Nice girls dont bite the.., p.35
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.35

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 35

  Author: Molly Harper

  I gasped. The Coffee Spot had been our special place since I was little. Daddy and I would leave early on Saturday mornings under the pretense of running errands, and then we’d camp in a corner booth for most of the day, talking and eating cheese fries. Mama never could figure out how running to the hardware store and the grocery store always ended with Daddy getting Velveeta on his shirt. Of course, those cheese-fry runs got fewer and farther between when I went away to school, and even farther when Mama saw Daddy’s cholesterol results. And they stopped altogether when I went on the liquid diet.

  I turned to my father, who grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “We are going to have one last shot at cheese fries. ”

  “But I can’t eat. ”

  He grinned. “No, but you can watch me eat. And you can have one of those bottled bloods. I called ahead and asked Marjorie to stock them for you. She misses you, you know. ”

  I sighed. “I really, really love you, Daddy. ”

  “Obviously,” he said, his eyes twinkling as we climbed out of the car.

  “I’m sorry we haven’t had much time together lately,” I said as we entered the coffee shop.

  Marjorie, who had been waiting tables at the Coffee Spot since it opened in 1956, whooped and pulled my face between her worn, bony hands.

  “Look at you!” she cried, squeezing my cheeks in a death grip. Her iron-gray hair was coming loose from its top knot as she practically vibrated with excitement. “Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you, Janie! And you’re getting married tomorrow! Look at that ring! I’m so happy for you. ”

  “Thanks, Miss Marjorie. ”

  “I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I’ve seen you,” she said as Daddy and I slid into our usual booth, with the cracked green leatherette seats. Marjorie didn’t bother handing us grease-spotted menus. Daddy’s order never changed from cheese fries and a cherry Coke.

  “I’m sorry. You tend to spend less time in restaurants when you don’t eat solids. ”

  “That’s all right, hon. Your daddy told me you like that Faux Type O. I’ll grab one for you and heat it up,” she said. “John, I’ll get your cheese fries going. I’ll be right back. ”

  Daddy chuckled at my shocked expression. “Marjorie’s always been an energetic gal. ”

  “What was I saying?”

  “You were apologizing for abandoning your father while pursuing silly things like running your own business and maintaining a relationship. Oh, and training my grand-childe to be a good little vampire. ”

  “I’m sorry, Daddy. ”

  “Aw, hell, Jane. I’m glad you’re so busy. I worried about you before, when you were working at the library. You always seemed to be waiting for your life to start. I just want to make sure this is the life you wanted. I wouldn’t want you to make a commitment to someone who didn’t make you happy. ”

  “Dad, are you giving me the Mr. Bennet premarital speech from Pride and Prejudice?”

  “Well, you are doing a sort of theme wedding. ”

  “Nice. Don’t you think it’s a little late in the game for this conversation? Are fathers of the bride supposed to get cold feet?”

  “Any man standing on the verge of giving a daughter away has cold feet. When Jenny married Kent, I had to stop myself from throwing her in the back of the car and making a break for Hershey, Pennsylvania. It’s nothing personal against Gabriel. He’s a perfectly nice fella. I’m just saying, I know your mom has put a lot of pressure on you to settle down. I want to make sure you didn’t say yes because you’re afraid of being alone for the rest of eternity. ”

  “I’m not marrying him because I’m afraid of being alone. I’m marrying him because I don’t want live without him specifically. Because when I think about being without him, I feel sort of dizzy and sick, like I’ve been cut off from the tether that keeps me on the ground. That’s about as flowery and romantic as I’m going to get. ”

  He smiled, his eyes watering a little. “No, that was just right. Believe it or not, that’s exactly how I feel when I think about losing your mama. ”

  “That is hard to believe. ” I snorted as Marjorie slid piping-hot fries, dripping in gooey orange nondairy cheese food, in front of my father.

  “I don’t know what I’m going to do now that you’re all grown up. ”

  “Daddy, I’m thirty-one years old. ”

  “Yeah, but I could always come here and depend on you to listen to my stupid stories and humor your old man. ”

  “Well, you can still do that; you’ll just have an extra pair of ears listening. Gabriel really likes you, you know. ”

  “I guess I like him, as much as I could like the man who’s making me give away my baby girl,” he said quietly. “I couldn’t hand you over to a man I didn’t think deserved you, Janie. ”

  “Thank you, Daddy. ” I paused, taking a sip of the warmed bottle of blood that Marjorie had dropped off at the table. “Why Hershey, Pennsylvania?”

  He shrugged. “Jenny’s wanted to go there since she was a little girl, ever since she heard that the streetlamps are shaped like Hershey’s Kisses. ”

  “That’s sweet. What was my potential kidnapping destination?”

  He reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “Right here. ”

  I snorted. “Exotic downtown Half-Moon Hollow?”

  “Well, you’re a lot stronger than me. I knew I couldn’t overpower you for long. ”

  My wedding night set clear and warm, with a fingernail moon sliding low over the horizon. Jolene came bounding into my room at sunset, hopping up and down on the bed, bouncing me off onto the floor.

  I sat up and glared at her. “Andrea gave you espresso, didn’t she?”

  “Nope!” she crowed. “But she showed me how to work the machine!”

  “Augh!” I groaned, covering my face with a pillow.

  “Come on, Jane, it’s your weddin’ night!” she cried. “Get up! Get excited! Your mama’s already been outside most of the day, helpin’ Iris get everything all set up. It’s just gorgeous out there. Like somethin’ out of one of your movies. ”

  “Really?” I perked up, carefully retracting the sunproof shade so I could look out over the backyard. I gasped. When I’d gone to bed, it had looked like my backyard on any other night, just with lawn chairs lined up on it. Now it looked positively elegant, with a long ivory aisle runner stretched between the rows of chairs to the arbor, which was covered in fluffy green moss and roses in shades of ivory, lavender, and yellow. Little wildflowers offset the overly formal look of the roses, making it seem as though some helpful soul had just walked through the gardens at River Oaks and picked a few blossoms. The chairs were looped with ivory bows. There were little glass globes with lit candles hanging from the trees and ivory paper lanterns.

  On the far side of the yard, I could see tables being set up for the reception. The rental service’s employees were milling around the yard like an army of productive ants, setting up chairs, putting out table linens. Mama was in the middle of it all, conducting the chaos like a virtuoso.

  “Where’s Gabriel?” I asked, stretching and checking the clock. We only had an hour before the wedding. With the sun setting so late during the summer, we couldn’t wait too long after dusk, or we’d be entertaining our guests well past their bedtimes. And ours, for that matter.

  “You’ll be very proud of them,” Jolene told me as I retrieved my fancy nuptial underwear set from the dresser and ran into the bathroom. She shouted through the bathroom door as I buckled myself into my strapless bra. “The boys came home at a reasonable hour last night, mostly sober. Gabriel and Jamie crashed over at Dick and Andrea’s to give you some space. Oh, and Jamie won twenty-four dollars playing blackjack. He didn’t try to feed on a single human, not once. ”

  “That’s good news. ” I emerged from the bathroom in my robe, because as close as we were, I wasn’t going to hang out with Jolene and Andrea in my underwear for the next hour.

  The door burst open, and my sister barreled into the room, wearing her bridesmaid’s dress. “Who’s ready to get married?”

  I burst out cackling at the sight of my sister in her “biohazard suit” bridesmaid’s dress. The neckline was off the shoulder, with a wide ruffle of egg-yolk yellow that gathered at the cleavage with a fabric rose, which accented the bodice’s descent into what can only be described as a waist lapel. The whole effect made even my classically beautiful sister look sallow and misshapen. I laughed so hard that I tried to sit on the bed to support my shaking legs, but I missed and ended up in a giggling heap on the floor.

  “Oh, good. I see that trademark charm is going to be what sustains us all night. ”

  “I’m sorry, Jenny, this is all my fault,” Jolene assured her. “I made Jane wear this dress at my wedding, and you’re a victim of the fallout. ”

  “She’s the victim of fallout, all right. ” I giggled. Jenny glared at me. I sniffed and wiped at my eyes. “Sorry. ”

  “Really?” Jenny asked.

  “No. But look, I painted my toenails to match your dresses. ” I wiggled my toes in her direction to show her the neon-yellow polish. “Out of solidarity. ”

  “Doesn’t count,” Jenny insisted. “Your shoes will cover them up. Now, come on and get dressed. Kent and the boys can’t wait to see what kind of outfit a vampire bride wears. ”

  I sniffed, wiping at my eyes as I rose. I managed to pull myself together, only to have Andrea come in wearing her dress, and I started giggling all over again.

  Jolene left to go get dressed, while Jenny and Andrea pulled me in front of the vanity.

  “Remember, neutral tones,” Jenny said, dumping a shoulder bag full of cosmetics onto the vanity. “We want a light, smoky eye and a soft coral lip. And let’s try to do something about those dark circles. ”

  “Hey, that’s not fair. Vampires have dark circles. Andrea has dark circles. ”

  “Did you see them on my wedding night?” Andrea asked.

  “No,” I grumbled.

  She preened. “Because I know how to use concealer. ”

  Mama came bustling into the room with a garment bag over her shoulder and a mug of blood in her hand. Because there just weren’t enough people in the room already. “Hi, sweetie! Are you excited?”

  “So excited I may vomit at any moment,” I assured her.

  “Oh, you silly. ” She chuckled, handing me the mug of warm donor A-positive. “Gabriel said it would be better if you had something substantial in your system, so you’re getting the real stuff today. Use the straw so you don’t mess up your lipstick. And don’t get that anywhere near the dresses! The last thing we need is you girls walking down the aisle looking like extras from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. ”

  She hustled into the bathroom to change into her mother-of-the-bride frock. I stared after her, my mouth hanging open.

  “Did Mama just hand me a cup of human blood and then make a joke about a horror movie?” I asked Jenny, who nodded, all astonishment. “Doesn’t the Bible list that as one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse?”

  “Well, not in the King James version,” Jenny said.

  “Ah!” I cried, dribbling blood back into the mug. “Don’t be clever while I’m drinking. Blood spit-takes are gross!”

  Andrea continued to lacquer my face, while Jenny piled my hair on top of my head. A couple of pins, a little hairspray, and I had a perfectly acceptable bun to pin my veil to. Mama came out of the bathroom in a pretty dove-gray suit and heels.
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