SHOTGUN, WEDDING, BELLS
(Book #11 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series)
By Joanna Campbell Slan
Detective Chandler Louis Detweiler took my hand and helped me up the last step of the gazebo. Standing side-by-side, we faced the minister, our friend Lorraine. I loved feeling of his shoulder against mine, strong and solid, a reminder of the way we intended to live our lives.
"Not too bad for a wedding thrown together in forty-eight hours," he whispered in my ear.
He was right. I hadn't had much time to plan our wedding, although I had been planning to marry Chad Detweiler ever since I met him nearly three years ago. I kept telling myself that the ceremony was only a formality, but deep down, I wanted to wear a wedding band again. And even if the marriage didn't matter to us—to Detweiler and me—it mattered terribly to our two kids, and to the baby who would make his appearance less than a month from now.
In fact, one could argue that we'd hurried to the chapel because of the bump in my belly. Initially I'd planned to start working on a ceremony immediately after Christmas, because business would slow down in my retail store. Detweiler and I had even talked about flying our whole family to Las Vegas, until my friend Clancy Whitehead shook her head and said, "Uh, you're eight months along. They don't allow people that pregnant on a plane."
So I'd tabled the whole project, noted it in my calendar for revisiting after December 25, and I would have put the idea out of my head, except for something Erik said.
Have you ever noticed that when riding in the back seat of the car, kids come up with the darnedest things? After I picked five-year-old Erik and his sister, thirteen-year-old Anya, up from the house that my sisters share with my mother, he explained to me that because Detweiler and I weren't married, our son would be a "littermate."
"A littermate?" I glanced back in the rearview mirror. Erik's solemn face stared at me. His chocolate brown eyes, his mocha-colored skin, and his red hair a testimony to his biracial beginnings. He might not be the child of my womb, but he's certainly the child of my heart. I adore that little boy.
"I don't understand what you mean, sweetie," I said to him.
Anya turned from her seat on the passenger side, she rolled her eyes and explained, "He means i-l-l-e-g-i-t-i-m-a-t-e."
It took me a while to put those letters into a world. When I did, I almost drove off the road. "Uh, Erik, honey? Who was talking to you about the baby being a ...littermate?"
"Grandma Collins," he said.
My mother. That paragon of parenthood.
I gritted my teeth. That did it. My Mom moved one step closer to an apartment in assisted living. In fact, the only problem with putting her there immediately was financial. Because she'd only recently transferred her assets to my sister, Amanda, any facility that accepted her could access her savings. My sister had been begging my mother for years to transfer her money into Amanda's name. My mother would respond by getting angry and saying, "I'm perfectly capable of handling my own finances. How do I know you won't steal me blind?"
Over the past year, Mom's physical and mental health had declined dramatically. The three of us siblings—Catharine, Amanda and I—talked at least once a week about what to do next. Not only was Mom meaner than a water moccasin with a sunburned belly, she'd also fallen twice. My sister Catherine ran out for a carton of milk and came back to a fire in the kitchen. Mom had turned on the oven and forgotten about it.
A peculiar smell emanated from my mother's room. Amanda took her out for lunch, while Catherine and I investigated. We found a small pumpkin shoved in the back of her closet. Since Halloween was nearly three months ago, the pumpkin had not fared well.
In the area of personal hygiene, Mom was also slipping, fast.
But this calling my child "illegitmate" marked a new low, even for her.
I told myself to shrug it off. To consider the source. But Anya turned her denim blue eyes on me and said, "She's right, Mom."
"Don't worry," I said. "Detweiler and I still have plenty of time to tie the knot."
Two hours later, the contractions started.
~To Be Continued~
Shotgun, Wedding, Bells will be available for pre-order early January 2015.