When Janet had volunteered to help coordinate the wedding arrangements, Amy had jumped at the offer. Janet had no daughters and Amy’s mother had died when she was twelve. She and Janet got along well. If only Amy had known just how “helpful” Janet could be.
And, Michael. A lot of good he was. She glanced at him lounging against the florist shop wall and he gave her that that knee-melting smile—his way of cajoling her out of any hint of a bad mood. Amy’s heart warmed. Unfortunately, it usually worked.
“Amy, Michael. This is perfect.” Janet rushed over, photo book in hand. She pointed at a gargantuan bouquet of multi-hued flowers. “It has colors to match all of your bridesmaids’ dresses.”
And the bridesmaids for several other weddings, as well, Amy thought.
“What do you think?” Janet asked expectantly. “Isn’t the Baby’s Breath just the right touch. I love Baby’s Breath.”
“Well,” Amy started. “I was thinking of something a little simpler. Maybe red and white roses.”
Janet turned to Michael. He pushed away from the wall and strolled over to peer intently at the photo. Amy smiled as his dark curls fell forward and he stroked his chin, as he had a habit of doing he was unsure of what to say.
“What do you think?” Janet repeated.
Michael straightened and combed his hair back with his fingers. “Whatever you and Amy like,” he said.
Amy fought the temptation to scream and glared at him instead. So, maybe flowers weren’t his thing. But that was his standard reply to almost anything having to do with the wedding.
He gave her a “what did I do now?” shrug.
She turned back to Janet, who had placed the photo book on the table.
“Looks like you’ll have to decide yourself,” Janet said. “I’ve got to run. I’m showing another one of those new townhouses over on Maple Avenue. They’re selling fast. You two really should reconsider buying one. The price is unbeatable.”
Amy had to bite her lip to keep from giggling as Michael rolled his eyes. Michael had told his mother countless times they weren’t ready to buy a house yet.
“Bye, Mom,” he said. He waved her out.
Amy picked up the photo book Janet had left on the table and started leafing through it.
The florist walked over. “How are you doing?” she asked. “Do you need any help?”
“No,” Amy replied more forcefully than necessary. Her voice softened. “I like this one.” She pointed at photo showing a bridal bouquet of ivory rosebuds surrounded by matching attendants’ nosegays.
“That’s one of my favorites,” the florist said. “May I suggest single matching roses for the boutonnieres?”
Amy looked at Michael, who nodded. “Yes, that would be fine,” she said.
“If that’s all, I’ll write up the order.”
Amy hesitated. “Could you add a spray of Baby’s Breath to my bouquet and the groom’s mother’s corsage?”
Amy and Michael completed the order and walked out hand in hand. When they reached his car, he bent down and gave her a quick kiss.
“What was that for?” she teased.
“Because I love you,” he answered. She smiled up at him. He kissed her longer and more thoroughly until she had to brace herself against the car to keep her knees from buckling. “And that one,” he said, “is for putting up with Mom.”
* * *
With great fortitude and Michael as a buffer, Amy was able to remain on goods terms with Janet through out the remaining weeks until the wedding. As her coup de grace, Janet threw a rehearsal dinner staged—in Amy’s view—to rival the wedding reception.
After dinner, Janet drew Amy and Michael aside. She bubbled with excitement. “I can’t wait a moment longer. Chuck and I have a surprise for you two.”
Amy’s heart sunk. She was jittery enough. She didn’t need surprises the night before her wedding.
“We’ve booked you on a singing tour of Ireland for your honeymoon.”
A singing tour of Ireland. She and Michael had made plans to rent a secluded cabin in Vermont for a week. But Amy had never been to Ireland. It could be fun. Michael squeezed her hand and she gave him a tentative smile. “Janet, that’s—"
“Don’t thank me yet.” Janet beamed. “It gets better. Chuck and I are coming, too.”
Amy’s eyes filled with angry tears. She pulled her hand from Michael’s and made her way out of the restaurant. The hot heavy summer air hit her and the tears flowed.
“Amy!” Michael caught up with her before she reached her car.
She wiped away her tears before turning toward him. “I am not spending our honeymoon with your parents.”
Michael rubbed her shoulder just the way she liked, easing some of the tension. “We’ll work it out.”
She pushed his hand away. “No, Michael. We won’t. I’m calling an end to this . . . this circus.”
He kissed her forehead. “Amy, why don’t you go home and rest. I’ll take care of things.” Michael opened the car door for her. “See you in the morning.”
“Maybe.” She slammed the door and drove off.
* * *
“Dad, can you see what’s going on?” Amy stopped herself from picking at the pearls embroidered into the lace of her gown. She looked at the long line of traffic stopped ahead of them. “We’re going to be late.” Her voice caught. “Michael will think I’m not coming.”
Her father patted her knee. “Honey, we’re not that late—”
“Yet,” she finished. “Oh, Daddy. You didn’t hear what I said. Michael will think I’m not coming. Amy frowned at the cars ahead. “I’ve got to see what’s going on.” She opened the limo door, gathered up her skirts, and stepped to the curb.
“Amy! What are you doing?” He climbed out after her and followed her up the sidewalk.
A block ahead, a colorful circus wagon lay tipped on its side across the street. Foiled by a circus. How fitting. Amy turned to her father, hysteria creeping into her voice, “Daddy, I’m going to miss my wedding.”
He looked helplessly up and down the street and, then, wrapped her in a bear hug. She buried her sobs in his shoulder.
Amy lifted her head and peered at the sidewalk behind her father. A clown in a miniature car grinned at her, his kinky red, white, and blue hair sparkling in the morning sun.
“Do I detect a problem, here?” the clown asked.
“Ferpo, the clown, at your service.” He motioned to a little wagon attached to the back of his car.
She looked at the wagon, looked at her voluminous skirt, and looked at wagon again. Why not? “Dad, can you run back and get my veil and bouquet from the limo?”
“Sure, honey,” he answered, eyeing the clown and his vehicle with skepticism.
While she waited, Ferpo dusted the wagon with a feather duster he pulled from his sleeve. He helped her and her father into the little wagon and took off up the sidewalk, tooting and waving to everyone.
The little parade stopped at the church. Ferpo helped Amy and her father to the sidewalk.
“Thank you so much.” Amy said.
“I don’t know what we would have done without you,” her father added, shaking the clown’s hand.
“Always ready to help a damsel in distress,” Ferpo replied. “Guess I’d better get back.”
“No, stay for the ceremony,” Amy said, “if you can.” I’d really like you to.
Amy’s bridesmaids fairly pounced on her when the threesome entered the vestibule, bombarding her with questions as they whisked her off to a side room. Amy returned to the vestibule in time to see Ferpo being seated in the pew across from Michael’s parents. Stifled laughter buzzed through the crowd.
“I figured he deserved a seat of honor,” her father said.
The clown gave Janet a courtly bow before taking his seat, turning her worried expression into a big smile.
* * *
Amy took her place beside Michael. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed.
“I understand,” he laughed. “It’s not a circus without a clown.”
Amy glanced at man seated at the front of the church and weighed Michael’s words for sarcasm. Had she spoiled the ceremony for him?
He gave her that knee-melting smile and squeezed her hand. “I love you, Amy Lynn McKissick.”
“I love you,” she whispered back as the minister began, “Dearly beloved . . . .”
—Jean C. Gordon, www.JeanCGordon.com