by Donna Andrews

Copyright 1999

by Donna Andrews.


Winner of the 1998 St. Martin's Press/malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Contest, Donna Andrews introduces a cast of quirky characters who pull her heroine in different directions as she plans three successive summer weddings.

When Meg Langslow is roped into being a bridesmaid for the nuptials of her mother, her brother's fiancee, and her own best friend, she is apprehensive. Getting the brides to choose their outfits and those of their bridesmaids (and not change their minds three days later), trying to capture the principals long enough to work out details, and even finding peacocks to strut around the garden during the ceremony--these are things Meg can handle. She can brush off the unfortunate oaf who is smitten with her, and take philosophically her disappointment when she learns that the only eligible man in her small Virginia town (and a delightful hunk he is) is of questionable sexual preference. But even Meg is taken aback when the unpleasant former sister-in-law of Meg's soon-to-be stepfather disappears and is later found dead.

  Well, that's one way to zip up a wedding, and Andrews does a fine job of making the three celebrations more fun and more unusual than anything you've ever read in Ann Landers.

DONNA ANDREWS lives in Arlington, Virginia.


          Tuesday, May 24

  I had become so used to hysterical dawn phone calls that I only muttered one half hearted oath before answering.

  'Peacocks,' a voice said.

  'I beg your pardon, you must have the wrong number,' I mumbled. I opened one eye to peer at the clock: it was 6:00 A.m.

  'Oh, don't be silly, Meg,' the voice continued. Ah, I recognized it now. Samantha, my brother, Rob's, fiancee.

'I just called to tell you that we need some peacocks.'

  'What for?'

  'For the wedding, of course.' Of course. As far as Samantha was concerned, the entire universe revolved around her upcoming wedding, and as maid of honor, I was expected to share her obsession.

  'I see,' I said, although actually I didn't. I suppressed a shudder at the thought of peacocks, roasted with the feathers still on, gracing the buffet table. Surely that wasn't what she had in mind, was it? 'What are we going to do with them at the wedding?'

  'We're not going to do anything with them' Samantha said, impatiently. 'They'll just be there, adding grace and elegance to the occasion. Don't you remember the weekend before last when we all had dinner with your father? And he was saying what a pity it was that nothing much would be blooming in the yard in August, so there wouldn't be much color? Well, I just saw a photo in a magazine that had peacocks in it, and they were just about the most darling things you ever saw ...'

  I let her rattle on while I fumbled over the contents of my bedside table, found my notebook-that-tells-me- when-to-breathe, flipped to the appropriate page, and wrote 'Peacocks' in the clear, firm printing I use when I am not in a very good mood.

  'Were you thinking of buying or renting them?' I asked, interrupting Samantha's oration on the charms of peacocks.

  'Well--rent if we can. I'm sure Father would be perfectly happy to buy them if necessary, but I'm not sure what we would do with them in the long run.' I noted 'Rent/buy if necessary' after


  'Right. Peacocks. I'll see what I can turn up.'

  'Wonderful. Oh, Meg, you're just so wonderful at all this!'

  I let her gush for a few more minutes. I wondered, not for the first time, if I should feel sorry for Rob or if he was actually looking forward to listening to her for the rest of his life. And did Rob, who shared my penchant for late hours, realize how much of a morning person Samantha was? Eventually, I managed to cut short her monologue and sign off. I was awake; I might as well get to work.

  Muttering 'Peacocks!' under my breath, I stumbled through a quick shower, grabbed some coffee, and went into my studio. I flung open all the windows and gazed fondly at my unlit forge and my ironworking tools. My spirits rose.

  For about ten seconds. Then the phone rang again.

  'What do you think of blue, dear?' my mother asked.

  'Good morning, Mother. What do you mean, blue?'

  'The color blue, dear.'

  'The color blue,' I repeated, unenlightened. I am not at my best before noon.

  'Yes, dear,' Mother said, with a touch of impatience.

  'What do I think of it?' I asked, baffled. 'I think it's a lovely color. The majority of Americans name blue when asked their favorite color. In Asian cultures--'

  'For the living room, dear.'

  'Oh. You're getting something blue for the living room?'

  'I'm redoing it, dear. For the wedding, remember? In blue. Or green. But I was really leaning to blue. I was wondering what you thought.'

  What I thought? Truthfully? I thought my mother's idea of redoing the living room for the wedding had been a temporary aberration arising from too much sherry after dinner at an uncle's house. And incidentally, the wedding in question was not Rob's and Samantha's but her own. After the world's most amiable divorce and five years of so-called single life during which my father happily continued to do all her yard work and run errands for her, my mother had decided to marry a recently widowed neighbor. And I had also agreed to be Mother's maid of honor. Which, knowing my mother, meant I had more or less agreed to do every lick of work associated with the occasion. Under her exacting supervision, of course.

  'What sort of blue?' I asked, buying time. The living room was done entirely in earth tones. Redoing it in blue would involve new drapes, new upholstery, new carpet, new everything. Oh, well, Dad could afford it, I suppose. Only Dad wouldn't be paying, I reminded myself. What's-his-name would. Mother's fiance. Jake. I had no idea how well or badly off Jake was. Well, presumably Mother did.

  'I hadn't decided, dear. I thought you might have some ideas.'

  'Oh. I tell you what,' I said, improvising. 'I'll ask Eileen. She's the one with the real eye for color. I'll ask her, and we'll get some color swatches and we'll talk about it when I come down.'

  'That will be splendid, Meg dear. Well, I'll let you get back to your work now. See you in a few days.'

  I added 'Blue' to my list of things to do. I actually managed to put down my coffee and pick up my hammer before the phone rang a third time.

  'Oh, Meg, he's impossible. This is just not going to work.'

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