THAT NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING
, when my cakes are cooling on the kitchen counter and everyone at my house is setting up lawn chairs outside, I drive over to Chrisâs to say good-bye.
As soon as she lets me in, she says, âIâm not letting you in here if you cry.â
âI canât help it. I feel like this is going to be the last time I ever see you.â A tear slips down my cheek. There is a finality to this moment. I know it, I just know it. Chris is catapulting on to the next thing. Even if we see each other again, it wonât be like this. Sheâs a restless spirit. Iâm lucky to have had her for as long as I did.
âYouâll probably see me again next week when I fly right back home,â she jokes, and there is the tiniest note of trepidation in her voice. Chris, with all her bluster and bravado, is nervous.
âNo way. Youâre just getting started. This is it, Chris.â I jump up and hug her. Iâm trying not to cry. âItâs all happening now.â
âYouâre so corny,â she says, but I could swear I see tears in her eyes.
âI brought you something,â I tell her. I take the present out of my bag and give it to her.
She tears off the wrapping paper and opens the box. Itâs a picture of the two of us in a little heart frame, no bigger than a Christmas tree ornament. We are at the beach, in matching bathing suits; we are twelve, maybe thirteen. âHang this up on your wall wherever you go so people know you have somebody waiting for you back home.â
Her eyes tear up and she brushes them with the back of her hand. âOh my God, youâre the worst,â she says.
Iâve heard people say you meet your best friends in college, and theyâre the ones youâll know your whole life, but Iâm certain that Iâll know Chris my whole life too. Iâm a person who saves things. Iâll hold on forever.
* * *
When I get back home, Trinaâs at SoulCycle. Daddy is still outside setting up the chairs, Margot is steaming our bridesmaid dresses, and Kitty is cutting paper flags for the bunting that will go over the dessert table. I get to work icing the wedding cakeâyellow cake with buttercream frosting, just like I promised Trina. Daddyâs groomâs cake is already done, Thin Mints and all. This is my second try with the wedding cakeâI scrapped the first one because I didnât trim enough off the tops of the layers and when I stacked it, the cake looked hopelessly lopsided. This second one is still a tiny bit uneven, but a thick layer of buttercream covers all manner of sins, or so I keep telling myself.
âYouâre putting enough frosting on that cake to give us all diabetes,â Kitty remarks.
I bite my tongue and keep spinning the cake and frosting the top so itâs smooth. âIt looks all right, doesnât it, Margot?â
âIt looks professionally done,â she assures me, zooming the steamer along the hem of her dress.
As I sail past Kitty, I canât resist saying, âP.S., the last three flags you cut are crooked.â
Kitty ignores me and sings to herself, âSugar shock, whoa baby, that cakeâll give us sugar shock,â to the tune of that oldies song âSugar Shack.â Itâs probably my own fault for playing it whenever I bake.
âThis is the last time itâll be just us,â I say, and Margot looks over at me and smiles.
âIâm glad it wonât be just us anymore,â Kitty says.
âSo am I,â Margot says, and Iâm fairly certain she means it.
Families shrink and expand. All you can really do is be glad for it, glad for each other, for as long as you have each other.
* * *
I canât sleep, so I go downstairs to make a cup of Night-Night tea, and as I run the water for my kettle, I look out the window and see the red embers of a cigarette glowing in the darkness. Trina is outside smoking!
Iâm debating whether or not to forego my tea ritual and go to bed before she sees me, but as Iâm emptying the kettle, she comes back inside, a can of Fresca in her hand.
âOh!â she says, startled.
âI couldnât sleep,â I say, just as she says, âDonât tell Kitty!â
We both laugh.
âI swear it was a good-bye smoke. I havenât had a cigarette in months!â
âI wonât tell Kitty.â
âI owe you one,â Trina says, exhaling.
âWould you like a cup of Night-Night tea?â I ask her. âMy mom used to make it for us. Itâs very soothing. Itâll make you feel nice and cozy and ready for bed.â
âThat sounds like heaven.â
I fill the kettle and put it on the stove. âAre you nervous about the wedding?â
âNo, not nervous . . . just, nerves, I guess? I really want everything to go offâwithout a hitch.â A giggle escapes her throat. âPun intended. God, I love a good pun.â Then she straightens up and says, âTell me whatâs going on with you and Peter.â
I busy myself with spooning honey into mugs. âOh, nothing.â The last thing Trina needs on the night before her wedding is to hear about my problems.
She gives me a look. âCome on, girl. Tell me.â
âI donât know. I guess weâre broken up?â I shrug my shoulders high so I donât cry.
âOh, honey. Bring that tea over here and come sit next to me on the couch.â
I finish making the tea and bring the mugs over to the couch and sit next to Trina, who tucks her legs under her and drapes a blanket over both of us. âNow tell me everything,â she says.
âI guess things started to go sideways when I got into
. Our plan was for me to go to William and Mary and then Iâd transfer, and weâd be long distance for the first year. But
is a lot farther, and when I visited, I knew I wanted to be there. Not with one foot in and one foot out, you know?â I stir my spoon. âI really want to give it a chance.â
âI think thatâs a thousand percent the right attitude.â Trina warms her hand on her tea mug. âSo thatâs why you broke up with him?â
âNo, not entirely. Peterâs mom told me he was talking about transferring to
next year. She wanted me to break up with him before he messed up his life for me.â
âDamn! Peterâs mom is kind of a bitch!â
âShe didnât use those exact words, but that was the gist of it.â I take a sip of tea. âI wouldnât want him to transfer for me either. . . . My mom used to say not to go to college with a boyfriend, because youâll lose out on a true freshman experience.â
âWell, to be fair, your mom never met Peter Kavinsky. She didnât have all the facts. If she had met him . . .â Trina lets out a low whistle. âShe mightâve been singing a different tune.â
Tears fill my eyes. âHonestly I regret breaking up with him and I wish I could take it all back!â
She tips up my chin. âThen why donât you?â
âI donât think heâll ever forgive me for hurting him like that. He doesnât let people in easily. I think Iâm probably dead to him.â
Trina tries to hide a smile. âI doubt that. Look, youâll talk to him at the wedding tomorrow. When he sees you in that dress, all will be forgiven.â
I sniffle. âIâm sure heâs not coming.â
âIâm sure he is. You donât plan a manâs bachelor party and then not show to the wedding. Not to mention the fact that heâs crazy about you.â
âBut what if I hurt him again?â
She wraps both her hands around her mug of tea and takes a sip. âYou canât protect him from being hurt, babe, no matter what you do. Being vulnerable, letting people in, getting hurt . . . itâs all a part of being in love.â
I take this in. âTrina, when did you figure out that you and my dad were the real thing?â
âI donât know. . . . I think I justâdecided.â
âDecided on what?â
âDecided on him. On us.â She smiles at me. âOn all of it.â
Itâs so crazy to think that a year ago, she was just our neighbor Ms. Rothschild. Kitty and I would sit on our stoop and watch her run to the car in the morning and spill hot coffee all over herself. And now sheâs marrying our dad. Sheâs going to be our stepmom, and Iâm so glad for it.