Standard FF Disclaimers
Accepting Destiny part 2
Dim lights in Marsilio's restaurant created a soft romantic setting for the couple sitting at a table set with china and crystal and adorned with roses. Frank held Helen's hand in his and absently rubbed his thumb along her finger, as he looked into her eyes. The years melted away, and they were two love struck kids on a first date. Shy conversation, exploring, getting to know one another. Sweet words, gentle touches, it was as if they were experiencing their courtship all over again.
So much had happened to them in the past 30 years. Some were great things, and some were painful. But for Frank and Helen, this moment was all that existed. They only had eyes for each other. Everything and everyone else melted away. And to any onlookers, they appeared to be just another 'empty nest' couple, attempting to reconnect after the kids had all gone. But Frank and Helen were anything but your typical couple. Their entire family was anything but normal. Especially by Burg standards.
Holding hands across the table, and talking softly, it was such a sweet scene. Suddenly Helen burst into tears. It wasn't entirely unexpected. This had been happening often over the past few days. Frank understood. He moved around to sit next to her. He wrapped his arms around Helen and held her as she sobbed.
Memories of her conversation she'd had with Stephanie, over a week ago, brought Helen to tears again and again. It had been one of the most difficult moments in her life. Her attempt to explain her behavior had brought out so much pain, not just for her, but especially for Stephanie. Helen's heart had ached as she apologized. Overwhelmed by the realization of just had badly Stephanie had been hurt by her criticisms, her unreasonable demands, her rejection.
Helen's tears surfaced each time she let herself return to the memories of how she had treated Stephanie, her whole life. She didn't even recognize the person she had become.
How could she not have seen what was happening to her? She had been so blind, she couldn't see the damage that she was causing in her efforts to protect the family secrets. Reminders of the price they had all paid for the secrets that had been thrust upon them, was a heavy burden that she would always carry.
"You will have to understand that while I love you mother, I need to be away from you for a while." The last words Stephanie had spoken after their discussions were as effective as daggers ripping at her heart. Helen did understand. But it did not ease the pain. Stephanie had been gracious, and understanding, and compassionate, but very firm. She explained that she felt they all needed some time to heal the wounds. And Helen could do nothing but agree with her and hope that, given that time, they would all be able to come together as a family again.
That thought was the only thing that eased her pain enough for her to try to move on. And that was what Helen was trying to do. Taking a deep breath, Helen looked up gratefully at Frank, a smile just touching her lips. She was well aware of how much she had almost lost. It wasn't only her relationship with Stephanie that had been damaged. She knew that she had come dangerously close to losing Frank as well.
Frank returned her smile. "Felling better yet?" he asked her. Helen nodded slightly, breathing deeply again.
"It will hurt for a long time," she whispered. Frank nodded. He wasn't going to sugar coat what had happened. Repairing relationships wasn't a painless process, but it was a necessary one, and he was proud of Helen for taking the steps to atone for her actions.
"You are not alone," he told her. Helen threw her arms around him. She knew she did not deserve him, but she would always be thankful that Frank loved her enough, believed in her enough, to fight for them again.
The sleek black Mercedes pulled up outside one of the most exclusive resorts in Atlantic City. People in the entrance craned their necks to see who was in that car. The two couples that exited the car seemed unaware of the attention that they were drawing. They moved rapidly toward the large revolving doors. The same onlookers could only imagine that they were very important people and they wondered why they were here. If only they knew. The couples were not carrying any luggage with them today. Their stay would be short. But it was one of the most important days in their lives.
As they were ushered into a beautiful private garden, the two lovely ladies gazed at their handsome gentlemen. Stars sparkled in their eyes. Diamonds glistened on their fingers.
The first couple stood in front of the officiator. Flowers and vines covered the archway over them, and blended into the lush garden setting. Soft music could just be heard in the background. Facing each other, they held each others hands in a loving grip between them. Gazing into each others eyes, they repeated the vows to each other. Breaking their gaze only long enough to slip wedding bands onto their fingers, they once again became lost in each other. Finally they realized that the ceremony was over. They embraced and kissed. The second couple stepped up and congratulated the newly wed couple. They all exchanged looks and then they traded places.
The younger couple now stepped before the officiator. They stood so close to each other they looked like one. Their vows were repeated as whispers into each others ears. Without moving apart they slipped the rings onto their fingers. And they did not wait for the invitation to kiss as man and wife. Their kiss was what legends are made from. Such passion was a miracle, one that so few ever experienced in a lifetime. And as such, it was welcomed into the hearts of all that were witnessing it.
Even the officiator had tears in his eyes. Never before had he had such an experience, not in all of his years of performing weddings. These ceremonies would never be forgotten, nor would they ever be matched for the passion and pure love that was felt.
Sharing the roles as witnesses, they all had their chance to say "I do". And now it was time to start their new lives.
Papers were signed, more tears were shed, and the kisses were passionate. The moments would be held in their hearts forever, and now it was time to start their new lives together.
A white limousine pulled into the circular drive. Edna and Leo climbed in and were whisked off to the airport. Their honeymoon destination was to the warm beaches of Hawaii. They waved as the limo pulled out of the driveway and soon they were out of sight. Their life together had just begun.
Stephanie and Carlos got back into the Mercedes and headed to a remote destination in Pennsylvania. Ella had prepared the newly acquired 'safe house' cabin for their extended stay. She was one of only a handful of people that knew about this property, and an even smaller number of those who knew about the wedding. And being Ella, she made sure that she included as many special romantic touches as she could to create a honeymoon worthy setting.
Besides their nuptials, these two couples shared the desire for solitude. These special moments were savored and cherished for their privacy as much as for their solemn purpose. They didn't need the public acknowledgement, or the fussing of a traditional wedding. They knew that they were meant to be together. And that was the only thing that mattered.
The weather had turned. Dark clouds covered the sky over Trenton and cast a grey gloom over the city. This was all lost on Mona, however. Even though she gazed out of the large window, she only saw the beautiful yard, all tucked in for the winter. She saw the hours that she had spent side by side with Mike, tending the garden and just being together. Her heart was full, never in her whole life had she dreamed of being this happy. Even as that thought played in her mind, she felt strong arms wrap around her waist. She felt Mike's warm breath on her neck, a split second before he planted a big juicy kiss there. She turned in his arms and wrapped her arms up around his shoulders, pulling him into a deep, passionate kiss.
Their honeymoon had been spent here in Mike's house. All they needed was to be alone, and that was accomplished right here. Besides, Leo was staying in her house next door, and Mona could see what was going on between him and Edna. There was no coaxing or prodding needed to help Edna declare her feelings. She was not shy, in the least, to let Leo know exactly what she wanted.
Mona was just so pleased that her brother and her best friend had found this mutual attraction for each other and that they had turned it into a happily ever after for them both. It was the best way ever for her to share the joy she felt with them.
Mike whispered into her ear, "A penny for your thoughts."
Mona smiled, "They should be on the plane by now, on their way to Hawaii."
Mike nodded. He expected that Mona would be just a little bit disappointed that they weren't at the ceremony. It was a big day for two of the most important people in her life. But they had all come to an agreement. When Stephanie and Carlos had proposed that they go to Atlantic City together, Edna knew that it was the right thing to do. Stephanie didn't want to have a big wedding. She and Carlos just wanted to be together. It was a personal decision and Edna wanted to support her favorite granddaughter. Being there with her would be the most special thing she could ever imagine to share with her. It would make the private moment all that much more significant, for all of them.
"And they are feeling almost as happy as we were an hour after our wedding," he said.
Mona looked up at him with a puzzled look on her face. "Almost as happy?" she asked.
Her wonderful husband smiled at her and gave her the most perfect answer ever. "Almost," he repeated. "Because no two people could ever be as happy as we are," he simply stated.
The gleam in his eye let her know that he was speaking from his heart. And she had to agree, no one could ever be as happy as she was right at this moment.
Post cards from Hawaii started showing up in the mail. Vague details of the wedding, were mixed in with a brief travelogue of their honeymoon. To say that the news was received with a mixture of emotions would be an understatement. Not that the connection between Leo and Edna hadn't been noticed. Rather, it was just such a surprise to hear of their impromptu nuptials. It would be weeks, however, before the whole story was revealed.
The first snowfall of the season decorated the whole city in a sparkling layer of white. Pino's restaurant once again hosted a large gathering of friends and family for another going away party. The place was crowded, the noise level was rising until Helen raised her glass. She got everyone's attention and spoke loudly, proposing a toast to Edna and Leo. Glasses were lifted and the toast was made. "Here, Here's" echoed all around.
Combining a celebration with a farewell was a bit unorthodox, but nothing out of the realm of possibilities for this crazy family.
The couple in the spotlight smiled and hugged as congratulations were expressed by all those in attendance. Not being shy at all, Leo hugged Edna tight and Edna laid a big, noisy kiss on him, right on the lips.
M.A. turned her head and made a face, she didn't want to see such a public display of affection. Angie watched with stars in her eyes, she thought it was the most romantic thing she had ever seen. And they were so cute together. Neither of the girls had known Harry, and they were excited to be getting a new 'grandfather'. Valerie smiled as the girls talked about all the things they could do with their 'new grandparents'.
So much had changed in the past few months. Not just for the Plum family, but for the whole Burg. Gossip just would not be the same again. Helen Plum had taken herself out of the loop. Her silence had nearly killed the network. But there would always be news, and it would always be spread. They just had to find a new broadcaster. Who knew what would be said about this celebration here tonight.
When it was time for the couple to leave, much of the crowd pushed their way outside to wave them off. They were still waving as the black truck turned and drove out of sight. Helen held onto Frank, she would miss them so much. Tears streamed down her face.
"Oh, Helen, get a grip," Edna said with a mischievous smile. "You know they will be back to visit in just a few weeks."
"But Miami just seems so far away," Helen whispered, trying to control her emotions.
Frank hugged her and pulled her back inside. He knew that she would be okay. The evening had been laced with both laughter and tears. He had no doubt that there would be still more of both to come. But the rest of the party was still in progress. And Helen had promised him at least one dance.
Ranger gathered Stephanie into his arms. She had been so quiet since they had left Pino's. He placed his hand on her cheek and she looked up into his eyes.
"You okay?" he asked.
She nodded, "More than okay." Her smile spread across her face. "Oh yes, so much more than okay," she said and she winked at him.
Their decision to relocate to Miami had been an easy one. RangeMan was growing, and Ranger wanted to oversee the operations, before they expanded. They would actually only be in Miami for a few months, then they would move on to work with each of the offices. This wasn't just Rangers world, it was hers now too, and Stephanie loved being a part of it. She leaned into him and he held her close. Stephanie sighed contentedly, this is exactly where she wanted to be. Ranger just smiled as the thought passed through his mind again. He looked down at her, Stephanie was his world, his home, his everything. He was exactly where he wanted to be.