Chapter 1: Marketing
The humidity was rising on this hot Louisiana morning of the summer of 1936. The sun was just climbing over the swampy horizon. The old dirt road leading up to the Standish mansion would be used much more than usual on this scorching day. The eldest Standish daughter was getting married, and the whole family was buzzing with excitement. Well, maybe not the whole family. Amy, the younger of the two Standish girls, was anything but thrilled. She was sick to death of having to hear about her sister Liz’s wedding. Amy wished today could just be over so that life could return to normal. She was tired of the entire house being torn apart or covered up with wedding preparations. There was crystal all over the kitchen and dining room, dresses hung in every bedroom, and ribbon, bows, and other decorations all over the rest of the house. Amy wanted to runaway until the wedding was over, but her mother had insisted that she be there for every decision (as if Amy could possibly care less). Mrs. Standish was convinced that Amy could learn something about planning her own wedding from this experience. Little did she know Amy had no intention of having a big wedding if she ever even found a man to marry.
Luckily for Amy she heard no voices downstairs yet, so maybe she could have a peaceful breakfast at least. Amy’s bare feet hitting the hardwood floor of her bedroom was nearly the only sound to be heard in the house. The only other sound she could discern was the sounds from the kitchen of Cissy, the maid, cooking. Looking forward to the only serene moments she may have today, Amy went downstairs to the kitchen. The kitchen was already full of breads, fruit, and cheeses that Cissy was displaying nicely on the appropriate serving dishes. Cissy’s dark face was covered with sweat. Her heavy body moved swiftly around the hot kitchen. When Amy entered the kitchen, she greeted Cissy with her usual morning mumble, and Cissy responded with an exasperated, “Good mornin’ Miss Amy.”
“When did you get up this morning, Cissy?” Amy inquired as she peeked into a covered bowl.
“Three-thirty,” Cissy replied, hurriedly as she went on about her business, trying hard not to be annoyed by Amy.
“Cissy, don’t you think everyone is going overboard on this wedding?” Amy asked, pulling herself us to sit on a few bare inches of counter.
“Get down from there Amber Standish,” Cissy scolded. “You run along now and eat your breakfast. It’s on the dining room table.
“Ok,” Amy said compliantly, “But you didn’t answer my question.”
“I ain’t got time for questions, Miss Amy,” Cissy barked.
Amy left the kitchen in a hurry. Cissy was never snippy with her. Amy knew that it was just the stress from having to prepare the food for the wedding reception with very little help that was making Cissy so cranky. Amy had been closer to Cissy than she was to her own mother growing up. Cissy taught her to do everything and encouraged her to try new things. Amy loved Cissy very much, and she knew that when she got married Cissy would be a guest not a hired hand.
When Amy arrived in the dining room, her sister Liz was sitting at the head of the table drinking a cup of tea. “How is the bride this morning?” Amy taunted as she picked up a biscuit.
“I’m not in the mood for you this morning Am-ber,” Liz replied in the proper, northern accent she had acquired from her two years of attending college in New York. Liz slowly raised her tea cup and took a drink, covering her haughty nose and half of her crystal blue eyes with the cup. “Now, don’t eat too much little sister. You do still have to fit into your bridesmaid dress this afternoon.”
“Oh Liz, I am certain one biscuit won’t put ten pounds on me,” Amy said sarcastically, putting nearly the whole biscuit in her mouth at once.
Liz sighed. “Well when you can barely breathe in that dress later you had better not complain, at least not to me,” Liz snapped. Liz had gotten the last word as usual. In every argument in Amy’s recollection, Liz had always had the last word. Amy and Liz had so little in common that it was hard to believe that they were related at all. They had always been worlds apart, but since Liz went away to college, it had been even harder for Amy to relate to her. Amy was close with their older brother John, but the only person in the family Liz had ever had any kind of relationship with was their mother. Mrs. Standish had left John and Amy for Cissy to raise, but Liz had always been her pet. Their mother had lived vicariously through Liz her entire life. Amy was certain that is why this wedding had turned into such a major event. It didn’t bother Amy much that her mother always chose Liz. Since Amy was a tomboy of sorts, it kept her from having to attend the cotillions or enter the mother daughter beauty pageants. Amy was a Daddy’s girl and that was the way she liked it.
John was the family member she was closest to though. He and his wife Tina lived only a mile away with their three children Elaine (7), Jack (5), and Laura (1). John had taken over his father’s banking business after his father’s heart attack two years ago. Grant had not wanted to stop working, but his doctor and his family insisted.
Amy was also very lucky that her sister-in-law Tina had become her best friend. When Amy could no longer tolerate her mother and Liz, she would escape to John and Tina’s to play with the children and feel like she belonged to a family. Amy felt more at home, more able to be herself in John and Tina’s home than in her parents. Maybe at twenty it was time for her to find someone to marry so that she could escape from the Standish house altogether. Not to say that Bess and Grant Standish mistreated her or didn’t love her, but she was grown now and needed very little from them. She felt more and more in the way these days. Amy had so much time and so very little to do with it. She had passed up going to college because of her father’s heart attack. She did not want to leave him in the careless hands of her cold mother when he needed attention and love. Amy had waited on him hand and foot for months, long after the doctor had released him to return to everyday activities. She helped him write an Economics textbook last year and thought about becoming a writer herself, but unlike her father, she had no life experience and no expertise in anything.
Amy escaped Liz and the dining room and headed back to her bedroom for her morning solitude before the wedding rush began. Amy stared at the frilly dress that she must spend the afternoon in. She was certain it would be hot and uncomfortable, but she was sure to get a few glances from some available bachelors once her mother curled her hair and got her all dolled up. Amy had not had a serious boyfriend since high school. She had been too engrossed in her father’s health to pay much attention to guys. Of course there was one that refused to be ignored, Alan Blake. He was one of her oldest friends. Their parents had been close in their youth and had always tried to get their children to be close as well. They were great pals until Alan, four years Amy’s senior, had decided when he was 20 that he was madly in love with her. She did not feel that way about Alan; he had been like a brother to her all her life. She tried not to hurt him at first, and then she tried to crush him to make him stop the barrage of loving gestures. Her efforts were to no avail. Alan still swore he loved only Amy and would not consider another woman. Amy found this very sad because he is a really great guy and a doctor to boot. Some girl somewhere would be thrilled to win him over, but not this girl.
There was a knock on her bedroom door. “Amy, are you in there?”
“Yes, Mama,” she replied, coming back to the present from out of her thoughts.
Coming through her door, her mother said, “Now Amy, it is time to get ready. Are you still in the bed? You will never get anywhere that way. Amy, are you even listening to me?”
“Yes, ma’am ,” Amy muttered, only half listening in the first place.
Raising her voice, Bess continued, “Don’t you mumble at me young lady. I know you have been taught better than to sass your mother.”
“But I just said—“
“You don’t have to tell me what you just said Amber. I can still hear. Anyway, it wasn’t what you said; it was how you said it. It was that tone in your voice. Hmff! Just like your father. All that stubbornness and fire. I just can’t understand how anyone can think they are right all the time.”
Amy just sat silently realizing that the ability to communicate with her mother was a skill she did not possess. Amy did laugh to herself about her mother’s statement. The stubbornness her mother had just described came not only from Grant but from Bess herself. The main difference was that Amy and Grant admitted that they were stubborn, while Bess was still convinced that if she had a flaw, which she obviously didn’t, it would not be stubbornness.
“Go on now and get dressed so we can help you with that hair,” Bess said turning and exiting the room with a slight slam of the door.
Amy slipped into the dress and zipped it up. Looking in the mirror, she could see how well it suited her figure. Perhaps her mother had chosen this dress so that she could market the second daughter to get her married off in a hurry. It didn’t really matter to Amy. All that she cared about was that she felt surprisingly pretty in the dress and pushed aside the possible motives her mother may have had in choosing it. She decided to leave the topic of her family dynamics out of her brain for the rest of the day and try to enjoy it as much as she possibly could.