Neal and Sara prepare for their wedding day as Peter and Neal are hot on the trail of a cunning and vengeful thief. This is part of the 'Milestones' series.
Now that Hope had arrived in their lives, the apartment at June's was feeling a lot smaller. Neal and Sara had recently decided that it was time to start looking for a place of their own, a place with a backyard where Hope could play with new friends, have a swing and a sandbox and room to run. They had begun looking at houses in the various suburbs, somewhere with an easy commute to the Federal Building and eventually to Sterling Bosch when Sara returned to work in October.
So a few weeks after Hope was born, Neal enlisted Mozzie's help to transport his recent art works – copies not forgeries – to his rented storage space over on Thornton Avenue. He wasn't producing anything at the moment, so he felt that until he had a proper space for his work and his materials, he should store it all and allow for some breathing room at June's. For a small baby, Hope sure came with a lot of equipment: a playpen, a small crib, a baby carrier, a change table and despite the fact that she had a fabulous room, compliments of June, much of the stuff was in their living space so they could always have the baby near them.
So on a bright Saturday morning in April, Mozzie arrived with a 'borrowed' truck and he and Neal proceeded to pack up all his art paraphernalia and drive it away to be stored. They laughed and joked, still coming off the high of Hope's birth and were oblivious to the fact that they were being observed. They unloaded everything and squeezed it in along with all the other pieces Neal had been collecting for the past couple of years. They locked up, turned to leave and walked right by a man Neal should have recognized if he had been paying just a little more attention.
'So, this is really it; we have an actual date' said Sara looking down at the blank sheet of paper Elizabeth had set on the table.
'June 14th' said Neal, sounding apprehensive
'Wow, I can't wait to get started' said Elizabeth, the only one in the room who didn't look like she was shell-shocked. 'This is going to be so much fun!' she added, excited
They were having their usual Saturday night dinner at the Burkes. Hope was snoozing in her baby carrier in the living room while the foursome was finishing up their dessert of pineapple upside down cake and coffee. Peter was keeping an eye on Hope, waiting patiently for her to stir so he could walk over and pick her up to play with her. She had been asleep since they walked in a little over an hour ago and he was disappointed he hadn't yet had the chance to hold her.
Sara and Neal had been engaged since before Hope was born and now that they were all settled into a routine with Neal back at work, the time had come to buckle down and start planning the long awaited event. Although they were more than ready to take those solemn vows, the actual idea of planning and organizing the wedding was overwhelming for both Neal and Sara. Luckily, they had the best event planner in New York in their midst and she was more than anxious to get them organized.
'Well' Elizabeth continued as she started to make notes 'there's the actual ceremony, the dress, the flowers, the cake, the officiator, the food, the venue, obviously and –
Neal interrupted: 'We'd really like to have it at June's. She's offered her place and we think it would be very fitting that we get married there'
'Great!' said Elizabeth, 'that's an awesome venue - we can cross that off the list'
Suddenly, they heard a little gurgle coming from the living room followed by a couple of hiccups that were gearing up to become cries. Peter started to get up but he was interrupted by Neal who stood and went towards the sound.
'She's hungry, Peter. Let her eat first and then I promise you can hold her' he said walking over to pick up his daughter and bring her to the table.
Over the past eight weeks, since Hope's birth, the four friends had developed an increased level of comfort around such intimate things as diaper changes and breastfeeding. Although it had taken a few weeks to get used to, Peter was now comfortable with Sara breastfeeding his goddaughter in front of him so Neal picked up a receiving blanket from Hope's diaper bag and placed it and his baby girl in Sara's arms. She settled Hope in her arms and instantly the baby latched on to Sara's breast and began to nurse.
'What about the guest list? And have you guys discussed a honeymoon? Who's officiating again?'
'Elizabeth, my head is swimming' said Sara 'Can't we just have a few people over to our place and have a small get-together?'
'Look, I know this sounds overwhelming but believe me, there's nothing to it. I'll walk you through each and every step. Why don't I come over Monday afternoon and we can start planning. June 14th is only five weeks away. That's not a lot of time'
'Sure' said Sara 'we really appreciate you doing this, Elizabeth. Don't we Neal?' she looked expectantly over to her fiancé.
'We do' said Neal anxious to change the subject and talk about something he was more comfortable with 'Peter, why don't you and I get started on the dishes?' he said needing to get away from the discussion for a moment.
The men started clearing the table and Sara and Elizabeth walked over to the living room to finish their tea and let Hope finish nursing.
'You ok, Neal?' asked Peter in a low voice so he wouldn't be overheard by the women
'Yeah, yeah' said Neal with very little conviction
'Are you having second thoughts?'
'No, no, not at all. I just had no idea things would be this involved. Sara and I thought we'd just pick a date and time, make a few phone calls, prepare a few hors d'oeuvres and that would be it'
'Well, you should not have involved El if that's what you want because she is the queen of events and you know I love her like crazy but she can blow this up as big as all hell if you let her. You're going to have to decide what you and Sara want and not what El wants' he whispered.
'Yeah, we'll talk about it tonight when we get home. Listen, what time are we going to the Metropolitan on Monday?' he asked anxious to drop the subject
'At 10. That is one weird break-in, isn't it? They took the time to dislodge the Pissaro but they left it there and took off. I really don't get it. Is your friend still the curator there?' Peter asked as he placed a plate in the dish tray
'Henri, yeah, he is. Do you think it's a cover for something else? Are they sure nothing else was taken?' asked Neal, who loved a good mystery
'I guess we'll find out –
'Uncle Peter!' Sara's voice came from the living room 'Hope is ready'
Peter dropped the dish rag in a flash and with a glint in his eye, he ran out of the kitchen to see his little princess.
Neal and Sara settled in bed, Hope fed and changed once more as they prepared for their usual two or three hours of precious uninterrupted sleep. Neal turned off the bedside lamp and opened his arms so Sara could settle in for a few minutes before they drifted off.
'So, what do you think of this wedding stuff?' asked Neal
'I had no idea it could get so big, so fast' admitted Sara
'Peter says we need to make sure to tell Elizabeth what we want so it doesn't become a circus' said Neal
'I know, but it's so nice of her to take this on for us. Do you know how much she usually charges for her services? I don't want to hurt her feelings and she does know what she's doing' said Sara
'Whatever you want, Repo, I'm good. One thing I can guarantee you' he said turning towards her and smiling 'I will be there with bells on. I can't wait for you to be my wife'
Neal kissed Sara goodnight as he stifled a yawn and they were asleep within five minutes.
Sunday was a nice easy day for the Ellis-Caffreys. Hope had been fed and had her diaper changed at 6:00 a.m. and had gone back to sleep giving her parents an extra few hours of sleep and cuddle time, which they greatly appreciated. On week days, Neal had to get up at 6:00 and after five or so hours of chopped up sleep, he inevitably started to droop sometime after lunch. But Sundays were great – they could get that extra sleep while Hope snoozed and feel refreshed to start the week.
Neal got up first and made cheese omelets for both he and Sara and by 8:30, she started to wake trying not to disturb Hope who was sleeping in the little crib by their bed. She walked over to kiss the cook good morning and to have a shower before breakfast.
While they ate, they discussed the upcoming week. Hope had an appointment at the paediatrician's and Neal and Peter were gearing up for a new case involving the non-disappearing Pissaro. On top of that, they had two viewings of houses that the realtor felt were perfect for their little family. So, the week was gearing up to be a busy one. Predictably, the discussion returned to the wedding plans.
'What should I wear for the wedding?' asked Sara
'You'll look beautiful in whatever you decide to wear' answered Neal, hoping that his politically correct response would end the discussion.
No such luck. She knew him well.
'Nice try, Caffrey. How fancy do we want to make this? What were you thinking of wearing?' she asked
'I have no idea. One of Byron's nicest suits, I guess' said Neal, wishing they could talk about anything else
'Well, I can't see wearing white' said Sara, glancing in Hope's direction 'but there are lots of choices now for brides. Do you want to be involved when I choose?'
Neal looked at her with an arched eyebrow that said it all.
'Alright, I'll surprise you then' she said with just a touch of regret
The unmistakable sound of their daughter waking up drifted through the apartment and Sara rose from the table to go and greet her.
'Good morning, sweet girl' she said picking her up and carrying her to the table. 'Did you have a good sleep?'
Hope answered by gurgling and smiling at her mom as Neal looked on, grinning.
The rest of the day was spent quietly with a nice walk to the park where the threesome sat on a park bench and enjoyed the late spring afternoon oblivious to what the next few weeks would bring.
Edward Walker looked proudly at the Pissaro he had lifted from the Metropolitan Museum a few nights before. He was extremely pleased with the plan he had hatched. As well as acquiring a few choices paintings for his private collection, he was finally getting revenge on that smart ass Caffrey who had brought him down and had caused him to spend the past two years of his life in a federal penitentiary.