Depression Glass (part two)
“When you pick one, it’ll be yours to keep, your little souvenir.” Another chin over her shoulder. “Are you the girl with the pretty name? Jate’s?”
“We’re together.” Merrilee checked her shoes, finding safety to pivot, her Mary Janes toe-to-toe with a pair of pointy pumps, her eyes meeting a relative or college friend’s.
“Oh, that’s sweet. Why did my parents name me Tabitha? Reynold.”
The hand being shaken glided free. Tabitha had seen something and spun off.
“Your sis? Tabitha’s not a pretty name?”
“She’s my aunt.”
“Wow. And you call her Tabby?”
“No,” Jate said. “We call her bitch.”
“We’re all awful people.” She was back, complacent with family humor. “Did he tell you I’m the bride?”
Merrilee was able to open her mouth.
“Did you pick? Don’t be shy. In fact… You’d better have this, it’s Carnival.”
Drawn by a hand on her shoulder, Merrilee found her arm nudged into position like a mannequin’s…to cup a fluted bowl. With some trepidation, she braced this against her beltline.
“…maybe worth a little something. Both types were given away at fairs, and movie houses, and so forth. Depression glass is younger, dates to the thirties, and comes in these pastel shades.”
“Is that a candy dish?”
“Missing her lid. He let me have it free, the man with the store.”
“But…it would spill, if you tried to drink out of it…?”
“She’s a hairsplitter, Jate.”
Jate returned his goofy laugh.
“Drink out of your rose, and put cookies in your candy. I’m giving you both.”
Then the hand, and its pearl-pink short nails, gripped Merrilee’s forearm. “Don’t go yet. Bruce! Not you either. I want these loveydovies in the tableau. Cute as buttons.”
Bruce escorted a dolly, an iPad clamped on, filming. He was salt-and-pepper, spectacled, dressed in blue oxford and khakis. He was the groom, Jate said, low, into Merrilee’s ear.
“No, you should get with them,” Bruce was telling Tabitha. “And do a little nari.”
“Welcome back,” Tabitha said, amplified. “Before we talk nosh and recipes, I’ll introduce you to my nephew, Jeffrey…and this is Merrilee.”
Merrilee smiled for the camera. Tabitha made a cutting motion. Bruce crouched and adjusted the dolly’s height.
“I didn’t say your last name,” Tabitha told her. “That’s up to you. You’re going to be on TV! You like that, right? I don’t think we need signed papers. But…” She flapped her hand, to convey fusses. “Just speak up.”
“Or forever hold your peace.” Bruce said it.
Bruce, Merrilee had the impression, was a good mate for Jate’s aunt, taking orders, supplying expected lines.
“The table’s so pretty. Is this just the reception, then? Or are we driving someplace?”
She thought Jate was beside her.
“You’re right. I hate messing it up. See any better place for the music? My mother’s credenza, maybe, hidden under a swag of midcentury atomic, with a sunray clock adapted as a lazy susan?”
Not-Jate laughed. The laugh was so warm and inviting, Merrilee gave him a good look.
“Jonah Reynold.” He grinned. “Rings absolutely no bell. But I’m a little famous. I’ll take those.”
“Better,” he said further, ushering her, “than standing around without the use of your hands. There’s a little door in front.”
Under the turquoise and grey print, there was. Merrilee crouched; Jonah handed her down the candy dish and rose bowl.
“Well! You’re a little famous.” She stood.
“So I ought to make my proposal in context, right?” He laughed his forgivable laugh at her.
“Hey! My Unca.” Jate moved to the table end, and both men bent over a pair of wireless speakers, a phone stand between.
“Jonah. I’m Merrilee…”
“Nixon. I’ve been spying your page. For a reason.”
A blare of steel guitar. Merrilee could see Tabitha’s hand, from a corner conversation…near a corner secretary with a punchbowl on a hinged lid hung with torn lace…move flat-palmed. Turn the music down.
Jate tinkered. Jonah cocked his head, half-smiling.
“You guys! God! Bruce!”
Merrilee noticed the lyric. “Is the mother of this girl telling her not to trust men? Did Tabitha want that on the playlist?”
“She commands all the male attention,” Bruce said, arriving, and meaning Merrilee.
“To answer your question, I chose the songs myself. Yours is on there.”
“What, for her wedding? Now I feel sorry for her.”
The older men laughed, Jate’s uncle Dracula-like, bwah ha ha. He said to Bruce: “The telling now.”
“Don’t,” said Bruce.
(2022, Stephanie Foster)