After beating the stuffing out of punching bag I felt a whole lot better. A little sweaty too, but a shower quickly remedied that. I had a hour before I had to be back at the hospital to pick Cassie up. I had the whole evening planned. I drove back to the cottage for Cassie’s Gelert dress. Murray the dragon is certainly going to get a workout. Then I put the dress in a garment bag. I grabbed some appropriate shoes and put them inside the outside pocket. I dashed back to the car and drove like a fiend. After parking and paying the attendant I made it back with five minutes to spare. The elevator was on the fritz so I had to dash down two flights of stairs. Just as I got to the last step Cassie saw me.
“Peter, what on earth are you doing here?” asked Cassie.
“Normally I’d be your taxi home. But today I’m taking you to dinner. Remember? You said you wanted Chinese. I even got your Chinese food dress. You know…the one with Murray The Dragon. The one that’s supposed safeguard…..something.”
I unzipped the garment bag. It was only then she remembered the dress. The memories, the restaurant yes. The dress not so much.
“You mean you drove back to the cottage, got the dress, then drove all the way back here?” she asked a little surprised I would do something like that.
“Well, if we’re going to Gelert Gardens I thought it only right we get spruced up. I only get dolled up for M’lady and super special occasions. I even wore a tie.”
The memories all came flooding back. She started to blush when she did remember. She looked around then looked at me in a panic.
“Where am I going to change?”
“Why not the ladies room?”
We started to garner some rather strange looks. Trixie, the senior nurse out of treatment room five was leaving for the day and eyed the dress.
“Looks like someone is going to dinner. How come you never offered to take me to dinner Peter?” She proceeded to tussle my hair. “Paws off Trixie. He’s spoken for” said Cassie. She came closer and inspected the garment bag. “Everything looks right. Even got the right kind of shoes. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” She inspected the garment bag and darted into the the Ladies Room.
Twenty minutes later I was sitting on the last step of the staircase staring at the ladies room door that never seemed to open. Finally, she emerged from the ladies room and she looked fantastic. “That was a jiffy?” I asked sarcastically.
“Well, it was the Carter version of a jiffy. A jiffy is just a little longer than a tic.” Then she started looking down the front of the dress and smoothed out any wrinkles. “Either there’s more of me or less of this dress. It’s a little snugger than I remember. But I’ll live.”
“Well, I’m glad about that. Because I have a very important question to ask you. By the way, you still look great in it.” Cassie noticed my comment. “Smooth recovery scribe.”
We got in the car and drove to Gelert Gardens. During the drive, Cassie was uncharacteristically quiet. My peripheral vision is pretty good and I noticed her looking at me wondering what I wanted to ask her. She started teasing me with half-assed questions hoping I’d crack. It didn’t work.
“Oh pooh. This no fun. How did your appointment with Dr. Willowby go? Did the good doctor scope you? Please tell me something because I really want to know. This morning you were in such a foul mood.”
After a deliberate pause and few more moments I started talking.
“I really must apologize for the mood. I was just so damn frustrated. I’m sick of being sick all the time. It feels like I’ve been sick forever.” Cassie used that particular moment to inject some personal comments.
“Egad! The sphinx actually speaks”. Passenger seat satire.
“Do want me to answer your questions or not?” I said. Cassie stopped making any snarky comments. But had one left in her arsenal.
“You don’t have to be such an old poop about it.”
“I am not an old poop. I’m a relatively young poop. Now do you want to hear the answers or not?”
Cassie sat facing the windshield and didn’t say a word. That was my cue to spill the beans.
Before I continued on I had some water from my water bottle.
“How do feel about your man crying because I really lost it in there today. Blubbering, sniffing, the whole nine yards.”
At first, Cassie was silent. I think she was astonished I’d admit something like that. It felt so easy telling her something so personal.
“I’ve heard you cry in the shower. The first time just tore me to pieces. I wanted to jump in that shower and hug the stuffing out of you. To let you know you weren’t alone. And since we’re being honest the reason I didn’t is I wasn’t sure how I’d behave or you’d react. Personally, I’m glad you do cry. I want my man to be a human being and not one of those crazy macho men who think to be a man you shouldn’t ever cry. Why did you cry today?”
I breathed in and prepared for a small speech.
“First I had to get the radiation treatments which seemed to take forever and now I’m having a bloody slow recovery. Then there was that damn scope and stupid student doctors. But the part that really scared the living stuffing out of me is that I was scared of losing you. That you might not want to marry someone who is afraid to use the phone because people won’t understand him, or sounds like the monster from the Black Lagoon.”
Cassie’s jaw opened in complete surprise and stared at me with extreme intensity and surprise.
“Hold the frigging phone buster. Pull this car over right now.”
When I did and put the car in Park she really let me have it.
“I don’t know where all this is coming from but I fell in love with you. All of you. And that goes for your throat too. At first, all I wanted to do was meet you. I was honoring a request from my late Aunt Heather. After you told me about the she-devil I wanted to help you through this. I realized how hard it was for you to ask for help from a woman after being so messed up by one and that was a gigantic leap of faith on your part. But then I fell in love with you. I realized there was something very, very special about you and I wanted you in my life. I wanted to learn as much as I could about Peter James Christopher and I wanted to spend my whole life doing it. And that includes having children together. But if you think I’m going to make tracks just because your voice is all screwed up you’re sadly mistaken and you deserve a pretty sizeable slap for even thinking that thought. The only thing that’s saving you from getting a slap is that you’ve already gone through enough grief today. If you were any other guy I’d slap him so hard he wouldn’t be able to see straight for a week. Now, what the hell did you want to ask me?”
My master plan had gone to hell in a handbasket. So I forged straight ahead with my question.
“All right. I wanted to ask you to marry me.”
Cassie looked at me suspiciously like I had something up my sleeve. I tried to assure her I had nothing nefarious or sneaky in mind.
“I already said yes. I remember every detail. If you’re toying with me prepare to feel my wrath. My knees are in great shape.” I couldn’t help noticing her flex her thigh muscles. In that dress it was almost impossible.
“No, I mean really marry me”.
Cassie started eyeing me like I wasn’t right in the head. Then I remembered the gold bands in my pocket. I took one out of my pocket and placed it over her engagement ring. “That kind of marry.” Her eyes just about bulged out of her head and she started stuttering nervously.
“You-you weren’t-you weren’t kidding. You really do want to get married. But there’s so much to do. Invitations, cake, venue. I haven’t even got a dress. What about your mom and dad?”
“They’re out my life. The she-devil saw to that. They didn’t like her, they thought she was nuts and refused to pay for their half of the wedding. They insisted I not marry her. When I did marry her they disowned me. You’ve never mentioned yours. What’s the story there?” Cassie sat back in the seat and crossed her arms. Something told me this was still a sore subject.
“Mom and dad didn’t want me to become a reporter. Said it wasn’t and I quote “a proper profession for a lady”. Pardon the air quotes but that quote calls for them. When I insisted and paid for university myself they cut their ties with me. Things got mighty ugly and pretty frosty for a while. Then I got the job at CKMT. That was the last straw for them. They cut me out of the will too. That’s when I really realized our relationship was really over. I haven’t seen them for years. I think they might be…”
What came next was a torrent of tears, wailing, and a few curses that surprised even me. I held her close and massaged her back. After a few dozen Kleenex’s and a handkerchief, she started putting herself back together. When she pulled the rear-view mirror towards her she discovered the waterproof mascara she had paid dearly for simply didn’t work. “Damn and double damn. I look like a blasted raccoon.” When she saw the teary mess she said I may sound like the monster from the black lagoon but she was “the bride of the monster”. After she got herself back together we continued on our way. The drive to Gelert can be horrific during the summer, but during the winter there was hardly anyone on the highway. Cassie started thinking out loud. “Sorry if this hurts but I honestly didn’t think you had it in you. I thought the she-devil had screwed with you so well that you were gun shy.”
I returned with a compliment as well as I could. I talked as I drove. “Well, you got me all unscrewed-up Cassie Carter and for that, I shall be eternally grateful. Now if I can put a wedding ring on your finger I’ll be a happy camper. The words may not be romantic but I assure you the feeling most certainly is.”
Once we got to the restaurant and were seated Cassie made a comment about my resolve. “You really want to marry me don’t you?” I replied as succinctly as I could. “You bet your boots I do. I want to get married properly this time. Plus get our honeymoon off to a great start. And if you really don’t mind I’d really like to go back to Eleuthera. The Arawak Cove Club has probably changed a lot since I was last there. I know we talked about going to Andros but I’d really like to try Eleuthera again. Mostly because my last visit there wasn’t very pleasant. The she-devil monopolized it. She never consulted me on any of the arrangements there. She never consulted with me about anything. The last time I checked a honeymoon involved two people enjoying each others company. And much like a marriage, they talked to each other, much like we’re doing right now. I’m telling you my ideas but none are carved in stone because I’m looking for input from you.”
Cassie paused and didn’t say a word. She just stared at me.
“You really want to go back don’t you,” said Cassie a little surprised I’d given the matter so much thought. “I certainly do. I think you’ll love it.” I replied. Cassie was quiet for a while then gave me her reply. “OK, but on two conditions. I want to enjoy my honeymoon, but I want you to enjoy it too. And if we wind up doing something you did or going somewhere you went with the she-devil don’t tell me. I want the memories to concern only you and me. I don’t want the she-devil on our honeymoon” To show she meant business she pointed to the table top and lightly tapped on it lightly with her fingernail when she named her two conditions. “Now, what else is going on in that head of yours?”
I breathed in and took a sip of my mineral water.
“OK, here goes. You admitted to Wilma that you wanted a small wedding. I told you I wanted the same thing after I went to the wedding of an old school chum. The engagement period is to give the couple to learn about each before committing to a lifetime with each other. We’ve lived together for almost a year. You know enough about me to want to commit to a lifetime with me. I know enough about you to know I want you in every second of the remainder of my life. Neither one of us is religious so there are no considerations there. I was thinking we have all the people we’d want at our wedding in our lives right now. Dr. Willowby could be my best man. Wilma or Trina could be your maid or matron of honor. Buddha could give you away. And Kenny could be our ring bearer.”
Cassie was looking at me intently. Her eyes were becoming moist and she was slowing licking her lips periodically which was really distracting. It took a lot of effort just to ask her four words. “What do you think?”
“Phew. I’m sure glad you stopped. Just how long have you been thinking about this? Because I think it sounds perfect. I’d like to make a slight alteration. Buddha may have already popped the question to his lady love. It’s a woman named Gwen. She’s the station owners daughter. Aside from that, you haven’t addressed a very important matter. When were you thinking of us getting hitched?”
“At first I thought of us getting married this weekend. Then I thought would simply be rushing things. Then I changed that to a week from this weekend. What do you think? Too much?”
Cassie looked me strangely.
“I think you’ve forgotten another important factor. Since we both don’t want a religious wedding that leaves only two options. A justice of the peace or a judge. And I don’t know any at all.”
My eyes rolled and I buried my face in my hands. How could I possibly forget something so important?
“I’ve got bupkis too. Zero on JP’s and judges.”
Cassie picked up her fork and prepared to attack her Chow Mein.
“Well, it was a truly wonderful fantasy. I suppose we could always live in sin for the rest of our lives,” she said before she took a sip of sake.
I rapped my knuckles on the table top to get Cassie’s attention.
“No damn way. You’re going to be Mrs. Peter James Christopher legally if it kills me. Besides, the legal beagles would have a field day with this one when I died, left a sizeable estate, and didn’t have anyone to legally leave my estate to.”
Cassie picked up her serviette and dabbed the corners of her mouth while studying me with an intensity I’d never seen before.
“Why is it so important to you that we’re legally married?. Why is it so important to you that want me to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“Because when I do die I want you and any of our children to be provided for legally. I don’t my life’s work to go to blood-sucking legal leech who doesn’t need the money. I want it to go the woman I’m madly in love with. And that’s you.”
Cassie looked like she might tear up again then she stopped herself. She got a grip on herself and forced herself not to cry. But she started sniffling.
“Lordy, I love it when you start talking like that. I almost feel like we’re already married. Hey, what are you looking at scribe?”
Cassie noticed my gaze had suddenly shifted from her to someplace behind her. Then my gaze returned to her. I asked her a very easy question.
“Who is the towns gossip and the man who seems to know everything about everyone in Norland?”
“Why, you’re talking about Mr. Lemay! We should ask him tomorrow who the local justice of the peace is.”
“We may not have to wait till tomorrow. He’s standing at the bar not twenty feet behind you. Maybe he knows who the Justice Of The Peace is for Norland is. I’ll ask him to join us.”
I got out of my chair and walked over to the bar. Mr. Lemay saw me coming towards him. “Peter, I didn’t know you frequented this establishment. How are you feeling boy?” I asked him to join Cassie and me. “Cassie and I have a question we’d really like the answer to and when I saw you waiting at the bar we thought you just might know the answer.”
When we got to the table I asked Cassie to take over as my voice was on the verge of vanishing.
“Mr. Lemay, Peter and I want to get married and we’d like a small wedding. We know who we want to invite. Neither of us is religious so we won’t be having a church wedding. We’re looking at a civil ceremony. What I’m leading up to is this. We need to who the justice of the peace is for Norland.”
Mr. Lemay, who’d been nursing a small gin and tonic, just about burst his seams when he heard the intensity in Cassie’s question.
“Let me see if I understand you. You two want to get married and you want to get married in Norland. And you’re wondering who the local JP is.” Cassie’s answer was perfect.
Mr. Lemay started chuckling then had a good old fashioned belly laugh.
“You may find this hard to believe but it’s me!”
…yes, there’s still more to come in chapter 12C coming next week…