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Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Venue for Romance by Sharon McGregor

Dani motioned to a comfortable chair. “Have a seat Lacey," She sat down again behind her desk and smiled at her afternoon appointment. She went on, "And congratulations on your engagement.”

The tall slim taffy-blonde girl with wide mouth and ready smile responded, “Thanks, Mrs. Hawthorne.”

“Call me Dani. We’re going to be working closely together for the next few months.”

“You remember me from school, don’t you? I knew Matt.”

“Of course. You and my son were friends. That’s why I’m really excited to get a chance to help arrange your wedding.”

Lacey went on, "You were friends with my dad, too, after he and Mom got divorced.”

“Yes,” said Dani, and a picture came unwanted into her mind of the easy-going but shy man with the wide-mouthed smile he shared with his daughter. It was the only decent relationship she'd had since her husband Ted had died. Well, she'd thought it was going well; Stephen apparently viewed it differently. To stem the direction of the conversation she said, “Let’s go tour the facilities first. Then we’ll come back and talk about details.”

As she went over the venue with Lacey, her mind kept drifting to the girl’s father. They had dated a few times and Dani thought the relationship was on its way to becoming serious. Then for some reason she had yet to determine, it stalled. Stephen quit calling. She spent nights wondering if she had said or done something wrong. At first, she thought maybe Stephen had reconciled with his wife, but she found that wasn’t the case. Reluctantly, she let it go.

As they pored over possible menus for the wedding dinner, Lacey said, “Dad’s coming to meet me here. He wanted to have a look at the function room.”

“Oh,” was all Dani could think of to say. She really didn't want to see Stephen again. She had hoped the wedding arrangements would be strictly Lacey's turf. Of course the mother of the bride was usually involved and Dani thought with a shudder that might prove to be worse. Especially if Lacey's mother had the same forthright attributes as her daughter. She quelled her thoughts and tried to get back the enthusiasm she usually felt for her job. It was a dream job actually; most of the functions she arranged were weddings. Overseeing them appealed to Dani's innate romanticism.

It was only a few minutes later that a knock came at the side of the open door. Stephen poked his head around the corner.

“Can I come in?”

Lacey and Dani took him for a guided tour and as Lacey slipped off to the cloakroom, Stephen turned to Dani.

“I’ve been putting this off a long time, but I came here partly to see you.”

“Oh?’ said Dani, trying to raise her eyebrow in movie star tradition but failing miserably.

“Yes. I owe you an apology.”

“You don’t owe me anything.”

“Yes, I do. Don’t argue.” He smiled at her and her reserves melted.

“I was still smarting from my divorce when I started seeing you. I guess it was too soon. I found myself falling for you and I didn’t know how to react, you see.”

Dani didn’t but just said, “Go on.”

“Well, I didn’t know how much of my feelings were a reaction to the divorce. I thought you deserved a lot better than that. I decided the best thing for you was to let you get on with your life.”

“You decided for me?” Now Dani was beginning to feel a new emotion towards Stephen- anger. “What right did you have to make decisions for me? You could have talked to me.” She broke off as Lacey returned. Lacey obviously realized she had interrupted something and looked uncomfortable.

“Excuse me,” said Dani, trying to mask her discomfort. “I have to make a phone call. Show your dad around, Lacey. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

She darted into her office and closed the door behind her, trying to sort out her conflicting feelings. She knew the attraction she felt towards Stephen was stronger than ever. But she was angry at him as well. How dare he make arbitrary decisions that involved her. Didn't he realize an explanation would have been kinder than the sudden break-off? Then she began to wonder why he was bringing it up again now. Was he about to tell her he was ready to move on? Or was he just trying to explain, to put their relationship in the past?

“Don’t be a coward,” she said to herself. “You have to find out what he wanted to say.”

She slipped back towards the banquet area and stopped in the main entry. In front of her, backs turned in her direction, stood three figures, Lacey, Stephen and a woman. It must be Lacey’s mother, she decided. They must have reconciled and that’s what he wanted to tell me- to clear the air for the wedding preparations.

She was about to vanish quietly when Stephen turned. “There you are. I want you to meet Karen, Lacey’s mother. We’ve decided to be civilized and work together to make Lacey’s wedding perfect.” Then another figure approached from the side hallway. “This is Dennis, Karen’s husband.”

Dani recovered enough to stammer a greeting and shake hands all around. Then Stephen pulled her away from the crowd. “Now back to our conversation. What I was trying to tell you was that I realized my feelings for you were genuine, not a backlash. I'm sorry I didn't talk it out with you. Is it too late for us to try again, or have I waited too long?”

No, it wasn’t too late. Dani linked her arm in his and led him back to her office. She resolved to make Lacey's wedding the most perfect ever. Well, maybe the second most perfect, she qualified as she smiled back at Stephen.

About the Author: Sharon McGregor has had stories and articles appear in Lake Country Journal, Fifty Something, Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine, Horizon, and Stories That Lift.

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