PART ONE (OF ONE) SCENE ONE (OF ONE)
Interior of the finest, fanciest restaurant in Nowhere, New Hampshire. In this restaurant, the mason jars used as water glasses have handles.
Nine women sit at a long table. They hand their menus to a waiter. Eight of them will have to wait to be introduced until they actually say something because otherwise the stage directions will take up an entire page.
Autumn is seated in the middle of the table. She has the skinny frame and jumpy eyes of a starving animal in the middle of the food chain — if she slows down enough to eat or sleep, a bigger predator might pounce.
M raising her glass at Autumn: To the bride! This time tomorrow, you’ll be married!
Seven obligatory “yays” are followed by rather more enthusiastic sips from wine glasses. Autumn twists her napkin into the shape of a squid. M hands a piece of bread to Autumn.
M: Did you eat breakfast?
AUTUMN twisting bread into butter–squirting squid: I had some Cheerios? Hey, I forgot to ask, are the sleeves right-side up on your dress again?
M: Yes. Eat.
AUTUMN leaning over to Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister: What about your sleeves?
BOYFRIEND-STEALING BABY SISTER: Mine were fixed Wednesday. Eat.
AUTUMN setting bread on plate and leaning across table to JM: How was your flight? And do you know what dry steam is?
BRILLIANT BLONDE LAWYER SISTER: Will you put that damned piece of bread in your mouth already?!
Autumn picks up bread again, only to drop it as her phone rings. She checks the screen.
AUTUMN: It’s Andy, hopefully just telling me he’s picked up his parents without drama. Hi, babe, everything okay?
ANDY made audible by stress: Not really. My parents are really, really upset about the name change.
Wong parental units made audible by angry shouts in Cantonese emanating from cell phone.
AUTUMN: You told them now? Just now? The day before the wedding?!
ANDY: I didn’t want them to be surprised when the minister said, “I now present Mr. and Mrs. Ashbough-Wong.”
AUTUMN tucks phone between shoulder and ear, tears bread squid to pieces: So you’ve called to stress me out during my luncheon?
BRILLIANT BLONDE LAWYER SISTER: You can’t call it a luncheon if you don’t eat!
M gently tugs the phone away from Autumn’s hand and replaces it with another piece of bread.
M: Hi, Andy, it’s M. Why don’t you go ahead and talk to me now?
M gestures at Autumn to eat, gets up from the table, walks to the back of the restaurant. All we hear are soothing murmurs of “hmmm,” “yes”, and “I see.”
GENIUS JUDGMENTAL DOCTOR SISTER toasting the air with her wine glass: Cheers! Andy’s becoming an Ashbough! Drains glass, and pours another.
AUTUMN: Apparently not NOW, but we were both going to hyphenate and be Ashbough-Wong.
Pretty Space Cadet Sister pulls out a flat, gift-wrapped package and presents it to Autumn.
PRETTY SPACE CADET SISTER: Well, M arranged this, but she’s busy. Now seems like a great time to give it to you!
Autumn opens the gift and finds a lovely silver frame, engraved.
AUTUMN reading inscription: “Where shall we see a kinder sister or a truer friend?” — Jane Austen.
Autumn promptly bursts into tears.
PRETTY SPACE CADET SISTER flapping hands: Why is she crying?
BRILLIANT BLONDE LAWYER SISTER runs around the table and tries to shove bread in Autumn’s mouth: Because she’s starving! Eat, damn it!
AUTUMN: Stop it! You’re getting butter up my nose!
Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister backs off while Autumn wipes away butter/ snot/ tears. M returns, slips Autumn’s phone into her purse.
AUTUMN: I’m not crying because I’m hungry–
BRILLIANT BLONDE LAWYER SISTER: Yeah, you are–
AUTUMN: I’m crying because the whole quote is: “Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend?”
BABY SINGING SISTER: You know the whole quote?!
JM: I love that quote.
BOYFRIEND-STEALING BABY SISTER: I didn’t know ANY of the quote.
KL: Me, either.
JUDGMENTAL GENIUS DOCTOR SISTER snorting: At least she learned something as an English major.
AUTUMN: You guys left out the “better daughter part,” and you’re right, because my in-laws hate me and I’m not even married yet and I’m already a crappy daughter-in-law!
M: Or maybe we left it out because it didn’t fit.
AUTUMN sniffling: Really?
M: Yes. And don’t worry, I calmed Andy down, and I calmed his parents down and everything’s absolutely fine and here’s your ravioli, sweetie. Now eat.
The wait staff appears and serves the meal. Everyone eats quietly for a few beats. Autumn leans over to M.
AUTUMN: Can I have my phone back?
AUTUMN: You lied about his parents being fine, didn’t you?
AUTUMN: You’re lying right now.
AUTUMN: I can tell.
M: Eat your ravioli.
Autumn takes another bite, squeezes M’s hand under the table.
AUTUMN whispering: Where shall we find a truer friend, indeed.