Tying the Knot
The Garrett home is a scene of pandemonium; the last minute coordination of the many wedding details, creating an atmospheric stew of joy, purpose and tension. An army of worker bees have descended upon this sprawling Palos Verdes home; their mission: transform this ranch style property into a stunning wedding and reception venue for tomorrow’s big affair. The interior of a large U-Haul truck is stripped clean of its cargo. There are dozens of tables and chairs being stacked upon the spacious lawn, along with components of a small stage (for the band) and parquet dance floor. Within the main house, an equal prevalence of controlled chaos exists. A cleaning crew, push mops and vacuums haphazardly from room to room, as Matt chases a confused cat down the hall. At the opposite end of the hall, Evy leans against a kitchen counter with a phone jammed in one ear and a finger in the other; she’s attempting to firm-up other loose ends. “No, Ernie, I wouldn’t dream of using another florist.” She barks into her cellphone. “And I believe you can have everything here by ten A.M., because if you don’t, I will kill you.”
In stark contrast, Amy’s old bedroom harbors a serene atmosphere. Along with Carla, Amy calmly lays out tomorrow’s wedding ensemble. The flowing bridal gown is neatly draped across the bed, a pair of matching heels rest on the floor and Carla slides tomorrow’s veil from its package. Passing a window open to the backyard, Carla absorbs some of the seeping noise and colorful language generated by workers struggling to erect the wedding arch. Taking a quick peek, Carla says. “Ahh, now that’s the sound of total frustration…But I doubt you’ll be frustrated with this.” Turning around she hands Amy the lacey wedding veil. Beaming satisfaction, the bride to-be places it gently upon her head. The veil looks stunning on Amy, even though she’s currently dressed for comfort; wearing faded jeans and a tight Dodger t-shirt. Carla whistles softly and comments. “Oh, that’s beautiful.”
Having moved quietly down the hallway, the intrusive groom to-be has arrived at Amy’s doorway. Without a warning or invitation, he pokes his head around the door jamb. “It sure is.” He says. “Why don’t we get hitched like that? I could wear flip flops and shorts.”
Greg is quickly confronted by his assistant’s folded arms and frosty eyes. It’s a look that effectively communicates annoyance with his interruption of a ‘girls only’ moment. With a stiff finger pointing out the window, Carla gruffly says. “Why don’t you do something useful, like helping them?”
“Wow, some best man you are, Carla.” Greg quips, as he moves off down the hall. “You don’t get me drunk; you don’t get me strippers...”
When Carla believes Greg is out of earshot, she quietly asks Amy. “Does Greg know you invited him?”
Shaking her head, Amy softly answers. “No.”
“What were you thinking? He was pretty adamant about it.”
“About the wedding.” Amy replies. “I don’t recall either one of us mentioning the rehearsal.”
“You’re really kind of devious –“Carla responds, combining a grin with a nod. “I like that in a woman.”
Out in the immense backyard, an expanding array of tables and chairs is being assembled beneath a large white canopy. Down a grassy hill, Hank lugs a case of beer. Tina trails with a large box of chips; their common destination being the busy, canvas-draped, work site. Stepping around a freshly stacked mound of folded chairs, the clueless couple, park their cargo and bodies at a random table, forcing several annoyed workers to detour around them. The work crew carry-on with the set-up, but along with the tables and chairs they add piercing stares to their delivery. Without a look of concern, Hank pulls a beer from the case he just dropped-off. “No, I give you that.” He says. “He’ll cry when he gives her away, but not when he’s doin’ his judge thing.” He extracts a second beer, handing it to Tina.
“You think?” Tina says.
Just beyond the white canopy, closer to the house, they can see Greg aiding the crew with their effort to raise the wedding arch. They also notice Matt running around (like little boys do) and Al barking orders to workers--like excited fathers do. “Guys, you gotta support it –“ Al shouts.
“When Dad puts on that robe, he becomes a professional.” Hank says. “Totally emotionless and impartial -- he won’t cry then.”
“I don’t suppose you’d want to put a little money where your mouth is.” Tina replies.
“What’d you have in mind?”
Almost salivating, Hank says. “How ’bout a hundred?”
They clink their beer bottles together. “Done.”
“And some lovemaking the way I like it.” Hank adds with a grin.
“All right... but if you lose, its lovemaking the way I like it.” Tina takes a long swallow as she watches Hank’s grin collapse.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tina rolls her eyes.
Over by the recently secured wedding arch, Al takes up his position at its center, more than ready to get this rehearsal started. “All right, all right, come on everybody.” Al yells. “Let’s get this show on the road.” Evy moves up as Amy and Carla head out from the house. Al scans the backyard for the rest of the wedding party. “Matty? Where’s Matty?” Matt suddenly appears from the depths of the yard, sprinting up toward the altar.
Evy says. “He’s right here.” Handing the young boy the little ceremonial pillow.
“Matty, you’re the ring bearer.” Al says. “Greg, you and Carla will be standing here. Then Hank, you usher Tina and your mother down to the front row... then Matty, you come with the ring...who’s got the ring?”
“I do.” Carla replies.
“Good... “As Al continues his detailed direction, he observes a pained look form upon Greg’s face. “Then I’ll walk Amy down the aisle...” His glances return to Greg again and again; it’s become obvious that he’s not absorbing his guidance. Greg’s staring hard at something way off in the depths of the yard. “Greg, you listening?” Al asks. When Greg doesn’t reply and his thinned eyes remain fixated, way off into the distance, everyone follows his gaze. The visual trail leads to a man standing at the back gate. The man is in his fifties, rough looking with the face of a hard drinker, but his eyes are clear and he looks fairly healthy. He’s dressed nicely and his graying hair is clean and well groomed. The older man is a stranger to all, except Greg. He knows immediately that this intruder is present day Charles Kingsley: ex-con, recovering alcoholic and Amy’s future father in-law.
Amy places a hand on Greg’s forearm. “Dad, give us a sec.”
When Amy pulls Greg aside, his distant gaze turns to an angry sneer. ”You shouldn’t a done this.” Greg says.
“I know, but he’s your father.” Amy responds. “And I wanted to meet him… He has something for you.”
Grudgingly, Greg lets Amy lead him to the back gate to meet a man he has despised for the past twenty years. Harboring dissimilar emotions, Chuck’s face bears a warm and welcoming smile. Looking at his adult son and Amy up close is an overdue joy. “Hello, son. It’s good to see you.”
“Wish I could say the same.” Greg responds.
Chuck nods while turning toward Amy. “Charles Kingsley. People call me Chuck.” He offers his hand, but Amy ignores it and gives him a big hug.
“I’m Amy. I love your son.”
Chuck smiles at Amy and turns back toward Greg. “You did good.”
“We’re kinda busy here.” Greg says, unimpressed. “Amy says you have something for me.”
Chuck digs a small jewelry box out of his coat pocket. “It’s your mother’s wedding rings. Before she died I promised her I’d give them to you when you got married.” Chuck holds out the box. Greg hesitates. Amy steps in, takes the box and looks inside. She marvels at the sight of a stunning white gold bridal set, featuring seventy diamonds.
“They’re beautiful. “ Amy says. “Thank you very, very much.”
“Just for the record... as fathers go we both know I suck. There’s nothin’ I can ever say or do to make up for that, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. If there’s ever anything I can do for you...” Chuck hands Greg a business card that reads: CHUCK’S AUTO BODY & REPAIR. “I don’t know how, but you turned out good.” With a subtle nod he adds.” I’m real grateful for that… Nice to meet you, Amy. All the best.”
Not anticipating or receiving any reciprocal comments, Chuck just turns and goes. Staring down at the rings, Greg’s thoughts can’t help but rewind to the time he was nine years old. The days when he saw this symbol of love grace his mother’s hand. His mind visualizes her bejeweled finger, sliding through the stems of her flourishing plants while refracted sun beams escape through the numerous facetted diamonds. He hands his mother a ceramic flower pot for her birthday. It isn’t just your over the counter pot; it’s special. It’s one he’s spent most of the day customizing with an encircling row of painted cars and trucks. He watches her face light up with joy as she examines the pot. She gives him a big hug, telling him; this is my best present ever. Now it’s his turn to glow. Suddenly the coughing starts. It’s harsh, alarming and seemingly impossible for her to suppress. Greg’s vintage thoughts are vivid, having recaptured those old emotions too. They build rapidly. He realizes a pain growing in his throat with each swallow and his eyes are welling. But, this can’t happen. I won’t let it. This is a man who no longer allows himself to surrender to sadness. This guy learned long ago, how to not only focus on what he wants, but how to block what he doesn’t want as well. Tightening his jaw, he forces a return to present day. Regaining complete control; he honors his vow to never cry.
The big day has arrived, bringing a delightful awakening for the senses. Each new arrival, to the evening’s festivities, is greeted by the pleasant fragrance of a gorgeous rose covered altar. Then the ears blend soft melodious notes from a classical string quartet. And when that’s combined with the beauty of a cloudless moon lit sky: the night air is set adrift with romance. The enchanting mixture creates a delightful backdrop for the many wedding guests, taking their seats in the Garrett’s backyard. About two hundred well-wishers, dressed in mostly suits and expensive gowns, chatter politely during this prelude to the ceremony. Greg, looking quite dapper and calm (for a new groom) stands with his best man (Carla) at the entrance to the arch. “You nervous, boss?” Carla asks.
“Not really. Do I look nervous?”
“No, you don’t. You look like you might be waiting for a burger at ’In ‘N’ Out’.” Carla’s eyes narrow a bit. “What’s up with that?”
“No worries here, I’m lookin’ forward to this. And I’m not so sure Amy would like being compared to a burger.”
“I wasn’t com…” Carla casts an evil eye. “You know what I meant, butthead.”
Greg does his best to stifle a giggle.
Matt reaches the altar, with the ceremonial pillow, as Hank seats his mother and his wife. Soon the string quartet switches to the wedding march and Al, in tux, walks Amy (in a stunning wedding gown) down the aisle. It’s like a scene from a Hollywood production. A young beautiful bride, escorted by her distinguished father down a flower draped aisle. It’s a touching moment that has Al already choking back tears. Tina looks over at Hank and holds out her hand, suggesting he has already lost their wager. He motions: just wait.
Al kisses Amy and hands her off to Greg. He slips into his long black judge’s robe and takes his place in front, suddenly in complete control of his emotions. “We are gathered here today to celebrate Amy and Greg’s marriage”. Al says. “If anyone has just cause why this union should not take place let him speak now or forever hold his peace –“There is no pause. “-- good, that’s out of the way. Life is brief: embrace each moment you are given and do your best to love each other every day.” Amy’s eyes are already misting-- Ditto Evy’s. But as he continues, Al’s drier than over-baked chicken. “Amy and Greg have written some vows they would like to share.”
Amy’s maid of honor hands her a sheet of parchment. Without ever looking at the parchment text, Amy locks a captivating gaze onto Greg’s eyes, while saying. “You are so many things to me...first and foremost, you are my hero. You are a man of character, solid and kind... the most important thing you’ve taught me is that love is not a word or a line in a song, but an action. And every day I see you do hundreds of loving actions and I am just so proud to be marrying you...”
“Greg?” Al says.
Carla hands Greg a parchment. He looks his bride in the eyes. “Amy... you are the most exasperating woman I’ve ever known.” He pauses for a moment while some scattered laughter escapes from the crowd. “You never seem to know what you’re supposed to do tomorrow, you can barely remember what you did yesterday -- and I finally figured out why; because you don’t live in yesterday or tomorrow, you savor each and every moment, right here, right now, today. And you never do anything halfway -- unless it involves cleaning -- you’re so full of joy and life; I can’t wait to spend the rest of mine with you.”
An audible “ahhhh” arises from the guests, many of whom have their handkerchiefs out, but Al remains stoic.
Across the backyard and over a wrought iron fence, Greg’s father is watching anonymously; completely undiscovered by a single soul. Wearing his best suit and tie, he stands a fair distance away, but has found an unimpeded view of the wedding altar. His glistening eyes compliment the sincere smile that forms when watching Amy and Greg finish exchanging rings.
Al says. “And so, Amy and Greg, with the power vested in me by the state of California I now pronounce you...” Al catches his breath, starting to lose it. Hank sits up shaking his head: no, no.”...man and wife. You may kiss your bride, son. Aw God...” Overwhelmed by the moment Al hits his breaking point and starts blubbering. Greg and Amy melt into a long deep kiss while everyone cheers… except Hank.
Hank yells. “You didn’t cry at my wedding!” Tina grins and holds out her triumphant hand.
The deserted parquet dance floor reflects the glow of a million shimmering stars, all anticipating the arrival of the new bride and groom to its center. After the newlyweds take their place on the celestial speckled boards, the evening’s sensual treat continues. The radiant night sky, becomes paired with the string quartet’s rendition of ‘The Last Time’, providing a romantic (if not near perfect) setting for the couple’s first dance. For a while they dance without speaking, just sharing love with a gaze and a smile. Then Greg asks. “So how do you feel tonight Mrs. Kingsley?”
“Like the luckiest girl in the world…and you?”
“I can’t imagine ever feeling happier than I do right now… dancing with my beautiful new bride…If only I could make this moment last forever…” Greg presses his cheek to Amy’s. “Which does spark one little concern.”
“Why do I sense I’m about to hear a silly joke?”
“Ah, your joke radar is in need of calibration my dear…This is legit.”
Amy cocks her head back, looking Greg in the eyes. “Ought oh… do I wanna hear this?”
“Well, this may sound silly, but it’s definitely not a joke. So don’t laugh. Okay?“
“Okay, go on”
“I was just thinking… when we’re old and gray and all the cool stuff we did along the way, starts to get a little fuzzy… I really hope the memory of this dance and the feeling within me right now never fades away.” Amy stares up into Greg’s eyes and gives him a kiss before softly setting her head against his chest, as they continue to float across the dance floor.
Still observing from the backyard fence, Chuck uses the heels of his hands to wipe streaming tears from his eyes. It’s a moment of jumbled emotions, he knew would surface, but it was a moment he very much wanted to experience. He silently walks to the end of the block and drives away.