Chapter 11

Lucy and Myles pulled into the parking lot of the park she'd wanted to go to. They decided to take a walk around and look at the sights. There were trees bursting with magnificent colors that spread through the shades of rainbows. Canadian geese were flying overhead, cawing as they did. The two looked up and watched as the huge flock moved nearly in unison as their leader changed direction. They watched as the group of giant birds began their decent into a nearby duck pond. Myles reached down and took Lucy's hand in his.

"Aren't you afraid someone might see?" She asked softly.

"Nope." He smiled at her. "As a matter-of-fact..." He started as he leaned in and kissed her. "I love you Luce. I don't care what anyone else thinks, or sees." He smiled leaning in to kiss a very shocked Lucy.

"What?" She asked, her eyes wide.

"You heard me woman... I know for a fact, you're not deaf." He said, taking her hand once again in his and tugged her along the path. They walked arm in arm up a footbridge that led to the center of the duck pond. As they looked around, Lucy commented on the fact there must have been over a hundred of the geese swimming around under them. Myles pointed out a pair of swans swimming lazily along the edge on the far end of the pond that couldn't be reached by humans. They walked some more, pointing out the last signs of life before winter would take over this pond, and a freeze would claim it for the children that were playing just on the other side of the hill. They sat on a bench, holding hands as they took in their surroundings.

"Do you want kids?" Lucy asked.

"Kids?" He retorted, surprised by the question.

"Uhhh... yeah I guess." He answered. "Why do you ask?" He inquired.

"Just wondering. I often watch the kids playing at the nearby parks when Sue and I take Levi for walks... I think about it." She answered.

"Do you?" Myles asked.

"Yeah... I do." Lucy answered, looking him right in the eye. She was suddenly overtaken by emotion, that tears began to roll down her cheeks. She tried to hide them by leaning in for a kiss, but it was too late, Myles had seen them.

"What's this for?" He asked kindly.

"I haven't thought about it in a very long time... that's all." Lucy said, hoping he'd drop it.

"Luce?" He pressed. She forced a smile on her lips and patted his leg as she pushed herself off the bench and continued down their path. "Promise me, when you're ready to talk about it... you will." He asked. She smiled assuringly at him.

"I'm getting hungry. Do you want to grab a quick bite?" She asked.

"That sounds wonderful!" Myles exclaimed. Lucy stared back at him, making a face. "What? I too am hungry." He said, smiling at her. He wrapped his arm around Lucy's shoulder and they began to walk toward the shopping plaza just past the park.

They walked into the plaza and decided on a little sub shop on the far end. They walked along the extra wide side walk, looking into the windows of the various shops along the way. Lucy poked her head into a card shop and looked at the unique gifts they had to offer. She glanced at the window of the dress shop, but thought better of it- she'd wait til Sue had some time. Myles ducked into a liquor store next to the sub shop for a bottle of wine.

The couple sat as they waited for their sandwiches holding hands, twisting their fingers around one another's. As their number was called, they sneaked a small kiss. Myles picked up their lunch and Lucy grabbed their drinks.

"Hmm, water. Too bad, I was looking forward to this bottle of wine." He joked.

"Maybe later." Lucy assured. "Dinner?" She suggested as she picked at the chicken raja salad.

"Only if you let me cook... and it's at my place." He said hopefully.

"That sounds like a deal." She said with a soft giggle sipping her soup.

The sandwich shop was bustling with people and smells appealing to the palate. Lucy took in a deep breath and smiled. "Hmmm... do you smell that?" She asked.

"What?" He asked taking a bite of his au jous beef bulkie.

"That... spicy, sensual, fruity... I can't really describe it." She answered. "It reminds me so much of when I was a little girl. We would go visit my grandmother, and her neighbor would be cooking up something special. Of course, it was almost always the weekend, so the woman would be making a Sunday dinner or something extra special for her husband." Lucy smiled as she fell into the memory. "Huh" She chuckled, "I don't think i ever saw a woman more in love with a man before. She doted on him." She smiled at the thought.

"It's amazing what a smell can bring back to you, isn't it?" Myles asked.

"It really is." She answered shaking away the past. "I love you Myles... make me dote on you." She whispered. Myles smiled at the admission and leaned across the table, pressing his lips to hers, passionately. Tears began to flow freely down Lucy's cheeks as she pulled away from her love.

"Come on." Myles said, taking her by the hand. As he stood Lucy stretched her neck to see past him.

"Hey... is that Jack?" Lucy asked.

"Where?" Myles asked turning quickly to scan the vast parking lot.

"Over there... near the men's store, by the jewelry store." Lucy said excitedly pointing to the corner of the lot.

"Hmm... i can't tell from here." He said.

"Let's go see." She suggested.

"Or not." Myles said.

"Why not?" She inquired.

"Let's just say... I want you to myself today. We can tell people we're dating starting tomorrow... I want to be selfish with my time with you." He admitted.

"When did you become such a romantic?" She asked and agreed with his request. "OK, but remind me to ask him if it was him." She said.

They left the bistro and headed back to the park for another stroll.

Sue walked quickly to Jack's car. There was a surprise in the back seat.

"Levi!" She said joyously. "You got Levi!" She exclaimed.

"I couldn't let him miss the most important day of my life. And besides, we talked about it, and he promised me he won't say a word to anyone." Jack laughed. Sue gave Levi a big hug, then climbed into the front seat with Jack, giving him one too, never noticing the bag on the back seat with Levi.

"Thank you." She said. Jack flashed his dimples in her direction as he pulled away from the curb.

"Are you ready?" He asked, taking her hand in his, entwining his fingers with hers.

"Yeah." She whispered with a big smile on her face. "What time is it?" She asked.

"Nearly 1." Jack answered with an equally big smile on his face. He could see Sue got nervous when he said it. "You're sure, really sure?" He asked one last time.

"It's not that, just worried we won't make it on time." Sue reassured him.

"We won't be late. Buckle up." Jack warned as he pretended to be a race car driver while waiting at the light.

"Jack!" Sue yelped. They both laughed and Levi whimpered.

The eight minute drive to the church parking lot felt like an hour. Jack opened his door and snuck out the bag, and helped Levi out. He then walked around the car and opened the door for Sue. It was then that Sue caught a glimpse of the bag. It was a small white plastic bag with a hard bottom and stiff corners. The white shade hid the contents. She tried not to let on that she'd seen it, or that she was even looking so Jack wouldn't deliberately hide it from her view.

When they reached the top of the stairs, Jack took her by the hands, one last time, and asked her. "Sue, are you absolutely positive you want to go through with it?" He asked.

"Jack, if I didn't know better, I would say you don't want to go through with it and were looking for a good excuse not to." Sue said offering him a way out.

"Not on your life. I just want to be sure you didn't rush into a decision." Jack defended. "If you want, we can just postpone everything. I'll understand." He offered.

"No... unless you do." She retorted quickly.

"Nope." He answered. He reached down and took her hand in his as he opened the door to the church.

Once their eyes adjusted to the darkness of the church, they recognized the figure at the pulpit as being the priest. The two walked toward him, still holding hands.

"Good Afternoon." The man spoke in their direction.

"Good afternoon." The pair answered in unison.

"You're the preacher?" Sue asked. "I should have known." She said smiling. Jack looked at the two curiously.

"Hello. I'm Father Mullen. What can I do for you two this afternoon?" He asked.

"Hi." Jack said offering his hand to the man of the Cloth. "I'm Jack Hudson, this is my fiancé Sue Thomas. I called you earlier about you performing a marriage ceremony today." Jack said, making it sound more like a question than a statement.

"Ahh, yes. Please come in." He said, shaking both their hands. "Do you have everything you need?" He asked.

"Yes." Sue answered, handing him the manila envelope.

"The marriage license is in there, and a check to cover any fees here." Jack said.

"Wonderful." Fr. Mullen answered. "If you don't mind, I would like to ask a few questions before we do this." He said.

"Uhh... sure." Jack answered nervously.

The three sat in two pews at the front of the church.

"Tell me, Jack, why do you want to marry this woman?" He asked.

"Because I love her." He offered. "I don't want us to be apart. I want to see her every day. I want us to raise a family together." Jack said, stopping just as his explanation started to roll on and on.

"I see." The father answered. "And you?" He asked Sue.

"He completes me." She simply said.

"Oh sure, make me look bad." Jack jokingly whispered.

"So, what's the rush? Why now, right now?" The Father asked.

"I-I don't know. Why wait?" Jack answered.

"There isn't a particular reason then..." He pressed.

"I think he's asking if we "have" to get married because we're in a 'family way'." Sue said, trying to fill in the blanks for Jack.

Both blushed.

"Uhh... no. No we're definitely NOT in a family way." Jack stuttered.

"Well then, if you're ready..." Fr. Mullen offered.

"Is there some place I can just freshen up quickly?" Sue asked.

Jack watched as Sue walked around the corner, and he heard a door latch shut. He quickly ripped off his tie, and put on a bow tie, then took another out of the bag he'd been carrying and hooked it around Levi's neck. He reached into the pocket and replaced the ties with a ring box. The pair walked up to the front of the church. Jack began to look around. The enormity of what he was about to do hit him. Once at the altar, he nervously patted Levi while Fr. Mullen made his way to his position. Ten minutes passed, and Jack became visibly nervous. The pastor patted Jack on the shoulder and assured him there was nothing to worry about; Sue was just making sure she was beautiful.

There was an organ queue and the doors closed at the far end of the aisle. Jack placed the bag in front of Levi then stood up, straightened his jacket then his tie. He patted Levi once more as the organist began playing the wedding march. An older couple stood at the doors and opened them to reveal the beautiful bride.

As the sun streaked through the stained glass windows set high on the church walls, the glorious colors rained down on Sue. The small crystals and sequins that layered her gown sparkled from the sunlight. Levi stood and trotted down the aisle to greet his mistress. She smiled when he nuzzled her hand and sat up and offered his paw to her. Sue leaned down and snuggled him, scratching behind his ear. She signaled to him to follow along side, which he did obediently.

"She is one beautiful young woman." Fr. Mullen commented. Jack's mouth fell open at how stunning his bride looked. He smiled and gave him a side look to which the father responded "I'm not blind my son." Jack smiled once more.

"Yes, Father, she is beautiful." Jack said trying to close his mouth enough to smile again.

When Sue finally reached the alter, the older woman joined her in the pew behind her. She took Sue's flowers. Levi took his spot next to Jack. Their eyes locked, their hands joined and fingers entwined as they pulled each other toward one another.

Father Mullen began his sermon of couples who come before him and how difficult marriage can be, but also how wonderful it can be.

"I can see you two are in love, anyone could. I want to remind you that restraint, patients, and forgiveness are wonderful things to have. They will save many fights if you can produce at least one every once in a while." He chuckled. "And, might I add, a long walk often helps." He chuckled again. The couple followed suit.

"Please join hands and face each other." Fr. Mulled said.

"Susan, have you come here today, of your own free will, for the purpose of marriage?" He asked. Sue said yes.

"Jackson, have you come here today, of your own free will, for the purpose of marriage?" Jack answered the same.

"Susan, do you take Jackson to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and hold from this day forward, forsaking all others, til death do you part?" He asked Sue.

"I do." Softly slipped from her lips.

"Jackson, do you take Jackson to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and hold from this day forward, forsaking all others, til death do you part?" He asked Jack.

"I do." Jack answered.

"Do you have rings?" The priest asked.

"Umm... no... we didn't have time..." Sue said, trying not to sound disappointed.

Jack reached his hand down and signed to Levi. Levi bent his head to the bag in front of him, and picked it up with his teeth and brought it to Jack.

"Thanks Buddy." Jack said patting Levi. "Yes, Father, we do." Jack said, taking the rings out of the small vellum bag.

The pastor took the rings and sprinkled some Holy water on them, saying a silent blessing over them. He reached his hand out, and each of the pair took the other's in their hand.

"Sue, place Jack's ring on his hand." He indicated. Sue's hands were shaking as she began to slide the ring on his finger. "Repeat after me." He said.

"I, Susan Thomas, take you Jackson Hudson to be my husband, to love, honor, and cherish forever." He said slowly looking directly at Sue. She repeated the words, her voice cracking. The ring finally stopped moving up his finger.

"Jack, place Sue's ring on her hand." He said. To Sue's surprise, Jack's hands were shaking just as much as hers were. "Repeat after me." He said.

"I, Jackson Hudson, take you, Susan Thomas to be my wive, to love, honor, and cherish forever." Jack smiled wide as he pushed the ring all the way up.

"What God had brought together, let no man put a sunder." Fr. Mullen said. "By the power invested in me by the State of Virginia, and this church, I now pronounce you husband and wife." He said.

The newly married couple smiled and giggled happily.

"You may now kiss your bride." He said to Jack, who didn't waste any time. He lifted Sue's veil gently, put both hands on either side of her cheeks, and press his lips to hers. The kiss was passionate, yet appropriate.

"Congratulations." Fr. Mullen said to them, kissing Sue on the cheek and shaking Jack's hand.

He turned around, signing the marriage license. The older couple also signed it, both congratulating them.

Jack reached down and took his wife's hand in his, and they walked to the back of the church, and down the front steps.

They walked to Jack's car. Once the three were settled in the car, Jack leaned over and passionately kissed Sue. She could feel herself beginning to respond to his touch and caress.

"Where to?" Sue asked as their lips parted.

"You hungry?" He asked.

"Yeah, actually." She answered.

"Good." Was all Jack said as they pulled away from the curb.

The afternoon was passing faster than Tara and Bobby wanted it to. They were enjoying each other, and the gorgeous weather. Bobby laid out a blanket on the grass where he and Tara sat talking. They were holding hands, and stealing a kiss here and there. As they were sharing a long kiss, a familiar voice echoed over them.

"Well, isn't this sweet and cozy." Myles said as they approached Tara and Bobby.

"Hey guys." Bobby said as they both stood up to greet their friends. "I could say the same for you..." Bobby teased looking down at Myles and Lucy holding hands.

"It's a beautiful day, I guess we all had the same thought." Lucy said.

"Funny how we all ended up on this side of town though, isn't it?" Tara asked with a giggle.

"I think, maybe we might have been trying to avoid being found out..." Myles said, raising his eye brows.

"We're only missing Jack and Sue, wonder what they're up to today?" Bobby asked.

"I actually thought I saw Jack earlier, at the other end of the plaza, near the men's store." Lucy said.

"That's funny, I thought I saw Sue when I was at the store. She was all dressed up though. Hair and makeup done to the nines." Tara responded.

"Hmmm... maybe they're sneaking off for a romantic lunch date?" Myles added.

"You guys want to join us for some pizza?" Tara asked.

"No, thanks. We actually just finished lunch at that little bistro in the plaza." Lucy answered, declining the invitation.

"Alright then... we're going to head to Maria's for some gooey cheesy pizza..." Bobby said.

"Mmmm, so good." Tara added.

"See you tomorrow." Lucy said as they waved and parted.

Tara reached over and took Bobby's hand in hers. They strolled along the path back toward the car in silence. When they reached the end of the foot path, Bobby pointed out a small bunny sitting under a bush munching on some grass. Tara pulled his hand to make him stop, and leaned up to kiss him. He took the hint, wrapping her tiny frame in his big arms. Their lips melted together, enticing the other until both decided it would probably be best to go get that pizza they were talking about.