As a child, I dreaded the Fourth
of July despite the fireworks, the barbecue, and the
general flag flapping.
The holiday signaled that summer was half over. And though
chided me about my attitude, called me her pint-sized
told me to see the "glass half full," I moped through the
I knewâ€”come the next dayâ€”the discount store and
have fresh back-to-school displays of yellow number two
college-ruled notebook paper. I was a fair student and mid-
but I never wanted to go back to school. As an adult, when
had to work every day, my attitude toward Independence Day
To me, any day that starts as a paid holiday is a good
that Independence Day morning, my brother called.
the telephone jangled near my sleeping head, I sat bolt
sent my cat Templeton flying across the room in a hissing
cloud of black
died? was my first thought, followed closely by, whoâ€™s
about to die?
for waking me.
groped for my glasses, shoved them on my face, and looked
at the clock.
It read four minutes after six in electric blue numerals.
rang again. I snatched it up.
My brotherâ€™s voice, hyped up on caffeinated pop and
zipped out over the line "Could you look up Yang-Mills
me at the library today? I think Iâ€™m really onto something.
do it myself, you know, but Iâ€™m hitting a wall here with
the libraryâ€™s slow, right, because itâ€™s summerâ€”"
libraryâ€™s closed today." I swatted a hank of long, dark
of my face and tucked it behind my ear.
closed? But why?" He sounded shocked.
the Fourth of July. You know, Happy Independence Day and
I glared at the clock. "Itâ€™s also six-oh-five in the
a day I donâ€™t have to work," I added in case he was having
grasping the point, which Mark often did.
are you?" I asked while rubbing my gray eyes, which were
donâ€™t sound very sure of that."
was a pause. "Definitely my office. Iâ€™m working on this
theorem. I think I have it now, India. My dissertationâ€”"
understand," I stepped in before he could enter another
explanation about The Dissertation. Heâ€™d worked on it for
half a decade.
Itâ€™d become a bit of a swear word in my parentsâ€™ house.
Mark, I better let you get back to it. Call me at the
and Iâ€™ll see if I have time to look up that Yohoo-Miller
Itâ€™s a partial differential equation thatâ€”"
I moved to hang up, but his lingering silence was palpable.
"Was that all?"
swallowed hard. "I know sheâ€™s getting married."
I knew heâ€™d eventually find out one way or another, but I
had been after the ceremony.
lie to me; I saw it in the paper. Sheâ€™s getting married
You knew. I canâ€™t believe you didnâ€™t know."
What could I say? I did know. Mark would be devastated when
out how well I knew. I tucked that thought away to deal
didnâ€™t you tell me? Itâ€™s not like Iâ€™d care or anything."
I thought, and my watercolors would make me millions of
I took a deep breath. "I didnâ€™t know how to tell you, and
didnâ€™t want to hurt you, either."
anyway," he whispered and hung up.
stared at the receiver, then knocked it against my forehead
a few times
before dropping it back in its cradle.
fifteen minutes, I threw off the sheet and stomped to the
"Next time he has a day off, Iâ€™m calling at three in the
That little . . ."
a shower and breakfast, I no longer felt so hateful toward
Mark. I knew
I should have told him that Olivia was getting married. I
told him months ago when I learned about it, but there
to be a good time. And the way marriages go these days, I
would be much easier to announce that Olivia was getting a
a couple of years.
clicked on the TV.
going to be a beautiful Independence Day, folks," the
from the Cleveland station said. "We might break some
in the upper nineties and ninety percent humidity,
mow your lawn until after sundown. Thereâ€™s an Ozone alertâ€”
clicked off the screen.
nine that morning, I was sprawled across a sheet I used to
poorly chosen couch in order to avoid touching the hot,
It was beautifully upholstered in royal purple velvet. I
had found it
at an estate sale in Chicago. It had cost a mint to have it
to Stripling, and, not until it was safely stowed in my
I learn that it was uncomfortable in the summertime and a
black cat hair. My long legs hung over its end, and
Templeton lay in
the same position next to me on the floor. I periodically
then myself, with ice water from a spray bottle that I
to wet down my unruly hair. Templeton shook his head like a
time he was hit with a spray of water but didnâ€™t move out
of its reach.
Even an aquaphobic feline welcomed the cool mist in my air
apartment. While Templeton shook his head for a fourth
time, I tried
to build up the courage to call my brother back and tell
him the truthâ€”that
I did know that Olivia was to be married this weekend in
that I, India Hayes, who had sworn after the last wedding
that I would
never be in a bridal party again, am to be one of Oliviaâ€™s
told Templeton, "Iâ€™ll get it, but tomorrow Iâ€™m teaching you
answer the phone."
It was a voice easily as perky as the weathergirlâ€™s.
swallowed hard. I knew that voice. "Hi, Olivia. You arenâ€™t
gave me a look that to me said, "Spritz me, baby." I
arrived. Weâ€™re at my motherâ€™s now. Stripling is just how I
it. Itâ€™s so cute. The perfect place for a wedding, donâ€™t
missed the sarcasm. "As you know, itâ€™s a holiday."
heard something about that." I spritzed myself in the
funny. Anyway, my mother is having a little Independence
at two in honor of my return, and I am inviting you to
I was planningâ€”"
India? I havenâ€™t seen you in forever, and I want you to
You can bring a date if you want."
snorted, but after ten more minutes of listening to
I finally agreed. As bridesmaid-in-waiting, I had an
she hung up, I pulled the sheet over my head with a moan
and asked Templeton
to put me out of my misery. I peeked out from the sheet
when he didnâ€™t
respond. He looked like an overbroiled chicken splayed on
floor. "If you are not going to help me out, Iâ€™ll just have
Bobby, wonâ€™t I?"
blinked at me. I picked up the phone and hit speed dial.
McNally answered, I said, "I need a favor."
cost you," a churlish and groggy Bobby answered.
do you like children?"