Page 18 of The Perfect Couple

Now Featherleigh is as much a part of Greer’s life as she may or may not be of Tag’s. There was no question about whether or not to invite her to the wedding. They had to.

And there was no surprise in Featherleigh’s response. Despite Greer’s fierce wish that Featherleigh would decline, she had responded yes. For one. She would be attending alone.

Will she be wearing the silver-lace ring with the sapphires? Greer wonders. The ring is meant to be worn on the thumb. When Jessica Hicks, the jewelry designer, told Greer this, Greer had thought she’d misunderstood. Who wears a ring on her thumb? Only gypsies, so far as Greer knows. It sounds like a trend—but of course, no one adores a trend more than Featherleigh. She had moved to Sloane Square only because it was where a young Diana Spencer once lived. And what about Featherleigh’s penchant for cold-shoulder dresses, which Donna Karan helped make popular in 1993? Greer can too easily picture Featherleigh waltzing right into Greer’s home with the ring on her thumb. Greer hopes she can keep her composure while she admires the ring and asks Featherleigh where she got it.

She will then watch Featherleigh Dale squirm.

An hour into the rehearsal dinner (a bit of a misnomer, as the rehearsal was canceled due to Reverend Derby’s travel delay), Greer is enjoying herself immensely. She is floating between the front lawn and the beach in her bare feet with a glass of champagne in her hand that one of the adorable girls who work for the caterer is in charge of keeping filled.

Greer asks the girl her name.

“Chloe,” she says. “Chloe MacAvoy.”

“Don’t be a stranger, Chloe!” Greer says. A steady stream of champagne is the key to Greer staying relaxed.

It’s a glorious night. There’s a light breeze off the water, and the sky looks like a blue ombré silk scarf as the sun descends, setting the Nantucket skyline aglow. The band is playing songs by James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, the Beach Boys. Greer tries to manage her time among all of the guests arriving and the major players—Benji, Celeste, the wedding party, and Mr. and Mrs. Otis. Mrs. Otis—Karen—looks lovely in an embroidered kimono. She leans on her cane for a few minutes talking with Tag’s interminably boring colleague from work and then, just as Greer feels she must swoop in and save the poor woman—with so little time left, Karen has none to waste on Peter Walls—Bruce leads Karen over to a chair at the edge of the action. She will sit and receive visitors like a queen. As she should.

Benji is talking with Shooter and the four Alexanders from Hobart—Alex K., Alex B., Alex W., and Zander. Greer is fond of Benji’s Hobart friends—all of them have spent long weekends here at Summerland—but no one has captured Greer’s heart quite as much as Shooter. Shooter Uxley is the son of a Palm Beach real estate scion and his mistress. Shooter’s mother got pregnant with the sole intention of eliciting a marriage proposal, but it never came. The father had five other children by two wives and he was senile enough to let one of his older sons oversee his will, which cut Shooter and his mother out entirely. Shooter had somehow managed to produce the tuition for his last year at St. George’s, but after graduation he had been forced to find a job. That he has turned himself into such a success is a testament to his intelligence, his charm, and his perseverance.

Greer sips her champagne and wanders to the raw bar, where Tag is sucking down oyster after oyster, dripping shellfish liquor onto his bespoke pink shirt, tailored for him at Henry Poole. Despite how much Tag loves New York, he trusts only Savile Row tailors, and yet he seems to think nothing of defiling said shirts in the name of a good bivalve. He would stay here all night if Greer let him.

“You should take a plate of those over to the Otises,” Greer says. “Karen is sitting and Bruce is stationed at her side like the Swiss Guard.”

“Do they eat oysters, do you think?” Tag asks.

Good question. Celeste confided that Mrs. Otis is excited about having lobster—there had been some confusion with the term clambake—because she, Karen Otis, hasn’t eaten lobster since her honeymoon more than thirty years earlier. Greer tried to hide her shock. At the end of every summer on this island, it was all Greer could do not to feel weary of lobster, after having lobster rolls at Cru, the lobster spaghetti from the Boarding House, lobster fritters and tartlets and beignets and avocado-toast-with-lobster at every cocktail party she attends. But, of course, Karen Otis lives a vastly different life. Greer informed Siobhan Crispin, the caterer, that the mother of the bride was to be offered as much lobster as she wanted and that all uneaten lobsters should be cracked and the meat stashed in a bag in the fridge of the main house in case Mrs. Otis craved a midnight snack.

“Just offer, please,” Greer says to Tag. “Take some of the shrimp with cocktail sauce and lemons—they’ll like that.”

“Good idea,” Tag says. He leans over to kiss her. “You’re very thoughtful.”

“And hot,” she reminds him.

“Hottest woman here,” Tag says. “Not that I’ve noticed another soul.”

“Have you seen Featherleigh?” Greer asks. This will not seem like a loaded question, because in all this time, Greer has never confronted Tag with her suspicions.

“I caught a glimpse,” Tag says. “She looks god-awful.”

“Does she?” Greer says, although she knows the answer is yes. Greer sought Featherleigh out immediately after dealing with the last-minute party logistics, and although it’s ungracious, Greer will say that the twenty pounds (at least) that Featherleigh has gained and Featherleigh’s bad haircut and her even worse dye job and her reddened nose are the best things about this wedding weekend so far.

Greer had checked both of Featherleigh’s hands—she was not wearing the ring. Greer had found herself almost deflated by this; she had been ready for a confrontation. Instead, Greer had no choice but to be civil.

“Featherleigh Dale, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”

The corners of Featherleigh’s mouth had pulled down unattractively. “Thank you for having me,” she’d said. She had then proceeded to detail the horror of her travel. No money for a first-class ticket so she was squished in coach. The flight from New York to Nantucket was overbooked, everyone was obnoxious, there was no decent food at the airport, she’d had a Nathan’s hot dog and the thing was as shriveled as a mummy’s pecker. She finds Nantucket damp, just look at her hair, the place she booked is an inn, not a hotel, so there’s no room service, no fitness center, no spa, and the pillowcases are decorated with tulle flowers, they’re honestly the most hideous things she’s ever seen, how she’s supposed to lay her head on something like that she has no idea, but the inn was the only place available because she’d waited until the last minute. She wasn’t going to come at all because she was so low on funds, but then she hoped the trip would help snap her out of her funk.

“Funk?” Greer asked, wondering if this litany was ever going to end.

“My business went belly-up,” Featherleigh said. “And I’ve been through a devastating breakup”—Aha! Greer thinks. So it’s over with Tag?—“which is why I have this bad dye job and I look like an absolute hippo. It’s been all vodka and fish and chips and takeout vindaloo for me. I’m forty-five years old, I’m not married, I have no children, I have no job, I’m under investigation—”

“A devastating breakup?” Greer said, backing up to the only one of Featherleigh’s complaints that she cared about. “I didn’t realize you were seeing anyone special.”

“It was on the down-low,” Featherleigh said. Her eyes filled with tears. “He’s married. I knew he was married, but I thought…”

“You thought he would leave his wife for you?” Greer asked. She had gathered Featherleigh up in a hug, mostly to put an end to the tears—nothing kills a party like somebody weeping—and said, “Men never leave their wives, Featherleigh. You’re old enough to know better. Is it anyone I know?”

Featherleigh had sniffed and shaken her head against Greer’s shoulder. Greer eased away, suddenly concerned about mascara on her ivory silk jumpsuit. Would Featherleigh cry about her breakup with Tag to Greer? Was she capable of that kind of insidious deception?

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