The Engagements

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan Read Free Book Online

Book: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. Courtney Sullivan
Tags: General Fiction
wedding,” she said. She pointed at a page: “You’re supposed to have an emergency contact for each of your bridesmaids, and document their height and weight, and exactly when their dress fittings will take place?”
    “But we’re not having bridesmaids so we can ignore that,” Jeffrey said.
    “Okay.” She flipped to another page. “You’re supposed to create personalized gift bags for every guest’s hotel room and tell them about fun things to do in the area?”
    “Well, of course.”
    On Sunday, they drove around and checked out Jeffrey’s top five favorite venues, just to make sure he was certain about the one he had already booked. They did a tasting with a caterer whose specialty seemed to be stuffing foods into other foods—tomatoes stuffed with shiso and wasabi, figs stuffed with gorgonzola, red pepper stuffed with chicken and rice. All the stuffing felt a little violent to Kate, but she didn’t mention it to Jeff, only Toby, who said, “Maybe marriage makes her angry.”
    She knew that weddings had become big business: every time she turned on the television, there was another show about choosing the perfect dress, the perfect theme, the perfect cake. But still, she was flabbergasted by the expense: An empty barn strung up with fairy lights and nothing else cost six grand for the day. A country inn charged two hundred dollars a head for dinner.
    When she worked at a nonprofit in New York, it had often been her job to create press releases that could express need in dollars and cents. People were more likely to donate if they could imagine exactly where their money might go. Now she had a bad habit of extrapolating this out in real life. For the price of two people’s dinners at this wedding, they could buy a deep-well pump that would provide clean water to an entire community, or fund a year’s education for sixty students at a refugee camp in Kenya. For the price of the flowers, they could buy a thousand mosquito bed nets that would protect five thousand Cambodian children from malaria. On a research trip, Kate had met a mother of nine who had already lost her husband and two oldest sons, ages fourteen and twelve, to the disease. The family had only one net, big enough to protect five bodies, so each night the woman had to choose two of her surviving children to sleep outside of it, in addition to herself. Five dollars was all it would take to save their lives. They weren’t supposed to, but Kate had emptied her pocketsto this woman and her neighbors. When she saw their joy at receiving such a small sum, she felt ashamed of American excess. Now she pictured the eighteen gorgeous centerpieces Jeff was planning—roses, peonies, hydrangeas, and scented geraniums, all of which would be in the trash by the next morning. She felt ill.
    Kate realized people didn’t think about money in this way. Jeffrey and Toby were generous; when asked to give, they gave. So no one would begrudge them for spending seventy thousand dollars on a wedding for two hundred. It was simply what one did.
    They had wanted a more intimate affair, maybe eighty people. But the second her aunt and uncle heard about the engagement, they drew up a list of a hundred guests.
    “Would you ever in a million years have thought that my parents would be clamoring to invite people to their son’s gay wedding?” Jeff said. “My dad’s leave it at that.”ki droppedl f already joined Weight Watchers. He wants to lose twenty-five pounds. And my mom is up in arms that we’re not having our reception in New Jersey. She told me it’s tradition to have the wedding in the bride’s hometown and people will think it’s strange that we’re doing it here. I told her we don’t exactly have a bride.”
    Toby raised an eyebrow. “Oh, don’t we?”
    After that weekend, a mania took Jeffrey over, as it did all of them, all the brides she had ever known. When she spoke to him about anything other than the wedding, she could tell that she didn’t

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