Page 53 of The Perfect Couple

Celeste nods like a marionette. “Sounds good,” she says.

At first, Celeste stutters only when she’s talking about the wedding. She has a problem with the word caterer; it’s a stuttery word all by itself. Then reverend, then church. People pretend not to notice but the stutter grows gradually worse. Benji finally asks about it and Celeste bursts into tears. She can’t c-c-control it, she says. Soon, all hard consonants give her trouble.

But not at work.

Not on the phone with Merritt.

Not alone in her apartment when she’s reading in bed. She can read entire passages from her book aloud and not trip up once.

Celeste holds out hope that a big, elaborate wedding on Nantucket will prove to be a logistical impossibility—it’s too last-minute, every venue must already be booked—and so either the wedding will be postponed indefinitely or they can plan something smaller in Easton, something more like her parents’ wedding, a ceremony at the courthouse, a reception at the diner.

But apparently, Greer’s influence and her pocketbook are mighty enough to make miracles happen. Greer enlists Siobhan at Island Fare, arranges for Reverend Derby to do the service at St. Paul’s Episcopal, finds a band and an orchestra, and hires Roger Pelton, Nantucket’s premier wedding coordinator—not that Greer can’t handle it all herself, but she does have a novel to write and it would be silly to have a resource like Roger on the island and not use him.

The wedding is set for July 7.

Greer asks Celeste what she would like to do about bridesmaids.

“Oh,” Celeste says. This obviously isn’t something she can ask Greer to handle. “I’ll have my friend Merritt Monaco.” Merritt will be a good maid of honor; she knows all the rules and traditions, although Celeste shudders when she thinks about the bachelorette party Merritt might plan. Celeste will have to talk to her about that.

She notices Greer is still looking at her expectantly.

“And who else?” Greer asks.

Who else? Her mother? Nobody ever asks her mother to be a bridesmaid; Celeste knows that much. She doesn’t have a sister or any cousins. There are no suitable choices at work—Blair is now not speaking to Celeste; Bethany is her assistant, so that’s too weird; and the rest of the staff are men. There is Celeste’s roommate from college, Julia, but Celeste’s relationship with Julia was utilitarian rather than friendly. They were both scientists, both neat and respectful, but they parted ways after college. There is Celeste’s one social friend from college, Violet Sonada, but Violet took a job at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. Is there anyone from high school? Cynthia from down the street had been Celeste’s closest friend but she dropped out of Penn State with a nervous condition and Celeste hasn’t talked to her since. Merritt has a bunch of people she knows in the city, but Celeste can barely remember who is who.

She is a social misfit and now Greer will know it.

“Let m-m-me think ab-b-bout it,” Celeste says, hoping Greer will assume there are too many young women to choose from and Celeste will need to whittle the list down.

But Greer, of course, sees the humiliating truth. It’s because she’s a novelist, Celeste supposes. She is perceptive to a fault; it’s almost as if she reads minds.

“I shouldn’t get involved,” Greer says, “but I do think Abby would love to serve as a bridesmaid.”

Celeste perks up immediately. Abby! She can ask Abby Winbury, Thomas’s wife. She’s the right age; she is appropriately girly; she has probably been a bridesmaid twenty times before. Celeste relaxes even as she realizes that the Winburys are providing for her once again.

Celeste tells Benji that she’s asking Merritt to be her maid of honor and Abby to be her bridesmaid and Benji gets a crease in his brow.

“Abby?” he says. “Are you sure?”

The nice thing is that Celeste doesn’t have to hide anything from Benji. “I c-c-couldn’t think of anyone else,” she says. “You’re marrying the most socially awkward g-g-girl in New York.”

Benji kisses her. “And I couldn’t be happier about it.”

“So what’s wrong with Ab-b-by?” Celeste asks.

“Nothing,” Benji says. “Did she say yes?”

“I was p-p-planning on e-mailing tomorrow f-from work,” Celeste says.

Benji nods.

“What?” Celeste says. Abby would be filling a glaring gap. And besides, as Thomas’s wife, wouldn’t Abby be insulted not to be asked? It’s true, Abby can sometimes be a bit off-putting—she was a sorority girl at the University of Texas and she has retained some shallow cattiness, and she is presently obsessed with getting pregnant—but she is family.

“I get the feeling Thomas and Abby are on the rocks,” Benji says.

Celeste gasps. “What?”

“Thomas is always taking trips alone,” Benji says. “And going out with his friends after work. Not to mention his obsession with the gym.”

“Oh,” Celeste says. She knows Benji is right. They have met Thomas and Abby for dinner a few times and Thomas is always the last to arrive, often straight from the gym, still in his sweaty workout clothes. Abby won’t even let him kiss her unless he’s showered, she says. He has to shower before sex, and sex is kept to a schedule since they are trying to conceive. But why try so hard for a baby if you’re not planning on staying together?

“I’m not asking Thomas to be my best man,” Benji says.

“W-W-What?” Celeste says. This shocks her even more than the news of Thomas and Abby’s supposed marital discord. “But he’s your b-b-brother.”

“Something is going on with him,” Benji says. “And I want to distance myself from it. I’m having Shooter serve as my best man.”

“Shooter?” Celeste says.

“I’ve already asked him,” Benji says. “He was so happy. He teared up.”

He teared up, Celeste thinks. So happy. “What are you g-g-going to tell T-T-Thomas?”

“I’ll tell Thomas he can be an usher,” Benji says. “Maybe.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018, 3:30 p.m.


At half past three, when all of the guests have been called and all of the friends and relatives back in England have been notified about the tragedy and all of the wedding preparations have been summarily undone—except for those that are part of the “crime scene”—Greer takes a moment to peek out the window at the second cottage, the one where Merritt was staying. It’s wrapped in police tape like a tawdry present, although the forensics men have left and no one is there to stop Greer from entering. She would love to go in and poke around, but she fears the Winburys are in enough trouble as it is; she can’t afford to cause any more.

Tag took Merritt out in the kayak.

Merritt, not Featherleigh.

Greer needs to speak to Tag alone but he said he had to make a phone call, probably to Sergio Ramone, who is not only a friend but a brilliant criminal-defense attorney. Greer isn’t sure even Sergio can get Tag out of this mess. He took the girl out on the kayak and she shows up in the morning dead. Drowned in the harbor. Greer retreats to the master suite and perches on the sofa at the end of the bed, waiting for Tag, although she expects him to be led from the house in handcuffs the instant the police figure out this affair was going on.

The boys handled the news badly. Benji exploded. “Did you kill her, Dad? Did. You. Kill. Her?”

“No,” Tag said. “I took her out on the kayak, yes, I did. But I brought her back to shore safely.”

He sounded like he was telling the truth. His inflection and tone were full of calm conviction, but Greer now knows he’s been lying to her for a long time—maybe for the entirety of their marriage—so how would she know for sure?

Thomas hadn’t said anything at all. Possibly he, like Greer, had been too stunned to speak.

The ring that Greer thought Tag had bought for Featherleigh he’d bought for Merritt. Greer had seen the ring on Merritt’s thumb—she had seen it!—but she had one thing so firmly lodged in her brain that there hadn’t been room for any other possibilities.

The ring had been Tag’s only misstep. Greer had gone in to see Jessica Hicks, the jeweler, about wedding bands. Greer thought it would be a nice touch for Benji and Celeste to have rings fashioned by a Nantucket jeweler. The instant Greer entered the shop, Jessica’s brows had shot up. She said, Did your daughter-in-law not like the ring, then?