|Fr. Kevin readys the church for his sister's wedding|
It had been Maureen's greatest disappointment to learn that their mother would be unable to make the trip to Dollyville for the wedding. In the past few weeks, her condition had deteriorated to the point where her doctor had strongly advised against a two hour car ride, especially without proper medical supervision. Not wanting to risk her mother's health, or put the burden of her care on any one of her siblings, the bride sadly resigned herself to the fact that neither of her parents would be there on her wedding day.
But somehow, Beckett had made it happen. His mother arrived, not by traditional limousine, but by private ambulance, complete with her physician, a nurse, and two orderlies. And although she hadn't known who he was, the fact that she was in attendance, hair done and wearing a pretty summer dress, surrounded by all her children and grandchildren, made the day sweeter than anyone could have anticipated. Tucked away in the Bride Room for the past hour, Maureen would be unaware of her arrival, and he couldn't wait to see her expression when she came down the aisle on Patrick's arm, and saw her Mama sitting there in the front row.
Kevin stole a peek at his watch, and wondered where the groom had gotten off to. He had seen him come in a half hour ago, but since then, hadn't spotted him anywhere amongst the crowd. The organist began her pre-ceremony repertoire, and the Knights began lining up in the vestibule. He turned his attention to the left of the chapel, where an usher was seating a young woman. She looked up for second, caught his eye, and then quickly averted her gaze. He felt his stomach rise in his throat, and then plummet in a roller coaster of emotion. For weeks he wondered if he would even recognize her. After nearly fifteen years she would have certainly changed. But there was no possibility he was mistaken. Same long, dark hair. Same heart shaped face. It was her, and any hope of avoiding his day of reckoning slipped away, as Roxanne Spinelli settled herself in the center of the pew.
|Roxie attends the wedding|
|Fr. Kevin and Roxanne meet after fifteen years|
By the time Beckett left the Bride Room, the hallway had cleared out. The sword guys and the bag pipers had gone off to prepare for whatever it was they were there to do, and the only people left were members of the security team he and Nolan had set up earlier that morning. Dressed in non-descript wedding wear, they were expected to blend in with the guests, and if asked, were to introduce themselves as "friends of the groom". Knowing they were in place gave him some sense of peace, but he'd have felt a lot better if the crazy bitch was already in custody. Speaking to the the man stationed nearest the door, he instructed, "No one goes in or out, except for myself, the maid of honor, or the bride's oldest brother. You've been briefed on who's who?"
The man nodded. "Got it covered, Sir."
Satisfied, the groom wandered down the hall, and into to the church, joining his best man, and Fr. Kevin, who were standing near the altar.
Nolan clapped him on the back. "Was wondering when you'd show up? Thought maybe you got a wave of brain activity, and took off before it was too late."
Next to him, the bride's brother made a face. "He's only joking, Padre. I'm right where I want to be."
"Have to admit, Beck, I was getting a bit worried myself. Where were you?"
He smiled, his face, as always, unreadable. "Just taking care of some business. You know...with the security."
Remembering the whole issue with Cassie, Kevin grimaced. "You're sure there's no way she can sneak in here unnoticed?"
"Positive, Kev. It's all taken care. If she shows up here, we'll handle it... quickly and discreetly."
|Fr. Kevin and the Groom before the start of the ceremony|
"I'm glad it worked out. It took some rather intense 'arm twisting' to get the doc to agree, but in the end, everyone has their price. I hope my bride will be pleasantly surprised."
"Oh, Maureen will be thrilled beyond belief. You couldn't have given her a better gift today." He thought a moment, and added, "How 'bout I introduce you to our mother. Although, I should warn you...she's very confused today. She may not understand who you are, and most likely won't remember anything you say to her."
The two of them approached the frail woman in the wheelchair, who smiled and stared blankly at them. "Mama, this is Maureen's bride groom...her future husband, Theodore Beckett."
Beckett reached for the woman's tiny hand, and placed a kiss on her knuckles. "I'm very honored to meet you, Mrs. O'Kenney. Thank you for allowing me to marry your daughter. It's a priceless gift you give me."
Margaret O'Kenney stared into Beckett's eyes, and grinned. "You were always the charmer, Johnny. Handsome as sin, ya be. I told Annie you'd come back for her. And I was right as rain, I was."
To his credit, Beckett just smiled and nodded, looking to Kevin for some direction. Fr. Kevin leaned in, and whispered in the groom's ear. "Sorry, Ted. Most days, Mom lives in the past. She thinks you're Johnny Callahan. Her sister Annie's fiance. He was killed in Korea before they could marry. Annie never got over his death. Killed herself a few years later. I apologize for my mom's confusion."
Beckett whispered back. "No apologies needed, Kev. Was Johnny from the old country"
"Of course. Like right off the boat, if I recall. I think he and Annie knew each other as kids before they both came over. That is... if I remember the story right."
Beckett nodded, then knelt down, and taking the old woman's hand in his, slipped into a heavy brogue. "Herself always knows what's about, Maggie dear. I could never be leavin' my sweet Annie."
For the next several minutes, Beckett watched in amazement as Ted became Johnny Callahan right before his eyes. He switched between perfect Gaelic and brogue infused English, and whatever it was he was saying to his mother, he had her delighted. She giggled like a girl, patting him on the cheek, and finally, reaching out to hug him, a response Beckett gently returned.
When he stood up, Beckett looked sheepish. "Sorry, Kev. I'm pretty sure she's gonna think that Maureen is her sister Annie. I didn't want to tell her differently."
Still in awe of what he had just witnessed, Kevin pumped his future brother-in-law's hand. "No problem, Ted. She hasn't seemed this happy in ages. I'm sure Maureen won't mind. Besides, five minutes from now, she probably won't remember any of that conversation." They walked back to their position near the altar, and with only minutes before the ceremony, the priest turned toward Beckett. "If you don't mind me asking, how did you do that?"
"Become Johnny Callahan. Just like that. I never even knew you spoke Gaelic. You never said a word about it before now."
Beckett smirked. "You never asked. Besides, languages are sort of a hobby with me. I seem to pick up dialects pretty easily. Just took a guess on how Johnny might have sounded. I remember Maureen saying that your family was from County Kerry, and you had said Johnny was from the same area, so it was pretty easy to go from there."
Kevin shook his head in congenial agreement, but was still stunned as to how easily Beckett had become someone else. From the dialect to body language, Ted had disappeared, and the long departed "Johnny" had taken his place. Without a doubt he appreciated the man's kindness toward his mother, but the way he had shifted personalities so seamlessly left the priest with an unexplained uneasiness.
Mike Nolan took the customary spot next to the groom, pulling him closer and speaking softly in his ear. "Still the Master, Teddy...in more ways than one. But I hope you used some of that hootchie black magic on your little Foxy. Otherwise, you're going to feel like a total ass if your pretty pet tells you 'no thanks'. You standing up here by your lonesome would be one for the records."
Beckett stood straighter, hands clasped behind his back, feet slightly apart, a smile curling the corners of his mouth. "Ah, ye of little faith. No worries, Michael. She'll be here."
As the organist began the first few chords of Wagner's Bridal Chorus, the attention of the congregation turned toward the back of the church in anticipation of the the maid of honor, and the sight of a beautiful bride. As the song progressed, and no one appeared in the doorway, the guests began to look at each other, casting furtive glances to where the groom stood at the altar. It wasn't long after, Allison stepped into view, and waving at Kevin, made a cutting motion across her neck, signaling that the organist should cease the opening hymn.
Not having a clue as to what was going on, Kevin hurried over to the organist, suggesting she change tunes to something a little less "bridey". Face red, he returned and spoke to the groom, who despite his over due bride, seemed perfectly calm. "Do you have any idea what's happening here?"
Expression never changing, he shrugged. "You know Maureen. My girl likes drama. Don't sweat it."
"Do you think I should go over there, and see what's holding them up?"
"No. I'm sure Patrick has it covered. We'll just wait. I'm sure they'll appear in a bit." He heard Nolan snicker next to him, and in response, stood straighter, and smiled even wider.
The men stood facing the congregation as the minutes ticked by, and the whispers and twittering of the guests fought with the notes of the organ to produce a symphony of distraction. Through it all, Fr. Kevin wrung his hands, shifted his feet, and sweated rivers under his heavy vestments, while the groom and the best man remained unruffled and composed. In the back of the church, the Knights of Columbus leaned against the wall, and the pipers sat their instruments on the floor between their feet. How Beckett could stand there, unmoved, was beyond him. A normal guy, by this point, would be in mortal fear of having been stood up. Hell, a normal guy would be off in frantic search of what was holding up the ceremony. But Beckett remained in place, not a single muscle moving. Not even a minor twitch. When the second hand of the large clock on the back wall reached the half hour point, Kevin could stand it no longer.
"This is crazy. I'm gonna go find out what seems to be the problem."
|Patrick and the Bride finally appear at the back of the church|
Before he could move a single step, Patrick appeared at the back of the church, Maureen firmly in his grasp. His brother, red faced and every bit of exasperated, waved to him with a roll of his hand, ordering the music to begin. Fr. Kevin once again signaled the weary musician, and Mrs. Peabody, for the second time, began the traditional Wagner selection, while the Knights stood at attention, swords raised in canopy honor. To his right, Beckett exhaled, loud enough for the priest to hear, and with a feeling of guilty satisfaction, Kevin silently thought, "Ah ha...Gottcha! So... you were worried after all, Mr. Nothing Fazes Me, I'm Way Too Cool. Serves you right that she made you wait.
If the groom noticed the priest's smile of self-satisfaction, he didn't respond. His entire focus was on the woman coming down the church aisle. The veiling covered most of her face, so from where he stood, he didn't have a clear enough view to get a handle on the nuances of her expression. But from the lock of her jaw, and the white knuckled clench she had on her bouquet, he made her to be still pissed beyond belief at him. From somewhere down deep, a sudden roll of amusement churned in his chest. It might have been born from the absolute bizarre nature of the entire situation. Or maybe from the image of Patrick tugging his sister to the altar like a human tow truck. Even, perhaps, from a sense of very real, and overwhelming relief. Where the humor came from didn't seem to matter. What was important was the fact that he had an overwhelming urge to laugh, despite the inappropriateness of that reaction. It grew and tumbled, and threatened to escape from his throat, causing his eyes to water and tear. The harder he worked at stifling a giggle, the wider his smile got, until he stood at the front of the church, before God and all the guests, grinning like the damn village idiot.
This was not the way it was supposed to be. One didn't make their walk down the aisle feeling like you wanted to sock somebody in the gut. Especially not your future husband. Maureen squinted both eyes in an attempt to see through the heavy veiling, but the view remained distorted. Needing to get her bearings, she slowed down her pace, only to have Patrick give her a tug forward. He had warned her in the Bride Room that he "would drag her sorry ass up to that altar kicking and screaming if it were required", and she had no reason to doubt that he meant it. If nothing else, her eldest brother was a man of his word.
Hitting the mid-point, she forced herself to look for her groom. The pompous, controlling asshole she was about to permanently make her husband. The whole thing hadn't really sunk in, and anxiety bubbled in her head about what else he might have "forgotten" to mention in their very short courtship, and even briefer engagement. Of all the crazy, messed-up things he could have told her, this one was beyond belief. A spy. A frickn' James Bond wanna be. If he had confessed to a fetish of wearing women's panties while singing the lyrics of popular show tunes, she would have been less shocked. How would they ever have a regular life? And what was she supposed to tell her friends and family when he disappeared for weeks on end? I'm sorry, Brendan. We can't make your kid's First Communion party, because my husband is off somewhere shooting someone for the sake of apple pie and the American way.
But it was the idea of living with the constant fear that horrified her the most. The knowledge that when he left, there was a very strong possibility he would not return. As the daughter of a cop, and sister to siblings in law enforcement, she had already come to terms with the risks this life style offered. Life with Ted represented an entirely different ballgame. She would never, ever, share total intimacy. Be a soul mate. Ever. There would be pieces and parts he'd keep from her, closing off whole sections of his life. And that seemed like a pretty shitty way to build a life long commitment, or, God forbid, raise a family.
Peering from the side of her veil gave her a better view of the altar. She could see Kevin in the center, smiling, and looking all reverent in his vestments. Mike Nolan was to the far right, and even in her immense dislike, had to admit the man cleaned up rather nicely. And then there was Ted. Her Ted. The father of her baby. The man she was minutes away from vowing to love, honor and obey. Cool, calm, collected Theodore Beckett. Who at this very moment, was grinning at her, all teeth and gums, like some depraved hyena.
In their time together, she had been witness to a variety of his moods. Had seen him amused, aroused, angry...aloof. But silly? Gleeful? Never. She was in the midst of processing this new wrinkle, when Patrick nudged her, drawing her attention to the first pew. The scene at first refused to register, her head still wrapped around the issue of the moment. When she finally recognized the tiny woman in the wheelchair, the air in her lungs let loose in an audible gasp.
"Surprised, huh?" Leaning in, Patrick whispered in her ear over the strains of the organ. "I was tempted to go ahead and tell you back in the Bride Room when you were throwing a hissy, but I didn't want to ruin this moment. Your husband-to-be wanted this to be his special gift. The guy does seem to corner the market on overwhelming tokens of his affection."
|Maureen and Beckett join hands at the altar|
The organist stopped on one lingering note, and the church, now quiet, echoed with the sounds of the bride's wailing. Around the couple, the group stood shocked, unable to move, not sure what to do.
Guests in the pews looked at each other in astonishment, sure that they had never witnessed a scene such as this ever before, and wishing it wouldn't be rude to pull out their iphones and capture the moment for inclusion on You Tube. Both Patrick and Allison stepped forward in an attempt to talk to the distressed bride, but Beckett waved them both off. Instead, he gathered her into his arms, letting her cry into his shoulder while he patted her back, as the whole church sat in stunned and uncomfortable silence. When she was down to a few hiccups and sniffles, he handed her his handkerchief to wipe her eyes, and blow her nose.
|Beckett comforts a distressed Maureen|
Maureen nodded, words still not an option.
"Are you ready to go on with the ceremony?"
She paused a moment, and then shook her head yes.
"You're sure? Because I didn't quite hear you."
Narrowing her eyes in true Maureen fashion, she answered, "I'm sure. Satisfied?"
Beckett smiled, perfectly calm, as if the drama of the past hour had been just a simple miscommunication. Then turning to a speechless Fr. Kevin, suggested, "We're ready now, Father. If you could start at the beginning, please."
Somewhere in southern Massachusetts, about fifty miles outside the small town of Dollyville, Cassie Donaghue raged. The rain had subsided to a light drizzle, but wet roads and overly cautious drivers made the going slow to the point of annoyance. She was late. Really late. If the ceremony had started at 2 like the paper had said, it would be near over in the next few minutes. It was close to 3 PM. How damn long could it take to say "I do"?
The plans at the church would have to be scraped. She had figured that notion out hours ago, when the road was closed in Connecticut. It meant a total revamp of everything she had set up before hand. Still, it could all work out if she made it to the hotel before the wedding party did. Reaching into her purse, she dug around and pulled out a small bottle. With one hand on the steering wheel, she flipped off the top and shook a few tablets in her hand. Then, swallowing them dry, she hummed along with the radio, content that the hotel would work just as well.
From Beckett's prospective, the ceremony took way too long. Seriously, was it imperative to have three different readings from Scripture, when one would have done the same job? Plus, there was all that singing. Totally unnecessary. Lengthened the whole process by at least fifteen minutes. Lastly, there was the excessive movement. He'd never understand the preoccupation Catholics had for shifting positions. First standing, then sitting, then standing, then kneeling. The whole thing seemed like a cardio workout, and rather out of place at a wedding, but at this point in the game, he was just happy to be almost finished.
After Maureen's little emotional outburst, things had gone fairly well. He could tell that Kevin had serious misgivings about Maureen's initial reaction, but eventually had seemed to get into the swing of things, and preached what appeared to be a pretty good sermon, if his opinion as a non-Catholic counted for anything. They had exchanged vows and rings without a flaw, and if memory served him right, they were honing in on the end of this whole church episode.
His little vanilla cupcake seemed to be more relaxed, and had even graced him with an occasional smile or two. He was glad he had chosen her wedding ring without any input. It was fun to watch the way her green eyes got big and round when he slipped the diamond band on her finger. The thing was a mite ostentatious, all eleven carats of it. But it would stand as a constant reminder of all the things he could offer her, when she complained about the things he couldn't. Despite the rocky start, his fault more than anyone else's, the outcome was satisfactory, and left him free to ponder the later joys of unwrapping his red headed bridal gift.
|Introducing...at last...Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Henton Beckett|
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