In Arkansas, we saw Texarkana and then on to Little Rock. So much of the scenery flashed by us because we were so deep in our thoughts and hurts. We did the usual bathroom breaks. We ate fast food in the car, adding to the crumbs already there. We would have to get the car cleaned at some point because it was rapidly reaching a point where it was too disgusting to ride in.
Outside of Little Rock, we picked up state road 65 that would take us to Branson, Missouri. We just need to cut across the southwest side of Missouri, so we wouldn’t spend much time there.
Dinner in Branson consisted of yet another burger and fries and a chain hotel for the night. At this rate, I would likely gain 50 pounds before the trip was over. What was Lillian thinking making us do this? How can anyone eat without gaining a ton of weight while on a road trip. In my hotel that night, I looked up information about how to lose weight while on vacation and found some great ideas. And I had a perfect alibi traveling with me–Snow.
That morning, after dressing in my traveling pants, a tank top and my sneakers, I ate a whole wheat bagel at the complimentary breakfast buffet in the hotel. I grabbed a banana and a coffee and took them back to my room. I packed up my things and took them out to the Cayenne.
Snow eagerly awaited her morning walk, so I took her to the back of the hotel parking lot to allow her to poop. Then, we walked to the lobby and I asked for a walking map of the area so I could walk my dog, and of course, myself. Chris called me when we were about four blocks from the hotel to ask me when we were leaving and I told him I was walking Snow and would be back in about thirty minutes.
“Where are you walking her to? Colorado?” he asked.
I blew out a sigh and then answered him. “Sitting in a car all day and eating nothing but hamburgers and fries will not do anything for my school girl figure. I felt like going for a walk this morning. I will call you when I am ready to go. Smoke a few cigarettes and get some breakfast.” I hung up without saying goodbye. I didn’t really care if Chris had to wait for me. The time I spent walking the dog was well worth it in my opinion.
Of course, he was impatient and fuming by the time I returned to the parking lot with Snow. I made him wait a little longer while I went back into my room and used the toilet. A quick survey made sure I had not forgotten anything in the room. The car was running and Snow was perched in the backseat when I closed the door. Chris stopped by the front of the hotel and I went in to return the room key cards. We hit the road by 9:30 a.m. The next stop: Oklahoma City.
Chris plugged in his iPod to the sound system and turned the music up. The music played loudly enough that we couldn’t talk if we wanted to and I am certain that was the object. I am the one who made the rules, so I couldn’t renege.
After about an hour of emo tunes and 90’s rock blasting through my head, the song we danced to at our wedding came on and I saw the slight smile on Chris’s face. I hoped it evoked a fond memory from our past.
We learned a tango for our wedding dance and danced to Asi Se Baila El Tango by Bailongo! and Vero Verdier. We spent several days in a dance studio with a small man who had the incongruous name of Mr. Carlton. When he told me his name, I instantly got a mental image of him doing “the Carlton.” He stood 5’4” in two inch dancing shoes and weighed about 100 pounds. His straight black hair never moved on his head because he used so much pommade. But, the man could tango.
Lillian bribed Chris by promising him enough money for a down payment on a house if he went through with the dance lessons. As usual, he pouted and complained about having to do anything out of his comfort zone. But, he wanted a house badly enough to suffer the humiliation of dancing with me.
Mr. Carlton dimmed the lights in the dance studio on the day of our first dance lesson and put on a deeply dramatic song. A tiny Oriental girl came out of the back dressed in a black leotard, spike heels, and a skirt that only covered her bottom. Mr. Carlton pulled off his coat and tossed it aside and jerked on the girl’s arm, pulling her in closely. They writhed and swirled and posed on the dance floor. Everything except the two people dancing vanished from the earth as I watched them maneuver their way across the floor, never losing eye contact with each other. I was mesmerized.
Chris said, “I can’t do that!” as soon as the dancers completed their routine.
Mr. Carlton shouted at him, “Of course, you can’t. That’s why you came to me. Jasmine and I wanted to show you what you will learn over the next few weeks.” He murmured a thank you to the girl and she vanished from the room as quickly as she arrived. “Now, we begin. You have your shoes?”
Lillian brought dancing shoes for both of us that we would wear at the reception. Although mine had heels, they were comfortable to wear. Chris’s shoes were shiny black and he would wear them for the wedding and the reception.
We put on our shoes and Mr. Carlton inspected the fit. He announced that they would work perfectly and then commanded we stand for our first lesson. Chris kissed my hair and said, “You have to know how much I love you if I am willing to do this for you.”
I countered with, “You are doing this for a house.”
Chris said, “I do love you, house or not.”
I blushed and Mr. Carlton told us to get to work and to stop flirting. For the next two hours we practiced our posing, getting our frame correct, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. At the end of the session, I felt like I had just ran a marathon. I was sweaty and tired. My arms and calves ached. My head ached. My feet felt swollen inside the shoes. Chris looked very much the same.
As we drove home after that first dance lesson, Chris told me, “I have a new respect for anyone who dances. That is a lot of very hard work.” He was silent for a few moments and then he asked me, “Do you think we can do it?”
“I hope so.”
“How long have we got to learn this stuff?”
“The wedding is four months away. Mr. Carlton has scheduled us for two lessons a week. Yes, I think we can do it.”
“You know, we have to get this perfect. It’ll impressed the hell out of Mom.”
It bothered me a little bit that he was learning the tango to impress Lillian rather than me, but I kept my mouth shut. At least he was going to try.
The next lesson was dismal. Mr. Carlton yelled at us for being stiff as a two by four. He flailed his hands and ranted. The muscles in my arms ached terribly from the first dance lesson and I felt like I was moving through glue. Chris didn’t say anything, but I imagine he felt much the same.
The third lesson went a little better and the fourth even better. We discovered we could judge our progress by how much Mr. Carlton yelled. Less yelling meant better dancing.
I progressed with my wedding plans in the midst of all of the dance lessons. Six months before the dance lessons, my mother and I went to Kleinfeld’s in New York to get a wedding dress. As usual, we clashed terribly. Mom wanted me to wear a mermaid gown and I wanted something a bit more vintage. We settled on a dress that was reminiscent of the beaded dress that Ginger Rogers wore in the movie Top Hat. The Hollywood Golden Age themed wedding moved ahead at warp speed. Mom wanted to impress all of her friends from the Hamptons, so we got married in Mom’s backyard. Neither Chris nor I knew most of the guests, but we only had eyes for each other, anyway. The money Mom and Dad spent on the wedding was embarrassing. We got through it.
I had a second dress of the wedding reception; one far more conducive to dancing a tango in that it was similar to my wedding dress but without the train and missing most of the beads. It conjured images of Ginger, again wearing a white silk gown. Chris wore a top hat and tails. Matt, Chris’s best man, introduced us as we entered the tented pavilion my mother had erected in her yard for the reception. “Ladies, gentlemen, honored guests. May I introduce Mr. and Mrs. Archer, Chris and Ann.”
The orchestra cued the music and I slowly walked out to the dance platform. From the opposite side of the platform, Chris appeared and tossed his coat aside, just like Mr. Carlton did that first day at dance lessons. Our bodies molded together as we went through the well-rehearsed steps of the tango. We received a round of applause which would have happened even if we danced poorly. Mom beamed and Chris blushed. I caught a glimpse of Lillian and she shook her head slowly from side to side. Later she told me that entire wedding was pretentious and I agreed.
Of course the wedding was pretentious, but few people could say no to Lilith Weaver. So, the lavish and pretentious wedding proceeded, and Chris and I had fun. And so did my six bridesmaids and Chris’s six groomsmen. That evening, I danced with a Senator or two, a Hollywood producer, a couple of Wall Street Millionaires, and an actor who was famous for creating a superhero on the big screen. We dined on lobster, Beef Wellington, caviar, and a wedding cake decorated to look like a white top hat with Swarovski crystals and white roses to garnish. Just like my wedding bouquet. White roses, Swarovski Crystals and silk ribbons.
By the time I danced with my Dad, I had my shoes off and Mom was scandalized. She informed me as she and a famous TV chef danced by that only tramps and hobos went without shoes. Dad whirled me a way and told me to ignore Lilith and to enjoy myself. Chris and Lillian danced closer to us and Lillian pushed Chris into my arms and grabbed my dad for a spin around the floor with him. Mom fumed at Dad for dancing with the indefatigable Lillian Archer.
Other than our tango, Chris was a terrible dancer. He was just barely able to do a box step. I only danced with him two or three times during the night. Matt, on the other hand, was accomplished and lithe on the floor. He graced me with several dances while Barbara smiled at him in approval.
Around midnight, the party started to wind down and Carolyn, my maid of honor, announced that it was time for me to go so everyone else could go. Matt instructed the orchestra to play a slow romantic song and Chris and I had one last box step dance together. We went upstairs to stay overnight in Mom’s guestroom.
I was happy to have a lavish wedding, but afterward, I knew Mom had over spent. All I had remaining were some memories and an album full of photographs.
Chris pulled the car over so we could get a selfie of the Oklahoma Welcome sign. I smiled because I was still thinking about our tango and Chris just looked annoyed. I sent the photo to Mr. Cartwright and to Lily. I also sent one to Matt. He would enjoy the image of Snow with her two front paws on Chris’s leg, begging for a pat on her head. Maybe that’s why he looked annoyed.