If You Only Knew

Page 118

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I help Kimber out of the dress. "This will take an hour, hour and a half," I say. "You're welcome to stay, or I can drop the dress off at your house. Whatever's easier."
"We'll come back here," Dorothy says. "Kimber, baby, let's go to the drugstore and get some hair color. I miss the pink."
Seems as if I kind of like my father's mistress. Go figure.
"Okay. Let me just wash up a little. I have raccoon eyes, I bet." Kimber goes into the bathroom.
Which leaves Dorothy and me alone with the elephant in the room.
"Thank you for this," she says.
"Of course. I should've made her a better dress to start with."
"Well, she really did think it would win her points with that old battle-ax." She twists the hem of her shirt again and looks at the floor.
"Dorothy, I think you knew my dad," I say lightly. "Didn't you work for him for a little while?"
Her face flushes, but she meets my eyes. "Yes. He was... He was a very nice man. I was so sorry to hear about his death."
And in that moment, I see that Dorothy truly loved my father. My father who didn't choose her, didn't become Kimber's stepdad, who stayed with his wife instead.
I forgive her. But mostly, I forgive him.
"He was a great dad," I say, and my voice is husky. "Rachel and I were really lucky."
Kimber pops out of the bathroom, looking much improved. "Okay, Mom. Let's go."
There's sewing to be done, and my scissors are scalpel-sharp, hissing through the satin. I cut and pin, iron and sew, the satin fabric sliding effortlessly through the machine, the whirr and hum of the machine one of the happiest sounds I know. Yards of discarded fabric lay in heaps around me.
I find that I'm singing "Son of a Preacher Man." Always loved that song. I grab some springy, faintly pink tulle, that joyful fabric, and add that onto the skirt, a drape here, a twist there.
In the fabric sample room is an entire wall devoted to bling. Belts and beads, hairpieces and tiaras, lace and netting. I choose a thick rope of Swarovski crystal beading and a blingy 1920s-style hairpiece and run back to the workroom.
When I'm done, I'm a little sweaty, but man, oh, man, this dress is perfect. Perfect for Kimber.
"Holy crap," says a voice, and it's Dorothy's. They're back, and Kimber's hair is once again bright pink. She's beaming.
"Better?" I ask.
"I love it," Kimber breathes. "Oh, Jenny, I love it."
* * *
When I get to the church at quarter to ten, my sister is already standing outside with the girls. Adam and Mom are there, too. I dole out kisses-even Adam, as I am the world's best sister-then exclaim over my nieces, who look like they belong on the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings. "Auntie, Auntie! Aren't we so pretty?" the girls ask, twirling so their skirts billow.
"So beautiful! Oh, I love your shoes, too!"
Mrs. Brewster, too, is here, wearing a floor-length bile-green dress.
"Where's Kimber?" my mother asks.
"She's running a little late," I answer as Grace tugs my hand and Charlotte petitions to try on my heels. "Mrs. Brewster!" I say. "Such a happy day, isn't it? And that color matches your personality perfectly."
Her nostrils turn white. She looks like she swallowed a live eel and is trying not to let it out, her mouth is clamped shut so hard. Guess her dreams of her son being left at the altar have been snuffed out.
Rachel seems awfully Zen today. She nods at me to come over; the other bridesmaids are arriving, one enormously pregnant with many piercings. Good, I think. Good for Kimber.
"You look gorgeous," I tell my sister. "And happy."
She glances at the girls; Grace is going through my mother's purse, and Charlotte and Rose are running around Adam. "We're getting a divorce," she whispers. "I told him this morning."
"Oh, Rach!"
"No, it's good. He was really... It's good."
I seem to be crying. Rachel fishes a tissue out of her clutch for me-always prepared, that's her motto. I blot my eyes. Here I wanted nothing more than for Adam to crawl away to a cold and slimy hole, but all of a sudden, I feel so bad for him. He glances over and meets my eyes, then gives a sad smile. "I'm sorry, Rachel," I whisper.
"Yeah. Me, too. But I feel...lighter."
"I'm glad, too. Sorry and glad."
"I know exactly what you mean." She smiles, and she looks so peaceful and so sad at the same time. "I'll need you a lot the next few months."
"You've got me."
Rachel gives me a quick hug, then obeys the photographer, who's trying to herd the bridesmaids together.
"Jenny!" Mom calls. "Let's go in, honey. I want a good seat."
Light floods in through the tall, clear windows of the Congregational church. Mom and I sit near the front. I wonder if this is a preview of how things will be-me as Mom's escort for the various funerals and weddings and fund-raisers, the years passing by.
But before too much longer, there will be another one of us... My foster child. It won't be happening too fast, since I don't have a permanent residence just yet, but the social worker said she didn't foresee a problem. My background check cleared, and I've already been looking at cases and pictures online of kids who need a home, imagining each one as mine.

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