Something Old, Something New (Chapter Eight, page 1 of 1)

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Carmen woke to sunshine on her wedding day. The wedding wasn’t until 3:00 pm, so she had all day to get ready. Still, she had plenty to do. She showered and dressed in a light cotton sundress. It was going to be a hot day and she would be in and out of the car. Slipping into a pair of sandals with 2” heels, she headed for the kitchen. The only thing she had to eat since yesterday noon was a glass of milk in the wee hours of the morning.
Katie and Bill were in the kitchen when she arrived, and Katie already had breakfast ready.
“There are some eggs on the stove,” Katie invited, “and some biscuits. Help yourself. Are you feeling better this morning?”
Carmen took a plate from the cabinet and put a spoonful of eggs in it. She’d better put something in her stomach.
“I’m fine now.” She took it back to the table and sat down. “I’m sorry for the way I acted last night.” She picked up a fork. “Did you call Alex?”
Katie nodded. “I thought he should know, and he said he was glad I called.”
“Thank you. I’m sorry he had to drive all the way over here for something so silly, but I’m glad he came.”
Carmen had only taken a few bites before the telephone rang – a reminder that her cell phone was in her room. She dropped her fork and stood.
“Oops! I forgot my phone again!” She dashed off to her room to retrieve it.
Katie was shaking her head as she walked toward the ringing phone.
In her room, Carmen picked up her cell phone. One missed call. Checking the record, her face grew warm on discovery that Alex had once again tried in vain to reach her. That was probably him on the phone. She arrived in the living room in time to hear Katie arguing.
“It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding.”
Carmen reached for the phone. “Well, it isn’t bad luck to talk to the groom on the phone.”
Katie surrendered the receiver to Carmen and then walked away.
“Alex?” Carmen said.
“Yeah. I was calling to see if you wanted to go out for breakfast. I guess even if you ate breakfast, that wouldn’t be an option.”
Carmen laughed softly. “That old idea dates back to prearranged marriages, when the groom had never seen the bride. If she wasn’t what he wanted, he might run off when he saw her. I guess that would be bad luck for the bride – and good luck for the groom.”
Alex laughed. “Well, I can assure you I won’t run off when I see you. So how about breaking tradition and going out to breakfast with me?”
She glanced at her plate. “Well . . . I don’t mind breaking tradition and seeing you this morning, but . . .”
His voice was dry. “The tradition I was referring to was you not eating breakfast.”
“I eat breakfast sometimes,” she defended, “but Katie fixed breakfast this morning and I still have some on my plate.”
“I see. I interrupted your breakfast. I’m sorry. I just thought . . .”
“It’s alright. Anyway, after today we’ll have the rest of our lives to eat breakfast together.” She grinned. “Now . . . are you still hungry?”
She glanced at her plate again. “Me too. Are you on the way?”
“As we speak. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
Carmen replaced the receiver and walked back to the table. Eying her breakfast doubtfully, she sat down. Not eating supper last night left her hungry this morning.
“Are you two going out together this morning?” Katie asked, her expression openly exasperated.
“Just for a little while,” Carmen said.
At Carmen’s nod, Katie sighed. “Forget about the food on your plate. You’ll have enough on your plate soon enough.”
Carmen looked at Katie. “Why do you say that?”
Katie laughed. “Because you’re getting married today – or do you still think it’s no big deal?”
“I never said getting married was no big deal. I just said the ceremony wasn’t.” She shrugged. “But it is a big deal. You and a lot of others have put a lot of work into it. I didn’t mean to be ungrateful.”
“It’s alright,” Katie said with an understanding smile. “One day you’ll be glad you have this in your scrap book. You’re just not used to nice things or having people fuss over you. You feel uncomfortable about it all, don’t you?”
Carmen eyed her warily. “A little.” How did Katie suddenly know so much about her – things she didn’t even know? Life hadn’t been harsh for her, but it certainly hadn’t been full of frills, either. Still, would she ever have wanted those things?
Carmen stepped outside with her food and fed it to the cat. Mom would have been horrified to see her do that to perfectly good food. For a moment Mom’s face was as clear as if she were standing there, saying “waste not, want not.” If only Mom and Dad were here to see this day. She kneeled down to pet the cat.
“I wonder what happened to snowball,” she mused. The cat had moved her kittens one night and they never saw her again. She was only a stray anyway – an unwelcome pet at the time. Still, she had been welcomed as pest control.
The doorbell rang and Katie went to answer it. “I’ll bet that’s the groom.” She came back, directing Alex in her sisterly way. “Now don’t keep her out long. She has to get ready, you know.”
“I know, Katie,” Alex said, his tone mildly annoyed. “I got an invitation to the wedding too, you know.”
Carmen giggled. Why was all the focus always on the bride? She took his hand and led him toward the door.
“We’d better go.”
The ride to the restaurant was a quiet one. It was obvious he had something on his mind. Maybe it wasn’t simply a breakfast out. Was he having second thoughts? Not according to his comments on the telephone. Then what?
At the restaurant, he led her to a secluded booth and waited until she was seated. Sliding into his side, he caught the eye of a waitress and motioned to her. He quickly gave her their orders and waited for her to walk away. Finally he leaned toward Carmen, resting his arms on the table. His expression was sober, his delicious chocolate gaze fixed on hers.
“Last chance. Are you sure you want to do this?”
She stared at him. “Are you trying to talk me out of it?”
His gaze ran over her face and came back to her eyes.
“No. I just don’t want you to feel pressured into this.”
She frowned. “Why would I feel pressured?”
“Last night you said you were feeling anxious because you no longer had a home and you were about to lose your name. That sounds like a person with second thoughts.”
She sighed. “Or first thoughts. I just never thought about it before.”
He watched her face for a moment before responding. “But it upset you when you did think about it.”
She reached over and placed her hand over his.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some fears, but I’m alright now . . . really. I do want this to happen.”
He continued to watch her solemnly. “And what about children?”
“If god wants us to have children, we will. No matter what the doctors say. If god doesn’t want us to have children, we won’t – and not because some doctor said we can’t.”
She ran her fingers up his arm, tracing the large vein – feeling the fine dark hair.
“I still want children. I guess I always will. But I know I would regret it bitterly if I didn’t marry you because of that.” She lifted her gaze to his. “I love you more than anything in the world.”
When he didn’t respond, she pulled away.
“Are you having second thoughts?”
He shook his head. “Only about whether I can make you happy.”
“You can’t make me happy, Alex. Not any more than I can make you happy. We have to want to be happy.”
He nodded. “I know.”
“Do you think I don’t want to be happy?” she asked.
The waitress arrived with their food and placed it before them. Alex thanked her, and when she left, he turned his attention to the food.
“I didn’t say that,” he said, pushing her plate toward her and reaching for his coffee. “I said I know. That’s all.”
The rest of the meal was taken up with light conversation about the weather, the clinic, the animals . . . anything but their feelings about marriage. When he took her home, they didn’t kiss. He simply squeezed her hand and said he would see her in a few hours. Maybe he was getting nervous because he had been this close to getting married once before and she simply didn’t show up for the wedding. That wasn’t going to happen this time. He probably knew that, but that wouldn’t stop him from feeling anxious about it. On the other hand, hadn’t his ‘appointment’ this morning to talk to her about last chances been indication enough that he was anxious?
The next few hours were spent getting ready. It was as if she suddenly awoke from a dream. She gave up trying to wipe the moisture from her hands. Glancing at Katie in the mirror as she helped with the wedding dress, Carmen spoke jokingly.
“If my hands keep sweating this way, I’m going to get dehydrated.”
Katie looked up at her in the mirror as she finished zipping the dress.
“I wondered if you were ever going to get nervous. I guess that answers my question. Thank god. At least now I know you’re normal.”
Carmen giggled. “Could I get you to put that in writing?” She looked down at her dress as she continued.
“Alex took me out this morning to ask if I really wanted to do this. I wondered if he wanted to back out, but he said he didn’t.”
Katie patted her shoulder.
“I wouldn’t think anything about it. If I had his history, I’d be nervous about the bride’s intentions on this day too.”
Carmen sighed. “I know.”
She straightened her skirt and surveyed the overall effects in the mirror.
“All of the sudden I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of marriage. Do you think she did too?”
Katie’s laugh was humorless. “I think she was overwhelmed by the idea of being a star. When the opportunity presented itself, she grabbed it. I don’t think she had a responsible bone in her body.”
“Why did Alex pick someone like that? It seems so alien to his nature.”
Katie shrugged. “Who knows? I couldn’t figure out his fascination with her at the time. Maybe it was all sex. She told me numerous times what a great lover he was – like I wanted to know,” she added sarcastically.
Carmen felt the flush start up her neck. It wasn’t the kind of information she wanted to hear at the moment either. It was bad enough to be reminded that Alex was experienced, without being reminded she had none. But there was always a first time. Of course, it usually didn’t happen at her age. Whatever his ranking of lover, Alex at least knew she was inexperienced, so hopefully he wouldn’t be expecting too much.
Carmen sighed. “I wouldn’t know good sex from bad anyway.”
Katie stopped fussing with her dress and her full attention riveted on Carmen’s face.
“Are you wondering if that’s why he wants to marry you?”
The flush made its way to her cheeks. “No. Not really. Sometimes I wonder why he wants to marry me, though.”
Katie smiled. “So why do you want to marry him? Maybe he’s wondering about that.”
Carmen made a face. “He is. He’s hung up on the baby thing. So is Josh.”
“Well, you’re the one who put that thought in his head. I wonder how it’s going to work out sometimes too. You might have wavered over some things, but you were always so . . . set . . . on children being a part of your future. As for Josh, he’s still hoping you’ll change your mind.”
“Why? He’s married now.”
Katie snorted. “Well, people can get UNmarried, you know.”
“He wouldn’t do that. What about Lori? He wouldn’t leave her like that.”
Katie let out a long sigh. “Everybody isn’t as honorable as you, Carmen. If you were suddenly available, he’d drop her like a used rag. I’d keep that in mind if I were you.”
Carmen said nothing more about it. Josh wouldn’t do that to Lori. He wasn’t like that . . . was he? What about all the times he had spoken to her lately? Was that for her good, or his? No, he wouldn’t do that.
Time began to race. It seemed like only a few minutes before they were at church, making the last minute checks before she walked down the isle.
“Where’s your veil?” Katie asked anxiously.
“I don’t want to wear it,” Carmen said. “He knows what I look like. I don’t need to hide my face.”
“Oh for . . .” Katie said with exasperation in her tone. “For once, just follow tradition and look like a normal bride. Where’s the veil?”
“On the table - in there.” Carmen pointed to the next room.
Katie dashed off and was back seconds later, frantically pushing it firmly into place. The music started as Katie pulled the veil forward.
Carmen stepped through the door and Mr. Reynolds took her arm. He smiled at her, his eyes gleaming.
“Beautiful,” he mouthed.
The music began and they walked down the long isle with everyone watching. It would have been intimidating if not for Alex at the end of the isle, standing next to Bill. Her gaze focused on Alex. The warmth in his eyes drew her to him and soothed her nerves. The reverend asked who was giving the bride and Mr. Reynolds said he was. That over with, he left Carmen with the groom.
The reverend began, “We welcome you today to the marriage of Alexander Matthew Barnett and Carmen Natalie Pulock.” The rest of the sermon was a blur, but she would always remember the exchanging of vows.
As the reverend quoted the vows to them, he turned to Carmen.
“Do you promise to love, honor and obey?”
Carmen stared at him mutely. Obey? They didn’t say that anymore, did they? Did Alex have him put that in? She glanced up at Alex. His startled look reminded her that the reverend was waiting for her answer. Alex lifted a brow.
“Do you promise to love, honor and cherish?” the reverend amended.
“I do,” she said quickly.
The solemn moment was broken with a snicker that went around the room.
When the reverend announced that Alex could kiss the bride, he wasted no time. He put an arm around her waist and pulled her to him possessively – much like claiming groceries after waiting a long time in line to pay for them. She barely had time to lift the veil before he took possession of her lips as well. It was a warm firm kiss, full of confidence.
She drew back, smiling as snickers and giggles came from the guests. Alex had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes that toyed with the smile on his lips. Carmen and Alex turned to face the others as the reverend introduced Mr. and Mrs. Alex Barnett. It was surreal. They were actually married now - her identity merged indelibly with his.
Katie whisked them away to the reception room. Tables were covered with white linen table cloths and adorned with violet colored napkins inside light gray napkin holders. The wedding cake rose gracefully in three tiers, graced with crystal staircases and small cakes on either side. The cake topper was a simple crystal heart with violet forget-me-nots. Matching flowers spilled gracefully down the smooth cake. Behind the cake was a large heart made of grape vines and forget-me-not flowers. That was where they posed for the wedding pictures.
By the time they were done taking pictures, her eyes were burning from the flashes. They took their place at the cake, Alex holding her hand steady as she cut the first piece of cake. Amid jokes about his skill with a knife, they shared bites and endured more pictures. If Alex minded all the attention, he gave no indication. Hopefully they were unaware of her discomfort. All she wanted to do at this point was change clothes and go home. There was a cool comfortable sundress and sandals waiting for her in the other room. Katie had offered to return their rented clothing so that they could enjoy their honeymoon together without mundane chores.
For an hour afterward, the celebrating and congratulations diverted their attention from each other. When Alex finally announced they were leaving, she had mixed feelings. All this time they had waited, pushing away passion and desire. Now there were few limits to their conduct. Surprisingly, the idea was more than a little intimidating. Maybe it was because always before she could stop him at will. Now she would have no excuse. If he wanted to take her home and straight to bed, it was acceptable. In fact, that was probably what he had in mind. Why hadn’t she consented to a honeymoon? Flying on a plane wouldn’t have made her as anxious as she was right now. But then, eventually the day would end, and they would have their first night together. Putting it off for a few hours wouldn’t be much help.

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