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 The Wedding Day Chapter seventeen

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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Wedding Day Chapter seventeen   Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:55 am

THE WEDDING DAY



Late morning of May 31st. In town.


Kenny smiled to himself as he turned left outside the hotel and headed towards the saloon. This town was certainly full of some very interesting people. He spied the young woman impatiently holding the team of horses and sent her a quick wave, assuming correctly that she was also part of the party group. Tricia smiled back and nodded a greeting in return but was quick to return her attention to the hotel doors in anticipation of the group getting a move on!


Kenny carried on, not too sure how much drinking everyone intended to do this afternoon. He himself had quite enough the night before so hopefully things would stay a little bit moderate. It would not be good for the whole male contingency to show up with hangovers the next day.


His inner smile deepened a little when he spied Harry Briscoe chatting to a young lady just outside the saloon doors. He still didn't quite know what to make of that man. Forever in his suit and Pandora he tried very hard to be the sophisticated and accomplished detective but he always seemed to be fumbling over his own feet. Yet there was still something likable about him once you got used to his ways and he could understand why Jed and Heyes kept him around.


“Harry,” Kenny nodded a greeting as he passed them. “Ma'am.”


“Oh! Yes, good afternoon Warden!” Harry responded with an air of self-importance and Kenny wondered at the use of his official title on this celebratory occasion. “The boys are already in there and I will join you shortly.”


“Take your time.”


Kenny stepped into the saloon and took a moment to survey the common area. Movement caught his eye and he spied Jed over at one of the larger tables, giving him a wave. Another quick look told him that Heyes was also there along with Lom. Steven and David were yet to show. Goodness knew what Wheat and Kyle were up to that afternoon and only time would tell if they showed for this. Kenny acknowledged Jed's summons and headed over to join them.



Harry had decided to take a quick walk around town that morning just to try and clear his head. He didn't have a hangover as such; falling asleep had prevented him from drinking quite as much as the other party-goers but he still woke up feeling fuzzy and a little head-achy. A light breakfast, some strong coffee and a walk on this fine Spring morning was all he would need to clear things up and be his usual sharp self again.
At the appropriate time he made his way towards the saloon and prepared himself to continue on with the festivities. He was in good spirits and trotted up the steps towards the bat-wing doors with a smile on his face and a whistle on his lips.


Then quite unexpectedly someone bumped into him and he very nearly tripped on the last step before the boardwalk. He turned, all prepared to give the clumsy person a piece of his mind when he found himself staring into the pretties set of eyes he had seen in a long time. The young lady smiled graciously and batted her lashes at him.


“I'm so sorry,” she sweetly apologized. “How silly of me. Are you alright?”


Harry puffed up and tipped his hat to her. “No need to apologized ma'am,” he smiled at her. “Being a detective I'm quite accustomed to dealing with the unexpected!”


She raised her eyebrows with impressed surprise. “You're a detective! How exciting!”


“Yes ma'am!” Harry stood up straighter. “Harry Briscoe, Bannerman man—at your service!”


“Oh my!” she gushed and Harry felt his heart flip. “A real detective! I'm honoured.”


“Not as honoured as I am,” Harry insisted and he raised her pretty hand to give it a light kiss.


She giggled sweetly. “Very nice to meet you, Mr. Briscoe. I'm Miss Isabelle Baird.”


“Miss Baird. A pleasure.” And Harry certainly meant it.


“Oh you can call me Isabelle!” And she playfully patted his arm.


Harry felt his knees go weak. “Why, thank you Miss Isabelle. Harry.”


“Harry,” She repeated with a coy smile. “Are you here for the wedding tomorrow?”


“Yes ma'am.” Harry beamed with pride. “Why I've known Jed Curry for many years! Heyes too.” He leaned in with a conspiratory smile. “They have often helped out on cases for me. Very undercover you understand.”


“Oh! How exciting!” Isabelle but a hand to her chest in mock consternation. “You must lead a very dangerous life!”


“Oh yes! It can be that,” Harry agreed. “But once you've been in the field as long as I have, you get to where you can just sense when danger is around. I'm quite capable of handling myself in a pinch, don't you worry your pretty little head about that!”


“Oh my. I'm afraid I would worry though,” she admitted with a slight flutter. “It must be very hard on your wife, knowing that your job can be so dangerous.”


“Oh, I'm not married ma'am.”


Isabelle brightened up. “No? A fine catch of a man like yourself is not married?”


Harry smiled, he had a good feeling about this. “No ma'am. I've just never had the time. Very busy and on the road a lot you know.”


“Oh.” Slight hint of disappointment.


“Oh, but I've been thinking lately of making some changes about that,” Harry was quick to assure her. “I've been thinking it's about time I settled down and thought about the more domesticated aspects of life. Not getting any younger you know!”


“Yes, I know what you mean,” Isabelle commented dryly. She quickly got back into character and sighed deeply. “I'm afraid the choice of available men in this town is quite limited. I may have to expand my search if I don't want to become an old maid.”


“Oh ma'am, I just can't picture you as an old maid,” Harry correctly contradicted her.


Isabelle smiled at him, quite conscious of the fact that Harry had yet to release her hand. “No,” she agreed. “Perhaps not.”


“Will you be attending the wedding tomorrow, Miss Isabelle?”


“Oh no.” Isabelle sighed dramatically. “Unfortunately I have a prior commitment. Although I know Jed and Beth were quite disappointed when I had to decline.”


“Oh.” Harry looked truly disappointed. “That is a shame. Are you sure you can't re-arrange your schedule? I would be greatly honoured if you would come as my guest.”


“OH!” Isabelle quickly composed herself and smiled sweetly. “Well, for you—I'll see what I can do.”


“That would be wonderful!” Harry smiled at her. “I will wait for your answer.”


“And I'll be sure to let you know.” Isabelle finally slipped her hand away from the gentleman. “For now I'm afraid I must be off.” She smiled sweetly at him again and Harry's heart did a double flip. “I do believe this meeting was quite fortuitous.”


Harry grinned. “I hope to hear from you this evening.”


“Good afternoon Harry.” Isabelle beamed at him and did a subtle courtesy. “Until this evening.”



Harry approached the group at the table, looking very pleased with himself.


“Hey Harry,” Kid greeted him. “You look like you just solved the case of the decade.”


“Yeah Harry,” Heyes seconded the opinion. “What have you been up to?”


“I just bumped into the most charming young woman,” Harry announced as he sat down and ordered a beer from the hovering Suzie. “I hope you don't mind Kid, but I invited her to come as my guest tomorrow.”


Heyes and Jed exchanged a look.


“Was this charming woman named Isabelle, by any chance?” Kid asked him.


“Yes! You know her?”


Heyes and Jed both chuckled.


“Yeah, we know her Harry,” Heyes admitted. “She just accidentally bumped into you, right?”


“Yeah!”


Two more exchanged looks. Kid raised his mug of beer to the detective.


“Congratulations Harry,” He offered. “Go for it! I'll warn....ha, I mean inform Beth that Isabelle will be attending after all.”


“Hi fellas! How's everybody feeling this afternoon?”


“Hey Steven!”


“Afternoon Steven, find yourself a seat.”


Suzie returned with Harry's beer and took Steven's order. She smiled sweetly but groaned inwardly. She had a headache herself and just wished all these fellas would show up at the same time instead of making her run back and forth, one beer after another. Knowing her luck by the time all of them had arrived and ordered, the first one would be ready for his second round!


Sure enough, by the time David arrived Heyes and Jed were ordering again and she had a feeling that the group wasn't at it's full potential yet! Oh damn! Those late night bachelor parties were going to be the ruin of her yet!


Three beers were brought to the table for David, Heyes and Jed just as Lom came over and sat down to a chorus of greetings. Suzie tried real hard not to show her disappointment.


“Ya' want a beer?” she asked the lawman.


“Ah no, I don't think so,” Lom answered her. “I think I'll just stay with coffee this afternoon.”


“That sounds like a good idea,” Kenny seconded. “I think I'll have a coffee too.”


“Two coffee's?” Suzie ran her eyes around the group. “Anyone else for coffee?”


She was met by numerous head shakes so she set off back to the bar to get some coffee brewing. She'd probably have a cup of that herself once there was a break in the traffic—oh! But oh damn! Here come those two saddle-tramps and they looked like beer drinkin' fellas.


“Hey, Wheat, Kyle!” Heyes greeted them. “Finally dragged yourselves outa bed huh? You want beer or coffee?”


“Oh well ah...I'll have a beer,” Wheat answered him. “What about you Kyle?”


“Yeah! Beer sounds real good!”


“You boys had any breakfast yet?” Jed asked with some concern.


“Well we ain't been to bed yet,” Wheat informed him. “What do we need breakfast for?”


“That ain't entirely true Wheat!” Kyle reminded him.


“Oh well yeah...” Wheat shifted a little. “We've been ta' bed,” he grinned and the two partners elbowed each other playfully. “we just ain't been asleep!”


“Yeah!” Kyle chortled. “There's some real energetic ladies workin' this town that's fer sure!”


Suzie put in an appearance, trying so hard not to let her headache show through her mask. “You boys want beers?” she asked the newcomers.


“Yeah!”



Early morning of The Big Day. Gibson household.



As predicted, the next morning dawned sunny and bright. There was still a bit of a early chill in the air but that was typical for this time of year. By 11:00 the sun should have warmed the day up just enough to be pleasant and by 1:00, the time of the wedding it should be the perfect day for outdoor nuptials.


“Any more of that bacon?” Jed asked hopefully as he polished off the last of the pancakes on his plate.


Tricia smiled knowingly. “Yes, I made sure to make lots,” she told him as she stood up and pulled out a plate of bacon from where it had been keeping warm inside the stove. “I wasn't lulled into thinking that your appetite would be daunted just because of a little think like your wedding day.”


Jed grinned. “You married a real smart lady there David.”


“Don't I know it!” David agreed. “Of course the fact that she keeps reminding me....”

“Ha!” Tricia teased him, then raised the plate of bacon with an enquiring raise to her brows.


“No,” David declined. “I'm fine.”


“Hannibal?” she asked their other guest.


“Oh no.” Heyes sat back and patted his slightly increased tummy. “That's it for me. I think I'm the one suffering from butterflies this morning.”


“All the more for me!” Jed quipped as he helped himself to a number of rashers more.

“How about you young man?” Tricia asked her son. “Any more....?”


“YES PLEASE!” came back the adamant response as the young master of the house raised his plate in anticipation.


Heyes chuckled as Tricia passed two more rashers onto her son's plate. “You better watch out there Thaddeus; it won't be long before Nathan there is eating you under the table.”


“I take on all challengers!” Jed teased as he sent Nathan a look of defiance.


Nathan screamed his laughter and began to stuff bacon into his mouth. Both parents groaned; so much for table manners!


“Now see what you've done!” Heyes reprimanded his cousin. “You're gonna drive Beth crazy when you start having your own youngsters.”


Jed sent him a roguish smile, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously.


“Somebody is definitely in a good mood today,” David observed.


“How about some more coffee to really get you bouncing off the walls?” Trice offered.


“Sure!” Kid liked that idea.


“I could certainly do with another cup just to keep up with him today!” Heyes announced and offered his cup forward.


Tricia smiled and poured more coffee all around, then she sat down and nibbled on what bacon was left on her own plate.


“Can I go outside and play Momma?” Nathan asked over his last mouthful of bacon.


Tricia's shoulders slumped, already imagining the layers of dirt her son would be coming back in with. Oh well; he was going to need a bath before the wedding anyways.


“Yes alright.” She gave him permission and then raised her voice to be heard over the scraping of chair legs and the pounding of feet. “But stay in the back yard young man! Don't go disappearing anywhere!”


“Yes Momma!” came the acquiescence from down the hallway.


David chuckled as he sipped his coffee. Tricia just sighed and rolled her eyes. “Well, at this rate he'll burn off some energy,” she surmised. “Make him at least partly controllable during the ceremony.”


“Aw, he'll be fine,” Jed assured the mother. “Some young boy shenanigans will just add to the fun!”


Heyes snickered into his coffee cup; this was going to be an interesting day.



Shortly after 10:00 everyone in the Gibson household was busy getting prepared for the trip out to the ranch. Of them all, as usual; Tricia seemed to have the most to do with not only getting herself ready but making sure that her husband and her son were cleaned up and dressed to the nine's as well.


Inside the spare bedroom Hannibal and Jedidiah were standing in front of the full-length flip mirror putting some last minute touches to their attire. Both men were dressed in their fine charcoal gray suits with the dark blue ties and looking very debonair.


Indeed, when two very fine and handsome young men can actually be coerced into donning a tailor made-to-measure suit with the finest made-to-order material available, they can't help but be elevated to the extreme of dashingly elegant, take your breath away, drop dead melt in your mouth absolutely gorgeous...OH! No sorry—I digress! Let us just say they were absolutely pulchritudinous and leave it at that!


“Here, spit on this,” Heyes ordered his younger cousin as he held up his handkerchief to the other man's face.


Jed looked at it with creased brow but then did as he was told. Heyes promptly began rubbing the spit into the blond curls.


“Hey! What are ya' doin'?!” Jed demanded as he ducked out from under his older cousin's toiletry attempts. “You're rubbin' spit in my hair!”


“You got a cow-lick stickin' up,” Heyes informed him. “And that's not a good sign by the way; asking and answering your own question. Ya' gettin' nervous?”


“No I ain't gettin' nervous!” Jed snapped. “Well...yeah I am—but only because you're makin' me nervous! Stop fussing will ya'?”


“Well I just want ya' to look perfect for your big day!” Heyes protested, acting hurt and tugging on his friend's tie in an effort to straighten it.


Kid took a swat at him. “Will you cut that out!”


“You're tie was crooked!”


“It's fine! Will you just relax!”


“I am relaxed!” Heyes insisted. “I ain't the one gettin' married!”


“Yeah, well you're actin' like an old mother hen,” Kid accused him as he started to brush off his friend's shoulders with his hands.


“What are ya' doin'!?”


“Ya' got dandruff.”


“I don't have dandruff! What are you talking about!?”


“Ya' got dandruff Heyes! And it really shows up on this dark gray too,” Jed pointed out. “Though not as bad as it would have on that brown rag you used to wear.”


“It wasn't a rag!” Heyes protested. “That was a nice suit. Just....a little worse for wear...that's all. You should talk! That old gray horse blanket you used to wear—the hat didn't even fit!”


“The second one did,” Kid pointed out. “It was almost worth gettin' that first one shot full 'a bullet holes to give me reason to buy another. Kinda' put me outa pocket money for a while though.”


“Well I did try and fix it for ya'.”


Jed snorted. “Yeah I know Heyes. We've been over this before; I was better off buyin' a new one. I don't even think Amy coulda fixed that old one.”


“Yeah, well....”


“Ya' got the rings?”


“Course I got the rings!” Heyes looked insulted.


“Can I see 'em?”


“What's the matter, don't you trust me?”


“Of course I trust ya'!”


“Then what do ya' need ta' see them for?”


“Heyes!” Jed suddenly looked very sceptical. “You sure you got 'em?”


“Yeah. They're right here in my breast pocket...” Heyes patted his left chest pocket and then frowned. “....ahh....”


“HEYES!”


“No, no. They're here somewhere Kid!” Heyes insisted as he frantically began patting down his person. “Honestly Kid—I got em' here somewhere! I know I do! They gotta be....AH!” He smiled triumphantly as he dug into his pants pocket and held up the two shinning wedding bands. “See! Told ya' I had 'em.”


Jed sent Heyes 'the look' as his partner smiled sweetly and slipped the rings into the inside pocket of his suit jacket and made sure the button was done up.


“There. Safe and sound,” Heyes assured him.


“Uh huh.”


“Oh! Can't forget these,” Heyes recalled and opened up one of two small boxes sitting on the dresser. “Here, turn this way.”


“Oh yeah,” Jed agreed and he turned to face his cousin. “Feels kinda silly; a man wearin' flowers.”


“Yeah, but the ladies like it,” Heyes pointed out as he pinned the colourful boutonniere onto Jed's lapel. “There we go.” He gave the lapel a gentle tug to straighten everything out. He ginned cheekily. “Perfect!”


“Yeah, okay.” Jed looked down at it, still thinking this was kinda extreme. “Well, if I gotta wear one of these then at least you gotta wear one too.”


“Uh huh,” Heyes agreed and stood up straighter while Jed pinned another of the spring floral ornamentations onto his lapel.


“There ya' go.”


“Yeah!” Heyes' grin grew. “That's not so bad.”


Jed turned away to view his image in the mirror one more time just to be sure everything was in place. He tugged at his jacket a couple of times and gave his tie a quick straightening before giving a big sigh and smiling broadly at his own reflection.


Heyes stood quietly, watching him; drinking him in, wanting to hold this image in his mind's eye for all eternity. Against all odds his younger cousin was getting married and Heyes smiled. He thought for a moment that his heart was going to break, but not with hurt and regret, but with over-whelming love. Love for this man whom he'd spent his life with, sharing the joys and the pains, the loneliness and the camaraderie, the disappointments and the jubilations. This man who was his friend.


“Well Jed, it's finally here.” Heyes spoke softly.


Jed turned and their eyes met and locked. He smiled. “It was worth it Heyes,” he told his cousin. “I couldn't 'a done this without you here with me.”


Heyes grinned and they both started to laugh and simultaneously fell into a back-slapping man-hug.


“C'mon!” said Kid Curry as they separated. “Let's go 'wow' the ladies with our charm and good looks!”


“Yeah!”



The cousins stepped out to the kitchen to find Tricia all dolled up in her lovely soft peach frock with the green lace and the elegant forest green hat she had purchased from Amy. But despite all the finery and nice hat, Tricia was still being for all intent and purposes; a mother. Nathaniel was squirming and trying to push his mother's hands away while she attempted to adjust his bow tie.


“I don't wanna wear this!” Nathan was complaining. “It itches!”


“It'll just be for a while,” Tricia explained. “It makes you look very handsome!”


“I don't care! I don't wanna wear it!”


“How come you should get off easy?” Jed asked him. “We gotta wear these stuffy suits. Sometimes when you're a grown-up ya' just gotta suck it up!”


Nathan looked over at his Uncles Jed and Han and swallowed down his tears. He hardly recognized them all done up in their finery but they did look nice and he so much wanted to be like his uncles. He looked back at his mother, his young mind in turmoil as he weighed his options.


“How about a compromise?” the battle-weary mother suggested. “We'll take it off for now, but as soon as we get to the Double J it goes back on. Alright?”


About all Nathan heard from that was 'We'll take it off....' He sniffed and nodded. “Okay.”


A knock came to the front door and instantly opened to present a smiling and sparkling Miranda as her smile brightened up the kitchen with it's intensity. Heyes' wounded heart still found itself doing half a flip as soon as her blue eyes latched on to him. He could tell from her un-guarded expression that she was pleased with what she saw.


He also felt a certain amount of relief. Amy had assured him that the corsage consisting of a delicate white carnation with blue ribbon and lace would beautifully compliment not only his tie, but her hat and outfit as well. He smiled to himself when he saw the elegant white and blue floral patterned frock she was wearing and knew that Amy had been right—again! As the others in the room extended their greetings to the new-comer, Heyes turned to the counter and picked up a small white box that was sitting there. He turned back to face his companion for the day.


Miranda smiled nervously. 'This was silly', she thought! She felt like some little school-girl at her first social dance! Then Hannibal came up to her and smiled into her eyes and her knees went weak.


“Hello,” he greeted her.

All she could do was smile at him and she felt her cheeks blush slightly with innocent arousal. Heyes' smile deepened into a dimpled grin and opening the small box he produced the corsage and stepping closer to her, his delicate fingers pinned it securely to the lapel of her soft blue jacket. He leaned in to her and kissed her on the cheek.


“You look beautiful,” he whispered into her ear. He pulled back and allowed himself to sink into her deep blue eyes. “You are beautiful.”


“So are you,” she responded before she could stop herself, then her hand came to her mouth as her eyes widened and her blush deepened with embarrassment. “Oh! No....I mean...you look...very handsome.”


Heyes nodded acceptance of the compliment and turned back to the group only to find the other three people in the room staring at them. Nathan started to giggle.


“What!?”


“No. Nothin' Heyes,” Jed assured him but couldn't help the gin that was spreading. “Nothin' at all!”


The front door opened again and a very debonair David popped his head in. “I have the carriage here. Are we all ready to go?”



David had booked the finest coach and pair well in advance of the wedding day just to be sure that his friend got the best treatment available in the whole county. Indeed, Jed stopped so abruptly in his awe of the fine vehicle that Heyes very nearly walked into him and was about to lay in a protest. That is until his own eyes took in the marvellous sight and he too stopped to stare.


The open midnight blue coach shone in the sun and even from atop the porch they could all smell the new leather and the polished wood trim. The matched pair of dappled greys with their glittering harnesses arched their graceful necks and pawed the ground with impatience to be going. They knew they looked fine and all this standing around wasn't doing anything to impress the neighbours.


“Oh my,” Heyes finally muttered.


Jed didn't say anything but continued to stand and stare until David agreed with the horses that it was time to be off.


“Come along everyone! Let's go!” He broke the trance. “Hang around much longer and the wedding will be all over with!”


“Oh!” Jed suddenly looked concerned. “Yeah right—we better go.”


Heyes chuckled and gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. Jed was obviously starting to get nervous to have fallen for that simple ruse. Still, it did work and the wedding party climbed into the coach, the gentlemen helping the ladies and the child helping himself until all were settled into the plush seats and ready to go.

David gathered up the lines and didn't even have to cluck to the eager team to have them move out at a stylish trot and take direction to their destination.


“Geez,” Jed commented as he ran his hand along the soft leather. “Last time I sat in seats like this we were in the governor's office.”


“That governor ain't got nothin' on you!” Heyes announced, slipping back into the vernacular. “This is your day Jed, yours and Beth's. We have all combined our efforts to make it the best day you'll ever have.”


“Yeah?” said Jed, looking pleased. “What else have ya' done?”


“Well, you're just gonna havta wait and see!”


Jed sent his cousin a suspicious look. “You haven't done anything 'unsavoury' have ya'? Like arrangin' for a saloon gal to jump out of the wedding cake...?”


“Oh now!” Heyes looked insulted. “Would I do that to Beth?”


“Relax Jed,” Tricia assured him as she leaned forward and patted his knee. “You're going to enjoy today.”


“Yeah? Well, okay.”


“look at all the people staring at us!” Nathan hollered in delight and started to wave at them. “Hi Jimmy! Hi Tim! We're gettin' married!”


“Don't you wish you were wearing your bow tie now?” Tricia asked her excited son. “All your friends looking at you and you're the only one who's not got his tie on!”


Nathaniel sent his mother a dark look and sat back down in his seat. “They don't care about no stupid tie!”


“They don't care about 'any' stupid tie,” Tricia corrected him.


“Yeah!” her son agreed.


Randa chuckled and put a placating hand upon her cousin's arm. “Don't bother Trich, not today,” she suggested. “He's going to be too wired to care about etiquette.”


Nathan glanced from his mother to his 'aunt' and wondered what 'etiquette' meant. Heyes and Jed both stifled a laugh.



The approach into the Double J ranch yard was almost surreal. Anyone who could spare any time at all had been up early and outside to add the finishing touches to the wedding decorations. Colourful bunches of spring flowers adorned the railings along the front porch and on both barn doors. All the fences around the yard were also sporting their own variations of flowers and ribbon and bows and many had even been placed along the fence line leading into the yard itself. It wasn't long however before those particular arrangements were quickly taken down and the salvageable ones placed elsewhere once it was discovered that the horses were eating them.


A number of the guests had already arrived and though most of the ladies were inside the house helping with last minute details, the men were lounging on the porch or holding casual discussions in the yard. All the heads turned as the spiffy coach made it's way onto the property.


“Here they come!” Jesse announced loud enough in hopes that the ladies inside would hear.


Sam headed over and took hold of the near horse's bridle and held the team for the guest of honour and his entourage to disembark. Jesse and Kenny made their way over to greet them and shake hands with the bride groom.


“Howdy fellas, ladies,” Jesse said. “It's a good thing you got here when you did; Beth was about to have a nervous breakdown.”


Jed frowned as the group exited the coach. “Why? Are we late?”


“Nope,” Jesse assured him and smiled. “She's just nervous.”


Heyes gave his hand to both Tricia and Randa as they stepped out of the coach while David jumped down from the driver's seat.


“Well I'll just go on in and put her mind a ease,” Jed offered and putting action to words, he strode off towards the porch.


“Oh, Kenny,” David extended a hand to the warden. “How are you this morning?”


“Not too bad,” Kenny returned the greeting. “Good to see you up and about after our little celebration the other night.”


David groaned but then smiled. “Fortunately it's not something we indulge in too often.”


Kenny emphatically nodded agreement. “You already know my eldest son Joseph.”


“Yes!” David smiled and shook his hand. “Recover from the other nights festivities alright?”


Joseph almost turned green at the reminder but like a trooper he swallowed it down and smiled. “Yessir.” He put on a good front. “Didn't quite know what I was getting into that being my first stag party.”


David laughed. “I think most of us were feeling the effects the next morning,” he assured the young man. “We all tend to get a little carried away at a gathering of that nature.”


“Yessir.”


Kenny smiled at the doctor putting his son at ease. “I'll introduce you to my wife as soon as she stops hovering over the bride,” he added, knowing that David had yet to meet her.


David smiled. “Good! They do seem to be gathering, don't they? Well this lovely lady....” and he reached out and grabbed Tricia by the arm before she could follow Miranda who had long since disappeared into the house. “...is my wife Tricia.”


“Ma'am.”


“Oh! Mr. Reece.” Tricia smiled at him. “I have certainly heard a lot about you, from all three of these men! Nice to finally meet you.”


“Likewise.” Kenny nodded to her. “Sarah says she had a wonderful time out here yesterday meeting all you ladies. She said she felt right at home.”


“Oh well, it's hard not to like Sarah,” Tricia complemented. “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me—I've GOT to go get a look at the dress!”


“Papa can I go play with J.J.?” came a little voice from behind David.


David looked around at him and smiled. “And this little whirlwind is our son, Nathaniel.”


“Well hello young man,” Kenny offered his hand and Nathan sent his father an enquiring look. David nodded acquiescence and Nathan smiled and accepted the handshake, feeling all grown-up. “Nice to meet you.”


“Nice to meet you too sir,” Nathan said, quite proud of himself, then turned back to his father. “Papa, can I go play with J.J.? Oh! And there's Todd!” His little brow creased. “Who's that?”


“That's my daughter, Evelyn,” Kenny announced then creased his brow in mild concern. “My other two boys are around here somewhere. Oh well, they'll show up, but I'm sure Eve would be quite happy to play with you.”


“But she's a girl!” Nathan complained and then was brought up short when he noticed that J.J. didn't seem to mind playing with her. “Bye!” he announced, not wanting to be left out and took off at a run to join up with his friends.


The fathers in the group had a chuckle.


“Won't be long before he's preferring girls to spend his time with,” David prophisized.


“Yeah,” Heyes recalled with a smile, remember how well J.J. had got on with Anya and how smitten he had been with Elise—or whatever her name might be. “J.J. certainly seems to like the ladies. You're gonna have your hands full with that one Jesse.”


“Oh please!” Jesse complained with a roll of the eyes. “The girls were bad enough! Give us a chance to catch our breath!”


All of a sudden there was a wild commotion up on the front porch consisting of various lady's voices raised in high pitched screaming accompanied by the scrambling of feet and a door being slammed shut in someone's face.


“HEY!” Kid's affronted complaint resonated around the yard. “What in tarnation...!?”


Everyone dropped their conversation and looked to the source of the commotion and were met with the insulted Mr. Curry standing dumb-struck on the porch wondering what hit him.


Heyes broke out laughing at the look on his partner's face. “You oughta know better than that Thaddeus!” he called over to him. “You know you're not allowed to see the dress before the wedding!”


“I don't wanna see the dress!” Jed complained. “I just wanted to see the bride!”


“But if the dress is on the bride it kinda comes to the same thing!”


“Geesh!” Kid complained and shaking his head he stomped back down the porch steps and returned to the group. “Ya' know women get really weird about all this 'nuptial' stuff. I'll be real glad when it's all done and we can get down to what I'm really looking forward to.” Jed stopped and looked at everybody looking back at him. “What?”


“Really Jed,” Jesse admonished him. “This is my daughter you're talking about. A little more discretion would be appreciated.”


Jed's mouth hung open. “What?” he repeated and then looking at Heyes who was fighting to hold back a laugh, he suddenly caught his breath. “NO! I didn't mean—THAT! I meant....lunch!”


“Ohhhh!” was the dubious concession from the other men.


“No, tell them Heyes!” Kid was feeling ganged-up on. “You tell them; I meant food.”


“Yeah Kid. Sure ya' did,” Heyes teased him.


“HEYES....!”


Heyes tried to stifle his amusement at his partner's expense and then did take pity on him. “Yeah, okay,” he conceded. “I'm sure that's all he meant Jesse. He has too much respect for Beth to speak about her that way—and too much respect for food to let a little thing like his wedding get in the way of lunch!”


Jed sent him a look, not sure if the comment helped his case or not.


Jesse smiled. “Oh I know,” he admitted. “We're just pulling your leg Jed—gotta expect that today.”


Jed's shoulders relaxed. “Geesh....” he mumbled. “Women ain't the only ones who get a little weird...”


David gave him a slap on the back. “It's alright Jed. It's your wedding day and that means you're fair game for teasing.”


“Best just sit back and enjoy it,” Kenny advised him.


The sound of more horses and carriages coming down the lane caught everyone's attention and within moments more guests had joined the festivities.


“Howdy boys,” Lom greeted his two 'wards' “Ya' ready for the big day?”


“Yeah Lom,” Kid answered, shaking his hand. “Martha...glad you could make it.” And he leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Martha, this is my partner, Hannibal Heyes.”


Heyes suddenly looked a little uncomfortable. “Oh! Ahh....howdy ma'am.” He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. He wasn't sure if he should give her a kiss or not so he hung back. “Nice to finally meet you.”


“Yes,” Martha smiled at him. “My husband has certainly told me a lot about you. And of course Jed and Beth talk about you all the time. It's good to see you looking so well after your tribulations.”


“Oh, ahmm. Yes ma'am.”


“Call me 'Martha' young man,” she told him. “You and Lom have been friends for far too long for us to be on formal terms.”


“Oh yes. Thank you.” Heyes smiled then and relaxed a little bit. He really didn't understand why meeting Lom's wife had caused him a certain amount of anxiety and he made an honest effort to let it go. His smile grew till it took over his face and Martha's eyes lit up and she laughed.


“Oh Lom! You are so right!” she exclaimed, giving Heyes' arm a light squeeze. “What a charmer!”


“Uh huh,” came Lom's caustic response as he sent Heyes a look and steered his wife over towards the refreshment table. “Come along Martha.”


“Oh....” Heyes' smile dropped into a gentle shy one and he glanced over at the Kid who's eyes were laughing at him. “Yeah, yeah....”


“Howdy boys! All set for the big day Kid?”


“Hello Harry,” Jed greeted him. “And Miss Isabelle, how nice you could make it after all.”


Isabelle smiled sweetly, her arm possessively entwined in Harry's. Harry didn't seem to mind, he was grinning like the Cheshire cat.


“I guess I just needed the right incentive Jed,” Isabelle commented through her smile. “When a 'real' gentleman asks a lady out, well how can one refuse?”


“Yessir boys!” Harry puffed himself up. “Ya' just gotta know how to treat a lady, that's all—and strike when the iron's hot!”


“Ya' well, you've certainly had enough practice asking the ladies out, Harry,” Jed commented. “I suppose it's about time ya' figured out how ta' do it!”


Harry got himself all blustered up. “Oh well....”


Heyes laughed and clapped him on the back. “Oh now Harry, don't mind the Kid. He's kinda nervous, you know. Wedding day an' all.”


“Oh, yeah I suppose so...”


“Yeah Harry, I'm just teasin' ya',” Jed assured him. “Miss Isabelle here, well she's a mighty fine catch.”


Harry was soon grinning again but Isabelle had her nose in the air.


“Harry!” Jesse, who had been talking with David finally noticed the new-comers. “Glad you could make it. And Miss Isabelle. You're looking lovely today.”


“Thank you Mr. Jordan.” Isabelle almost curtsied. “It's nice to know there are SOME gentlemen still left in this world.”


“Jesse,” Harry returned the greeting and they shook hands.


“Why don't you join us for some refreshments?” Jesse offered as he motioned towards the heavily laden table. “There's sandwiches and iced tea and lemonade and of course, something a little stronger for after the ceremony for those who wish it.”


“Why thank you, Mr. Jordan.” Isabelle smiled at him. “I certainly could do with something cool to drink.”


“So who all is coming to this little shindig?” Harry asked as he looked around at the numerous guests.


“Well, neighbours from the other ranches and some of the townsfolk, not to mention most of the people who were at the stag and their families,” Heyes answered him and then he and Jed exchanged looks.

Jed shrugged and they both looked back to Harry.


“Harry, Isabelle said she wanted a cool drink,” Jed reminded him.


“Yeah, well that's fine,” Harry responded as he continued to look around.


Heyes and Jed exchanged looks again.


Heyes sighed. “Well don't you think you should go and get it for her?”


“What? OH!” Harry quickly returned his attention to his date. “Oh yes, of course! Come Isabelle, let me get you that drink.”


Isabelle smiled at him, thankful that he had finally got the message and allowed herself to be lead away.


“Good old Harry,” Jesse observed. “Hasn't changed much has he?”


“Nope,” Kid agreed.


“I'm surprised he actually found a date for today,” Kenny admitted. “Do you think the young lady knows what's she getting herself into?”


Everybody who knew Harry chuckled.


“I think she might be starting to figure it out,” Heyes commented.


“And she just might be desperate enough to not care,” Jed added.


“You fellas sure do know a lot of strange people,” David observed. “Speaking of which....”


Everyone turned again as a horse and surrey came into the yard, accompanied by two rather scruffy looking gentlemen on horseback.


“Hey Wheat! Kyle!”


Heyes and Jed stepped forward to meet their two friends and hearty handshakes made the rounds.


“Hi ya' Kid, Heyes,” Wheat grumbled. “I told ya' we'd be here.”


“Yeah, we ain't gonna miss this fer nothin'!” Kyle exclaimed. “And look who we run into in town!”
And he nodded towards the surrey.


“HO! HO!” Kid actually clapped his hands and he ran forward to give the woman a big hug, actually lifting her off her feet.


“Oh! Thaddeus...”


“Sister Julia!” Heyes laughed and came forward for his hug. “We didn't think you could come!”


“I didn't think I was going to be able to either,” the Sister informed them once she had caught her breath. “But Mr. Reece pulled some strings with the Mother Superior and here I am!”


“Kenny!” Heyes was still grinning but he sent the warden a reprimanding look. “You knew she was coming and you didn't say anything?”


“Of course I knew she was coming, they came on the train with us,” Kenny admitted. “But she made me promise not to say anything. She wanted to surprise you.”


“We sure are surprised,” Kid agreed. “And it sure is nice ta' see ya'!”


“It is certainly nice to be here,” Sister Julia reiterated. “And...I brought someone else with me who really wanted to come. I hope you don't mind.”


“Oh no,” Heyes assured her. “why should we mind?”


“Well...” The sister stepped aside and a little six year old girl peeked out from behind her habit.


Heyes' grin softened. “Sally.....”


“Hello Mr. Heyes,” she said shyly. “Is it alright?”


Heyes squatted down to her level. “Of course it's alright, sweetheart,” he told her. “Are you going to come and give me a hug?”


The huge smile spread over her face and she instantly came out from hiding and ran into his arms. Heyes hugged her close, feeling the aching in his heart for another little girl whom he missed so much. But he pushed that aside and allowed himself to be pleased at seeing this special little one again. He stood up, bringing the child up with him and she seemed quite content to stay there with her arms around his neck.


“Would you like some lemonade?” he asked her.


“Yes please.”


Heyes turned towards the refreshment table and found Kenny's grey eyes watching him. Kenny smiled and Heyes sent him a quiet nod and carried on to full-fill his deed. Jed was so busy watching Heyes that he forgot about his own manners and then suddenly came back to reality.


“Oh! Sister.” He turned back to her. “Would you like some lemonade, or iced tea?”


“Why certainly, Thaddeus. That would be lovely,” she accepted as she took his arm. “And might I say that you look splendid today.”


“Why thank you Sister.”


“And how is Beth holding up?”


“I have no idea.”


Sister Julia laughed and patted his arm. “Don't you worry—I'm sure she's fine. I can go in and check on her for you if you like. After my drink!”


“Yes ma'am,” Jed agreed to that. “I would appreciate it.”


Over the next half-hour more guests arrived from town or the neighbouring ranches who were friends of the Jordans' and pretty soon the whole front yard was a mess of suits and springtime finery and lots of laughter. Children were running around being children despite the restrictions of 'Sunday best' clothing and everyone was in a very festive mood.


Steven showed up seemingly from out of nowhere, but who had actually been sitting up on the front porch with The Reverend Sikes discussing the oddities of human nature. Mr. Sikes decided it was time to approach the groom and start to get his thoughts onto the upcoming ceremony. The appointed hour was fast approaching and things needed to be got in order.


“Mr. Curry, Mr. Heyes,” Sikes interrupted their jovial conversation with two rather unsavoury individuals.


“Oh, Reverend,” Jed greeted him. “Ah..is it time?”


“Not quite,” he assured the groom. “I just wanted to make sure we have everything in order.”


“Oh yeah, of course.”


“Now, I assume at the appropriate time the bride and her party will come down the porch steps,” the reverend explained. “Now you and your friend will be standing over there by that very nicely decorated well? Is that correct?”


Heyes and Jed exchanged looks and both shrugged. “Yeah, I guess,” Jed agreed.


Mr. Sikes smiled. “Fine. Now, Mr. Heyes do you have the rings?”


“Yessir, Reverend.” Heyes smiled, patting his breast pocket as best he could with one arm still holding Sally.


“Here Joshua, let me take her off your hands for awhile,” the Sister offered. “Why don't you come with me to meet the bride.”


Sally snuggled closer in to the base of Heyes' neck indicating that she was quite happy right where she was. Sister Julia smiled but insisted.


“Come along,” she said. “Mr. Heyes has to prepare for the ceremony now. You can visit with him later.”


Heyes leaned down and placed the child on her feet. “Don't worry Sally,” he assured her. “I'll be here all afternoon.”


“Alright,” came the disappointed response, but she did allow herself to be led off towards the house and only looked back once.


At the same time as Sister Julia and Sally entered the house, Belle came out looking just a little flustered.


“J.J.!” she called for her son. “J.J.! Where are you!?” She threw up her hands in frustration and looked over to her husband. “Where has that boy gotten to?”


Jesse smiled. “I'll look for him,” he offered. “Those kids have been underfoot all morning and now that we want them, they're nowhere to be found.”


“I think I saw him with William and Charlie,” Kenny offered. “They were on the other side of the barn.”


Jesse nodded and headed over that way. Belle sighed and turned to go back into the house. She noted that the refreshment table was becoming sparse yet again but decided that they were too close the the ceremony to worry about that. There would be plenty more to eat afterwards.


Ten minutes later Jesse came striding back from around the barn with a screaming J.J. hoisted over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He was pounding his father's back with his small fists and letting it be known without a doubt that he 'didn't want to.'! Nathan was running along behind, trying to keep up with Jesse's long strides and behind him came Todd and then Evelyn, protesting that they 'didn't mean to.'! From what could be told of this group, all four of them were covered in mud and Evelyn's hair was sticking out in all different directions. The three dogs brought up the rear of the procession barking in their two cents worth and having a grand old time.


“Oh my God!” Kenny exclaimed as he watched opened-mouthed at the disaster that was his daughter. “Where are my boys? They were suppose to be watching out for her! Charlie! William!”


Kenny absently put his half-empty glass down on the table and trotted off in search of his wayward sons while Jesse ascended the porch steps and led his procession into the house. Even to the guests scattered about the yard the screams of disbelief from the various mothers could be heard emanating from the open front door.


All four ex-outlaws leaned on each other and started laughing.

David sighed and put down his own drink. “I suppose I should get in there and see if I can be of assistance. Tricia might just wring his neck.”


The Reverend looked worried. “I wonder if this is going to delay the ceremony.”



David made his way over to the front porch to find himself accompanied by Sam. He had heard the commotion from inside the barn where he'd already had his hands full dealing with all the extra horses and rigs showing up on the property. Concessions had been put into place to deal with them but it was still proving to be over-whelming. The last thing he needed today was a recalcitrant son!


The two fathers made their way into the house and focus was diverted back to the second barn as Kenny put in a re-appearance. His expression suggested that he was not pleased and the look on the faces of his two sons who followed behind were almost comical in their guilt if not actual repentance.


Then Kid tapped Heyes on the arm and pointed in the direction of the other side of the first barn where the two older of the Johnston girls were skitting into view. They were doing their best to look innocent but the quick movements of brushing off each others backs and trying to straighten their hair belied their attempts.


The partners sent each other wicked grins and tapped their iced tea glasses together in a playful toast but couldn't manage to drink it while they were snorting their laughter.


Kenny and his two young men joined the group but Will and Charlie quickly spied the refreshment table and made a hasty retreat to slacken their thirst—and to get out of reach of their father. Kenny just shook his head and retrieved his own glass from where he'd left it.


Heyes was still laughing, and being in this jovial mood for a change was making him giddy and he took liberties with the warden that he might otherwise not have considered. He draped an arm across the man's shoulders and gave him a friendly shake.


“Don't worry about it Kenny,” he said through his grin. “It's a day to celebrate love.”


Kenny growled but still permitted Heyes access. “I swear over-seeing a prison full of convicts is child's play compared to being a father!” he complained and he locked eyes with the Kid. “See what you're in for Jed? You two laugh now, but just you wait....”


“Aww Kenny, c'mon,” Jed teased him. “You can't tell me you don't love being a father. This is one of those things you're gonna look back on and laugh about!”


“HA!” was Kenny's caustic response.


“See?” said Heyes, giving the warden another shake. “You're already laughin'! C'mon Kenny, relax. They're just being boys. Think of the education they've been getting on this trip. The two oldest ones got to go to their first stag party, learned all about robbing trains and blowing up safe's and even got falling over drunk like real men! Now today those two had the opportunity to take the neighbour's daughters for a quick roll in the hay behind the barn! Talk about a rite of passage!”


Heyes and Jed tapped their glasses again in a celebration of up and coming manhood.


“Oh brother!” Kenny complained. “Mr Jordan and I are doing things opposite here. I have older sons with a daughter growing up and he has older girls with a son trailing the pack. I swear; I don't know which way's worse! God; let me live long enough to have grandchildren!”


Sister Julia broke in upon this prayer and smiled at the father's distress.


“I'm sure He will, Warden Reece,” she assured him.


“Oh, Sister.” Kenny smiled at her. “Thank you. How is everything going in there?”


She rolled her eyes but laughed. “Pandemonium!”


Jed instantly sobered up. “Oh. How is Beth?”


She smiled and sighed with understanding tolerance. “She was holding her own until the mud-caked children showed up and then she burst into tears.”


“Oh no,” Jed groaned. “Maybe I should....”


“No, no.” The Sister put a hand on his arm stopping him before he could take a step. “Leave her be Thaddeus. I think seeing you right now would just make it worse.”


Jed's shoulders slumped. “Oh.”


“Don't worry about it!” she soothed him. “Even with the various mothers tending to their off-spring, Beth still has plenty of friends with her to help her dry up. Trust me; she'll be fine.”


One o'clock came and went and by 1:30 the Reverend Sikes decided to make a discretionary visit to the house to see how much longer the bridal party expected to be. He returned a few moments later, looking relieved. He approached the groom and smiled.


“They're almost ready,” he assured them. “Are you gentlemen set to go?”


“Yup,” Jed announced. “As long as my partner still has the rings...?”

Heyes sent him a wounded look. “Of course I have them!” he insisted as he yet again patted his chest pocket. “Really, Kid; the amount of faith you have in me....”


“Oh it's not lack of faith Heyes,” Kid pointed out. “I have complete faith in your ability to misplace things....”


“Oh now come on!”


The front door of the house opening caught their attention and some of the ladies not included in the bridal entourage made their joyous way down the steps and into the yard.

Miranda and Clementine along with little Sally were the first of the group down the steps and spotting their group right away, headed over to join them.


“Clem!” Heyes greeted their friend and gave her a big hug and a kiss. “How is everything going in there?”


“As well as can be expected,” Clem answered as she straightened her bonnet. “Reminds me why I'm in no hurry to get married. Oh Kid! Well, maybe if you'd asked me....”


“Uh huh,” he responded playfully then took her in a hug himself and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I seem to recall that the last time you and I were married you only had eyes for the Alcalde!”


Clem boo hoo'd him and gave him a playful slap on the chest. Jed smiled. “Always nice to have ya' here Clem!”


“Oh well....”


“Kenny,” Heyes took Miranda's elbow and brought her forward. “you haven't met my companion for the day. Mrs. Miranda Thornton, this is Mr. Kenny Reece. He's the warden out at the prison. I've told you about him.”


“Oh my goodness!” Miranda laughed and both parties pointed a finger at the other.


“It's you!” they both voiced together.


Heyes almost looked stricken—they already knew each other? “What....?”


Kenny put a placating hand on Heyes' arm. “It's nothing Heyes. Your lady friend and I ran into each other at the hotel yesterday.”


“Yes!” Randa agreed. “Quite literally! Again, I do apologize. I shouldn't have been running like an over-excited school girl.”


“Running?” Heyes eyebrows went up.


“Well Trich was in a hurry!” Randa defended herself. She gave a little smirk at the offended look on Heyes' face and gently stroked his arm. “We were picking up the other ladies at the hotel to come out here for Beth's bridal shower. Tricia was holding the team out on the street and I came in to get everyone. We were in a hurry. It just happened that I came barging—most unladylike—through the front door of the hotel just as Mr. Reece was coming out.”


“Oh....”


She smiled back at Kenny again and offered her hand. “Very nice to be formally introduced to you Mr. Reece.”


Kenny took her hand in greeting. “A pleasure Mrs. Thornton.”


“Oh please! Call me Miranda—or Randa, or Randi—or that crazy woman who runs through hotel lobby's! 'Mrs. Thornton' makes me sound so stuffy.”


Kenny couldn't help but grin—his first impression of her was not mistaken; what a firecracker! “I'm sure all you ladies are on first name basis after your get together yesterday. We may as well make it universal. Call me Kenny, but that's the only name I have. 'Kennith' makes me sound so stuffy!”


Miranda grinned and nodded. She liked this man and could see why Hannibal and he were friends despite coming from opposites ends of the prison yard.


“Oh, looks like we're getting close,” the reverend predicted, cutting in on the other conversations.


All eyes turned back to the front door. Sam with Maribelle and Merle were coming down the steps with a noticeably cleaner Todd in tow. Behind them came David, Tricia and Nathan with everyone hurrying to get out of the way so the proceedings could finally get moving. Jesse stepped out onto the porch and waved over to the reverend to signal that they were ready just as Sarah and a much cleaner and neater Evelyn scooted out from behind him and hurried down the steps.


“Oh, there's my cue,” Kenny announced. “I'll see you boys later.”


“Yeah, alright,” Heyes agreed.


Kenny stopped himself in mid-stride and turning to the Kid he smiled and shook his hand. “Just relax Jed. The wedding ceremony is the easiest part about being married so just relax and enjoy it. You're surrounded by friends here.”


“Yeah Kenny. Thanks,” Jed answered him. “I think.”


“Alright,” Clem announced as she leaned in to give Jed a kiss on the cheek. “We're going to go join David and Tricia. Good luck.”


Miranda and Heyes locked eyes and she smiled at him as he squeezed her hand. “See you later,” she told him. “Good luck, Jed.”


And she and Clem made their exit.


“Well gentlemen,” the reverend suggested. “shall we get into position?”


“Ah yeah, okay,” Jed agreed.


Heyes put a hand on his friends arm as they moved to stand by the well. “Just relax Kid. Enjoy it.”


“How come everybody thinks I'm nervous?” Jed griped. “I'm fine!”


“Yeah?” Heyes asked him. “Then how come the blood has drained from your face and ya' keep rubbing your hands against your trousers?”


“Oh...well.....”


“And here they come,” the reverend stated quietly.


All heads turned and an approving murmur went through the assembly. Jesse was standing on the porch looking about as proud as a father could be while on his arm was the most beautiful apparition that Jed had ever laid eyes upon. Beth was radiant. If she had been crying there was no sign of it now. Her brown eyes were sparkling with excitement and her smile went on forever.


She was wearing her mother's wedding dress with the pearls and the yellow lace and embroidering but her bouquet was a colourful selection of spring flowers. Yellows and blues and pinks all in a lovely medley together that managed to compliment her dress, her hair, her eyes and her blushing complexion all in one statement. Her long blond hair was done up in a french braid and then folded into a tight roll on the back of her head so that the dainty hat sat comfortably on the crown and the delicate veil flowed elegantly over her shoulders and down her back.


“Oh my,” Heyes whispered then leaned in close to his dumb-struck partner. “Feeling weak in the knees Jed?”


“Shuddup Heyes.”


Jesse hesitated on the porch for a moment to give everyone a chance to realize that the event was about to begin and when they had silence he squeezed his daughters hand in his and led her down the steps. Behind them came Bridget and Carol, both with their own Spring bouquets and Carol looking nervous but pleased as punch to have been included in the ceremony. Behind them came Belle and beside her, suddenly feeling nervous with everybody staring at them was J.J. with his own little boutonniere pinned to his jacket. He was looking very uncomfortable.


So the procession made its way across the yard and Jed could not take his eyes off his bride. She was radiant, her smile growing wider and brighter with each step so that by the time she reached her betrothed she was grinning so hard her face would have hurt if she'd thought to be aware of it. Jesse took his daughter's hand and placed it over onto Jed's left arm then he extended his right hand and the two men locked eyes for an instant and shook hands. Then Jed's gaze instantly fell to his bride again. He just couldn't believe how beautiful she was.


“Ladies and gentlemen! Family and friends!” The Reverend Sikes began, bringing everyone's attention to him. “We are gathered here today.....”
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Wedding Day   Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:57 am

Late morning of The Big Day. Double J Ranch.



Nathan ran over to his friends all excited and ready for play.


“Hi!” he chirped.


“Hey Nathan,” J.J. greeted him. “You allowed to play?”


“Yeah. So long as I don't get dirty!”


“What's the fun in that!?” Todd complained. “If ya' can't get dirty it ain't no fun!”


“I don't want my dress to get all dirty,” Evelyn pointed out. “We can still have fun and not get dirty.”


“What do you know?” Todd insulted her. “You're just a girl!”


“She's alright!” J.J. came to his new friends defence. “And I know a girl who could beat you up no problem!”


“Oh Yeah?” came Todd's sceptical response. “So where is she?”


J.J. backed off from the other boy just a touch. “She's not here right now.” The he brightened up. “But if she was she could beat you up!”


“Yeah right!” Todd snorted. “That'd be the day!” And he took off running towards the barn.


Nathan jumped to it and followed him but J.J. held back when Evelyn showed no sign of joining in.


“What's the matter?” J.J. asked her.


Evelyn pouted. “I don't think he wants me to play.”


“Oh don't worry about him,” J.J. advised her. “He likes to think he's something special, but his own sister beats him up all the time!”


Evelyn giggled and the two new friends joined up and followed the others around to the back of the barn. They had just caught up with the other two boys who were climbing the manure pile when Evelyn heard her name being called. She turned around to find her two older brothers striding towards her.


“Where'd you get to!?” William demanded. “Pa told us to watch you and then you go taking off on us!”


“I'm fine,” she insisted, not wanting to have her brothers around to ruin her fun. “I'm not going to go anywhere.”


“Yeah, but Pa told us to watch out for you and if anything happened we'd be gettin' it!” William pointed out. “So stick close, why don't ya'!?”


“Oh she's alright!” Insisted Charlie as he came up behind his younger brother. “Let her be.”


“Yeah, but....”


“She's fine!” Charlie continued, then he smiled. “C'mon, I got something to show ya'.”


Young William hesitated, looking back at his sister while chewing his lower lip. He wanted to go with Charlie but he didn't want to be getting into any trouble either and Charlie was always getting him into trouble.


“C'mon!” Charlie insisted as he started over towards the back entrance to the first barn. “She'll be fine!”


William gave one more look to his sister, then turned and followed his brother; the temptation for their own fun was just too great. Who wants to be stuck looking after their baby sister anyways!


“Finally!” Evelyn muttered. “I'm a big girl—everybody keeps telling me...so I don't need babysitting!”


“That's right!” Todd agreed and picking up a ball of horse manure, he threw it at her.


It landed square in the middle of her chest and dropped down to the ground, leaving a moist brown stain on her pretty dress.


“Hey!” she yelled at him, her little brow creased in a frown. “That's not fair—I wasn't looking!”


She stooped and picked up her own horse ball and threw it back at him. Within seconds the fight was on with Todd and Nathan on one side and J.J. and Evelyn on the other. They all ran up over and around the pile of manure throwing balls and trying to avoid being hit by ducking behind cover and keeping on the move. They ran through the back of the barn yard, knocking over water pails and barn utensils, laughing and screaming the whole time.


They were fortunate that all the adults were too busy with their own agendas to pay too much attention to what noise the children were making. To add to the deception they made numerous circuits around the front yard, weaving in and out of the many adults there without anyone giving them much mind. Just children burning off their energy. They never stayed still long enough for anyone to notice the 'Sunday best' clothing becoming more and more soiled or the smell of horse manure becoming more and more rank.


Finally the children became tired of this game and on their last pass towards the back of the barn J.J. veered off and led everyone down to the convenient creek which was situated behind the barns and a hill, hiding them from sight and sound. Here they jumped into the shallow water seeing who could make the biggest splash with their feet or balanced themselves on the rocks and stones in an effort to cross to the other side without stepping into the water at all. None of them were terribly successful at this.


Evelyn squatted on the bank collecting up pretty rocks while the boys busied themselves throwing the bigger rocks into the deeper waters again just to see who could make the biggest splash. They were laughing and shouting and finally having a good time at this stuffy, adult oriented gathering and even Todd had to admit that Evelyn was a pretty good guy after all.


The only incident to mar the play was actually very minor as far as the children were concerned. The boys became so rambunctious in their rock splashing that J.J. accidentally bumped into Evelyn where she was squatting on the bank and sent her sprawling head first into the creek. It wasn't too terribly deep, but deep enough for her to be totally submerged in the prone position and to come up startled and gasping for air.


“Sorry Evelyn,” J.J. apologized. “I didn't mean to.”


“I know...gasp....cough.... that's alright,” she told him and she got to her feet and waded out of the water to stand dripping on the bank.


What was left of her nice hair doo was in a total disarray and using her muddy hands to attempt to push the dripping locks back into place only made the situation worse. She sighed and wiped her hands on her dress. The other two boys stopped their play and looked at her, concerned.


“You alright Evelyn?” Nathan asked her.


“Yes, I'm fine,” said the little trooper. “But all my pretty rocks got scattered.....”


“WHAT IN TARNATION ARE YOU CHILDREN DOING DOWN THERE!?”


Four young heads jerked up to the top of the small hill. Jesse stood there with his hands on his hips and a look in his eye that let J.J. know that this was not a drill!


“We were just playing Papa!” J.J. tried to defend himself. “You said it was alright...”


“I also said 'DON'T GET DIRTY'!” Jesse started coming down the hill and the four children scattered. J.J. wasn't fast enough though and his father grabbed him by the arm and brought him around. “What in the world have you gotten into!? Oh my goodness! Your mother is going to have a fit!”


J.J. was almost in tears. “It's not that bad! Please Papa! Don't tell Momma—she'll wanna give me a bath and I already had one today!”


“That's just too bad, young man,” Jesse told his son as he hoisted him up and slung him over a shoulder. “Looks like you're in for another one!”


“NO! No Papa—I don't want to!”


Jesse started back up the hill, then turned and looked down at the three more contrite little faces. “C'mon the rest of you,” he beckoned them. “The ceremony was suppose to start in twenty minutes but I have a feeling things are going to be delayed a bit.” He turned forward again and continued on up the hill.


The three other faces hesitated a moment, sending nervous glances back and forth between them. Finally Nathan sighed, knowing that he wasn't going to be getting out of this one so he may as well get it over with.


“C'mon,” he said to the other two and started up the hill.



“Come on Will, hurry up!” Charlie complained. “They're not gonna wait forever.”


“Who?” William asked, still sending furtive glances back towards his sister.


But Charlie just kept on going until he had led his brother around to the back of the first barn. He stopped at the rear entrance and did a quick scan of the area to make sure that Mr. Jefferies was busy elsewhere. He smiled and waved his brother in closer.


William creased his brow, wondering what his brother was up to and nearly jumped out of his skin when a feminine voice spoke up behind him. He turned quickly and almost fell over at the sight of two teenage girls standing there. They were obviously sisters as both had long dark brown hair and blue eyes and their features were too similar for them not to be related. One was older than the other, but it was obvious that neither of them were children.


The oldest one smiled sweetly, twirling a strand of her long hair between her fingers. “Hi,” she giggled. “My name's Heather. This is my baby sister Hazel.”


Hazel sighed with indigence. “I'm not a baby! I'm only nineteen months younger than you so give it up will you!” Suddenly realizing that she was sounding like a spoilt brat she mimicked her sister's smile and found her own strand of hair to twirl. “Hi.”


William swallowed nervously. He felt himself blushing and that only served to cause him more embarrassment. Charlie rolled his eyes and stepped forward, giving Heather his best smile.


“My name's Charlie,” he introduced himself, then jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “That's my baby brother, William.”


William felt put down but he was too nervous to say anything. He shyly looked over at Hazel who giggled and sent him a little wave. He smiled back.


“I haven't seen you fellas around these parts,” Heather continued on with the idle conversation. “Where you from?”


“Laramie, Wyoming,” Charlie told her and he puffed up with some pride. “My Pa's the warden at the prison there. He's an important man.”


“Really!?” Heather was duly impressed. “That must be very dangerous.”


“Sure is!” Charlie agreed. “Sometimes those convicts can get real mean, but my Pa knows how to deal with them. He's the best warden the prison has ever had. What does your Pa do?”


“He's a rancher,” Heather told him nonchalantly. “Our spread's not quite as big as the Double J but it's still big enough! We've got some real nice horses.”


“Oh yeah....”


Throughout this conversation between the older set, William and Hazel continued to smile at each other. Hazel was waiting patiently for William to make a move and William was waiting for his brother to show him what to do. He'd often fantasized about have a young lady at his disposal and he certainly knew what was suppose to go where, but now that he was faced with a real flesh and blood female he just didn't know what was next. He knew where they were and he knew where he would like to be, but what were the proper steps to take in between?

Finally Hazel got tired of waiting and stepping forward she took young William by the hand and pulled him into the back of the barn. “C'mon!” she said. “They're gonna be looking for us soon.”


Charlie smiled at Heather and she rolled her eyes back at him. Seems it was typical of her sister to not take time to enjoy the pleasantries but it did get the show on the road. Charlie took her hand and led her most willingly into another section of the barn—away from his brother. He went up to the main area of the structure and looked around for any unwanted eyes and saw only horses staring back at him. There were a few snorts and stamping of feet but then the animals lost interest and went back to munching on their hay.


“C'mon,” Charlie whispered. “In here.”


He led Heather into the one of the tack rooms and shutting the door he dragged a saddle over in front of it so no one could walk in on them—at least not too quickly. He grabbed a couple of saddle blankets and spread them on the floor. The air was dusty and so were the blankets along with their own layer of straw but neither of them seemed to be noticing that.


Charlie knelt down on the blankets and Heather came down with him, her eyes sparkling and her heart pounding so fast she was sure it must burst from her chest. She bit her lip nervously but they had come this far and she wasn't about to back out now. Besides, she knew darn well that her younger sister wasn't going to change her mind and she wasn't going to take second bidding to her!


Both of them were breathing heavily and experiencing feelings they'd only ever felt before in the privacy of their own beds. But still; this was different—this was far more intense!


Charlie came forward and kissed her tentatively on the lips and he thought he was going to choke the emotion rose up so fast. He set back again and looked into her eyes. She smiled and they came together again a little more passionately this time—a little more confidently. She slipped her arms around his waist and pulled him in close. She felt surprise as her mind registered the bulge in his pants; she didn't think it would happen that quickly!


They drew back from one another, their breathing heavy and their nervous fingers exploring the other through their clothing. Charlie looked into her eyes again and then slowly and with shaking fingers moved his hands up to the neckline of her blouse. He waited for her to stop him, but she didn't so slowly and with his fingers fumbling, he undid the buttons that were hiding her treasures.....



“Why don't you kiss me?” Hazel asked a blushing William. “Don't you like girls?”


“Well sure I like girls!” William defended himself. “It's just....”


“What?”


“I donno.” He shrugged and sent an anxious look over his shoulder hoping for a discreetful way out of this. “I...I wasn't expecting this.”


“Well we're here now.” Hazel's logic was indisputable. “If you don't do it, you'll regret it later.”


William swallowed and thought about that statement. She was probably right, he'd be kicking himself later if he didn't take advantage of the situation. How many times had he lain in his bed and wished for a moment like this? He bit his lower lip.


Hazel came forward and kissed him. He jumped back, his eyes wide with surprise. Hazel sighed with frustration.


“C'mon,” she encouraged him. “You know you'll like it once we get started.”


William chewed on his lip again then taking hold of his courage he stepped up to the plate and kissed her on the lips. He jumped back in surprise again when he felt her tongue come out teasingly and brush against him. He blinked and realized that he had actually liked that so he came in again and this time the kiss was mutual.


Neither young man noticed that the sounds of their sister's playful laughter was no longer being heard as the enticements of the moment drowned out all other senses.


“William! Charlie! Where are you!? I told you to keep an eye on your sister!”


“Oh Sxxt!”


“Your Papa!?” Heather asked in some alarm.


“Yeah!” Charlie confirmed, showing some distress as he pulled up his trousers. “He's gonna have my hide!”


Heather quickly pushed down her skirts and began to button up her blouse. Things had been going so well too!


“Hurry up!” he told her.


“I am hurrying!” she insisted as the last button got done. “Okay.”


Charlie took her hand and pulled her to her feet, hauled the saddle out of the way and opened the door just a crack. He peered out into the main section of the barn and not seeing anyone he made a dash out the door and down the back isle to the rear exit. Heather was being pulled along behind him whether she wanted to go or not and then found herself running right into the back of Charlie when he suddenly put on the brakes.


She peered around his shoulder and found herself looking into the steel gray eyes of the prison warden.

Hazel and William stood to the side, Hazel looking defiant but William looking guilty as sin. Silence ensued.


“You young ladies get back to your folks,” Kenny finally told them. “And don't think that I'm not going to be having a word with your Pa about this.”


Both girls groaned but taking advantage of the temporary reprieve they sent their respective play-mates sidelong glances and made a hasty retreat around the side of the barn.


The two boys stood and waited. When nothing was said and their father simply stood quietly,looking at them that's when they really got nervous. Finally, after watching his two sons squirm under his intensity—an intensity that Heyes knew only too well—he turned on his heels and walked away. William and Charlie stood for a moment and looked at each other. Big sighs and shoulders slumped, they gave up and followed in the wake of their father.


Early morning of The Big Day. Inside the Jordan ranch house.



The morning of the 'big day' dawned much the same as any other morning for the 1st of June. By 6 a.m. The household was slowly coming to consciousness and by 6:15 Beth was fully awake and well aware that this was the day she had been waiting for for at least five years—give or take! She was out of bed and wrapped in her housecoat with lots of time to help her mother get coffee going and start breakfast.

“How are you feeling?” Belle asked her younger daughter as she gave her a hug. “You all set for the big day?”


Beth closed her eyes and leaned into her mother, ecstasy being the only way to describe the look on her face.

“Oh yes, Mama. Finally!” she stated and sent out a quiet prayer; “Please don't let anything go wrong today!”


Belle chuckled and gave her daughter a squeeze. “I'm sure it won't. This is your day sweetheart; enjoy it.”


Jesse joined them in the kitchen, fully dressed and looking for a cup of coffee.


“Is that all you're going to have?” asked his wife. “Coffee?”


“For now,” Jesse answered and leaned in to give his daughter a kiss on the forehead. “I have to get that butchered calf on the spit if we're going have dinner for the gathering tonight. Is Sam here yet?”


“Haven't heard him,” Belle told her husband. “I expect he'll be here soon. Carol is so excited about being a Bride's Maid, I doubt she slept all night.”


Jesse snorted and nodded understanding. “I'll get it started and then come in for breakfast. It's going to be a very interesting day.”


Next to put in an appearance was Bridget with Rosie perched on a hip. Both looked tired.


“Is coffee ready?” Bridget asked her mother. “Rosie was restless all night—I hardly got any sleep.”


“Oh dear,” Belle was consolatory. “Here's a coffee—go sit down at the table. Beth and I can get breakfast going.”


“You're going to be alright for the wedding aren't you?” Beth suddenly looked worried.


“I'll be fine Beth, don't worry,” her older sister assured her. “All I need is coffee and breakfast. Hopefully as soon as she's had something to eat Rosie will decide to sleep through most of the morning Give us all a break!”


Next on the scene came Steven with J.J. in tow. Steven also grabbed a cup of coffee and headed outdoors to give his father-in-law a hand. J.J. yawned widely and got under foot, wanting breakfast. Last but not least upon the morning scene was Clementine. She yawned and still looked drowsy not being a rancher's wife or daughter and finding the early morning rise a little hard to take.


Belle smiled at her and she handed the young lady a cup of coffee. “You going to be alright Clementine?” she asked the family friend.


Clem yawned again, trying to cover it up but not being too successful. “Oh yes,” she said like a trooper. “Just keep the coffee coming and I'll be fine.”


Oatmeal was quickly gotten underway, soon followed by eggs and bacon. Dishes were spread out upon the large dinning table, more coffee poured and everyone settled in to eat while they could.


Bridget held Rosie on her lap and fed her egg from her own plate, but the child was having none of it and continued to squirm and whine. Clem observed all this from her position across from the young mother and again thanked her lucky stars that she was not a parent herself.


“This is getting ridiculous,” Bridget complained. “She's usually such a good little girl. Oh I hope she's not getting sick.”


Belle came forward and put her hand against her grand-daughter's forehead and cheeks and Bridget looked up anxiously, waiting for the informed opinion.


Belle smiled. “I don't think so sweetheart; she's not overly warm,” she assured the young mother. “Has she kept down her food?”


“Yes. But she won't eat now.”


Belle sat down again and went back to her own cup of coffee. “I think she's just stressed out, like the rest of us,” she said. “Changes in the routine are hard on the little ones. They don't understand what is going on—all they know is that everything is in an upheaval and nobody is acting the way they normally do.”


“Are you sure that's all it is?” Bridget asked, hopefully. She shifted the baby around, trying to get comfortable and wishing the child would just settle down.


“I'm quite sure,” Belle reiterated. “Here, let me take for a while so you can finish your breakfast.”


“Oh but Mama—you've got so much to do already!”


“No, it's alright,” Belle insisted as she stood up again and lifted the fidgeting child onto her own shoulder. “Just for a few moments. Perhaps she'll settle.”


Belle slowly paced back and forth gently rubbing the child's back and humming softly to her. Bridget kept an eye on the proceedings but took advantage of her freed up arms and got some breakfast down her throat. After a few moments Rosie did start to calm down and once ten minutes had gone by she gave a big sigh and fell asleep. Bridget wasn't sure if she felt irritated or relieved.


“How did you do that?” she asked quietly. “I tried that; it didn't work.”


Belle smiled as she continued to rub the child's back. “You're feeling the stress of all this preparation as well, so of course Rosie is going to feel it and respond to that.”


“But you're having to deal with just as much....”


“Well, you just need to learn how to detach from all the chaos going on around you,” Belle told her. “You need to be calm and relaxed yourself if you want your baby to settle.”


Beth was watching this whole exchange with a smile playing about her lips. She could remember not so long ago trying to get her baby brother to settle down and go to sleep. She had gotten better over time, but only their mother could settle him on those days when he just wouldn't settle. J.J. was too busy eating his breakfast to be paying much attention to what the 'women folk' were going on about.


“My but she's getting heavy!” Belle observed. “Won't be able to cuddle her like this for very much longer. Let me put her down in the bedroom here. I'll prop her with the pillows so she won't fall off and hopefully she'll sleep for a few hours.”


Bridget gave a sigh of relief. “Thank you Mama.”


“Why don't you lay down and try to sleep as well?” Belle told her daughter. “We've got some time before things start to get really hectic.”


Bridget glanced over at Beth who smiled back at her. “You do look tired,” she informed her sister. “I want you looking good for my wedding.”


Bridget hesitated a moment more, feeling like she was letting the team down but then decided that they were probably right. A few more hours sleep would make all the difference.


“Alright,” she conceded. “Just a quick nap in the other bedroom downstairs here.”


“But that's Jed's room!” Beth was suddenly alarmed; that just seemed like such an intrusion.


Bridget smiled wickedly through her tired eyes. “Not anymore it isn't!” she pointed out. “You'll be staying at the hotel in town tonight and then after that.....!”


Beth giggled, her anxiety instantly forgotten. “Oh yeah,” she said, bringing her hand up to her mouth to cover her shyness. “I forgot.”


Bridget got up from the table and headed towards the second downstairs bedroom. Belle came out of the first one and mother and daughter hugged briefly and then carried on in their own directions. Belle went into the kitchen to get the coffee pot and re-fill her now cold beverage and offered more to Beth and to Clem.


“Well young man,” Belle commented, looking sternly at her son who was about done eating. “How about you go outside to help your father and brother-in-law.”


J.J.'s eyes lit up as he scrambled down from the table. “Yeah!”


“But I want you back in here in a couple of hours for your bath!”


“Yes Mama!”


Clem sensed a private moment was needed between mother and daughter so she pushed herself away from the table and stood up with a stretch.


“I think I'm going to go upstairs and start getting ready myself,” she announced then smiled winningly. “Then I can be of more use when it comes time for the bride.”


She quickly made her retreat and disappeared up the stairs.


Mother and daughter smiled at each other over their coffee's.


“Well Beth,” Belle sighed almost sadly. “Here we are. Your wedding day at last.”


Beth smiled, her whole face lighting up. “Yes! Finally!”


“Are you happy sweetheart?”


“Yes, Mama,” she answered sincerely. “Happier than I've ever been in my whole life.”


Belle reached over and squeezed her daughter's hand. “Well, this is where I would normally tell you what to expect on your wedding night. But you've already beaten me to that.”


Beth smiled widened. “It was just the once,” she assured her mother. “and so long ago now, it seems like a distant dream.”


“I know,” Belle told her. “And because you've waited so long, tonight will still be very special. I know you've chosen well. I'm very proud of you.”


Beth got up and gave her mother a hug. “Thank you Mama!”


“So, if you'll help me clean up the dishes then I'll get started on the baking for today and you, young lady; can start getting ready for your big day!”


“Yes!”



Sam arrived in the yard just in time to help Jesse, Steven and J.J. get the fire started—not that J.J. was being much help but at least he was trying. Sam paid special close attention to how the calf was set up since he knew it was going to be falling to him to keep the fire going and the spit turning on a regular basis. Sam was in for a busy day and he knew it! But Jesse was a fair boss and Sam didn't mind giving a bit extra for the big day. Not only was he and his family invited to the festivities but Sam would be getting paid twice his normal income for taking care of the visiting horses and tending the fire.


“Oh Sam!” Jesse sounded relieved to see the young man ride up. “Good. I'm glad you're here. I know there's going to be a lot of extra's today. The horses that are going to be here the longest I suppose you can stripe the harnesses off of them and put them out in the pastures. We also have the two paddocks you can use. Maybe the one's that aren't going to be here for long you can just put in a stall and leave the harness on them. How does that sound?”


“Yessir, Mr. Jordan,” Sam nodded. “I've been running this over in my mind. Don't worry about it, I think I have a good game plan to handle everybody.”


Jesse smiled. “Good man! You're gonna be running your own place before you know it.”


Sam ginned. “Thank you, Mr. Jordan.”


“Is Carol all excited about today?”


Sam rolled his eyes. “Oh yes sir! She was all set to come with me now, but I told her there was no point since the ceremony isn't until 1:00. She pouted but saw the sense. She'll be coming in a couple of hours along with the rest of the family.”


“Good,” Jesse agreed. “There wouldn't be too much for her to do right now. She'd just be getting frustrated.”


“Exactly my thinking, sir.”


“Okay.” Jesse clapped his hands together in anticipation. “Let's get this fire going or we're going to have a lot of hungry guests and nothing to feed them.”


Inside the house the enticing aroma of fresh baking was beginning to fill every nook and cranny. Belle was busy keeping the 'conveyer belt' moving so that as soon as one set of pastries or pies was ready to come out of the oven, the next set was waiting to go in. Clem was helping out by keeping the dishes from piling up too quickly and preparing platters to be taken outside. By 10:00 am the whole dinning table was covered with pies and biscuits all waiting to cool before being sliced and used.


Bridget was up and about by this time and was doing all she could to get finger sandwiches made and put on the table outside along with cookies that had been baked the day before. Lemonade and iced tea was also prepared and placed outside with cups and napkins. By the time the first guests began to arrive around 11:00 everything to keep them occupied and content for the next couple of hours was conveniently in place.


Inside the house Beth was still in the process of trying to get a bath. She wanted that part of her toilet completed before too many guests appeared but with all the other hustle and bustle going on it was a challenge. Finally the tub was set up in the spare bedroom and water was brought in from the pump and the stove and she was able to get the deed done.


Then came the problem child.


“J.J.!” Bridget called from the front porch. “C'mon! Come get your bath while the water is still warm!”


“I don't need a bath!” was the usual reply to that request.


“You get in here this minute!” Bridget told him. “We don't have time today for your games. Come on!”


“Best get in there,” Sam told him. “I had to have a quick bath this morning too even though I'm gonna be working in the barns most of the day. And I didn't have the luxury of hot water!”


J.J. frowned and then pouted. “I don't need no stinking bath!” he complained. “Why do they always make me have a bath!”


“Stop your complaining,” Jesse advised him. “Go on—get!”


“C'mon J.J., let's go!!” Bridget was almost stamping her foot.


“J.J....” the father warned.


“Awright,” the boy pouted even more but his Papa was not one to be easily defied and off he ran.


He ran across the yard just as the wagon bringing Sam's family pulled up to the first barn and Sam ran over to grab hold of the team. Maribelle jumped down from the driver's seat just as Jesse offered his hand to Merle to climb down from the passenger side.


Jesse offered her a kiss on the cheek. “Good morning Merle, nice you could make it.”


Merle smiled and patted his arm. “This is a big day, Jesse. Wouldn't miss it for the world.”


“Good morning Mr. Jordan.” Maribelle came over for her kiss.


Jesse gave her the customary greeting as Carol skipped the niceties and ran most unladylike towards the house. Todd headed in the opposite direction to help his father with the team of horses.


“Oh dear,” Maribelle laughed. “She's just so excited she can hardly contain herself.”


“Well that's good,” Jesse approved. “I'm glad she's having a good time.”


“Still she should remember her manners.” Merle felt obligated to be the matron.


“Yes Mother,” Maribelle teased and the two women exchanged laughing looks.


“Come along,” said Merle. “Let's go see if Belle needs a hand. I'm sure she does!”


“You're probably right,” Jesse agreed. “I'll see you ladies later.”



The two new arrivals entered the house to be met with the aroma of fresh baking and the loud protests of one certain boy who was being lifted into the tub.


“I don't want a bath!” was the repetitive complaint. “What if they see me!”


“Stop being such a baby!” Bridget told him. “Nobody's going to come in here.”


Just then Merle poked her head into the bedroom. “Good morning Bridget,” she said. “Need a hand with anything?”


J.J. screamed and dunked himself under the water. Bridget sighed and rolled her eyes.


“I can manage in here Mrs. Jefferies,” she said. “If you could just keep an eye on Rosie for me. She's crawling around out there somewhere.”


Merle smiled knowingly. “I can certainly do that.”


“Thank you.”


Suddenly there was a splashing and spluttering of water as J.J. gave up the battle and surfaced for air. Bridget jumped back, complaining as soapy water flew in all directions getting herself and the floor sopping wet!

“Will you just hold still!!” she complained. “You know your baths would only take half the amount of time if you would just do it and stop complaining so much!”


“I don't see why I have to have so many baths anyways!”


“Because you're a boy!” Bridget stated the obvious. “And we all know that boys just have to look at dirt and they get dirty. Now hold still!!”


J.J. finally gave a sigh and relented. Bridget got him scrubbed down and was even able to wash his hair before he decided it was time to get out. He stood up just as his sister was finishing rinsing the soap off him and he climbed out of the tub, dripping water on the already swimming floor.


Bridget groaned as she took the towel to him and started drying him off.


“Why do you always have to make such a mess?” she asked him. “There! Finally that's done. Now you be good today Jesse Junior—you hear me!? Mama and Papa have enough to do without chasing around after you.”


“Don't worry,” J.J. assured her. “I won't get in their way.”


“You better not,” Bridget warned him and smiled as she ruffled his hair. “C'mon, let's get you into your Sunday best...”


J.J. made a face and naked as a jaybird he dashed out of the room and made a bee line for the stairs. Bridget shook her head and followed. She'll never understand her brother. He totally freaks out when Mrs. Jefferies stuck her head in the room while he was having his bath but didn't seem to mind running past a whole house full of women while in his birthday suit! Boys!


Coming out from the bedroom she smiled at her husband who had just returned to the house for something quick to eat. He and Jesse had helped themselves to what was left of the oatmeal and made room for themselves at the table to make a quick job of it. Steven had Rose on his lap and was offering her some oatmeal but she was getting more on her fingers than she was in her mouth.


Bridget came over and wrapped her arms around her husband's neck.


“How is it going?” she asked her two favourite men. “Do we eat tonight?”


Jesse smiled. “It would appear that we will be,” he assured his eldest. “It's in Sam's hands now. If it doesn't work out we can always blame him.”


She gave her husband a kiss on the top of his head. “I asked Mrs. Jefferies to watch her for now if you want to get ready.”


“I know,” Steven assured her. “But your mother needed her in the kitchen so I took the little munchkin over. She seems to have settled a little bit at least.”


“She slept for a couple of hours,” Bridget told him. “I have to get J.J. ready. Could you....?”


“I'll get some food into her,” Steven assured his wife. “I'll give her a bath and get her dressed as well. Then hopefully you can take her over while I get ready.”


“Sounds like a plan,” Bridget agreed and carried on up the stairs to tend to her brother.


Jesse smiled over at the young father trying to get oatmeal into his daughter's mouth.


“I like the way you two support one another with raising your daughter,” Jesse complimented him. “It makes a big difference having both parents take an active part in their childrens' lives.”


Steven smiled over at him. “I like being a father,” he admitted. “so it's not an imposition. I have a feeling that Jed is going to be much the same.”


“Yes.” Jesse sat back with a smile and nursed his second cup of coffee. “Now there's a story worth writing; 'The Life and Times of Jedidiah Curry'! Well—both of them actually. Who would have thought they'd be able to turn their lives around the way they did.”


Steven nodded as he spooned more oatmeal into his daughter's now willing mouth. “When you first approached me to defend Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry I thought you were mad.” the lawyer admitted. “The only reason I took those cases is that I was green behind the ears and didn't know any better.”


“Well, you did a fine job Steven,” Jesse told him.


Steven snorted. “Yeah—right!” he responded derisively. “Heyes ended up in prison and Jed very nearly got hanged. Hardly a shining start for a young lawyer.”


“No, you did very well considering,” Jesse contradicted him. “You stood up to DeFord and that wasn't easy. You did a lot to get Han out after only serving four and a half years of a twenty year sentence, and Jed didn't hang. He's here today and getting all set to marry my daughter. And I couldn't be happier. Both my daughters have chosen well. I just hope Hannibal is able to find his way; the road is still a bit rocky for him.”


Steven nodded as he wiped his daughter's fingers. “I still feel badly about that,” he admitted. “I seem to have let Heyes down at every turn.”


“What do you mean?” Jesse asked him. “In what way?”


“He ended up going to prison and damn near lost his life there,” Steven reminded his father-in-law. “I know we finally got him out but then,” big sigh. “I feel like it's my fault that he and Mrs. Steward are no longer together. I can only imagine what he is going through. How I'd feel if I was forced away from my wife and daughter. I don't know if I'd be able to stand it.”


Jesse sat back for a moment and contemplated the young man sitting across from him. “Yes,” he finally agreed. “It was a hard blow and I must admit that I wasn't sure how he was going to respond to that. I was afraid he was going fall back to being an outlaw again and just simply disappear. To hell with the governor, to hell with the rules. To hell with everything other than what he wanted. But he didn't do it. He stayed the course and I'm proud of him.” Steven nodded but didn't seem too convinced. Jesse smiled. “You mustn't blame yourself for the hardships that Hannibal is facing now. He's led a wild life; sooner or later it was going to come back at him.”


“Yes, I know you're right,” Steven agreed. “I suppose I'm just sorry for the way things turned out.”


“But we don't know how things are going to turn out yet,” Jesse surmised. “Before Mrs. Steward showed up here everyone assumed Hannibal and Miranda would get together.” He shrugged. “So...who knows? He could do a whole lot worse!”


Steven laughed. “Always the optimist aren't you Jesse!”


Jesse shrugged. “Why not?” he asked. “Things can get bad enough on their own without us helping it along. And from what I'm hearing, Hannibal and Miranda are getting along just fine these days. So don't be kicking yourself over 'letting Han down'. He's a master at landing on his own two feet.”


Steven smiled and then nodded acquiescence. His attention was then diverted by Rosie starting to squirm again. She made a face and certain noises and then aroma coming from the area of her diaper caused both men to sit up and take notice.


“Whoa!” Steven waved a hand in front of his face. “Time for a diaper change and then a bath for this little one I think! It's a good thing I wasn't in my good cloths yet. Man o' man!”


“Oh my goodness!” Jesse's eyes were almost watering. “I'd forgotten how good they are at that. Better you than me young man—glad you enjoy being a father!”


“Ha! Yeah, thanks.” Steven pushed away from the table, gathering up his daughter in his tentative arms. “Come along young lady, time for a wash!”


Jesse chuckled and shook his head while Steven disappeared to the upstairs room where he and his family had spent the night. One final gulp of coffee and Jesse also went upstairs to the master bedroom to get himself ready for the big event. It hardly took any time at all for Jesse to get cleaned up and dressed, and once done, he came back downstairs to give his wife a hug and kiss.


She gave a deep cleansing sigh and smiled up at him. “My don't you look dapper,” she said. “All ready to give the bride away?”


“As ready as I'll ever be,” Jesse told her. “This day was bound to come sooner or later.”


“Yes.” Belle's smile turned a little sad. “As much as a mother hopes her children will find a good partner and be happy, it's still hard isn't it? Aww Jesse; both out little girls are all grown up.”


“They sure are,” Jesse agreed and hugged his wife to him again and holding onto her this time. “We did alright though, didn't we? They've both grown into fine young ladies.”


“Yes they have.” Belle agreed and pushing herself off her husband's chest, she wiped a little tear from her eye. “I'm so proud of them. Both of them!”


Jesse cupped her face in his hand and looked into her eyes. She smiled up at him and gave him a pat on the chest.


“I'm fine!” she assured him. “You best get out there and greet our guests. Most of them will be coming right around now.”


“Yes ma'am,” he agreed and turned to go.


“Oh wait!” Belle stopped him and she stepped into the pantry for a moment to return with his boutonniere. She reached up and pinned it to his lapel. “Can't have the father of the bride not wear his boutonniere—that wouldn't be proper.”


“So that's where you've been keeping all the flowers!” Jesse observed.


“Coolest place in the house!” Belle laughed. “There you are. All set. I'll see you later.”


Jesse nodded and with another quick kiss on her cheek he turned and walked out the front door just in time to see the Reece family drive into the yard.


He headed over to them just as Sam ran out to grab hold of the team while Kenny climbed down from the driver's seat. The three boys jumped down and Joe turned to assist his mother. He then grabbed his little sister around the waist and swung her around to her great delight and wild laughter to land daintily on the ground beside Sarah.


“There you go,” Joe told her. “You behave today little lady. Don't want to get your pretty dress all dirty.”


“I won't!” she insisted, feeling insulted that her big brother would think her so irresponsible. “Is J.J. around?”


“He's up at the house getting ready,” Jesse informed her. “I'm sure he'll be happy to come out and play with you.” He tipped his head to her mother. “Mrs. Reece. Nice to see you again. And Mr. Reece. Glad you could all make it.”


“Yes,” Kenny and Jesse shook hands. “I was fortunate to be able to arrange the time off. Heyes tells me you raise some very fine horses here and I was hoping to perhaps get a look at them. Not today of course, but....”


Jesse smiled with some pride. “Of course! I always appreciate a man who appreciates a fine horse.”


“My family raised horses down south before the war,” Kenny informed him. “I like to think I still have an eye.”


“Well, if you're going to be in town for a few days perhaps Hannibal can take you up to the back pasture tomorrow. We have a fine bachelor herd up there this spring including the colt I'm hoping will be our new foundation sire.”


“Sounds like a plan, thank you.”


“Ah dear,” Sarah placed a hand on her husband's arm to get his attention away from talking horses. “I'm going to go into the house and see if they need any help.”


“Alright,” Kenny nodded. “I'll see you later.”


“Come along Evelyn!” Sarah called her daughter. “You come with me.”


“But I wanna play!”


“J.J.'s in the house,” Sarah reminded her. “You can play in there. Besides don't you want to see the wedding dress?”


“Oh yes!” Evelyn's eyes lit up. “And I must give my congratulations to the bride!”


Her voiced trailed off as the two ladies made their way towards the ranch house. Jesse and Kenny exchanged smiles at the young lady's use of such grown-up language.


“I swear,” Jesse commented. “It was only last month that Beth was that age. It goes by so fast.”


Kenny nodded agreement just as another wagon full of guests clattered into the yard. It was the Johnston family who owned the neighbouring ranch. Their five daughters screamed and laughed and giggled until the wagon came to a halt and then the two older ones spotted Kenny's three boys. Their eyes lit up and they waved over at them, the younger of the two apparently being quite the flirt.


“Oh my,” Jesse commented. “What a handful old Fred has with that group.”


“I can imagine!” Kenny agreed and sent a cautionary look over to his boys. “You fellas behave yourselves now, you hear me.”


“Sure Pa!” Joe obliged with a smile. “I'm gonna go check out the food. It looks good even from here!”


“Charlie? You hear me?” Kenny caught his middle son's attention.


Charlie stopped waving at the ladies and dropped his smile. “Of course Pa. Just being friendly.”


“That's fine,” Kenny told him. “But I want you and William to keep an eye on your sister. You know what she can be like.”


This was met with slumped shoulders and loud groans.


“Why do we always have to keep an eye on her?” Charlie complained, after all how was he going to get know that oldest girl over there if he had his sister in tow. “Why can't Joe do it for a change?”


“Because Joe has already put in his time keeping an eye on you,” Kenny pointed out. “I am hoping that you are now old enough to handle that responsibility yourself.”


“Yes Pa.”


“Good. William?”


“Yes Pa.”


“Alright. Off you go.” He gave them permission to enjoy themselves. “Eve's with her mother right now, but once she comes outside again you two keep an eye on her.”


The two boys quickly escaped before their father could saddle them with even more responsibilities and followed their older brother over to the refreshment table. The oldest Johnston girl seemed to have the same idea.



Sarah and Evelyn entered into the house just as J.J. was coming down the stairs, pulling disgustedly at his bow tie in the hopes of loosening it's strangle hold around his throat. He smiled as soon as he spied his new friend and jumped down the last five steps to land heavily in front of her.


“Finally! Somebody fun is here!” he announced. “You wanna go play?”


“I want to see the bride's dress first!” Evelyn insisted.


J.J. screwed up his face in disgust. “The bride's dress!?” he repeated. “Who cares about that? That's for girls!”


“Well I am a girl!” Eve pointed out. “And I want to see it!”


“It's going to be a while yet before Beth is ready Evelyn,” Bridget assured her as she came down the stairs a little more sedately than her brother. “Why don't you go out and play and we'll call you when she's ready.”


“Is that alright Mama?” she politely asked her mother. “Can J.J. and I go outside to play?”


“Yes alright.” Then she sighed with a hint of resignation. “But please try to stay clean.”


“Of course!”


Sarah rolled her eyes as Belle came forward to greet her.


“Why do I think I'm going to regret this?” Sarah asked her hostess. “That girl is such a tomboy these days!”


Belle laughed. “Don't worry about it. So were mine! They out-grow it.”


“Good!” Sarah laughed. “She can be such a little lady and then she'll do a complete flip flop and I'm certain I have a forth boy in disguise!”


“That's not surprising!” Belle stated. “Considering she has three older brothers to show her the way!”


“Good point,” Sarah agreed and looked around at the going's on. “Are you very busy?”


“Not at the moment,” Belle stated, brushing a strand of hair away from her face. “Clementine is just doing Beth's hair....” She was interrupted by a discreet knock at the door.


There was followed a little scream coming from the kitchen table and the two women looked over where Beth, Clem and Carol were holding down the table.


“If that's Jed, he can't come it!” Beth insisted.


“You're not in your dress yet, dear,” Belle reminded her.


“I don't care! He can't see me before the wedding!”


“Alright, alright,” Belle appeased her daughter but smiled and shook her head at Sarah as she went to the front door and opened it a crack. “Oh, Reverend Sikes! Yes, please do come in.”


The Reverend stepped through the opened doorway and nodded his greeting to the gathering.

“I just thought I would let you know that I've arrived,” he told them. “How are you holding up Beth?”


Beth gave an exasperated sigh but smiled anyways and nodded. “Fine, I suppose. I'm just so nervous that something is going to go wrong!”


“Well something will go wrong if you don't sit still!” Clementine complained as she continued to work on Beth's hair. “French braids have to be straight as a pin for them to look really nice—so stop jumping around like a roulette ball on the spin!”


The Reverend smiled at the young lady's odd analogy but decided to leave it alone.


“Is Jed here yet?” Beth asked all anxious. “Aren't they suppose to be here by now? What if something happened to them on the road? What if he's decided he doesn't want to get married after all? What if they're already heading for Mexico?”


“Oh stop it!” Clem chided her, not being one to put up with nonsense. “Kid's had plenty of time to change his mind if he was going to. Besides, if he tried that now Heyes would probably kill him.”


Beth's eyes widen with angst! “Oh no! I never thought of that,” she wailed. “Do you really think Joshua would do....!”


“STOP IT!” Clem shook her shoulders. “Everything is going to be fine. Just sit still so I can get this braid done!”


Belle sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes at the reverend. “Oh dear,” she mumbled. “I always forget about the theatrics!”


“It's quite normal,” the Reverend Sikes assured her. “just young bride nerves.”


“Yes I know,” Belle smiled at him. “I've been through this once already with Bridget. We'll survive.”


“Oh please!” Bridget complained. “I was never that bad!”


“No, you were worse,” said Steven as he came down the stairs with his daughter in arms. “but we both survived and it's still the best day of my life. Short of having this little one come into it that is.”


Bridget smiled at the sight of her handsome husband in his fine suit and the smile broadened when she looked upon little Rosie all clean and sparkling in her little white and peach dress.


“Well just look at this handsome couple,” Belle complimented them and came forward to take her grand daughter into a gentle hug. Rosie laughed happily and played with the buttons on Belle's blouse.


“Aren't you the prettiest little girl!” Sarah commented. “You're going to be stealing the show out there if we're not careful.”


“She better not,” Beth grumbled and Clem gave her a slap across the back of the head. “Ouch!”


“Well I will leave you ladies to it,” Reverend Sikes put in. “I'll be right out here on the front porch enjoying some of that nice iced tea. Let me know if you need anything.”


“Thank you Reverend.” Belle smiled. “I think we're alright.”


“Fine.”


“That sounds like a good idea Reverend!” Steven made moves to join him. “I think I'm going to just be getting under foot in here.”


“Wise decision young man.”


The two gentlemen left the scene and Bridget came up to her mother.
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Wedding Day   Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:58 am

“I'll take her Momma, if you want to go get ready,” the young mother offered. “We still have to get Beth into the dress and 1:00 will be here before we know it.”


“Thank you.” Grand-daughter was passed from grandmother to mother. “I think you're right. It's already past 11:00! My goodness—where has the morning gone!


Belle made a hasty retreat upstairs to tend to her wedding attire as Merle went by with another tray load of sandwiches and finger cakes for the outside table. All those young men out there were making short work of the tasty appetizers. Right behind her came Maribelle loaded down with a large pitcher of iced tea. Gotta keep the troops happy or they might have a rebellion on their hands!


Bridget sat down at the table with Rosie just as Clem stuck one more hair pin into Beth's chignon.


“There!” she announced triumphantly. “Perfect!”


“Is it?” Beth asked and her hand came back to feel it.


Clem slapped her away. “Don't touch it!” she exclaimed. “Just leave it alone—it looks perfect.”


“Does it look nice?” Beth asked her sister with pleading eyes.


Bridget stood up and came around behind Beth then sat back down again, bouncing Rosie on her knee. “It looks very nice Beth.” she soothed her sister. “Just don't touch it.”


Carol smiled at her friend. “You look really pretty Beth,” she said, almost enviously.


“I want to see it!” Beth complained.


“Just wait until we're done,” Clem insisted. “Where did your mother put the floral hair comb I made for you?”


“I don't know!” Beth was almost in a panic again.


“It's probably in the pantry with all the other flowers,” Bridget informed them with a tone of exasperation. “I swear, I couldn't have been this bad on my wedding day.”


Beth sent her sister a scathing look.


Clem disappeared for a couple of minutes then returned with the hair comb nicely decorated with the smaller spring flowers that were left over from making the various bouquets and boutonnieres. She placed it squarely on the back of Beth's head and tucked the teeth into the braids to hold it secure.


“There,” she announced. “the perfect touch. Carol could you get those two hand mirrors over there?”


'Sure!” Carol was pleased to be given something to do and she quickly retrieved the items and gave one to Beth and the other to Clem. She sat back down again and gazed admiringly at her friend.


Beth held the mirror up and angled it so she could see her refection in the mirror that Clem was holding. She gasped with pleasure and her hand went back to touch it again.

Clem slapped it away. “Don't touch it!”


“Oh it's beautiful Clementine! Thank you.” Beth almost looked like she was goin to start crying. “But nobody's going to see it once I have the veil on.”

“The veil's only for the ceremony,” Clem pointed out. “After that you can take it off and then you'll have this beautiful doo to show off.”


“Do you think Jed will like it?” she asked hopefully.


Clem rolled her eyes. “Honey you could be wearing a burlap sack with bailing twine in your hair and he'd like it. Stop worrying.”


Merle and Maribelle returned carrying empty trays and pitchers just as Belle came downstairs doing some last minute tidying of her own hair as she came.


“Alright, come along Beth! It's your turn.” she announced as she approached the table.


Beth almost squealed in her excited delight and she was up and jumping around to show her mother the hair doo.


“How does it look Mama?”


“Oh Clementine, that's beautiful,” Belle congratulated her. “You certainly do have a flare for these thing.”


“Oh thank you,” Clem actually beamed with pleasure. “I don't know where I got it from since I never had anyone to show me, but yes they do tend to turn out quite nicely.”


“I'll say,” Belle reiterated. “Very nice. Alright sweetheart; let's get you over here by the full-length mirror. I'll get the dress.”


Everyone made the move into the sitting room and Beth quickly removed her housecoat and stood there in her bloomers and waited in anticipation for the arrival of 'the dress'! They could all hear the rustling in the master bedroom upstairs and within moments Belle came down with the white and yellow gown in her arms. Beth actually started to cry even though she was trying so hard not to. What would Jed think if she came out there all red and puffy!?


“Oh sweetheart, don't cry,” Belle cautioned her. “You look so pretty, there's no need to cry.”


“I'm just so happy,” Beth said through a sniffle. “I can't believe it's finally here.”


“Here, Clementine. Can you help me lift the skirt up over her head?” Belle asked her.


“Sure!” Clem came forward and very carefully the two women manoeuvred the dress over Beth's head, being very careful not to get it hooked up on her hair doo.


“Let me get my arms in...” came Beth's muffled voice from inside the gown. “Arg! I can't find the other sleeve hole.”


“Here it is!” said Clem as she straightened out the sleeve and groped around for Beth's hand through the material. “Where's your hand? Give me your hand.”


“Where are you?” Beth struggled inside the dress to try and find her way. “Oh there you are!”


“There,” said Clem. “There's the sleeve hole, where's your hand? There, just push it through.”


“Carefully now,” Belle cautioned. “Don't tear the material.”


Finally Beth had both arms in the sleeves and the rest of the dress fell into place without a single hair on her head being displaced. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.


Belle started to do up the long line of buttons that ran up the back while Beth and Clem admired the reflection in the mirror.


“It really looks nice on you Beth,” Bridget complimented her sister while she continued to placate the baby. “I think it fits you even better than it fit me.”


“Do you really think so?” Beth asked quietly as she ran her hands reverently down the soft satin material. “It's so pretty.”


“Hello! Where is everyone!?”


“We're in the sitting room Miranda!” Bridget informed her.


Miranda came around the corner and smiled at the excited bride.


“Oh you're finally here!” Beth exclaimed. “Thank goodness!”


Miranda laughed, knowing full well where her excitement was coming form. “Yes we're here! Jed's in the front yard with Hannibal. You really didn't think he was going to miss this did you?”


“Well, I was getting worried,” Beth admitted in a small voice. “He's really here?”


“Yes, he's here,” Miranda assured her again. “And looking very handsome if I might say so myself.”


“There we are,” Belle announced. “All done up. How does it feel?”


“Wonderful!”


“Good.” Belle gave her daughter a hug. “We won't put the veil on until we're ready to go, but we should probably get the shoes—now where did I put them?”


Suddenly Beth caught her breath and her hand shot to the neckline of the dress. “The brooch!” she exclaimed.


“What?”


“Great Grandma's brooch!” Beth clarified. “I wanted to wear it today! Oh no—where did I put it!?”


Tricia walked into the middle of this minor catastrophe and thought something major had happened.


“What's the matter!?” she asked. “What have you lost!?”


“My Great Grandma's brooch!” Beth wailed. “I need to wear that today! I have to find it!”


“Calm down sweetheart,” Belle tried to sooth her over-stressed daughter. “It's probably upstairs in your jewelry box.”


Hope sprang eternal. “Oh yes! I'm sure you're right!” and Beth made a move towards the staircase.


“Oh no you don't, Missy!” Belle grabbed her arm and stopped her.


“But Moma!”


“I'll go look for it,” Belle told her. “The last thing we need is you running up and down those stairs with that dress on. You'd probably end up breaking your neck. Just relax, sweetheart; we'll find it.”


“I'll come help you look,” Maribelle offered and followed Belle upstairs.


“I'll check the rooms down here,” Merle told the group. “Come along Carol. You can help too.”


“Yes, grandma!” Carol jumped up and went on the prowl in earnest.


The various different search parties could be heard rummaging around in the various different rooms of the large house Drawers were being pulled open, closets being scrutinized and every nook and cranny peered into but nobody was coming up with the desired piece of jewelry.


Beth began to pace back and forth, her hand up to her mouth with young bride angst while the ladies staying in the vicinity tried to keep her calm.


“It's not the end of the day,” Clem commented wisely. “It's not like you have to have it.”


“But it's important!” Beth insisted. “It's a family heirloom and I wanted to wear it on my wedding day!”


“But you've got Mama's earrings!” Bridget reminded her. “Papa gave her those on their wedding day. Isn't that enough?”


“NO!” Beth literally stamped her foot. “I want the brooch! I put it someplace where it would be safe! Oh if only I could remember where that was!”


Belle and Maribelle started down the stairs and Beth ran to the base and looked up at them hopefully.


Belle shook her head. “It's not up here sweetheart,” she told her daughter. “Perhaps if you just calm down you'll remember where it is.”


Beth huffed in frustration and was about to start pulling on her hair when Clem jumped up and grabbed her arms.


“DON'T YOU DARE!” she exclaimed. “I don't care how bad things get—stay away from my french braid!”


Merle and Carol stepped back out to the living room also shaking their heads. No luck. Beth was practically whining in her frustration.


Belle sighed. “I'll put some tea on,” she informed the lot. “Amy gave me some of that Chamomile to help calm the nerves. She seemed to think that we just might be needing it today and I think she was right.”


The front door opened and Jed's voice gave warning of his imminent entrance.


“How's it going in......?”


Beth screamed and ran for cover! Wild cries of distress filled the front room as Maribelle, Clementine and Miranda all made a concentrated rush at the door! All Clem saw was a pair of surprised blue eyes as she pushed Jed back outside the doorway and the three ladies all had a hand in slamming the door in his face.


“Hey! What in tarnation...!?” came as a muffled protest from the front porch.


“Oh my God!” Beth was almost in hysterics! “Did he see me!? Did he see me!? OH NO! What if he saw me!?”


“I don't think he saw you,” Clem assured her young friend.


“I'm quite sure he didn't!” Belle was almost laughing at the absurdity of it all. “You ran so fast out of his line of sight even if he did catch a glimpse it would have been a white blur.”


“Ohh! Are you sure?” Beth started to calm down, one hand over her mouth, the other pressed against her heaving chest. “It's bad enough that I can't find the broach but if Jed had seen me right before the ceremony—that would have been a catastrophe!”


“Nothing we couldn't have handled I'm sure,” Belle stated and exchanged a humorous glance with Merle. “Now for that tea.”


Merle joined Belle in the kitchen while the other ladies settled into various seated positions, everyone being very careful with the wedding gown to ensure it didn't get wrinkled or (gasp!) torn from any mishap. Beth had calmed down by the time the tea arrived but she still looked worried and was not prepared yet to allow her mind to focus on what she had done with the broach.


“Here we are,” Merle announced. “some nice tea to calm everyone down and here's some sandwiches as well. I'm sure some of you are hungry.”


Everyone but Beth helped themselves to sandwiches but the bride was too stressed to even think about food.


“Here, sweetheart,” Belle approached her daughter and wrapped a full size apron around her before handing her a cup of tea. “Just to be safe..”


“Oh yes.” Beth sighed with relief. “Thank you Mama.”


“Drink your tea and settle down,” Belle suggested. “We still have time before the ceremony is due to start. Everybody's all ready.”


Beth nodded and settled back in her chair to sip the hot beverage. She slowly began to calm down.


Merle headed outdoors with yet another tray full of appetizers for the growing crowd out in the yard and Carol dutifully followed with more liquid refreshments. They returned to the inside gathering just as Belle and Beth were deep in conversation over the whereabouts of the family heirloom.


“I saw you with it last night, after most of the guests had gone home,” Belle prodded her daughter. “So just relax and think; what did you do with it after that?”


Beth sat with her brow creased as her thoughts focused inwards. She shook her head. “I don't know. I can't think.”


“What did you do with your other gifts?” Clem asked her.


“We put them in Jed's room,” Beth answered. “There is more room in his closet.”


“Did you put the broach with them?” Clem realized that was too obvious, but it might get the bride's mind more focused.


“No!” Beth insisted. “I didn't want to leave it with everything else. I put it someplace 'safe'!”


“Just relax,” Belle repeated. “Think about it. You had the broach in your hand last night. Think about where you went after that.”


Beth was biting her lower lip in concentration. “I went upstairs.” She said, thinking hard. “What did I do with it....?” A sudden brightness, a small intake of breath. “I went into your room Mama. Then what? What did I do?” Big intake of breath—brown eyes wide as pools! “The shoe box! I put it in with the shoes!”


“In the trunk?” Belle clarified.


“Yes!” Beth almost spilled her tea in her excitement. “Yes, yes yes!! It's in with the shoes!”


“Alright, just settle down!” Belle told her. “We know where it is now.”


“Oh but I must make sure...!”


“Stay seated!” Belle instructed her. “You're not going up those stairs. I'll go see if it's there.”


Belle set her own teacup down on the side table and made a second trip up the stairs and into her own bedroom. Within seconds she was heading back down again with the shoebox in her hands and a smile on her face.


“That's where it was alright,” she announced. “Right where we would have eventually found it anyways.”


“Oh thank goodness.” Beth truly breathed a sigh of relief this time and was able to settle in then and really enjoy her tea.


The ladies sat quietly and enjoyed their respite from the busy day while engaging in idle chatter to help keep the nerves calm.


Finally though Belle realized that it was time to get the final preparations happening and forced herself to get to her feet.


“I'd better find J.J.,” she announced with a feeling of dread. “I hope he's kept himself cleanish or he'll be in for another bath!”


“I think we can say that about all the boys!” Tricia commented. “David better be keeping an eye on our little rascal.”


Belle smiled and went to the front door. She'd just stepped out when a nun and a small child were coming up the stairs and the two ladies acknowledged one another. Belle smiled, having a pretty good idea who this was but she was on a mission so she indicated for the two guests to carry on into the house without her.


As soon as Sister Julia and Sally came into the sitting room, Sally ran over to her long lost friend, Carol and the two girls hugged.


“Finally!” little Sally exclaimed. “Somebody I know!”


“It's so good to see you!” Carol told her. “I didn't know you were coming.”


“Sister Julia said it would be alright,” said Sally in way of explanation. “Why haven't you written!? We've all been wanting to know what it was like!”


“I'm sorry,” Carol was truly apologetic. “I've just been so busy. But it's great,” she said, taking her friend by the hand and leading her away from the adults. Her voice could be heard trailing away as they disappeared into a spare room. “The only bad thing is you can't get away with anything. At the orphanage, there's so many of us that you can hide in the crowd, but not here! There's two of them and two of us.....”


Sally's excited laughter echoed out from behind the closed door.


“Sister Julia!” Beth greeted her friend as the two girls disappeared. “How wonderful to see you!”


Beth stood up, removing her apron and the two ladies hugged.


“I wouldn't miss this for the world!” the Sister insisted. “Look at you!” she exclaimed as she held Beth at arm's length. “What a beautiful bride! Thaddeus is a very lucky man.”


Beth blushed just a little and smiled with pleasure.


“Oh Mama!” Beth perked up as Belle returned into the house. “This is Sister Julia. This is my mother, Belle Jordan.”


“Mrs. Jordan,” Sister Julia greeted her and the two ladies embraced. “How wonderful to finally meet you.”


“And you! But please, call me Belle,” the hostess insisted. “I was hoping to get the opportunity to thank you personally for taking our wayward daughter under your wing.”


“Yes!” Sister Julia laughed and both women sent humorous looks over to the bride. “She's a very tenacious young lady.”


“Ohh! You have no idea!” Belle agreed. “She and Thaddeus are going to have some challenges ahead of them.”


“Mama!”


“Oh you'll be fine dear!” her mother assured her. “Sister, would you like a cup of tea? We've already had ours, though I'm sure some of us wouldn't say no to another.”


“Oh no thank you,” Julia declined. “I have already taken refreshment outside. I just wanted to come in and see how things were going. Thaddeus is a little anxious.”


“He is?” Beth was suddenly worried all over again. “Is he changing his mind? Does he not want to go through with it!?”


This question was met with groans and eye rolling from just about everyone in the room.


“He's fine!” Clem insisted. “My goodness! Talk about creating problems where there aren't any!”


Then it was that Jesse came through the front door with a sack of potatoes slung over his shoulder that looked disquieting like his son. There were gasps around the room as Jesse set the lad onto his feet and then pandemonium broke out. J.J. spotted his favourite sister and made a run towards her, looking for sympathy and protection! Beth took one look at his wet and muddy hands that were reaching for her dress and she panicked! Her eyes bugged and she screamed, trying to scramble out of his way.


“NO! Get away from me!!” she demanded as he reached little boy hands towards her, splashing little muddy droplets of water onto the front of her dress. “OH NO! No, no! Go away!”


J.J. stopped in his tracks and his lower lip stated to wobble. “I just want a hug!”


“No you don't young man!” Belle grabbed her son by the arm to avoid a disaster but it was all too late as far as Beth was concerned.


The tears started to flow in earnest. “No! Look what you've done! You've ruined everything!”


J.J. started to cry as well; all he'd wanted was a hug from his sister.


“Come along!” Belle told him. “Into the other room and get those clothes off! It's into the tub again with you, young man....Oh my gracious!”


Everyone followed Belle's gaze to the front door as Nathan, Todd and then Evelyn put in an appearance; Evelyn actually dripping muddy water onto the floor. A wail went up from the numerous mother's in the group and everybody was on the move at one. Rosie started to cry.


“Oh no! What am I going to do!?” Beth was wailing her distress.


Sister Julia was quick to get in on the act and taking Beth by the hand, the nun bustled the bride into the kitchen to deal with the disaster.


“Can we get it out?” she was practically pleading while at the same time trying to staunch her tears.


“Yes, I think so,” Sister Julia assured her. “It's really not that bad and barely noticeable as it is. Where does your mother keep her baking soda?”


Beth was starting to calm down for the umpteenth time that day as she reached up and opened a cupboard above the counter. “Here it is.”


“Good. Now you sit down and put this tea-towel under your dress right where the splatters are.”


Beth did as she was told, taking comfort from her wise friend who always seemed to know what to do in an emergency.



In the front room all mothers had come forth to claim their particular miscreant. Tricia and Maribelle each grabbed a son and hustled them into the bedroom after J.J. If it took putting all three of them into the tub at once then that's what was gonna happen. None of the boys seemed pleased.


Sarah came forward to take hold of her daughter and drag her off into the kitchen. Evelyn was crying now too, rubbing dirty hands against eyes to wipe away tears, the whole time insisting that 'They didn't mean to!'


They entered the kitchen just as the Sister was sprinkling baking soda onto the spatters and Beth's eyes widen in distress as the sight of another dirty child coming her way.


“Don't worry Beth,” Sarah assured her. “I'll keep Eve over here. You hear me Evelyn? You stay away from Beth and her white dress. You don't want to get her all dirty now do you?”


“No,” Evelyn whimpered.


“Good!” her mother agreed. “Now get that dress off while I get some hot water going. I have a feeling we're going to be needing a lot of it!”


Miranda put in an appearance then and started rummaging around for aprons.


“Oh what a good idea!” Sarah exclaimed. “Is there one in there for me? I'd hate to get my own dress all wet and dirty because of this!”


Miranda smiled and nodded. “Yes, here you go. Oh good! You're getting water going. At least the stove is still warm from making tea!”


She grabbed as many more aprons as she could lay her hands on and made her exit.


In the bedroom that was doing double duty as the bath room, Jesse had followed the horde in there to give a hand, taking his suit jacket off as he went. Right behind him, David and Sam put in an appearance and didn't need to be told which way to go.


Miranda was right behind them and handed out aprons to the various adults who were dealing with this new event. The aprons were adorned and little, complaining boys were striped down and their clothes toss aside in the corner.


“There's hot water on the go!” Miranda announced. “How about if me and Clementine start washing clothes in the kitchen.”


“Oh thank you Randa!” Belle exclaimed. “In the mean time, Jesse could you just get buckets of water from the pump? If they can play in the creek, they can handle a cold water bath!”


“I don't want another bath!” Nathan wailed while Tricia tried manoeuvring him into the tub.


David came to her assistance while Sam went to help Jesse haul buckets of water from the pump. As soon as they had hot water ready then it could be added to the bath, but in the mean time they were just going to have to shiver. Fortunately the three boys were out-numbered by adults and it wasn't long before they'd all been scooped up and plunked into the cool murky water that was still left over from the morning baths of a couple of hours ago. Complaints were running high but nobody was listening to them.


Randa and Clementine made sure to wrap themselves in the remaining aprons and then gathered up the soiled clothing to be taken into the kitchen. They stepped aside as Jesse and Sam exited the kitchen with arm fulls of water and then set themselves up to start laundry duty. Carol and Sally were also in the kitchen by this time, wondering what all the commotion was about and generally trying to stay out of the way, but still too curious to leave.


Beth nearly had another melt-down when she saw the armfuls of dirty clothes heading her way. Sister Julia quickly bustled her out of the kitchen so that they could continue dabbing at the wet splotches in the safety of the sitting room.


Bridget was sitting with Merle, trying to get Rosie to settle down and eventually the scene in the front room at least became a little more sedate.


Bridget passed her daughter over to Merle and came to sit beside her sister who was still trying to recover from this latest set back. She reached over and gave Beth a hug.


“It's alright Beth,” she assured her. “Every wedding has little unexpected things happen. You and Jed will be laughing about this tomorrow.”


“Oh I don't know about that!” Beth contradicted as she watched Julia continue to dab at the spots. “Are they coming out?”


“Yes they are,” the Sister assured her. “They were quite light to begin with and the soda is indeed soaking it up. It will also help to whiten what little bit of stain we may not get out. Then, once the little girl is out of the kitchen you can stand by the stove and dry it out. Not too close though!” She laughed. “Last thing we need now is for your dress to catch fire!”


Beth groaned. Bridget took her sister's hand and gently kissed it.


“It'll be fine. Just relax, you'll see.”


“But it must be almost time for the ceremony,” Beth complained. “What if they go on without me!?”


Bridget and Julia exchanged smiles.

“They're hardly going to go on without the bride, my dear,” Julia pointed out. “This is your day and they're just going to have to wait until you're ready.”


“Oh! Yes of course,” Beth almost chuckled. “Shows you how rattled I am to think such a silly thing!”


“That's alright,” said Bridget. “You're the bride—you're allowed to be rattled.”


Jesse and Sam returned to the kitchen to get hot water this time. They manoeuvred around the ladies at the sink and took what they could of the water while still leaving enough for the clothes to get scrubbed and rinsed. More pots were put on the stove to heat up.


Miranda and Clem were kept busy scrubbing the various articles of clothing while Sarah had Evelyn sitting in a wash tub on the floor and giving her a scrubbing from head to toe. Most of the boys' clothing could be cleaned up without the items being totally submerged in the water—just the dirty spots and splashes getting scrubbed with the hand brush. Then they were rinsed, shaken out and draped over anything in front of the hot stove to hopefully dry out enough to be worn again.


Unfortunately Evelyn's dress was declared a write off as far as the wedding day went. But fortunately, Sarah who had been here and done this before with three boys, had the foresight to bring along a spare dress for her youngest, just in case the unthinkable happened! Evelyn was upset that she didn't get to wear her favourite dress but nobody seemed to be giving her too much sympathy.


Sister Julia finished up dabbing at Beth's dress and finally nodded with satisfaction. “There you go young lady. Perfect.”


“Oh thank you Sister!” Beth breathed a sigh of relief. “Brothers!” she exclaimed with a roll of her eyes. “I love him to pieces—but sometimes....!”


Sister Julia smiled and patted her knee. “I know.” She stood up and gave a cleansing sigh. “Well, I told your young man that I would come in and check up on you and report back to him so I suppose I should go and do that.”


Beth grabbed her hand and sent her a heartfelt plea. “Please don't tell him about all this! I'd hate for him to see me in this state! Are my eyes all red from crying!?”


“They're not too bad,” the Sister lied smoothly. “A little bit of powder on your cheeks, and perhaps before you do that, place a warm wet cloth over your eyes until it's time. You'll feel much better then.”


“Thank you Sister.” Beth smiled up at her. “I don't know what I would have done without you!”


Julia smiled and looked around for her wayward charge. “Sally? Come on dear, we need to get out from underfoot!”


“Oh! Can't I just stay and visit with Carol for a bit?” the little lady asked nicely. “I'll leave before it starts.”


“Well...”


“Don't worry Sister,” Sarah told her as she came out of the make-shift bathroom, her hands trying to quickly re-adjust her hair. “I'll make sure she's out of here in time.”


Julia smiled. “Alright,” she agreed then pointed a finger at Sally. “You just make sure you behave and come outside when you're told.”


Sally smiled widely. “Yes Sister!”


Then she and Carol disappeared into the bedroom under the stairs so they could continue on with bringing each other up to date!


Slowly but surely the catastrophe of the muddy children began to work itself out. The boys were heaved out of the tub and quickly rubbed down and dried off. Their clothing was returned to the room and re-adorned amidst much moaning and groaning and complaining.


“My shirt's still wet!”


“My socks are sticking to me”


“Ohh! Not the bow tie again! It's wet!”


“Too bad!”


“Get over it!


“Suck it up!”


“Come on,” David told his off-spring. “Stop your complaining. It's a warm day out there, damp clothes aren't going to kill you.”


“But it feels funny,” Nathan whined. “Why do I have to wear this?”


“Because it's your Uncle Jed's wedding and everyone has to look their best,” David once again explained to him. Then he leaned in and whispered in his son's ear. “You think I like getting all dressed up like this? But it pleases your mother so do it just for now, alright? Do it for her.”


The two sets of brown eyes locked on and Nathan glanced over at his mother and he slumped his shoulders and shuffled his feet.


“Alwight,” he mumbled.


“Good man.” David stood up and ruffled his son's hair.


“Come over here.” Tricia pulled Nathan towards her and gave his hair a quick brushing through. “There, now at least you're looking like a little gentleman again.” She tugged at his tie and brushed off his jacket. Nathan squirmed.


J.J. was getting much the same treatment from his parents only more so. He was actually going to be in the wedding party so Belle was going over-board to make sure he looked his finest. J.J. himself was very uncomfortable. Every article of clothing from his bow tie to his underwear were still damp and he was letting everyone know that he wasn't happy about it. Unfortunately for him, everybody was also letting him know that they didn't care.


“Come along,” Belle told him as she grabbed his arm and practically had to drag him out of the 'bath room'. “We need to get your boutonniere pinned on, then you'll be all ready to go.”


“I don't want to!”


Jesse leaned down and gave him a light smack on the bum. “Get going! Enough of this nonsense!”


Revered Sikes discreetly let himself in the front door just as Belle was dragging a reluctant J.J. towards the pantry. She looked over and smiled at him.


“We won't be much longer Reverend!” she assured him. “Just a minor disaster to deal with, but we're almost ready.”


“Minor to you!” Beth complained as she removed the damp cloth from her eyes. “What if Jed takes one look at me and heads for the hills!?”


Clementine gave her a playful slap on the wrist. “Don't be such a ninny! I've got some creme we can put around your eyes to cover up the redness and then some more powder and you'll be fine!”


“But Sister Julia said my eyes don't look very red!” Beth exclaimed, suddenly getting anxious again.


“NO—not very!” Clementine lied just as smoothly as the Sister had. “But the creme will hide what little red there is!”


“Oh. Alright. Are you sure?”


“Yes!”


The Reverend smiled. “Well I can see you have things all under control.” It seemed to be the day for telling lies. “Mr. Jordan, if you could just give me a signal when you're ready to begin.”


“Certainly Reverend,” Jesse agreed. “I really do believe we're close.”


“Fine. I'll watch for your signal.” The Reverend quickly departed, confident that events were moving along as well as could be expected.


Steven put in another appearance just as the Reverend was leaving. He took a quick look around the living room until he spied his daughter playing contentedly by herself on the floor. He strode over and scooped her up in his arms and with a quick smile over to his wife, made his exit to join the rest of their friends back out in the yard.


Maribelle emerged from the bathroom with Todd all cleaned up just as J.J. emerged from the kitchen area, looking very self-conscious with his little boutonniere pinned in place. It just wasn't right that a boy should have to wear flowers! The only consolation was that his Papa was wearing one too.


Everyone was giving themselves those last minute checks and tidying ups. Wives were straightening husband's ties and their own hair-doos. Clem was putting on the finishing touches to Beth's make-up and making sure that her french braid was still in place and holding up. Beth was doing her best to stay calm even though her tummy was in a stressful knot and her nerves were a jingle.


Belle came into the common room loaded down with flowers and set all the bouquets onto the dinning table in preparation of handing them out. She opened up a small box and lifted out the little hat and veil and came over to where Clem and Beth were putting on the final touches.


“Alright, sweetheart,” Belle smiled at her daughter. “Are you ready?”


Beth gave a big sigh. “I think so.”


“Alright. Here, stand up and we'll get your veil attached.”


Beth did so and Belle along with Clem's help settled the delicate and flowing veil upon the blonde head and carefully pinned the hat into place. Belle smoothed out the lace and allowed the material to fall gracefully over Beth's shoulders.


“There we are,” said the proud mother. “All set. Oh! Let's not forget the brooch. After all that drama to find the thing we can't go leaving it off can we?”


“Oh! No,” Beth gasped. “My goodness! I did forget about it. Where is it!?”


“It's right here,” Belle took it out of the shoe box and carefully pinned it in the center of the neck line. “There we go. Now put your shoes on. Well, you'd best sit down to do that dear.”


“Oh yes.”


Beth sat down again and slipped on the dainty shoes and tied up the laces. Even they were fitting her as though they had been made for her.


Belle took her by the hand and brought her to her feet again and handed her the colourful bouquet.


“There we go,” Belle said, feeling her own throat tighten as the emotions of the day caught up with her. “Let me look at you.” The mother drank in the daughter and she smiled as she held Beth at arm's length.


“Oh, but it does take me back,” Belle admitted. “And what a wonderful day it was.”


Everyone in the house stopped what they were doing to gaze upon the bride. Beth only had eyes for her mother.


Belle quickly wiped away a tear and taking her daughter by the shoulders she turned her around to face the full-length mirror and the two women stood together and gaze upon the reflection. Beth thought she was going to start crying again.


“Oh my!” she gasped. “It's beautiful.”


Belle gave her a hug. “You're beautiful sweetheart! Come on. It's time for you to get married.”


“Oh Mama! Thank you!” And she turned and gave her mother a hug.


In order to deny her own tight throat and prickling eyes Clem busied herself gathering together her facial repair kit.


“Well I swear!” she announced. “This wedding isn't going to get underway with us all standing around here like a bunch of ninnies! We all better get out there!”


“Yes!” Randa agreed as she finally remembered to remove the apron. “We'll all see you after the ceremony!” And she gave Beth a gentle kiss on the cheek and then headed for the door.


Clem was right in step with her and little Sally, remembering her promise gave Carol a hug and scampered after the two ladies to follow them out to yard and the assembly.


“Come along everyone!” Merle started herding her grandson towards the door. “I believe that's our cue.”


“Good luck Beth,” Maribelle said as she also gave her a kiss. “It's your special day—enjoy it!”


“Thank you everyone,” Beth responded. “You've all been so much help.”


The Jefferies made their exit, soon to be followed by David, Tricia and a damp Nathan. J.J. watched his friend leave wishing that he could escape his fate as easily as just walking out the door. But it was not to be.


Sarah found herself helping to hand out the various bouquets to the other members of the wedding party and then made sure that everyone got into line. Beth stood at the head, with Bridget and Carol behind her. Carol was looking so proud in her fine dress and her own bouquet, her radiant smile was second only to that of the bride. Behind them Belle had put herself in line beside J.J. in order to make sure the little mischief maker stayed in line and behaved himself. J.J. simply looked as though he wanted to bolt out the back door but he knew he better not or Papa would tan his backside. So he endured.


Jesse took a final look at the procession and then met his wife's eyes. Belle smiled and nodded to him, indicating that they were ready. He nodded back and then stepped out onto the front porch to send a wave to the Reverend.

Sarah and Evelyn quickly scooted out around him and went to join up with the rest of their family. The Reverend Sikes nodded back to the father of the bride and Jesse returned to stand beside his daughter. He took her left hand in his and tucked her arm against him.


“Alright sweetheart,” he whispered to her. “Here we go. Don't trip on the stairs now.”


“Oh Papa!” she whispered back to him. “You just had to say that, didn't you!?”


He smiled cheekily and moved the precession out to the porch. He stopped them all there, waiting for the assembly to quieten down and then all eyes were upon them. He took a firmer hold on his daughter's arm just to ensure that she didn't actually trip on the steps and they began the walk over to where Jed awaited his bride.


Beth knew there was a crowd around her, all the family and friends who had been invited to share in this special day and she knew that all eyes were upon her. But she was hardly aware of them. She only had eyes for her betrothed and she gazed upon him with such love in her heart that she was sure that it must come up and choke her.


“I would say that from the look on Jed's face, you had nothing to worry about,” Jesse whispered to her. “Right now he's thinking how beautiful you are and what a lucky man he is that you consented to be his wife.”


Beth didn't answer him; she couldn't. But she gently squeezed his hand to let him know that she'd heard him.


Then they were there and Jesse took his daughter's hand and placed it on Jed's waiting arm and then offered his hand to his soon-to-be son-in-law. Jed grasped it and forcing his gaze away from his bride for a moment, he met Jesse's eyes and smiled. Jesse then stepped back out of the way and Belle left her place in the procession to go and stand beside him.


Bridget and Carol stepped up to stand beside the bride and J.J. moved to follow them. Heyes quickly caught the little man's eyes and motioned for him to come over and stand with the men. J.J. looked around, feeling a little skittish and then ran quickly to go and stand beside his Uncle Han.


“Ladies and Gentlemen. Family and friends. We are gathered here today in the sight of God to join this couple in holy matrimony.
“This is not a union to be entered in upon lightly but with serious thought and honest intent.
“Standing here before you today are Jedidiah and Bethany who have chosen to enter into the sanctity of marriage. They have invited you here today to witness their union and to honour and support them as they begin this journey together as husband and wife. If there is anyone here who knows of any legal or moral reason why these two people should not be wed let them speak up now or forever hold your peace.”


Silence from the assembly so Reverend Sikes discreetly nodded to Heyes who took his cue and dug the rings out of his inside breast pocket. He tapped J.J. on the shoulder and big brown eyes stared up at him, looking all the world like a deer in a hunter's sites. Heyes held out the rings for him to take but the little man froze and even though they had been over what he was suppose to do at this point, his mind just didn't seem to want to go there.


Heyes grinned and coming down to J.J.'s level, he took the boys hand and placed the rings into it. He closed the little fist upon them and turning J.J. by the shoulders gave him a gentle push in the direction of the reverend. Reverend Sikes smiled reassurance at him and held out his hand to receive the rings. J.J. reached out and released the golden bands into the man's hand and with a huge smile of triumph turned and hurried back to stand beside his Uncle Han. Heyes gave him a thumbs up.


The Reverend Sikes took the smaller of the two rings and handed it to Jed. Jed took the ring and holding Beth's left hand he followed the reverend's prompting in the recital of his vows.


“With this ring, I Jedidiah Edward take you Bethany Elizabeth to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” And he slipped the ring upon her finger.


The reverend them handed the larger ring to Beth and she repeated the vows in a voice so small and quiet that most of the guests could only assume that she was speaking them.


“I, Bethany Elizabeth take you Jedidiah Edward to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Then with fingers that were slightly shaking she slipped the ring onto his finger and continued to hold onto his hand with both of hers.


“Jedidiah and Bethany have spoken their vows and they have given and received their rings as a symbol of their love and fidelity. What has been joined here today let no man bring asunder. They stand before you now and as God is their witness I take great pleasure in pronouncing you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”


Jed smiled and gently brushing aside the lacy veil he tilted Beth's chin up towards him and they kissed their first married kiss. They came apart and smiled into each other's eyes and the whole world was theirs.


“Ladies and Gentlemen!” the Reverend Sikes broke through their joyous haze. “I take great pleasure in presenting to you; Mr. and Mrs. Jedidiah Curry!”


The whole assembly broke up into wild cheers and clapping and even the occasional cat calls. Heyes stepped up quickly and taking Beth into his arms in a big bear hug, he lifted her off her feet and taking advantage of his privilege as Best Man kissed her fully on the mouth! Beth was taken by surprise but Jed just stood back and rolled his eyes as Heyes spun his new cousin around and then gently placed her back on her shaky feet.


“Congratulations darlin'!” he whispered in her ear. “You're the best thing that could have happened to him.”


Beth recovered quickly and smiled up at him. “Thank you Hannibal.”


As others rushed forward to congratulate the bride and groom, Heyes turned to his cousin and the two friends fell into a hug and a back slapping fest.


“Hey, hey Jed!” Heyes laughed. “I'm proud of ya' cousin! I was beginning to think you were never going to get around to it!”


“Naw Heyes. I know when I've lucked out!”


Kyle approached the bride to give his congratulations but he turned shy at the last moment and simply took her hand and mumbled 'Howdy' before backing off and retreating to familiar territory. Wheat was a little better by giving the bride a hug and his apologies.


“Ah, I'm sorry that I put a gun to your head ma'am,” he whispered. “I didn't mean nothin' by it.”


Beth laughed and placed a hand on his arm. “I know. All is forgiven—we're practically family now!”


“Oh,” Wheat smiled. “Yes ma'am. Thank you.” Then he turned to his two former soon to be current bosses. “Hey Kid! Ya' finally done somethin' right!”


“Hu huh.” Jed smiled and shook Wheat's hand. “Yeah, thanks Wheat.”


“Yeah! That was a real purdy weddin'!” Kyle agreed. “I don't think I been to a nicer!”


Jesse and Belle who were right there in the vicinity anyways came forward to give their congratulations just in time to see their youngest make a running bee line towards the house where it could only be assumed he would be getting out of his damp suit. Numerous other children followed in his wake since for them the boring stuff was finally over with and the serious play time could get underway!


Heyes quickly stepped back to give access to other guests who wanted to come forward and congratulate the new couple. Before he knew it his cousin and his wife were practically hidden from view. He smiled to himself; this was Jed's time, this was his day. All these people who were his friends, people whom he'd come to know during these past six years of living in this same town and at this same ranch, all rushing forward to congratulate him on his wedding day.


Heyes really saw it then, standing back away from the crowd. Jed was at home here and these people were his family. Heyes found himself feeling isolated as though what Jed had found was beyond his reach and again he considered the option of slipping away into the night and never looking back. Then a hand slipped into his and he looked down into large brown eyes. He smiled at the child and coming down to her level, he ran a caressing hand over her soft red hair.


He didn't even have a chance to ask her how she had enjoyed the wedding when she slung her short arms around his neck and hung on for all she was worth. Heyes smiled and took her into his arms and standing up again, he brought her up with him. He closed his eyes and held onto her as tightly as he dared. Unconditional love washed over him in waves and it felt so good, so reassuring that he didn't want to let her go.


“Don't be sad,” she said to his chin. She pushed herself away from his chest and they stared at each other, practically nose to nose. “There's no reason to be sad.”


“I'm not sad,” Heyes assured her. “Just—seeing changes on the wind.”


“Changes can be good,” she said, in her child-like innocence.


Heyes grinned at her. “Yes they can,” he agreed. “Some just take a little getting used to.”


She smiled back at him, a playful sparkle lighting up her eyes. “Your wife is very pretty. I like her.”


Heyes frowned. “My wife? I don't have a wife.”


“Yes you do,” Sally insisted and she twisted her little body in Heyes' arms and pointed over to the group of well-wishers.


Heyes followed her gesture and saw Miranda emerging from the crowd after having given her blessings to the new couple. She smiled a bit suspiciously when she noticed that she was being scrutinized and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. She had planned on joining up with Hannibal anyways, but now her curiosity had her committed and she headed over in their direction to meet this young miss who seemed to have Heyes wrapped around her little finger.


Heyes held out his free hand to Miranda and she accepted it with a smile.



To Be Continued.
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: The Wedding Day Chapter seventeen   Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:19 pm

Lovely, lovely, lovely. Fluffy, touching, funny, sweet, emotional, and some parts just so beautiful I had to cry.
There was only one tiny little thing I was not happy about. When Jesse says about Heyes : "He's led a wild life; sooner or later it was going to come back at him" - Going by ASJ, the Kid's life was even wilder and he got off scott free...  But I loved everything else.
Starting with the funny bit: Isabelle finally manages to successfully accidentally bump into someone, and Harry thinks he's won the lottery.
Enjoyed how you split the wedding morning into different viewpoints. 
First the groom's party - Lovely to see Heyes and the Kid so happy and relaxed, bantering, teasing... Heyes fussing over his partner, being hands on and being proud of and happy for the Kid reminded me of many scenes in ASJ.
The sentence "Heyes stood quietly, watching him; drinking him in, wanting to hold this image in his mind's eye for all eternity" and the rest of the paragraph make me cry every time I read it - it is so touching and beautiful. No trace left of insecurity, resentment, jealousy, feeling left behind.
And the relationship with Randa seems to be progressing nicely.
At the ranch more and more friends of the boys get to meet each other. They sure seem to be doing rather well for ex-outlaws. Loved to see Sister Julia there, and little Sally (aaaaahhh). Come on, how long before you let Heyes adopt her?
Interesting to get the children's point of view next on what is important that morning. I remember one fantastic summer holiday long ago when we had days of fun playing frisbee with more or less dried cowpats...
And finally the viewpoint of the bride's party. Relatively relaxed in the morning, but then it winds tighter and tighter with lots of excitement, nerves, cups of tee, culminating in the arrival of a horde of muddy children, an impromptu bathing/cleaning session. And then it's time or the wedding.
It's beautifully written, I could just see how Beth suddenly forgot everything else and just had eyes for Jed (and he eyes for her). After the long wait (years!) and the long wind-up (stag party, bridal shower, all the excitement of the morning), the wedding in contrast is over very quickly and suddenly they are Mr. and Mrs. Jedediah Curry.
I know, women are supposed to love to cry at weddings. I have to admit my tissue moment came just after, when Heyes is happy for Jed, but feels isolated nevertheless only to get "rescued" by a little girl.
Loved this: "Heyes really saw it then, standing back away from the crowd. Jed was at home here and these people were his family." and then “Just—seeing changes on the wind.” I hope the changes will be good for Heyes.
And then Sally tells Heyes that Miranda is his wife. Out of the mouths of children...
There was so much more that I liked in this chapter, like some of the moments between Beth and Belle, a subtle shift in relationship, letting go, but still confirming their bond...

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"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: The Wedding Day Chapter seventeen   Sun Aug 03, 2014 11:43 pm

Well you certainly did seem to like this one. Isn't that the way though? The gearing up to the actual wedding seems to take forever, then the ceremony itself is over before you know it! Lots of fun still to come.
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The Wedding Day Chapter seventeen
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