Vampires, the New Endangered Species

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Chapter 10 Changes

As the rest of summer went on, with the weather being spectacularly wonderful with less rain than average and more flowers in bloom, Emily felt as if she was in heaven. Every day was spent at the shop helping out Mort and Marcus in any way possible, which was great for her because she got a lot of things done in the shop so she now knew every nook, cranny and spine in the place. Marcus also taught her how he ordered, researched what was popular and verified what new books would be coming out soon. She also had her hand in creating the newest window display. Being shy and non-artistic was a challenge for her, but she found the deep crevice of artistry that her dad’s genes bestowed upon her and felt the window was wonderful. Since there were so many flowers all over town she took on that theme and copied book covers and folded them into flowers then wrapped plastic pots in copies of dust jackets that were all brown, then made stems from green jackets. Everything was made from book covers or bookmarks. As a contrast though, she had a big, blue, metal watering can hanging from the ceiling that showered glittery ribbon upon the flowers below. Marcus and Mort loved it and bequeathed her with the new task of the window from that point forward. She even took a picture of it to send her dad so he would know that there was a part of his talents still in his children.

When the fall clouds started rolling in at the beginning of September, things started to go from wonderful to worrisome. Mort was getting sick more often, but he just blamed it on the changing seasons. The wedding plans were looming in Marcus and Emily’s minds but they didn’t want to make any due to how Mort was doing. Marcus was getting beside himself with worry and was constantly on-line and the phone doing research on procedures, medicines and specialists. Mary was now by Mort’s side 100% of the time and was sleeping in his room with him without any hesitation, or embarrassment. Emily even stayed there every night in the spare room so Marcus could be there at all times.

Then at the end of September it got dreadful. Mort was now bed-ridden and not able to eat very much. Marcus had been taking him to the hospital as much as possible to get exams and X-Rays, then spent hours studying them and speaking with doctors on what could be done. One day Mary went to the store to get some things so Emily was sitting in a chair next to the bed reading a new mystery novel out loud to Mort. Marcus came in with his pills, a glass of water and a syringe tucked into his vest pocket. After Mort swallowed the pills with difficulty Marcus took the syringe out of pocket and sat on the bed.

Before he put it up to Mort’s arm, the old man placed a feeble hand on his arm that held the syringe, “Okay Uncle Marc, that’s enough of that now.”

Marcus was dumbfounded, “What do you mean?”

Mort just blinked, “I know what’s contained in that syringe. I know… what medicine it is.” Mort paused to catch his breath even though he was speaking slowly and softly. “I figured it out years ago actually. And it is time to stop. I’m a very old man that has had a very happy and fulfilling life. I’m not the only family you have now.” He looked over to Emily and the ring on her finger and smiled again. “Emily and her family are yours now. And I know you will end up getting a family of your own soon as well.”

“No I won’t Morty, you know that’s not possible for me.” He didn’t even try to deny his nephews knowledge of the medicine, he was caught and he knew it. But this last comment shocked him.

“I know it because the two of you have already discovered something that people for centuries didn’t think was possible. So I know that the two of you will figure out that other riddle as well.” He looked at Emily again and saw her shaking her head in disagreement but she said nothing. Her eyes were welling up with tears and she moved over to the other side of the bed and gently sat down and took Mort’s hand into hers. She felt so warm to him, and his uncle’s arm which his other hand rested upon was so cold. He looked at both hands silently and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again he saw the anguish in Marcus’ eyes, then the tears silently streaming down Emily’s cheeks. “Please don’t cry little one, I’m in no pain and I am quite content. You know, many cultures, over many centuries looked forward to passing. It was a way to continue on in life through death.” Again Mort took another time to pause to catch his breath and looked at his young uncle, “Uncle Marc, you have been the best thing in my life, for all that you are and for all that you’ve done. You didn’t have to stay here, for any of us, but you did, and I am so thankful that we both defied my father and became so close. It’s just so sad that he never took the chance to love you as much as I, my grandpa, and your bother did. I know my time is near and I know how hard it is for both of you, and that makes me happy knowing that I am so loved. But just because this old, worn-out body isn’t here for you to feed and clean up after anymore doesn’t mean that you have to stop loving me. And know that no matter where I go, I will never stop loving either of you.” Now the tears rolled down his face and he let them fall, if Marcus had any tears they would be rolling with the rest tumbling onto the comforter. Mort slowly took Emily’s hand and Marcus’ and put them together and held them both in his hands for a long time and didn’t say anymore.

After a bit the kitchen door opened and Mary had come back with some food. Mort opened his eyes and smiled, this was the other love of his life, when she came into his bedroom and saw the heartbreaking looks on everyone’s faces she quickly crossed the room and pulled the chair over to the bed so she could sit right there.

Mort moved his right hand and grasped hers then said suddenly looking at Marcus, “I have a great idea. Now I know the two of you want to have a nice, big, fancy wedding, and I want you to have that also; but would it be selfish of me to ask if you could marry sooner so I could see it?”

“I will get a Justice here tomorrow Mort, we can be married in this very room,” Marcus looked over to Emily who was enthusiastically nodding her head yes.

“Of course Mort, we’ll do that for you, we would do anything for you,” she had to stop because the lump in her throat was suddenly too much to swallow.

He smiled hugely, “Thank you, thanks so much. Now if I can have one last request? I am dreadfully tired and would like to sleep now for bit if that’s alright?”

Emily and Mary smiled, and Mary answered, “Yes dear, you can.” Emily and Marcus got up and Mary went with them just to go to the kitchen to get a cold glass of water to keep by the bed.

The very next morning there was a Justice of the Peace there to marry Marcus and Emily by ten o’clock. Emily had on a simple white dress and Mary had the flower shop deliver a bouquet with white and purple roses to the shop by eight. Mary had gotten Mort into a nice black coat with Marcus’ help and they propped him up in the bed so he could sit up for the service. They kept the service extremely short so Mort wouldn’t get worn out. Emily said her ‘I do’s’ with tears in her eyes, she was happy and so sad at the same time. Mary cried the entire time as she held Mort’s hand. After the fifteen minute sweet ceremony they all signed the papers and Marcus was so proud to have Mort’s name on the marriage certificate. Mort was also so pleased to have seen his uncle finally get married; he silently thought to himself that now his life was complete.

After the Justice of the Peace left, Marcus ordered food from Mickey then zipped out to pick it up. They all ate in Mort’s room and had champagne, the mood was very happy and cheerful. Mort made jokes and was quite lively and chipper. He gobbled up the lasagna that Marcus brought home and had only one piece of bread instead of his usual three. By one o’clock Mort was getting sleepy again so Mary cleaned up the room and closed the door so he could nap without being disturbed. Emily curled up on the couch to read while Mary skittered off home for a moment to check her mail and call her daughter. Marcus crept into the living room after a couple of minutes and stood there staring at Emily but looking at nothing. When she lifted her head she looked at him and knew he was lost in space.

Quietly she told him to sit down and he lay down on the couch and rested his head in her lap. She put her book down and gently stroked his hair as he closed his eyes. It amazed her that he wasn’t exhausted, he had to be mentally if not physically. After a while she picked her book up again but kept her hand either on his shoulder or his head to comfort him. Even though today was their technical wedding day it sure didn’t feel like it. Emily was so grateful that Mort was there with them and she was happy with the ceremony, it was short but so sweet and simple, under the circumstances, it was perfect. She knew that she had to call her mom and let her know and send her the few pictures that Mary took, but she figured it could wait until tomorrow.

The long day ended and everyone crawled into bed exhausted, well at least Emily and Mary were completely beat. Marcus checked on Mort again for the hundredth time that night then finally crept into bed beside Emily. Every little sound made him sit upright with a start, but as soon as he heard Mort breathe he slowly leaned back and tried to be still for Emily. The night seemed like eternity to Marcus, every night had been dreadful for him over the last several weeks, he was so on edge and so apprehensive he couldn’t focus on anything else but his dying nephew.

When the sun came up he was out of bed and dressed in two seconds and waited outside the bedroom until Mary finally emerged in her robe to get her tea. She and Emily had some tea and biscuits while Marcus tended to Mort. Emily needed to go to her house to water her plants and call her mother and report in. She had been calling her daughter or Marcus every other day to check on Mort to see how he was doing, she fell in love with him and was worried as well about him.

Emily silently opened the bedroom door and found Marcus in his usual spot on the side of the bed holding Mort’s hand. Mort slowly turned his pale thin face to her and Emily tried to give him the biggest smile she could muster. She let them know that she was running home real quick but would be back very soon. As Emily leaned in to give Mort a kiss on the cheek he whispered into her ear, “Good bye little girl, thank you for everything. I love you like a daughter and thank you for being one to me.”

Emily had to try her hardest not to start sobbing; she swallowed hard and gave him a little hug, “I love you too, thank you for making me a part of your family. I’ll be back soon.” She squeezed Marcus’ shoulder and kissed him on the head then went out. When she saw Mary who was still in the kitchen, she said, “I’ll be right back, call me if you need anything.”

Mary answered quietly without looking up from her tea, “Sure thing dear.”

Emily briskly walked to her flat and watered her plants as she dialed her mom. It was insanely early there but this was her only time to call and tell her what was going on without Marcus or Mary hearing her. Groggily she answered, “Emily? How is Mort?”

“Hey mom, he’s not doing too well. He actually had a request that we felt bound to honor, he wanted to see Marcus and I get married, so we had the Justice of the Peace come over yesterday and marry us with only Mort and Mary there. Marcus was honored to have Mort sign the certificate, but of course we will have the big to-do over the holidays there with the family.” Hearing her mother start to cry Emily asked, “Mom are you alright? Are you mad that we got married…”

She cut her daughter off, “Oh goodness no I’m not mad, it’s just so sad that Mort is so close… so close to the end. I am so happy that he saw you two wed, that was more important to him than anything else in the world. I can only image the relationship he and Marcus have. How’s Marcus holding up?”

“Not too good either. He’s barely speaking, he moves as if he’s in slow motion, he stares off into space all the time. It’s breaking my heart to see him like this, but what can I do?”

“Nothing Sweetpea, just be there for him, that’s it.”

They paused in their talk so Naomi could get herself together and blow her nose and Emily just sat down at her little, dusty kitchen table. She started to tell her mom that she was going to e-mail her the pictures that Mary took when her phone beeped, “Mom, hold on a sec, I have a call coming in.” Emily hit the button and said “Hello?” There was a gasping sound on the other end then she heard Marcus, “Em, Em I need you here…” he stopped speaking because nothing would come out.

“Oh God Marcus I’ll be there in two seconds!” She clicked the phone again, “Mom I got’ta go!” She didn’t even wait for her mother to respond, she just hung the phone up and raced out the door. As she was sprinting down the street she cursed herself, of course she had to leave for thirty minutes and of course Murphy’s Law was against her.

Flinging the alley door open she took the stairs two at a time and burst into the living room to see Mary just sobbing uncontrollably on the couch and Marcus nowhere to be seen. Emily dashed up the stairs like a bolt of lightning to find Marcus sitting on the bed leaning over Mort’s body that was covered with a sheet. Emily suddenly couldn’t see anymore for the tears that were pouring from her eyes. She went to Marcus and he instantly turned around and grabbed hold of her waist and started to sob so hard that his entire body shook with the convulsions.

After holding him for a while, she realized that she had to call the doctor and start making the arrangements, she also needed to check on Mary. Slowly she released her hold and told him that she was going to see how Mary was doing; he just nodded his head that was bowed so low that his chin was on his chest. Mary was sitting at the kitchen table with the phone in one hand and a tissue in the other. She was talking to her daughter telling her the news, half way through her sentence she started crying again so Emily took the phone from her and spoke to Elizabeth.

She and Emily made the plans of who to call and what to do, it was up to the two of them to handle this since neither Marcus nor Mary could do anything at the moment. Elizabeth said she would call everyone after they decided that the funeral would be in three days time at the Montgomery Funeral home and of course he would be laid to rest in the Fitzgerald mausoleum. After they hung up Emily called the doctor and the funeral home to make the service arrangements, then called the cemetery to make sure everything would be cleaned and ready in the family mausoleum that hadn’t been visited in many, many years.

By the time she was finished on the phone her ear was sore and her heart was so heavy that she just put her head on the table and cried silently. Mort had become like a grandfather to her and she felt as though she had lost part of herself. When a hand touched her shoulder she jumped and turned to see Marcus standing there next to her, he looked like a lost little boy so she instantly stood up and he wrapped himself around her and held her so close and so tight. They stood there for a while and when Mary came into the kitchen they let each other go.

Ever so quietly Mary said to them, “I have packed my things that I had in there and Lizzy is coming by to pick me up.” Nothing more would come out and she started to cry again, instantly Marcus went to her and hugged her, she sobbed into his chest for a while and he just held her lovingly.

When he found his voice he said, “Mary, the amount of gratitude I have towards you cannot be expressed in words. You gave him a life that he needed and I swear you made all the difference in making him healthier and happier. For you, I am forever grateful.” This made her cry even more and he gently patted her back until she caught her breath again. When the doorbell rang Emily went down the stairs that were never used, to the front door that was located by the garage doors. Elizabeth was there and instantly hugged Emily then followed her up the stairs.

When they entered into the kitchen Mary had already gotten her composure to greet her daughter. Granted that didn’t last very long because as soon as the daughter embraced her mother, Mary started to cry all over again. Elizabeth let her go and picked up the small bag that was there with her mother’s things. She hugged Marcus then thanked him and gave him her condolences again, then caressed Emily’s arm and headed out the door to help her mother down the stairs. As soon as they were gone there was a knock at the door and the doctor peeked his head in. Marcus let him in then took him into Mort’s room. Emily just stayed on the couch and let Marcus take care of this part.

Within minutes the bell rang again and Emily knew it was the stretcher to take Mort away to the funeral home. She went down and let the men in. Emily silently wondered how they were going to get the already bulky stretcher up and down the stairs with more weight added on to it, but then when she saw the huge muscular men she realized that most homes were like this one and they had to be equipped to maneuver up and down stairs all the time. Leading them up their second set of stairs, she noticed they carefully didn’t hit one corner nor banister and they courteously waited outside of the bedroom door until they were called in.

Emily went in and the doctor was there recording the time from his watch onto a form on his clipboard and Marcus was standing off to the side just looking at the covered up figure on the bed. Going to his side he quickly took her little hand into his but he didn’t shift his gaze at all. When the doctor spoke Marcus had to clear his head and ask the doctor to repeat himself. Kindly he told them, “I’m assuming the arrangements have been made with Montgomery’s already?”

Marcus just stared at him blankly and so Emily spoke up, “Yes they have been, there are two men waiting in the hall now actually.”

“Good. And I’m so very sorry for your loss, is there anything I can do for the two of you?”

Marcus just shook his head and Emily let go of his hand to shake the doctors, “No thank you.” She turned to Marcus, “Honey, come down with us, please.” She didn’t want him to see the men picking up Mort and putting him on the stretcher at all.

Shockingly he just moved slowly towards her and obeyed, she thought he was going to stay right there. Before he went out the door though he turned around and put his hand on Mort’s that was under the sheet, and so very quietly he said so no one would hear, “I love you Morty and I will miss you dearly.”

Marcus signed the doctors papers like a robot, Emily didn’t think he even knew what he was signing. The men had to walk past the open dining room door and out of the doorway by the kitchen to leave, so Emily had Marcus sit at the head of the table so he couldn’t see out the doorway. When the door closed his head snapped up and his mouth opened but he slowly closed it again without saying a word. The doctor left once his job was done, gave his condolences again and quietly slipped out the door. Now that they were alone the house was so quiet and so still, it was eerie. Emily didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to say, so she just sat there at the table holding Marcus’ hands.

After a while she slowly let go of his hand and got up, he didn’t move, his eyelids didn’t even blink so she quietly slipped out to make a few more phone calls. First she called Julia to let her know what had happened and to have a friend’s shoulder to cry on. Julia instantly said that she would drop everything and come right over but Emily said it was fine, there was no need for that. Julia insisted that she do something to help and as Emily spoke more she realized that there was no way the reception could be done at the house, it was too small.

Julia piped up, “That settles it, I will call The Hall and we’ll have the wake there. I’ll take care of the caterers and such, what’s the name of the ones that Marcus used for the graduation party?”

“Suzie’s I think.”

“I think so too, I’ll call them today and everything will be set for two o’clock on Saturday then after the funeral. Emily, I am so, so sorry, I know how much you loved him. Please give Marcus my condolences.”

“I will,” Emily could barely speak because she was starting to cry again, “Julia, thanks for being such an awesome friend, I really appreciate the help.”

She made a scoffing noise, “That’s what I’m here for babe, call me at anytime, day or night okay. I’ll have my cell in my pocket at all times. Okay?”

In a response she whispered, “Yeah. Thanks again.”

The next call she made was to the ladies at the library, they all knew and loved Mort and she wanted them there at the service. Sadly all of the invites had to be done over the phone since there wasn’t enough time to print and mail out an announcement.

Harri was saddened, she expected the call from Emily to be bragging about her summer trip some more, not this horrible news. Promising that they would all be there she offered to call more people that Mort knew over the years and Emily was thankful for the help and told her to get with Elizabeth as to how she could help. Now that she didn’t have to make calls about the wake she finally called her mom. She knew they would be on the phone for a while so she waited and called her last. The phone was answered before the first ring was even complete, her mother answered, “Emily?”

“Hey mom.”

“Oh honey, I’m so, so sorry, he was such a wonderful man and like a grandfather to you,” Naomi was starting to cry and this made Emily just start balling all over again. Luckily she was down in the shop that was dark and locked up, she didn’t want to disturb Marcus even though he could probably hear her down here anyway. Emily told her of the situation and when the funeral was going to be.

“Do you want us there with you Sweetpea? I can make the arrangements right away?” She really wanted to be there for her daughter in her time of need, she didn’t even know why she had asked, she should just make the flight arrangements.

“No mom, it’s fine. I know how hard it is for dad to get off work. Just… just whatever you want to do. It’s fine.” Emily was still very distraught, of course she wanted her family there with her, but she knew how expensive, and how hard, it “No mom it’s fine. I know how hard it is for dad and Steve to get off of work. Just… just do whatever you want to do. It’s fine,” Emily was distraught. Of course she wanted her family there with her, but she knew how expensive, and hard, it was for her dad and brother to get off work. “Listen I need to get back to Marcus, he’s been staring into space for the last hour or so.”

“Of course dear. But before you go, all of us knowing what I now know, Mort was the last of his family right?” When Emily just made a grunt for a response she continued, “How many centuries has he had to watch his family pass before him?” She didn’t think she would get an answer so when Emily replied she had to cover her mouth for the shock of it.

“Mort’s great grandfather was Marcus’ brother mom. He’s had too many years of dealing with this. I really do need to get to him. Thanks and I love you.”

Barely able to speak she answered, “I love you too baby.” When the phone was back into the cradle Naomi burst out crying. The pain that she instantly felt for Marcus for having to watch his entire family die around him was daunting to her. George came flying into the kitchen to see his wife doubled over with a streaked face and wet apron.

He pulled her up to her feet and he held on to her and let her soak his shirt. He knew what the call was about and he knew that she really liked Mort and was sad for his wife and daughter.

George gently lifted her up and he thought to himself how she was as light and tiny as the day he first met her. Setting her down gently on the couch he put the throw over her and sat on the floor next to her holding her hand. Steve came in and looked at his mom and was instantly by her side. George looked at his son, “Mort died this morning.”

Steve sat back on his heels, “Oh man, that really sucks, he was a cool old guy. How’s Em and Marcus doing?”

Naomi spoke, “Not good, I want us to go to the funeral this Saturday, can you guys…”

George spoke before she could finish, “Steve, call Mr. Adams and tell him that there’s been a death in the family and we’ll be out for the rest of this week and back on Thursday. Then get on line and get us three tickets on the first flight out of here but make sure that we’re in London no later than first thing Saturday morning.”

He looked down at his wife who was crying again and kissing his hand, “You’re the best husband ever, thank you.”

When Emily went back up to the house above the shop, she saw Marcus standing in front of a cold fireplace and she whispered to him, “Hey hon.”

Slowly his head turned, “Hey.” He held his arm out for her and she was by his side instantly and wrapped her arms around him. “Thank you for taking care of everything. Sorry I just sort of shut everything out.”

Shaking her head, “No need to be sorry for anything. I totally understand your reaction.” She paused but knew that he had to know that everything was taken care of, “The service will be this Saturday morning, and the wake will be at The Hall at two in the afternoon.”

“Thanks. It’s way too small to have here, I’m sure there will be a bunch of people, everyone loved Mort.” He lifted his head and looked around the room, “Can we leave and stay at your place for a bit? I’m having a hard time in here right now.”

“Of course, of course. Stay here, let me get a few things and we can head over.” Emily went to his room and packed a bag with his toiletries and some clothes for a few days. She also tossed in his cell phone and then put his laptop into his computer bag. She didn’t think he would want anything else, but of he did she could easily come over and get it. Going out into the living room she now collected him and she drove his car to her house while he sat staring out of the car window. This was the first time she had ever driven his car, and she noted that it was a great car. There was a spot in front of her flat and she parallel parked it without a problem and grabbed his bag from the backseat. He was out waiting for her to join him before they headed inside.

Before they opened the door to the stairwell that led to the flats above, the flower shop door flung open and Maria came out, “Oh Marcus I am so, so sorry!” She quickly hugged him and he returned it with a thank you, then she went and hugged Emily. “We’ve been getting a ton of calls already. Mary called us first thing so we knew what was happening.” Giving her another hug and Marcus’ arm a squeeze, she went back into the flower shop that was bustling with activity. Emily noticed that all the women were in there at once instead of the usual two person staff they normally had. She didn’t think the small place could hold all eight women at once.

Once inside her flat Marcus went and just lay on her bed and curled up into a little ball. She wanted to lie with him but sadly her stomach had different plans. She knew there wasn’t really anything in there to eat but found a loaf of bread in the freezer and made a PB&J on toast. Going to the grocery store was going to have to happen before dinner she knew, even though she hated to leave Marcus for one second.

After she ate she went into her room and curled up next to him, he asked her to roll over so he could hold her and when she did he pulled her closer into his body and engulfed her small frame inside of his. He started to cry again and she just held his hands and kissed them in an attempt to comfort him.

The phone started ringing and it jarred Emily, she wasn’t aware that she had even fallen asleep, the darkness outside startled her as she stumbled into her kitchen through the darkness. As she answered the phone she flipped on a light; it was her mother letting her know that her, her dad and Steve will be there Saturday morning and their plane landed at nine so they will be there by ten. They made reservations for the same B & B where they stayed before and would be there until the following Wednesday morning.

Emily was overjoyed to hear that, she really needed her mother now and let her know that Marcus would be happy as well to have them here. After ending the call there was no way that she was going to go to the store and decided to order some pizza to be delivered. She just got a small cheese with spinach and artichokes, her favorite, and a bottle of soda so there was something to drink besides water. A trip to the store would have to wait until morning now. Quietly she went into her room and got her purse and looked over to Marcus, he was now laying on his back looking at her. She crossed the tiny room and sat on the edge of her bed, “How ya’ doing?”

He just shrugged his shoulders, “So your family’s coming? That’s nice of them.”

Emily smiled, “No, not my family, our family. You’re permanently attached to me now remember?” And she held up her hand and wagged the finger with the ring on it.

Surprisingly that brought a smile to his face, “Yeah,” was all that he said. That gleam of joy couldn’t trump the heavy sadness in his heart though.

She leaned down and kissed him, “Do you want me to stay in here with you, or do want me to turn on the television?” She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she couldn’t lie there anymore, she was wide awake and needed to do something.

“No, I’m fine. If you don’t mind I would like to just lie here for a bit? But you do something, I know how hard it is for you to sit still for too long,” he feebly smiled at her and took her hand and kissed it.”

Returning his smile she got up and went out into the living room, she closed her bedroom door mostly but left it open a crack. The pizza was there before she decided what she could do. As she started to open her wallet the boy told her that it was on the house and wouldn’t even accept a tip from her. She stammered a thank you out and when he reached the top of his stairs he turned back around and looked at her, “Sorry for your loss ma’am.” Then he headed down and out the door.

Shock struck her, then a profound sense of kindness this town had, as well as the speed in which everyone found everything out and how everyone knew everyone else; but mostly, that everyone really did know and love Mort.

One piece of pizza was suffice since she couldn’t get any more into her stomach, she always ate less when she was sad. The soda gave her a jolt of caffeine and she decided to clean her house, it had gotten so dusty in the time that she hadn’t been here. She put her earphones into her iPod so she wouldn’t have to turn the radio on and bother Marcus, then she set to dusting every nook and cranny of the kitchen and living room. Her desk was cleared of all of her school things and she put a few things on it, now that it wouldn’t be immersed in papers. The candles and picture frames were nice, she chose the picture that was taken at Thanksgiving of the four of them. It was hard to see Mort’s smiling face, but she liked having him there, she just hoped Marcus wouldn’t mind. When she was done in there she really wanted to clean her room but didn’t want to disturb the resting man on her bed. She turned around from the kitchen sink and was startled to see Marcus standing there looking at her, it made her jump back with a start.

“Sorry Doll, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Pulling the earphones out of their place she smiled, “That’s fine, I didn’t hear you get up. Can I do anything for you?” She felt like she needed to offer him a cup of tea or something eat, then she thought about that, “Marcus, when was the last time you fed?”

He got a puzzled look on his face at her question then it seemed to sink in, “Oh, uh, I don’t know?”

“Didn’t think so, it’s been almost three weeks or longer. How long should you go?”

Giving her his usual answer he shrugged his shoulders and sat at the kitchen table, “Doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does matter. If not tonight then I want you to get something before Saturday okay? You’ve had too much stress and you’re going to get weak and I don’t want that. If I could bring something to you I would, but I might look funny rolling a deer with a dolly up the stairs.” She tried to be humorous to lighten his spirits a little and was gratified with a slight smirk from him.

“Yeah, you’d look pretty silly.” He gave a heavy sigh, “I just don’t have the motivation to do anything right now.” His hands were folded on the table and he shoved his chair back and rested his chin upon his hands and looked at the tabletop.

She left him to his silence and started to clean and scrub her bedroom and bathroom. As the grime came away in the tub she heard him turn the TV on and she smiled to herself, at least he’s taking his mind off of things. Once that was done and her teeny flat was spotless she put the cleaning supplies away and put her arms around his neck as she leaned over the back of the couch, “I’m going to take a shower, do you want to join me?”

“No, I’m fine, thanks,” he gazed at the screen without moving.

“Alright honey,” she said and kissed his head then went into her bathroom to try and wash away the horrible day.

The next two days before the funeral were daunting and tiring for Emily. Not only was Marcus in a fog and barely speaking for the entire time, she was on the phone a ton with Julia and Mary and her daughter making the arrangements. The flower shop called the day after to say that the funeral home was already overflowing and asked where they could deliver the rest of the flowers. Emily told them at The Hall then she quickly called the director over there to see if that was alright and fortunately it was since they had no other parties happening. Then her final task, that had been troubling her deeply, she finally had to face.

When Marcus was staring at the screen that had the news flickering by she sat next to him and quietly said that she had to talk to him for a moment. He turned his stare towards her and just blinked. She wasn’t sure how to ask so she just came right out with it, “Someone needs to write and say the eulogy for Mort.”

His eyes blinked rapidly for a second while her sentence registered in his brain then he seemed to snap out of the fog, “Oh yeah, the eulogy. I should probably be the one to do that huh?” Emily just nodded her head but stayed silent so he could continue. He eventually did, “I don’t think I can Em. I’ve never got up in front of a crowd and spoken before, and I surely couldn’t do it now.” His head hung low for a moment, and then it slowly rose, “If I write it, could you say it?”

Emily didn’t want to do it either, but who else would if Marcus wouldn’t, “Uh, sure I guess so.” She didn’t mean to sound so apprehensive but that’s what she felt.

“I guess that’s a lot to ask of you, but I really cannot do it. I’ve always had a hard time with people looking at me and now that I’m… well that I’m like this… I surely can’t”

“I understand completely, I’ll do it. Just please don’t make it too long.”

“Sure thing. Thanks.” He looked back at the TV and nothing else was said between the two of them.

Saturday arrived and when Emily was busy getting dressed, trying to eat and also making sure Marcus was moving when her phone rang, absentmindedly she picked it up and her mother’s voice startled her slightly, “Wow is it that time already? Do you want to come over here or we can head over there?”

“It doesn’t matter. Why don’t you just come over here when you’re ready, that way your father can relax a little and we can put our stuff away.” Naomi was exhausted and really wanted to sit for a bit and not walk the block to her daughter’s flat.

“Sure mom, we’ll head on over in a little bit then. And thanks for coming out, we really appreciate it.”

Marcus was finished getting dressed, he looked very nice in his black slacks, blazer and tie. He had a pale yellow button up shirt on and the color surprised Emily. When he saw the look on her face he said, “Mort loved this color.” That was all she needed to hear and she gave him a smile.

The only thing she had to do was to finish her hair and put her shoes on. She wore a simple black skirt with a dark blue silk blouse that she had. They really were dressed early, but the services started at 11:30 at the funeral home, then the burial service was at 12:30 and with the mass that the priest was going to say it would be an hour or so long.

Once she was ready they hopped into the car and were at the B & B by a quarter to eleven. Emily gently tapped on her mom and dad’s suite and her dad opened the door a few seconds later. He gave her the biggest hug then shook Marcus’ hand and hugged him as well when he got into the door. Naomi came into the room and held onto Marcus for a long time then let go and hugged Emily in the same manner. George offered them some coffee or water but both refused it and sat down on the couch.

George felt awkward at funerals and the like, so he kept the conversation light and congratulated them on the wedding and asked if that was all or if they were still going to do something for the entire family. Emily said they would be in the States around the holidays sometime but didn’t say much more since there wasn’t much more to tell.

Naomi gasped at the beautiful ring now that she was able to see it in person and complemented Marcus on his impeccable taste. Steve showed up a few minutes later dressed and ready to go. He was so happy to be back and able to see Julia again, even under the gloomy circumstances. He called her the moment he got their tickets and she was ecstatic to see him again so soon even if was under such a heartrending situation.

They eventually piled into the car and Marcus drove to the funeral home where he has sadly been to a few times before. When his brother and Mort Sr., were buried here there was only the one cemetery and the service was held there at the family mausoleum.

They eventually piled into the car and Marcus drove to the funeral parlor where he had sadly been to a few times before. When his brother and Mort Sr. were buried there was only the cemetery and the service was held there at mausoleum. Once they got inside the funeral parlor Emily was shocked to see all the arrangements crammed in every corner and along every square inch of wall. She found the owner and thanked him for his help and she asked if he could take the cards off of the arrangements once the service was done so she could get a list of people to send thank you notices to. To her relief he told her that they wrote that down as the arrangements came in, but she could have the cards as well if she wished to see what they wrote on them. She thought that was very thoughtful and thanked him again. Marcus was waiting for her so he could hold her hand when they went into the room where the coffin was. She had it open and just now asked Marcus if that was alright or if he wanted them to close it before he got in there. He said it was

Marcus was waiting for her so he could hold her hand when they went into the room where the coffin was. She had it open and just now asked Marcus if that was alright or if he wanted them to close it before he got in there. He said it was fine then took a deep breath before they walked into the huge room.

There were about fifteen rows of nice wooden fold up chairs that spanned the entire length of the room creating ten rows across with an aisle in the center and enough room still to have two aisles on either side. Marcus and Emily were the first ones to walk up to see Mort and Emily thought he looked very nice, just like he was sleeping. She was terrified that he would look awful lying there, but he didn’t at all.

Marcus slowly reached his hand out and rested it for a second on top of Mort’s hands that were folded over his stomach. The suit he was in was wonderful and she thought that Mary must have bought it and delivered it here because she Marcus slowly reached out his hand and rested for a second on top of Mort’s hands that were folded over his stomach. The suit that he was in was wonderful and she though that Mary must have delivered it here because she didn’t even think about it. A yellow rose was also placed inside of his lapel, his favorite color. To Emily’s astonishment Marcus took a small book from his pocket and tucked it under Mort’s hand. Emily couldn’t see the title of it but didn’t want to ask Marcus what it was but he must have known what she was thinking, he whispered to her, “It’s poetry from Edgar Allan Poe. Mort wanted it for so many years and after searching for it I finally found a copy about twenty years ago, it was printed in 1815 and Mort cherished it like the child he never had.” Emily’s first thought was how sweet that was, then the book nerd kicked in and she thought about how much money that must be worth.

They turned around and sat down in the front row on the far left so others that were starting to come in could pay their respects. Naturally the next people in line were her mom and dad and Steve, they then sat next to her. Emily didn’t realize it but when she turned around there was already a line of people in the room. One by one people came up and said something in a whisper, touched his hand or just simply looked in and moved on. The ones that knew Marcus came over and shook his hand and gave their condolences. When Mary walked in with her daughter Emily stood up and greeted her before she got to Mort. Mary was wearing a black dress with a veil that came off of her box hat about two inches, not enough for a wife to wear, but enough for a woman of her age and stature to be appropriate. She held a deep blue cotton kerchief in her hand and hugged Emily very hard, they both said their sorrows and gave thanks to one another for the assistance with the daunting tasks that were needed to make all of this happen. After Mary said her quiet words to the man she loved like a husband, she sat next to Emily’s family, she embraced Naomi and was introduced to George.

After an hour or so Marcus got up and quietly slipped away to the room that was off to the side, he couldn’t handle the people, scents and noises any longer, he was on sensory overload. Julia came in and Steve almost jumped over the row of chairs and Marcus had to suppress a laugh as he saw the look on the young man’s face from across the room. He looked over at Julia, who was very stunning and she was dressed very simply in a black pencil skirt and black cashmere sweater that had short sleeves. He did smile though when he looked down to her shoes, she was wearing three inch stilettos’, but that was Julia he thought to himself.

Marcus loomed in the background until it was time to go to the cemetery, this was the part that he was dreading very much. Watching the casket slide into its hole and hearing the thud of the marble slab slide into place always haunted him. He mustered up his courage and walked back in to be by Emily’s side and they headed out to his car. He had to wait until the hearse drove out first, then his car was the first one in the procession for the two block drive. The funeral was long but he was happy that it was inside since the sun was out in full force today. Most of the gatherers had to stand in the sun but no one minded it since it was still in the fifties and the weather was perfect, just the way Morty liked it he thought.

At two everyone got back into their cars to head to the reception. When they walked in Marcus and Emily gasped, Julia had done such a wonderful job. Emily hated to admit it to herself but she was leery about Julia taking on the task, she knew her flare for extravagance and was concerned if the room was going to be gaudy. But in reality the room was perfect. The curtains on the stage were pulled closed and there was an 10x15 picture of Mort on an easel surrounded by more flowers that people had sent.

The tablecloths were black with a smaller white one on top and each table had a yellow rose with baby’s breath in a bud vase. The buffet table was draped in black and white as well and there was every item of food that was Mort’s favorite: lasagna, garlic bread, sushi, salads, chili, spicy chicken wings and a ton of fruit. The bar was open as well and there was the usual wine and beer there, as well as Glen Vedic, the only hard booze that Mort would drink. Julia had to have called around to get the menu, Marcus finally found her after he made a sweep of the room and embraced her, he would have cried if he could of as he thanked her for being so thoughtful.

Julia slightly blushed, one for feeling this man’s body next to hers and the dirty thoughts that helplessly flashed through her mind, but also that she did well and he was happy with what she had accomplished in two days time.

Marcus and Emily sat at a table that was close to the stage, since there would be no dancing the dance floor was covered with a huge piece of carpet to match the rest of the room and tables were placed on top of it. There was soft music playing for background noise though, Julia had thought of everything Emily thought. She then turned around to get a closer look at the picture of Mort and she had to ask Marcus when it was taken. He too looked around and this was the first time in weeks that she had seen a broad smile on his face. “Wow, I wonder how she got that picture, probably from Mary. That was taken of him when he was fifty or so in Greece. We went on holiday there and I took that while we were on the beach. He was snockered out of his mind and we had more fun watching the people go by. That was the best holiday ever, well besides the one that we just took of course.” He took her hand into his and looked at the ring on her finger, “My wife. I still cannot believe you are finally my wife.” He looked up at her and she thought she could see tears in his eyes but she knew they must have been in hers and not his.

She held his hand tightly, she was happy as well, but the way he said ‘finally’ was peculiar to her, they hadn’t officially been together a year even, but she kept her thoughts to herself and decided to bring it up at another time.

People kept pouring in and stopping by their table, Emily didn’t bother to get any food; one, she wasn’t hungry and two, she didn’t want to be eating and Marcus not, she thought that might draw too much attention that he didn’t eat. By three o’clock Emily said that it was probably time to do the eulogy, the funeral home was too small and there wasn’t enough space there for her to do it properly she felt. She held out her hand for the paper that Marcus surely had written but he just took her hand and kissed it then stood up. If she wasn’t sitting she would have fallen over, he was going to do it himself she thought.

Sure enough, Marcus went up onto the stage, took the microphone off the pedestal, then went back down onto the floor. He decided that it was his place to say it and not be a chicken and make Emily speak, but there was no way that he was about to stand on the stage. He was tall enough for everyone see him. To get everyone’s attention he gently tapped on the microphone and a hush was instantaneous in the large room. He was going to write something and actually started to but then never finished it. Marcus looked over to the picture on the stage and decided that he would be impromptu about it.

After clearing his throat he then began. “First I want to thank everyone for their kindness, consideration, love, support and thoughtfulness. Mort was very well loved by this town that our family has been a part of for so many years. I really don’t have anything planned to say, but I guess that would fit because Mort wasn’t much for big to-do’s, granted he loved to be fussed over but kept his modesty about it.” Several people laughed and Marcus recognized them as people that knew Mort very well.

He continued, “The picture that’s up on the stage took me by surprise, that was taken of Mort when he was on vacation in Greece, I think he told me when he was about fifty or so. Part of our family is from Greece so that was a place that he loved to go as much as possible. I think that photo represents everything that he was about,” he turned to look at the photo again then said, “Well actually it would be more accurate if a woman and a stack of old books were in there along side of him, but its close enough.” He waited for the laughter to die down, “Mort loved life and loved to live it to the fullest, I feel that him battling the cancer for as long as he did shows us all that we can control our future and our lives, and to not let little things control us. I will miss him so very much, more than I can express since he was the last of my family left. But without him, I wouldn’t have had the chance to now start my own family.” He paused for a moment then continued, “Most of you know that Emily Cook and I have been seeing each other for some time, and one of Mort’s last wishes was to see Emily and I married. We wed on Tuesday in his and Mary’s presence, and having him bear witness was more special to me than anything, he helped to give me life and has guaranteed that I will continue to live it.” He had to swallow the lump that was about to choke him, “And lastly, I want to thank Mary, you were the love of his life. Not only did you bring more life into his final year, you made us so happy with your love and compassion, thank you for also coming into my family. Thank you everyone, now please eat and drink and be merry, Mort loved a good party.”

There was a slight applause and Marcus was shocked, did people normally do that at a Eulogy? But he was happy that he did it himself and was able to make people laugh, Mort wasn’t really keen on seriousness anyway. He put the microphone back into its stand then returned to his table. Before he could sit though Mary was there sobbing quietly and gave him such a fierce hug he thought she would break him. He just held her until she decided to let go, then he sat down and put his arm around Emily. She kissed his cheek, “I’m proud of you.”

For the rest of the afternoon the “I’m Sorry” turned into “Congratulations on your marriage”, and Emily had to hold out her hand to show the ring more times than she could count. Her mother and father and brother, when he could be pointed out, were introduced to everyone and George hated the attention. He ended up sliding next to Marcus so they could try and hide together in misery. They both got a laugh out of themselves when they were standing in the furthest corner away from everyone and as soon as they were spotted by anyone they both groaned in unison.

By the time five o’clock rolled around everyone had eaten almost all the food and drank all the liquor and started to head home. Marcus was done and wanted to leave before the last of the stragglers left, so they told Steve the four of them were heading out, but of course he was going to go over to Julia’s. So the two couples got into Marcus’ car and they went to the B & B. George laughed on their way there about how Steve was with Julia, “She’s one hot tamale that’s for sure.” Naomi jabbed him in the ribs but had to laugh because she agreed with her husband. Marcus and Emily were tired so they didn’t go in; her parents were just fine with that since they were overly exhausted from the flight out and all of the emotions from the day.

Marcus wanted to stop by his house so he could gather the mail and take out any food that was there to stock Emily’s fridge, there was no need to go out and buy any more since his kitchen was full. Emily was apprehensive about going back there, Marcus’ mood was good and she was worried that would all change. And she was right. As soon as they entered the kitchen and she started loading up bags of the food, Marcus became very solemn and just sat in the living room looking around.

When Emily finished the task she went out into the living room and sat on the edge of the couch. Marcus’ face became twisted, “I cannot believe that I had to do this again. Had to bury the last person in my family. Do you know that I had to When Emily finished her task; she went out into the living room and sat on the edge of the couch. Marcus’ face became twisted, “I cannot believe that I had to do this again. Had to bury the last person in my family. Do you know that I had to chisel my own name off of the marble slab at the cemetery? It was put there when Alex’s was, I was supposed to die before my great, great nephew, not bury him, his father, and his father.” The more Marcus spoke the harsher his voice became. He suddenly looked over to Emily, “Do you see why I cannot ever change you? I cannot bear the thought of you having to go through this as well, it’s a living hell to watch everyone around you die while sitting there helpless and unable to stop it.” He stood up suddenly and put his hands firmly on the mantel.

Meekly she said, “I understand. So then you’re alright with watching me die eventually?”

He spun around with his mouth open but he didn’t know what to say. He was angry at her for saying that but then his mind flipped, no he wasn’t alright with that. He furrowed his brow then walked over to her and knelt down at her feet, “Emily, I am not okay with that either. Do you see the horrid position that I am in? I cannot leave you, I cannot let you die and I also cannot make you into what I am. I’m sorry but I really don’t know what to do.” He looked around the room again then back to her, “I need you to help me here Em. I’m going to ask you to do something for me and I really, really need you to do it.”

“Of course, anything,” she didn’t even hesitate with her response.

“I need to go away from here for a little bit,” he stopped when he saw the dread come to her face as she frowned, but finished quickly, “I would never leave you, never! But I cannot be in this house right now. I need you to change everything for me. Change the furniture, change the bookshelves, have the windows show again in here to let the light in, make this OUR home, for us. Then I want you to change the shop. Do whatever you want to it, anything, I don’t care what. But I need to move on now with my life and I cannot do it with everything being the same as it has been for so many years. I want to start my life over with you and I want it all to look like you want it. Take no mind to the costs of things, even though I know you will be as frugal as possible, but do whatever it takes. “

She was so sad but she understood, “But where will you go? How long will you be away? Can I still talk to you?”

He kissed her hands, “It won’t be long, but as soon as it is all done I will come home, so make the changes as quickly as you can for me please. And of course I will talk to you all the time. As to where I will go, I don’t know. Probably to the villa for a bit, but I’ll let you know. Please don’t be sad Doll,” her tears were too much for him, “Please don’t cry anymore, it breaks my heart to see you so sad. Especially now that I know I have a real heart.” That made her smile a little and he wiped the tears off her cheeks.

Nodding her head she finally spoke, “I’ll do it, I’ll make this our home. What do you want me to do with all of the things in here though, I’m not throwing stuff away that you might want.”

“Whatever you don’t donate, which will be all of this horrid furniture, just put into storage and one day I’ll sort through it.”

“Okay. I… I just hate the thought of you being away from me.”

“Then make the changes fast my sweet and I will be home with you before the first speck of dust falls.”

“When will you leave, please not right now.” That she couldn’t bear, she had to be with him at least for one more night.

Her pleading eyes let him know what she wanted, “I’ll leave in the morning so we can have tonight to ourselves.” He kissed her mouth tenderly, “Come let’s go back to your flat, you must be hungry, you haven’t eaten since breakfast early this morning.” He took her hand and as they were going through the kitchen, they both grabbed the three bags of food, then headed to her flat.

They spent the night in each other’s arms and embraces. When Emily woke up he was still there but was already dressed and ready to leave. He sat with her while she had her tea then he had to go to catch his plane. Before he left he gave her his iPhone, “I’ll buy myself a new one but then this way we can talk, text and send e-mails to each other all the time. When I get to Rome I’ll give you my new number.” It was time for him to go and she tearfully said bye and gave him one more loving kiss then he was out the door.

Emily sat on her couch and wiped her tears, she felt foolish knowing that he would be back as soon as possible. At that thought she jumped up and grabbed her phone. She called Mary right away and asked her the decorator’s name that had helped with her graduation party. She asked her for her help after she told her about Marcus’ request. Mary enthusiastically said she would help and would call Russell in the morning to set up a time on Monday for him to meet them at the house. Emily then called her mom, as she was making the idle chit-chat she saw that Marcus had left a note on her dresser addressed to her parents, Emily paused mid sentence and she heard her mother say her name for the third time, “I’m sorry mom, what did you say?”

“I asked what’s wrong, you got all quiet suddenly.”

“Actually can I come right over?”

“Of course, your dad’s up and dressed, I’ll let them know that we’ll have one more for breakfast, oh actually you can have Steve’s since he hasn’t made it back yet.”

Emily chuckled, “Wonderful, sounds great, I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Emily hung up the phone threw on some jeans and a T-shirt and sneakers then headed out the door with the note in her back pocket. The shock hit her when she realized that Marcus left his car here for her, she wondered then how he left, in a cab or on foot? She decided to walk instead of drive, it was a nice day again today and she needed to clear her head a little.

Her mother was surprised when she opened the door and saw only Emily there and not Marcus as well, “Where’s your hubby?”

Emily smiled at the word, “Well, he had to leave for a little bit. But he left this note for you both, read it then I’ll tell you what’s going on. Don’t get that look mom, it’s just fine, here,” Emily handed her mom the letter and sat on the couch and called George in there to read it with her. Emily stood behind them and read it over their shoulders.

“Dear Naomi and George,

Thank you for being here for Emily and me during this time of need, I really appreciate your love and kindness. I also thank you for making me feel so welcome in your family. I want to apologize for leaving while you are still here but I am having a very difficult time being in my own home that was once Mort’s. I have given Emily the task to change it all and to make it our home so we can start our life together. Once I return then we will make the plans for us going to Alaska for our wedding and to spend the holidays with you. If you will allow it, I would love to be there for Thanksgiving, have the wedding at the beginning of December, then stay until after the New Year.

I hope you understand my selfishness for leaving, but as my feelings stand now I cannot be a very gracious host to either of you. (Luckily Julia has taken on the task of vibrant hostess for Steve!) But thank you again for coming all this way, I know Emily needs you more than ever. Enjoy your stay here and I will see you both again very soon.

Love, Marcus”

Naomi started to cry once she was done and George just rolled his eyes but handed her a tissue from the end table. She finally spoke, “Well I’m sorry that he had to leave but I completely understand,” she looked over to her husband and he nodded in agreement, “The poor boy must be beside himself with grief, he really has no family left Em?”

“Not a one, Mort was it. Mort didn’t ever marry and have kids, and he was an only child as was his father. There might be some distant cousins still in Greece from his moth… his great, great, great grandmother’s side of the family, but he has no idea for sure.” At her blunder her mom looked over to her and winked, she knew that it was really Marcus’ grandmother that was from Greece. Emily continued, “But that’s the story, so I’m meeting with that decorator from the party, Russell, tomorrow and we’re get to get going as soon as possible and finish it as fast as possible so he can come home.”

“Of course I can help out while I’m here, right George?” Naomi turned to her husband and he just nodded his head thinking that shopping and decorating was exactly what he wanted to do for the next three days.

Emily smiled knowing her dad was cringing internally, “Dad, you really don’t have to do it, we’ll make sure Steve appears and he can take to you around town and do the things that you want to do.” He gave her a ‘like what?’ face and lifted his hands, “Dad, we have a great sports bar here, there’s a driving range and shooting range just outside of town that isn’t far. And we actually have a movie theater with seven screens. The town isn’t that desolate.” She gave him a wink and he smiled and replied, “Sure thing hon, whatever.”

“Oh, that reminds me, I have a new cell number, it’s Marcus’ number. He’ll give me his new number as soon as he gets a new one.”“Oh that reminds me, I have a new cell phone number, I’ll write it down for you,” Emily took a pad of paper from the little desk tucked into the corner of the living room area and wrote her number down. “As soon as Marcus call

Just then Steve knocked and opened the door, “Hey guys.”

His mother was not very happy with his disappearing act again, “You know Stephen, you can actually be here a little more to support your sister and not be doing the dirty with your new little miss.

“Mom! That was uncalled for!” he protested, “Julia is a great woman and we get along great. But if it makes you happy I’ll stay with dad the next few days so the two of you can go tromping around the shops. Happy?”

“I don’t appreciate your tone young man. And yes, you will be here with your father because Emily and I are going to be looking for new furniture and such because she is moving in with Marcus and is going to refurnish his house to make it their new home. And if you keep up that snide attitude I’ll make you pick out colors of paint and fabric!”

He knew not to push his mother when she used that tone of voice, “Yes ma’am. So… have you eaten yet, I’m famished.”

Emily patted him on the shoulder, “Come on, let’s all go and eat, then mom and I can get cracking on the furniture.” All of them headed out and went to the breakfast area in the quaint little house. The food was wonderful and there was no extra charge for Emily joining them.

For the rest of that day and the following three days Emily, her mom, Mary and Russell, (who was the most flamboyant gay man Naomi had ever met), went through catalogs, paint swatches and fabric choices. When Emily told Russell that everything needed to be packed up, except Marcus’ room, which was the only room that was to be left completely untouched, and she wanted to take out the bookshelves to reveal the windows behind them; he almost fainted.

“He covered up the windows? Heaven to Betsy why?” Emily educated him on how sunlight and books don’t mesh well and since there were books in every crack of the house, the windows were covered up.

Emily drove her family to the airport on Wednesday morning, then headed back to her flat to start packing up her things. Russell let her know that the house could be done in less than a month since he could hire a ton of workers to make it all go faster.

Emily had gotten a text from Marcus on Monday stating that he was in Rome, gave her his new phone number and also told her to go to the bank to sign papers for her to be added his accounts. Now on Wednesday as Emily was packing her books she looked at the clock and realized that she was to be at the bank in three minutes, she completely lost track of the time. Quickly she washed her hands and face then threw her hair up into a ponytail and dashed out the door. She drove the car to the bank that was on the other side of town and apologized profusely for being late to the banker that was to help her.

“Now Mrs. Fitzgerald there are several accounts that we will be adding you to, and I don’t mean to sound rude to you, but you might be shocked at the balances, they are quite a bit higher than your balance that you carry here.” The older woman was very nice and Emily wasn’t at all surprised that her account was probably less than what Marcus carried in his wallet.

She replied sweetly, “Mrs. Macomb I have a good feeling that there are some commas in there, but thank you.”

Quickly and professionally she continued, “So there are two checking accounts, one for personal use and one for the shop. Then there are two savings accounts, both are interest bearing. Marcus usually, you don’t mind if I use first names do you?” When Emily shook her head she continued, “Marcus keeps more money in the low-interest account and that has been used for frequent purchases, the other high interest rate account is as a buffer, for emergencies, if you will. Now there are also three CD’s, an IRA and a final escrow account that has what Mort had liquidated from the safety deposit box and what was bequeathed to Marcus from his grandfather. Mort opened this one several months ago and once the will has been read the funds will flow into that account, then you can transfer the funds anywhere you wish.”

Mrs. Macomb then proceeded to place the papers in front of her and told her the account types, the balances and where Emily should sign to add her name to all of them. One after the other Emily tried to keep a poker face but the amounts where astonishing to her. The low-interest bearing checking account that was used for purchases had over five million pounds in it. The personal savings account had three times as much. Even the shops’ business account had two commas in the balance. Once everything was signed Emily asked, “So, I’m going to be redecorating the house and the shop, which account do I use?”

After Mrs. Macomb thought for a moment she answered, “Well I would transfer the funds from the low interest personal savings into the checking account so you can pay as you go along. As to the business, there is a good amount in the checking account now, but you can always sweep the funds over from the interest savings account. I doubt you would put too much of a dent into the bottom line on any of the accounts.”

Emily thanked her again when she was done with the signings and the transfers, and after getting her picture taken for the new debit card. As she got into the car she had to stop and breathe, Marcus, and now her, were worth over eighty million pounds; no wonder Marcus told her to not worry about the cost of things. She didn’t even want to think about the cash that might be in the house, she knew that Marcus kept some there somewhere but she hadn’t a clue as to where. Emily drove to the house to check on the progress of the work and was going to inform Russell that there might be little stashes of cash around and to make sure that his crew were honest and didn’t try to take it. She would pay them well enough as it was so they didn’t need to have sticky fingers.

When she entered the noisy house she had to blink a few times to adjust to the light in there. Russell had moved all of the bookcases out as well as all of the furniture and now it was a bare house as they prepped the walls. There were two huge windows in the living room, they were situated right above the door to the shop. She then went into the dining room and low and behold, there was another window in there on the same wall where the huge buffet table and cabinet sat. Going into the office that was on the same floor she saw that sure enough, another wall had a huge window that overlooked Fifth Street where the garage door was. Moving up the staircase that had already been polished to a marvelous cherry oak shine, the light was brighter up here as well. There had always been a circular stained glass window half way up the stairwell but it was dirty and not very bright, now Emily could see that it was a beautiful flower pattern with birds fluttering above.

Mort’s old room had a bay window and Emily told them to make a nice cushion on the seat so she could sit there and read, and the bathroom was updated with a new shower and jet tub. Marcus’ room was untouched like she requested and the guest room was also stripped clean and the window that looked over the side street was also visible now that the huge curtain-wall was removed. Searching on the third floor Emily finally found Russell in the closet of the spare room, he was taking measurements to see if he could cut the walk in closet in half and put a small bath in there.

Emily went in and quietly told him about the cash situation and he laughed, “Oh sweetheart we found envelops of it already from the first day! My men are good and they gave it all to me, I put it in the closet of Marcus’ room since no one will be going in there. And I must say, there is probably enough in there to pay us from that.”

Leaving him to finish his task she then went to find the envelope, sure enough, it was stuffed with so many Banknotes that her eyes bulged out. There were mostly £50 and £20 notes but Emily could see a few 5’s and 10’s as well. Deciding it would be better to take it home to count she folded the envelope and tucked it under her arm. She headed back to where Russell was and confirmed the colors for the house and he told her that the painting would start next week after the cleaning and repairs to the walls were made. She asked when he thought the house would be ready to move back into and he told her at the rate they were going it should only be about two more weeks.

Emily was overjoyed with the news. Thanking him and leaving, she looked at her watch and noticed that it was already past eleven; so as she left she called the pizza parlor and ordered eight large pepperoni and two plain pies for the guys’ as well three bottles of soda and a case of water for them to be delivered. Before she got into the car she sat and thought about the shop, the plans had only loosely ran through her mind and deciding that now that the house was underway she should focus on the bookstore.

Emily got her keys out and went in through the front door, it was so dark and gloomy in there since it had been shut up for a couple of weeks. Not wanting to attract any attention she only turned on the back lights so she could look around. Taking down all of the books was a daunting task and she thought the shelves were fine where they were. But a new coat of paint could surely be needed, and a new counter was desperately in need as well. As she walked up to the front she thought of the tea shop that Marcus and Alex had started so many years ago; now it was in almost every chain bookstore back in the States and would be readily received. She found a piece of paper behind the counter and sat down in Mort’s stool and drew the front of the shop how it looked now, then she drew what it would be like if there were a little barista cart in the corner where the loveseat now sat.

Once her crude artwork was done she turned her head this way and that then got up and walked over to the spot and started to nod her head, to the air she said, “I think this would work fabulously!” Then she walked towards the back to the window seats and took stock of what was there.

She flipped the piece of paper over then jotted down notes of what was needed: a coffee stand, new seat cushions for the windows, the old couch reupholstered since it was still in great condition, she just wanted a new look for it, the paint and some pictures on the walls. Thinking of the pictures she went into Marcus’ office and went to the stack of pictures that were leaning against the back wall. Spreading them around the room she saw that there were some great paintings in the cache. Her eyes also kept roaming over to the one of Amelia, she debated whether or not she should put it in storage or hang it. Putting it to the side for now she took out five paintings that were all in hues of yellows, blues and reds. One even looked like a Rembrandt but she couldn’t see the name at the bottom. The frames were horribly outdated and she decided to take them and get them cleaned up and put into new frames.

After putting the pictures into the car she headed back to the stairwell to the house above and ran into the pizza guy, perfect timing she thought to herself and paid him in some of the cash she had in her pockets. He followed her up the stairs and as soon as the workers smelt the food there was a whooping sound of fifteen hungry men.

Emily made her way through the throng of big men and found Russell heading down the stairs. She told him of what she wanted to do in the shop downstairs and he said that he could get started on it as soon as she picked out her paint colors. On her way out she took the paint book and fabric book that were in the dining room, then she went to drop the paintings off at the art store that also renovated and cleaned artwork of all sorts. The man was excited to have such wonderful pieces to re-do and he told her they would be ready to pick up in about ten days or so but he would call her when they were done. As she drove back to her flat she realized that she was hungry now and stopped off to get a sandwich to-go at the sub shop near her house.

After inhaling her lunch she decided to give Marcus a call. When he didn’t answer she sent a text. She was frustrated at how long it took her to write three flippin’ sentences. Wonderment washed over her when she thought how kids could send paragraphs in seconds without even watching their fingers! Emily typed that he could come home in two weeks and the house would be done and the shop as well. Adding also that she missed him terribly and loved him even more, she signed it simply, “Doll”.

Deciding on a lovely pale yellow for the walls of the shop, after flipping for what seemed like hours, she called Mary for her advice on the fabric. She didn’t know if she should have all the same or two different fabrics. Finally they both decided that a nice blue and yellow stripe for the couch then a solid blue with red accents on the seat cushions would be nice and neutral. Emily called Russell and told him the fabric to order and that he could head down at anytime and take the couch, and to see if the present cushions were worth recovering, or if they should just get new ones.

After she hung up Emily took a huge breath, she had been going all day long and now it was already late in the afternoon. Glancing into her living room her eye caught the envelope that she brought back from the house. How the hell could that have gotten forgotten she didn’t know and she instantly sprang up to count it.

Separating the currency into their respective piles to make it easier to count, the finished stacks there flabbergasted her eyes. It took her a while to count and when she was done she had to re add the numbers of each pile again that she jotted down; sure enough, there was £285, 670. Russell was right, that should be enough to cover the costs of the changes without having to take much out of the bank. Of course she would ask Marcus if she should pay with this or what he wanted to do, granted she could already hear his answer, “Whatever you think…”. Then the thought crossed her mind if there was a safe there in the house, there had to be one. God only knows what’s in there, she thought to herself.

Emily put all of the money back into the envelope then hid it in a shoe box in the back of her closet. Not that she needed to, but it made her feel better anyway. Deciding that she was done for the day she started a bath and got herself a glass of wine. Just as she slipped into the tub her phone rang, “Of course!” she said, and then got out to get her phone.

As she thought, it was Marcus and she answered enthusiastically, “Hey babe, I was just taking a bath.”

He purred into the phone, “Thanks for a wonderful mental picture! I got your text, the house will be done that soon?”

As she climbed back into the hot tub she said, “Yep, all of the furniture is out and they will start painting in a few days, it looks great in there with all of the windows exposed. And I have a surprise for you in the shop as well.”

“Super, I cannot wait to see it,” he suddenly got quiet then.

Emily waited for him to say more and when he didn’t she asked, “Are you alright, how are you doing?”

He sighed, “I’m fine. I was actually at the villa for a bit and now I’m in Greece. I took a chance to look up some of my mother’s side of the family. Sadly there aren’t very many descendants around here. I found in some old genealogy records that almost an entire generation went to fight in World War I and sadly didn’t make it. I guess we’ve always been lovers and not fighters. Then there were mostly women born and with the name changes I couldn’t keep track. I only found two old women and one is senile and the other is bed ridden with a friend taking care of her, no family at all.”

Emily was saddened to hear the depression in his voice, “Oh I’m so sorry sweetheart.” She didn’t really know what else to say, no words could cheer up that sort of news.

Sensing that he was being a killjoy he changed his tone, “But anyways, I don’t want to spoil your great news with my depressing story. I really think that having our home to come back to will really help. And your family being there for us and actually your mom knowing the truth has really helped me out a lot. It will be easier to be around her and be able to be myself more. You and your family really are amazing. Speaking of which, how are Steve and Julia doing?”

Emily laughed at that, “Oh God, it’s so funny, I had lunch with her the other day and she talks about him all the time. She is so head-over-heels for him. He is trying to get her to come out there but she’s afraid to go out alone. I told her that since she’s going to be my Maid of Honor then she will be out there in November. Of course she went ecstatic over that as well and started to help me make some plans for the ceremony. But we will set all that after you come home.”

As Marcus sat on the beach watching the waves slowly come in he smiled thinking of Emily and the wedding, “I cannot wait Doll.”

They talked for about an hour then when Emily needed to get dressed and get to bed they ended their call. It was great to hear his voice especially since he sounded so much better to her than when he left. This was the first time that they talked for that long. When he first left he really only sent her e-mails to tell her that he was fine, then he called a couple of times but the conversations were always too quick. As Emily crawled into bed she laid there thinking that she needed to make it all come together faster than two weeks, she needed her man back as soon as possible.

Emily was waiting impatiently at the gate of the airport waiting for Marcus to disembark the plane. Of course he was the last one off, which she thought was odd since he was most likely in first class but as soon as she saw his wonderful head above the others she felt like a kid seeing Santa Clause, she couldn’t contain her excitement. As soon as everyone was out of the way she dashed to him and jumped into his arms. He quickly scooped her up and embraced her as if it had been years since he saw her. They didn’t have to go to baggage claim since he didn’t have any bags so they headed straight for the car. Naturally he took the driver’s side and as soon as they were both in they kissed each other passionately. Once they were on their way Marcus kept trying to get out of Emily what the house looked like but she wouldn’t answer, it was a surprise was all she told him. He guessed it was his turn now for the barrage of surprises. He did feel so much better, leaving was the best thing for him even though it was hard to be away from Emily for so long. They pulled into the garage and that looked the same as always. Emily darted up the stairs first and once at the top she told him to close his eyes, he obeyed and as soon as she opened the door he noticed that it smelled completely different. Not only was there the very faint smell of fresh paint, but it also smelled clean and fresh. There was vanilla and a sweet scent in the air also. After another second he realized it was Emily’s favorite, Sweetpea.

Excitedly Emily said, “Okay, open them.”

They were in the kitchen and Marcus was amazed when he flicked his lids up, he didn’t think she would change the kitchen but he was so happy that she had, it looked like her mother’s kitchen now. Emily remembered how much he loved it so she did this one similar. There were the green and white tiled checks on the floor, the cabinets were all in oak with green marble counter tops. The appliances were all new stainless steel and the window was even new, she had a bay window put in there and had fresh herbs growing in colorful little pots. Even the dinette table was new; it was a green and blue tiled bistro table in black wrought iron with matching seat cushions.

“Wow Em, this is great, it looks so much bigger in here! I can’t wait to see the rest!” Marcus was so happy to be home, now he felt like it was his home, their home. He noticed how right she was about the brightness in there, the sun being out helped also, so now the house was glowing. The dining room was painted in a pale peach color and the window had a simple white sheer curtain. The dining room table was the tall kind and in a deep mahogany that looked almost black. It sat eight and there was also a matching buffet table under the window. She had eloquently put colored vases on top of it so the light shone through them and created a pretty pattern of the colors onto the floor. Now looking down he noticed that the carpet was gone and the floor was wood with a beautiful Persian rug under the table. He looked at her smiled with raised eyebrows.

“Did you know there were wood floors under the carpet?”

“Really? I had no idea. That’s why they look so good, they’ve been protected all these years.”

They went out into the living room and he gasped at the transformation in there. Not only were the two windows exposed, but the fireplace had been cleaned and she replaced the broken tiles that decorated the front of it. A new mantel piece was put into place and it was the same dark cherry to match the stairs. The couch and loveseat were overstuffed tan leather and Marcus was overjoyed to see that the couch was long enough for him to lie down and not have his feet hang off. Mort’s chair was gone and instead she had two fireside chairs in burgundy and tan stripes in their respective places. The tables were all cherry oak, to match the legs on the chairs, as well as a small bookshelf under the window that created a bench to sit upon. There were three large pillows covered in burgundy with tiny beige flowers to tie everything together.

Marcus was speechless. When he turned around he had to look again at the door that lead down to the shop, it was barely noticeable, the frame was removed and it was painted the same as the walls which were now a creamy white. There was a screen that made the transition from living room to hallway that made the room feel more comfortable. He went down the hall and was amazed at the office space. The windows there were trimmed with a deep blue valance and wooden blinds. All three walls were lined with mahogany bookshelves and on one wall the desk was nestled in the middle of the shelves. Tucked into the books here and there were photos in colorful frames, vases and various knick knacks. It looked so rich and inviting in here.

Next on the tour was the half bath that was next to the office, Emily made it so bright and inviting with red walls and a white ceiling. The accents were all white and a touch of black with the wrought iron towel hook and toilet paper holder. The laundry room that sat at the end of the hall was pretty much the same except the walls were repainted and Emily put in a stackable washer and dryer to save room then added a folding table and new cabinets to hold the soap and such. She shoved him into the room suddenly and he thought he was going to get lucky in the laundry room, but she shut the door and showed him the ironing board that was attached to the back of the door.

As they went up stairs Marcus smiled at the round window, “I bought that for Alex for an anniversary present, it looks like it did the day I got it.” He ran his hand over the banister, it felt so smooth and soft to him. Another gasp escaped his lips when he saw the master bedroom, now his and Emily’s room. The window seat had a new cushion in hunter’s green with white stripes which matched the white curtains with green pinstripes. The bed was a California king, which would be long enough for his legs to not be touching the footboard, which along with the headboard, was a dark cherry oak. Of course the end tables matched as well as the bookshelf that was on the wall of the door. Once Marcus was inside he realized that the door was set into the middle of the shelves as though you walked into the shelves themselves. The room was so classy in the green and white with yellow accents.

The bathroom was breathtaking with two stainless steel sinks which were nestled in a stressed white cabinet with black knobs; the room held black and red accents in the towels and soap and lotion dispensers. The tub was big enough for both of them and there was the dual shower heads so they both could shower and not have to share the water. He peeked into the walk in closet and found all of his clothes as well as hers in there with a dressing table at the end for her. It was so feminine it shocked him, she wasn’t the frilly type but there was a pink satin draped stool and both lamps were the old fashioned Tiffany’s style with the shades in ceramic with pink and purple flowers painted on them.

Marcus and Emily moved on to his room, which was closed so when he opened it he saw that it was just as he left it, only it had been cleaned. Looking at her he said, “Why did you leave this room?”

“Well I didn’t know what you wanted to do with it, and really it’s all of your stuff, this room is already all yours. But you can do with it what you want.” After he kissed her they moved on to the last room, the guest room. He chortled and guessed the bed was the first thing to go and was probably burnt. Emily laughed and said that everything was donated, except one thing, she then pointed to a chair that was in the corner. Marcus looked and realized that it was Mort’s chair, but re-done in a simple chocolate brown with yellow pinstripes. The entire room was bright even though the coverings and curtains were all in a dark brown. There was a nice dark fir tallboy in there for guests to put their clothes in, the end tables were simple but had little bookcases for bases. Emily shocked the crud out of him when she opened the closet door, it was now a bathroom with tiny shower, (Which Marcus would have a hell of a time standing in), pedestal sink and toilet. The closet door was a slider and was now a simple one rack closet.

“You did a marvelous job Doll, thank you so much for all of your hard work, this is now our home. So what did you do to the shop?” His smile was contagious and his excitement even more so. Emily took his hand and they bounded down to the ground floor.

As she opened the door to his office she told him that she didn’t change that room at all since it was his space and it was already a great work room. Then she opened the door to the shop. He loved the wall color and how the sofa was now here in the back. That made him wonder what was up front then. As they made their way through the shop he loved how she hung up the paintings that had been hidden away for so long. The new counter was marvelous, it was a little smaller than the last one and that created more space up here for a nice set of chairs that were sectioned with a lamp in the corner. Then he turned around, when he saw the little counter to serve coffee and tea he almost fell over. The stand looked so classy with the copper coffee and espresso machine along with the copper accents on the stand itself. In front of the stand Emily had the window cleaned up and installed an oak counter to match the bookshelves so people could sit on the copper legged stools and watch the passersby. There were also two small tables with more stools. The menu was hanging on the wall and was a chalkboard with colorful chalk with the drink choices and prices.

“Wow, this is so amazing,” he turned and took her in his arms, “You are the best wife ever!” He gave her a kiss, “Let’s christen the bed huh?” He picked her up and carried her up the stairs and across the threshold to their home.

While they lay there in the middle of the night they spoke about the wedding and hiring someone for the shop to help Emily out since she would now be there full time. He also told her about the paintings and where he had gotten them. As he spoke something dawned him, “What did you do with the other paintings that were in my office?”

Emily knew exactly which painting he was referring to, “The picture of Amelia is in storage. Mort told me about it a long time ago, the similarity is amazing.” She didn’t know what else to say but she wanted him to know that she knew about the painting.

Stunned speechless he wasn’t sure how to respond, or really what to say so he decided to say nothing at all and just put his arm around her and pulled her closer. After a while he decided to get both of their minds to a neutral topic, “So how much more stuff do you have at your flat?”

“Nothing, it’s all here. I even cleaned the place and turned in my key already. And thanks by the way for taking care of all my bills there, you really shouldn’t have. But I appreciate it,” with the last sentence she kissed him on the ribs where her head lay.

“Don’t mention it Doll, you needed to concentrate on your studies and not about heat and food. But I cannot tell you how happy I am that this is our home and we won’t have to ever spend a night apart again, this is really awesome.” He hugged her tighter with the feeling of never wanting to let her go.

They started to talk about the wedding plans again, mostly about who were to be the groomsmen and bridesmaids. Marcus asked if Steve could be his best man, since he didn’t have anyone else, and Emily thought that would be perfect since Julia was going to be her bridesmaid anyway. They decided to keep it that small, they didn’t want a huge fanfare for just one day. Naturally Marcus didn’t care one bit on what the colors should be or what the cake should look like, he just told her to tell him what to wear and when to be there. Emily wanted to get married in her parent’s back yard and have the reception there since it was to be small, her parent’s house was big enough for all of that. Soon Emily started to drift to sleep thinking of the flowers she wanted in her bouquet, she was sound asleep in seconds, it had been a long and exciting day.

Over the next few weeks Emily called her mom a hundred times and Julia twice as many making the plans and arrangements for the wedding, they decided to get married on December first since it was between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Emily really wanted Marcus to experience a Thanksgiving, and she asked Julia if she wanted to go as well. Julia was all for it and was giddy as a school girl to be able to spend a few weeks with Steve.

One day as the three of them were eating lunch Marcus teased Julia if they needed to plan for a double wedding. When Julia turned white as a sheet Marcus and Emily started laughing hysterically, Julia very quickly told them that was not going to happen any time soon.

Emily was training the new guy to start at the coffee counter when she noticed a little girl come into the shop wearing a butterfly costume. She smiled to herself then snapped her head to look at the calendar hanging behind the counter, it was Halloween already. Shaking her head she was amazed at how quickly the month went by, she was knee deep in hiring people for the shop, having a new grand opening where the entire town was there to see what had been done to the place, and planning for the wedding.

Once the initial training was done for Chris, the college kid that was working towards being a chef, Emily left him to check up on Suzanne, the new employee at the shop. Emily and Suzanne got along splendidly, Suzanne was a stay-at-home mother whose kids just started school up and she was wanting to get back out into the world, but also be able to work around the school schedule. It worked out great because the shop didn’t open until nine, and closed at five, so Emily worked the last two hours of the day. Suzanne also loved that the shop was closed on Sundays, and Emily wanted to work the Saturday shift anyway so she could still keep a hold of everything. Mort had the shop running so fluidly, she kept all the same practices, except for the hours, that was really the only thing she changed.

Marcus was busy as ever restoring old books, ordering the newest best sellers, like he had wanted to do forever, and he also had Emily make a new section for college books. They both decided that it would be great to buy back the old ones at the end of the year and start a ‘used’ section for the following year to help keep the younger generation coming into the shop frequently.

After Emily made sure Suzanne was fine with the stocking of the shelves, she gently tapped on Marcus’ closed office door then opened it slowly. He was hunched over an old book with his nose two inches from the page he was cleaning. Quietly she went over and kissed the back of his neck, he smiled, sighed, then put down the eraser he was holding and spun around in his stool, “Hey there, I have something for you,” he said in a devilish tone.

“You do, for what?” He didn’t answer her but instead pointed over to a bag sitting on the chair behind her. She just grinned then took the bag and sat down. As she started to open it she noticed the scent first, it was her favorite and she took in a nose full before she separated the tissue. As soon as she spied the contents her cheeks turned bright red and she looked over to her husband grinning that sexy and mischievous grin of his.

“Happy anniversary, and happy Halloween. We’ll have two anniversaries next year with the way things worked out, so I figured I would at least celebrate this one this year.”

Emily lifted the sexy black negligee with orange laces tying up the bodice, “Wow, so I take it you want me for your present tonight after trick or treating?”

“After? I want you for trick or treating!” He jumped up and gathered her into his arms, “I love you so very much.”

“I love you too babe. Thanks,” and she kissed him passionately on the lips. “Can you believe that it’s been a year since we first met? It seems like yesterday but then again it seems like we’ve been together for a hundred years!”

“A lot sure has happened in a year huh?”

As they kept their embrace there was a sheepish knock on the partially opened door, Emily let go of Marcus and opened it up all the way to see Chris standing there, “Sorry, I hate to disturb you, but can you help me for a second with the register up here?”

“Oh no bother at all, get me any time you need me,” Emily started out the door and missed the look that Chris gave to Marcus. Marcus caught it right away and thought to himself, ’at least I don’t have to worry about him hitting on Emily!’ Chris skittered to catch up to Emily at the barista stand as she was hitting a few keys on the tiny register he had up there, “It just won’t open, it seems like it’s stuck.”

Emily was digging her key ring out of her pocket to try to unlock it when it suddenly just popped open. The sudden movement and ‘ding’ sound made her and Chris both jump. They both laughed and when Chris covered his mouth effeminately Emily had to refrain from laughing more and thought that now she knew why it took him a moment to get up to the front of the store, he must have been checking Marcus out. Returning her attention back to the little drawer she found the problem, there were some bills paper clipped together and the clip got snagged on the side. She pried it out and made a mental note not to clip the nightly count together.

“Whew, my hero, thanks Emily, that was starting to drive me crazy, I thought I was doing something wrong but it’s not like there are too many buttons on this little thing.”

“No sweat Chris, I hate to say it but you’re my guinea pig up here, I’ve never run a coffee stand or anything on here. So I guess we’ll be learning through the curve together!” Emily gently patted him on the shoulder and let him be as someone came up and ordered a cup of tea. She was very glad that she hired him, not only did he have experience making coffee and such, but he was so good with the customers and quite energetic, he brightened up the shop even more.

As Emily, Marcus and Julia got their seats on the plane, Julia was amazed at how big the seats and space were up in first class. To Emily’s surprise she had only flown a few times, once from Italy, then when she went back once for the holidays while she was still at the university. Emily had just assumed that she was a world traveler. Marcus tried to tune out their gabbing about the clothes they saw through the wedding magazines they brought with them, Emily said they would get their dresses in Alaska, there were all sorts of places they could go to in Anchorage.

Julia and Emily talked practically the entire way and Marcus eventually leaned his chair back and closed his eyes like he was sleeping. He enjoyed hearing the women chat about the wedding as well as everything else under the sun. Julia was a neat lady he thought and was a great friend for Emily. His mind wandered to all the friends he had in his lifetime, then how little he had now, but that was to be expected; vampires weren’t the usual company that people called over for dinner parties. The thought of Mort drifted to him as well and he thought of the sadness of losing him but then flipped his mind to cherish all of the wonderful times they had over the long years. Marcus even asked Mary to come to Alaska with them for the wedding but she politely declined saying, “I saw the first one and that was wonderful for me. Besides, I’ve never been on a plane and there is no way you are getting me on one to fly over that huge ocean, thank you very much.” Marcus really loved Mary, not only for the happiness she brought to Mort, but for the simple fact that she was so honest, sweet, caring and a joy to be around. Granted some days she talked his ear off, but that was alright with him as well.

Once they finally landed and Emily peeled her fingers from the arm rest, much to Julia’s hysterics, they gathered their carry-ons and headed towards the concourse. Just as Emily presumed Steve was waiting anxiously for Julia to disembark and they both rushed into each other’s arms as if they hadn’t seen each other in ten years. Marcus and Emily just chuckled amongst themselves then crossed over to greet Steve. He was the only one that came since it would be a tight ride back with too many people in the car, and everyone was just fine with that. The drive back to the Cook home was cheerful and nice. The sun was still out and there was a snow storm the previous night so everything was covered and looked spectacular with the sun glistening off the snow covered trees. Julia was spellbound by the beauty of it all.

Naomi was waiting outside in the driveway when they pulled up and George emerged from the house shortly after to help with the bags. It was nice that everyone had already met so there was no uncomfortable greetings and introductions, Emily figured there would be enough of that at Thanksgiving when the rest of her family came up. Naomi had dinner waiting for them, chili of course, and everyone tucked in with relish. Emily couldn’t resist kicking Marcus under the table as he ate, she knew it would be hell for him again to have to pretend to eat so much, and for over a month this time.

After dinner they all went to their respective rooms, Julia was going to stay in Steve’s apartment over the garage and Emily and Marcus would be in her old room as before. As they headed up the stairs Emily was laughing with her mom about Julia being up there with Steve but her mother reassured her that Steve had been up there cleaning and rearranging it for the past week. It actually looked like a nice place now she chuckled. Once Emily got out of the shower and Marcus hopped in she put her clothes away then gathered the wedding stuff that she had brought to talk to her mom about.

George was watching a football game when Marcus came down, then Steve and Julia entered shortly after. After the women were competing for sound space George told them to go into the living room so the men could do more constructive things, like hoot and holler at the TV without interruption. After getting a scowling look from his wife, Naomi gathered the magazines, Emily and Julia gathered the wine glasses and the ladies settled into the living room to continue their chatter. Steve looked pained to have Julia leave his presence but didn’t dare vocalize it to his unsympathetic father. Marcus knew about football more this time and quickly fell into tune with the other men even though he was quite bored with the slow moving game. Emily finally came to his rescue an hour later to say that she was exhausted and was heading up to bed, Marcus said his goodnights and followed her up the stairs. Once out of earshot he whispered to her on the stairs, “Oh thank you, I was about to pull my hair out. How can they watch that all the time?”

She just laughed, “And they would say the same thing about you sitting in one place for five hours reading Aristotle my dear.”

It seemed the morning ritual had begun all over again; Marcus was the second one up and he and Naomi had their coffee and tea, and read the paper, then made breakfast for the rest of the family. Naomi let Marcus know that the rest of her kin would be here three days before Thanksgiving and then the cooking and catering would begin. Marcus just laughed and shrugged his shoulders, “Looking forward to it,” was all that he said and Naomi was very content with that. She loved having another pair of hands in the kitchen to help out with the cooking and cleaning.

As she made the bacon it was tempting to bring up things in regards to his life before everyone woke up, but decided to let it rest for a few days, there was going to be plenty of time for her to ask Marcus her plethora of questions.

To her surprise though, as they were preparing the omelets Marcus asked, “So what’s your take on my life, throughout the years?” As her head snapped to the side to look at him, he glanced over at her with this dashing smile and raised eyebrow.

Trying her damndest not to blush, “Oh, well, I actually find it extremely fascinating.” She returned his smile then moved her attention to the cheese she started to grate, “I really think the most questions I have are pertaining to certain historical facts over the years.“ Before she could finish though he started to laugh.

“Why does that not surprise me? You are so Emily’s mother!”

She laughed to herself, “Yeah, I’m another book nerd, what can I say? So anyway, besides that, I was so sad for you at your loss, the fact that you have…” she decided to not go there then continued “…well that you’ve seen so much change over the years, it must be very, um, well darlin, it must be very troubling.”

“Yes, it’s been troubling, sad…” Marcus paused to think for the right word, then continued, “but it’s quite interesting at the same time.” He held out the pan for her to put the cheese and vegetables on the layer of egg so he could flip them. She was quick on the draw and tossed in the right amount. As he worked on the omelet he stated, “You are so great to cook with, thanks. But anyway, as strange as this may be, I’m actually happy that you know the truth. It’s hard to hide certain aspects of myself to people that I end up getting close to.”

”I can understand that. Like, your eating habits. Was it hard for you to go huntin’ last year? Oh, and before I forget, you don’t have to eat that much food dear, now that I know, you can put less on your plate an’ can give Em as much as possible. I don’t want to make you ill, and I hate wastin’ food.”

He chuckled, “Thanks, I appreciate that, it was pretty tough last year to tell the truth. And the hard part about the hunting trip last year was actually trying to save Scruff. I move a lot faster than the average guy, so I tend to lose myself and do things at my own speed, and well, that can put people off if you know what I mean?”

“Yeah I do. Well when it’s just you an’ me, or with Em, be natural, I want you to feel at home here as much as you can, you’re family now an’ you need to be comfortable here.” She put the chopping board to the side then took the fruit out of the fridge and started to cut it up on a clean board as they continued talking, “And for another thing, please don’t feel like you have to do anything that you don’t want to just appease any of us. I know you don’t like football an’ huntin’, so me and Em will cover ya as much as we can. You’ll be here for a while and there’s no need dreading it. Oh and by the way, where are y’all goin’ for your honeymoon?”

Marcus loved how she could ramble on and get several questions and statements out all in one breath, “Well we decided to go to San Francisco, then to Las Vegas and then to see Hoover Dam. We’ll drive from Vegas to the Dam and stop along the way to see… well whatever we can I guess. I’ve never had the chance to see so much of the United States, so I’m going to take it now since we’re over here.”

“Oh you guy’s will love it! It’s so pretty out there, the rocks and the landscape. You really should drive on back up here and see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, those are truly some Wonder’s of the World!” Naomi put the fruit on a platter and put it back in the fridge. Marcus was done with the eggs and Emily’s timing was perfect as always, they could hear Emily’s tiny feet padding down the stairs; Marcus already started to pour her a cup of tea, he obviously heard her before Naomi did.

“Morning, breakfast smells great, I’m hungry!” She kissed Marcus then her mother then took the plate her mother handed her and sat at the little table. “Mom, did you notice anything familiar about the pictures of the house that I sent you?”

She smiled, “I noticed the kitchen looked pretty nice.” Marcus was asking a bunch of questions the last time they were here so Naomi knew that he liked hers, it didn’t surprise her to see that Emily re-made it wonderfully, just on a smaller scale, in their new home. “The house looks great by the way, I can’t believe that it’s the same house, there are so many windows in there.” She sat at the table after refilling her coffee and putting a fresh pot on for the rest of the family as soon as they emerged.

“Mort had them covered up to protect the books that were in there, plus he loved the dark, he said that his movies were better to watch in the dark. Did you see how Emily did the telly?” Marcus loved that part, it was so clever.

“Yeah, she told me about it; that it looks just like a painting over the mantel. How’d ya do it, was that your idea or Russell’s?” Naomi wanted to do that in their house, she hated to look at a television screen.

Emily answered, “Well since the plasma’s are so thin Russell had it set into the wall and was going to leave it like that but I wanted to hide it. So I thought why not put a frame around it then have a retractable canvas to go in front of it. I saw a commercial about the electric awnings on the porch, and that gave me the idea. I called a local artist and asked him to paint something on that size canvas, so he did a watercolor that looks similar to the Van Gogh style that we both like. Since Russell was tearing into the wall to run the cables through for all of the electronic equipment, I had him install a small motor and cylinder so the canvas can roll back into a niche in the wall. There’s a little remote control for it and everything. I love it, TV’s are so ugly to look at.”

Naomi was so proud of her daughter’s cleverness and intelligence, “You should patent that dear, it’s very clever.” She turned as she heard her husband come shuffling into the kitchen, “Mornin’ dear. Sleep well?”

After he kissed his wife, patted Marcus on the shoulder and gave his little girl a kiss on the head he got his coffee, “Yep, like a baby. Do I smell omelets and bacon?” He instantly opened the oven to find his breakfast ready for him, “Oh yeah, I’ve been thinkin’ about these for a year, thanks son.” He pulled down a plate and served himself, “Did you already eat Marcus, there’s not much bacon here?”

Emily’s face was already in a shocked gesture about her dad calling Marcus ‘son’, but now she was even more so when she heard her husband answer yes that he had for she knew for a fact that they just finished making it when she walked down. When she saw the wink that her mother gave her she smiled outwardly, but thinking to herself relieved, thank god my mom knows now, this should be an easier trip. Marcus caught her look and nudged her knee with his under the table and gave her a smile.

Her dad didn’t miss a beat, “Cool, I’ll leave some for Steve, Julia probably won’t eat much huh Em?”

“Psshht! She eats like a cow, don’t let her fool ya, she has the metabolism of a race horse. But she won’t make a pig of herself here so knock your socks off, I’d be surprised if either one of them come out before lunch.”

His look of surprise was funny but he took his daughters advice and took a couple more pieces of the crunchy meat he loved so much. He joined them at the table and the four of them talked about the honeymoon plans. George even suggested they rent a little camper and drive in style. Naomi’s parents loved theirs and took it everywhere they went.

Emily was keen on the idea and Marcus was always game for anything, he had all the time in the world to do whatever he wanted, as he looked over to his new bride he smiled thinking that now he has someone to share his time with. Before the shock of being married fully set in again he smelled and heard something and that snapped his mind back into the present. It took a second but then he realized what it was and whispered over to Emily, “Surprise, you were wrong.”

She gave him a funny look then Julia walked into the kitchen and Emily laughed, “Hey there, I wasn’t expecting to see you up any time soon? Did you sleep well?”

Julia yawned, “Oh yes, it’s so quiet here, and your dog is so cuddly,” Scruff was right at her side and she started to pat his head. “He hasn’t left my side since we met last night.” Sure enough as she crossed the kitchen to pour some coffee he followed her over and back. Naomi got up to offer her seat and insisted that Julia sit down. Julia obeyed and Scruff went under the table. Before he lay down between her feet though he nudged Emily’s knee to say good morning to her, then even touched Marcus with a cold nose on his lowered hand.

“Are ya hungry yet dear? We have breakfast already made?”

Naomi started to open the oven to get her some food but Julia declined, “Thanks but I’ll eat in a little bit. I don’t know how Emily can open her eyes and start shoveling it in.” When she looked over to George she snickered, “Oh I guess I do know now how she can do that.” George just smiled with stuffed cheeks.

As everyone was eating and talking, Naomi went to get dressed to get her day started, she wanted to get a few things rearranged in the living room to accommodate the crowd that was going to be there for the festivities. Marcus also went to get dressed but came back to the kitchen shortly afterwards to find the young ladies talking about going to Anchorage that day to look at dresses and George was cleaning up his dishes to avoid the babble.

Marcus started to help and George asked him, “What are your plans for the day? There’s about three games on today and I’m havin’ a couple of buddies come over to watch, you can surely stay here with the men folk.”

Before Marcus answered Emily piped up, “Sorry dad, but he has to come with us, he’s on wedding duty today.” When Marcus gave her the “oh thank you look” she just winked at him. Marcus turned back around into George’s view and shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes like it was more torture to have to do that instead of his offer.

George just smirked, “And so it begins my boy, so it begins!”

Once George left the kitchen Marcus sat down at the table, “Oh thank you, I was trying to think of something to say.”

Emily patted his hand, “No sweat, I knew you’d rather be with us anyway, we didn’t get a chance to see Anchorage last year, it’s a great city, well town I guess compared to what you both are used to.”

Julia looked confused as she looked from Emily to Marcus. She finally rested her eyes onto the dramatic blue ones, “So you seriously would rather go with us then stay here with the guys?” She already figured that she wouldn’t see Steve much today at all.

Marcus whispered, “I really don’t like football too much, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings, you know what I mean?”

She winked dramatically, “Got it!” then she acted like she zipped her mouth shut. “So, you do need to get fitted for your tux anyway, and then pick out what Steve and George will wear, do you want the cummerbunds?”

Answering quickly since he had actually given it some thought, “I really wanted to do something a little more old fashioned, I wanted to get vests with the fitted jackets, sort of like what they wore in the 1920’s.” He and Emily had talked about the style and they decided on that era, it was still so classy and elegant. She let her mother know as soon as they decided so her mom could look for stuff beforehand.

Julia was impressed, of course not knowing that Marcus had lived through that era and it being one of his favorites, “Oh that will be dashing, what colors have we decided upon then my dears?” As she sipped her coffee she looked from one lovebird to the next.

Marcus shrugged silently and Emily did too a little, “I can’t decide if I want yellow or a cream yet. We’ll see what the dress will look like, then we’ll go from there, how’s that sound?” Marcus just nodded, he didn’t really care that much, he just wanted her to have everything she could imagine for her big day. Julia was happy that it could evolve slightly around her then and that Emily was so easy to do things with.

The women decided to get dressed and Julia said that she would get Steve up for breakfast then. Before she got out to the back door though Emily’s mom flagged her down, “Oh hold on a sec, come here darlin’, I want to show you an’ Em something.”

Julia followed her into the master bedroom and found Emily sitting on her mother’s bed and her dad fussing about getting kicked out of his own room. As soon as he was gone Naomi closed and locked the door. “Now, I saw this last week an’ I had to get it for ya baby. I know ya might not want it but if not then ya can take it back today an’ get something different, I really won’t mind at all.” As the little woman disappeared into her huge walk in closet Emily looked at Julia with the same look of mystery then they both looked back when Naomi emerged holding the most beautiful wedding dress that Emily had ever seen.

“Oh mom it’s prefect, absolutely perfect!” She rushed over and Julia also hopped up to look closer at the dress. Emily held it up in front of her and looked into the full length mirror. The dress was completely in the 20’s style that she wanted and was a pale cream. She laughed, she knew her mother couldn’t get her a white dress, virgin she was definitely not. The dress was silk and had a cowl neckline with pearl buttons going down one loose capped sleeve, the other sleeve was plain silk. As the dress curved into the slim waist there was a tiny row of while silk roses that curved from under the left breast, crossed over in front of the dress then curved back to the right bottom hem. The bottom part of the dress flared out a little just below the knee and had a flowing bottom with a small train. She held the dress out in front of her to look at the back, and it was a scoop back that exposed her entire back and there was the same rose trim around the opening of the dress going from the shoulder’s to form a “U” shape. “Mom, it’s… wow, thank you, there’s no way this is getting returned!”

Julia was in awe, “Try it on now, make sure it fits and if not then we can take it to get altered today. Naomi it is magnificent! What will do you about a veil? Oh and shoes, we’ll have to find the perfect shoes for it too!”

Emily was ecstatic to have Julia there with her, she was a fashionista and would help her to look great, “We’ll have to get some today. What kind of veils did they have in the 20’s?” She looked to her mother, the walking resource desk.

“Well they were more of a cap or headband style with the veil going down the back. The shoes would have been very pointy and either with the band across the top, or even a flower at the toe. I got this at a cute little shop on the corner of 12th and Maple, they just opened up a month or so ago. But go in there and see what they have, they have all sorts of clothes like this.”

“Why don’t you come with us mom, it’ll just be the three of us, we’re saving Marcus from a day of football.”

“Oh that’s fine thanks. I wanted to get a bunch of stuff done around the house, you guys go an’ have a good time, just be back by six for dinner, I’m makin’ manicotti tonight.”

Emily then skittered into the walk in to get dressed. After a few minutes the women gasped when Emily emerged from the closet with the perfectly fitting gown on. She would need two inch heels though to pull off the length without having to get it shortened. Emily and Julia burned the dress’ image into their minds so they could find the perfect accessories then Emily took it off and her mom hung it back up in the back of her closet so none of the men could see it before the ceremony. Emily then went to her room to get dressed and Julia went to Steve’s. When Emily opened up her bedroom door Marcus was laying on the bed and there was Mitz stretched out as long as she could be so he could rub every inch of her belly.

He smiled up at her, “See your dress I take it?”

As she flung her PJ’s off she sighed, “Oh honey it’s so wonderfully perfect, Julia and I need to get shoes and a veil, and now we can find your tux’s that will accompany it perfectly. You will love it!”

“I will love anything, even nothing…” She slapped his foot as she went to her dresser. He was starting to get more excited about the wedding now that the plans were coming together and he could see it all taking shape before his eyes. Emily was already beside herself with anticipation that she was giddy as a schoolgirl.

Quickly throwing on warm clothes and brushing her hair she wanted to get going soon; then she remembered that Julia hadn’t even eaten yet so they couldn’t leave as soon as she wanted to. Facing her need to have patience she lay on her tummy on the bed and joined in on the love-fest on Mitz. “Hey baby girl, did you miss your momma and new daddy?”

She winked at Marcus and he just smiled and said, “Too bad we can’t take her back to England with us.”

“Yeah, she’s getting too old now, but we can always get a new kitty once we’re settled?” She really wanted a pet there now that school was over, and a book store just cried for a fat cat lying in the windows.

“Sure we can, I don’t have any plans for any more trips once this one is done.” Marcus also liked the thought of having a pet, he never had one before and he really took to Mitz. “And speaking of trips, how do all those new ideas for our honeymoon sound?”

“They sound great, we should rent a house-on-wheels, it would be a ton of fun to drive up here and see the Rocky Mountains along the way; there really is no other country like this one in the world. We would just have to plan it so we aren’t driving for ten weeks. I say we fly to San Francisco, rent a rig there then drive down to Vegas then over to see the Dam, the Canyon, then Yellowstone and then we’ll drive up the 101 into Washington and drive up the coast through Canada. If we cut a few days off the Vegas plans that we originally had then we can be back here for a day before it’ll be Christmas Eve. So we’d be spending the time driving instead of hanging out here with my folks decorating. Which I am totally fine with!” Emily rolled her eyes and put her hand on her chin.

“Well that sounds like a plan to me, if your parents won’t mind not having you here for the entire month like we first planned, I don’t want them to lose time with you at all,” Marcus went from petting the cat to Emily’s long hair, “Your hair has gotten quite long since last year, how long are you going to let it grow?” It was to the middle of her back and there seemed to be more red it in now than before. She just answered him by shrugging her shoulders and kept stroking her cat. After a moment of silence he asked, “What are you thinking about Doll?”

“It’s just that I’m tired of waiting around and I want to get going, I’m having a moment of impatience,” she tried to pout but it just wasn’t in her and Marcus laughed at her feeble attempt. He got up and picked her up, “Then let’s get moving, we can rouse Julia up or she can stay in the sack with Steve all day, let’s go!” They both bounded out of the room and down the stairs hand in hand. To their surprise Steve was already in the kitchen and eating. He mumbled that Julia was getting dressed and would be down soon.

Being in good moods, neither of them wanted to stay within Steve’s dark morning cloud, so they headed out into the back yard where Scruff was running around. He finally paid some attention to both of them since he his love was not in sight. Marcus tossed the ball back and forth in the snow and Emily chased her old pooch to try and beat him to the ball. Alas as soon as the apartment door opened his jaw dropped the wet ball in mid-return and went to greet Julia and lead her down the flight of steps. Emily just laughed, “You’ve stolen my dog Jules!”

Julia laughed, “He sure has gotten attached pretty quick huh? You guys ready to go now?”

Emily shook her head, “Are we ready to go now? Get in the truck!” The girls giggled as the three of them loaded up and headed out to Anchorage.

The drive was wonderfully serene; since it was in the middle of the week and everyone was working, the roads were quiet, at least until they got closer to the center of the city. Emily found a nice central place to park so they could walk around for a bit and not have to drive much. They first went to the place where Naomi bought the dress to see if there were any accessories to go with it. Sure enough, there was a veil that was perfect; it was a small headband in cream silk that was trimmed in white pearls with a creamy back veil that had a white rose trim. Emily asked if it was made for the dress and the saleswoman said that it wasn’t, since her dress was new there were several veils that would have matched just as well. She showed them what else there was but the first one Emily found was too perfect not to get. As Julia and Emily looked at shoes and jewelry Marcus took his pace unseen around the store to have several things shipped home for Emily. He had actually found a couple of men’s shirts and pair of slacks that he used to have, in 1923, to add to the box as well.

The next store on the list was a men’s shop so Marcus could get fitted for his tux and pick out the two for the other men to wear. He knew the color of Em’s dress was a cream, so he found a vest of the same color and it had pearl buttons that Emily said was too perfect. As far as the tie they went with a standard black since they still hadn’t picked a color out yet.

The hardest part was now upon them, finding Julia’s dress. Marcus was prepared for an all day fitting room extravaganza so he slipped a small pocket sized book into his coat so he wouldn’t get bored to death sitting in dress shops all afternoon.

The ladies were good, they narrowed down “the top five” choices in the third store, Julia brought all five into the dressing room, then paraded out in front of Emily and Marcus for their opinions on each one. After six shops they had it narrowed down to three dresses. There was a pretty pale peach number that was very 20’s, a green one that was almost a teal and that one Marcus wasn’t that fond of even though it was a pretty style, the color just reminded him of an old pair 1950’s curtains he once saw. The last dress was yellow and also very classy but that was shorter than Emily wanted since it came to the knee and wasn’t floor length. Marcus talked them into going to eat some lunch then they can decide which one they would get, there only needed to be one dress for Julia, then one to match for Jamie being the flower girl and also one in the same color for her mother to wear.

As they ate burgers, fries and milkshakes, the all American lunch as Marcus so eloquently stated, they decided on the yellow dress. Not only was it very pretty and simple that Julia could get away with wearing it again to a formal party, but it also reminded them of Mort and Julia thought she saw a dress for Jamie in that same color as well. They headed back to the dress shop, picked up Julia’s size, found a similar one for Jamie then headed across the street for a dress for the mother of the bride.

Marcus was really starting to get bored now, his book was almost done and they still had to get Emily’s shoes. He whispered to his bride that he was going to take a stroll and gave her that knowing wink; he was going to race around town and try to find the shoes so they could be done with the shopping escapade sooner. Emily not being the greatest and most eager shopper was quick to agree and let him know that her and Julia would just stay on this side of the street and work their way back to the center of town.

By the time they were on their third store Marcus came in announcing that he found a nice pair only a few doors down and across the street. Once they went inside Emily thanked him, it would have taken them another hour to make it to this side of the street. Sure enough, the shoes were perfect, Marcus was great at picking shoes for Emily and without even knowing what her dress looked like the shoes looked as though they were made for it. Being in the small boot style, they were a cream color a shade lighter than her dress but the buttons were pearls and the heel was about two inches, just the height she needed, but she figured that he must of heard her say that when they were in her mother’s room still.

Emily bought the shoes and they were ready to head back to the house. The drive took longer since it was now time for everyone else to be heading home, so the three travelers just chatted about the differences here compared to their little neck of the woods in England. They also chatted as well as what Julia’s plans were now that she was done with school, which to Emily’s surprise was nothing.

Julia only went to that college because her father had a friend of a friend sort of thing that helped Julia get in for a good price, since her degree is in Linguistics with a minor in psychology, there were so many jobs and governments that she could work for. There were already several job offers for her in Italy, London, Amsterdam and even one in Washington DC, Julia just wasn’t sure where she wanted to settle down, or where to float off to next. “There’s just so much world out there, it would be a shame to just have to sit in one place. I might go with a government just so I can travel. But who knows, let me finish this trip first, see what’s what with your brother, and I’ll go from there.”

Emily turned in her seat since Marcus was driving back, “You’re really into Steve aren’t you? I’ve never seen you want to be with one guy so much, I thought for sure you’d have burnt out on him after graduation.”

Julia smiled and looked out the window, “Yeah, I thought so too. But I don’t know, he has his issues, but they seem to dissolve when we’re together Em. I know he’s cocky and loves himself, but when it’s just us sitting and talking, he’s humble, and content. For me as well, we never have things to run out of to talk about, and there are enough differences to keep it interesting and enough similarities so we can stay connected. And of course the sex is phenomenal, but I know you don’t want to hear about that!” She winked at her friend, “But that’s just it, it’s not just the sex, it’s the entire package. And not to mention that your family is amazing, they’re so loving and normal, your mom makes me feel so comfortable, I don’t feel like I have to walk on eggshells to say and do the right thing around her. It’s nice.” She gazed back out of the window and Emily left her to her thoughts. Marcus looked over at her and shared in a smile, Julia was immersed in Steve just as much as he was in Emily, maybe. Emily thought that her brother might just start to settle down as well.

Thanksgiving came and went and Joey and Jamie were so happy to see their Aunt Emily and Uncle Marcus again, and for their parents to meet “Cool Uncle Marc”, as Joey liked to call him, as well. Diane, Joe and the kids all came up with Meemaw and Pop-Pop in the Winnebago; but Meemaw and pop-pop decided to sleep in the ‘home on wheels’ for the duration to save room for everyone else to sleep in the house.

The week flew by with the last of the details and arrangements and soon the family was arriving. Naomi’s sister was there with her husband, then George’s brother, Eddy, came up from Texas with his wife Marie and their three kids. Alice was a defiant fifteen year old that was finding herself, and the twin twelve year old boys that couldn’t have been any more different from each other. Rick loved sports and rough-housing, and Roger loved books, movies and art. Emily hadn’t seen them since they were first born and this was the first time they ever really met her, Roger was taken with her and Marcus instantly, but Rick stayed glued to Steve’s, whom had become his new idol within the first hour of meeting him.

The women spent two days cooking the food for the reception. A lot was going to be catered out, but there were some dishes that no one but family could make. A pot of chili was being made and Meemaw had to make her cornbread to go with it. Then Mark made stuffed mushrooms that Sally had to have. Pop-Pop was really wanting a cherry pie since he didn’t like cake much, and of course the kids wanted burgers and not the shrimp fettuccini alfredo that the caterers were serving for dinner.

The day before the wedding the men were set to rearrange the family room and start putting out the folding chairs. There were going to be about thirty people, and the family room would be perfect to hold them all. The living room was going to have the food set out in a buffet style since it was closer to the family room. After the service the chairs are going to be removed, then they are going to set around small round tables about so there would be plenty of places to sit and eat.

As Emily and Marcus were in bed Naomi, Sally and Diane did the arch where the bride and groom would be standing looking out into the back yard. They also put out the flowers, yellow and white tool draped between the chairs and Diane set up the video camera to the side so they could film the entire thing. Naomi was secretly happy that a storm happened to hit and they had to make the wedding indoors instead of outside like the couple had first wanted, in what seemed like eons ago.

Emily and Marcus lay in bed as the hustle was going on downstairs to be ready for the ten o’clock wedding. “Are you nervous babe?” Emily ran her fingers over his chest then looked up into his eyes.

“Not at all, we’re already married, this is just for the family. I’ve been married to you since the moment I laid eyes on you Doll,” he leaned forward and kissed her head, “Are you nervous at all?”

“I just don’t want to trip going down the stairs!” She laughed, “But otherwise not at all. I just feel like this is the party after the main event you know? I know my mom is more excited than I am, and my dad is nervous, seeing his little baby get married. I think it’s weird for them a little.” She lie there for a moment then her head snapped up, “Oh no, I’m missing the “old” thing!”

He looked at her, “What?”

“Well when a woman gets married she has to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. The new is my dress, I’m borrowing pearl earrings that are my mom’s, and Julia got me a blue garter, I don’t have an old thing! I know my engagement ring is old, but I already have it so it doesn’t count.” She looked over at him, “Why do you have that smirk on your face?”

“Because I have the old for you.” He stood up and crossed the room to the closet and pulled out a box, “I have one more surprise for you, I was going to wait until the morning, but since you’re worried now I’ll show you now.” He sat down upon the bed and Emily had to focus on the box in his hand and not his delicious nudity in front of her. He opened the box and turned it towards her, “This was my mother’s wedding ring. It was in gold but I had it dipped in rhodium to match your ring. I hope 250 years old is old enough for you?”

Her mouth was agape, “This is your mother’s ring? For me?” Her eyes started to tear, “You are the most wonderful man, and how do I deserve you?” She gently picked up the ring from the box, it was a simple band about one-fourth of an inch wide with a fine beaded edge. The simplicity of it made it spectacular. “It is perfect,” was all that she could say. When she looked back up at him he was smiling, then leaned in to kiss her gently. She instantly melted into him and he slyly put the ring back into the box, placed it on the end table then took her into his arms for the night.

The morning came quickly for both Emily and Marcus. He heard Naomi and her mother up and about the house by five, and George was in his bathroom taking a shower shortly thereafter. Marcus was in no hurry so he looked over to Emily and she was awake looking at him, “Hi there, sleep okay?”

“Good morning, I did. Even though I kept having dreams of walking down the aisle nude, then tripping down the stairs, then even one dream of Scruff running amuck and knocking the cake over. I’m glad our first wedding was stress free.” She rolled over and put her arm over him, “But I’m glad we’re doing this, it’s exciting, I sort of feel like we eloped before, doing it stealth-like away from the family.”

He laughed, “I agree, it was pretty surreptitious. But it meant everything to Morty, I sure wish he was here though.”

“Me too. But I know he’ll be watching us and drooling over the buffet table!” They both giggled, which was how they thought of the wonderful man that was no longer with them; he had so many wonderful attributes, Emily told Marcus there was no need to shed tears over a man that was always happy. “Well I better see what I can do to help mom out before I have to start getting dressed at eight.” Both of them got out of bed and put on comfy clothes since they would be getting undressed again in just a few hours. Once they were in the kitchen they started on breakfast. Naomi took her mother out of the space so Emily and Marcus could do their thing and have eggs ready in two minutes; she loved having hands that were so fast with a knife, she took full advantage of Marcus’ skills and speed yesterday in the kitchen. He had the fruit and veggie trays diced in ten minutes, she could have kissed him!

After a few minutes the kids were coming into the kitchen for their hot cocoa and Emily put a small plate of eggs, toast and fruit in front of them to eat before the morning got away from them; they would just end up trying to pick from the food table and not sit down to eat a good meal. Jamie and Joey were chatty and excited since they were going to be in the wedding also. Joey was saying how nice he looked in his suit, he was quite proud of himself and had no qualms about boasting it. Soon the twins arrived and took the other two seats at the table and ate their eggs as well. Their sister Alice came down without a word to anyone and started to pour herself a mug of coffee. Emily had to say something, “Do your parents let you drink coffee? It’s very bad for you.”

Alice turned to her, gave her a look of venom and threw the full mug into the sink and stormed out of the kitchen. Emily wanted to go after her and smack a little courtesy into her but Marcus gently put one finger on her arm to stop her, she didn’t move and looked at him then shifted her gaze to the four small kids at the table. All of them had their mouths open except for Roger.

He looked at Emily and said simply, “She’s not a morning person. Best to ignore her for the next two hours. And no, our parents do not let her drink coffee and she knows it.” He then went back to eating his eggs like a perfect little gentleman.

Naomi and Sally came in to refill their coffee and when Naomi saw the mug and coffee splattered she was quite perturbed, “Who the he… who did this to my clean kitchen?” She looked at Emily for an answer but before she could say anything Rick spoke, “Alice the queen B of course.” He and Roger snickered because they called her a queen bee because they weren’t allowed to use the real word, bitch, yet.

Naomi snapped, “Well where is she now? I sure hope she doesn’t think she can come into my house and act this way, hormones or not, this isn’t happenin’!”

“Mom, relax. I can go talk to her, you’ll just piss her off even more and you look stressed enough. It’s coffee, don’t sweat it.” Emily hugged her mother to try and calm her and it placated her slightly.

Only slightly though, “Fine, but you better fix her wagon wheels or I’ll do it, and…”

Emily held on to her arms tightly, “Yeah and you’ll not only piss off Eddy and dad but then you’ll have Alice sabotaging everything when you’re not looking. Least not forget how girls and their hormones act mother.”

Emily gave her a smirk and Naomi relaxed, “Fine, you’re right. I’ll leave it be.”

Once the kitchen was cleaned by the kids and Marcus, Emily went out with Sally to walk around the house to make sure everything was ready. Emily couldn’t believe how good the house looked, the family room looked like a quaint little chapel with the altar in front of the windows and the white, cream and yellow accents around. The flower bouquets were so pretty, they were delivered this morning while they were eating, Emily had to think if she even heard the doorbell ring. She turned to Sally, “Are the boutonnieres here yet also?”

“Yep, they’re in the fridge already, I had them make a smaller one for Joey, the rose would have looked silly on his little jacket so they made one with tea roses instead, it is too darn cute!” Sally was fluffing one of the flowers on a stand, there were yellow, cream and white roses along with splashes of iris mixed in, in wonderful arrangement’s with baby’s breath scattered about. Simple yet perfect, just the way Emily liked things. She was done fussing and looked at her watch, “It’s a quarter to eight, you might want to get a shower and such, Diane said that she’d do your hair for you if you want.”

Emily was so happy, she was going to ask her but didn’t want to sound like a demanding bride, “Oh yes! She is amazing at hair, why doesn’t she do it professionally?”

“Joe doesn’t want her to be a cosmetologist, he thinks that it isn’t a profitable career. Dumbass. But anyway, she’s more than happy to help out, that’s why she does it as much as she can to keep good at it. When the high school had their prom she did the entire senior class this year, and since Joe is so closed minded she kept the $800 for herself!” Sally laughed, she liked Diane but wasn’t that fond of Joe, he was too controlling for Sally’s liking.

Emily chuckled with her, but kept her thought to herself, she didn’t think that was a good way to have a marriage, keeping the one you love from doing what they want and thus hiding from them because of it. She was so glad that she and Marcus didn’t have any secrets from each other, and she vowed to never start.

Emily took a nice long hot shower and put on just a robe. When she was about to open the door to call for her mother she was right there on the steps, “Oh hi, I was just going to get you to start helping me.”

“I know.” Naomi just smiled, she knew her daughter all too well, “Diane will be up in a sec, let’s go into my room.” Within minutes her mother’s room was packed full of giggling and gossiping women. Meemaw was in there with the steamer getting out the few wrinkles in the dress, Julia was making sure the shoes were clean and the veil was pressed as well. Jamie was in there doing her dolls hair, which Emily thought was too cute in a yellow dress to match the occasion. Denise was starting on Emily’s hair and was commenting on how long it was now and what she was doing to make it grow so fast. Naomi was getting out the makeup box that she hardly ever used but was still full of Este Lauder make-up and other French brands that Emily had never heard of. Of course Julia had so they started off into a conversation about that topic.

Sally soon arrived carrying a tray of glasses, “Mimosa’s ladies, we need to start this wedding off right!” A cheer of delight squealed from the women and everyone paused in their tasks to toast Emily. Meemaw had to pipe in, “To the hottest man in this century!” and everyone started rolling in laughter, Jamie just laughed along with the women since she had no idea what was said but loved it anyway and sipped her orange juice. Luckily Marie spoke with Alice beforehand about the coffee incident so Alice was just as cheery as the rest of the gaggle of women in the room.

It was now almost ten and the only ones left in the room were Emily and her mother, everyone was out getting themselves dressed or greeting the guests. Naomi was all dressed and about to head out the door when she stopped to hug her little girl, with tears in her eyes she said, “I am so proud of you Sweetpea! You have a wonderful man, and such a wonderful life ahead of you.” She stood back to look at her daughter in her dress, “You are so beautiful darlin’, that dress was made for you!”

“Thanks mom. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Everything from my entire life!” Emily was starting to well up also but forced them not to fall, her makeup had to make it at least to the altar. “And I’m so glad that you are, um, well comfortable with Marcus. I can’t tell you how that was killing me.”

“I bet it was, and I can see why. But luckily you have such a great momma that it’s no biggie. I know now isn’t the time, and we can talk later on it, but… but well, will I have grandchildren from you baby?” Naomi was turning this over in her mind, she had no idea how or when to approach it, and now wasn’t the time but it just spilled out of her.

Emily’s eyes dropped to the floor and a tear did follow her gaze, “No mom. I don’t think so.” She looked back up to her mother, “I’m sorry. But we’ll talk about that later and I’ll tell you the story and you’ll understand.”

She just nodded her head and kept her silence. After another hug she kissed Emily on the cheek and headed out the door. Before she closed it she said, “Just hang out for a minute, it’s not quite time to start, you’re dad will be up here in just a moment for you.”

It wasn’t but twenty seconds when there was a light tap on the door and her dad’s face peeped in, “Can I come get the bride now?” He opened the door and he stepped in, a whistle came from his lips, “Wow you look amazing darlin’!”

“You look great yourself dad, I’ve never seen you so dressed up.”

“Well I don’t look as good as your groom does in this thing, nor your brother for that matter, but it’ll do kid.”

“Whatever dad, you are a very handsome man, where do you think Steve gets his looks from?”

He answered quickly, “Your mother of course! But enough about me, are you ready baby?”

“Yep, it’s old hat now, we’ve been married for a few months already!” Then they headed out the door arm in arm.

Jamie and Joey were waiting at the foot of the stairs looking as precious as ever. Joey did look very dapper in his tux with vest and mini roses boutonniere, and Jamie had a dress that matched Julia’s almost perfectly and made her look like a mini belle of the ball. Her mother did her hair up and put baby’s breath in it clipped with little pearl barrettes. Jamie had her basket ready with the rose petals when Emily and her dad stepped off the last step to start the procession. After Joey and Jamie started their march Julia and Steve began their way down the aisle. Emily turned the corner to enter the family room at the start of The March, and was shocked to see how many people were in there, the room was jammed packed. They went down the side of the room then proceeded to walk up the center aisle to the altar.

When Emily turned her gaze from the faces in the crowd she let out a little gasp when she looked to Marcus. Her father gently squeezed her hand and she swallowed hard. This man that she had already married a few months ago, the man that she had seen in a tux already at the opera in Italy, the man she saw nude almost every day, this man took her breath away at this very moment at how spectacular he looked in his tuxedo. Her mouth went dry, she didn’t know if she was going to be able to say her vows, she knew she was going to start crying any second now.

Julia and Jamie moved off to the left and Joey went to the right with Steve, then Marcus took Emily’s hand from her father’s. George stood off to the side and when the Priestess asked who was to give away this lovely bride, her father just nodded his head, he was crying already. Everyone including Marcus and Emily snickered at the sweetness of it then turned their attention to the ceremony.

Marcus was only half listening though, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of Emily. He had never seen her so lovely. When they went to the opera he thought that was the most beautiful she could ever be, but he was so very wrong, today was the day that he would remember until the end of eternity. She kept looking up at him as well and his eyes were always there on her, she smiled and squeezed her hand on his a couple of times but then kept looking forward to make it look like she was paying attention.

When it was time Marcus finally took his eyes off of her to take the ring from Joey who was perfectly on cue to hold up the little satin pillow with the ring on it. Marcus said his vows and placed the ring on her finger, but when he did he leaned down and kissed it on Emily’s finger. The women in the crowd all gave a sigh for the romance of it, but for Marcus it was a kiss to the memory of his mother. Emily knew what was in Marcus’ mind at that moment only because he told her about the ring last night. At that thought she almost started to cry thinking of how much he wished his mother were here to see this day for her youngest son. Then it was Emily’s turn to give him his ring, she bought a ring in London before they left and he was totally surprised, she had to giggle when she placed it on his finger, she looked up at him, gave him a wink then whispered so only his ears would catch it, “Surprise.”

The ring was a platinum band and very delicately along the top and bottom trimming the sides was the infinity symbol interlinked around the entire band. It fit him perfectly, she was worried about that because she had it inscribed on the inside and if it had to be taken down a bunch it might take off some of the letters.

Finally it was the end of the ceremony and when the announcement of kissing the bride was said Marcus gently took his bride into his arms and kissed her tenderly and lovingly. He wanted to devour her, but the gentleman in him couldn’t do that in front of so many people watching. Once they pulled apart the guests cheered and then Emily started to cry. “Oh Marcus I love you so very much!” She just breathed into his chest as she held him close. He held her just as tightly and had to let go once people started to pull at their sleeves to give hugs and congratulations.

The guests swarmed around them and soon they were pulled into two different rooms and were taking pictures, getting drinks handed to them whispered to and were completely pampered. Once everyone moved to the living room to get food the photographer gathered the wedding party and took the pictures in front of the altar. No pictures were taken of just Emily and her family as would normally happen, Naomi didn’t want that burden on Marcus since he had no family of his own anymore. The only pictures of the sort that were taken were one of Emily and her father, then one of her and her mother and of course Naomi had to have one of Steve and Emily since she didn’t have a picture of the two of them so nicely dressed.

It was time to cut the cake and Emily was apprehensive, she didn’t want cake all over her dress, plus she hated that stupid tradition of shoving a piece in the face. Once the pictures were done being snapped of the wonderful three tiered cake, a slice was taken from the top and Emily and Marcus were going to feed each other a fork full. Right before Marcus put his fork into her mouth though he lightly touched the tip of her nose so a small amount of frosting stuck. She just rolled her eyes and ate the piece she was then fed, and she simply put her fork into his mouth. Everyone laughed and took more pictures of her with the frosting on her nose. Once that was done Marcus nonchalantly leaned down and tenderly kissed her nose to take the frosting off. The few people that saw it snickered and some of the women gasped with the thought of it, wishing they had such a romantic mate. Emily hugged him and breathed into his ear, “I cannot wait to get you alone mister.”

“That makes two of us. How much longer do we have to do this?” He was grinning as he looked down into her bright green eyes, nothing but pure joy in her today he thought.

After everyone had their fill of the food and cake, it was time for the presents. The kids were so excited and played “wedding fairies”, as Jamie dubbed it, and they handed the gifts to Emily and Marcus that were sitting in chairs under the archway in the family room. Thank goodness Sally was writing down what everyone gave them, there was no way that Emily could have remembered everything. They were given the usual things; silverware, china plates, money and gift cards to on-line stores for those that remembered that they lived in another country and had to ship back everything. Her parents gave them things for their honeymoon; lotions, bath soaps, all in the scent of Sweet Pea of course, and a gift certificate to see a Cirque du Solei show in Vegas. Julia gave them matching sleepwear, and Emily left the skimpy thing in the box, there was no way she was going to hold that up in front of everyone. Steve gave them a computerized photo frame that already had a few pictures downloaded onto it, there was one of them at Christmas, one from their first wedding with Mary and Mort in the picture, then one of the two of them standing at the altar today taking their vows.

Emily got up and hugged her brother and cried as she thanked him. He was moved as well but held is macho persona and just smiled back at her. Julia took his arm into hers and tugged him gently, she knew how he felt for his sister, but she was the only one besides his own mother that knew how much he loved Emily. The mound of silver and gold went from being pretty boxes to a pile of crumpled mess and Emily was tired. Her mother made a slight thank you speech to the crowd and told them to eat and drink up so she didn’t have to find room in the fridge. Everyone dispersed and Emily and Marcus were still sitting there taking it all in.

After a few minutes her mother walked up with the Priestess, an old Alaskan woman that looked to be in her fifties. When she spoke she sounded as if she were still twenty, “Congratulations young one,” she said to Emily, then she looked over to Marcus, “And congratulations to you old one, may the new path in your life make you happier than your previous paths.”

All three of them looked at her then Emily and Marcus looked to Naomi, thinking she said something, she was just as astounded as they were, “Sedna, why in the world would call this man old?” Naomi made her voice light and airy with a slight chuckle. She was just as baffled as her daughter.

Sedna looked over to the woman she had known for years, “Naomi, you know how I know these things. I know all things hence why you asked me to give the ceremony today. I say it because it is the truth, but I can see the truth of this union.” She looked back to Marcus and Emily, “I can see that there is much love between the two of you. And you sir have lost too much over your life, it is time that you have a love that will be with you forever now.” She kissed Emily’s hand, then held Marcus’ for a moment with her eyes closed. Once she opened them she bent down and kissed his as well. Then without another word she turned and left the room.

Naomi had her mouth open and she looked at her daughter, “I swear I didn’t…”

Emily cut her off, “I know mom. I remember Sedna from when I was a kid, I know that she has gifts that others don’t. How old is she now, over sixty? She looks great, not a day over fifty though.”

Naomi took a huge shaky sigh, “Oh, um she’s almost ninety actually.” Then she leaned in to whisper to the couple, “Helps to be a healer of the old ways huh?” Naomi had to relax and shift her mind from that conversation and back onto her guests so she left the two of them in search for a bottle of wine.

Emily looked to Marcus who was still sitting there with a blank look on his face, “You alright hon?”

He looked at her, “Yeah. Wow, that was odd. Who is that woman? Don’t get me wrong, she is amazing and the ceremony was breathtaking, but how… how did she know?”

“When I was a kid everyone always said that she was a witch. The younger parents kept their distance, but the older ones went to her for everything; healing, birthing, death, a paper cut, whatever. My mom and she have always been friends, I really think she’s one of the reasons why my mom’s intuition is so strong. But my mom says that Sedna has a sixth sense that rivals no other, I can see that now.”

Marcus just nodded his head in acknowledgement but said nothing. The woman shook him up, but in a good way. He had only met one other true witch in his lifetime, and she was just as wonderfully amazing as Sedna was. He blinked a few times to clear his head then looked at his watch, “Our ride is going to be here soon to take us to the airport, we need to change.”

Emily was ready to be done with the attention and fan fare but tried not to look too excited to be getting out of there. They made another sweep of the house to thank the guests then headed up to their room to change for the flight to San Francisco. Once they were out of the beautiful but binding wedding attire they picked up their bags and took them to the limo that was waiting in the driveway. Emily found Julia to thank her for coming, and that sadly she wouldn’t see her now until they got back to England since they were taking a longer honeymoon.

Julia shrugged, “No worries Em, you guys have a splendid time, I‘ll be around!” She gave her a wink and a kiss and Emily had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Emily hugged and kissed her family bye, and Marcus hugged them as well and thanked them for the wonderful ceremony. Before he ducked into the car he saw Sedna standing over to the side of the house. He smiled at her, and whispered thank you to her. Her lips parted into a wonderfully huge smile and she said, knowing he would hear, “Keep the child safe until you have another.” He had no idea what that meant but nodded to her then got into the car.

Once they were driving Emily flung her arms around him, “Finally!”

Marcus didn’t have a moment to smile, Emily’s lips were all over his instantly. They stayed in a passionate embrace until the driver stopped at the airport. Reluctant to part, they got out of the car and Marcus tipped the driver heavily, as was his custom.

While they waited for the plane Emily looked over to her husband, “Now we can have the honeymoon that we deserve.”

Marcus kissed his bride, “Yes we can!”

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