GRACE THE WILD CARD

Chapter 12 Aces Back-to-Back

SATURDAY, 4 PM. Brother Arvide reserved two taxicabs in the hospital parking lot before he skipped into the lobby to pick up Sarah, General Cartwright, and her two Sister-assistants.

“Uncle Arvide, why are you here?” Sarah greeted him, surprised.

“Good afternoon, General; good afternoon, Sisters,” Arvide said gleefully. “I’ve got good news for you. You can’t go back to Boston just yet. Sarah is getting married at 6 o’clock this afternoon.

“What!?” Sarah was astounded, but laughing, thinking her uncle was joking. The General and the two Sisters were surprised, as well, and joined Sarah laughing.

“I am not joking, Sarah.” Arvide said. “Sky and Nathan dropped by at the mission last night. Initially, to discuss Nathan’s wedding with Miss Adelaide this afternoon. After a while, we all decided we might as well economize in time and effort and make it into a double wedding. So, I’m here to tell you that your dinner date at Mindy’s tonight has been canceled.”

“But, Uncle Arvide,” Sarah said breathlessly, “Sky has never mentioned marriage. I mean, he has not proposed yet- I mean, he has not. I mean, why am I the last to know of my own wedding?” Sarah happily said.

“Well, he can propose all he wants, but I’ve given him your hand, so there. I know you’d be thrilled.” Arvide said.

“What a remarkable young man!” General Cartwright exclaimed, hugging Sarah, “Who would have thought the two of you were an item! Congratulations, my dear.”

The two Sisters, too, hugged and kissed Sarah, “Congratulations, dear Sarah. Our prayers and best wishes are with you and your beloved.”

“I didn’t know we’ve been engaged, either,” laughed Sarah, “But I guess two hours is a long enough engagement.”

“Well, then, what preparations shall we make?” asked the General.

“I suppose you could go back to your hotel or wait at the mission, but be sure to be in Times Square, on Broadway in an hour. Brother Nicely and Benny Southstreet will be there to make sure you don’t get crushed by the crowd.” Brother Arvide said, “Meanwhile, I’m taking Sarah straight to city hall right now for her blood test and license with Sky.”

Sarah hugged her uncle and gave him kisses on both cheeks. “Oh, Uncle Arvide, I’m so happy. I am so happy! But why do I feel like you are trying to get rid of me?”

“No, I’m not getting rid of you, child; I’m gaining a nephew!” Brother Arvide laughed.

“That smooth gambler knew all along he’d win this roll,” Sarah complained with a smile. “He didn’t even give me the chance to get into a wedding dress!”

“I must say, Sarah,” General Cartwright cut in. “You’re a sergeant in the Save-A-Soul Army of Christ. Army officers wear their uniforms when they get married.”

“I’ve heard of come-as-you-are parties,” Sarah said beaming, “But I’ve never heard of a come-as-you-are wedding. I guess mine will be the first.”

SATURDAY, 4:30 PM, CITY CLERK’S OFFICE. As soon as Sky saw Sarah and her uncle enter the room, he rushed to greet them. And with the license application form in hand, he approached her, suppressing a mischievous smile.

Sarah pursed her lips remembering where she has seen that smile before.

Yes, of course. It was late Wednesday morning, at the mission. After obtaining word that General Cartwright would stay for the prayer meeting, Sky, with his marker on hand, cornered her with that naughty smile that meant she’d be flying to Havana with him that same afternoon.

She remembered his words like an echo:

“What do you think, Sister Sarah? Don't you honestly believe… that we could get married in less than two hours?” he said, showing her the application form.

“On your knees, Brother Sky,” she replied with a modest giggle.

Sky formally genuflected, took off his pinky ring and said, “Sarah Brown, will you marry me?”

Sarah burst out laughing, “If the ring fits…”

“Would you like to bet on it? Not for money, but for my love and devotion?” he said as he slipped the ring on her finger, then kissed the palm of her hand. “It fits?”

“It fits,” Sarah continued laughing, holding up her hand to admire the ring, “It’s beautiful!”

“See? Never tangle with me when it comes to betting.”

“For a couple getting married after less than a week…” Sarah said.

“At the first sight of your face, I knew that my love has come along. I just didn’t know I’d have to gamble so hard for it, betting my heart, my life, my wallet, and a dozen genuine sinners on this roll. I’m just happy you didn’t give up on me,” replied Sky. “Here, my darling bride, let’s get working on the license.”

Together they filled out the application form. Sky signed it first, then gave it to Sarah for her signature, whispering, “Song of Solomon, 1:15.”

“Save it for tonight, Mr. Masterson, or I’ll be late for my blood test.”

“Okay, then, I’ll wait.” he said. “I’ve had my blood test and passed it with flying colors.” He walked with her to the counter to submit the application. After obtaining the license, Sky took her back to where Brother Arvide was waiting and said, “See you at the wedding.”

TIMES SQUARE, SATURDAY 5:30 PM. Two policemen approached Brother Arvide and Sarah’s taxicab as it reached the back entrance to the closed Walgreens pharmacy. They opened the cab doors, helped Brother Arvide and Sarah out and led them into the building.

“I’ve never seen such a huge crowd before, throngs and throngs of people!” Sarah looked around before entering the building, “It’s like New Year’s Eve. How did these people get to come here?”

“It’s your wedding day, dear child,” replied her Uncle Arvide.

“Damon Runyon announced it in the late edition,” said one of the policemen,” It says, ‘The Sky hits the limit; he’s getting married!’

“With gangsters and gamblers, burlesque and exotic dancers, missionaries and cops out on Times Square tonight, New Yorkers from everywhere came to see if hell would freeze over,” said the other policeman.

“I’m nervous, Uncle Arvide,” Sarah cried, “I’ve never seen such enormous crowds before!”

“Don’t be nervous, child; just be brave and happy.”

The closed storefront was full of people participating in the wedding march. Brother Arvide and Sarah acknowledged each congratulation and so much good wishes. The two brides exchanged well wishes, hugged and kissed each other. Laverne Borg happily handed Adelaide and Sarah identical bouquets of small white roses and lily-of-the-valleys, caught in looping white ribbons.

Soon Sarah took her uncle’s arm and they got in line at the end of the march. At the sound of Frank Loesser’s music, the wedding march dramatically exited the now open front doors that led to an aisle cleared of people, and across to the other side of the street.

A few steps ahead of them, in the arm of Lt. Brannigan, marched Adelaide, her cloud-like wedding gown and short veil fluttering in the breeze; so lovely to look at, even from the back.

Laverne Borg, the maid- of-honor in a pink satin dress, walked ahead of Adelaide, behind two lines of perfectly matched chorus dolls in their beautiful pink and red gowns and flower hats.

Farther ahead were the gambling guys, marching two-by-two, like well-behaved overgrown boy scouts.

Sarah looked straight up front and, with the eyes of a woman in love, saw Sky and Nathan standing side by side in front of the podium, with Nicely and Benny on each side. She has never seen Sky her bridegroom so debonaire, so elegant, so handsome a gambler than ever before!

It’s so beautiful, her wedding! Just beautiful!

First, Nathan stepped forward to receive his bride from Lt. Brannigan.

Then, as they approached the podium, Uncle Arvide released her to Sky, who came smiling, offering his arm.

As she and Sky exchanged vows, Sarah felt a rush go through her body, just waiting till the other couple finished their vows. She wanted not just one, but both of Sky’s arms to hold her and to feel that at last she has come home, safe and sound.

IT WAS 6 O’CLOCK PM, SATURDAY when Brother Arvide proclaimed them men and wives. Suddenly the huge, huge throngs of people around them roared like an ocean.

Sky took Sarah into his arms and whispered, “May I kiss you now, Mrs. Masterson?”


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