Things I Never Told You(4)

By: Beth Vogt

“Three sugars? What is that, your second cup of coffee?” Johanna wrinkled her nose. “Have you ever heard of Splenda or Stevia?”

“My third. And I prefer the real stuff. I like my caffeine with a jolt of sugar.” I stirred the overabundance of sugar, my spoon clinking against the rim.

“I’m surprised your teeth haven’t rotted out of your head.”

My fingers tightened around the handle of my mug. “Well, if they did, I’d be the one paying my dental bills—”

“Really, girls, it’s barely ten o’clock in the morning,” Mom interrupted the exchange. “And you’re both adults. Stop bickering.”

“Weren’t we discussing the bridal shower?” Dad’s tone was even.

“We’ve discussed the basics.” Johanna scanned the list she’d made on her iPad. “With the wedding in April, we could wait until February for the shower. Or we could do something sooner, say November, and let your friends and coworkers host another shower closer to the wedding date. As maid of honor, I’ll be hosting this party, of course, with Payton and Kimberlee’s company catering it.”

“As long as Jillian’s happy with all that.” I resisted the urge to toss a fourth spoonful of sugar into my coffee. I could either hassle my oldest sister or drink my much-needed eye-opener in peace.

“I’m sorry—what?” Jillian yawned and moved leftover scrambled eggs around her plate with her fork.

“I just said Kimberlee and I are happy to cater the bridal shower so long as you’re good with that.”

“Oh . . . of course. I loved all the appetizers you served.”

“The bison sliders were awesome.” Geoff spoke around a bite of bacon.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else to do my bridal shower.” Jillian smiled when Geoff reached over and squeezed her hand. “But, Payton, could you work something out so you can attend the party, too? I hardly saw you last night.”

“I was there when you opened gifts—well, most of them.” I pressed my fingertips into the knots at the base of my neck. The consequence of setup, cleanup, and loading supplies into the business van Kimberlee drove back to North Denver last night. “I’ll see if we can arrange things so I can be around for more of the actual bridal shower. We can always bring in other people to help.”

Johanna added something to her list. “I’ll get together more specifics about a theme, food, and decor and e-mail you, Payton. And then Jillian just needs to let us know a preferred date.”

“That’ll be fine.” I glanced up from a text from Nash asking when I’d be getting home. Let Johanna take the lead and relegate me to the background. That was easiest. “If we’re done here, I’ll finish my coffee and hit the road . . .”

Mom shifted in her chair. “There is one more thing we need to talk about.”

“There is?”

“Yes. I, um, got a phone call—” Mom made eye contact with everyone at the table but me—“from Pepper’s high school volleyball coach. Your coach.”

My phone slipped from my hand, bouncing off the edge of the table and tumbling to the faux Persian carpet with a soft thud. “Coach Sydney? Why would she call you?”

Now Mom looked at me, then concentrated on setting her silverware on her empty plate, one piece at a time. “Well, she wanted to tell me the high school is honoring some of their former outstanding athletes. And Pepper is included because of all the school records she set. They plan on retiring her jersey number and displaying it in the gym.”

My hands gripped my jeans-covered knees, and I willed myself to remain still as Mom talked. It was no surprise the school would honor a star athlete like Pepper. Several college coaches had been keeping track of her statistics by the time she was a sophomore.

Mom twisted a strand of her brown hair that was threaded through with gray. “Remember how they called you and Pepper—?”

“Double Trouble.” I whispered the nickname given us by some of our opponents because Pepper and I were identical twins, and we both played middle.

“That’s right. It was always fun to read that in the paper.” Even all these years later, Mom seemed to relish the memory. “Anyway, Sydney was trying to get in touch with you because she hopes you’ll say something about Pepper at the ceremony.”

Mom’s request might as well have been a well-aimed dump by a setter—and me, one of the unsuspecting defenders on the other side of the volleyball net. “What? No. Surely they can do this ceremony without me being a part of it.”