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Lilly Carlsen slammed the phone down. “The caterer is giving me fits.”

“What’s wrong?” Her daughter, Laurel, glanced at the clipboard on the kitchen counter next to Lilly. It was covered with sticky notes in every color of the rainbow.

“Now she says she won’t be able to provide shrimp cocktail for the wedding. Bill and Noley specifically requested shrimp cocktail.”

“Why can’t she provide it?”

“Because she’s allergic to it. Just yesterday she called to say that she’s going to be short-staffed. And since she won’t have enough employees there, she’s afraid that will increase her chances of having to be near the shrimp. Apparently they give her hives and she swells up like a tick.”


Lilly wondered aloud for the hundredth time whose idea it had been for her to organize the wedding of her brother and her best friend.

“Mom, why do you keep asking that? It was your idea.”

“It’s way more work than I realized. My only experience was planning my own wedding, and that was a hoedown compared to this.”

“I don’t know why you couldn’t just hire someone on Juniper Lake Manor’s approved list of caterers.”

“I told you why. Noley was adamant that I hire a caterer who graduated from the culinary program at the community college. She’s always looking for opportunities for the graduates.”

“You couldn’t have talked her out of that?”

Lilly gave Laurel a look. “Hardly. Besides, I haven’t even tried. She’s had enough on her mind lately. And I would think, being in that program yourself, that you’d agree with her.”

Laurel shrugged. “I guess. But if the caterer isn’t doing a good job, you should be able to hire someone more reliable.”

“Well, it’s too late to hire someone else now anyway. With the wedding only a few days away, we’re just going to have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.”

Lilly’s next call was to her son, Tighe. He was nearing the end of his sophomore year in college and had the honor of being Bill’s best man. Lilly hadn’t seen him in several months, so she couldn’t wait until he arrived on Friday.

“Hi, honey.”

“Hi, Mom.”

“I just want to make sure you know the plan.”

“Yup. I’ll go after my last class tomorrow and pick up the tux. I’ll be home by around two on Friday afternoon. What time is the rehearsal?”

“Four. As long as you’re home by three o’clock, you’ll be fine.”

“The only problem is that I’m going to miss a review session that afternoon for my hardest class.”

“Can someone tape it so you can watch it?”

“I guess so. The thing is, I wanted to ask the professor some questions.”

“I’m sorry, Tighe. Is there another session you could attend?”

“Yeah, but it’s on Saturday. I’m really worried about that final.”

“When’s the final?”

“Next Monday.”

“Want me to get in touch with the professor and explain what’s going on?”

“God, no. I’m not in second grade. I’ll deal with it. Thanks, anyway.”

“All right. Let me know if you change your mind. I’m looking forward to seeing you Friday.”

“Love you, Mom.”

Lilly hung up and dialed Bill’s number. She knew he was at work, but she needed to run a couple of last-minute details by him. He and Noley had wanted an April wedding, but Noley’s publisher had other ideas—namely, they wanted her to appear on television and radio shows in the weeks leading up to the publication of her new cookbook. May Day was the first Saturday she’d be available after the first of March. Scheduling the wedding before she began her travels had been logistically impossible, so they had chosen the first available date. With Noley unavailable so much, Lilly had no choice but to make Bill her point person for wedding questions.

Lilly and Bill’s mother, Bev, was the real reason Bill and Noley wanted to have the wedding as soon as possible. With Bev’s worsening dementia and the associated physical impediments that went hand-in-hand with the disease, Lilly had a sinking feeling that time was not on their side; Bev had fallen several times over the past couple of months. Luckily Nikki—her regular nurse—or another nurse had always been nearby to assist immediately, but Lilly and the rest of the family feared that it was only a matter of time before Bev seriously hurt herself.

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