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Match the Hatch
By Elizabeth Woolsey
I felt my phone vibrating. It was daylight, and I was still in bed. Who would call me? Oh, my head. Hello, my name is Maggie Kincaid, and I am a once-a-year alcoholic. I blame my family. The rehearsal dinner was a grog-fest in the true Australian tradition. As I returned to my cabin, my children all high fived one another on a great “piss-up.” Yep, it was the traditional alcoholic- fueled orgy that my Australian-born kids expected.
I reached for the phone and dropped it twice before answering it. I didn’t have my reading glasses, and with my condition, I wasn’t sure the glasses would help, anyway. “Hello? Not sure who you are, but it better be good.”
“It’s your soon-to-be betrothed. Where are the rings, darlin’?”
“In the safe, where you put them. Collie, what are you doing up so early?” “Are you serious? You realize I’m cooking breakfast for about thirty people?”
“Where’s Mrs. Gillard?” Mrs. Gillard was Colin Chandler’s housekeeper and the kitchen goddess that made my life worth living. “Breakfast isn’t until nine. I wish you would reconsider and let me come.”
“Not a chance, and Mrs. G won’t be here for another hour. You aren’t allowed over here until the ceremony. I’m not risking the traditional wedding luck by seeing you before the event.”
“I think you’re being ridiculous, but I’m not dying on that hill. I’ll be fishing if I can clear my brain and lose the hangover while you’re entertaining the guests. Stay away from the river if you insist on testing my limits, Collie.”
“You aren’t allowed on my… Oops, I mean our property until after the wedding. Just get your Princess Diana wedding dress out of the mothballs and stay home.”
I laughed, thinking about my wedding dress procurement from an Op-Shop, short for opportunity shop, in Australia earlier this year. Op-Shop was another Australian term I preferred over the American second-hand store moniker. The shop owner assured me it was just like Princess Diana’s dress.
Thankfully, she was so wrong. It was beautiful and modern. I had to pay a bit more than I had budgeted. I remembered the Australian dollar was only seventy-eight cents on the US dollar, bringing it back into my budget. The price was from seventy-nine to seventy-five dollars, depending on the veil. Screw the veil.
The shocker was that my daughter approved. From seven years of age, she announced she was adopted—no fashionista could be related to such a poor dresser. Now, as an adult with children of her own, she still endeavored to advise me on current fashion trends—fail.
“Okay, I won’t come over.” Behind my log cabin is a National Forest with trails and a beautiful lake. “Can you have Luke bring Digger over so I can go to Saddleback Lake and get my fix?” Digger was the horse that clinched my acceptance of Colin’s wedding proposal—good looking, talented, and old-lady-broke-to-death. He was the horse of my dreams. In truth, Colin had given him to me when I helped Colin’s grandson emerge from a long period in which he didn’t speak after watching his mother violently killed in a drug deal gone wrong. Wedding or not—Digger was mine.
“Uh, no. Not gonna happen, darlin’. Magpie, you’re testing my limits. You’re sadly mistaken if you think this day is for the bride only. You agreed to the schedule.”
My children and grandchildren were already staying with Colin and Luke, my soon-to-be grandson by marriage. My sister, brother, and their spouses were here next door with me in my cabin.
“If Christy isn’t feeling well, you can entertain her, but breakfast is at nine, and I expect you to make sure the rest of your family is over here.”
The plan was for the bride and groom to be separated until the ceremony at three. Colin would entertain the guests before the wedding. He thought I would need hours to prepare, but my daughter Colleen and my sister Christy would help me. I knew it would be a thirty-minute job.
“Back to the main reason for the call. I can’t find the rings. I checked the safe, but they aren’t there.”
“Not a clue, beautiful boy. The rings are your department. If Luke brought Digger over, I might remember where they are, but….”
“Darlin’, Digger will give your grandchildren rides today.”
“You win. Check the top drawer of my dresser.” I knew Digger might encourage my grandchildren to become interested in riding. How did I fail? Not one of my children was interested in equestrian sports. I’d need to count on the “generational skip” concept that my parents often discussed.
I rarely fly fished in Australia, so I could understand them not following me in my other obsession. Like most parents, I worried about not passing on my values. I failed to teach them many things. So far, they’ve been upstanding and contributing citizens—one arrest for drunken
and disorderly behavior aside. They were good kids, and I was proud of them and loved the grandchildren.
“Maggie, I can’t believe our wedding is today. Knowing everything that happened to you since we met, will you please stay at home, and do as I ask? I’m only asking, not demanding. I know where that would go. Please?”
“Well, when you put it that way…. How are Lauren and Dr. Harper doing?”
“The Kennedys are still asleep. Jeff’s helping me in the kitchen. Darlin’, I hate to go, but.” Colin paused and I could hear drawers opening and closing. “Damn, see you at the altar. Don’t be late.” I heard him yell for Luke. I knew Luke would know where Colin had placed the rings. He was so keen to have us married.
“Not yet, but I have a few hours.”
“Hey, can you believe the chances of meeting my classmate’s daughter in Australia? If Becky were alive, she’d be so proud of Lauren. I’m so pleased she coaxed her father and stepmom into joining us for the wedding. Collie, I love you.”
Jeff Harper was my lecturer in vet school. He taught reproduction. He married Becky, my roommate, during our first years of vet school. Lauren was Jeff’s daughter from his first marriage, which ended when Becky was killed in a rock slide. Lauren was married to Jim Kennedy, who is also a vet. Meeting Lauren when I did my last relief job for my old vet clinic in Australia was so unexpected.
“I love you too, darlin’. See you later. Oh, no more alcohol until tonight.” “Gelding Collie. Don’t try to boss me yet.”
“Just a suggestion. Hmm, I need to trim my nails.”
Colin and I had safe words to signal when one or the other went too far for what we referred to as negotiations. Mine was “gelding” which could be a noun denoting a castrated horse or the verb which meant the act of castration. My cue was the verb form.
He decided his cautionary word was not a word, but a single finger pointed upward.
Knowing I couldn’t see his finger, that was an audible. “Later, beautiful boy. I’m considering my options. The nail trimmers are in the top drawer of my cabinet.” Best to keep him guessing.
Please God, one year, but then again, I’ll gratefully accept ten more.
My sister knocked at my bedroom door. “Maggie, there’s a man at the door. He says he needs to speak to you. I’ve made coffee. Come on down.”
“Coming.” Who the hell would be at my door at six-thirty in the morning? Whoa, even standing up is making me nauseous.
I threw on a robe and staggered down the stairs to my great room. Standing at the door was a man in a boy scout-like uniform. He looked disheveled and distressed. He was rotund and appeared as a man who’d been up all night. I could see the agony on his face.
“May I help you?”
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