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Once Upon a Wedding
by Kathleen Eagle
William Morrow, 2002


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Chapter One

In all four chambers of her practical heart, Camille Delonga believed that one of the surest ways of blowing a considerable pile of money was to hitch a girl's dream onto the six-foot train of a woman's wedding dress. The proof of her sentiment, in all its floral-scented glory, lay before her as she and her mother waited to be ushered to their seats in church. There the children of her friend for life, Bridget Mayfield, had been baptized.

Camille had dutifully been there for both babies. The first one had yowled like a tomcat on the make, and Camille recalled wondering how Bridget could live with that noise. The second, who would soon be walking down the aisle in a different sort of white dress from the one she'd worn over twenty years ago, had taken to her christening spotlight like a Christmas cherub. By then babies were looking downright darling to Camille, as were her own beach-ball belly and the bad boy who'd promised to be her mate for life. Soon the belly had deflated. Later the promise. But the beginnings had been glorious, filled, in the way of beginnings, with soft colors, summer flowers, and much music. Way too much music.

In the last year Camille had heard more about the details and the worries and the changes in the plans for Lauren's wedding than she cared to remember. But today, like the day of Lauren's first name-giving, all was right with the world. Bridget and Camille had seen each other through some thickheaded and thin-skinned times, and they were still friends. Bridget was the one who enjoyed playing in money. Camille preferred to put it to work, but she enjoyed seeing how Bridget's spending played out. Bridget called Camille a vicarious shopper, but neither saw anything wrong with that. They balanced, often beautifully.

Mother of the bride had been Bridget's best role ever. Every phone call began with a wedding update. She offered a wedding monologue every time they had lunch with Ellie Terrell, the third leg of their girlfriend tripod. Bridget would be soaring over some great wedding find one week and suffering over some perceived loss the next. "In for a penny, in for a pound" had become Bridget's mantra. In for a pile of bills, Camille thought, and she'd said as much, because they were friends.

Not that her opinion on this particular matter counted with Bridget, but thank God it counted with Jordan. "You don't need to be the princess bride," Camille had told her daughter a time or ten. "When your turn comes, have a small, tasteful ceremony, a party for close family and friends, and put the money you save toward a house."

Jordan always agreed, if tacitly. After all, no objection was as good as an agreement. Jordan could be quite sensible when she put her mind to it, which she often did these days. True, she hadn't stuck it out in college, but she had a good head on her shoulders. She could be anything she wanted to be, just as soon as she decided what that was. Camille had no reservations about putting all her pennies and pounds into her daughter's education, even when Jordan had dropped out. Education was never a waste.

"Mrs. Burke, Mrs. Delonga, you both look beautiful." Usher James Mayfield greeted them with a killer smile. "I've saved you two ladies the best seats in the house."

Camille tried to remember how long it had been since the bride's older brother had left home. He had known her as Mrs. Burke when he was growing up, but she'd reclaimed her maiden name after her divorce. James must have been in college by then. Bridget's kids had always been such good manner-minders, which somehow irritated Camille enough to want to correct James's error on the spot. But she beat down the urge. Both of Bridget's children had finished college. Ever-polite college graduates. Your basic other people's kids.

"You look like a million bucks in that tux, young man," said Rosemary Delonga as she took James's arm. "I suppose you've noticed how nicely my granddaughter has filled out."

Over the top of Rosemary's new platinum blond wig, James sent Camille a sweet, sheepish look, "Yes, maam, I surely have."

Camille smiled as they walked down the aisle to the strains of a string quartet. "How long will you be home?"

"Indefinitely," James whispered. "I'm moving back to the Cities. How's this?"

Seats on the aisle. Perfect. Camille went in first so that her mother would have the best view. "How're you doing, Mama? Feeling okay?"

"This is one of my favorite concertos. The musicians are good."

"They ought to be. They belong to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra."

"Bridget has good taste." Rosemary settled back in the oak pew and opened the vellum program. "I just love weddings."

Since when? Camille wondered. She could count the weddings she'd attended with her mother on half a hand. The last that came to mind was her brother Matt's wedding. She'd been newly married herself then, but Creed had been on the road with his band and she'd attended without him. Camille had spent most of the reception with Mama and her friends, pretending she didn't notice that they were pretending not to wonder whether she had any regrets yet.

But before Matt's wedding, the Delongas had rarely proclaimed themselves the marrying kind. Mama had taken Camille to an older cousin's wedding when she was about ten or twelve. She remembered being the only kid among the few family members in attendance. Most of them had cried through the whole thing. When she'd asked what was wrong, Mama had whispered, "Nothing." Then she'd blown her nose...

Excerpted from Once Upon a Wedding by Kathleen Eagle. Copyright © 2002 by Kathleen Eagle. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.











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