Note: Wow, here we are at the end. What a journey it has been, and if you have made it this far, then thank you for tagging along with Matthew and Summer. So, here we go, the last chapter of the novel. Hope you enjoy!
Part 64: The Heart Of Everything
Standing at the side of the altar, facing all these people, most of whom I didn’t know, was a bit unnerving. The church was filled to near capacity, which wasn’t a huge feat since it was a little building, but I smiled enough to fill up the rest of the room, anticipating the arrival of my bride. My head couldn’t help but think of every bad scenario it could: she had changed her mind, cold feet, left standing alone again. My heart, however, told me this was not so. Summer would be here just as she promised. Someone had closed the sanctuary doors while I had been in the back with the preacher and Edward, but now they opened to reveal the bridesmaids and ushers. I didn’t know any of the girls as they walked down the aisle, their arms linked with the young men who escorted them. The ushers I recognized as the remaining members of the street party band, and I made a mental note to myself that if my music critic career ever took off again I would be sure to write about the coolest street band ever.
Beside me, Edward remembered he was out of place. I guess every wedding needs a hiccup or two. He hastily excused himself and made his way to the sanctuary doors, trying to stick to the wall so he wouldn’t be a distraction. He needn’t have worried. Everyone’s eyes were on the beautiful young men and women walking down the aisle to the acoustic strains of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale.’
Then there was Edward, finally in place, escorting his daughter, the maid of honor, down the aisle. Helen looked radiant, and I wondered where in the world they had gotten all these matching gowns on short notice. This had to be the hastiest put together wedding ever, and if it got pulled off, then Helen and her helpers should start a new business as emergency wedding planners. She and Edward, her Gunboats, came down the aisle, and when her eyes looked over at me, I smiled as if she were my own mother come to see her boy on his happiest day. And then, I looked to the back of the church as everyone stood and the acoustic guitar played a variation of the bridal march.
She came down the aisle proudly escorted by her father. Her eyes nervously looked around at all the people and I silently whispered, ‘keep your eyes on me’ so she wouldn’t stumble or falter. As if hearing my voice in her head, she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and allowed Earl to lead her. My own eyes were permanently locked on her, my smile threatening to infect the whole room with my joy. No feeling in the world could come close to the sight of Summer walking down the aisle to join me. As we both came around to join the preacher in front of the flowered gazebo I still could not tear my eyes away. I wanted this moment permanently ingrained in my eyes so that when I went to bed every night I’d still see my bride standing there, the most beautiful girl in the room forever.
The wedding was not rehearsed beforehand, so we followed the preacher’s lead every step of the way. From the lighting of the unity candles, to us staring teary eyed at each other during our nuptial song, a tender yet thankfully wordless version of ‘Still Got The Blues,’ to the exchanging of borrowed rings, to the pledging of our vows before God and man. I said “I do” with the voice of a man happy and proud to have reached this moment with the most wonderful woman he’d ever known. She softly spoke her “I do”, not because she was nervous or unsure, but because for her it was as a whisper directly in my ear, a pledge and promise for me alone, never to be said to another man. In that moment, she became mine alone for the rest of eternity, and I became hers. When the preacher said I could kiss the bride, it was no ordinary kiss. It filled up every fiber of my being, washing over me like a flood of happiness, and though I knew all eyes were on us, it was as if we were alone, standing on a mountaintop to let our love shine down on everyone lost in the valley below. When we finally parted, and the preacher turned us to face the crowd gathered to witness, he introduced us as man and wife, Matthew and Summer Dean. The rest as they say was icing on the cake.
I looked over at Summer. “Are you ready, Mrs. Dean?”
She smiled, and I saw the happy tears in her eyes as everyone stood and applauded our new married designation. “I’m ready, Matty, “ she replied, and we stepped off the dais to make our way, hand in hand proudly up the aisle, no longer two individuals alone in the world, but one living breathing union of love. We rushed to our waiting car, which someone had decorated with streamers and soda cans. It wasn’t lost on us that the cans were either root beer or crème soda. Shaving crème spelled ‘Just Married’ on the trunk and ‘Forever Love’ on the hood. Someone also had put Vaseline on the door handles so they would be hard to open, and as we fumbled with it, we were bombarded with bubbles and confetti. With Summer squealing delightfully next to me, I got the door open as a car full of helium balloons came tumbling out the door at us. On each one someone had taken a marker and written ‘Matthew and Summer Happily Ever After.’ We watched them take to the air like wishes on a dream.
We scrambled to get in the car and with a wave to friends old and new, drove out of the parking lot honking the horn, dragging noisy cans behind us. “We’ll come back for your car,“ I told her.
“I’m not worried, “ she replied, laying her head over on my shoulder. “Where are we going anyway?”
“We’re going home.”
She raised her head up. “I think you’re going the wrong way. There’s nothing but Orchard House down there.”
She looked at me, a look of bewilderment on her face. “Okay, so…”
“Orchard House is our home now… sort of.”
“What do you mean?”
“You want to stay, don’t you?”
“Yes. You know I do.”
“Well then, how would you feel about managing a bed and breakfast inn for the nicest bunch of people we know?”
“Are you serious?”
I smiled. “Sincerious.”
Summer hugged me, and let out a loud cat call similar to the first day we rode down the road together with her shouting ‘life is a highway’ from the top of her lungs. I turned off the road and headed up the long gravel drive to Orchard House.
Alexander Graham Bell is credited as saying, ‘When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.’ If that is true, then the open door of Orchard House removed the regrets and caused us to look beyond ourselves, our own hang-ups and wants, and see that which waited for us behind its doors. We arrived at Orchard House as strangers and left as husband and wife. There is no greater gift that could have been given to us than the true love we found.
In the beginning, I thought it best to keep the location of Orchard House a secret, for fear others would discover the place that had become so special to me But now I know that is not fair. That would be the same as denying someone the chance to fall in love and be loved, or to live and breathe in the open air. Orchard House is for all who would seek healing, for all who desire love, and wish for a better life in the hope of another. In your journey for hope or absolution, whatever the case may be, it is my wish that you would at the very least think of us, and all those who have come before you, wanting more than anything to be loved like never before, and with those thoughts seek what is missing in your life. Who knows, it may lead you down a country road, past apple trees and the scent of honeysuckles, to end at Orchard House and the heart of everything. If that should happen…well then, I guess we’ll see you soon.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.
It has been such fun sharing this novel with you. I hope you have enjoyed the journey!