Chapter 22

When Leland and his team entered the clearing an hour later, they found a very haggard but relaxed Samantha and Justin, sitting on the conversation log, . One sweep of the clearing with his eyes and senses told the experienced Leland that something dramatic had occurred here. Turning to his team, he said, “Why don’t you guys go over and say hi to the first mortals to become official members of a Guardian Angel team, while I check out a few things in the clearing. Beatrice, perhaps you could take care of introductions?”

“I would be honored,” she replied, smiling.

Leland walked over to the only other mortal in the clearing. Cerberus, or the person who had been Cerberus, was sitting cross-legged on the ground. He was watching the goings-on, but made no attempt to move from where he was. Squatting in front of him, Leland did a brief probe of his aura, confirming what he had already suspected: the man had gone through a complete eviction process; there was no evil left in him.

Leland smiled at him. The man smiled in return. His eyes were innocent and trusting, almost like a child’s.

Standing up, Leland examined the sky above clearing briefly, then the ground inside the clearing, scanning them both with his eyes and senses. Looking over at where Samantha and Justin stood talking to the rest of his team, a rueful smile formed on his face. Walking over to them, he said evenly, “Congratulations you two. You’ve managed to put the entire Battle Team out of work.” When the rest of his team looked at him curiously, his smile broadened. “Apparently,” he explained, “Guardians Samantha and Justin couldn’t wait for us to get here and perform the eviction on Cerberus, so they did it themselves-both stages. And that’s not all. Before they could perform the eviction, they had to get rid of the oppressiveness the spirits had placed in the clearing.” Leland paused, noticing the dawning looks of respect his team was giving them. None of them had ever heard of a mortal performing an eviction before. How Justin and Samantha had accomplished it, they were curious to find out.

Assuming his most official pose, Leland said, “Battle Team, please take a seat on the log there. Guardian Justin, Guardian Samantha, you are requested to stand before this team and give us a detailed report-and I do mean detailed-of how you managed to capture Cerberus and perform a complete eviction on him.”

Justin, who had been watching Leland’s eyes, detected a combination of amusement and pride in them. Playing along, he mirrored Leland’s solemn demeanor as he walked to the front of the group.

“Sister Samantha, I want you up here with Justin,” said Leland, officiously.

Samantha stood up, then leaned down to Beatrice. Speaking conspiratorially, but loud enough for the rest of the team to hear, she asked, “Is he always this bossy?”

As the rest of the team erupted in laughter, Leland, whose humor was never far from the surface, threw up his arms in mock despair. “You women,” he said in a gruff tone that intimidated nobody. “Why is it that when we men order you around, we still end up feeling like, somehow, you’ve gotten the best of us anyway?” Then, grinning, he said to Justin and Samantha, “Please tell us everything that happened.”

ÿ

Justin and Leland stood outside Radcliffe general hospital. They had projected themselves to an area on the hospital grounds where no one would witness their arrival. Standing between them and looking around curiously, was Edward. At least, that’s what he thought his name was.

“See those doors over there?” Leland asked, pointing to the emergency room entrance.

“Yes,” replied Edward.

“I want you to go in there and tell whoever’s at the desk that you can’t remember anything and you need help. Can you do that, Edward?”

“And they will help me?” Edward asked.

“Yes,” replied Justin. “They will help you. Now go on in.”

Leland and Justin watched Edward walk towards the emergency room doors. Just before going through, he turned and waved at them, an innocent smile on his face. Then, pushing through the double doors, he disappeared inside.

Justin stood for a moment, pondering. “You know,” he told Leland, “I kind of feel sorry for the guy. Not the person who was Cerberus, but for Edward. He’s almost childlike-physically a grown man, but mentally, almost childlike. In a way, I feel responsible for what he has become.”

Leland looked at Justin with knowing eyes. “That’s the best attitude to have, my friend.” Thinking for a moment, he said, “Tell you what: I’ll ask Aaron to assign someone from his team to watch over Edward for a few days. When we find out what’s going to happen to him, we’ll let you know.”

“Thank you,” said Justin, “I’m sure that Samantha will appreciate it also.”

After a few moments of awkward silence, Leland spoke. “Well pal, I guess it’s time to say adieu, something I’ve never been very good at.”

“You’re not the only one,” Justin said, offering his hand. “We can still contact each other on occasion-as long as we have a conveyance tube in the clearing, that is, or at Smiths. So, why don’t we just leave it at ‘talk to you later’.”

“Talk to you later it is then,” agreed Leland. “Back to the clearing for you now?”

“No,” replied Justin. “Samantha’s at the Barbers, so that’s where I’m going.  And you?”

“Back to the office, as Aaron would put it.”

With that, and almost simultaneously, Justin projected to the front porch of the Barbers home, and Leland to the conveyance tube in the clearing, then back to heaven.

ÿ

As Justin opened the door and stepped into the Barbers home, he felt the almost sleepless night catching up to him.

Connie had been waiting for him. “Are you okay?” she asked, concerned. “You look even more ragged than Samantha did.”

Looking around, Justin asked, “Did she go home?”

“She’s in your bedroom, sleeping. I put some fresh bedding on. You’re welcome to use Lloyd’s and my room, if you’d like.”

Tiredly but politely, he refused the offer. “I’ll take the couch,” he said as he laid down on it.

“Okay,” said Connie. “I’m doing some laundry if you need anything.”

A few minutes later, and unable drift into sleep, Justin got up. Taking one of the throw pillows from the couch, he went quietly into his bedroom.

Later that morning when Lloyd came in, Connie silently guided him to Justin’s room. Together, they looked in. Samantha was laying on her stomach on the bed, one of her arms dangling off of the side. She was holding Justin’s hand, who had lain on the floor on his back next to the bed. Both were deep in sleep. After observing for a minute, Connie and Lloyd walked silently back to the dining room, where they sat down.

“You know, there’s something about those two being together,” said Connie, voicing both of their thoughts. “I’ve felt for some time that their bond was formed long before Justin ever came here.”

“I’ve had that same impression,” echoed Lloyd. “I know that Justin doesn’t have a temper anymore, but hearing about his experiences with that Cerberus idiot and the people he sent after Justin and Samantha, and knowing how they both handled the situation…” Pausing, he looked at his wife. “I don’t think,” he said, reflectively, “that I would want to be the guy who ever tried messing with that bond.”

Smiling knowingly, Connie asked, “Do you know what you sound like?”

“No, what?” replied Lloyd, confused.

Chuckling now, she answered, “You sound like a proud father telling someone about the time his son made mincemeat of the school bully.”

Surprised at first, Lloyd shared her amusement. “I guess I do sound like that, don’t I?” he said.

Later that afternoon after Justin and Samantha had awakened and were feeling less zombie-ish, Connie ordered them to the dining room table and fed them.

“So the thing with this Cerberus nut is over?” asked Lloyd, who was getting ready to do the evening chores, ”

“Yes, finally,” said Justin. “Now we can get on with a normal life like everyone else.”

“Normal?” said Lloyd, amused. “You two send impath messages to each other. You can see what’s going on for miles and miles away when you choose to. You can disappear from point A and reappear at point B in the blink of an eye. I would hardly call that a normal life.”

“Well, a normal life for us,” amended Justin.

ÿ

For Chris, the Saturday he had been looking forward to for weeks, had finally arrived. Normally not a fast riser, he made an exception for this particular morning, vacating his bed and going about his morning routine with a cheerfulness and efficiency that put a knowing smile on his mother’s face.

This morning, Chris was driving to Radcliffe to pick up his girlfriend, Stella, and bring her back to Prospect. During the week, he had looked at half-dozen or so apartments for her and had narrowed the possibilities to three, certain that one of them would be to her liking. Now that he and Stella were high school graduates, he could move ahead with a few plans concerning her that had been simmering at the back of his mind lately.

For Chris’s mother, the forty-five minutes between the time her son got out of bed and the time he left for Radcliffe was quite entertaining. First, there was the loud and actually very good serenade emanating from the shower, followed by the short fashion show as he struggled with deciding what to wear that morning, seeking her opinion on whether various items of clothing went well together. For the grand finale, he acted out a humorous skit about a boy who was about to make a fifty mile journey to see his girlfriend in a distant town.  In the skit, the boy goes out to his parents’ car and discovers that he forgot to get the car keys from his mother. Then he remembers that he forgot to ask permission to actually borrow the car. The skit has a happy ending however. The boy returns to the house and finds his mother sitting on the couch, smiling widely as she teasingly swings the keys back and forth from her hand. Relieved, the boy takes the keys, and with a grateful “thanks mom” and a peck on the cheek, he’s gone.

ÿ

On his way to Radcliffe, Chris did more than his usual amount of serious thinking-most of it concerning Stella. The last time they were together, he had declared his love for her-or rather, he had sort of declared his love for her. To be truthful, “I think I’m in love with you” was more sort of than an actual declaration. Regardless, her reaction had been maddeningly simple.

“That’s nice,” she had replied. “When you decide one way or the other, let me know.”

His problem now was, he didn’t have to decide one way or the other. He already knew that he loved her-no ‘I think’ about it. He had padded his declaration because deep down, he knew that he was afraid of rejection, afraid that if he came right out and said, “I love you”, she would remind him, politely of course, of his promise that there would be no strings attached to his help. From her point of view, at least she now knew that he might be in love with her. Perhaps today she would give him a more positive response than ‘that’s nice’-if she brought the subject up that is. And if she didn’t bring the subject up, then perhaps he would be better off putting it on the back burner for awhile.

ÿ

“What are you thinking about?” asked Stella. “You’ve been a lot quieter than normal.”

“Sorry about that,” said Chris. “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, thinks.”

“Thinks?”

“Yes, thinks. Most people have things on their mind. I usually have thinks on mine.”

“Okay, what kind of thinks?”

After a long period of silence with no more words from Stella and him growing more depressed by the minute, he decided to put himself out of his misery and open up to her.

“Remember last week when I told you that I thought I was in love with you?”

“Yes?”

Chris glanced quickly at her eyes, but they were unreadable. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to continue. “I wasn’t exactly honest with you when I said that. The brutal truth is, there’s no ‘I think’ about it. I do love you. I have for some time. Now, I’ve said it, and I don’t care what the consequences are.”

“So there are strings attached after all,” Stella replied. “I think you need to pull off the road and stop so we can talk about this.”

With his heart down in his shoes, Chris did as she told him.

“Okay, Munson,” she said when he had turned the engine off, “just how many strings do you have attached to me?” Though she did her best to sound stern, she couldn’t stop her facial expression from mirroring her amusement.

With a dawning awareness and a sudden flash of intuition, Chris realized that he had been trying to win Stella by doing all the wrong things. His promise of no strings attached in the beginning may have been fine with her initially, but that was not what she wanted to hear from him now. Sure that his intuition was not misleading him, he looked her straight in the eyes. “None,” he said. “But that’s the wrong question. What you should ask is how many strings I would like to have attached to you.”

With shining eyes, Stella said, “Okay Mr. Munson, how many strings would you like to have attached to me?”

“One,” he said.

“One?” she asked, sounding disappointed. “That’s all?”

“Oh, but it’s a very special string,” he informed her. “You see, this string is absolutely unbreakable. And it allows you your freedom while reminding you that there is someone at the other end of it who loves you.”

ÿ

It was almost the usual Saturday afternoon, with almost the usual Saturday group congregating at Smith’s Variety and Hardware. Almost, because it was the group’s first Saturday there as high school graduates, and because Justin’s table had a new member.

“So you’re really moving to Prospect?” Samantha asked Stella, Chris’s girlfriend.

“Yes,” said Stella. “Chris found me a nice apartment. Also, I’ll be starting work for his father’s company the week after next.”

“What will you be doing?”

“Finances,” Stella told them. “I’ve always been interested in numbers. In high school, I took every math class I could. I plan on taking some courses at the local community college in Radcliffe as soon as I get settled here.”

“A little on-the-job training to go with the schooling,” said Justin. “Nice.”

“Yes, it is. I’m very excited about it.”

“You’re not the only one,” added Chris. “My dad can’t wait to turn some of the finances over to her as soon as she begins work.”

“Lady Fair?”

“Way ahead of you, Knight of mine. I take it that you did a side by side examination of their auras?”

“Yes.”

There is a saying that originated who-knows-where that couples who stay together long enough actually begin to look somewhat alike. Justin guessed that was probably true, because he and Samantha had discovered that the saying could also apply to the auras of those couples. His and Samantha’s auras were a good example. Bart and Darla’s also. And now Chris and Stella. Just out of curiosity, Justin had pulled up both their auras, and immediately detected similarities in the two that had not been present before.

“What say we move this relationship to a higher level?” Justin asked her.

“What do you mean?”

“They’re in love. Maybe we can get them thinking about marriage.”

“And how are you going to do that?”

“Watch me,” Justin told her.

Addressing his friend Chris, Justin asked, “This apartment you picked out for her-would it be big enough for two people sometime in the future?”

“Why do you ask?”

Grinning, Justin said, “Because I’m nosey, pal. Now just answer the question.”

Stammering slightly, Chris replied, “Well, ah, I suppose that if she decided to, ah, find a roommate, female of course, that, ah, yes, it would be big enough for two people.”

“Wow,” Justin said. “I hope you’re not that tongue-tied when one of life’s big opportunities presents itself.”

“Life’s big opportunities?” Chris asked, puzzled.

“Yes,” replied Justin. “You know, like, I’ll take this car here, or, I prefer the blue one, or, will you marry me.”

“Will you marry me?” asked Chris, still puzzled.

“I’m flattered, pal, but I’m already taken. Ask Stella. She’ll probably say yes.”

One of the things Chris had thought about on his way to pick up Stella that morning-besides his pathetic declaration of love the week before-was proposing marriage to her, if their relationship ever reached that level.

This morning, it had-and now he had to decide whether his good friend Justin had just totally embarrassed him, or whether his friend had presented him with a golden opportunity. Of course, everyone at the table was looking at him, waiting for a reaction. He looked at Stella. There was no surprise or shock on her face, nor did she divert her eyes when he looked at her. Her gaze was steady. No, he decided, his friend had not embarrassed him. That being the case, he could think of no reason why he shouldn’t propose to her, right here and now. Holding both of his hands up for silence, even though no one was talking, he said, “Of all the places I could have imagined for proposing marriage, I would never have thought of doing it here. There’s nothing romantic about it and I don’t even have a ring to give. But, all my best friends in the world are sitting at this table with me, including a very special young lady who I would like nothing better than to spend the rest of my life with, if she’ll have me, that is.” Looking directly at Stella, he asked, “Stella Larson, will you marry me?”

Stella looked at him in return, long enough to confirm to herself that he really was serious.

“Well,” she said, becoming slightly emotional, “I didn’t expect to be answering that question this soon, but, my answer is, yes I will.”

After the cheers and commotion died down, Stella rapped her knuckles on the table top for attention. “In answer to Justin’s question about the apartment,” she informed them, “yes, it is plenty big enough for two people.” A few seconds later when she could catch his eye, she mouthed a silent “thank you” to him.

“Well done, Knight of mine,” impathed Samantha. “I think you made everybody’s day, including mine.”

“Don’t be giving me too much credit, Lady Fair,” returned Justin. “I meant it as a joke. Chris was suppose to say ha-ha very funny Billings while everyone else laughed including Stella and the conversation would go on to other things.”

“But, this was much better than the conversation going on to other things,” said Samantha.

“No argument there, Lady Fair,” replied Justin.

ÿ

“Wonderful meal, mom number two,” complemented Samantha with a grin as she set her now empty glass of milk on the table. “I haven’t eaten steak that good in a long time.”

“One of the advantages of living on a farm and raising edible critters,” commented Lloyd.

Connie arose from her chair and began clearing off the table, turning down an offer of help from Samantha. “You and Justin stay put,” she ordered with a smile. “When I’m finished, I have something to discuss with both of you.”

Samantha looked at Justin, who pasted an I-don’t-know look on his face and shrugged his shoulders.

A few minutes later, Connie resumed her seat at the table. “I’m not trying to be nosy,” she said, “but have you gone shopping for an engagement ring yet?”

“We were planning on doing that sometime this week,” Justin told her.

“I have something I want to show you,” said Connie. Dropping her right hand below the level of the table top, she came back up with a small, velvet covered box. “This belonged to my great-grandmother,” she explained, opening it to reveal the ring inside. “It’s been passed down from mother to daughter for several generations. Actually, there’s kind of a tradition associated with this ring. When my grandmother got married, they couldn’t afford a ring at the time, so my great grandmother loaned them hers for the ceremony. When my mother got married, she decided that would be a nice tradition to continue. Her mother agreed. So, what my mother did was wear my great grandmother’s ring the day of the ceremony. When they got to the part where she and her husband exchanged rings, he slipped my great grandmother’s ring off my mother’s finger and replaced it with the ring he was giving her. In a way, it was symbolic: she was leaving her parents to live with her husband.”

“What a wonderful story,” said Samantha. After a moment’s thought, she realized why Connie had brought up the subject of ring shopping. She knew that Lloyd and Connie didn’t have any children, which meant that Connie had no daughter to ‘loan’ the ring to. Studying Connie’s face, she said softly, “I think that Justin and I would like to borrow the ring for our ceremony, too.”

Smiling serenely, Connie replied, “Over time, you’ve become the closest thing I’ve ever had to a daughter. You would make this ‘mom number two’ very happy if you did.”

ÿ

“Thanks for coming over, you two.” Justin hung the last milker on the hook, then walked into the tank room of the parlor where his friends Chris and Bart were waiting for him. Both were smiling.

“Any second thoughts?” asked Bart.

“None whatsoever,” Justin replied. “In fact, I get more excited the closer it gets.”

“I’m starting to feel that way myself,” commented Chris, “and we haven’t even set a date yet.”

As if on cue, both of them looked at Bart. “I’m expecting a yes any day now,” he informed them.

“Congratulations!” said Chris. “When did you ask her?

“I’ll probably get to that part in a week or two.”

“What if you don’t live that long?” asked Chris, his tone insinuating a possible immediate beat-up for the joke. Then, turning to Justin, he asked, “What can we do for you, buddy?”

“Do you know what the hardest part of this wedding planning has been?” Providing an answer to his own question, Justin said, “Choosing a best man.”

Bart and Chris looked knowingly at each other. “Just what we thought,” said Chris. Then to Justin, “We discussed this on the way over, and decided that whichever one of us you choose, the other will not be upset in the least. I mean, when you have two such fine examples of humanity as Bart and I, that has to make choosing one or the other almost impossible.”

“You got that right,” said Justin. “That’s why I have decided to do something very unconventional. Instead of one Best Man, I’m going to have two.”

Whistling, Bart said, “That is unconventional. We’ll do it of course.”

“Thank you,” said Justin. “When I decide how I’m going to split up the best man duties between the two of you, I’ll let you know. Or better yet, you two can fight it out between you. I’ll go along with whatever you decide.”

ÿ

Had Justin and Samantha only thought of themselves, they would have kept the entire wedding as simple as possible-neither of them being big on elaborate ceremonies. However, because Samantha’s parents were footing the bill, with some help from the Barbers at their insistence, the young couple suggested a compromise-having a simple wedding, then an elaborate reception.

One initial concern Justin had was Edith McCallen’s announcement-when he and Samantha told her parents of their engagement-that she would be running the entire show, and that all things concerning the wedding and reception would need to go through her first.

At the first opportunity when he and Samantha were alone, he expressed his concern to her.

“I should have told you,” apologized Samantha, “but this is something you don’t need to worry about. In fact, it’s a blessing. My mother may not be very good at a lot of things, but when it comes to organization and planning, she’s the best. You’ll see, Knight of mine.”

ÿ

Acceding to Samantha’s and Justin’s wishes, Edith adhered to the short list they had given her of who they wanted invited to the wedding ceremony. As a result, the total attendance would be less than 20 people-Justin and Samantha’s close friends, the Barbers, Samantha’s parents, and perhaps a few others.

A few weeks before the wedding, Samantha and Justin accompanied Edith to a nearby church, whose building the leaders of the congregation had offered the use of for free. Before accepting the offer, Edith wanted to make sure it would meet their needs. Only a few minutes of looking around convinced them that the building would suit them nicely.

Upon learning that the couple had yet to decide who would actually perform the marriage, the pleasant mannered gentleman who was showing them the building informed them that he was licensed in the state for just such a thing. “I don’t often get the chance,” he told them, chuckling, “but I’m affordable.”

“How affordable?” Edith asked.

“Oh,” he said with a smile in his voice, “I usually settle for a hand-shake and a thank you at the end. Can’t get much more affordable than that.”

Edith looked questioningly at her daughter and Justin.

“I like this guy’s rates,” said Samantha, not bothering to consult her husband-to-be first. “In fact, I like him. We’ll take the offer.”

Smiling knowingly, the man looked at Justin and said, “Get used to it, young man. During your marriage, you’ll find yourself playing silent partner in a lot of ‘we’ll take it’ decisions. Your best move is to just go along with it.”

Upon learning about the small number who would be attending the wedding ceremony, Bishop Brown-as they had learned upon questioning him, was his religious title, had suggested that the ceremony be held in one of the larger rooms in the building, rather than in the large emptiness of the chapel.

Doubtful at first, the three changed their minds upon entering the room.

“I like it,” stated Samantha. “There’s a certain homey intimacy here. I can feel it.”

“Samantha has decided that we’ll take the offer,” said Justin. “So naturally, I’m going to go along with it.”

Over the laughter of Samantha and her mother, Bishop Brown laid a hand on Justin’s shoulder. “You catch on quick, young man,” he said. “I predict a long and happy marriage for you.

ÿ

Samantha’s statement about her mother’s organizational abilities, as Justin found out on the day of the wedding, was spot on. The wedding was scheduled for early afternoon, with the reception following one hour afterwards. That morning, Justin watched as Edith moved around among various individual volunteers and small groups, issuing orders here, offering suggestions there, and otherwise keeping all the various projects moving smoothly forward. Sooner than he would have expected, the cultural hall of the building was ready for the reception.

ÿ

The wedding ceremony was simple, as Samantha and Justin had wanted. Justin wore a new suit the Barbers had bought him, while Samantha opted for her prom dress which she hadn’t wore since the prom.

Before the actual ceremony, Bishop Brown gave them a few words of advice which they found quite sound and sensible. Especially humorous was his admonition to “never yell at each other unless the house is on fire”.

When the time came for Justin and Samantha to exchange rings, Samantha removed the ring she had borrowed from Connie, then held it up for all to see as she gave them a brief history of the ring and the ritual associated with it. Walking over to Connie, she said-loud enough for everyone to hear, “Thank you for allowing me to continue the tradition.” Handing Connie the ring, she said, “This ring has helped make this a very special day for me, but I’m giving it back now, because I’m not going to need it any more. Thank you.”

Too emotional to speak, Connie smiled and nodded her head in acknowledgement.

Samantha walked back to Justin and offered him her now unadorned hand. Cradling it gently in his, he slipped the wedding ring on her finger, then both of them turned expectantly and faced Bishop Brown.

“That was a moment to cherish for life,” he said, slightly emotional. “the symbolism of leaving one’s father and mother to become one with each other.” After a moment pondering what he had just witnessed, he brightened. “What say we get you two married now?” he asked, then began the ceremony.

Of all the emotion in the room over what was occurring, those attending would have been surprised had they known that the person who was feeling it the most was Chris Munson. Seeing his best friend Justin standing beside Samantha, the young woman he had once despised because of her rejection of him, now stirred in him only feelings of deep satisfaction. What he was witnessing now, was meant to be-of that he had no doubt. Without conscious thought, he reached to his right and took hold of his fiancée Stella’s hand, squeezing it gently. They hadn’t yet pinned down a definite date for their wedding, but witnessing Justin and Samantha’s marriage ceremony made him want to get it done as soon as possible.

In keeping with the simplicity of the ceremony, the kiss at the end was also simple. Justin and Samantha turned to each other, feeling for each other’s hands as they exchanged soft smiles of mutual love. Stepping very close together then, and without letting go the hands, they tenderly kissed.

After their lips had separated, Samantha looked at those in attendance. “Don’t worry,” she said slyly, “It’ll get mushier later on.”

“I have a better idea,” said Justin, grinning mischievously after the laughter had abated. “How about it gets mushier right now?” Stooping down slightly, he wrapped his arms around Samantha’s waste, then lifted her completely off floor, bending back slightly as he did so. Samantha’s head was now higher than his, so that he had to look up to see her face.

Not to be outdone, Samantha wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, then lowered her lips onto his. The kiss was not long, but it was firm to the point of being hard.

Justin lowered her back down to more sounds of merriment coming from the rest of those in the room.

ÿ

Edith had been thorough in organizing the setup of the reception, and even more so with the invitations. If there was one invited person in the entire town who hadn’t shown up for the reception, Justin had no clue who it might have been.

When Lloyd and Connie arrived, after going back home to change into the clothes they would wear for the reception line, Justin did an exaggerated double take.

“Whoa!” he said looking at Lloyd. “You clean up real nice, gramps.”

“Thank you, sonny,” replied Lloyd. “I will admit to some concern, however, about outclassing you and getting all the attention.”

Looking around quickly to make sure no one else could hear her, Connie leaned towards Justin. “In his younger years?” she said, conspiratorially, “This man was a real stud.”

Mildly shocked for a few seconds, Justin burst out laughing-not at the thought of Lloyd being a stud, but at Connie’s use of the word at her age.

 A couple of surprises occurred during the reception.

Betty Sutton, the nurse who had taken care of Samantha in the hospital, came-Edith’s doing, Justin figured, and was glad of it.

“You can’t know how happy I am to see you again,” she told them. “After what happened a few months ago, and now this…I hope you have a very long and happy marriage.” A quick embrace of Samantha and Justin, and she left.

The second surprise took place midway through the reception. Without telling Samantha beforehand, Justin had kept his Vision activated on Arnold Curtis’ aura. Arnold hadn’t been invited to the wedding or reception, but Justin didn’t trust him not to show up. Every so often, Justin took a mental peek at where Arnold was at the time. If he drove to the church, Justin would know about it.

Midway through the reception, Justin looked at his two Best Men. “Do me a favor,” he said, quietly, “and tell Arnold Curtis he is not welcome here. He just pulled up in the parking lot. I would appreciate it if Samantha didn’t have to deal with him today, okay? Thanks.”

A few minutes later they were back, looking satisfied and feeling as if they had done something useful in their positions as Best Men.

“That was quick,” said Justin. “What did you do to him?”

“Didn’t have to do anything to him,” Bart informed him.

“Yeah,” confirmed Chris. “When he saw us coming out the door, he turned right around, got back in his car, and headed back to wherever he came from. And by the way, how did you know he was coming?”

Smiling, Justin told them, “Let’s just say that, ah, I had eyes in the parking lot.”

ÿ

Published on January 2, 2009 at 2:21 am  Leave a Comment  

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