your wedding dress?” a puzzled Teddy Zizik asked Fiona.
She stood forlornly in her master bedroom with high windows disclosing sea views on every side of her. The pop star gazed down at the sundress she wore with spaghetti straps and a print of orange balloons and pandas.
“He’s not going to marry me, Teddy,” she said with a sigh. “I may as well not look like a fool in the whole literal nine yards of white lace.”
Teddy considered this for a long moment. Yes, it was true that Fiona’s reclaimed high school sweetheart had behaved like a jerk the whole three weeks that he’d been lodged in Fiona’s sumptuous guest house. Day and night his buddies sucked up bong smoke and beers. The bleats of rap music shook the beams of the front house.
On the other hand, when Fiona arranged for the two of them to be alone, such as the dinner she’d ordered the night before all the way from Atria in Edgartown, replete with white linen, fine china, and two waiters, Milo’s behavior had been thoughtful and subdued.
“I’ve caught him looking at you,” said Teddy. “I believe he admires you.”
“Sure he admires me!” she scoffed. “Everyone admires me! I’m a huge success at twenty-three years of age! What’s not to admire? But does he love me? All I get from him is warmed-over puppy love from the eleventh grade.”
Teddy shrugged. He wore the “casual dress” wear itemized in the invitations he himself had sent out on Fiona’s behalf: sneakers, pressed designer jeans, a white tee shirt and a spiffy yellow blazer with tiny pastel dots all over it.
He said with a sigh, “Warmed-over puppy love is better than anything I’ve ever known.”
She treated him to a penetrating stare. “I’ve always wondered, Teddy: Are you gay or straight?”
He shrugged, “A little of this, a little of that.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. I got an interesting call last night.” She waited to see a gleam of interest in his eyes. “Gaga’s coming.”
His eyes did gleam. With fury. “You gave in to the little jerk’s demand to meet her?”
“What harm could it do? Gaga’s not going to give him the time of day, much less marry him.”
“You’re just trying to impress him.”
She shrugged. “Whatever it takes.”
In the dunes, the Lady Slipper pixies had parked their truck and three rented vans for disgorging all the goodies required for the beach bash. Down near the high tide line, Sam and Thorn tended fires for the clambake part of the program. This would be one catering gig that was not strictly vegetarian.
A wide circle of tables dispensed booze tended by the gregarious Lori and the stylish Gwyn, today decked out in a vintage brown and beige polka dot dress with a boxy jacket.
Extra young women had been hired to circulate platters of such delicacies as stuffed grape leaves, toast points with mushroom topping, and tiny sweet potato fritters dabbed with cinnamon-flavored apple sauce.
In the midst of all these high logistics, Mandy wondered why she and her rental buddies hadn’t taken more seriously Teddy Zizik’s original complaint that a road lay between the big house and the sea. This felt like the culinary version of the invasion of Omaha Beach.
As she scooped ice from plastic coolers into silver buckets, she heard her name called out by an old, graveled voice.
“Mandy, dear, a word?”
Mandy’s face froze into something resembling a cringe. She took a deep breath, and slowly revolved. On one of the many paths winding down to the beach, blind old Sonja stood with her arm linked through Titus’s. The sight of the stooped British writer turned Mandy’s neutral gaze into a grin.
The future knight said, “Come over to this empty table with us, would you, Mandy? We have a proposition for you. We promise not to take up much of your time.”
Time was all she could think about, however, as guests and catering workers streamed around them. It took prodigious effort for Titus to settle the famous curmudgeon at the white wrought-iron table, one of the many brought in for the bacchanalia in the sands.
Titus got straight to business, although the business itself nearly knocked Mandy from her chair.
“I want you to know, Mandy Pease, that I have just established an escrow account for Lady Slipper Farm in the amount of one million dollars. It’s already done, the proverbial fait accomplit, so please don’t waste your time -- and mine -- protesting out of innate good manners.”
“But – but – why?” she asked in an astonished gasp.
He leaned in to her, a single blue eye gleaming through the disheveled mop of grey hair. “Two reasons: Number one, I needed to accomplish, in the last five minutes of my life, something good, something innately decent, something other than providing my wife with obscenely expensive frocks and parties.
“And, number two, well, I’ll let Sonja provide the exegesis for number two, but I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that two is optional. One is done. Cannot be undone. If, for some perverse reason, you cannot abide the bequest of that much moolah, than pass it along to another struggling farm, but you’d be an ass to do so. So, two, hit it, Sonja!”
Sonja chuckled and felt along the table-top to pat her boyfriend’s hand. “I’m also going to give it to you straight because that’s just how I’m going to take the bourbon I’d like some young stud to bring me. Do you see any young studs in the vicinity?”
Mandy did – a boy named Kenny from Vineyard Haven. She signaled to the table and asked if he’d bring Mrs. Dash the drink she’d requested. Titus asked for the same. Mandy caught herself from saying, “You might as well make it three.” She needed to process this endowment of a million freaking bucks, but she also had to orchestrate this party without tumbling over fire pits and stacks of Newcastle Brown Ale.
Sonja turned her glazed hazel eyes toward Mandy. “Titus and I would appreciate it very much if you would consider becoming a surrogate mother for our baby.”
Mandy listened in a daze as she tried to process words about frozen ova and fresh sperm and hatching a genius from a spare young uterus. “We think you’d make the ideal mother,” chimed in Titus.
“And after the baby arrived in the world, then what?” stuttered Mandy. “We’d all three raise it?”
Sonja said blithely, “The chore would probably fall to you and your farm. Titus and I will be popping off soon to parts unknown. I’m fervently hoping the after-life looks like the island of Capri.”
Mandy cried out, “Why on earth would you want to do this?”
A cigarette materialized in the old woman’s hands. Titus was quick to flick a lighter under it. Sonja drew in a tank-full of smoke.
“There are so many mediocre babies brought into this world. We thought a brilliant painter with works hanging in the Whitney and the Pompidou, who shared her gene pool with a Booker Prize-winning novelist on the verge of knighthood, might amount to a decent contribution to the planet. Plus Titus and I love one another. It’s a monument to our love. And a riposte to all the silly rich Priscillas of the world and all the silly rich people who flock to their parties.”
Mandy fell into a reverie. She wondered if her healing powers could leach some of this woman’s toxic load of ego from her psyche. She reached across the table.
“Sonja, would you place your left hand in mine?”
“Certainly not!” said the old grouch, tucking her left hand over her chest and pulling her cigarette in tightly with her right.
Titus rolled his eyes, then looked tenderly at Mandy.
“Think about it, won’t you? Lady Slipper Farm could use, amid all those cute piggies and doggies, a human baby, am I right?”
Mandy said, “Yes, but maybe not such an haute couture baby.”
Titus knew about Mandy’s unusual commitment to celibacy. “But all the same, dear heart, you’re not likely to have one of your own? Why not borrow one of ours?”
Oh God, he was starting to make just a drop of sense.
“I’ve got to check on dinner ops. The wedding is set to start in an hour.”
Over by the dunes where another path fed onto the beach, a commotion stirred. “It’s Lady Gaga!” said one of the catering girls, flying past in a banner of long silken brown hair.
Tune in tomorrow!