by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
“Do you think they’ll mind?” Frannie turned to her partner and frowned.
“Oh, gosh, I hadn’t thought of that. I know Linda can be particular; she likes to have dinner just so. You know how …well how insecure she is. And it’s too bad, since she’s such a dear.”
“Well, we always knew that. I guess I’ll just call her and ask what I can bring. It beats the same old monotone ‘Oh, that’th alright’ we’ve grown accustomed to. How long has it been?
“Oh, just a couple of years. After he and Tricia broke up, I though Chuck would be in permanent funk, but Linda has done him a world of good, you know?”
“Well, they were always pretty close even before, but she seems to have brought him out of himself.”
“I hear Der and his lovely bride are expecting their second.”
Vi smiled at the thought; no one would have guessed that Lu was even marriage material much less be a mom, but married life agreed with both of them. The courtship was long and the engagement seemed to go on forever, but they finally tied the knot. Some said that she had tied him down, but he would beg to differ. You love whom you love, you know?
“Will HE be there?” Frannie asked, her shoulders sagged and her head was down as well. She was always insecure that way, and the possibility of her partner seeing an old flame at a Christmas party, of all places, was enough to send her spiraling downward. And the thought of mistletoe hanging in strategic places was upsetting. She turned to find her partner standing facing her with arms open along with her robe.
“You know that he meant nothing to me; especially when I have the most beautiful woman in the world in front of me, loving me like I was really special.” Vi blinked back some tears. Frannie got up and walked over to her and held her close. They made a nice couple; Vi’s pale blue eyes and milky complexion set off Frannie’s dark features and black hair nicely
“You are really special. I hope you know that?” A few moments later, Frannie showed Vi just how special she was.
“Well, I guess this is it,” Frannie said, turning to Vi as they stood on the front porch. Even with the windows closed, Der’s music filled the air; a nice jazz tune. While he still gave an occasional concert for his classical fans, lately he had gravitated toward jazz.
“More organic and fluid,” he had taken to saying. The music was almost soothing and it helped abate both girls’ nervousness. The door opened a moment later and a smallish familiar figure stood with a big grin on her face.
“Thay, ith great to thee you,” Linda said as she stepped close to embrace them both. While Vi and Linda were friends, they had never been close. Frannie had never really been close to anyone in the ‘gang.’ She did, however, develop a special bond with Linda as young adults, since their interests and direction seemed to have intersected. And apart from Linda and Vi, of course, no one had seen Frannie since her trip to Montreal. Frannie kissed Linda on the cheek and squeezed her.
“How are things?” Linda knew exactly what Frannie meant.
“Well, I wanted to be the bigger perthon, tho Trithia ith coming.”
Linda was always intimidated by Tricia, even before she and Chuck had been an item. And even though both of them had moved on, there was something very daunting about having her husband’s ex-fiancee’ attending the party, even if it was with her own new husband. He was wealthy and intelligent and charming; something Chuck never felt he could be, and Linda almost resented them, since it made the love of her life feel small.
“They’re coming to the party?” Vi asked nervously.
“Yeth…I hope you don’t mind.” Linda put her head down as if she had something to be ashamed of.
“Oh, gosh, everything is going to be just fine,’ Frannie said; her own nervousness pushed aside as she squeezed her friend’s hand.
“Hello, Chuck,” a voice came from the doorway. Tricia stood stock still, her hands on her hips as if she was surveying her subjects. Her husband stood behind her; appearing to be a dutiful servant, but he said in ‘loud’ whisper,
“Trish, honey, cut the crap and go say hello to your friends.” He was just the thing she had always needed; someone not to control her or rein her in, like some of their friends had said, but more a calming example of what they both could be. She turned to him and nodded.
“I’m sorry, hon. You’re right.” She kissed him on the cheek; a gesture so uncharacteristic, but a testimony of how much she had changed. The love of a good man? More like just the love of a great person. The love of her life…her childhood sweetheart, some had learned, had moved away and married a colleague at NASA. She turned to Chuck for solace, and they enjoyed a brief if volatile relationship, if by enjoy you mean both felt insecure and they fought all the time?
“Linda…I wanted to thank you for inviting us.” A declaration that at one time might have seemed disingenuous, but the tears in Tricia’s eyes gave Linda reason to set aside her fears. She stepped closer and hugged Tricia; once a ghost or a shadow of doubt that stood between her and her husband, Tricia now was just another friend from her childhood.
“I’m tho glad you could come.” She kissed Tricia on both cheeks and grabbed her hand, leading her over to a crowd of people.
“It’s funny now, especially with my job at ESPN making it sort of ironic, but she would do it every time. And there I was, falling for it. Every time.” He laughed. A tall woman stood next to Chuck, her hand on his arm. Linda sidled over with Tricia in tow and kissed her sister on the cheek.
“You’re glowing, you know?” She used her eyes to glance as a gesture toward her sister’s belly.
“Oh, gosh, Lu…when are you due?” Tricia asked. The woman smiled and spoke; softer and with a dulcet tone that most everyone in the room would say was the biggest change in her since she married Der, apart from the little girl standing at her feet.
“Mommy is gonna have a baby…and he’s gonna be my baby bruder!” The little girl pointed to Lou’s stomach and grinned.
“Yes, honey…and I bet you’ll be a great big thithter! You know, your momma ith my big thithter and theeth the betht big thithter anybody ever had.” Lou turned to Linda and shuddered; the complement was unexpected, and by anyone’s estimation, undeserved.
“I needed friendth when I had a hard time a while ago, and your momma wath my betht friend.” Linda’s eyes filled with tears; she knew more than anyone how much Lou had changed. Not just from a great marriage to a great guy, but because when Linda needed her most, she was there.
“Motherhood suits you, Lou!’ Tricia said. She turned to Chuck and smiled. It was a knowing smile; the kind between friendly rivals after a hard fought battle. Their hard fought battle brought them both to the place of facing their own fears and doubts. Tricia had found love with a nice guy who was a stabilizing influence on her. And Chuck found love with a girl who by her own humility and sweet nature had shown Chuck it wasn’t about appearance or status, but about caring and being.
“Honey…would you mind? It’s been so long since we all were together in one place.” Chuck smiled at Linda who smiled back before speaking,
“Of courth, honey. Der, would you mind playing?” The blond-haired man smiled and nodded, and a moment later the sound of ‘What Child is This?” played softly in the background as the woman began.
“Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidinth of great joy, which thall be to all people. For unto you ith born thith day in the thity of David, a Thavior, which ith Chritht the Lord….”
Vince Guaraldi Trio- What Child Is This
All characters based on the comic strip Peanuts created by Charles Schultz.
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