Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. If you’re new to this post, it’s a weekly blog hop by a number of talented authors who share their works in progress with you. For the past few months, I’ve been working on Wedding Bell Blues, a contemporary romance. Today’s post picks up from last week’s and the word to us was BAND.
“Where do I go?” Paul asked, not happy he and MJ were being separated like this.
“Right this way.”
He followed the television host to the far end of the tent, where a traditional Louis Rich Live set had been rigged up with two cream-colored love seats facing one another. The tent wall had been removed to show the ocean and the sand. It would make a gorgeous backdrop for whatever the man wanted to showcase. Tropical plants, including small palm trees, added color and framed the scene for the two cameras nearby.
A small band had set up to the left of the opening, so that the cameras could pan over to them if necessary. The musicians played softly, entertaining the guests milling around. Paul recognized the song, but he couldn’t remember where he’d heard it.
“If I haven’t already said it, congratulations. She’s a beautiful woman. You’re a lucky man,” Louis Rich said, ushering him over to the far right where two barber-style chairs and mirrored tables were located.
“I certainly am,” he agreed, wishing this wasn’t all make-believe. MJ might not love him, and Lord knows, he wasn’t capable of loving anyone, least of all himself, but he wouldn’t mind growing old with her. She brought out the goodness left in him.
“This is Malcolm. He’s going to do your makeup while Tony does mine.”
“I’m not going to end up looking like a circus clown, am I?” he asked, remembering the theatrical makeup he’d worn when a USO troop had come to Kabul and had drafted some of the men for a skit.
“No,” Louis shook his head. “They’ll just get rid of the shine and give you a little color although you have a decent tan. How long have you been here?”
“A couple of days. I got away before MJ did. What happens after Malcolm finishes?”
“I have a surprise for you, and then you and I will go over to the sofas and have a little chat.”
“About what?” he tried to sound casual, slightly worried about the disclosure. He hated being unprepared for anything, but since he’d arrived on Paradise, it had been one shock after another. He didn’t think MJ was ready for anything else to go wrong and neither was he.
“The usual—how you and your wife met, what you’ve been doing the last few years, where you’ll be living once the honeymoon is over. Nothing too difficult. Just be yourself.”
Paul swallowed and licked his lips, understanding exactly how MJ felt. If he could run and hide right now, he would, but that would be letting the Achilles Heel win, and he wouldn’t let that happen. They would have to face him tomorrow, but even Mark had enough common sense not to make a scene in public. As long as they stayed together and stuck to the story they’d invented, one he would shortly be sharing with millions, everything would be fine.
Ten minutes later, the shine on his complexion removed and a layer of makeup added, something that made him feel disguised, despite the fact it didn’t look that way, Louis Rich motioned to his assistant.
“I know you didn’t expect to get married on national television. I interviewed Mrs. Summers earlier before I flew out of JFK and she explained how you plan to formalize things when you get back to the states. We aren’t going to mention all that red tape. Instead, we’re going to fix it for you. The military chaplain from Puerto Rico is going to assist the mayor with the noce civil as they call it. If you go through with that church wedding in November, it’ll be to reaffirm your vows. I can tell you this thrills your mother-in-law. She’s quite anxious for those grandkids.”
Paul stared at Louis Rich, not sure his heart was still beating. He must’ve misunderstood. They were still on a French island, so there was no way this marriage could be binding. The man had to be joking, right? And if he wasn’t, how soon would he have to tell MJ the truth?
Louis continued, as if what he’d said hadn’t been the shock to end all shocks.
“The army was obliging and the friend looking after your house got your uniform for me. It would be great PR for our forces if you wore it instead of the tux, but the choice is yours. We see so many negative stories about our men coming home and the challenges they face, it would be great to have a feel-good story to share. That being said, I spoke with your CO and I realize you’ve spent the last few months getting back on your feet. It’s up to you.”
Paul felt cold and clammy. The last thing he’d expected was a frigging background check. If Louis Rich had looked into things that closely, he could blow apart their carefully built house of cards, and it wouldn’t matter if their marriage was legal or not.
Reaching for the clothing bag the assistant held, he pulled down the zipper. His new dark blue uniform was there, complete with his white shirt. His two black ties, the four in hand and the bow tie and his headgear as well as his cufflinks and studs were in a plastic bag attached to the hanger. He’d always been proud to wear his uniform and it hadn’t been the uniform that had let him down. It had been his own inability to trust the right person. Maybe in uniform, he could deflect some of the questions about him and MJ. If Louis Rich asked the right questions, he had plenty of war stories to tell.
“Why not. It’s what I would’ve worn state-side, and I’m still in the army for another two weeks,” he said, hoping this wasn’t going to backfire, too. “Where can I change?”
“This way, lieutenant,” the nameless assistant said.
Ten minutes later, wearing his dress uniform, complete with the medals and ribbons he’d earned during his years in the service, Paul returned to the impromptu set where a technician waited to mike him.
“Here,” Louis Rich handed him a glass as soon as the tech was finished. “It’s scotch. You may be in uniform, lieutenant, but you aren’t going into battle. You look scared to death.” He chuckled. “Just speak naturally. The mike will pick up your voice fine. If they need to make it louder, the experts over in the sound booth will take care of it.”
Paul took a mouthful of scotch and allowed the amber liquid to burn away some of his nervousness
“This is supposed to be a casual interview,” Louis added. “I’m not going to trip you up. Sit and relax. It’s show time.”
“We’re on in five, four, three, two, one. Go”
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Louis Rich spoke into the camera. Welcome to a special edition of Louis Rich Live. Tonight, you’re going to be guests as a French wedding ceremony, one that will join Lieutenant Paul Davis, a soldier who’s served his country proudly in Afghanistan, and Marilyn Jean Summers, a school teacher from Stilton New York. Paul, I had the pleasure of talking to your mother-in-law earlier in the day before I flew here from New York, and she was telling me that your romance with MJ as she called her started years ago. Why don’t you tell us a little about that?”
Paul smiled into the camera, praying he was a good enough actor to pull this off. There was a chance Mark and Melinda might see the broadcast as well as Mama If there was ever a time to be convincing, it was now.
Taking a deep breath, he smiled at Louis Rich and the camera behind him.
“I’ve been in love with MJ from the first moment I saw her…”
That’s it for this week. Please take the time to check out the other selections on Tuesday Tales.