First Page: Untitled Manuscript – Contemporary Romance
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The women in my life have condemned me to a slow and painful death. I feel like a character in that Alfred Hitchcock movie, the one where the killer birds terrorize a town, because each word that flies out of my younger sister’s mouth pecks me, gouging my flesh and tattering my clothes.
“The bridesmaids’ dresses are in, and tomorrow I’m meeting with the caterer to discuss the place settings,” my sister Izzy says. Her mass of curly light brown hair bobs and weaves around her shoulders, trying to keep up with the jerky movements that accompany her incessant chatter.
My mother, meanwhile, is flapping her hands together like a seal. “What about the veil, sweetie? Has it come in yet?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! I love it,” Izzy gushes. “It’s a bouffant veil, and it’s perfect. The tulle looks exquisite, and, well, you’ve seen the gown, mom. And just wait until you see the nosegay bouquets. Everything’s going to come together beautifully. I just know it!”
Peck, peck, peck. This is excruciating. There’s more to come, too, judging from the wedding checklist Izzy sent me by email two weeks ago. Do we really need to rehearse the act of eating dinner? This crap is beyond any sane man’s ability to comprehend. It’s time to get them off topic. “Where’s my future brother-in-law, by the way?” I ask Izzy. “I thought he was attached to your hip?”
Izzy dismisses me with a wave. “Very cute. He’s meeting with the kids at the community center. They’re competing in a basketball tournament today.” She turns to my mother. “So, mom, about the cake. Dragées or edible pearls?”
“What the hell is a dragée?” I ask. Izzy ignores me, so I look across the table at my younger brother Brice. He’s studying his iPhone with the focus of a brain surgeon in the operating room. And my stepfather, Dale, who’s sitting to Brice’s left, is hiding behind the Sunday sports page. Why didn’t I think to bring something to distract me from this madness?
“Gentlemen,” my mother says. Oh, yes, that’s why.
My mother’s voice is loud and firm, alerting everyone that she’s not pleased. The men whip their heads in my mother’s direction. She might look like the quintessential suburban housewife, but I’m almost certain she carries a shank, and if you gave her a couple of cocktails, she could snag a walk-on role on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Be afraid, be very afraid.
“I thought I made my views on reading at the table clear,” she says. “This is family time. All I ask is that we have one Sunday a month to gather and catch up. Can we do that, please?” She spares me the evil eye.
“Sorry,” Dale says. “You’re absolutely right.” Hearing the appeasing tone of Dale’s voice, I can’t help but grin. He’s a tall, imposing figure, with a full head of salt and pepper curls and smooth, dark skin; he’s not the kind of man to back down from anyone, but my mother’s not just anyone, and he chooses his battles wisely. In an effort to deflect any punishment for his minor transgression, Dale turns to Brice. “Son, put that iPhone away.”
Brice smirks at him. “Sure, dad.”
Izzy directs her button nose toward Brice. “So, Brice, are you bringing a date to the wedding?”
Brice scoffs at the suggestion. “Izzy, it’s a wedding. What single man in his right mind brings a woman to a wedding? I intend to show up unattached and ready to calm the fears of the unmarried ladies in distress.”