GRACE THE WILD CARD

Chapter 11 The Wedding Planners

FRIDAY, 11:00 PM. Sky pushed open the mission door and let Nathan and Benny in. They found Brother Arvide, with two mission workers, and Nicely having a conversation.

“Good evening. Sorry to come this late, Uncle Arvide, but Nathan has something urgent to consult with you.” Sky took off his hat, wondering about Sarah, as the two mission workers excused themselves.

“What are you doing staying up so late, Nicely?” Sky asked.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d keep Brother Arvide company,” Nicely said, “Long time no see, Benny!”

“Good to be here, watching history unfold,” Benny said.

“Would any of you guys like some coffee and doughnuts?” asked Nicely, going to the coffee stand.

“Just coffee for me, thanks,” Sky said.

“For me, too, and a doughnut,” said Benny.

“Welcome, brothers,” Brother Arvide said, offering them seats. “Now, what can I do for you, Brother Nathan?”

“Brother Arvide, Adelaide and I are getting married tomorrow afternoon and we would appreciate it if you could do the honors.”

“But of course, I will. What an honor!” Brother Arvide said, delighted. “Where and when will his great event be?”

“It will be an open-air nuptial on Broadway at six o’clock. The police are making the ground arrangement.”

“Wonderful,” said Arvide, “What you should do first thing tomorrow is pick up Miss Adelaide and go to the City Clerk’s Office for your marriage license and your blood tests. Pull some strings with Brannigan, if you have to. It’s a very short time to prepare for a wedding but you have friends who can help.”

“Yes, friends,” Nathan said, looking at Sky, “I’ll have Sky for my best man, and Benny and Nicely as seconds,” Nathan glanced at Benny and Nicely, who were both smiling and nodding.

Sky put down his coffee cup and replied, “I’d be so honored, Nathan, but I’m sorry, I won’t be here. I’m taking Sarah to an early dinner at Mindy's tomorrow. Then I’m off to Havana.”

“So, why don’t you take Sarah to the wedding and afterwards, take her to Havana for dinner?” suggested Arvide.

Sky, almost embarrassed, replied, “I know what you’re saying, Uncle Arvide. And I’ve taken Sarah there before, but that was different. That was just a bet.”

“Well, how different would it be now?”

“I’m in love with your niece and I want to protect her reputation,” Sky said humbly.

“Son, you wouldn’t want to miss Nathan’s wedding, would you?” Arvide paused, “And you wouldn’t want to miss yours, either.”

Nicely and Benny who have been following the conversation, were amazed that Sky did not flinch at the suggestion.

“As a matter of fact, Uncle Arvide…” Sky addressed each man thoughtfully, “Nathan…Benny…Nicely…I have been thinking. But two things perplexed me. Whereas Nathan and Adelaide have been engaged for 14 years; Sarah and I have known each other only for four days going on five. How would I know we’d be doing the right thing?”

“Why, Sky, I never knew you to be so discerning,” Nathan said. “You’ve always been the risk-taker who never seems to run out of luck.”

Sky replied, “With Sarah, it’s like I’m playing by a new set of rules. When I told her I had taken her to Havana on a bet, she did not bat an eye. Instead, she called me a chump, which was a proposition for me to up the ante.

"I could have told her right there that more than winning the bet, I'd gamble my whole life to win her heart. But all I did was blame it on the rum-filled night. She shrugged it all off like a sport, and I realized then, she was a bigger risk-taker than me.”

Brother Arvide changed the course of the conversation, “Sarah is staying with General Cartwright and her assistants at their hotel tonight and tomorrow. They’re discussing the planned expansion of the mission and other future projects, now that Sky has saved it from closing down. Later in the afternoon, they’ll go straight to the hospital to visit the sick.”

“So, when then can I propose?” asked Sky, suddenly enthusiastic.

“You don’t have to. You can ask for her hand in marriage right now.”

“Huh? But how would I know if she’d accept my proposal?”

“My dear son, you should have seen Sarah, after you walked away yesterday morning. She was all broken up inside but without tears.” Arvide said quietly. “She still did all her mission duties, but there was no way she could have hidden her grief.”

Sky listened closely and said, “I was suffering myself and scared I might have lost her.”

Arvide continued, “After her mother, my sister, died of cancer 10 years ago, and later, after her father remarried, Sarah decided she’d give her dad the chance to build a new life with his new wife. Sarah, just 16 then, travelled all by herself from Boston to New York to join me and the staff here at the mission. She has always been a brave girl. She said all she wanted was to serve the Lord. She worked so hard; she even outranked all of us in the Army. I think she found her home here.

“Until yesterday. I never knew how much in love with you she was. Yet she was very stoic about your breakup. I tried to say something, to help assuage the pain, but she kept saying, ‘I’ll get over it, I’ll get over it.’

“Why would anyone want to get over the one thing one hopes for from the minute one is born and remembers till the day one dies? Why, because it’s the greatest reward that a man and woman can have on this earth? To love and be loved? Being her only parent left, I wish I could give her everything that she needs. But when it comes to finding her true love, she's on her own.

“So, Sky,” Arvide now smiling, said, “Marry her now; you can propose to her later, after the wedding.”

“It will save time and resources to have a double wedding instead of two separate ones,” Nathan happily suggested, “I’ll then have Benny as my best man and you can have Nicely, considering he’s already in uniform.”

“We’ll be delighted,” said Benny and Nicely.

“Mindy’s will have all day to bake two fresh, new wedding cakes, not the ones on display at the front counter, but freshly baked ones,” said Nicely.

“And we’ll get Mindy's bakery van to deliver two fresh, new grooms to the wedding site,” added Benny.

“Not grooms, Benny, bridegrooms!” corrected Nicely. “Grooms are for horses; bridegrooms have other chores.”

“I stand corrected,” said Benny, “and we shouldn’t even think of horses at this time.”

“Brannigan also promised a getaway car, but I’m sure he can easily double the order,” said Nathan, nodding to Sky.

“Okay then, I'm ready.” Sky stood up and with a slight bow to Arvide, solemnly said, “Uncle Arvide, I would like to thank you for all your help and advice. I cherish Sarah with all my heart and soul and would like to spend the rest of my life with her and devote myself to caring for her.

"I have the honor, therefore, to ask for her hand in marriage,” he paused, “I mean, not just her hand, but her whole person; so that what God will join together, no man can put asunder.”

“I give you my blessing, Son,” Brother Arvide replied.

After a while, Brother Arvide said, “Are you sure you boys have no impediments, going into marriage? Or should we have the band announce the bans?”

“Band bans?” Benny asked.

“It’s that thing that says, ‘Should anyone present know of any reason that these two couples should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace’.”

“With all the high rollers around?” Nicely laughed, “They’d be maimed if they tried.”

The two bridegrooms-to-be laughed. “Those bans have been announcing for 14 years now,” said Nathan.

“No, no impediments,” said Sky plainly.

“Okay, then, get some rest and hit the ground running tomorrow,” Arvide rose to say goodnight. “Sky, do whatever you need to do tomorrow, take the blood test, get your plane tickets ready, whatever. And I’ll have Sister Agatha pack a small suitcase for Sarah.

“But be sure you’re all dressed up and ready to go, and at the City Clerk Office by 4:30. I will pick up Sarah from the hospital and meet you there to apply for your license. Both parties have to be present to fill out the application form. Don’t forget your identification card.”

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