Everybody at the Hidden Oak Café of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum seemed to be looking for Christine.
“Where is she?” A dressed up lady kept asking a ruddy lad in tuxedo who ran in and out desperately, with a cell phone glued to his ear. “I can’t do it without Christine!”
“She’ll be here any moment now, Leslie!” The lad promised vaguely from the hall, before disappearing again.
Leslie’s three daughters, looking like triplets who simply aged at different pace, also in elegant dresses, sighed frustratingly.
“Did Christine arrive yet?” A small lady in black pants and vest exclaimed, crossing the room towards the door to the terrace. For some reason, she shielded her eyes with her hand, trying not to see Leslie.
The mother and her three daughters moaned in anger.
A baby shower was in full swing in the next room of the Manor House.
“Christine probably has their presents for the baby,” Monkey Princess whispered. “Now, they can’t join the party until she brings the goodies.”
Rapturous “a-awh”s, and admiring “o-oh”s, followed by exciting “y-yeah“s were heard at almost equal intervals from the closed-doors celebration.
“Christine may even be a cohost of the event.” Metida squinted at me. “I can’t remember, did I have a cohost at my two baby showers? Hold on, did I have my two baby showers!”
“We were young and, well, very easygoing back then,” I tried to explain to Monkey Princess.
At this moment, a small crowd rushed into the café and attempted to huggie-kiss the lady and her daughters.
“But we don’t know you! “ The daughters protested. “This is not a baby shower! This is a wedding!”
The crowd looked at blushing Leslie, puzzled, and withdrew to the next room apologetically.
“Then, Christine must be the maid of honor,” Metida deducted calmly.
“Let’s find the wedding!” Monkey Princess jumped up from the table.
We went to the terrace, and then to a huge field that probably should have been called not a backyard but a backacre. There were scarecrows here and there, due to the approaching Halloween, each presenting a group of strange human-size fellas made out of sacks and straws.
“I love scarecrows!” Monkey Princess posed for a picture near each of the group, almost hugging fellows dressed as prisoners or scary clowns or just plain old creeps.
At the end of the backacre, under a mighty oak, a small group led by a minister in a while robe walked aimlessly back and forth.
“I love weddings!” Monkey Princess announced.
“You love everything,” I sniffed. ”Hope, it’ll last. “
“Is Christine here? Not yet?” The lad in a tuxedo yelled from the middle of the filed – and, after the minister tilted his head expressing sadness, reserved joy, patience and impatience at the same time – ran back towards the Manor House.
“This Christine lady must be very important,” Monkey Princess guessed. “Can she be the groom?”
“God, you watch too much of the TV show!” I exclaimed. “There are at least three middle aged men under the oak. Any of them would make a perfect husband!”
Back at the café, the bride has had it.
“That’s enough!” She turned back to the entrance door resolutely. “I’m not doing it without Christine! It just wouldn’t make any sense! And she’s obviously a no-show!”
The daughters looked at each other desperately.
“Mo-om! Can we at least go somewhere to celebrate?” The youngest one begged.
And her sisters gave her a look, she corrected herself:
At this moment, the lad in the tuxedo and the small lady in black pants and vest ran into the café and announced victoriously:
“Christine is finally here! She’s parking!”
Metida got out of the table.
“Well, that’ll do for a happy ending. Let’s go, peoples!”
Half way to the parking lot, in the garden cul-de-sac surrounded by high bushes, we noticed a lady in a bold blue dress, vaping.
From time to time, she looked at the Manor House and listened to the hollers for Christine issued by the ruddy lad, but didn’t bother to answer. She seemed to be not in rush at all.
“You are Christine, aren’t you?” Metida smiled. “You are so famous here!”
“No wonder,” Christine shrugged. “It’s my husband Leslie is marrying. Again”
That casual remark made Metida stop and look at Christine with eyes wide open.
“Well, I let him.. them… all of them!” Christine nodded towards the Manor House.
She probably needed to talk to somebody, and we were good enough for the role of the listeners.
“I actually insisted that Leslie and Freddy marry. This whole wedding, essentially, was my idea,” Christine explained.
“This must be… very nice of you,” Metida admitted.
“No shit,” Christine smiled bitterly. “Well, truth to be told, Freddy was Leslie’s husband at the first place. Linda, Laura and Lily, these three small graces, are all theirs.”
“Very nice girls,” Metida said. “Seem to be very happy today.”
“That’s the whole point. “ Christine puffed and coughed. “See, Freddy was my high school sweetheart. Yet decided to marry my best friend, Leslie. Youth is such a confusing time… I can’t even blame anybody ow, we were just clueless kids back then… Then, he couldn’t really keep it all together. Got this very strong idea that I was his real love. So, we had an affair. For some years. I divorced my husband, that’s another saga… Then Leslie found out, and kicked him out. Freddy and I, we even got married, out of nothing else to do… Leslie and I didn’t talk for years…”
A group of people with stunning red, yellow, velvet and violet dahlias in labeled pots processed towards the former carriage house solemnly.
“Daddy, these flowers are bigger than my head!” Monkey Princess gasped.
“They do a dahlia show every year,” Christine smiled. “These flowers are so beautiful, so unearthy. Anyway, at some point, it all stopped making sense. We got older. There were the three graces growing nearby, without their father. All the rest mattered less and less. Nobody was too happy with this arrangement, myself included. I just couldn’t carry out this guilt anymore. So, I came to Leslie. We talked. We were still best friends, in a way… Eventually, I decided that the girls need their father full-time, and Freddy and I divorced. Well, officially. Freddy was relieved, in a way, I think. Now, Leslie and Freddy have to re-marry. End of the story. Well, we’ll see how it’ll go after that. End of a chapter, I guess.”
A series of whistles from the toy trains exhibition signaled that the show was opened for the visitors, and cute little trains started to run in circles among tiny forests, towns and mountains.
“So, have a nice wed… or whatever you’re having here,” Metida said.
Christine turned her e-cigarette off, chucked dryly and stepped out from her bush shelter towards the Manor House.
“Look, there are more scarecrows!” I pointed out at the group of straw men on the lawn opposite to the parking lot. “Wanna picture?”
“Nah, not really.” Monkey Princess mumbled. She looked at us, sighed and added: “I hate scarecrows! And I’m not sure that I like weddings anymore!”
We got into the car.
“Let’s drive to IKEA and have some Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce! And then – ice cream!” Metida announced cheerfully. “It looks, from the weather forecast, that it’s going to rain all the way until the evening. So, peoples, we better get there as fast as we can!”