fingers: “Three anniversary parties, one wedding, two graduation parties.”
Phoebe looked surprised. “Can you handle all that?”
“Sure,” Callie shrugged, “they’re not all at the same time. So you may be getting more on your investment than you thought.”
“About that …” Phoebe hesitated, as if trying to figure out what to say next. Callie looked at her aunt curiously. She’d never seen Aunt Phoebe at such a loss before. “There have been some changes in my life.”