He was sitting in the orchestra pit, listening to the rants of the conductor. Would the guy just get on with it? It was time for the swim-suit competition â€“ the run-through before tomorrow nightâ€™s Miss Oklahoma Pageant. And the conductor wasnâ€™t happy with the intro to the music. At least he wasnâ€™t happy with the way the orchestra had played it. But the assistant director had told the conductor the girls were getting restless backstage.
The girls, the girls. Wasnâ€™t that the only reason heâ€™d taken this job â€“ the fine- tuned graduate of Tulsa University. What a nice view to have while you played cheesy show music. Of course the bread was nice, but there were other gigs â€“ going on the road with Stanâ€™s band for example which would happen in just a few short weeks. Heâ€™d been called by the band manager and asked to join the famous orchestra as lead alto saxophonist and jazz soloist. His career upon graduation was getting off to a brilliant start.
â€œStop daydreaming back there!â€ His head snapped to attention when he realized the conductor was shouting at him. â€œAll, right â€“ letâ€™s try it againâ€¦with the girls.â€
The conductor kicked off the band and the bossa nova began.
He played his part perfectly the way heâ€™d played it all evening during the damned rehearsal. He wasnâ€™t the one who kept messing up. And then a bevy of long legs swept into his peripheral. One was more lovely than the next â€“ there was a blonde in a green suit, a red-head in a blue one, a petite little thing all in whiteâ€¦thenâ€¦ he stopped playing. The tall brunette floated by in flaming red. Her dark brown locks cascaded down her back and nearly rested on her perfectly shaped derriere. Mile-long legs stretched to the floor, pouring into crimson spiked heels. She twisted down the runway, made a sweeping turn then headed back toward the stage. She smiled broadly, lips glistening scarlet. She looked straight ahead, her posture as perfect as her walk. He realized he still hadnâ€™t played a note but what did it matter?
As she reached the area next to him in the pit he shot up out of his seat. â€œHey, babe â€¦where you from?â€
â€œWhat?â€ she nearly tumbled over as she came to a stop.
â€œWhere are you from?â€ He grinned from ear to ear.
â€œYeah? Iâ€™m from Bartlesville.â€
â€œOh.â€ She looked embarrassed.
â€œWilkerson! This is not the dating game!â€ The conductorâ€™s baton rapped frantically on his music stand bringing the orchestra to a halt.
Confusion crossed the girlâ€™s face as she turned to the conductor. But Wilkerson paid him no mind. â€œWhere do you go to school?â€
â€œIâ€¦ start Tulsa University in the fallâ€¦â€ she stammered.
â€œI just graduated from thereâ€¦Iâ€™m going on the road with Stan Kenton in a couple weeks. We should get together afterâ€¦â€
He sat back down and took the sax back to his lips. The music started once more. The girl began walking again but with her head turned back. Their eyes remained glued to one another. And then she dipped backstage out of sight.
Wilkerson was fired from the orchestra that night. But he went on to tour with
the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Then he moved to Los Angeles, married a girl from San Diego, did television and film work and led the typical life of a musician in LA. But he could never forget that image walking down that runway.
Three years later, he was divorced. When he returned home he looked up the girl. He proposed on their third date. They have been happily married for twenty-seven years. And he still likes to tell the story of the girl in the red bathing suit.
He was at a wedding, with family all around. The church spire reached into a blue sky, with clouds, it seemed to Liam, placed just right to frame the architecture. He inhaled the rich smell of earth, newly green trees and fresh-mowed turf that formed the perfect background for the white stone steps and the brilliant flowers carried by the bride and her attendants. The men stood in gray morning suits, a solid backdrop for the cluster of pink- and blue-dusted bridesmaids, all young and effervescent as champagne. Everything shone clean, crisp and elegant.
The young man realized the others in his family would remember it exactly like that. They were town people mostly, this day at the English country church only a trip to a picturesque spot suitable for the perfect wedding.
For young Liam it was different. Sure, he admired his cousin Rafe. But it wasnâ€™t worth enduring all this folderol. How could Rafe stand it? The gauzy-eyed bride, the chittering attendants, and Rafeâ€™s glazed look. Totally boring.
Still, Liam couldnâ€™t miss this chance to see Arbotâ€™s Abbey. The trip to his cousin Rafeâ€™s wedding near the village was a pilgrimage. Someday, somehow heâ€™d own a piece of this land. If he couldnâ€™t earn enough as an artist to keep it, heâ€™d farm it himself. Maybe heâ€™d be a farmer. But it was in this place he would put down roots.
Then a single instant taught Liam why his otherwise clear-headed cousin Rafe would consent to the nonsense. It was a private moment only Liam might have seen when a young member of the Archer clan performed some antic and everyoneâ€™s attention focused on the little boy. But Liam caught the bride look up at her new husband, her look a pledge, full of affirmation and hope. Rafe had taken her hand and now, set a light kiss on his brideâ€™s ring, promising with his own eyes.
Swallowing and red-faced Liam had to look away, anywhere, and saw the youngest flower girl, Daphne, who couldnâ€™t be more than eight. The little girl turned her face towards his, her gray child-eyes solemn. And knowing, as if she understood what they had both witnessed. Then she looked clear inside him and uncovered the unexpected effect of that exchange between bride and groom on his own heart.
Maybe it was the juxtaposition of so many female Archer profiles: old, middle-aged, teens and babies, all with the same fine cheek bones. Or more likely his artistâ€™s eye that nagged him to see, compare and capture. But for whatever reason, he could see Daphne Wells-Archer and picture her at 10, or 14 – his own age- or as she grew to young womanhood and flowered.
Looking at her fine brown hair above clear eyes, it didnâ€™t take much imagination to project a Daphne grown up and beautiful. No, handsome. Sheâ€™d never be beautiful. Her nose was just a little too long, her teeth not quite straight. But he could see her in years to come, middle-aged, old, even, with those same clear eyes, fine cheekbones and elegant posture.
As Daphne scratched the side of her nose, Liam noticed the grace of her hand and slender, feminine fingers. The next moment, he watched her dart away from the others to chase one of the church cats. Fat, black and gray, the cat kept to the shadows and delicately treaded the worn stone path around the side of the church to the graveyard. Dropping her basket of petals, Daphne caught him. Then she gathered the large cat in her arms and sat on a stone bench on the shady side of the church.
Liam sauntered over. The cat purred against Daphneâ€™s satin bodice as she stroked him. Liam realized he was only just old enough to have outgrown doing just what the girl had. He smiled a little at himself and when she looked up, he winked at her like a co-conspirator.
He leaned over. â€œDonâ€™t worry. I wonâ€™t scold you about spoiling your dress.â€ Daphne grinned at him and hunched her shoulders as she hugged the cat.
They spent ten minutes listening to the cat purr and then walked in the dappled sunlight between the gravestones. In lively contrast to the somber yard, the extravagant lace hem of her pink dress fluttered over her ballet slippers. She remembered her basket and fetched it, dropping a couple of petals on one of the graves.
â€œCome on. Itâ€™s time for pictures.â€ Liam sent her a rueful look and she sighed.
â€œWell, if I must.â€ Her small voice floated against the whisper of the leaves. He laughed.
â€œWant a ride back?â€ Without waiting for an answer he lifted her up, basket and all, to place her on his shoulders, her white-stockinged legs dangling on each side of his face. She giggled and wriggled to get her seat ensconced.
â€œGet your ruffles out of my eyes and donâ€™t fidget.â€ This made Daphne giggle even more. He held her legs securely above the knees as she showered him with petals, laughing harder, her voice cascading, bell-like and innocent.
The cat trailed them back to the front of the church.
â€œHere you are, Daphne and Liam! Good, you found her.â€ The feathers on Aunt Sophiaâ€™s ridiculous hat bobbed as she nodded to him.
â€œWeâ€™ve been keeping each other out of mischief.â€ He lifted Daphne from his shoulders to set her down.
Daphne smiled again and curtsied. â€œWe kept ourselves from being bored.â€ Aunt Sophia laughed.
Liam bent over Daphneâ€™s hand and said, â€œGet over there and look dignified for a moment, you imp. Youâ€™re part of the picture.â€
â€œOf course, silly. Iâ€™m in the center.â€ She marched off to stand patiently as they all posed and posed again.
Liam wondered what Daphne would be like in 15 years. Wondered if sheâ€™d still be wise beyond her years, would still see inside. And would her laughter still wrap itself around his heart? He vowed to find out.
Nellie de la Cruz
This was my husband’s second marriage, and he really didn’t want to make any sort of fuss. His thinking–that the actual marriage was the important part–was something I agreed with. And I was never the kind of girl who grew up imagining what her wedding would be like–in fact after my parents marital disaster I had a hard time believing I would ever want to get married.
I knew this was a huge step we were taking together, and I wasn’t too interested in taking it before a whole lot of people anyway. To me, getting married has always been a private thing. The celebration after might involve families and whole communities, but the vows, the emotion, the dedication and commitment are very, very personal.
This worked out very well, because even though the bride’s family is supposed to pay and micromanage a wedding way out of proportion, and bride’s mothers are legendary in their insistence of rite, protocol, and angst over the attendance list, my mother was a bohemian artist who wanted no part of that. Her one contribution was the photographs, and they were almost all crooked and slightly out of focus. So, we were grateful she didn’t want to plan a thing.
Through a friend we found a Universal Life Church Minister. You remember them, right? The mail-us-five-dollars-and-you’re-a-minister guys who mostly did that to try to get out of the draft back in the Vietnam days. This was many years later, and since our minister was a real estate attorney by day, I still have no idea why he was a ULCM. But, all that mattered to us was that he had a legal signature and was going to let us read our vows.
It turned out he did a splendid little speech before that, and in the pictures in the photo album, people mention how much he looks like my DH and ask if they are brothers. This has always made me feel he was meant to be there.
Besides my mother, we had three other guests. My stepson-to-be, and a mutual friend and her son. The friend and my mother made the two witnesses. Turns out we didn’t need them, but we didn’t now that when we invited them. And that gave us a few more mouths to help us with the food, because even with just our tiny group, we had way too much to eat, including the most amazing delicacies from a French pastry artist in Beverly Hills. I did the flower arrangements–yes, they were all around the restaurant booth we had at the end of the kitchen–and we celebrated.
I wore a lovely Elizabethan-style blouse and blue jeans. And that was the only wedding where my DH hasn’t felt he had to wear a tie.
My favorite part of the whole ceremony (besides the whole ceremony) was at the very end. Right after the minister proclaimed us married, our refrigerator–which had a bad ball bearing in the freezer fan that would squeak interminably at times–took that moment to “sing” the recessional.
It was perfect.
And, I think that by marrying in such a functional room, a room that symbolizes creation, nurture and sustenance, hard work and clean up, we committed ourselves to what it really takes for a long and fulfilling marriage.
Since then, we’ve been busy living happily ever after.
Gina Black is a longtime OCC Member
Tune in to The Gina Channel
I couldnâ€™t move.
Halfway down the aisle, I stood in my motherâ€™s wedding dress, the beautiful bouquet my mother-in-law made me clutched in my left hand, my right hand firmly gripping my brotherâ€™s arm. And I couldnâ€™t move.
â€œYou okay, sis?â€ Michael drawled quietly.
My smile firmed as I tried not to move my lips. â€œI canâ€™t move.â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€ He kept his gaze forward.
I hoped he didnâ€™t think I suddenly had cold feet. I smiled confidently at John, waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Cold feet wasnâ€™t the problem. Stuck feet was the problem! Iâ€™d practiced bouncing down the aisle last night in a cute little sundress, not a floor-length dress. When I stepped up onto the riser where our church served communion, I stepped onto the edge of my gown!
â€œIâ€™m stuck,â€ I told Michael, still pretending to be a whispering ventriloquist.
He took his cue from me and smiled, speaking without moving his lips. â€œYouâ€™re what?â€
â€œI stepped on my dress,â€ I hissed, smiling sweetly at the dozens of eyes all fixed on me.
â€œStep back and try again.â€
Easier said than done. I tried to move my feet without looking like I was backing out of the church. Finally, my smile brightened and I took a step forward, unencumbered by lace and tulle.
Michael and I breathed a sigh of relief. From the look of the congregation, they apparently thought Iâ€™d stopped so they could see the grand beauty of a bride on her wedding day. Well, if that was the worst thing to happen today, I thought.
Michael turned me over to John â€“ cold, clammy-handed John. I looked up at him in surprise. He wouldnâ€™t look at me. I turned back to our pastor. Iâ€™d shed my tears and fears last night. Perhaps John hadnâ€™t been so lucky. I gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, reassured myself when he squeezed back.
Now that I understood how easy it would be to get caught in my dress, I moved very carefully when turning or kneeling. And since my sister was at my side as the maid of honor (sheâ€™d begged me not to call her the matron of honor), I had no more near misses with the dress.
But a wedding gown isnâ€™t the only hazard at a wedding.
As our pastor talked about the joining of two lives and two families, John and I leaned in to blow out the two candles representing our previous lives.
And my veil went flying toward the flame!
For a heartbeat, I saw it all â€“ the flames licking up the headdress, the hysterics of the congregation, the water sprinklers coming on, the $10,000 prize on Americaâ€™s Funniest Home Videos! In the next heartbeat, John yanked me back as I grabbed the veil, feeling the heat of the flame on my hand.
Whew! Another disaster averted!
But our day wasnâ€™t over yet. And if the wedding is a portent of things to come, it certainly explains the last sixteen years! Our pastor mispronounced our last name, though we wrote it out for him phonetically. My brother-in-law dutifully took every picture people asked of him, but no one asked him to take pictures of just the bride and groom. The picture sent to the newspapers was a candid snapshot of us leaving the church, with Johnâ€™s waving hand cropped off â€“ as well as the hightop tennis shoes hanging by their laces from his fingers.
One of our favorite teachers (we were married in college â€“ couldnâ€™t wait any longer!) came in as we were exiting. Sheâ€™d misread the invitation. â€œWell, Iâ€™ll be the first to congratulate you then!â€ she said, giving us big hugs.
When John shoved cake in my face â€“ â€œBigger, stronger, faster!â€ heâ€™s always saying â€“ I nearly fell over, my veil went flying, and I had to borrow a tissue and turn my back on our guests to get the cake from up my nose.
Friends came over to our table to talk to us as we ate, stepping back every time people dinged their glasses for us to kiss. By the third kiss, we couldnâ€™t figure out why everyone was laughing so hard. Then we turned around to see our friends had been holding signs with â€œ10â€ and â€œ9.5â€ and â€œ4â€ on them. John and I were the stars of the Kissing Olympics!
My favorite part was driving around town in Michaelâ€™s semi, honking his air horn. Our friends had decorated his truck in the traditional manner, and also decorated the stepladder I had to use to get in! The shocked looks from people in their cars and on the sidewalks made me laugh!
Johnâ€™s favorite part was discovering on arrival at our hotel that our bridesmaids had packed his suitcase and not mine! Good thing we were planning on staying in. And it might explain why John still likes to see me in his shirts.
After we returned from our weekend honeymoon, all our friends around campus had their own favorite story. â€œWe all pitched in to rent you a new car for the weekend, arranged for Rachel to drive you to the hotel with the mirror cocked up, and we find out you fell asleep in the back seat! You were supposed to necking and groping!â€
My friends, I assure you, weâ€™ve been making up for it ever since.
And isnâ€™t that the best part about wedding stories? Theyâ€™re usually full of smiles and laughter and fun, for the tellers and the listeners. Who can have a better start to their new life than that?
Kitty Bucholtz is an OCC/RWA member currently living in Sydney, Australia. For more on our adventures, go to http://johninaustralia.blogspot.com.