Did you miss Chapter One?
Did you miss Chapter Two?
Did you miss part one of Chapter Three?
Chapter Three Continued…
“Anyway…” Chelsea ignored my question. It was very difficult having a conversation where you were being ignored. “Take a look at the food. The cake is a scream. Babette will love it,” she said in a voice that implied that she didn’t love it. “And those balloons are so…so fun.”
I spoke up in support of whoever brought them because they seemed like a kindred spirit. “I like the balloons and cake.”
The woman continued to act as if I hadn’t spoken. “I’m sure you all did the best you could on such short notice.” She patted my arm. “Anyway, Charlie…the groom, is around here somewhere. I should introduce you to my family to make you feel more welcome.” She stared into the dim recesses and pointed out a woman reading. “That’s my sister.”
The woman seemed to know we were talking about her and looked up in annoyance. She had thick, black-framed glasses and a hairstyle that screamed Velma from Scooby-Doo. An angry Velma, it appeared, as she scowled before turning back to the book. Now I knew the names of three people—Chelsea, Charlie, and their sister, Charlene—whose name I recalled from the guest list. It seemed like a win, but I kept it to myself.
“And who are the others…” I looked around, but Chelsea had left me for the bar.
What just happened? Chelsea had passive-aggressive down to an art form. She seemed nice but also seemed like a bit of a snob. Simplistic invites? What kind are you supposed to have? They were pink and had a couple of flowers on them. I thought that would be all right.
Oh well. It was only one night, and I could get along with anyone. I’d once turned a tense meeting—between a Ukrainian diplomat and a general from Russia who’d invaded Crimea—into a fun karaoke night at a dive bar in Paraguay that, come to think of it, must’ve had the same decorator as this hotel. I could do this.
Steeling myself, I took the opportunity to approach the other sister. “Hi, Charlene.” I held out my hand. “I’m Merry.”
“It’s CHarlene,” she snapped. “With a hard Ch! Why can’t anyone remember that? It’s not like it’s difficult!”
“I had no idea,” I apologized. “My bad.”
It’s been attributed to many people, but someone once said, Diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggy” until you can get your hands on a rock. I was pretty sure in this case my “rock” would be a large glass of wine.
“Your invitations sucked,” Charlene said. “They were way too fancy.”
Maybe two large glasses of wine.
“Your sister just told me they were too simple,” I said.
Charlene with a hard Ch sneered. “Well she’s an idiot. Can you believe she got Babette the Bimbo and our brother together?”
“Babette’s not a bimbo,” I warned. Okay, I wasn’t close enough to the bar and I didn’t see any rocks, but maybe I could chuck the fake fireplace at her.
“She never says my name right.” She got up, and I noticed she was reading Moby Dick. “I can’t stand the woman. She has no business being in our family.” And with that, she stormed away.
The party hadn’t even started, and I was already screwing up. I walked over to the bar and ordered. The bartender winked and did a very dramatic pouring of the house red, fanning his green-gloved hands and using jazz fingers as if he was demonstrating that this was, in fact, a wine glass and he was, in fact, pouring wine.
“The name’s Stone,” he said as if introducing himself as James Bond—something spies never do, by the way. “Rock Stone.”
I laughed. “You’re joking.”
He seemed insulted. “No. I’m not. It’s my stage name.”
I walked away before he could tell me anything else…or at least before I could make fun of him. As a role model for little girls, I was always trying to better myself, and mocking this guy just because he was weird kinda seemed like a bad thing.
Charlene was on the other side of the room reading as Chelsea passed me and sidled up to Rock Stone with an empty glass. So those were Babette’s future sisters-in-law? I silently wished her good luck. I had two of those…twins who were middle-aged taxidermists. Randi loved and adored me, while Ronni believed I was a pestilence on this Earth, on par with roaches, Russian figure skaters, and toxic waste.
By the way, they specialized in anthropomorphic taxidermy, where they stuffed, dressed, and posed dead animals as people doing people-y things. Often, Ronni portrayed me with a roach. Still, I cherished my mockup of a capsizing Titanic, complete with tiny hamsters screaming in terror. They really were talented.
I thought about what the sisters had said. Chelsea had introduced Babette to her brother, Charlie. The women must know each other professionally, what with Chelsea being a pharmacist and Babette in pharma sales. I didn’t know much about Charlie, but I had met his sisters. Hopefully, he wasn’t like Charlene, who seemed to loathe Babette. Perhaps Charlie was a happy medium between his sisters. I’d hate to think Babette would end up with a sister-in-law who hated her.
And to hate her over the pronunciation of her name? Was it really about that, or was Charlene one of those women you just couldn’t make happy? She seemed smart. Not a lot of people read Moby Dick for fun—especially at a bachelorette party. Or was the book just a prop for her to hide her disgust behind?
As if she knew I was thinking of her, Charlene looked up at me, and I could swear she growled from across the room. That woman did not want to be here. Had Chelsea made her come? Had Charlie guilted her into it? As long as she didn’t ruin Babette’s party, I’d let her be.
I took a gulp of wine and closed my eyes. God willing, I’d gotten all of the oddball folks out of the way. Surely Babette had some nice, normal friends.
“Interesting place, isn’t it?” The very pretty woman in the pink skirt and high heels was at my right elbow. “I’m Valentine.”
The warmth in her voice made me relax all the way down to my shoes. Or maybe it was the wine.
I held out my hand. “I’m Merry. I remember your name from the list.”
We shook hands, and I noticed her genuine smile. I was going to hang around her for the rest of the night. Hopefully, she wouldn’t mind that too much.
The pregnant woman walked over to us. “Hi! I’m Kate. Are you normal? Because other than Valentine here, I haven’t met anyone normal yet.”
Okay. I’d found my crew for the night. Stick with them and what could go wrong?
My cell buzzed with a text from Hilly.
Forgot and heated up oven without taking your gun out first. You’re gonna need a new stove. Betty’s working on plans to kidnap the mayor. She’s a funny kid. Bye!
I didn’t respond and shoved my cell into my purse. It wasn’t the first time I needed a new stove. I really should find another place to hide my weapon. Live and learn, right? I turned back to my new friends to find Valentine telling Kate about how she once took down a bad guy with a can of hairspray and a hat pin.
At last! Somebody normal to talk to.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”I couldn’t stop reading!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Fast-paced and fun. I love these mysteires!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Diana Orgain is my new favorite author!”
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