I'm finally posting the last chapter of this story. I decided to do something a little different--an epilogue--for the ending. I hope you like it. Thanks again to everyone who has reviewed the story…I loved reading your reviews. I hope to be posting more Ed fanfictions soon.
Thanks to Zoeros and Poodle for the reminder about Ed and Carol's real middle names…I can't believe I forgot them! (That's what happens when you finish writing a story late at night, I guess.)
Chapter Five: Forever Love
Epilogue: 1 ½ Years Later
Carol Vessey carefully smoothed the front of her silk wedding gown, all the while gazing at her reflection in the floor-length mirror in the church's dressing room. Her best friend and matron of honor, Molly Hudson-Frost, was fussing with Carol's veil. Her other best friend and bridesmaid, Nancy Burton, was adjusting the train of the gown. Nancy was doing this rather awkwardly because she was nearly eight months pregnant--and her protruding belly made it difficult for her to bend over. Sarah Burton, Nancy's almost-four year old daughter--the flower girl--was flinging handfuls of rose petals around the room and giggling as they landed. Nearby, Molly's three-month old daughter, Sophie, gurgled happily from her carrier.
"Well, Miss Sophia Carol," said Molly in a singsong voice to the baby, "you're a happy little girl today."
Sophie chortled loudly and the three women laughed. Carol crossed the room to her goddaughter's carrier and gently lifted the infant out. She cradled the baby in her arms and laughed again when tiny Sophie reached up with one delicate hand in an attempt to grab her veil. "Now, Sophie…your Mommy just spent the last twenty minutes adjusting that veil!" she playfully scolded. The baby gave her a wide-eyed, innocent look and cooed. Carol carefully placed Sophie back in the carrier and twirled around in her wedding gown, suddenly overcome with nervous giddiness.
"You look pretty, Aunt Carol," said Sarah, peering up at her admiringly.
"You really do look gorgeous," Nancy agreed, lowering herself gingerly into a chair.
Molly reached out as if to adjust the veil again, then stopped and instead stepped back to look at her friend. "Not to give your ego another unnecessary boost, but you really do look beautiful," she said, looking uncharacteristically misty-eyed.
Carol smiled at her friends, her own eyes becoming misty. "Well, that's because this is the happiest day of my life." She picked up her bouquet of pink and white roses and glanced at her reflection in the mirror one last time. "Let's get this show on the road!"
Ed Stevens, standing at the front of the church, nervously adjusted his bow tie again. Beside him, his best man, Mike Burton, groaned loudly. "It's straight!" he said in an exasperated tone. "You've adjusted that thing about fifty times now, Ed!" He shook his head in defeat as Ed began to fiddle with the bow tie yet again.
"Hey, Ed…I'll bet you ten bucks that you can't go the rest of the day without touching that bow tie," he said in an undertone, glancing at the minister out of the corner of his eye.
Ed laughed and raised his hands in surrender. "Done," he replied.
"Finally," muttered Mike, but he smiled at his best friend. Ed's face was positively glowing, wreathed in smiles. When the strains of organ music began to fill the church as the first notes of the Wedding March began to play, Mike wondered if Ed's face might crack from the gigantic grin that spread across it.
Nancy appeared at the back of the church, progressing slowly up the aisle on the arm of Ed's brother, Lloyd. Kenny and Shirley (who, incidentally, had been dating for the past month) paced carefully behind them. Finally, the last couple, Molly and Jim, moved slowly toward the front of the church, arm in arm. Sarah trailed along behind them, flinging handfuls of rose petals and smiling prettily at the wedding guests.
The organ music swelled as Carol Vessey swept into the back of the church on the arm of her father. Ed's breath caught in his throat as he watched his bride walk toward him. Their eyes met and held until Carol's father placed her hand in Ed's and stepped back from the couple.
The minister smiled at them as he began the ceremony. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the company of God and these witnesses to join Edward Jeremy Stevens and Carol Phyllis Vessey in the bonds of holy matrimony. Marriage is an eternal bond that is not to be entered into lightly. It is with great joy that I solidify the lifelong union of Ed and Carol. Who gives this woman to be married?"
Carol's father stepped forward again. "I do," he said.
"Do you, Edward Jeremy Stevens, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, from this day forward, cleaving only unto her, and forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?"
Ed looked into Carol's eyes and saw only pure love reflected there. "I do," he said firmly.
The minister nodded, smiling gently at Carol. "Do you, Carol Phyllis Vessey, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or pooer, from this day forward, cleaving only unto him, and forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?"
Carol's eyes shone as she looked at Ed. "I do," she said softly, confidently.
"Now," said the minister, "Ed and Carol will signify their union by exchanging rings. Ed?"
Mike quickly handed Ed a simple gold wedding band. Ed took Carol's left hand and gently slid the ring onto her ring finger. "With this ring, as a token of my love and devotion, I thee wed," he said.
Carol slid an identical gold band onto Ed's ring finger. "With this ring, as a token of my love and devotion, I thee wed," she repeated. She looked at their clasped hands with the matching gold bands and happy tears filled her eyes.
The minister looked out at the guests. "I'm bound by tradition to ask this," he said in a jovial tone. "But before I pronounce this lovely couple man and wife, is there anyone here who has just reason why these two should not be wed? Speak now or forever hold your peace."
"I object!" said a garbled voice from the back of the church. Everyone in the church turned--almost as one--to stare at the latecomer to the wedding.
Dennis Martino stumbled into the church, obviously drunk. "Stop the wedding!" he shouted.
He somehow managed to trip his way to the altar, where he held one shaking hand out to Carol. "Carol," he said, his voice wavering, "you can't do this to me. You don't love this joke--this bowling alley lawyer! You love me."
He stared at her, awaiting her response. When she didn't answer, his voice became louder. "Carol! You love me…don't you? I've been a wreck since we broke up…I still love you. We can be together and you won't have to settle for this imbecile! You still love me, too…don't you? DON'T YOU?"
Carol, her face still obscured by her veil, turned to face Dennis. "Dennis, I've never loved you," she said. "Even when we were together…I was in love with Ed. I always have been. Ed is my destiny…my soulmate." Dennis stared at her, his eyes narrowing in anger and disbelief. She looked at him pityingly. "Dennis, please…just go. I'd really like to get married now."
Phil Stubbs suddenly rushed up behind Dennis and literally dragged the drunken principal from the church. He reentered the church and casually locked the door behind him. "There!" he said loudly. "Continue with the nuptials, Reverend! We'll have no more trouble out of him! See, this is why every wedding needs a bouncer!" With that brilliant remark, Phil resumed his seat.
The minister laughed. "Well, never a dull moment with you two, is there?" he asked. "Shall I continue?" Ed and Carol nodded emphatically.
"By the power vested in me by the state of Ohio, I now pronounce you man and wife. What God has joined together, let no Martino…er, man…put asunder." He winked at Ed. "You may now kiss the bride."
Ed lifted Carol's veil and leaned in to give her a chaste kiss on the lips. Seeing this, Carol grabbed Ed's face in both hands and gave him a long, passionate kiss. They broke apart and Ed leaned back, dazed.
"Wow, that was some kiss," he said.
"Why, thank you, Mr. Stevens," said Carol, taking his arm.
As they turned to face the guests, the minister spoke again. "May I present to you for the first time ever…Mr. And Mrs. Ed Stevens!"
In one booming voice, everyone in the church replied, "It's about time!"
The newlyweds ran out to the waiting limousine as their friends and family pelted them with rice and birdseed. They were off to Hawaii for their honeymoon. As the limousine drove away, the sun began to set…and even though there had been no rain that day, a gorgeous rainbow filled the sky. It was, as one Stuckeyville old-timer (and wedding guest) remarked to his friends at the Smiling Goat the next day, a most satisfactory ending to Stuckeyville's most talked-about roller coaster love story.