Good morning and welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. This week the word is FASTEN, so fasten your seatbelts, folks, and here you go!
This week, I’m continuing with Wedding Bell Blues.
Thirty minutes later, MJ checked the room before picking up the bag she’d packed for the sightseeing tour to Martinique. The headache she’d awakened with was still a mild throb, and she’d chosen to omit even trying to put in her contact lenses in favor of the Jackie O prescription sunglasses she loved. Standing there, once more feeling like a condemned prisoner, one whose crime was of her own making, she turned and followed Paul out of the bungalow.
“You’re going to love this trip,” Paul said, reaching for her bag and then holding her hand. “Have you ever been diving?”
“No. I tried to take lessons, but with my asthma, the teacher didn’t want to chance it.”
“Well, I’ll be with you each step of the way. Last night you told me you hadn’t had a full blown episode in months, and while you came close yesterday, it was more a case of hyperventilation brought on by stress than an asthma attack. Just make sure you fasten all the buckles tightly—don’t want any gear falling off. You’ve used your inhalers?”
She nodded. “And I have my emergency one with me.”
“Then trust me,” he said, his eyes pleading with her. “There’s absolutely nothing to stress about. Everything is out of our hands now, so relax. I will never put you in danger or let you down.”
The way he said it made it seem as if he was talking about a lot more than the upcoming dive in Saint Pierre harbor to see the statue of Manman dlo.
“Are you sure you really want to do this?” she asked, knowing he would understand what she meant, grateful the dark glasses covered the confusion in her eyes.
“I’m a firm believer that Fate, Karma, or God, whatever you want to call it, always gives you more than you can handle, just to see you kick to the surface and survive. When I was in Kabul, bad things happened that have changed me. I will never be the man I was, and I’m beginning to think that’s a good thing. When I bought this vacation, I was helping out a friend. Now, I’m helping out another, but it’s more than that. You can’t get passed something if you can’t face it. Like a good friend of mine once said, you can’t eat the sandwich without taking a bite, but make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. We’ve got this.”
“I don’t know. Using your analogy, this is a hell of a big sandwich. You could be stuck with me for months.”
“Like I said before, I don’t consider it being stuck with you. When I mustered out, I thought all I needed was to be alone and to get back to my happy place in the past, but I realize that I need to look ahead, not back. After three weeks of my own company, I know that’s the last thing I need. Too much time to think about things that should stay dead and buried. Maybe someday I can talk about it, but not yet.” He sighed. “People get married for lots of reasons, Marilyn. While I know I can’t give you what you want from this relationship, I’m a damn good companion and I will never let you down. Love isn’t in the cards for me, but we do like one another, and we’re friends. That really isn’t such a bad basis for a marriage, and like I told you, there are no strings attached. It lasts as long as you want it or need it to.”
She couldn’t doubt the sincerity of his words, and while it should reassure her, it didn’t. What could possibly have happened to him to make him believe he was unworthy of ever finding love?
“I keep thinking I’ll wake up on the couch in the lounge, and this will all have been some weird dream.”
Paul chuckled ruefully. “Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. No matter what you think, I’m doing this for me, too. Here we are.”
She hadn’t realized they’d reached the main building until he held the door open for her.
Paul walked over to the desk.
“Bonjour. Monsieur St. Louis is expecting us.”
“Mais oui. Please follow me.” The young girl, dressed in a madras skirt and white blouse, wearing a fan-like coif on her head, smiled. “Felicitations, madame.”
“Thank you,” MJ said, reassured when Paul took her hand once more.
The door opened. Monsieur St. Louis sat behind a huge desk, a demi-tasse of coffee in his hand.
“I hope you had a pleasant night?” he asked as he stood. “Merci, Collette. Du café pour tous, s’il-vous-plait?”
“Oui, monsieur.” She left closing the door behind her.
“I haven’t been able to figure out how your name ended up in the draw, but Fate has her ways. Before my brother-in-law arrives, I will explain what will happen tonight at the noce civil. While it wasn’t necessary to wear white or cream, madame, if you would like to, and do not have something suitable, we have many excellent gowns available to rent. Because of airline restrictions on weight, some of our guests prefer to rent rather than bring their own formal clothing.”
“Thank you, but I’ll be fine. I have something suitable to wear,” she said. How ironic. It looked as if her wedding dress would be worn for a wedding after all, even if the affair was a sham.
“I’ll need a tux,” Paul said. “I’ve got a couple of suits, but I suppose that would be better.”
“Mais oui. With your permission, our tailor will collect one of your suits for measurement. Madame, the color of your gown?
“Silver and white. It’s in the closet, too,” she added, not sure whether the tailor would want to see the dress or not.
“Parfait. Now, let me explain how this will work.”
With a fair sprinkling of French words MJ was beginning to recall, the manager explained how the ceremony would work. There would be a brief introduction by Louis James himself who was staying not at the resort but on Leroux’s treasure hunting ship. Then the magistrate from the village would perform the brief ceremony, all in French with the words dubbed in English for the television audience. Afterwards, there would be a fine meal and a traditional Martinique reception. Tomorrow, they would have the day to themselves to indulge in whatever activity they liked and then, after dinner, the rules of the treasure hunt would be explained. The hunt itself would begin the following morning.
He’d just finished speaking when his brother-in-law arrived with the legal documents to sign, the ones that would make this fantasy a reality. Paul insisted his willingness to be baptized into the Greek Church if necessary be added to the document, another way to appease her mother. Once the document was signed, Paul insisted it be scanned and emailed not only to her mother, but to her brother, too.
“I just want everyone to know this is all above board,” he said, reaching for her hand again. “Now, I guess we should make that call so that when Mama is watching she doesn’t have too big a shock.”
As expected, Mama was angry until they assured her there would be a real church wedding in Stilton at Thanksgiving. Once she came to grips with the idea, she was overjoyed, going on and on about how MJ should do her hair–one more thing that would definitely come as a surprise.
“Well, that went well,” Paul said, leading her out of Monsieur St. Louis’s office.
MJ shook her head. “Seriously? That was Mama you were talking to. She’ll probably invite everyone she knows over to watch. Hell, she may even rent a hall. She’s got what? Eight hours? That’s enough time to plan a whole damn reception.”
Paul chuckled. “Well, look at it this way. It’ll be all over town by tonight, and the Achilles Heel will be powerless to do anything about it. Now, let’s get down to the dock. The ship should arrive at any time. This will keep us off Paradise Island until late this afternoon, and this is our honeymoon after all.”
MJ shook her head. “I give up. If you are determined to see only the good side of this, I will certainly try to do it, too. This will be the best ‘not a real honeymoon’ anyone ever had.”
“That’s the spirit. We’ll have fun.”
Considering last night, she knew Paul was right, but how long would he be content to live a lie?
Please take the time to check out the other selections on Tuesday Tales.