"Uh, Bill, I THINK that makes you 'the cat'," Regina teased.
Derek rushed over to his fiancee. "Honey, I am SO sorry I'm late!" he apologized as he hugged her. "I was really tired from fishing and collecting, so I lied down just to close my eyes for a few minutes, and I overslept!"
"That's okay, sweetheart," Kelly said understandingly, patting him on the back. "I know you've been spending all your free time trying to earn money to make us a lovely home."
Alice took her Lobster Thermidor out of the oven, where she had been keeping it warm while Bill had been across the street retrieving Derek. "Come and get it, everyone!" she called.
The next morning, Regina was upstairs trying to calm Kelly's nerves before the wedding.
"You two are going to be the happiest, most beautiful couple in the world!" Regina said encouragingly. She had managed to get Kelly laughing, but secretly worried that her virgin friend was going to ask her something about sex.
Downstairs, Alice announced, "I'm going back to Derek's now to frost the cake, which will have cooled by now. Anyone else want to head over?"
"I'll be by in a minute," Dude said, dialing his phone. "The tour is starting tomorrow, and I still need to settle a few details with the band."
"I'll go with you, Alice," Bill said. "I'll see if Derek needs any more help setting up. Wow--you look REALLY nice!"
The two went over to Derek's.
"This is SO pretty!" Alice squealed upon seeing the backyard. "This is going to be the most perfect wedding EVER!!!"
"Zoe, I've already explained this to you more than once!" Dude said in exasperation.
He hung up, grumbling.
Bill went inside to check on Alice's progress.
"So, I'm done frosting the cake," she said, "and I have it in the fridge so the buttercream won't melt."
Bill stared puzzled at the plate of food on the counter.
"Alice, did you make grilled cheese sandwiches just in case we get hungry BEFORE the ceremony?"
"Dude, what's going on?" Bill asked the caterer. "Didn't anyone tell you this is a WEDDING???"
"The wedding planner who hired me KNOWS that sandwiches are my specialty," the caterer sniffed pompously.
"Alice, you asked me to start serving drinks once the pianist arrived, but he hasn't shown up yet. Should I start or not?"
"Umm, okay," Alice said slowly, "go ahead and start serving drinks, because a few people are here already. I'll tell Derek about the piano player."
Alice went out to the backyard in search of Derek, and ran into Dude.
"Dude, can you play piano?" she asked somewhat frantically. "Because the piano player is late, and we wanted to start the pre-ceremony drinks by now."
"Sorry, no," he replied. "But I can go back home and get my guitar if Derek wants. It's sure better than having no music."
Alice continued her search for Derek,
and located him easing his pre-wedding jitters by using his microscope.
"What?" Derek sputtered, getting down off the machine. "Why, that's outrageous! I'm calling the wedding planner immediately to report that musician's tardiness!!!"
Alice found Dude at the bar, and told him about Derek's outburst. "And I didn't even dare tell him that I might end up making all the food, if this caterer doesn't start putting out better platters. 'Cause Derek's almost going crazy over just a late piano player."
"I guess everyone deals with wedding pressures in a different way," Dude mused.
"Good news!" announced Derek, coming up behind Alice. "Although the pianist suddenly called in sick, his replacement is already on the way."
"But I'm still VERY annoyed at that wedding planner," he fumed. "And to think she came HIGHLY recommended by one of my co-workers at NASA!"
"There is NO way I'm telling him about the caterer at this point!" Alice whispered to Dude desperately. (Robyn knew what the problem was, because she had been in the kitchen when Bill had had a loud discussion with the caterer.)
"Please keep him here," Alice begged, "and get a drink into him, so that I have time to check out what's happening inside."
"Nothing's easy, is it?" Dude was trying to distract Derek, as Alice headed into the house. "Are you doing okay?"
"Oh, sure," Derek answered, grabbing the drink Robyn had quickly made for him. "It's just that I want everything to be perfect for Kelly. Because SHE'S perfect."
"Yeah, everyone should have someone they feel that way about," Dude observed, somewhat wistfully.
Derek finished his drink and went back to using his giant microscope.
"So, how's it going," Dude asked Alice hopefully as she re-emerged from the house.
"NOT good!" she said grimly. "The caterer has now made 2 plates of BLTs. I think I have to go back to Regina's and get some ingredients and prepare a few dishes."
Alice was quite frankly wondering how much worse the day could get--what with Kelly's nerves, Derek's ire, a tardy piano player, and now not much hope of appropriate food from the "sandwich-specialist" caterer.
Her question was soon answered.
"Dude!" Zoe Patel cried, as she sauntered alluringly into the backyard,
and embraced him. Dude grimaced.
"Zoe, what the heck are you doing here???" he asked, confused by her arrival.
"Oh, didn't you know?" she replied coyly. "Derek's pianist was suddenly 'taken ill,' and I'M his replacement for the ceremony."
Alice, feeling stressed and stunned, picked up a dirty glass and hurried back inside the house.
Notes from the author:
Credit for custom content to come, once my Christmas houseguests depart!