“Wait!” Cypress yelled. “I’m coming! Hold off on the rings!”
While Jeffrey Pine’s sister raced towards the wedding arch, he and Floyd Cloud stretched time the way they liked to.
Across the block, Rae Rei and Redbud, just finished with closing up the store, also ran to catch the ceremony.
While they waited for the guests, J. P. looked up at the stars.
“That’ll always be our constellation,” he said. “Orion.”
“Oooh,” joked Floyd. “How romantic! A sword and a belt!”
Since Floyd had moved in a few months back, life had grown sweet for both of them. They often stayed up all night, talking, playing chess, making love, and then slept the next day through. They had so much time.
Rae Rei managed the store while Redbud and Sugar kept the gallery fully stocked, which meant that J. P. could take the day off any time he wanted.
And with Floyd around, he often wanted to take the day off.
They’d stayed up all night the night before. Floyd was in the process of telling J. P. about his childhood and youth, starting with his earliest memories and working forward. That night, Floyd told stories about his tenth summer. He’d discovered Emerson that summer. His mom had started him on Thoreau, but all those nature scenes were a bit raw for Floyd. He didn’t like thinking about lizards and mud. But Emerson’s nature poems had a dryness that pleased Floyd.
“Can we remember a whole summer by remembering a poem?” Floyd asked J. P. as they sat on the upper deck, gazing out over the city lights across the park. “‘I see my empty house, I see my trees repair their boughs’–those lines, even now, call up that whole summer to me. That was the summer I learned what loss meant.”
As J. P. leaned into Floyd, listening to him tell of that long ago time, he caught the tail of the dream that Floyd had let go of during that ten-year-old summer. That was the year Floyd realized that he and his mom would never be returning to their old home, but would live on the road, vagabonding from seminar to seminar. “It’s good not to have attachments,” his mom had said when she became aware of Floyd’s grief.
“You don’t have to give up what you wish as a child,” J. P. whispered that night. They looked up at Orion. “I like to feel I belong. It’s a good wish to have. And when you’re grown, you can make your wishes true for yourself.”
They lingered in bed after they woke late that afternoon. When they finally rose to stretch, Floyd said, “I dreamed of my childhood house, and the door was wide open.”
“Was I there?” J. P. asked.
“You were the one who opened the door!” Floyd replied.
“I’d love if I could get your old home back for you,” J. P. said.
“If I have a home now,” Floyd continued, “it’s because of you.”
J. P. thought back to how lonely he’d felt during his first few months here, before Floyd moved in–though he had hardly let himself admit his loneliness back then. Now, he had someone to cook for, someone to share meals with.
They’d held many conversations about their wedding. Some days, they wanted to elope: it had become something of a family tradition. Sometimes, they wanted a civil service at the courthouse, “because we can” and so that they could stand as part of history.
But sometimes, they wanted the whole thing: the wedding arch, the bartender, the caterer, the entertainer, and as many friends and family as could fit. They even bought an old arch and twelve chairs that they found at a consignment shop and stored them down in the basement, just to be ready.
“I think we should get married today.” Floyd said as they ate. “This evening. Right now.”
“I doubt anyone can come at this late notice.” J. P. replied.
“OK,” said Floyd, “then it’ll just be us, the arch, and that great vast sky.”
J. P. couldn’t deny Floyd. He called everyone: Davion to tend bar, Meggles to cater, Kitten Nell to entertain, and for guests, all the members of ZenPines, all the family, and as many friends as would fit.
The men changed. “Our tuxes match,” said Floyd.
“Here, let’s switch ties,” said J. P., and they quickly untied their own ties and retied them onto each other.
“Is this the day you become my uncle for real?” Sempervirens asked Floyd when she met him out at the side yard.
“It is, Squid!” Floyd answered. “Now we’re officially family!”
Nathanael felt proud of his grandson. One of the gifts of staying ever-young, Nathanael realized, was seeing the family grow. He and his grandson had always shared a special friendship, and he couldn’t help but take some pride in the man that J. P. had become.
Nathanael chuckled when he noticed that he’d carried two drinks out with him to the seats near the arch. One of them was for Tamarind, he realized. How funny that even now he still expected his wife to be by his side at every family event!
“Is this seat taken?” Sabreene asked.
“No, of course not!” replied Nathanael, standing out of respect. “Only by my memories!”
The family and friends gathered.
J. P. complimented Floyd on his tie, his handkerchief, his cuff links, even the little pearl buttons marking a straight line down his shirt.
“Did you guys get married like this?” Vi asked her dad.
“Nope,” replied Knox. “We got married in a garden. Just us and a lemon tree!”
Sugar remembered her own elopement with Ren, also in a garden with a lemon tree.
Sugar felt grateful for this family. Each person a miracle–like every person, really–but these ones were part of her.
J. P. spoke so softly that only Floyd could hear, whispered promises that made Floyd glow.
Redbud remembered that overwhelming feeling of young love. She still felt that way, whenever Tomas’s spirit was near.
“Look how good they are together,” Wade said to Miss Penguin.
“They’re adorable,” replied Miss P. “Simply adorable.”
As J. P.’s oldest friend and best man, Wade stood beside him to witness the exchange of rings.
Sempervirens had never seen such an exciting celebration–even confetti. She wanted to sing or cheer, but all the grown ups stood around with mouths smiling and eyes crying.
“Are you sad?” she whispered to her mom.
“No, happy,” said her mom. “Well, sad, too, maybe. Happy-sad.”
“Full hearts,” whispered her dad, and Sempervirens nodded. She was simply happy, through and through.
Sabreene was the first to congratulate J. P. while the other guests raced upstairs to lay out the snacks for the reception.
“This is such a happy day!” Sabreene said.
“That it is!” agreed J. P.