Chapter II completes this story that sets Annie and Auggie off on their lives together. Hope you enjoy. This is where I must remind you that I have no association with Covert Affairs. Now, let's see what happens on the "wedding weekend."

Ode to Joy – Chapter II

The Thursday afternoon before the Saturday wedding, the Anderson home in Glencoe was humming with activity. The party tent had been set up; and since the weather forecast for Saturday was for a clear day, the framework for a flower arch was placed on the back lawn as a backdrop for the ceremony. Amanda Anderson had arranged for the chairs and tables to be delivered on Friday and a crew would come early Saturday morning for the final setup.

Annie and Auggie had caught an early morning flight out to Illinois, so by lunchtime they were strolling around the yard to allow Auggie to become familiar with the layout. "Lunch is on the table," Amanda called from the patio.

Annie slipped her hand into Auggie's and gave it a little tug. "Come on, I'm starving," she said.

After lunch Annie unpacked in the third floor dormitory room that Auggie's older brothers had shared. Auggie protested, arguing that old superstitions didn't count because he couldn't see her on the day of the wedding anyway. Annie explained that she didn't want to sleep with the groom the night before the wedding; and she pointed out that she would have all kinds of help from her mother, Dani and her nieces to get ready for the ceremony. In fact, Dani and the girls would be arriving soon and sharing the third floor bedroom with her.

Auggie sat on the bed that had belonged to his brother Aaron while Annie hung up her going away dress and organized things for her wedding day. Her perfectly fitted wedding dress hung on the closet door, and she felt bad having it in the room under Auggie's nose and not showing it to him. He continued to grumble because she was going to spend Friday night away from him. Annie picked up a pillow and hit him with it playfully. "I guess that's still a no," he said defending himself from another attack.

"You have me tonight and the rest of our lives," Annie said seriously. "But I did promise the girls and Dani that I would spend Friday night with them in this room. It's really wonderful of your mother to invite them to stay here."

"You've been around her enough to know she loves the idea of filling up this house," Auggie said as he pulled Annie into a hug. "Now, when do I get to see the wedding dress?"

"Not till our wedding day."

Annie glanced at the clock and gasped. "It's later than I thought, Auggie. Come on … we have to get a move on to pick up my family at the airport. Your mom said I could use her SUV. You coming?" Annie asked tugging on his hand.

Auggie groaned then said with a smile, "I guess you do need me to put the bags in the car."

"And to keep me company on the way to the airport …. And to referee my family on the way back," Annie added.

Amanda not only insisted that Dani as matron of honor and her daughters as flower girls stay at the house, she also invited Annie's mother to stay in one of the four guest rooms. Annie's father and his wife, Beverly, would stay at a close-by hotel. Annie had separate talks with her parents telling them that she expected them to do nothing that would ruin the day for either her or Auggie's family. But she still harbored worries. She'd even enlisted the girls as well as Dani to keep Grandma occupied and distracted from Dad and the new wife.

About ten minutes from the airport, Annie's phone chimed in the console. Auggie put the phone in speaker mode answered, "Walker's phone." could hear Dani laughing.

"So you're Annie's secretary now?" Dani asked.

"Just when she's driving in heavy traffic. Where are you?" he asked.

"The plane just landed. Where are you?"

"Not sure," he said with a chuckle. Turning to Annie, "How far are we from the airport?"

"I think we're about 10 minutes from pick-up," Annie said surveying the surrounding landmarks. "We'll circle through the pick-up area till we see you. OK? Oh, I'm driving Auggie's mom's car … a black Mercedes SUV."

Circling through the drive the second time, Annie caught sight of her charges standing near the curb for passenger pickup. Dani was holding Katia's hand and Chloe was standing close to her grandmother. Annie pulled into the curb and stopped. "They're at our one o'clock," she said as she unlocked all the doors in the vehicle.

Katia was the first to catch a glimpse of her soon-to-be uncle by marriage. "Uncle Auggie!" she yelled breaking away from her mother. Auggie stopped and opened his arms and bent down as she ran to him for a hug.

"Uncle Auggie! I thought we'd never get here!" the child said as she hugged his neck and kissed his cheek."

"Your Aunt Annie and I are glad you're here. Where's your mom?"

"Right behind me."

"Hi, Auggie," Dani said. "How are you and Annie holding up two days before the wedding?"

Leading them back toward the car, Auggie said, "I think we're doing just fine." He opened the back of the SUV and held his hand out indicating he was ready to load the luggage. "Big bags first," he said as he carefully loaded the luggage. When everything was loaded, Annie's mother hugged Auggie and Chloe squirmed her way in to get a hug, too. Annie stood back shaking her head and smiling at how her family had accepted Auggie.

"Hey, don't I get a hug from anyone?"

On the way back to the house, Annie's mother chattered non-stop. The girls bounced up and down in the back seats and let out squeals of excitement while Dani was constantly trying to calm the girls and talk to Annie. At a stop light Annie reached over to Auggie's knee, patted it and asked, "Hearing all of this, are you sure you still want to take me on with that 'til death do us part' vow?"

Auggie squeezed Annie's hand and reminded her, "You've never been cooped up in a vehicle with by brothers and their kids."

Annie pulled into the Anderson driveway and stopped before she pulled into the garage. "Katia … Chloe … be quiet for just a minute … girls …" They settled down. "Thank you. I'm going to ask all of you … Mom and Dani, too, please be on your good behavior this weekend. I don't want to get kicked out of the Anderson family before I'm even in it … OK?"

The girls responded eagerly, "We'll be good."

Dani looked at her mother and smiled. "Mom and I will be good, too."

Annie turned in her seat and smiled at the women in her family she loved so much. "Thanks, I know you will."

"Well, I don't have to promise to stay out of trouble," Auggie whispered.

"You're not helping," Annie whispered back as she pulled into the garage.

Later in the afternoon after Annie had showed her family where the wedding and dinner would be held on the back lawn, Chloe snuggled up to her on where she was sitting on the family room sofa with Auggie, "I have a question, Aunt Annie."

"And, it is?"

"Is this house what they call a mansion?" Chloe asked.

"Well," said Annie, "It is a big house, isn't it? But I don't know if Auggie and his family call it a mansion." Turning to Auggie, Annie said, "Help me here."

Auggie smiled, "So this is a little taste of what it'll be like to have kids, huh?" Taking a few minutes to think about the question, he answered, "Some people might call it that, but to my family this is our home. I was lucky to live here while I was growing up, and I'm lucky that my parents still live here so I can come back to visit."

"Oh," Chloe said, "so, it's a mansion AND a home."

Auggie nodded. "That's right."

Dani came into the family room looking for Chloe. "Come on kiddo," Danni said, "You and your sister need to get cleaned up before dinner.

Annie looked up at Dani, "Is Mom getting settled in OK? I better go check on her."

"She's fine," Dani said. "She just stepped into the shower. That guest room is amazing. We may have trouble convincing her to go home after the wedding," Dani chuckled.

Amanda joined her guests in the family room and asked the girls if they enjoyed Mexican food. Both were enthusiastic in their positive answers. "I thought you might," Amanda said patting Katia on her back. "Mildred is helping me make some enchiladas, rice, guacamole and tacos for dinner. It'll be ready in about an hour."

Dani whisked the girls off to get ready for dinner and to finish unpacking. Amada sat on the arm of the sofa by Auggie and draped her arm around him in an affectionate hug. Patting his shoulder she said, "I know that buffets on the island aren't your favorite, but that's what I'm going to do to night … just wanted to warn you."

Auggie grinned and patted his mother's hand that was on his shoulder. "It'll be OK. If Annie doesn't want to help me fill my plate," he teased, "Katia's here to give me a hand."

Annie helped Dani tuck the girls in and read them a couple of stories from the books Amanda had for her grandchildren. When the girls drifted off to sleep, Dani hugged Annie saying it was hard to believe that the wedding was only two days away.

"I know," Annie said, "I have to pinch myself to realize that I'm going to be Mrs. August Anderson …. Annie Anderson."

"That has a nice ring to it," Dani said.

"It does, doesn't it?" Annie agreed. "I'll spend tomorrow night up here with you, but I promised Auggie that I'd spend tonight with him."

Annie slipped downstairs to their room to find Auggie stretched out in bed listening to music. He'd docked his phone in a portable speaker and was relaxing to the strains of his beloved jazz. "Hey," Annie said softly. She dug around in in Auggie's drawer and pulled out a worn Army tee shirt to sleep in.

"Hey, yourself," Auggie answered. "Are you about worn out?"

"Just weary. Sometimes I forget how much energy it takes to interact with all the women in my family," she said on the way into the bathroom. As she brushed her teeth, Annie heard Auggie chuckle. She stood at the bathroom door drying her face and added, "And tomorrow, I get to add my father into the equation."

Auggie patted the bed. "Come on and relax."

"Oh, har," Annie said with a hint of sarcasm. She snuggled up to Auggie's side, nibbled on his ear lobe and whispered, "What kind of relaxation did you have in mind?"

"Annie Walker … I do believe you are a mind reader," he said as he rolled over and caressed her.

Friday morning Annie awakened to the sound workmen carrying tables and chairs into the tent in the backyard. She reached over to Auggie, but his side of the bed was cold. She looked at the clock and was amazed that it was almost nine o'clock. She shuffled into the bathroom and noticed that a wet towel was slung over the shower door, and she wondered to herself how she'd slept through his taking a shower.

Annie showered and dressed quickly so she could check on her family. The Andersons and the Walkers were enjoying coffee at the breakfast table and reading the paper as she entered the room. She noticed Auggie through the French doors relaxing on the patio with his coffee. After good morning hugs all around, Annie slipped out the patio. "Why didn't you wake me up?" she asked as she bent down to give Auggie a morning kiss.

Auggie smiled slightly staring straight ahead. "You were sleeping so peacefully, and there was no reason to wake you. I want you to be rested so that you're able to enjoy your big day tomorrow."

"It's OUR big day, Auggie."

"Well," he said, "it's true you can't have a wedding without a groom. But, everyone knows weddings belong to brides. I hope tomorrow is everything you've ever dreamed of, Annie."

"I'm marrying you, so no matter what happens; it will be perfect," Annie reassured him. She squeezed his shoulder and added, "I bet your coffee needs warming, and your mom has started making waffles for the girls."

Karen Walker and Amanda Anderson, although they'd just met in person, worked well together in the kitchen preparing breakfast for their blended families. Fred was studying the baseball standings in the sports section, the girls were reading the comic page, Annie was reading the news section headlines to Auggie and Dani was immersed in a novel on her Kindle.

Karen turned to Amanda, "Thank you for making my family so welcome. They're all just as relaxed as if they were at my home for the weekend."

When the girls had finished reading the comic page, they began to squabble. Annie looked up from the paper and reminded them, "You're guests here, so let's not fight. OK? What's the disagreement?"

Chloe spoke up, "I just said I was going to offer to read the comics for Auggie, and then Katia said she got to because she the oldest, but it was my idea, so I thought I should get to do it."

Auggie leaned across the table. "Girls, I may have a solution to your problem. Mom, how long before you're ready for us to eat?"

Amanda surveyed the kitchen and said, "About ten minutes. Why?"

"Katia, Chloe and I are going to the family room so they can read and describe their favorite comics for me," Auggie explained as he stood up. He stepped away from the table and held out his right hand. Katia jumped up and slid her little hand in Auggie's and happily led the way to the sofa in the family room. With Katia on one side and Chloe on the other, they took turns sharing the comics with Auggie.

Annie poured herself a fresh cup of coffee and wandered over to the family room entrance to watch her husband-to-be with her nieces. She smiled warmly at the scene realizing what a wonderful father he would be to their children.

Amanda and Annie sat at the breakfast table going over details for the rest of the weekend. Rev. Nelson would arrive about six o'clock this evening for the rehearsal, followed by an informal rehearsal buffet. The crews would arrive early on Saturday to set up the chairs for the ceremony and in the tent for the dinner and dance. Even though it was a small, mostly family wedding, Amanda insisted on having a three-piece group play for a couple of hours so Annie and Auggie could have their first dance, and there would be music for the evening.

"I'll text Dad to remind him he needs to be here about five thirty, if the minister will be here at six," Annie said. She leaned in close to Amanda and whispered, "If we can get through the next day and a half without Mom and Dad having a spat, it will be a miracle."

"We'll think positively," Amanda said. "Now, I'm going to ask your mother to help me with some decisions on where we should place the flowers in the tent. Why don't you and Auggie get out of here and spend some time together."

"You kicking us out of the house?" Annie laughed.

"You know better," Amanda answered quickly. "I think you'd both be more relaxed, if you took a walk or a run and got some fresh air."

Annie ambled back into the family and eavesdropped a few minutes on the conversation between Auggie and the girls. She interrupted and asked, "Would anyone like to go for a walk?"

Auggie turned his head toward the sound of Annie's voice, "Now, there's a good idea. You kiddos want to take a walk to see where Uncle Auggie grew up?"

In a split second, the girls were jumping up and down with excitement. "I'm going upstairs to change shoes and then we'll get going. Annie, do you need to change shoes?"

"Yeah, I'll come with you."

Before leaving the bedroom, Auggie grabbed his cane, and asked Annie, "Ready?"

"Yep, but what's with the cane? You've got me today," she teased.

"Yes, and we'll also have the girls with us. You don't need to be concerned about always being my guide," Auggie explained.

Annie and Auggie gathered up the girls in the foyer and took out for a walk through the neighborhood. Leading the way down the driveway, Auggie said, "Follow me, I'll show you the sights of Glencoe."

Chloe skipped behind Auggie. "How you gonna do that Uncle Auggie? You can't see the sights."

Auggie chuckled and answered, "You're right, Chloe. But I remember this neighborhood, so I can tell you about it."

Chloe looked up at Auggie thoughtfully, "Oh, OK."

As they strolled through the neighborhood, Auggie told the girls about the families who had lived in the homes when he was their age. They turned the corner and walked several more blocks when he heard a car approaching them and slowing, he thought to turn. Annie gave him a verbal cue to stop for the car to make a left turn into a drive.

Annie noticed the young woman snap her head in a double take as she turned. The car stopped in the home's circle drive, and the door flew open. A beautiful young woman with long curly auburn hair jumped out of the driver's seat. She starred a moment before starting to run down the drive toward them yelling, "Auggie … Auggie Anderson … where the hell have you been?"

Auggie stopped and tilted his head trying to associate the person connected to the very familiar, yet more mature voice than he remembered. He heard the sandaled footsteps rushing toward him when he connected the voice to the person. "Gracie! … Gracie Fulkerson? Is that you, Gracie?" Auggie asked as Gracie threw her arms around Auggie's neck and kissed his cheek.

Rarely at a loss for words, Auggie finally stammered, "Well, Gracie, it's nice to see you, too."

Gracie's hands held on to Auggie's upper arms as she stepped back and studied her high school and college friend. "You look well, Auggie. And, you look happy."

Auggie smiled and nodded. "Annie, say hello to one of my best friends in high school and college, Gracie Fulkerson … the most talented cheerleader who ever cheered for our high school."

Annie stepped forward and offered her hand to Gracie. "Hello, Gracie, it's nice to meet you."

"Annie and I are getting married tomorrow evening in Mom and Dad's back yard," Auggie explained. During the greetings, the girls had gravitated to Auggie, snuggling close to either side of him. He put his left hand on Chloe's back and patted it. "This is my soon-to-be niece, Chloe." He shifted the white cane to his left hand and used his right hand to pat Katia on the back and introduce her.

"Congratulation, Auggie … Annie," Gracie said with a warm smile. "I wish you every happiness … I was going to ask you how you've been doing, but it's evident you're doing just fine."

Auggie smiled toward his old friend, who Annie suspected he been more than "just friends" in years past. "Well, Gracie, I won't pretend that it's been a piece of cake since I came home from Iraq. But, yes, I am well and Annie and I are excited about our future together," Auggie said as he put his arm around Annie.

"I was sorry to hear what had happened to you overseas," Gracie said, "but it didn't seem real to me. Auggie Anderson is … was … invincible." Gracie reached out to Auggie and put her hand on his cane just below his hand. She gave the cane a little shake and whispered, "But, this does make it real, doesn't it?"

Auggie nodded and Gracie patted the top of his hand.

Gracie gave Auggie another light kiss on the cheek and then hugged Annie and whispered, "You are one lucky lady."

When Gracie stepped back, Annie answered in a whisper, "Don't I know it."

"Well, I'll let you get back to your walk," Gracie said. "It was wonderful to see you again."

"Before you go, Gracie," Auggie asked, "What have you been up to the last few years?"

"Married," she answered, "to a wonderful man I met in law school. We have two kids … a boy and a girl … and we practice law down in Peoria, his hometown."

Returning home the girls were a little more subdued as were Annie and Auggie. The girls had burned up excess energy and the walk had helped calm any nerves that Annie and Auggie were experiencing.

By five thirty in the afternoon the family members who had a part to play in the ceremony had arrived at the Anderson home. That included Annie's dad, Col. Walker (ret.) and his wife, Beverly. Annie and Dani greeted their father warmly but awkwardly … after all this was the first time either of them could remember their mother and Beverly both attending a family function together. Annie's mother was as gracious as she could be, but she was careful to keep her distance from the "Other Walkers."

Col. Walker introduced Auggie to his wife, who gushed over him a little too much for Auggie's taste. Auggie liked the Colonel … they understood each other on some levels and what Auggie didn't understand … well, he felt that was none of his business and he didn't want to be judgmental. When the pastor arrived, running a few minutes late, everyone moved outside where the ceremony would be conducted.

Auggie took his dad's arm and they walked to the area in front of the arch that tomorrow would be covered in flowers. The pastor discussed the timing of events, first the mothers would be seated, then the groom and his best man would come to the front. The flower girls - Chloe, Katia and Mandy, Auggie's niece – would precede Dani, the matron of honor. When everyone was in place Col. Walker would escort Annie down the aisle. Dani insisted that that she and the girls do two trips down the aisle to familiarize them with what was expected of them tomorrow afternoon.

The rehearsal went well, and Annie relaxed. Before the families returned to the house for a casual dinner, Amanda noticed Annie's relief. She pulled Annie aside and reassured her, "It's going to be lovely tomorrow. You seem to have been worrying yourself for no reason."

"Oh, I had plenty of reason to worry," she said. "Mom and Dad are trying their best not to have a spat and ruin this. I think they may actually pull it off. Guess all we need now is for the weather to stay dry one more day."

"I'm going to make sure Mildred and her helpers have the buffet ready," Amanda said as she looked up and saw Auggie with an anxious expression standing by his dad. "And, it's been a long time since I've seen Auggie with that expression. He looks a little lost, doesn't he?"

Annie had to chuckle as she walked toward Auggie and smiled at him and Fred. It was so uncharacteristic of him to be unsure of himself or a situation. "Hi, guys," Annie greeted them. She walked up to Auggie's left side and slipped her hand into his. "I think it's almost time for dinner."

Auggie visibly relaxed at her touch. Fred noticed the difference in his son's demeanor and smiled at Annie. "Well," Fred said, "Then I'll leave you two to your own devices, and I'll go see if anyone would like a drink."

"You looked apprehensive a little bit ago. You're not having second thoughts, are you?" Annie teased.

"No … no second thoughts," Auggie whispered.

"What then? There was definitely something going on in that head of yours," Annie countered.

Auggie frowned while he was thinking how to explain what he was feeling. "Just a little wave of sadness, I guess, knowing how beautiful you are tonight and how stunning you are going to be tomorrow … and realizing I can't see you," he whispered as he drew her close.

Annie took a deep breath, but there was a hitch in it as it became hard for her to swallow and she could feel tears filling her eyes. She pulled him away from the crowd behind a large tree at the corner of the tent. She took his hand in hers and placed them on either side of her face, took another deep breath and whispered, "Well, then … take a look and use your imagination."

Auggie smiled and hung his head slightly before raising it and … Annie could have sworn looked right at her and into her soul … tracing the contours of her face and the bodice of the designer sundress Dani insisted she purchased for the rehearsal. "It appears Ms. Walker," Auggie said with a warm smile, "that you are even more beautiful than I was told."

Annie stretched up and kissed him on the lips. "I think we need to go in. We're probably not going to get by with hanging back at the buffet tonight." Auggie draped his right arm around her shoulder and they walked back to the house. When they walked through the French doors, the other guests applauded their arrival. Auggie bowed, Annie blushed, and Amanda asked the pastor to give the blessing before dinner.

After dinner the guests departed early, all commenting on everyone's needing rest before the big day tomorrow. Col. Walker and his wife were the last to leave. Annie walked them to the front porch, saying goodnight and thanking them for coming. "I – I want you to know how much it means, Dad, to have you here to escort me down the aisle."

"Thank you, honey, for asking me. After everything that's happened in our family the past few years, I wasn't sure you would ask me."

"It wouldn't be right without you being a part of my wedding."

"Thank you," the colonel said as he kissed Annie's forehead. "Try to get some rest tonight."

Annie threw her arms around her father in a tight hug, "Thanks Dad."

Auggie was relaxing in the family room enjoying a beer with his father while the Chloe and Katia watched a movie. Everyone else was working in the kitchen putting away leftovers and cleaning up. Annie stood where she could watch what was going on in each room and her heart was warmed. She realized that there would be few times when they would all be together like this, but she liked how they all enjoyed each other's company.

Katia realized her aunt was close by. "Aunt Annie, come watch with us."

Annie looked back into the kitchen feeling like she should help, but Amanda waved her into the family room. Annie sat down with the girls and giggled with them as they watched Nanny McPhee. Dani joined them toward the end of the movie, but the minute it was over; she started maneuvering them upstairs to get ready for bed. They delayed bedtime by making the rounds and kissing everyone good night. When they were half way up the front stairs, Auggie laughed and remarked, "That was almost as funny as the end to an episode of The Waltons."

Annie walked to the fridge under the bar and grabbed a beer. When Auggie heard the bottles rattle, he cleared his throat and held up his hand. Annie placed the cold bottle in his hand and sunk down in the sofa. Karen Walker came into the room to say good night, and to remind Annie she should think about getting some sleep.

"I know, Mom, but I'm going to wait until Dani has time to give the girls their baths; then I'll go up."

Karen looked at Annie questioningly. Annie smiled, "I'm a traditionalist. I'm not spending the night before my wedding with my fiancé."

Karen returned the knowing smile and laughed at Auggie's pout. Annie stood up to hug her mother.

Annie finished her beer, kissed Auggie, said good night to Fred and Amanda and headed to the third floor to spend the night … as promised … with Dani and the girls. They spent their special time together and when Chloe and Katia fell asleep, Dani and Annie whispered in the dark like they'd done when they were teenagers.

Even though Dani's marriage had dissolved into a shambled divorce, and their parents had been through an unfriendly split; Dani said she knew that a "third time's the charm" spell would be cast over Annie and Auggie. They drifted off to sleep and woke on Saturday morning to the sounds of the workmen setting up the chairs on the back lawn for the ceremony.

Annie brushed the girls' hair while Danni pressed the casual sundresses for them to wear until it was time to get dressed for the wedding. Annie pulled on a pair of capris with a colorful top and she slipped into a pair of sandals. Just as Annie started downstairs, Dani stopped her. "Do you want me to bring you some breakfast, so you don't run into Auggie?"

"Oh, I'm not that superstitious," Annie said.

Auggie was enjoying a bowl of cereal when Annie wandered into the kitchen asking if any coffee was left in the pot. She stopped to pat Auggie on the back and kiss his cheek before she poured her coffee and joined him at the table. "Are you sure it's ok for us to eat breakfast together today?" he asked.

"I don't think the wedding police will arrest us," Annie said as she pulled the cream cheese out of the fridge. "Where is everyone?"

"Our mothers are in the back making sure the chairs are arranged correctly, and Dad is in his office either working or hiding out from Mom," Auggie said with a laugh.

Munching on her bagel, Annie picked up the morning paper and started reading the headlines to Auggie. She stopped and smiled. "This is really nice. It's quiet and it's just us. Enjoy. It won't last long."

"Yes," Auggie said, reaching across the table for Annie's hand, "but after today, we'll have a lot of time just for us."

The spell was broken when the girls burst into the room ready for breakfast. "Good morning, Uncle Auggie," the girls said in unison. Auggie turned toward where he heard the girls and opened his arms for hugs from them. He got a bonus of a kiss on each cheek before they skipped off to choose which cereal to have for breakfast.

By early afternoon, the backyard was quiet. The chairs for the ceremony were set up, all dressed in white chair covers. The tables and chairs in the tent were also set up and covered, waiting for flower arrangements. The last two pieces of the day, flowers and food, would be arriving shortly. Auggie had retreated to his bedroom to check email and enjoy some quiet time before he dressed.

Annie had been dragged upstairs by Dani who wanted to start early on Annie's hair, which would be pulled up and back to accommodate the fresh flowers in the headpiece and the fingertip veil. Annie came out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her head. Katia looked up and announced, "You don't look like a princess, yet."

Annie laughed and agreed, "No, I sure don't, do I?"

Danni worked on Annie's hair, brushing, pulling, twisting and pinning until she had the desired result. She handed a mirror to Annie who studied the style from the front, back and sides and pronounced it "perfect."

"Now all we need is the flowers to get here so we put the headpiece and veil together," Dani said. She then shooed the girls into the bathroom to take a bath and begin to get ready. Annie slipped into the sundress she'd worn the night before and her sandals when she'd seen workers from the florist shop being directed by her sister-in-law, Burma, in putting the final touches on the backdrop for the service and party to follow.

Annie slipped downstairs and from the patio watched Burma work her last-minute magic. The late afternoon sun fell through the heavy foliage of the trees, giving a dappled appearance that made the flowers and their ribbon accents sparkle. The area was festive, but had a dignity about it that was fitting for a war hero and his bride.

Annie peaked into the tent and saw that the flower arrangements were in place and smiled as the string ensemble was running through the music she had selected for the ceremony and the dinner. She took in the moment standing in the cool shadow just inside the tent entrance. It was less than a few hours before she and Auggie would be married. An unimaginable joy filled her heart and then, just as quickly, she was overcome by a profound sadness. As her eyes began to fill with tears, she gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Tears trickled out of the corners of her eyes and the scene in the tent blurred. She felt a hand on her back and turned to see Amanda studying her with a curious expression.

Annie tried to smile. "Pre ceremony jitters," she explained.

Amanda rubbed Annie's shoulder before taking her hand away. "I think it may be more than that. Do you want to talk about it so you don't wilt into tears during the ceremony?"

"I'm sorry. It just hit me that everything is so beautiful. You've created a beautiful day for us and the most perfect setting for a wedding … and … and …" Annie took another deep breath.

"… and Auggie isn't able to enjoy the sight of it all," Amanda completed Annie's sentence.

Annie nodded and wiped the tears off her cheek.

"You know more than anyone that Auggie is going to enjoy every moment of today," Amanda said. "And as far as what we've created here, you'll do what you always do … describe it to him and let his imagination fill in the rest."

"It's hard," Annie said, "because he's made comments about forgetting color and what some things and people actually look like."

"You just do what always have," Amanda encouraged. "You may not realize it, but when you give Auggie a description of what you see, the happiest expression comes across his face."

Annie turned to Amanda and hugged her. "Thank you … I know … focus on the positive."

"That's right," Amanda said, "now, let's go ask Burma where your headpiece is."

Annie recovered from her "moment," and took her headpiece upstairs to have Dani help her attach the veil.

By four thirty everything was in place for the Walker-Anderson wedding, and everyone staying at the house had disappeared into their respective rooms to get ready for the ceremony. Annie's mother had insisted that she put on her gown in her room. So, Annie took the veil and headpiece and laid it across the dresser in Karen's room and had hung the gown on the outside of the closet door. She finished her makeup in the third floor bathroom with Dani and her nieces keeping her company. Dani smoothed her hair once more and gave it a spritz of hairspray.

"There, now," Dani said. "You look perfect. Go spend a few minutes with Mom, we'll be down in a few minutes when we're dressed."

Fred and Amanda had finished dressing and were back downstairs by quarter to five, knowing that the family would start arriving about five fifteen. Amanda wanted to make one, last walk through. Fred was dashing in his tuxedo, and Amanda was the radiant hostess in her coral tea length dress.

Auggie had reminded his mother that this was not the first time since he was blinded that he put all the parts and pieces of his tuxedo together by himself, but he assured her that he would let her know if he needed any help. As he crawled around the floor searching for the dropped stud, he thought he may have been a little hasty in being so independent. He hadn't counted on being a tad shaky as the time for the ceremony drew closer. Then his fingers touched the missing stud. "Crisis averted," he said to himself.

He stood up and finished dressing. At ten after five, Auggie was dressed, but didn't want to sit down so his trousers would be perfectly creased for the ceremony. So, he paced in the bedroom … he checked to be sure that Annie's going-away suitcase was against the wall on her side of the bed where she'd left it early that morning. He checked his packed bag. He opened the closet to check that his blazer, slacks and shirt were in their proper places; and he felt along the closet pole to the dress that Annie had placed there to wear when they left after the reception.

There was a light tap at the door, and Annie whispered, "Auggie."

Auggie opened the door. "Annie, everything OK?"

"Yes. I know this may be unorthodox and not according to wedding protocol, but I want you to see me, so you'll know what's coming down the aisle toward you."

Auggie backed up into the room. Annie stood in front of him, fully dressed for their wedding and holding a bouquet of calla lilies. "Start at the top," she whispered.

He felt the floral headpiece, grinned and asked, "When did you turn into a flower child?" His fingers ghosted the veil. Annie took his hand and placed it on her shoulder and said, "This is my gown. It has a V neckline in the front and back with beading around the waist. The skirt is soft and gathered, she added and he traced the lines of the bodice over her body. His hands came back up to her neck where he held her face in his hands and leaned in to give her a gentle kiss. "Thank you," he whispered. "You have let me prove to myself what I suspected all along. You are the most beautiful bride to have ever been married in Glencoe."

Even though her eyes were teary, Annie giggled and said, "Oh, Auggie, flattery will get you everything. I'll see you at the altar … as it were."

Annie heard the front door open followed by the voices of Auggie's brothers and their wives. It was five twenty. At five thirty five the doorbell rang, and Annie heard Joan and Arthur Campbell's voices. Shortly after, she heard Stu and Barber along with their guests.

At twenty to six the string ensemble started playing and the guests who were not taking part in the ceremony took their seats. Fred went upstairs and knocked on Auggie's door. "Are you ready to go downstairs, Son."

Auggie opened the door. "I think so, unless you see something that needs adjustment."

Fred looked over his son with a critical eye and walked around him. "Nothing is out of place and there's not a wrinkle or a piece of lint in sight," Fred said.

Auggie picked up his cane. "Can we find a place to stash this until after the ceremony? I'm thinking I may need it during the dinner and party."

"Sure, Son. Come on. Let's go find a place to hide out for a few minutes before everything starts."

At five minutes to six the Walker women all pronounced Annie the loveliest bride the family had ever known and made their way downstairs where Amanda was waiting for them with Mandy, the other flower girl, and Annie's father, who looked handsome and elegant in his tux.

Amanda turned to Karen and said, "It looks like we've done all we can do, shall we go take our seats?"

When the musicians saw Aaron and Fred Jr. with Amanda and Karen, they began playing "Cannon in D" for the processional. Both mothers were happy and radiant being escorted to their seats.

When the mothers were seated, Fred turned to Auggie and said, "OK, it's our turn now." They walked to the front of the guests with the minister and Fred took extra care to be sure Auggie was standing in the exact spot he needed to be to receive his bride.

The three flower girls sprinkled white and pink rose petals on the aisle cloth and as they reached their respective grandmothers, Mandy pulled from her basket a nosegay to present to Amanda; and Chloe presented a similar gift to Karen. There was an audible "awwww" among the guests.

Auggie turned to his dad. "What just happened?" Auggie grinned when Fred described the scene with the flower girls and their grandmothers.

"Annie's always full of surprises," he whispered to his dad.

"Here comes Dani," Fred said. "She's as beautiful as Annie."

As Dani took her place in front of the floral trellis, the musicians played a few transitional chords and as Annie and her father stepped into sight they began a joyous "Ode to Joy."

Auggie's smile lit up his face, and Annie was so happy she felt her heart would burst. She looked up at her father, whose eyes were glistening. "Have the happiest life you can imagine, Sweetheart. You two are amazing together." He kissed her on the forehead and they walked to Auggie. After he had placed Annie's hand in Auggie's, he gave her a gentle kiss on her cheek and turned to sit down.

The couple followed the prompts by the minister and remembered how to respond to each of the questions in the ceremony. They exchanged their rings without incident, much to Auggie's relief. They enjoyed a long kiss and when they turned to greet the guests as Mr. and Mrs. August Anderson, there were whistles and raucous applause. Amanda smiled and shuttered, because her generally sophisticated sons were acting like fourteen year olds.

Auggie confidently escorted his bride down the aisle to the patio where they received hugs and congratulations from their families and friends from D.C.

The wedding dinner was filled with beautiful food and wine, the traditional cutting of the cake and dances … the wedding couple's first dance, dances with parents, dances with family members … even Joan took a turn with Auggie and Annie danced with Arthur. Stu shyly asked Annie for a dance, and Auggie danced with all three flower girls.

Auggie checked his watch and whispered to Annie, "In fifteen minutes, it will be ten o'clock; and that's when I told the limo to be here."

She smiled, realizing it was lost on him. In all the excitement of the past several days, she'd forgotten to ask where they were going on their wedding night. Auggie stood up, located the empty water glass in front of him and tapped a spoon to get everyone's attention. He asked Annie to stand up and she snuggled close to him.

He picked up his wine glass, and Annie followed his example … not knowing what he intended to do or say.

When everyone was quiet and Auggie said, "First, I want to thank you for sharing today and this evening with us. This was the perfect wedding, because the people we care deepest about are here with us. I would be remiss if I didn't publicly thank my parents as well as the rest of my family for the support and encouragement I received since coming back from Iraq. And, I want to thank Annie's family for welcoming me into their fold with unconditional acceptance. And … Annie Walker Anderson … thank you for loving me as much as I love you."

He held up his glass in a toast, "To love and to family, we love you all."

Annie clinked her glass with his and the gathering repeated his toast in unison. He smiled knowing he'd pulled off what he intended.

"And, now if you'll excuse us …"

Auggie reached down to pick up his cane that he'd stashed under his chair, and he escorted Annie out of the dinner. They hurried upstairs, quickly changed clothes and hung their wedding gear in the closet to deal with another day. Fred knocked on the door, "You kids decent?"

Annie threw open the door, "Sure are. Dressed and ready to go."

"I thought you might need some help with the bags."

"That would be great, Dad. It'll save me making two trips, or having my bride carry her own luggage on her wedding night."

Annie picked up her tote bag that she'd stuffed with her purse and other belongings and followed the men down the hall and stairs. The limo was waiting in the drive along with all the family and guests. After another round of hugs and well wishes, the new Mr. and Mrs. Anderson settled into the back of the limo.

The driver started the car and turned to Auggie. "Are we still headed to The Four Seasons?"

"Yes, we are."

Annie leaned over and kissed Auggie. "We have a room at The Four Seasons?"

Auggie smiled seductively, "No … we have the Royal Suite."


Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed spending some time with Annie and Auggie on their special day.