Remembrance, p.33
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       Remembrance, p.33

         Part #7 of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

  “You what?”

  “Ow, Susannah. I’d ask if I hurt you earlier, but it’s clear that you’re feeling fine. If I were a less well-adjusted man, you might have wounded my dignity.”

  “Oh, don’t worry about your dignity, I’ll be walking bowlegged for a week. We’re going to have to get a new cushion, as a matter of fact, or at least flip this one over. But why did you talk to Father Dominic? I get that he’s your confessor, but he’s my boss, too. I don’t need him knowing all my personal business. You didn’t tell him about this, did you?” I gestured to our clothes, which lay across the floor. “How could you confess something you didn’t know you were going to do? Unless . . .” I gasped. “Jesse! You scoundrel! Was this premeditated sex?”

  “I didn’t confess anything,” Jesse said. “I merely relayed to him the same good news I relayed to you.”

  “What good news?”

  He sat up, as well, his hard abdominal muscles flexing as he hung his head in shame at my ignorance. “Beca in English doesn’t mean bacon, Susannah. It means grant.”

  It took me a split second to remember. Then I gasped. “Jesse! You got the grant?”

  He nodded. This time his grin wasn’t lopsided. Both sides of his mouth slanted upward.

  “They sent the congratulatory e-mail yesterday. But I didn’t see it until this morning when the police gave me back my phone. I wanted to make some arrangements before I told you.” The prideful glint in his eyes was adorable. He was no multimillionaire—yet—but every penny he had, he’d earned himself, through hard work. “One of them was with Father Dominic—he’s doing much better today, by the way. It will still be some time before he’ll be able to return to work, of course, but he might—just might—be well enough to marry us next weekend.”

  “Wait.” I stared at him, not sure I’d heard him correctly. “Next weekend?”

  He nodded again, looking almost apprehensive, his dark head ducked a little shyly. “Yes. I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about it, especially after . . . well, everything that happened last night. But when I spoke to Father Dominic this morning, he felt you might like the idea. He was the one who suggested it, as a matter of fact. I don’t know why.”

  Now I knew why Jesse hadn’t wanted to see me that morning. It made sense. With Father Dominic’s help, he’d finally put the past behind him, and had been busy making plans for the future—our future.

  When I saw that priest, I was going to give him the biggest hug.

  “It would have to be a very small private ceremony, of course,” Jesse was going on. “And at such short notice, many of your parents’ guests might not be able to attend. But David will be back in town for the holiday, and I think getting married over Thanksgiving weekend—well, what better way to show our thanks for finding one another, and for everything everyone has done for us? We can still have a formal ceremony in a year if you want to, but I thought since I finally have money, and you have this house—”

  I’d already flung my arms around his neck.

  “Thanksgiving weekend would be perfect,” I whispered. “Just perfect.”

  treinta y siete

  We had a church wedding after all.

  It wasn’t under the grand, sweeping arches of the basilica at the Carmel Mission, as we’d always planned. It was in the much smaller, more modest chapel at St. Francis Medical Center in Monterey.

  But somehow I felt it was better that way. There were no statues of the Madonna (rumored to have once wept tears of blood because a virgin—me—graduated from the school) or Father Junípero Serra to gaze down upon us, only the familiar faces of friends and loved ones—our true friends and loved ones, because we’d invited only Jesse’s colleagues from the hospital and my friends and family members who happened to be home for Thanksgiving.

  Father Dominic was still there to perform the ceremony, but it was from his wheelchair rather than the intimidating altar at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, which I preferred.

  The ceremony went off without a hitch, with the exception of the performance of the flower girls, who, in the tradition of flower girls throughout history, stole the show. Only Jesse, Father Dominic, and I knew, however, that their antics were due to the fact that a few additional guests had shown up to the ceremony uninvited . . . an elderly woman who’d passed away moments before in the cardiac ward and decided to stick around because, as she informed us, “I love a good wedding.”

  Then there was a forty-niner (the gold mining kind, not a member of the professional football team) who simply stood in the back, his battered top hat in his hands to show his respect for the bride.

  Finding a venue for the reception afterward was simple. We invited everyone—minus the deceased—back to 99 Pine Crest Road for cake, champagne, barbecue, and beer.

  “Well,” my mother said as she stood with her arm around my waist on what had once been her back deck, but was now mine. “I don’t know how you did it, Suzie. Or why. But I approve.”

  “Thanks, Mom.” I clinked her champagne glass with my own. “Jesse and Jake worked really hard on it. David helped, too.”

  I didn’t mention how David had arrived unannounced at Snail Crossing on the Saturday afternoon that Jesse and I had first made love, demanding to know where everyone was, and accidentally walked in on Jake and Gina having a romantic interlude of their own.

  Then, upon discovering that I had somehow managed to procure ownership of our old house, and that there was no longer any danger from “the curse” he’d flown over three thousand miles to help break, David had proceeded to have a miniature nervous breakdown, from which we’d had to nurse him back to health with great quantities of brewskis and za.

  “I don’t mean the decorations,” Mom said, indicating the party globes we’d strung across the backyard to light the picnic tables at which our guests were enjoying the barbecue Andy—ever the chef—had insisted on providing. “I mean the house. Suze, I had no idea this house meant so much to you. Why didn’t you tell me? We’d never have sold it if we’d known.”

  “Oh,” I said, sipping my champagne. “The timing wasn’t right. Jesse and I had some things to sort out first.”

  What was I supposed to say? Well, the truth is, Mom, my husband—how I loved thinking, let alone saying, the word—died and was a ghost in this house for a while. He needed to work through that. And I needed to work through some crap that was haunting me.

  But it’s all good now. Well, all good for now.

  “But how much did you pay Paul for it, if you don’t mind my asking?” Mom looked around nostalgically. “Please tell me you didn’t blow all your savings.”

  “Well, I won’t lie to you, the taxes are going to be a bitch, but nothing I can’t handle. I got a really good deal on the place, though.” It wasn’t hard to keep a straight face. “Paul practically gave it to me, as a matter of fact.”

  Mom seemed impressed. “Well, wasn’t that sweet of him? See, I knew you two could work out your differences.”

  “Yeah,” I said. “You weren’t wrong about him.”

  “Simon!” A familiar male voice startled me from behind. I turned around to see Adam MacTavish, accompanied by one of my bridesmaids, CeeCee. “Or is it de Silva now?”

  “We’ll see,” I said, and hugged him. “I haven’t decided yet. Wow, don’t you look like a young urban professional.”

  “You don’t look so bad yourself, Simon. May I admire you?”

  “You may.” I handed CeeCee my champagne glass and curtsied in my couture gown. Adam applauded.

  “Love. Big fan of the sweetheart neckline and mermaid skirt, always have been, it’s a classic for a reason. Now spin.”

  I spun. CeeCee pretended to be bored and studied the clouds overhead, which had turned orange and lavender as the sun sank into the western sky.

  “Gorgeous,” Adam said. “Love the lace, and the corset back does amazing things to your boobs, Simon. You look like a Victorian hooker.”

  “Geez, Adam.” CeeCee
handed my champagne glass back to me, then took his from him. “You’re cut off. Her mother is standing right over there.”

  “I don’t think she heard you.” My mother had become involved in a conversation with Debbie Mancuso’s parents, whom I’d noticed shaking their heads earlier at how little furniture Jesse and I possessed.

  We didn’t care. We had each other (and Spike and Romeo, who’d settled into an uneasy truce), and that was all we needed.

  Plus the sizable gift certificate Mom and Andy had given us to one of the home-furnishing stores Andy represented. He’d said I could use his employee discount. I already had new curtains and carpets picked out.

  “Mrs. Simon didn’t hear me,” Adam was saying. “And it was a compliment. By Victorian hooker, Suze, I meant, you know, one of those virginal-looking hot ladies from a vampire movie, or an old Western.”

  “Just the look I was going for,” I said. “Will you two excuse me? I spotted some people I want to say hi to.”

  “Of course,” CeeCee said. As I walked away from them, I heard a muffled thump, and Adam cry out in pain.

  “What?” he asked CeeCee defensively. “I said it was a compliment!”

  “You’re such an idiot,” CeeCee replied, but there was affection in her voice. Since the story on Jimmy Delgado’s “suicide” broke, CeeCee had gotten a lot more confident about her professional prospects. The subsequent story she’d done on Father Francisco’s arrest—and the arrest of the several other prominent Monterey Bay area residents who’d been members of Delgado’s “private client list”—had been picked up by the Associated Press. CeeCee had been offered a promotion at the Carmel Pine Cone that she still claimed to be “mulling over.”

  This was a far greater gift than any I could have purchased for her online, although I was still looking for the perfect way to thank her.

  She’d said, however, that my having had my wedding a year early—and in such a rush as to have no time to select bridesmaid gowns—was thanks enough.

  I hurried down the steps from the deck, toward the newcomers I’d seen striding down the walkway from the front yard—or at least I hurried as quickly as someone in a tightly corseted, mermaid-skirted couture wedding gown could hurry.

  “Becca. Kelly. Mr. Walters.” I still could not bring myself to call him Arthur. “Hello. I’m so glad you could come.”

  “We wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” I saw Kelly’s gaze flick quickly over my waist and abdomen. I knew she was trying to see if I looked pregnant, and if this could be the reason for my hastily thrown together nuptials. “Don’t you look nice. Is that a Pnina Tornai?”

  “No, Galia Lahav.”

  For once I had the pleasure of seeing Kelly struck speechless.

  “I don’t know if you girls are speaking English or what,” her husband said in a jovial tone, “but you look stunning, Susan.”

  “Thank you, Mr. Walters.” I smiled at Becca. “You look nice, too.”

  I wasn’t lying, for once. Though it had been only a week since Lucia had left her, Becca looked like a different girl, standing with a newfound confidence, and wearing her dark hair away from her face. Her skin was clearing up, and the cream-colored dress she wore actually fit her. She still had a ways to go, but she no longer seemed frightened of the journey.

  “Thank you, Ms. Simon,” she said, giving me a shy look. The crowd in the backyard, which was considerably more sizable—and boisterous—than the one in the chapel, was seeming to intimidate her. Plus Jake had insisted on “treating” us to a live mariachi band—in full costume, including sombreros—and though talented, they were surprisingly loud. “Where can we put this?”

  Becca was carrying a large, beautifully wrapped gift.

  “Oh,” I said. “On the table over there. Thank you so much.”

  “It’s a tortilla maker,” Kelly stated baldly. “You weren’t registered anywhere, so we had no idea what to get you. I figured it’s something he’d like.” Her gaze flicked toward Jesse, who was radiating good looks and happiness in his tuxedo as he laughed with Brad and Dr. Patel at some mischief the triplets and the mini-Patels were getting up to over by the cake table.

  “Well, how kind of you, Kelly,” I said. I could afford to be gracious, since I was so happy. “Please help yourselves to a drink over at the bar. Oh, here’s Debbie, she’ll take you there.”

  Debbie had hurried over, having spotted her friend’s arrival. “Kelly, oh, my God, it took you forever, was the traffic bad coming over? I’m so sorry. Arthur, come here, my dad wants to say hi. You, too, Becs, I want you to meet my adorable little brother-in-law, David. He goes to Harvard, you two are going to love each other.”

  Both Becca and David looked stricken, but only David, who’d been sitting at a picnic table next to Jake and Gina, turned nearly as red as his own hair. He’d invited his “good friend” Shahbaz to be his plus one at my wedding, then made it clear to all of us that they were more than friends by kissing under some mistletoe at Debbie and Brad’s house during Thanksgiving dinner.

  The Ackerman-Simon family did not shock easily, however. Brad had remarked only, “Dude, we get it, you’re gay. Now pass the gravy.”

  Shahbaz handled the Ackerman family and their many quirks with good humor. He’d even asked me, with a friendly wink, how my research project on ancient Egyptian curses was going.

  “Go on, Becca,” I said with a grin, giving her a little push. “Don’t worry, he’s taken.”

  “He’s not,” Debbie insisted. “He’s just going through a stage.”

  I rolled my eyes. Debbie was the one person in the family who was resistant to change, but I knew she, too, would come around. She’d agreed to mediator school—and even vaccines—for the triplets, after all. “Did you have a good time at Sean Park’s party, Becca?”

  “It was okay, I guess. I didn’t win at Ghost Mediator.”

  “You don’t always win at Ghost Mediator, Becca. Trust me, I would know. Go hang out with David and his friend. They don’t bite.”

  Fingering the horse pendant she still wore around her neck, she said, “Okay,” in the grudging voice my stepnieces reserved for agreeing to try a new vegetable, and gingerly followed Debbie across the lawn, toward David and his boyfriend.

  “Nicely done,” said a voice at my elbow, and I turned to see a small, very elegantly dressed woman with bright white hair and even brighter red lipstick standing beside me.

  “Dr. Jo! You came!” I leaned down to hug her. “I’m so glad.”

  “How could I not?” she asked, hugging me back. “I was so curious as to where you’d disappeared to these last few weeks. We all were.” She released me and nodded at Jesse. “Now I know. He’s the doctor I’ve heard so much about?”

  “He’s the doctor you’ve heard so much about.”

  “Be still my heart. And this is where the two of you are going to live?” She looked at the back of the house that, from behind, somehow managed to look even larger and more impressive than it did from the front.

  “Yes. It’s sort of a long story—”

  “And I trust you’re going to tell me about it someday. Well, as much as Suze Simon ever tells anyone.”

  I don’t know what made me do it. Maybe it was because I couldn’t believe she’d come. Maybe because we weren’t in her office, but standing in the backyard of the home I’d come to love so much, and feel so safe in. Maybe because it was my wedding day, and I felt so happy.

  But I found myself looking into her eyes and saying, “Dr. Jo, I’ll tell you one thing, though I’m not sure you’ll believe it. Your husband Sy has a message he wants me to give you. He wants me to remind you to worry less about your patients, and more about yourself. He says you need to remember to get the tires rotated on your—”

  Dr. Jo stepped away from me so quickly I thought she might stumble, so I put a hand on her elbow to steady her. All the blood had drained from her face, except for the scarlet smear of lipstick across her lips.

  “What .
. . how could you possibly—?”

  “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to scare you. It’s just that you said you thought I suffered a trauma in my past, and I haven’t. Not really. I just speak to the dead.”

  She reached out to clutch my arm. “I think I need to sit down.”

  Jesse chose that moment to come over. “Is everything all right?” he asked.

  “Not really,” I said. “Could you get Dr. Jo a chair?”

  “Certainly.” He disappeared, then reappeared just as quickly with a chair, into which he helped Dr. Jo. “Is that better?”

  She’d closed her eyes, but once she sat, she opened them again and looked at him kneeling beside her in the grass, then back up at me.

  “I’m assuming he knows about this . . . talent of yours?” she asked.

  “Oh, yes,” I said. “He has it, too. Way more than me, actually.”

  “Of course he does,” she murmured. “Why did I bother asking? Well, go on. What did Sy tell you, exactly?”

  “I’m sorry. It’s just that your husband won’t move on because he’s so worried about you. He’s very upset because you haven’t remembered to have your tires rotated—”

  “That’s Sy, all right,” she muttered. “That car. That damned car.”

  “I didn’t know how to bring it up with you. But I see him almost every day in the faculty parking lot. One of my stepbrothers works at a car dealership, maybe he could—”

  Dr. Jo wasn’t listening. “That damned car. It was all he ever cared about.”

  “It’s you he cares about, not the car,” Jesse pointed out.

  She reached out in a dazed way to pat his cheek. “You’re adorable. But I think I need some alone time right now. And a drink. Would one of you mind . . . ?”

  Jesse said, “Of course,” and took me by the waist to physically steer me not toward the bar, but away from it. “Was that really the wisest idea? Isn’t she your advisor?”

  “And my therapist, yeah. But I think she needed to hear that. Why aren’t we heading toward the bar? She said she wants a drink. I wouldn’t mind another, either, after that.”

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