When Clay brought his wife home the first time, he told her, “just be yourself, hon. They will love you.”
Taylor wasn’t so sure. She had met Clay’s mother at their wedding. His mother Alice, was somewhat offended that the wedding had taken place out of town at a historic inn and not at home in Charleston. Clay and Taylor had not wanted a big to-do. This was Taylor’s second marriage.
Clay and Taylor worked at the same law firm. Taylor was a paralegal and Clay was a junior partner. They had worked together on an environmental law case, and Clay was smitten. Taylor, newly divorced had no time for romance. She kept all men at arm’s length, but especially dangerously handsome men like Clay with his deep, blue eyes and hair the color of corn silk. Clay, however decided early on that Taylor was the woman he had been waiting for: tall, caramel colored skin, dark hair and deep set brown eyes; Taylor had a sultry look that betrayed her mother’s Italian lineage. Taylor’s father was a gentleman from Virginia who met Taylor’s mother at an event she had catered. They soon married and created three beautiful daughters. Taylor was their youngest.
Clay’s mother learned all of this at the wedding luncheon following the ceremony. Taylor’s parents came to the wedding, but Clay and Taylor had decided to keep the wedding simple- Taylor’s two sisters, and Clay’s sister Clarice “Sissy” Beauchamp were not invited. That was Taylor’s first strike against her.
Alice was charming, but decidedly chilly at the luncheon.
“How did you come by the name Taylor my dear? You must have been confused all through childhood with such a trendy name.” Alice’s voiced created quotation marks around the word trendy.
Taylor sighed inwardly. It was an old presumption.
“It is a family name,” explained George, Taylor’s father. My mother’s maiden name was Taylor. We are related by marriage to Zachary Taylor, the President of the United States.
“I see.” Alice was silenced, but not for long. Well we are just lowly cotton merchants and lawyers, and first cousins of Mr. Jefferson Davis himself, said Alice.
Mother, it isn’t time to air the family tree. Clay was embarrassed.
The rest of the wedding luncheon was equally awkward and ended soon after the chocolate ganache wedding cake was served.
Chocolate wedding cake, sniffed Alice. She refused a slice stating, I don’t eat sweets.
Clay rolled his eyes and winked over Alice’s head, but Taylor knew this was going to be an uphill battle, getting her mother in law to accept her.
Two weeks ago, Alice had called Clay and Taylor in Charlotte, and invited them down for the weekend to celebrate great uncle Jimmy’s 90th birthday. It was a chance, Alice said, for Clay to introduce his wife to the family.
Clay groaned when he hung up. Well I guess there’s no way to avoid my family any longer.
I look forward to meeting your family Clay. You’ve told me so little about them.
Because they are a bunch of mixed nuts, answered Clay, and I didn’t want you to find out until after the wedding. They laughed as he took her in his arms and kissed her soundly.
Perhaps it’s time to fill me in a bit.
Oh, we’ll have plenty of time for that.
They arrived in Charleston Friday evening. Clay was met at the door by his mother who looked cool and perfectly dressed in a linen pants and a flowing white shirt. Her hair was a styled in a perfect honey blonde pageboy, and her manicured hands had a variety of large stoned rings on her fingers.
She held Clay close calling him her precious baby until he pulled away and apologized for his sweaty t-shirt and rumpled shorts. We drove with the windows down the last fifteen miles so Taylor could smell the pluff mud of Charleston.
Oh, my dear your hair is a positive rat’s nest. Shame on Clay for ruining your hair do.
Taylor self consciously put her hand up to her messy topknot. She had put her hair up when she got home from work to quickly change from her business attire into a cotton sundress. She was equally rumpled and damp from the intense heat.
Mother, why don’t you tell me what bedroom you have prepared for us and we will go get freshened up for dinner.
Oh, of course my dear, you must be famished. Minnie has prepared a cold supper for us. The green guest room is ready for you. I thought you might like the view of the garden.
Thanks, we will go get settled and join you for a cocktail.
Taylor noted that Alice did not offer her a greeting other than the once over and the remark about her disheveled appearance, but she chose to ignore the slight. Perhaps Alice was just excited about having Clay home again.
While they were unpacking and freshening up, the doorbell rang below. Taylor was in the bathroom and heard voices. Opening the door she heard an unfamiliar female voice talking to Alice.
So where are they? When do I get to meet the siren who stole my brother’s heart?
They’re upstairs, Sissy, lower your voice. I don’t want Clay to hear you.
What’s her name again? Tangee? Tyler?
It’s Taylor, as you well know.
It’s a dreadfully trendy name. All these young girls named Taylor, so passé.
It is a family name her father told me. I suppose it’s unfortunate that it became so popular with a certain set of people.
I hope they don’t have any relatives name Madison, Sissy answered with a snort.
Sissy marched into the living room her sharp, gray eyes, lighting with relief on the bar set up in the corner. She tossed her bag on a chair, and stopped in front of the mirror over the side table to smooth her short blonde bob and pucker her thin lips to spread her lip stick with her pinky.
So how is Adonis? Does married life agree with him? Sissy spoke to her mother’s reflection.
You can ask him that yourself, Alice answered as she prepared herself a drink and sat on one of the wing chairs near the french doors.
Where is Teddy? Alice asked.
Teddy, your husband?
Mother that was my ex-husband’s name. It’s John and you know it.
Oh, how am I supposed to keep them all straight. After all this is number four. Alice sniffed as she took a long drink of her vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon.
Ha! Sissy barked, look who’s talking. You had three husbands and you would have had four, if Richard Peck hadn’t keeled over on the golf course.
Pity, Alice said looking down at her drink and shaking her head sadly. Richard was so rich.
She looked up expectantly,
So how is he?
Your husband, Teddy, or whatever his name is.
JOHN! John, is fine. He’s in Columbia.
Oh yes, John. Isn’t he retired?
No mother, that was Teddy.
Sissy shook her head and crossed the room to the drinks table where she poured herself a scotch.
She tossed it back and decided to change the subject before Alice asked any more questions about Teddy/John.
So Taylor has been married before?
Yes, Clay didn’t tell me much, except that they married right after college.
So what do you think of her? You never said much after the wedding.
She seems… she’s not like the other women he’s dated. She seems very independent and capable. Definitely not our type. And she seems to have her claws in Clay pretty tight. This is the first weekend I’ve been able to get him to come home.
Poor Clay, how dare she keep him from his family. Why she didn’t even allow his family to come to the wedding!
Suddenly Clay opened the bedroom door across the hall and saw Taylor standing in the foyer between the two rooms. Taylor jumped and placed her hand on her heart.
What are you doing, darling?
Clay! You frightened me! I was coming back to the room to change my dress.
I thought you weren’t going to change?
Well, I decided to put on something less wrinkled. Give me ten minutes.
Would you like me to wait for you?
No, go on down, Taylor said. I’ll be there in a few.
Ok. Clay kissed her on the lips lightly. I love you.
I love you too.
Clay bounded down the stairs as Taylor made no move to enter the bedroom. Instead she stayed in the hallway, listening to Clay greet his sister.
Clay, darling. How is my baby brother? How have you been? Aren’t you just naughty for not inviting your own sister to your wedding? Was that your idea, or your wife’s? By the way, where is she? I can’t wait to meet her. I’m sure we are going to get on like a house afire. Mother’s been telling me what a gem she is. Isn’t that right Mother? Mother says she is just beautiful.
Taylor walked slowly into the bedroom and closed the door. She sat on the edge of the bed and let the words sink in. Well, at least I know what they really think. She went to the closet and pulled out a simple skirt and a bright red top that accentuated her curves and slid on a pair of sandals. She pulled her hair out of the scrunchie and brushed it until it gleamed and her hair fell in waves around her face. She touched up her lipstick and added a few bangles to her wrist.
She stared at herself in the mirror and squared her shoulders.
You got this, she whispered to herself. Clay loves you and that is all that matters.
Turning on her heel, she decided to ask Sissy about her husband, Teddy.
Chuckling to herself Taylor went down the stairs with a confident smile on her face.