Note: Here’s the second post for today. I’m really feeling strange, as if I’m sendin my kid out into the world on his own. Join me tomorrow morning for the final chapter of this novel. Somebody bake me a cake 😉
Part 63: Waiting For The Bride
I went out to the car to grab my tux and noticed there was now a small truck parked beside us. An elderly woman stood outside the passenger side talking to her granddaughter, who usually was selling lemonade at this hour. The driver got out and walked over to me. He pumped my hand vigorously. “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you both.”Gunboats smiled. “See son, I told you life is so much better outside the trench.”
I grinned ear to ear. “Yes, it is.”
The man pointed towards the church. Two ladies had now come out and were wrapping little white bells around the porch railing with red ribbon. “Sure glad you followed my advice,” he said.
“It wasn’t just yours. It seems everyone and everything was steering us in this direction. If not for Orchard House…no, let’s not think of that…let’s just say today I’m completely changed and perfectly happy.”
“No son, you won’t be that until she says I do.”
I smiled. “Speaking of which…would you do me the honors and be my best man?”
“The honor would be all mine. Been a long time since I been in a wedding. Hope it’s habit forming.” He pointed across the parking lot. Several other people had come out the front door, as if they had been inside helping decorate. I recognized two of the people right away – the boy from the street party band and his blonde braided girlfriend. They were loving it up on the steps of the church, arms around each other, staring into each other’s eyes like younger versions of Summer and I. Gunboats smiled. “You need to make sure that boy catches the garter.”
I grinned. “I don’t know, I may want to keep that for myself.”
He laughed. “Why have the garter when you can have the woman?“ he replied. Looking over at Helen and Twyla, he said, “You gals ready to go get dressed for a wedding?” He looked back at me. “We’ll see you shortly, Matthew. You better get dressed yourself. You only have an hour or two of freedom before the ladies are ready to get this show on the road. I imagine even now they are calling everybody to tell them the wedding is on.” As if to say this was true, the church bell in the steeple began to ring.
“Thank you, Gunboats, “ I said.
He smiled. “Please, it’s Edward.”
“My name is Edward. Not many folks call me Gunboats anymore.”
“Oh, ok then. Edward it is. Thank you, Edward.”
The man smiled and nodded. “Our pleasure,” he replied. He got ready to get in the truck, then stopped. “You still got that envelope?”
“Did you look at everything? Read the papers?”
“No, you told me I would know when the time came for that.”
He smiled. “It’s time.” Then he was in the truck and starting it up. I stood there watching them drive away. The envelope was in one of my bags. I quickly opened the car and rummaged for it. Finding the envelope, I nearly tore it open. There were a few papers there I had already read, but there was one that had been sealed in its own smaller envelope that had my name written across it. It had been tempting the several times I had seen it before, but I had fought it, thinking to myself when Gunboats had wanted me to read it, he would tell me. I carefully tore the top and peered inside, pulling out a typed sheet of paper. At the top it read: Contract for Management of Orchard House.
I was mulling over whether to go into the church and change, when another truck pulled into the lot. Earl’s familiar face was behind the wheel. He practically jumped out once he was parked. I walked over to him and shook his hand.
“Glad you could make it, I know it’s short notice.”
“I wouldn’t miss it, Matthew, but…”
“Are you sure she’d want me to walk her down the aisle?”
I smiled. “Yes, I’m sure.”
“I just found her – I’m not sure I want to be giving her away.”
“Consider it a lifetime loan then.”
He smiled and patted me on the back. “You know, I can already tell you’re going to be a better husband than I was.” He looked up to the sky and its white billowing clouds as if he were peering straight into heaven. “I hope her mother is watching today.”
“I’m sure she’s right here,“ I assured him. “Right next to my own parents.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I believe so too.”
“Well hey Earl, you can go on in. I think I’m going to drive down to the store and change in their restroom. I don’t want to accidentally see the bride before it’s time you know.”
“Alright then. We’ll see you soon.” He gave me a wink. “Don’t make me come and get you with the shotgun.”
I smiled. “No worries there. I’ll be back so fast no one will have time to miss me.”
The bell gave a little tinkle as I walked into the store. Raymond, behind the counter, had just rung someone up. He looked up and raised an eyebrow as if he was surprised to see me. “You better have come to tell me I can close up the store for a few hours as planned.”
“Well, no that wasn’t my intention. I need a place to change into my tux.”
He grinned. “Same thing.” He pointed to a doorway behind him. “Back there. Last door on the left.”
I went to the restroom and shut the door behind me. As I dressed I thought to myself, if someone had told me I would be getting dressed for my own wedding in the bathroom of a little country store a week ago, I would have laughed so hard they’d thought I was crazy. But now, looking at my reflection in the mirror, it was like looking at a different and far happier person. I finished dressing and made a few adjustments at the collar. When I smiled in the mirror, it smiled back as if the little boy inside, lonely and frightened, was finally free to be a man.
By the time I arrived back at the church, the lot was nearly full with cars. We didn’t even know that many people. They must have gone door to door in the community inviting people. Didn’t matter if they knew us or not, hey come to a wedding anyway. People were milling about outside, and the church doors now lay open. The bells had stopped their peal, but the sound of acoustic guitar music drifted outside. Earl came down the steps towards me.
“They aren’t quite ready yet, but Edward and the preacher are in the back waiting on you.”
I nodded. Butterflies flew into my stomach and flitted around. “Okay, thanks.”
Going up the steps, I smiled at those who had gathered for my wedding. I recognized some from the street party, others I didn’t know at all. Still it didn’t matter; they were here to help celebrate, and that was fine by me. Through the foyer and into the sanctuary, I was greeted and congratulated so much that my thank you response became automatic. It seemed everyone we had come in contact with was in attendance. The tubing guy, the boy in the Italian restaurant, the fortune teller, the migrant workers, all nodded and smiled in my direction. I felt like I was walking down the aisle to accept an award or something. Suddenly, someone stood up from one of the seats and planted himself in the aisle in front of me. I froze. For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. Then I smiled and held out my arms. “Brother,“ I whispered, and Eric welcomed my hug like a long lost prodigal. “I’m glad you came.”
“I can already tell this wedding will be different,“ he replied.
“Have you seen her? Have you seen my bride?”
“No, but I see you, and it’s clear she’s the one. Congrats baby brother.” He patted my shoulder. “By the way, this is Ashley.” For another moment, I froze so rigid you’d think there was a snake in front of me, but then he pointed to a young lady sitting on the end of the aisle. I breathed a sigh of relief; it wasn’t THAT Ashley, but another girl I’d never seen before. “We just got engaged. Isn’t that ironic?”
I wasn’t sure if he meant the irony that he too was engaged, or that her name was Ashley, so I smiled and said to her. “Just make it to the wedding and you’ll do fine.” She gave me a weird look, but Eric laughed at her confusion. I stepped around him. “Well, I got to let them know I made it, too,“ I told him.
Moving down the aisle, I saw where the acoustic music was coming from. The street party boy was sitting on the riser and doing a good job of entertaining the crowd while they waited for the ceremony to commence. He went through a whole range of material ; from ‘Wonderful Tonight’ to ‘Lady In Red’, as well as a whole slew of Chris Issak, which I’m not sure, but I think this was the first time I’d heard of ‘Wicked Game’ being played at a wedding. I gave him a nod of my head as I passed him, and went through a door leading me out of the sanctuary, into a side room where Edward and the preacher waited.
“Nervous?” Edward asked.
“Yes, I am.”
“You’ll do fine. Just don’t lock your legs when you see her. Otherwise we could have one of them America’s Funniest Home Videos moments.”
The preacher introduced himself and went over a few things with me. “Do you have your vows?”
“Traditional vows ok?”
“Do they have ‘I do’ in them?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
“Better or worse, sickness and health, til death do we part?”
“That’s the one then.”
“Okay. Who has the rings?”
I froze again. I had forgotten to…
“I do,” Edward said, pulling two silver bands from his pocket. “Hope we’re the same ring size,“ he whispered. I realized he didn’t have his own wedding band on. Instead, he was offering their own to me. “Nothing is going to stop you from getting hitched today, boy.”
“I’ll pay you back or something.”
“Did you look in the envelope?”
“I signed it.”
He smiled. “Well then, looks like you’ve paid me back.”
Earl poked his head through the door. “I think they are ready for you guys to come out,” he said.
“Moment of truth,“ I said.
“Moment of ‘if you smile any bigger your cheeks will hit the wall’ is more like it.”
We went out into the sanctuary, where the teenage guitarist had run out of ideas and was now playing an instrumental, yet slow downed, rendition of ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. I don’t think anyone noticed it had just become a punk rock wedding.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.