Colleen dotted her face with her napkin and tried to hold it together. "I know I put myself above them but I didn't know what else to do. I was tired of sneaking around. Our marriage was on shaky grounds anyway. Belva was so into her social life," she paused. "But then, I was so involved in my life. I stayed as long as I could for Wells' sake. Finally I realized I wasn't helping anyone. Gallagher was far enough away from Mobile but close enough that I felt I hadn't gone that far."
Colleen sighed, "No, and that is something I am wrestling with." They looked up to see Grice approaching the table.
"Are y'all OK? Can I get you anything?"
"No thank you Grice, we are just fine," Cordelia said as she looked at Colleen and smiled.
Grice walked away and Colleen continued. "I always knew, or at least I hoped, that I would find someone. But I never thought it would be someone as nice as Haynes."
"Well, you are a knock out, if I must say so myself." Cordelia gave a little chuckle as she took a sip of her tea.
Colleen wasn't sure what to say. But Cordelia continued, "Seriously, Haynes is a wonderful man. No one thought he would ever start seeing someone after his wife died. You have brought joy back into his life. Be careful there." She paused. "And, I understand Parker is very fond of you also."
"I know, I know."
"I want you to know that I am here if you need me. Your secret is safe with me. However, I do not envy you figuring out how to handle Haynes."
Colleen smiled,"This means so much to me. I truly did not expect this reaction from you."
"Oh, I can surprise people." She smiled, "Now, I do not want to keep you from your appointment."
Colleen looked around for Grice, "At least let me pay."
"Honey, it is already on my account."
"Why am I not surprised?"
The ladies stood up and walked out of the Tea Room. On the sidewalk, Colleen gave Cordelia a warm hug. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
"Like I said, family is so important to me." Cordelia smiled, "Besides, I hoped you would share where you get your incredible wardrobe. Not that I could wear it as well as you do, but they might even have something striking for an old lady."
They both laughed and went their separate ways.
At the Quinton house, Dixie and Kathleen were having breakfast that morning, Dixie handed Kathleen a small cardboard box. It was 5 x 7 and about an inch deep. "What's this?" Kathleen asked as she opened the box.
"A surprise, I know you will love it. I am so excited they finally came in."
"They?" Kathleen stopped opening the box.
"Mama, what have you done?"
"Oh, it's just one more necessary thing for the wedding. It was on your list."
Kathleen continued opening the box with a sense of dread. So far, no 'surprise' about the wedding from her mother had been something she 'loved'. Inside the cardboard box was a lovely white satin covered box tied with a wide lavender gross grain bow. Kathleen looked up.
Dixie was standing there holding both her hands to her mouth, as if in prayer. "Honey, I am so excited!"
Kathleen untied the ribbon and opened the box. Inside was very thin lavender rice paper sealed with a gold sticker on which the letters J and K were embossed in large script. She carefully broke the seal and unfolded the paper. In it she found an engraved invitation with an elegant white ribbon tied at the top in another bow. She took the invitation out of the box and looked up at her mother. "A little much don't you think? You could have just handed me the invitation."
"That is the invitation."
Kathleen held up the card. "This, right?"
"No dear, the whole box. Isn't it fabulous!"
"This?" she held up the satin box. "This is the invitation?"
"Well of course they will be sent in an outer box, just like the one you opened."
"Fabulous? No Mama, this is ridiculous." Kathleen would have started crying except it was so outrageous - it was almost funny. She read the invitation which, thank God, had the traditional script. But something struck her as off. Then she saw it.
"Mama you realize you have Daddy's name wrong. 'Dawson' is not his middle name. In fact he doesn't have a middle name. Where did that come from?"
"Oh, honey, we couldn't have a father of the bride on a formal wedding invitation with no middle name. That is unheard of."
Kathleen shook her head. "So you just made up a name?"
"Never mind that, isn't it the most elegant thing you have ever seen?"
Kathleen dropped the invitation, box and all, on the kitchen table. "This is disgusting."
"Sweetheart, we have made so many plans . . ."
"No, you have made the plans, you picked out the cake, the floral 'designer', and now these things." She pointed to the box on the table. She picked up the invitation and read through it again. "This says the wedding will be at The Columns. I've never been to that place. How can I get married someplace I've never seen." She looked at Dixie. "This is not your wedding, it's mine." She paused. "Anyone paying attention to what you are doing would think it is your wedding."
Ignoring what Kathleen had just said. "We need to go visit The Columns. You will love it."
"Why do I need to go see it?"
"Honey, it is the wedding venue."
"Mama, I don't care about The Columns or a 'destination'."
"But it's already engraved on the invitation."
"Invitations? I still haven't gone through the guest list. Last time I looked, I recognized very few names." She paused. "That's it. We're eloping."
Kathleen walked out leaving Dixie with boxes, bows, and paper of the invitation piled on the kitchen table. Dixie picked the invitation up and put it back together. Quietly to herself, Dixie said, "I've always heard that young brides are emotional and temperamental, but Kathleen was being impossible. She didn't even appreciate all the work she had put into her daughter's wedding. These young people just did not understand the importance of the wedding itself."
The phone rang and Dixie found herself talking to the wedding coordinator at The Columns. "Mrs. Quinton, I hope I am not interrupting anything."
"No, not all." Suddenly Dixie had the worst thought - had The Columns double booked the venue?
The coordinator continued, "I was hoping you had had time to talk with Kathleen, the bride, about scheduling a visit to The Columns."
"Oh, I am working on it. I feel certain that I can call you later today with a date."
"Well, I hope so. I hesitate to say, but we have had several inquiries about that same day. If you are going to use the venue, the bride needs come visit." She paused,"Otherwise I will have to release the date to another wedding party where the Bride came with her mother to look at the venue."
Dixie, once again, assured the coordinator that she would call her promptly with a date and time.
She and the wedding coordinator rang off.
As she hung up, the coordinator did not have a good feeling about this. Once again it seemed as if she had a Mother of a Bride planning her dream wedding despite the desires of the Bride. From experience, she knew this was not going to end up well.