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Wedding : Gary Eldon Peter

      Whenever I visit my sister Anne, we always talk in the kitchen while she bakes or irons or peels potatoes. I lean against the counter top, and it seems that, no matter where I am, I'm always in the way. I have to move, several times, so she can get a roasting pan, a can of vegetables, or plastic wrap for the leftovers from lunch. But mostly she talks, and I lean.

      "I just know I'm going to get stuck with Daniel during the dance while everyone else is having a good time," Anne says as she unloads the dishwasher. "Jenny has this annoying habit of plopping him down in my lap whenever she gets tired of him."

      Daniel is the six-month-old son of our nephew, Jason. Jason and Jenny, his girlfriend and Daniel's mother, are getting married tomorrow evening.

      "How come they don't just hire a sitter?" I ask as Anne motions me away from the drawer I'm leaning on.

      "Because they say they can't afford it, though God knows where they're getting the money to put on this dog and pony show." Anne drops the clean silverware into the drawer. When she's finished she closes it and I move back into my spot.

      Jason and Jenny are having a big wedding at the Prince of Peace Lutheran church here in Mason City (ten attendants, two flower girls, 300 guests), then a dance in the basement of the American Legion hall. Jenny's parents tried to talk the two of them into getting married before the baby was born so Jason's insurance from his job would cover the hospital bill. But Susan (my other sister and Jason's mother) and her husband Don objected. In the end the parents came to an agreement: the wedding would be put off until six months after the baby was born and the cost of the birth would be split between the two families.

      I had no idea these negotiations were taking place. I didn't even know Daniel was coming until Susan called me two months before he was born. I don't see my sisters that often any more, especially since I live in Minneapolis, a hundred and fifty miles away. Besides that, our mother is gone, for several years now, our father in a nursing home after his several strokes. Without our parents to arrange family gatherings, there seems to be less reason to get together outside of major events like marriages and funerals.

      When Anne finishes with the dishwasher she starts in on ironing her husband's shirts. "This big wedding really seems pretty pointless to me, given the situation," she says as she sprays distilled water on a sleeve. "They should have just kept it small. You're lucky. You're never going to have to worry about weddings and kids and all the hassle."

      "Maybe someday things will change."

      "Is there something you're trying to tell me? Please don't confuse me at this late date." She laughs and hooks a shirt on the back of a kitchen chair.

      "Well, gay people get married. It's not legal, of course, but they have ceremonies."

      "Really," Anne replies, not looking up from her ironing. "Did I show you what I'm wearing to the wedding? I just had it cleaned. I need you to tell me what you think." She goes upstairs and brings back a dress in a plastic bag. "I got it up in Rochester. Sixty five dollars, but I couldn't pass it up. I wore it to a concert a couple of weeks ago, and then to another wedding after that, so if I wear it again I figure I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I just had it cleaned." She pulls it out of the bag and holds it up to her neck. It's a cream colored dress with embroidery around the hem and the sleeves. "So?"

      "Pretty." Anne has always valued my opinion of her clothes, ever since we were children. I always asked to see what she'd bought when she came home from shopping. Before long I was telling her what colors looked good on her, what matched with what. I still give advice whenever I visit, since Anne usually has several outfits ready to show. "It needs something, but I'm not sure what. A shawl, maybe? Something crocheted would be nice. It's June but it's still getting cool at night."

      "That would work."

      "I was thinking of inviting Stephen down for the wedding."

      Anne fidgets with the buttons on the dress, avoids looking at me. "Your friend?"

      "I have lots of friends. Stephen isÉ" But even I'm not sure what to call him. Up until now I hadn't thought much about it. "He's become like what Kevin was. I've waited almost ten years, but I think it's finally happened again."

      Anne turns to me. "That's great. I'm glad. I know how much you must miss Kevin. He was important to you. And when someone dies like that – "

      "You never met him," I interrupt quietly.

      She lets this go. "It's Susan I'm worried about. You know how she is." She laughs, waiting for me to join her. I don't. She holds up the dress again. "A shawl. I wonder if I have anything."


      Stephen and I met at a Christmas party three years ago at the architecture firm where Stephen is the managing partner. I had just become partner myself at my law firm, and along with a share of the profits came a directive: go out and get some business. Our firm was trying to branch out into construction law, and I'd gotten Stephen's name as a possible contact. We talked several times about getting together to discuss a proposal I had put together for handling all of his firm's legal work, but we couldn't find a time to meet to go over it. Finally he said, why don't you just come to our Christmas party? You can meet some of the other architects, and we can talk about it then." I had my doubts about how much business we could discuss at a party, but I hoped putting in an appearance might convince him.

      At the party I watched Stephen introduce people, make sure they had drinks and food, get them to dance. There was no wife, as far as I could see. Later, in the buffet line, I overhead another guest, the wife of one of Stephen's partners, confirm that Stephen wasn't married, and that he wasn't straight, either. She caught me eavesdropping and turned to me and whispered, "I happen to know he's very available." Then Stephen came over to refill my champagne glass. "We haven't had a chance to talk about the legal stuff," he said. Then he was off, attending to other guests. After the party I stayed behind to help clean up, hoping to sell him on our firm and hoping to spend some time alone with him. I held the trash bags open for him as he filled them with paper plates, napkins, and plastic cups, and told him how good our firm was, how reasonably priced we were. Finally he interrupted me and said, "I just knew you were. The first time we talked on the telephone I knew." Then he laughed, said he'd go with our firm and asked me out for the following Friday.

      A few weeks later, after a few more movie and dinner dates, Stephen took me to a "service of blessing" for two of his friends, lesbians who had been together for four years. I'd never been to a gay wedding before, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it would be like a sixties hippie wedding: not much religion, lots of poetry and music, and vegetarian food afterward. I was surprised by how Lutheran the whole thing turned out to be. Two ministers, one woman and one man who were dressed in white robes, officiated. We sang hymns that I had grown up singing, hymns like "A Mighty Fortress" and "Holy, Holy, Holy." The sermon focused on the commitment the two women were making, not just in front of the congregation but before God as well. Then came the vows, with each promising to take this woman.

      "I hope the governing board of the Lutheran Church doesn't raid this place," I whispered to Stephen as the minister spoke.

      "This is a reformed church," he explained. "They can get away with it."

      After the pronouncement the two women turned around to the congregation and did parade waves, like they were sitting on a float. We stood and clapped, some people even whistled. Stephen turned to me and smiled.

      "Would you ever do it?" he asked, taking my hand as we walked up the aisle to the receiving line.

      "Do what?"


      "I might. Depends on the person, I guess."

      "You don't seem like the type to go in for a big gesture like that."

      "I might surprise you," I said, grinning at him.

      "It didn't go well," I tell Stephen on the basement extension. "She's worried about Susan."


      "My other sister. The older one. Mother of the groom?"

      "Right. Um, look, something's come up."

      I expect to be disappointed, but instead I'm relieved. It probably would make things a lot easier to just forget the whole thing, avoid the questions. I could hear my sisters in my head: I could tell people were wondering who he was, they'd say to each other when it was all over. I'm sure they were all wondering why a man would bring another man to a wedding. "That's okay. I wouldn't want to come either if I were you."

      "Wait a minute," Stephen says. "It's not that. It's just that I've got to take care of a problem on that house renovation out on the river, but it shouldn't take very long. I could be there by 8 or so. Are you chickening out on me?"

      "No, let's do it," I say, trying to sound confident. "We said we were going to do it, and we are." I give Stephen directions to the dance at the American Legion hall, since he won't be in time for the actual wedding. I go over them several times, pointing out the landmarks of my home town.

      "I can always stop and ask if I get lost," Stephen says. "Any other instructions?"

      "Wear something nice."


      Anne is at the kitchen table, hemming the dresses her daughters will wear to the wedding. "Mom was always so much better at this," she says as she squints at her work.

      "He's coming. I just got off the phone with him. It's all set."

      Anne doesn't look up. "It's totally up to you."

      "He has to work so he's coming later. For the dance."

      "Goddammit!" she yells. "Stuck myself." She throws the dress on the table and squeezes her thumb. "The last thing I need is to bleed all over everything. The money I saved on my dress I turned around and spent on theirs."

      "Is it okay?"

      "I'm just trying to figure out how we're going to work this," she says, wrapping a paper towel around her thumb and squeezing it.

      "Work what?"

      "I know. I'll put you on the couch in the family room, and he can take the guest room. I'll need to change the sheets."

      "I already called the Holiday Inn. We don't want to put you out."

      "But you're already here, it just seems sort of...odd for you to be staying at a motel when we're right here..." She puts up her hands. "Fine. Whatever you want."

      "I just didn't want to make you uncomfortable with us sleeping in the same—"

      "No. You're right." She brushes past me and goes upstairs.


      The next morning I drive over to Susan's house to talk to her about Stephen. From the front door I can hear the vacuum cleaner droning inside, its wheels squeaking as Susan pulls it across the carpet. Inside I follow her from room to room, dodging the vacuum as we try to have a conversation. Finally she switches it off so she can hear. "Now who's this Stephen?" she asks.

      "I've invited him for the dance. To meet everyone."

      "Sounds serious," she says. "Would he give me a deal on redoing my kitchen?"

      I laugh, relieved that this seems to be going well.

      "Have you talked to Anne about this?" Susan asks.

      "This morning."


      "She's worried that it's going to be too stressful having your brother's boyfriend there on your son's big day."

      "It's fine with me," she says, a little annoyed. "She should know that."

      "So it's fine with everybody. What a relief."

      "There's no need to be sarcastic about it. She says it's fine, I say it's fine. What else do you want?"

      "You're right, I'm sorry. I just expected more of a reaction, that's all."

      "I don't have time for reactions today. Too much to do." She puts her hand on my shoulder. "Bring him. Polka with him if you want, though in this town I wouldn't advise it."

      "What should I do about Anne?"

      "She'll be fine."

      "That word again. Is there anything I can help you with?"

      "Too many things to count," Susan says as she unplugs the vacuum and winds up the cord. "Once I get going it's best to just get out of the way."


      Back at Anne's house no one is home; she's gone to pick up the kids from a tennis lesson, her note says, and then they're off to Herbergers to pick up panty hose and a shawl.

      To pass the time I wander from room to room, looking at the antiques Anne has collected: a small writing desk with a rickety chair that no one can sit on; a sideboard that she bought for $10 at an estate sale and refinished; an oval dining room table that she stripped, varnished and laminated after her children were born. Just because my house is a 1960s split level doesn't mean it has to look like one, she tells me each time she adds a new piece to her collection.

      Upstairs there's three rows of pictures on the hallway wall: babies in one row, graduations and weddings in the other two. My father's hair on my parents' wedding day is wavy and slicked back, like he just got out of the pool, my mother's is short and bobbed like a 1940s band singer. Anne and her husband Bill look tired and flushed in their picture; it was over 100 degrees the day they got married, with no air conditioning in the church. When I look at them I can feel how my white shirt stuck to the back of the pew and hear how the metallic hum of the fans in the church drowned out most of their vows.

      In Susan and Don's picture I'm standing in front of my father in a navy blazer, red tie, gray slacks and new penny loafers I picked out myself. I'm ten years old. My mother is next to Susan, my father next to Don. Anne, the maid of honor, is with me in the front, her arm around my shoulder. In the center are the seventeen-year-old bride and nineteen-year-old groom, looking bewildered.

      Susan was four months pregnant with Jason when she got married, though I didn't know it at the time. All I knew was that Susan was leaving home, that she was going to marry Don and live on the other side of town. With seven years between us Susan and I were never very close, but as I watched her pack her clothes a few days before her wedding I felt a lump in my throat, wondering how she would get along without us. "Take these," she said, handing me an armful of stuffed animals that sat on her bed. "You can watch them for me." A few months later she asked for them back, apparently realizing that her new son would need them more than I did.

      Before Susan got married I'd only been to one other wedding, our cousin Jackie's, who'd had her wedding the summer before Susan's. She had a big Catholic wedding with four bridesmaids and four groomsmen, a flower girl and ring bearer, a dinner and a dance outside of town at the Golden Bubble ballroom. To me the wedding was like a movie, and the people in it were movie stars, the way they came up the aisle with everyone snapping pictures. Since we weren't Catholic (Jackie wasn't going to be a Lutheran anymore, my mother explained as the wedding got underway), a lot of the ceremony was confusing, but the crossing and kneeling and Latin words made it mysterious, as if a spell was being cast.

      I was disappointed when Susan's wedding didn't turn out to be anything like Jackie's. They were married in less than fifteen minutes with only their families watching, and instead of leaving for a honeymoon in a car decorated with balloons and tin cans they went home to the house Don's parents had rented for them. Five months later Jason was born.

      Two years later Anne announced that she and Bill were getting married, and the battles between Anne and our parents about the wedding began. She was going to have the "blowout" Susan couldn't have, she told me when she was home from college and the two of us were babysitting Jason. "They're not going to have to spend much on your wedding, since the bride's family pays for most of it. So there's no reason why mine can't be big." She went over the plans with me: a dinner and dance, the works, just like Jackie's. We talked about what her dress should be like. "I know I want a big veil, Michael," she said. "One that drags behind as I go up the aisle." I agreed. "Now if Mom and Dad will just go for it," she sighed.

      Our parents did go for most of what Anne wanted—lots of attendants, a dinner, a dance—but not all of it. The biggest fight was over the band. Anne wanted a six-piece group, while our mother insisted that three musicians was more than adequate. I listened to the two of them arguing in the kitchen while I pretended to be watching TV in the family room.

      "We want people to have fun, don't we?" Anne said. "I don't understand why it's such a big deal."

      "It's $200 more, that's why," our mother replied, trying to put an end to the matter.

      But I could tell that Anne wasn't giving up. "In case you haven't noticed, Mother, I'm not pregnant. You and Dad saved a small fortune on Susan's wedding so I don't know why we can't splurge a little on mine."

      "Ssh," our mother whispered. "Michael will hear you."

      "He's old enough."

      I never confronted my mother about what I knew about Susan. We loved Don, loved Jason, and they were part of our family now. It didn't seem to make much difference how they got that way. I was more worried about Susan.

      "Are you jealous of Anne?" I asked her one Saturday afternoon, a few weeks before Anne's wedding. I'd just turned twelve, and we were sitting on a blanket in her backyard, playing with Jason.

      She looked at me, puzzled. "What do I have to be jealous about?"

      "The wedding. She's getting a big one. You didn't."

      She shook her head and laughed as she plucked a piece of grass from Jason's mouth. "Don't worry, I'm not jealous."

      "You sure?"

      "Sure." Then she looked at me very seriously. "You know about Jason, don't you?"

      "About you already having him when you got married?"

      She nodded. "It wouldn't have been right to have a big wedding. At least Mom and Dad didn't think so. And I'm married, he's here, and it doesn't much matter now." She looked away, at the clothes I'd helped her hang, flapping on the line. "Before long it'll be time for yours."

      I blushed. "I'm not getting married."

      "You say that now, but give yourself another ten years. You'll meet someone that you can't live without. Just don't be in a big hurry about it."

      At Anne's wedding I danced with the bridesmaids, college friends of Anne's who were at least a head taller than I was, danced with Susan and my mother, and was allowed half a glass of champagne, which made me sneeze. I stood and watched everyone else dance, too, the handsome groomsmen, college friends of Bill's, now Anne's husband, and found myself thinking, just for a moment, about what it would be like to be dancing with them, held close.

      And now, as I look at Anne's wall, I think about another picture: Stephen and me, smiling, with Anne and Susan on either side.


      On the way to the wedding I sit between my nieces in the backseat, on the hump. The girls are perched on the edge of the seat to keep their dresses from getting wrinkled. I'm holding two presents in my lap: my gift, a food processor, and a stuffed bear for Daniel from the girls so he won't feel left out. Anne's and Bill's gift, a set of pots and pans, is on order from Sears. "I wanted to give them something they could really use," Anne had said when we were discussing our gift selections.

      The church is packed with young couples, most in their early twenties, sitting with their parents. Most of the men are wearing sport shirts and khaki slacks; I feel overdressed in my charcoal Brooks Brothers suit, white shirt and maroon tie. A red-haired woman in front of me holds her baby on her shoulder. The baby, a newborn with a blotchy red face, stares at me with its small dark eyes and makes wet gurgling noises as she pats its back. It seems to frown at first, then smile. I look down, pretending to read the program. When I look up the baby is still smiling. I put out my index finger for the baby to grab, but before it has a chance to reach, the red-haired woman takes the baby off her shoulder and turns around.

      "Sorry about that," she whispers. She has a severe case of acne and looks to be around 17 or 18. "I hope she wasn't bothering you. She's been fussy all day and sometimes it helps if she can look around."

      "That's okay," I murmur.

      Susan, mother of the groom, is escorted down the aisle carrying Daniel, with her husband following behind. The baby is dressed in a one-piece sleeper outfit with black lapels and a red bow tie made of felt sewn on to make it look like a tuxedo. Susan's eyes are red and she clutches a balled up Kleenex.

      When the wedding party has taken its place at the front, we stand and watch Jenny, the bride. She's wearing a white satin gown with a hoop skirt and a veil that covers her face. Daniel sees her, whimpers, and then starts to cry, a shrieking, angry cry that bounces off the walls of the church. Susan bounces him on her lap and makes soft clucking sounds at him, but he won't stop. Jason, looking awkward in his white tuxedo with tails, blushes. Daniel squirms and beats his fists against Susan's arms and shoulders as she tries to quiet him. The minister starts to speak several times but can't be heard over the crying, so he stands and waits for the baby to settle down. I look at Anne, who shakes her head and smiles. Finally Jenny walks over to Susan, takes Daniel, and kisses him on the forehead. He stops crying almost immediately. We all laugh quietly, and Jenny holds him for the rest of the ceremony.


      Stephen is waiting for me by the front door of the American Legion hall, wearing a blue oxford shirt with no tie, a silk vest with paisley designs on it, khaki slacks, and his earring.

      "Is that what you're wearing?"

      Stephen frowns and looks down at his outfit. "Well, I'm wearing it now, if that's what you mean. Is there a problem?"

      "No, I just thought you'd wear a suit. It's a wedding."

      "Sounds like you're not having a very good time. The sisters again?"

      "What else did you guys talk about?"

      "Don't worry, your secret's still safe in Mason City."

      I straighten my tie, pull on my shirt cuffs. "Sorry, I guess I'm just nervous. You look fine. It'd be nice to have a drink or two before this place gets crazy."

      "You could use one," Stephen says. He laughs and puts his arm around my shoulder as we go inside. I look around to see if anyone notices.


      In the basement of the hall there are long folding tables and chairs set up around a small dance floor of faded linoleum. At every table there are bowls of pretzels and potato chips and a centerpiece of pink and white balloons tied to a bag filled with some type of beans, or maybe rice, to hold it down. Stephen and I sit down at a table in the corner, sip our beers and watch the band, the same group that played for Anne's wedding almost twenty years ago, set up.

      "I wonder where they are," I say, checking my watch.

      "Maybe they had to take down the flowers or something." Stephen finishes his beer and gets up from the table. "You want another one?"


      Other guests start to trickle in and sit at the tables, waiting for something to happen. Stephen stands in line at the bar and turns and smiles at me. Two high school age girls are watching him and whispering, pointing to their earlobes.

      Don and Bill, my brothers-in-law, come down the stairs but my sisters aren't with them. I wave them over to our table.

      "Where are the girls?" I ask.

      "Daniel was out of diapers," Don says. "They should be here any minute."

      Stephen comes back to the table with our beers. He shakes hands with Don and Bill, who mumble quick nice-to-meet-yous, then excuse themselves so they can get drinks.

      There's a commotion at the foot of the stairs when the bride and groom arrive, followed by Susan, carrying a diaper bag, and Anne, carrying Daniel, and her daughters carrying stuffed toys and a blanket. The guests applaud and whistle as Jason and Jenny make their way between the tables, shaking hands and hugging people. Anne, without a word to Stephen or me, puts Daniel in my arms so she can join her husband for the dance. Susan smiles at Stephen but gets pulled onto the floor by her husband before I can make introductions.

      "Cute outfit," Stephen says as he tugs on one of Daniel's tuxedo lapels. "Isn't it a little late for him to be out?"

      "He's the guest of honor. And how often does a kid get to go to his own parents' wedding?"

      When he realizes Susan isn't coming back Daniel starts to whimper and pulls away from me. I sit down with him and bounce him on my knee, like I'd seen my sisters do when their kids were cranky, but it only makes Daniel cry harder. I transfer him to my shoulder and pat his back. But Daniel shakes his head and flails his arms, hitting me in the chin. "Ow." I shift him to my other shoulder, but he keeps punching at me.

      "You're holding him too hard," Stephen says. "He's not going to go anywhere." He takes Daniel from me, holds him against his chest and hums. After a couple of minutes the baby is quiet. "See what happens when you don't squeeze the life out of him?"

      "How'd you get to know so much about babies?"

      "Common sense." We stand and watch the dancers circle the floor. Stephen sways slightly as he strokes the back of Daniel's head. I wave to Susan as she and Don circle the floor, coming closer to us. She looks relaxed, relieved that the day is coming to an end. But then she suddenly stops and leaves Don on the dance floor, alone. She walks over to us and pulls Daniel away from Stephen. The baby, startled, starts to cry again. "It's okay," she says. "I'm here now." Her voice is trembling a bit. "He doesn't like new people," she says to Stephen. She manages a weak smile, then looks at me.

      "You're the one who scared him," I say, glaring at her.

      "No, you're probably right," Stephen says. "He's probably more comfortable with you." Daniel squirms in Susan's arms.

      "I don't think you two have met," I say, trying to keep my voice calm. "Stephen, this is Susan, Daniel's grandmother and my big sister. Susan, this is Stephen."

      She nods to him but won't look at me. "I think he needs changing," she says. She picks up the diaper bag and takes Daniel into the women's restroom.

      "What was that all about?" Stephen asks.

      I shake my head. "So much for everything being fine."


      "Never mind."

      Anne and Bill, out of breath, walk off the dance floor. "A gin and tonic, honey," she calls to Bill as he walks toward the bar. Anne fans herself with one hand and extends the other to Stephen. "I'm Anne," she says.

      "Stephen. It's nice to meet you."

      "Having a good time?"

      "We were," I say.

      "Oh, you know how she is, Michael." She turns to Stephen. "Our big sister lets her mothering instinct get the best of her sometimes."

      "I didn't mind, really," Stephen says. "She was just worried about him being with a stranger."

      "You're not a stranger." I turn to Anne. "He's not a stranger. Is he?"

      "Well, I know when my girls were little, they were a little leery—"

      "Come on, let's dance, Anne," I interrupt. "It's Edelweiss, one of your favorites. I'll even lead."

      My nieces, back from the bar with cups of Coke, hide behind her, apprehensive about Stephen. "You girls sit down with those so you don't spill," she says as I pull her towards the dance floor.

      "Keep Uncle Stephen entertained," I say to them.

      As we dance we watch her girls with Stephen. He's asking them questions, and at first they're shy with him. But before long they're smiling and laughing. Then they each take a hand and pull Stephen out onto the floor, and the three of them dance together.

      "Why did you call him Uncle Stephen?" Anne asks me as we waltz.

      "Would you rather I call him my boyfriend?"

      She doesn't answer me at first. "It's always been soÉconfusing, trying to figure out what to do about you," she finally says, looking down at the floor between us.

      "There's nothing to figure out. But you keep trying to anyway. I'm going to be with Stephen. That's all. You never know, we might even do something like this."

      Anne stops dancing and drops her arms. "You're kidding."

      The waltz ends and the band starts another number, a vaguely country western version of "All the Things You Are." Anne moves away but I hold on. "Let's do another one."

      We dance some more, not speaking. "Would you help me do it? Figure out what to wear, what we should eat? You're good at that sort of thing."

      Anne looks at me, her eyes wide. "What does Susan do? Give you away?"

      "What a great idea." I laugh but she doesn't join me. "But I'd rather you do it. If she gets all worked up when my boyfriend holds her grandson, she's probably not going to do very well walking me down the aisle."

      Anne shakes her head. "This isn't like you, Michael, you're usually so reasonable. You never ask for anything."

      "But now I am. For me." I wave to Stephen and my nieces, all three now winded from the dancing. They wave to us. "And for him."

      "I should check on Daniel and Susan," Anne says. As she pulls away from me her shawl gets caught between our arms and falls to the floor. I pick it up, shake it a little bit and rearrange it on her shoulders. "It looks great on you," Stephen says to Anne when we get back to the table. She looks at him for a moment, as if she hasn't quite heard, and then smiles. She puts an arm around each of her daughters and the three of them walk towards the bar.


      Back at the motel I kick off my shoes and fall back on the bed. "Thank God. Thank God that's over."

      "It wasn't that bad," Stephen says. He takes off his watch and sets it on the dresser. "I actually think Anne likes me, even though she tried hard not to. At least she knows I've got good taste."

      "In what? Men?"

      "Well, I was thinking more along the lines of shawls, but that, too. And Susan'll come around. Maybe next time I can even get her to dance with me."

      "Next time? Once was plenty, believe me. I'll tell you one thing, though. Mason City definitely needs more men who know how to dance. By the time it was over I felt like I was in that Jane Fonda movie. The one about the dance marathon?"

      Stephen sits next to me on the bed and loosens his tie. "It was They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Stephen knows his movies.

      "I wish someone would just shoot me about now. But there's one thing we didn't get to do." I pull Stephen up onto his feet.

      "What are you doing?"

      "We haven't danced yet. I was all set to ask you, but in between dancing and babysitting and creating a family crisis you were pretty busy." I put my arm around Stephen's waist and start moving him around the room, between the two twin beds, into the bathroom, then back out, in front of the window. "I think it'd be a good idea to practice for ours, don't you think?"

      "Our what?" Stephen asks.

      "Wedding. Or whatever we call it. If we have one, I mean."

      "People can see."

      "So?" I pull Stephen closer to me. "Let'em see how it's done."