My best friend dreamed of a wedding set against the ocean. She set out to make her dreams come true but got a little too close to the water! The bridesmaids assembled on the pier for pictures and like every wedding, this felt endless. We shifted and fluffed and smiled and shifted some more. The groom decided to lean on the rail of the pier as his brideâ€™s train was once again being fluffed. There was a crack that warned everyone the wood was giving way. The groom tensed up and the arm he had lovingly draped around his bride hooked her like a sardine as he went over. My friendâ€™s train fluttered like a punctured parachute as she dropped into the ocean with half the groomsmen and bridesmaids jumping in right after her. We all decided that in her cathedral length gown, she was going to go straight to the bottom without our rescue. The Life Guards immediately launched a mission to save us all from our folly and the happy couple cut their cake in their jeans!
Cathy really didnâ€™t need to be nervous. Sheâ€™d planned the perfect wedding. An outdoors ceremony, the gazebo that would frame the bride and groom sat where the setting sun would etch them in hues of pink and gold.
She sighed; relieved to know everything was in order.
Oh no, that tiny voice in her head was at it again. With a sigh, she opened her plans book and began to pore over the arrangements once more.
Flowersâ€”check, catererâ€”check, one by one she ran over the list, checking each item off to verify its completion. Finally satisfied, she slammed the book closed and clamped her hands over her ears as though she could shut out the voice in her head.
Did you…the voice began.
â€œLa, la, la, la,â€ Cathy sang, covering her ears again, â€œIâ€™m not listening.â€
# # #
The day of the wedding flew by, and now here she was standing beside her blue-eyed, dark-haired fiancÃ©. So handsome, and heâ€™d picked her out of all the girls he could have had. Tonight she would become Mrs. Eric Carlotti.
The sunset couldnâ€™t have been more perfect, highlighting the bride and groom in its amber glow. Slowly the sun sank, exposing a clear, star-lit night that promised enchantment
Eric repeated his vows in a strong, positive voice. Her heart swelled with love. As a girl sheâ€™d planned her wedding to be as magical as this one had turned out to be.
And then, the words sheâ€™d waited for. â€œI now pronounce you husband and wife.â€
Eric captured her lips in a kiss full of promises, a kiss much the same as previous ones, but somehow different.
Passionate, like always, but so much more. It was a silent oath that he would always be there for her, a seal to the spoken vows.
Glowing, they walked back down the aisle to the applause of family and friends.
â€œAre you happy, honey?â€ Eric asked as they twirled in the first dance.
â€œEcstatic. It turned out exactly like I planned it. Even your brothers havenâ€™t caused trouble…yet,â€ she teased.
Eric and his three brothers had been well-known through their school years as incorrigible pranksters. It seemed there wasnâ€™t anything they wouldnâ€™t do for a laugh, and Cathy had spent hours, perhaps days, trying to defuse in advance each and every practical joke they might have thought up.
â€œI made them promise to stay cool tonight,â€ Eric said, â€œbut Iâ€™m keeping an eye on them just in case.â€ With that he scanned the room with quick jerky side-to-side movements of his eyeballs.
Cathy laughed and hugged him tighter, resting her carefully coifed head against his chest.
Beer and wine flowed freely, and the party guests relaxed in the white plastic chairs that had been purchased for the reception. In a quiet lull between songs, a loud crack reverberated in the room.
â€œYeow,â€ someone yelped.
Everyone grew quiet as they glanced around in search of the source of the noise. And there it was…
â€œOh no,â€ Cathy and Eric groaned in unison.
Right in the middle of the room, one of her new husbandâ€™s uncles sat sprawled amidst the ruins of a broken plastic chair. A big man, she assumed heâ€™d tilted back on the rear legs putting too much pressure on them.
She and Eric ran over to help Uncle Cyrus up from the floor. â€œAre you all right?â€ she asked.
He looked at the newly married couple with a raised brow. â€œIâ€™m fine, but I want to know which one of you boys sabotaged my chair.â€
The silence grew until someone, somewhere tittered nervously. Thatâ€™s all it took for laughter to roll across the room in an explosive wave led by an obviously uninjured Uncle Cyrus.
A new chair was exchanged for the broken one and the party continued with an anxious Cathy continuously scanning the room to catch people leaning back in the suspect chairs.
Snap, crackle, pop. The room echoed with the sound as if a bowl of cereal had been placed too near the microphone.
In dismay Cathy and Eric watched as their guests dropped like flies in broken chairs. As an uncomfortable silence spread over the room, she felt like bursting into tears. Would someone get hurt at her wedding? Why was this happening?
Ericâ€™s brother, Drew, pointed at a cousin laying flat on the floor and laughed.
â€œDarn you, Drew,â€ the cousin yelled, getting up, â€œyou did this, didnâ€™t you?â€ He set off after Drew, who grabbed a bunch of grapes that adorned the buffet table and began hurling them one at a time at his cousin.
â€œOh no,â€ Eric groaned, before chasing after the other two.
Before Cathy knew what was happening, her guests were scrambling for cover as the other brothers and cousins joined in the melee. Grapes flew across the room in rapid fire.
Horrified tears welled in her eyes. How could Eric have allowed this to happen? As she watched he snatched a bunch of grapes and joined in. That was more than she could take, and a slow anger built in her.
She was storming out of the hall when she noticed that the guests were laughing instead of reacting in anger and disgust as she had expected. She spun in a slow circle, her white gown flowing around her ankles, and watched the guests return to the room.
Cathy forced herself to relax. Her breathing, which had been on the verge of hyperventilation, returned to normal.
The DJ, bless him, turned the volume up and the strains of Chicken Dance blasted from the speakers. The grape fight ended as quickly as it had begun. People gathered in a circle to put their energies into the ridiculous dance.
Eric showed up at her side. Turning toward him with full intentions of venting her indignation, she stopped short at the look of contrite sheepishness on his handsome face. Cathy plucked a grape off of his shoulder and grinned.
â€œIâ€™m so sorry, honey,â€ he murmured. â€œI told them to behave, but maybe I just shouldnâ€™t have invited them.â€
â€œSweetheart,â€ she replied, â€œthis is so much better than you shoving cake all over my face.â€
His brows lifted in astonishment, and she knew heâ€™d expected a much different reaction from her. He pulled her into his arms and swung her back and forth.
â€œI love you,â€ he whispered in her ear.
â€œMe too,â€ she answered.
â€œYou love yourself?â€ he teased.
She swatted his shoulder. â€œYou know what I mean.â€
â€œYeah, I do.â€
She settled against him, happy and content. This was the man sheâ€™d chosen and the family sheâ€™d married into. And she couldnâ€™t be happier!
OCC/RWA Ways and Means Director
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