Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

The Homestanders
Book Four of the Bradford Exiles
Wes Boyd
2005, 2011

Chapter 35

Sunday, July 2, 2000

None of the four from Bradford had previously met John’s sister, Cheryl, or her husband Chad. Well, although she had no clear memory of it, at the Woodstock prom years before Vicky had met Paul, who would eventually become Cheryl.

But they knew the story, now. There had been several things in the closet back at that prom. Eve, then still Denis on a part-time basis, had no idea Paul was becoming a transsexual too; for that matter, neither did John in those days. Though Paul had made his decision before Eve, it was much longer taking place. Only after Eve and Cheryl rediscovered each other in grad school did the truth come out, and had led, in time, to John and Eve rediscovering each other.

Even knowing the truth, much like Eve it was hard to look at the short, slender brunette and think of her as the boy she had once been; all of the Bradfordites agreed they wouldn’t have guessed had they not known. Cheryl was mild-mannered, polite, and perhaps a touch on the shy side – but nothing like the severe introvert both John and Eve said his former brother had once been. Chad was tall and lean, with a pockmarked face that bore the ravages of a long battle with acne. Both were quite intelligent, bearing doctorates in mathematics as proof of it. They both worked at a place down in Maryland they refused to identify, doing things they refused to talk about. With a few other hints, that left Jason with the impression (perhaps derived from too much reading of Tom Clancy) that their jobs involved rape, pillage, and plunder of other country’s codes and ciphers. The two of them were quite a close couple who obviously needed little talking to understand each other. The two had been introduced by John and Eve shortly after Cheryl’s surgery, and both said it was the closest thing to love at first sight either of them had ever seen; they had just grown closer since.

But all four of them remembered Bill and Arlene Riley well. Bill had been the General Hardware Retailers plant manager for several years back in the eighties. As far as Jason was concerned Bill had been the best of a bunch of very good ones, although his memory carried with it the notation that Bill could be a real hardcase if he was crossed. Now retired from General, Bill was thickening up a little and getting gray, but, like his tall, solid, equally graying, tomboyish wife Arlene, he was obviously a doting grandparent to Sergei and Milla. The kids spent a lot of time on their laps as the larger group gathered around the lawn chairs near the pool.

A little to Jason’s surprise, Bill was only mildly interested in the gossip of what had happened around General in the years since he had been gone. Jason was able to bring him up to date on a few people, but for the most part General and Bradford were things he’d left behind him. The Rileys were enjoying a well-deserved retirement, splitting their time between a nice winter home in Florida and a summer home in Bucks County, within easy reach of the majority of their grandchildren – and close enough to John and Eve that a lot of Sergei and Milla’s babysitting fell happily on their shoulders.

Much of the discussion, not surprisingly, was about the decision Jason and Vicky had announced to the group the previous afternoon. “Doesn’t surprise me,” Emily had grinned at the announcement. “I’ve been expecting something like that for the last year or more.”

“I think a lot of people have,” Vicky shook her head, “But I think I can say Jason and I really weren’t among them.”

“I don’t understand how you could think that,” Emily smiled. “The two of you are about as close to a married couple without being married as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Since the McClellans only had a limited amount of space in the house, the four from Bradford had pitched their tents in the back yard – with Emily and Kevin pitching theirs at a discreet distance away to allow Jason and Vicky a little well-used privacy. In addition to some attention to some private moments made even more intimate by the events of the afternoon, there had been some discussions taking place, and now, with the group present, some of the conclusions were announced.

“There’s no telling when the wedding is going to be,” Vicky told them. “Other than we want it to be fairly soon. Duane’s schedule is probably going to drive that.”

“I won’t be able to talk to him till the middle of the month,” Jason explained. “They don’t have phones down on the river, so there’s no way to contact him. All I’ll be able to do is leave a message at their office to call home when he can. Then, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to get home before his season is over with.”

“So is this going to be a real big, formal wedding?” Emily smirked.

“No, nothing big at all,” Vicky said. “After all, we’ve both been married before. What we’re thinking is that if we can get Duane home before the weather turns rotten, we may just do it in the back yard. If we have to wait until his season ends, then it might as well be in the living room. Just a handful of friends, although John, Eve, and Shae, if you could make it you’d be welcome.”

“I can’t say for sure, of course,” Eve nodded. “A lot depends on my seminar and conference schedule. But if it works out that I’m free, I’d like to be there. So it’ll be delightfully informal, I take it?”

“Oh, yes,” Vicky smiled. “We’ll probably do a few things to make it extra special. Like I said, nothing formal. We probably wouldn’t even bother with a matron of honor and best man except that I think Duane deserves to be part of the affair.”

“So who do you want to be the matron of honor?” Emily grinned.

“This is just a touch on the awkward side,” Vicky replied sheepishly. “Realistically, it comes down to you and Alissa, and while I don’t get along with Alissa as well as I might, there’s a family connection I can’t overlook.”

“Been there, done that,” Eve nodded. “When John and I got married, I didn’t want to offend either Shae or Cheryl, so I wound up asking my sister to do it. She’d been just a little distant, so it helped bring us back together a little.”

“That’s sort of my thinking,” Vicky smiled. “I mean, Alissa is my sister, after all. Besides, Ems, there’s something else I’d like to ask you to do.”

“You’re saying you don’t want me as matron of honor?” she replied, a touch disappointed but curious about what Vicky was concealing behind her feline “I’ve got a secret” grin.

“No,” Vicky said, her grin broadening. “Now what you have to understand is neither Jason nor I are church people, so wouldn’t it be just a bit hypocritical to ask, oh, Reverend Swift to perform the service? Like I said, this is just going to be a quiet civil ceremony with a few friends, so we thought it appropriate if we were to ask the mayor to do the service.”

“Oh, my God!” Emily laughed. “I never thought that would happen.”

“The mayor?” Bill smiled.

“You might not be aware of it,” Jason laughed, “But this grizzled Harley-riding biker babe is now the mayor of Bradford.”

“I guess things have changed since we were there,” he laughed. “Emily, I hadn’t heard that, but remembering what I do about you, I have to say that it doesn’t surprise me very much.”

“It’s been years since a Bradford mayor has performed a wedding,” Emily beamed. “Mike told me once he’d never had to do it in a dozen years as mayor. I’m not even sure what’s involved. I’ll have to go over the charter, maybe even have a talk with Marci.”

“But you’ll do it?” Vicky grinned.

“I wouldn’t do it for just anyone,” Emily laughed. “But you’re my best friend, so of course I will. So, since this is supposed to be a biker wedding, does that mean that the bride, groom, and mayor are supposed to be in leathers?”

“You could if you want,” Vicky grinned. “We haven’t worked out the details yet, but I’ll tell you this much – no white gown for me. I’m hardly the virgin bride, after all, so as long as we’re doing it we might as well be a little unusual and have some fun with it.”

“Somehow I think I want to be there, no matter how the schedule works out,” Eve laughed. “Something tells me that this is going to be one to remember.”

*   *   *

As Vicky had said, Duane’s availability proved to be a controlling factor driving the date of the wedding, but there happened to be others. As it turned out, Dayna and Sandy weren’t doing a renaissance faire on Labor Day weekend, but on Labor Day itself they had a gig as the main performers at a big holiday festival not far away, making them available on Saturday. When it proved that Labor Day weekend was also free for Eve, it turned into a done deal.

There were some hitches. It turned out that part of the reason that a Bradford mayor hadn’t done a wedding for over a decade lay partly in the fact that in the dim, distant past the council had passed a resolution stating people in a civil service performed by the mayor had to have pre-nuptial counseling by a professional. Marci explained to Emily it had been a strong-arm job by a bunch of busybody churchmen who had suborned a district court judge into bullying the various local units of government into approving the resolution, ostensibly to try to cut down on divorces. But she suspected it also had the practical effect of lining the clergymen’s pockets.

“No problem,” Emily told the clerk. “I know they’ve been counseled.”

It should have ended there but it didn’t; Bill Driscoll heard about it, and pitched a gripe about it at council, just for the idea of making trouble; he’d also alerted Rev. Archibald Swift, who’d poked his nose into the equation. “You’re telling me a doctor of clinical psychology in private practice isn’t a professional?” Emily snorted, without revealing the fact the counseling sessions had taken place while sitting around in swimsuits in the doctor’s back yard.

The biggest hassle proved to be eminently practical. Jason had, of course, long since cleaned the closets and drawers of Christine’s clothes and effects, but in the decade since her death they’d inexorably filled with this and that. Making room for Vicky’s stuff involved moving out a lot of his own, and it took time to clear it out. Not that there wasn’t time, but for practical purposes Vicky moved in with him as soon as they got back from the trip.

Moving wasn’t a major hassle for Vicky. Since they were right across the back yards, every time she went to her parents’ house, which was two or three times a day on most days, she came back with an armload of stuff. The accumulation of it put some pressure on Jason to get the closets cleaned out. The process of moving was still under way as the wedding took place; indeed, it might not be completed until such time as Joe and Mignon decided to move to Florida. That might not be soon; when Vicky and Jason explained what they’d decided, and kids were part of the plan, everyone could see Mignon’s eyes light up at the prospect of having grandchildren living right across the back yards, rather than several states away.

“I think it’s a good deal for the both of you,” Mignon told them that evening. “I think you’re more than ready. It’s just a shame the two of you didn’t come to your senses years ago.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Jason replied thoughtfully. “I considered it quite a bit on the way back. Yes, we could have decided to do it a few months ago, but even as much as a year ago would have been too soon. Vicky and I have been good friends for so long it’s been hard for us to push beyond that.”

“Granted, there’s an age difference,” Mignon said. “But that doesn’t get past the fact that you’re both an excellent match for each other.”

“I think so,” Vicky grinned. “Of course, that overlooks the fact that Jason has spent much of the last quarter century unintentionally training me to get ready to be his wife.”

“I certainly didn’t plan it that way,” Jason protested.

“No, but that’s how it worked out,” Vicky laughed. “But you’re right. In theory, we could have gotten together after I got out of college, but we wouldn’t have done it. We needed the time to grow into each other, and to learn a few things, about ourselves as much as each other.”

Duane didn’t hear about the engagement until weeks after it had taken place, when he called home late on a Thursday night, just after having gotten off a river trip. Jason knew from his repeated phone calls that he’d absolutely fallen in love with the Grand Canyon. He could not have been happier with where his life had taken him.

Getting Duane to the wedding involved some rushing around. Normally, they got off the river on Thursday mornings, but there was derigging involved, loading the rafts onto a trailer, and then a long haul back to Flagstaff, so it was usually late in the day before they got in. Usually, that was followed by a long evening in a local bar that conveniently had a laundromat located next door, allowing him to kill two birds with one stone. But this time he wound up doing it a little differently. Al, the owner of the company, drove Duane’s Jeep out to the pickup point, with the intention of riding back with the pickup crew. Duane got in the Jeep, drove right to Las Vegas, several hours away, and got a flight to Chicago. Late in the evening on Thursday, less than twelve hours off the Colorado River, Jason and Vicky picked him up at Midway Airport. All the way back to Bradford, Duane regaled them with tales of life on the Colorado River – and on the way back made an announcement of his own. While he’d spend a little time at home at Christmas, he planned on heading back to Arizona at the first of the year – he and Al had arranged for him to take an Emergency Medical Technician course at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

“There’s the possibility of an assistant trip leader position opening up in the future,” he explained. “I figure that it improves my chances of getting it. Al says he’d like to have an EMT on every trip, so he’s picking up half the cost.”

“It won’t hurt you when you get around to looking for a job with the Park Service,” Jason nodded.

“I figured that,” Duane agreed. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ve been working around Park Service people all summer, and it seems like we’re the ones having the fun and the adventure while they’re the ones doing the scutwork. I may wind up with the Park Service eventually, but I figure that as long as I’m young and single I might as well concentrate on having that fun and adventure.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Jason smiled. “But the time will come sooner or later when you’re going to want to settle down.”

“The later, the better, I hope,” Duane grinned. “Scooter and Crystal and Michelle, the three girls who plucked me out of the Waynesville McDonald’s and put me in a raft, say they’re going to rent a sailboat in the Bahamas again this winter. I’d sort of planned on going along with them until this EMT thing came up. Maybe another winter.”

“I have to say, purely from a philosophical viewpoint, as a young man, I would have had few problems spending a few weeks in the Bahamas on a sailboat with three beautiful women,” Jason laughed. “Even if one of them smokes cigars.”

“It’s a real reach to call Scooter beautiful,” Duane grinned. “You know that. Crystal, too. But Michelle, well, she’s something else.”

The day of the wedding turned out exceptionally nice for an outdoor wedding. Cool and dewy in the morning, it got just warm enough to be comfortable in the early afternoon. Though it still wasn’t a big wedding, there were more guests than they’d originally figured on; many of them were Vicky’s classmates from the Class of ’88. Among them were Eve and John, who used the occasion to show off Sergei and Milla to their classmates, but also present were Scott and Sonja, Aaron and Amber, Liz and Mike, Andy and Hannah. Dayna and Sandy were doing the music, of course, and Emily had a prominent role to play in the proceedings. But there were others, friends and relatives from around the Bradford area.

Not to anyone’s surprise, Jason didn’t wear a tux, but instead his MacRae tartan kilt, with all the trimmings, right down to a tam-o-shanter, sash, and a dirk in the belt. But Vicky surprised a few people by sticking to her word: she didn’t wear a wedding gown, but a MacRae plaid kilt as well, and, like Jason, with sash, tam, and her dirk in her belt.

The service went quickly; Emily had mostly adopted a standard wedding ceremony, with but a few minor modifications, including the one where she intoned, “By the power invested in me by the City of Bradford, I pronounce you man and wife.” But she had added a little surprise of her own to the wedding; when the bride and groom turned away from the podium, they were greeted by six men led by Bert Woodward, all dressed in Civil War officer’s uniforms holding swords – MacRae sabers, at that – in an arch.

Nor was that the last of the surprises. Mignon had been responsible for the one that touched bride and groom the most deeply. While the service had been going on under the bright September sun, she’d placed in the middle of the head table a token of a friendship begun many years before but that all hoped would continue on a new plane for many years yet: a small but shiny red and white tricycle that still bore the hammer marks from when Jason had made it well.

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To be continued . . .

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