September 5, 2016: The Day I Stopped Lying to Myself (Part 2)

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Gianna and Yoda led the way through the front yard, to the head of a walking path that wound through the woods and fields on the Darcy property. I tried to keep in step with Gianna and engage her in conversation, but Caroline held me back. She hooked her arm through mine as if we were suddenly besties.

"I don't think we've ever had a tête-à-tête before," Caroline said. "You're a writer, aren't you? Have you published anything recently?"

I didn't remind her that we have talked one-on-one before, at Charles' housewarming party. But that was less of a conversation than it was a one-sided sales pitch for Caroline's for bridal consulting services.

I said, "Well, I actually decided not to make a living from publishing anymore. I got a job teaching at the community college here."

"Oh, how interesting! Do you enjoy it? Teaching?"

I glanced at Caroline sideways, trying to figure out what her "angle" was. Did she really just want to have a pleasant chat about our lives? No business cards? No subtle schemes to shove me and Will in front of an altar?

I said, "Yes, it's a lot more fun than I thought it would be."

"Do you think you'll keep it up after you're married, or will you go back to writing? Oh, look at these fields! All that lovely green and those adorable little flowers. This would make a gorgeous backdrop for engagement photos, don't you think?"

Aaand there it was: the admirably smooth segue into weddings weddings weddings.

I called out, "Hey, Gianna! How are your studies going?"

Gianna glanced back shyly. "Okay, I guess. There's a better place for taking photos on the other side of the house, by the pond. It's my brother's favorite spot. I can show it to you, if you want."

So much for changing the topic. I should have known a pretty eighteen-year-old girl would be just as interested in photo shoots and weddings weddings weddings as Caroline.

A small group of women walked towards us on the path. Their voices were loud, and their laughter boisterous. Gianna froze at the sight of them. Yoda began to yip.

I touched Gianna's arm. "I'd love to see Will's favorite spot. It was back towards the house, right?"

But Caroline, unaware of Gianna's social anxiety disorder, was excited to speak to the other guests. "Oh look, there's Deborah! We just met. She works with Will at the DA's office. You should meet her, Elizabeth."

Caroline seized my arm and pulled me towards the women. Gianna followed us reluctantly.

Caroline hailed Deborah and her companions, who seemed like nice ladies. Caroline introduced Gianna as Will's sister and me as Will's "friend," with heavily implied air quotes. The women exclaimed over Gianna's beauty and cooed over the fluffy chihuahua. Gianna shifted her weight awkwardly, mumbling responses to their questions. I could tell she wanted nothing more than to escape from their interrogation and go back home.

Deborah said to Gianna, "You have another brother, don't you? I met him a few years ago at one of your Aunt Catherine's parties. What was his name? Oh, I can't remember."

Caroline said, "You mean George?"

"Yes, George! That was it! He was such a nice boy. What's he doing with himself now?"

Gianna tried to force herself to answer, but she couldn't speak. Her pupils dilated and her breathing quickened.

I've witnessed many of my mother's "panic attacks" over the years. She screams, she cries, she collapses dramatically on furniture and wails that her poor old heart will give out if she doesn't get her way.

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