KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Port Carling, Muskoka, Saturday, July 27, 2002. 4:00 P.M.

The weather was perfect for a summer wedding. It was as if God had decreed that two very special lovers deserved nothing but perfection.

The RMS, (Royal Mail Ship), Segwin, the oldest steam-powered vessel in North America, glided to a stop inside the larger of two Port Carling locks. The lift bridge above the locks was up and traffic halted. The stately old white and green ship stood three stories above the water line, its single red, silver and black smoke stack, even higher. The vessel boasted a length of 125 feet and a 21 foot beam. A boisterous and well dressed crowd of one hundred people waited on the concrete dock near the lock master’s house.

The upper lock gate astern of the Segwin closed, the ship’s bell rang, and the crowd began to file on board. When all passengers were aboard, the paddle blocking the underground culvert was removed, allowing the water inside the lock chamber to escape downstream, and the Segwin to descend seven feet, the difference in elevation between Lake Rosseau and Lake Muskoka. The downstream lock gate was opened, allowing the Segwin to continue its journey down the Indian River, into Lake Muskoka, and on to Azimuth Island. The passengers, all carrying engraved invitations to attend the wedding of Kerri King to Stephen Monteith, were treated to an open bar and mountains of finger food to help them endure the thirty minute voyage.

The ceremony was scheduled to commence at 6:30 P.M. The guest list included: Tom MacDonald, Steve’s best man, and his wife, Barbara; Ian and Michael Monteith, Steve’s brothers; Peter Mitchell and Monty Kaplan, Steve’s fraternity brothers and ushers; Barbara Harmon, Kerri’s mother, and her husband, David, all the way from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia; Andrea Dennis, Kerri’s dear friend, from Glen Cove, Long Island; Marsha Cooper, Kerri’s attorney, who saved her from personal bankruptcy and made her a fortune when she sold her Enerco Stock; Cathy Simmonds, Kerri’s friend and a broadcaster with WKTV in Manhattan; Cathy Towers, Kerri’s step-sister, and her radiologist husband, from Ottawa, Ontario; Kevin King, Kerri’s step-brother, together with his lovely brunette girlfriend, both enjoying a summer break from Harvard Business School.

Laughing and joking with one another, the passengers disembarked at the massive dock in a sheltered cove near the south shore of Azimuth Island. Mike and Karen King, the host and hostess, were there to greet them. Mike wore a tuxedo and Karen a black ankle length skirt and cream colored blouse. Both, in bare feet, stood beside a yellow sign with large black letters, “BARE FEET ALLOWED.” Beside Mike and Karen stood a bag-piper in full Scottish regalia and playing “Mull of Kintyre.” When everyone was ashore, the Segwin left and the piper led them to the cottage, a rambling three-story, white framed structure at the height of the island. There, they had an hour and a half to freshen up, get to know each other, and drink champagne, or some other poison of their choice.

At precisely 6:15 P.M., Mike stepped to the front door and rang a large brass bell, terminating most of the conversations. “Could I have your attention, please?” he shouted with a huge smile. “Karen and I invite all of you to proceed to the gazebo.” He pointed south. “It’s that way. I strongly recommend that you you fill up your glass before you leave.”

Following Mike’s request, the guests left the cottage and made their way across the well manicured lawn and down the gentle slope to a rocky promontory forming the southern shore of the ten acre island. Perched atop the promontory was a large octagonal gazebo, sporting a fresh coat of white paint. The view, arguably one of the best in Muskoka, featured an unobstructed five mile vista of blue Lake Muskoka water. Instead of chairs, totally impractical on the rough terrain, Mike had arranged for a local carpenter to construct two large bleachers, each opposing the other and forming an aisle between. Karen had arranged that all of the seats be well padded for the comfort of the guests. Occupying the gazebo was an Irish trio, two males and one female. One male played a fiddle, the other, a guitar. The female played Uillean flute, pipes, and whistles. As the guests took their seats, they played, “Haste to the Wedding.”

Mike waited on the verandah for his daughter. “Wow!” he said, as she opened the screened door and stepped from the cottage. “You look fantastic.”

Kerri, stunning in her strapless white knee-length laced dress, kicked off her sandals and approached her father. “I feel fantastic. I’m in love, I’m getting married, and my family and friends are here to watch me do it.”

“Then let’s go do it,” Mike said, then took Kerri’s arm and led her to the gazebo.

They arrived to see Steve and the minister standing in the gazebo in front of the Irish trio. Displaying his irresistible smile and wearing a tuxedo with no shoes or socks, Steve stared lovingly at his bride to be. The minister, the son of the Presbyterian minister who had married Karen and Jim Servito almost thirty-two years earlier, wore black trousers, a black clerical shirt, and white clerical collar. He had not been convinced to remove his shoes. As Mike led Kerri down the aisle between the bleachers, the trio played the Irish version of “Canon in D,” a haunting and beautiful tune.

The minister raised his hands above his head, asking for silence. Conversations stopped. Only the call of seagulls and the hum of motorboats could be heard in the distance. “We are gathered here in this beautiful place, and in the sight of God, to join together this man and this woman. Through marriage, Stephen and Kerri intend to make a commitment, to embrace their dreams, realize their hopes, and accept each other’s failures. The occasion marks the celebration of love with which Stephen and Kerri begin their lives together. Through me, God will join them together in one of the holiest of bonds. Who gives this woman in marriage to this man?”

“We do,” both Mike King and Barbara Harmon said in unison, then looked at each other, smiled and waved, as if to say, “all is forgiven.”

“Kerri, I understand you have something to say to Stephen.”

Kerri smiled at Steve and squeezed his hand. “Steve, you are a wonderful man. I am honored that you have chosen me to be your wife. So many times since the day I met you I have dreamed of this day, but events conspired to ruin that dream. Today, here and now, incredibly, it is no longer a dream. It is reality. I am fulfilled. I promise you that for so long as I live, I will treasure your decision, and to love you more with each tomorrow.”

“Stephen, I understand you have something to say to Kerri.”

Steve took Kerri in his arms and looked into her beautiful blue eyes. He spoke loudly, and with passion. “Kerri, you have saved my life. For that, and so much more, I will be eternally grateful. When I met you not too far from where I stand, I knew immediately that you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I have since learned that you are also the most generous and compassionate woman I have ever known. For so long I was afraid that our relationship could be nothing more than a friendship. I was wrong and very fortunate. It is now more than I could ever have dreamed it could be. You have given me something far greater than friendship, and I promise you that for so long as I live, I will never, ever, take it for granted.”

The minister presided over the exchange of rings, then took Steve’s left hand and joined it together with Kerri’s right. “Inasmuch as you have given your vows, one to the other, in the sight of God, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Steve did not wait for the minister’s obligatory authorization. Once again, he took Kerri in his arms and kissed her with all of the passion he could muster.

After the kiss, Kerri remained in Steve’s arms, but turned her head to face the guests. “I want all of you to know that this is the happiest day of my life, but it’s not quite complete. There’s more. I have two wedding presents for my husband.” She pointed to Tom MacDonald who was standing just outside the steps to the gazebo. “Tom, would you come up here and make the presentation?”

MacDonald climbed the stairs and stood to Steve’s right. He raised his palms and showed them to the guests. “I would do what Kerri has asked, but I don’t have it.” He pointed to Dan Turner, who sat in the front row of the bleachers to his left. “Dan, would you come up here and make the presentation?”

Turner hurried to the gazebo and faced Steve. He removed a twice folded document from the breast pocket of his tuxedo and handed it to Kerri. “I think you should do it, Kerri. After all, it was your idea and your money.”

Kerri smiled and handed the document to Steve. “This is from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Steve, displaying a puzzled expression, accepted it, then opened it. He realized immediately that he was holding the deed to The Monster, the north Lake Joseph cottage into which he had poured his heart and soul, the ownership of which had been taken from him so ruthlessly by Jamie Stewart. Overjoyed, he turned to face Kerri. “Thank you. You have not only saved my life, you’ve given it back to me.” He paused, then gave her another puzzled expression. “You said two presents. How could any gift be better than this?”

Kerri wrapped her arms around Steve and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m pregnant!”

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