©01 The Media Desk
Back to the Desk
It seemed everybody had other plans when they left the classroom, Ralph was gone with Colleen to wherever. Blumn had a habit of disappearing to places unknown as soon as the class broke up at regular time, never mind late at night, he had slipped out earlier and was gone into the night. The rest just wandered away. Harrison led Valerie back to his office to check on something. Dale and Peggy were left with three full bottles of the spiked tea and a bag of pizza rolls.
There wasn't even anybody around in the hallway.
"I guess we have to carry on the party without them." Dale said, he was still holding a partially full Long Island Iced Tea. Peggy took it from him and had a drink.
"That's a good idea.' She took one of the small pizza things out of the bag, it was still warm. "My place or yours?" She stuffed it in his mouth. The drink had her feeling real good, and she wanted to enjoy it. "I want to dance some more."
"Then we'd better go to your room, mine's too small." Dale said.
Peggy danced down the stairs, with the drinks.
Dale had to run to catch up. "Peggy! Peggy! Wait up!"
Jack had been last out of the box. Maggie was first down the aisle, Bonker had walked out and waited, she came slowly down the aisle, then she took his arm, and they stood to one side. Then it was Steve's turn, he waited up front while Cindy did the shuffle down the aisle, she was dreaming this was for her, she even caught a brief vision of Steve in a white tux waiting for her. Then reality sat in, his white shirt with a hockey logo on it was back, she took his arm and waited on the other side of the aisle.
Mary was standing in the back, she saw Jack standing up front, looking uncomfortable, Miss Alice was whispering the same instructions to her as she had to the others, plus a few. Then the lady hurried down a side aisle to see the action up front better. Mary did the half step shuffle down the long aisle, and pictured herself in the antique dress doing this less than twenty-fours from now, she had to remember to breath. Cindy was smiling at her, she glanced around and saw the ROTC smiling at her from the side, the bishop was in the side door, smiling at her, Miss Alice smiled at her. Mary became very self-conscious, she was the bride, and tomorrow this huge building would be full of her family, Jack's family, the campus, and people from all over town. And the bishop said it might be almost full.
She made it. Jack took her arm, Miss Alice told Jack to help her up the stairs, and Cindy would handle her train, she even told Steve to hold Cindy's flowers. Then Cindy and Steve would follow them up the stairs to the stage level where they would all kneel once, then the best couple would stand off to one side. Bonk and Maggie would remain below.
They walked back to the house. Peggy noticed the Cathedral was more lit up than usual, but they didn't know why. Later, in her room, she tuned an oldies station on her radio and asked Dale to relax. He wanted to, he really liked her, and he felt pretty good, considering it had been a real long day, he wasn't sure of what to do.
What Dale lacked in the party spirit, he made up for in ineptitude.
Mary hoped she would remember everything they had to do. They both had vetoed the unity candle idea as silly and unnecessarily complicated. But they couldn't get out of the kneeling, and the blessing, and the well, whatever the bishop was doing with the silk ribbon. He had told them to just relax, and he would tell them what to do when. Jack liked that idea, he had even called the bishop "Coach." a couple of times.
They stayed up front for a long time, Bonker and Maggie were sitting in a pew. Cindy was admiring some of the painting over the altar. The chevet was ornate by even some Catholic standards. Cindy had been very religious in her younger days, she had even thought about going to a Christian college, but she never appreciated the idols and other art of the Catholic Church. But now, standing basically at attention while the bishop went through the finer points of the service she had time to look and think. To look up, at the saints, the apostles and finally, far above, out of sight of the congregation, but in easy view of the speaker if he looked up, the assumption of Christ into the Heaven above.
Cindy felt something deep in her stir, something she had missed. She looked at the huge window, now so close it was almost physically awe inspiring. It had been the finest example of its art within a over hundred miles when it was built, townspeople had come out to make a day of watching it being constructed. It had been something to see.
Several new pieces showed this close, where damage had been repaired, the entire head of St. Luke in the one side window had been replaced, as well as some of the surrounding glass. A tree limb had made a martyr of the saint during a windstorm several years ago.
Cindy missed her church, she was the daughter of a lay minister, what she always considered a position with all the responsibility of a full time minister, and none of the prestige or pay, so she had been in every activity the church had. From old folks ice cream socials where she would serve, and eat, to the vacation bible school where she would be at every nightly function, and eventually a teacher. She missed it, some. She also had found out she enjoyed life outside the church as well. She smiled, she enjoyed it a lot. A twinge of guilt flickered through her as the thoughts conflicted with the imposing religious totems around her.
Steve was just plain bored. He wanted to get out of here so bad he could taste it. Only Mary and Miss Alice's promise of a reception to "Beat the band", as the older lady put it, made him stay. Jack was a good friend, but this was testing the limits of that friendship.
Finally the bishop told them they would run through a practice, nonstop and just see what happened, after a break.
Peggy had never been a drinker. She was a lightweight in more ways than one. The drinks were not a real sledgehammer, alcohol-wise, but they did have more punch than a wine cooler, and she was feeling it.
She danced with Dale, and then without him. She ran to the bathroom and changed into her version of play clothes when she started to feel uncomfortable in her fancy new outfit. When she came back in her old sweat pants, and a ragged T-shirt Dale about had an aneurysm.
She looked like a dream come true to him. But she wasn't acting like herself.
Dale realized it was the fun of the party, and the drink talking, not her.
She was loose, and talking about spending the night with a good friend.
But Dale was no longer feeling the drink, he had sobered up in a hurry.
Part of him wanted to stay here and have a night to remember with her. But he also wanted her to be able to remember it.
Peggy wanted to. She had been envious of Colleen, and what she had, and the life she led. And Peggy thought she could have some of that, she knew she was in way comparable in the looks department, but, damnit, she was a, well, woman, and she could do it. Couldn't she? Peggy thought Colleen was crazy for dumping Kim-Sung from the fire inspector's office for Ralph, but, that was her life. This was Peggy's, and she wanted to start it with Dale.
She knew some of the older guys in the house had been eyeing her, Keith and Rob and some of them. Peggy had also been noticing them from time to time, but she wasn't ready for that, yet.
Peggy got Dale off the chair to dance to a fifties number with her.
Dale felt a tug on him. Peggy was too busy trying to do the twist to have touched him, he looked around, nobody was there. A sudden thought of Ellen flashed through his mind. He shook it away.
He liked Peggy a lot more than Ellen. But considering he didn't know it, but he feared and hated Ellen, that wasn't saying a lot.
He noticed she wasn't wearing a bra under her T-shirt, but it took him a few minutes to really realize it. This fact forced him to consider what he was going do next.
She sort of knew what she wanted him to do. She thought.
The second rehearsal went off without a hitch. Everything from the flags, through 'you may kiss the bride', to the shaking of hands at the back of the church, it went more or less smoothly.
Jack even got over his awkwardness in kissing her in front of the priest, something he felt was a little sacrilegious.
At the back of the cathedral they were all officially invited, including Bonker's nurse who had sat with her hanky on one side of the building watching it all. She had practiced crying at the wedding. The nurses had decided among themselves that it would take all three of them to get Bonker through the wedding on Saturday, and all three had there best dress nurse's uniforms ready for it.
Miss Alice made the official invite to the Rozbilski house for a late supper and reception, and then a real kick backsides party for the wedding party.
Even the bishop accepted.
Mary held Jack's hand, "It is going to be perfect. I love you. My dreams are coming true. I can't believe it."
She started crying. Real tears. Her nose was running. Jack never carried a handkerchief. He had never needed one.
The Captain gave him his, starched, folded with military precision to three inches square. Mary didn't notice, she wiped her face with it.
They stood near the side door while the vicar shut off the main lights and declined repeated offers to come to the party. The man had his home, a small apartment in the basement of the huge building, and he never left it.
The wedding party walked into the night.
Miss Alice had made all the arrangements. The limmo fetched Mary and Jack to the house, the long way. Bonker and his nurse were loaded into the house's minivan that was used for errands, Maggie helped and went with him. Bonker looked like he had run a marathon, but he wanted to go to the party and would not be denied, so, against the nurse's wishes, and with Miss Alice R.N.'s reassurance, Bonker went to the party.
Everybody else piled into the larger van.
The ROTC marched, quickstep, to the house, the Captain leading his troops.
The butler had arranged it perfectly. As the wedding party arrived they were greeted by name, handed a drink, and pointed to a place to stand to wait on the guests of honor.
When the ROTC showed up, there was a brief ceremony in which the butler presented a flag of the United States that had flown at the United Nations to the Captain.
It was unexpected but well received. The butler had wanted to do something spontaneous, and this was.
To the applause of the Roz people and the wedding party, the captain promised the flag would make its first public appearance at the wedding the next day.
The butler took the flag back a little later so the man wouldn't have to carry it around during the party. It was placed back in its case with a label and returned to the captain when he left a little before midnight.
After while Jack and Mary made their entrance.
To cheers and whistles. It was obvious they had been busy in the back of the limmo while the chauffeur took them on a ride around every one way and side street and in the city.
To Mary it went too fast. They had dinner, then a champagne reception in a big room with music and dancing, then a less formal party in the big storeroom in the basement with loud music and dancing that wasn't at all what had been the norm upstairs. Then she was kidnapped and deposited in a very comfortable bed and wished 'good night and sweet dreams' by Miss Alice.
Jack saw a different picture. The dinner was dull, but the food was great.
Then the slow party in the music room, with a waltz he couldn't do, and a toast by somebody he didn't know to the happy couple.
Finally they went downstairs and got going. Then Mary was gone. So he drank and danced with some girl from the mansion with too much makeup on who said she was Sandy.
Dale felt feelings he had never felt before. He was relieved when the butler knocked on the door and announced the reception for what he called Miss Alice's wedding party downstairs.
Peggy was in no condition to go down to it. But she didn't want Dale to leave.
He sat her on her bed and told her he'd be back in a few minutes. She wanted a kiss, so he kissed her cheek, that wasn't enough, she pulled him back down for a real kiss.
Then he left to go to the reception.
The late dinner had been only for the wedding party, he had missed the early dinner, but they had had enough pizza and stuff with the class to call it supper.
Dale stood in the background and watched the others dance, Ralph and Colleen were there. Colleen wouldn't have missed a 'do' in the house for anything.
They waltzed, though Ralph didn't exactly waltz, he walked, but with her, anything was OK, as long as she was the center of attention. Dale watched Jack and Mary, but he didn't remember their names, it was obvious they were in love, they looked it, they acted it, they clung to each other like they were glued together.
When the party moved downstairs Dale didn't go.
He went back upstairs and checked on Peggy. She was out like a light.
Dale went back to his room, he looked out the window, some of the party had spilled into the driveway, some of the ROTC mixed with the house people and the guy in a wheelchair from the wedding. They were trying to top each other catching coins off their elbows. Dale laid in his bed, he wondered if he was weird. He wasn't with Peggy, and he wasn't downstairs with the party, and he wasn't doing homework. He was lying in bed, alone, wondering why he was lying in bed alone. Dale fell asleep.
Jack finally got up the nerve to talk to the butler. He wasn't used to talking to non-basketball types eye to eye. The butler was just a hair shorter than Jack. And he stood at attention the whole time.
"AHH, where's Mary? Sir."
The butler gave him a very tight-lipped answer. "Miss Henderson has retired for the night under the direction of Miss Alice." The butler inclined his head just slightly, "Sir."
Jack looked at the man. If he was any colder he'd be carved out of dry ice, but he remembered him smiling broadly earlier. Jack wanted to loosen him up a little again, "Have you tried the punch, it's real good." Jack was sure the punch didn't have any mixer in it, just some orange food coloring in pure booze.
"Mister Foster. I made the punch, sir, it is very good. I would suggest to you that when you break wide for a jump shot you use a misdirection move with your eyes and then break the opposite way, that will give you at least a step on the man to man defense. Sir." The butler walked away.
"Yes sir." Jack said because there was nothing else to say.
Early Saturday morning Dale woke to a furious beating on his door. He stirred to life.
Peggy, now in a bathrobe stared at him with a strange look on her face. Dale felt the beginnings of a hangover, he tried to clear the bluriness in front of his eyes.
Based on observation alone he might have concluded the universe was out of focus slightly, but the dry kitty litter stuck to his teeth suggested it was his eyes not behaving the way they should.
Dale volunteered to go downstairs and get some coffee for them. Peggy thought that was a good idea. She walked stiffly back to her room. It was still very early, but downstairs on the sidebar near the kitchen was a big pot of coffee and a selection of cookies and a few pastries, and a cold jug of some sort of fruit juice. This was the breakfast for the house people that had really weird schedules.
Jack ended up back in the married dorm by himself at almost one in the morning.
Mary had been pampered and put to bed in the mansion.
Bonker and Maggie had flown the coup, leaving his nurse to wonder where he had gone, though the nurse was doing pretty by herself with the sergeant from the ROTC. The cadets had been sent home by the captain, but the captain was well on his way to a hangover, and the sergeant was trying to get the nurse's phone number.
Jack felt like he was alone, so he slipped out after telling some guy he was talking to and the girl from the mansion he needed a potty run. The shower was deserted, he remembered the last time he saw Mrs. Caldell she was dancing with Ramsey at the party, but that was before midnight.
Jack slumped into bed. He suddenly realized he wasn't used to sleeping alone. His last night as a single man. He thought about taking what money he had and seeing if the was a late bus out to Texas. He fell into a deep sleep without realizing it.
Mary woke up several times in the strange bed, she listened for Jack's deep breathing, but then she realized she was in the mansion, so she wouldn't see him the morning of the wedding. She had also been told by Miss Alice her parents were scheduled to arrive at the house early in the morning, and she would be having breakfast with them, and special arrangements had been made for her father. Mary marveled that Miss Alice had been able to do these things. She fell back to sleep, she could feel Jack holding her as she slept.
The party wrapped up downstairs. Ralph and Colleen closed the place, the butler simply stood and watched them more into a public deep grope than dance.
The butler smiled a toothy smile that made Ralph's skin crawl, Colleen lead him upstairs. Everybody else was gone. Even the captain was gone, and he had showed every sign of staying until the fat lady sang.
Dale headed back upstairs with their breakfast on a tray. He couldn't believe he had only slept for about three hours.
Peggy was sitting up on her bed, Dale sat the tray between them and they sipped the hot black liquid tentatively.
They had learned that the quality of the coffee around here varied considerably, sometimes it didn't need anything in it, such as when Martha made her homemade mocha-cafe, or somebody went gonzo with vanilla beans and sugar in the pot, but then there were times like this. Dale was surprised they didn't need a fork to get the stuff out of the cup. This coffee was real John Wayne-hit-the-beach-and-sang-the-old-time-songs-to-his-rifle COFFEE!
"Wheaohwow." Dale said trying to get the bitterness out of his mouth.
Peggy stirred several small packets of creamer into her cup, it lightened the liquid a little, she dumped in sugar. She tasted it gently, then dumped in more sugar.
This coffee would do for double-shift longshoremen, maybe all-night truckers on the Ohio Turnpike, or maybe even red-eyed journalists covering two presidential candidates across five states in three days. But for two college freshmen nursing minor hangovers who aren't veteran hard-core two fisted coffee drinkers, this caffeine and oil mix was beyond all doctoring of sugar and creamer. They finally gave up, and nibbled rolls, sipping juice.
Peggy was finally ready to go back to sleep, but she told Dale to stay for a little while and talk to her. They both fell asleep in a few minutes on her bed. The coffee forgotten on her desk, a thin layer of multi-colored scum forming on the surface, the plate of cookies ended up on the floor.
Dale could feel her legs near his shoulders, he smelled her perfume in the room. He slept soundly.
She dreamed pleasant but unconnected thoughts.
Mary woke up that morning and knew this was it.
It was going to be a long day, By anybody's measure. Mary found a robe on the foot of her bed, and a housecoat that looked like it was brand new. She looked around the small but comfortable room. She read a small plaque under a picture of an unsmiling bald man in a black suit. The man seemed to be glaring over her right shoulder, she glanced over to that corner of the room, there was nothing there but a small antique washstand. The plaque described this man as the former mayor of the city, he had been a friend of the younger Rozbilski and had pushed through the zoning waiver to build the current house where a much smaller house had been. From the look of the face in the portrait, she thought, the young Rozbilski was probably his only friend.
There was a very soft knock on the door.
"Yes?" She said, then she cracked the door open just a hair. The butler stood there like a tower of starch. He seemed even more formal than usual.
"Miss, I was instructed by Miss Alice and Martha to escort you to breakfast," He barely looked at her, speaking slowly, "Or to carry you to breakfast."
Mary wasn't sure, but she thought the butler could probably carry out the threat of carrying her to breakfast. She tightened the housecoat around her and followed him down a short hall, past the meditation room into the main hall, then to the dining room.
There were only a few of the house people in there. The butler announced her as "The future Mrs. Foster."
Mary kinda liked the sound of that. He directed her to a chair next to the girl that did her makeup the other day Mary had no idea what anybody's name was, but they took care of that.
Martha brought her a light breakfast of a croissant, fruit pieces, and small pieces of sausage she said were 'low fat turkey sausage'.
She had a cup of tea that smelled of apple and spice. It was all very good.
The house people congratulated her, and some of them said they would be at the wedding, a few begged her leave, they had to fly to Cleveland or something.
She smiled, and nodded, and chatted, and shook hands, and smiled.
Finally most of them were gone, the girl next to her, Sandy, told her they would do her makeup before she dressed at the church, but she wanted to take care of her hair here, right after breakfast.
Mary just nodded, that was something she had never considered before, her hair.
"Do you think I should have gotten a perm? Maybe a cut..." She ran her hand through her hair.
"No, your hair is fine, but I want it to stay in place under the headpiece, and still look like something when you take it off." Sandy was eating baked French toast with powdered sugar. "These are my one weakness."
The others were filtering in. Mary asked Martha if she could try a piece of the French toast. The lady smiled a broad yes to her.
They both woke up to the sounds of the house coming to life. Peggy stretched and yawned, she startled to full consciousness when she kicked Dale laying across the foot of her bed. He had been in a dreamy half sleep when he was softly kicked in his side. He jumped slightly and banged his elbow on the bed's footboard.
"Owww," Dale said grabbing his tingling arm.
"What are you doing in my bed?" Peggy demanded. She sat up and smashed a sugar cookie under her.
Dale was clambering out of the bed and stepped on the plastic serving tray with the rest of the doughnuts on it. Now he had goo on the bottom of his foot and a firey tingling up and down his left arm. Trying to get himself under control and keep the icing from getting all over her carpet he backed into the corner of her dresser. It caught him just under the blade his right shoulder, "OOOOWWWW." He repeated, louder and with more feeling this time.
Peggy looked at him, he was twisted every which way, His right foot half off the carpet, trying to hold both injuries at once. She forgot to be mad,
Laughing, she said, "Are you, hehehehe, all right?"
Jack woke up slowly, as usual, but there was nobody there today to get him moving. No roommate growling, or shouting from down the hall like at the independent house. Usually somebody there had their steno too loud, or would be pounding on somebody's door, something would happen to get him moving in some constructive way.
Now he had Mary to wake him up and bring him to life in a dozen pleasant and soft ways, or she'd whap him across the shoulders with her belt, or squirt him with her hair spray water bottle, which wasn't that bad either. Or he'd wake her up by tenderly kissing her, or tickling her, both worked equally well.
Today he was alone, the dorm was quiet, he thought he heard a TV someplace but he wasn't sure. He looked at the clock, ten AM. He was supposed to be at the Cathedral in four hours.
He wanted breakfast, or lunch, food anyway, he needed a shower.
Mary had her suitcase packed for the honeymoon, locked, after being packed in secrecy. That was something else he needed to do.
Jack got out of bed. His back cracking, his knees popping, and the other assorted noises he made after a good night sleep. He could always tell how well he had rested, by the noises he made in the morning, he was glad he sounded like a small arms firing range this morning, that meant he had slept well. He dug out some clean underwear and took his towel and walked creaking and popping to the bathroom.
"Hi Jack." Mrs. Caldell was sitting on the counter, she had a cup of coffee, she was wearing the clothes she had on yesterday. She got off the counter and poured him a cup of hot water from a hot pot she had plugged into the shaving outlet. "How strong do you want it?" She asked him.
"Nohuh." He cleared his throat. "Brackept."
"That strong huh?" She didn't smile.
He nodded. He took the cup from her. He drank about half of it in one shot. In a minute he felt he could talk. "You look a little rough this morning. Long night?"
"Jack.... I need a friend." She looked dejected, a wet puppy nobody would claim. "I... I din t come home last night." She said softly.
"I'm fine... Owww," He said trying to bend some way his back wouldn't hurt. His left arm was still tingling, but he could move his hand now, he tried to reach the spot on his back with his hand, but it wouldn't go that way.
"Turn around." Peggy ordered. "You're bleeding just a little onto your shirt. Take it off and I'll put some cold water on the spot."
Dale did as he was told, she took the shirt. "What about my back?" He was trying to see the wound in her mirror.
She looked at his back. "It's just a little scratch, I'll get a bandage for it. But it does look like it hurts, you'll have a good bruise." She went into the bathroom. She came out in a minute and kissed his back without him seeing her coming. "Did that make it feel better?"
It did. "Yeah. It did." He looked at her. She was smiling at him.
Jack didn't know what to say, or do. He sipped his coffee, thinking fast, he knew Ramsey would have done it if she gave him half a chance. He was sure that was what she meant but before he said anything really stupid he wanted to find out for sure.
"You left the party early, with Ramsey." He took another sip of coffee.
She nodded. We went back to your old house, and he made me a real good screwdriver. Then we, you know,"
She sipped her coffee. Her eyes were far away.
"Jack, it was good, we did it, like I hadn't done it since I got married."
She walked to the window, one of those funny cut glass jobs that made everything look like you were seeing through a bug's eye. "I used to really enjoy sex, I thought love would be enough with Sal, he was never a wild man in bed, but it was all right." Jack wasn't sure he wanted to hear this but she kept talking, "I enjoyed it. I really did, I, I don't think I even feel guilty."
"Kim, Sal didn't leave you for ever, just a couple of months." He felt sad for her. He felt responsible, he had a lump of coal in his stomach.
She turned back toward him.
"I don't think you should have done that." Jack muttered
"I didn't either, but then when it came up, ha, well, it felt natural." She looked at her watch. "You need to get ready for your wedding. Let me help you, then I'll change and go with you. But you have to promise me one thing."
Jack drained his coffee. "What?"
"You keep Mary happy in bed, and never cheat on her." She paused, "With anybody but me. And you're never going to get me. OK?"
"Deal." Jack said with a grin. "Now I need to shave, and shower, and..."
"I know, let's get busy." She shed her clothes in nothing flat. "I'll shave you to make sure you don't miss your neck like you usually do." Kim was walking to the shower.
On Saturday morning you could set a bomb off in this floor's bathrooms and there was a good chance nobody would notice until later in the day. Jack followed her.
Ralph had had a good night. He had found out that a social life wasn't so bad after all.
Colleen had told him not to get to into all this stuff about the wedding, she wasn't into getting married. And then she tried to steam the rest of the paint off the ceiling in his apartment after he told her his roommate was out of town, steam without hot water that is. Now she was cooking him breakfast wearing nothing but a smile.
Ralph drank warm beer and watched her. She could fry eggs and make toast, shame she wouldn't move in with him. "Wait a minute stupid, that's not what she said." He said aloud.
"Huh?" Colleen said turning the toast over in the oven, Ralph's toaster had died after being knocked into the sink full of greasy water months ago.
"Colleen, would you move in with me, if I moved out of here?"
Dale was standing there, with no shirt. He didn't have a real NFL-grade masculine chest. Not much of a chest at all if you want to know the truth. Just a few hairs, and no real massive muscles to make the macho statement. Dale couldn't make a macho statement if he wanted to.
Peggy didn't seem to notice. She looked at him with tender eyes, "We didn't do anything we shouldn't have last night did we?" She honestly didn't remember going to his room and sending him after food and drink in the middle of the night.
"I, ahhh, I don't think...." He screwed his face up, "We did something, but." He wiped the goo off the bottom of his foot, he thought he had went after breakfast, but he thought that might have been this morning, Dale was confused. (this is news right?)
Peggy got a concerned look on her face. Dale hadn't noticed, but she hadn't been wearing much of anything when she got out of bed, he was in too much pain, she had put her robe around herself quickly while he was doing his contortionist act. Now she was concerned, could he lie to her about something like that? And where did that damn cookie in her bed come from anyway?
She put the bandage on his back, "Dale, tell me something, honest injun, ok?" He nodded as she gently pressed the sticky strip onto him. "Did we... last night?"
"Did we what?" He really didn't understand the question.
In case you have been serving in the Star League on long range asteroid mapping patrol recently, there are goldfish which are faster at thinking on their feet than Dale.
She decided to be blunt, or she might never get an answer. "Did we make, ... make love last night? Honest now."
Dale had no idea. He thought he had went to bed in his room. "I dunno. I don't think so but, I... I. hell." His brain locked up as the implications of that sunk in. "I'll marry you if I have to." Was the first thing into his mind, so it came out of his mouth.
Peggy didn't seem to hear. 'How do you tell if you're still a virgin?' she wondered. Could she be pregnant, or have some disease. She glanced at Dale, it could be worse, she might have no idea who she had been with. She didn't feel like it, but she didn't know what 'the morning after' felt like. She took a silent vow never to touch booze again. She wondered if she enjoyed it, then she wondered if she was any good. OK, she said to herself, this is it. "Dale," her voice was weak, "Come here."
Mary got to meet several of the other's from the house, including one she remembered from before, Dr. Harrison. He didn't seem to see her at first, but after coffee and a pile of French toast he looked at her and smiled with recognition. Mary had thought Jack was fairly unique in not being a human being in the morning, but Harrison was much worse. "I know you." Dr. Harrison finally said.
"I've been here a few times, we've met before." Mary said.
"Like I said. I know you."
Peggy reached up to him. He froze. "Dale, come here." She repeated.
Dale was having Ellen flashbacks. But he knew this wasn't Ellen. He liked Peggy, well, he thought he liked Peggy. He wanted to think he liked Peggy.
"Dale, I want to hold you, I think we've already done this, I just want to remember it this time. You understand...." He was there, but he wasn't. "What's wrong?"
He sat on the edge of the bed. "I keep thinking about Ellen, she was so . . . so. More than pushy, I can't think of the word."
"Dale, I think she tried to rape you." She wrapped her arms around him, "I want love, like the other girls have, not something just physical. Not like Ellen. Do you understand?"
He sat there, he didn't know what he understood, but his memory from last night was starting to clear, a fog now, not the deep murk of a midnight swamp full of snakes.
Peggy pulled him towards her, he slowly put one arm around her and looked at her. She laughed at the dumb look on his face, she laid back on the bed, pulling him down on top of her. But his legs were still over the side. He slipped and fell off the bed, smacking his head on the nightstand.
"Oooowwww." He said sharply. The fall also made the cut on his back open up it hurt all over again.
Peggy pulled him up onto the bed with her, she put the bandage back in place, and touched his forehead, he was already getting a lump on it.
"Ouch." He said. "I think you're trying to kill me."
She kissed his forehead gently. "Better?" He nodded, she kissed his cheek.
"Better." Dale said, not sure of where this was going.
She kissed his lips, she was pleased when he returned the kiss.
Mrs. Caldell wasn't kidding. She made him get on his knees while she washed his hair. Jack only got glimpses of her body as she worked on his hair from behind.
Then she shaved him, he got plenty to look at then, but then he had to stare at the ceiling, and something
started expressing its individuality. Jack tried to concentrate. But it didn't work.
"You'll just have to save that for tonight, your honeymoon, remember?"
Jack didn't blush. But he couldn't do anything about his problem.
"I know a trick for that problem, it was in a woman's magazine awhile back. Want me to show you?" She was smiling at him, she was enjoying this for everything it was worth.
"I guess so." He said, finally looking down, then he looked back at her. "It seems to have a mind of its own."
"I'm flattered, my husband didn't have that problem very often." She smiled at him. "I'm glad somebody thinks of me like that. Now close your eyes."
He was anxious to beat the band, he had no idea what her trick was, or what he should do. He felt a sharp sudden slap, it startled him so much he jumped backwards.
She was smiling at him, then he realized, his problem had been solved. "It worked." She said.
Breakfast was over.
Mary was in Sandy's room helping her pick out a dress to wear to the wedding. Mary was enjoying this so much she almost forgot Sandy was picking out a dress to wear to HER wedding. After the choice was made and Sandy had everything laid out, they gathered up her hair care stuff, a collection to rival many smaller beauty salons, and went to the bathroom on the second floor, she needed the bigger room to operate in. Mary did as she was told and got in the shower and washed her hair with some shampoo that smelled like burning asphalt, but after she rinsed it and used the conditioner that didn't seem to have a smell of its own, her hair didn't stink, and felt the softest she ever remembered it feeling. Sandy handed her in another bottle, a body wash of herbal blends.
"You want the rest of you to be soft and smell good for tonight don't you?" Sandy called to her. Mary heard much female giggling in the background.
Sandy had called on reinforcements to help her get Mary ready. She had noticed the bride's hands probably had never seen a manicurist, and the nails could stand a good polishing as well. Plus her makeup was going to take awhile. Sandy wanted her to look fantastic from the other side of the cathedral, without looking made-up close up. That meant coverage in depth. That meant tired hands before they were done. Then they had a job to do at the church to get her into that dress, and do the final job on her face. For now, they would plan and line things up while her hair and hands were being done, to save time later.
Oh, by the way, Sandy was minoring in clinical cosmetology, you know, helping patients in cancer wards and such to look better, and feel better in the process. It wasn't a major in the health care field yet, but it might be, some day. She had attended the vo-tech beauty school in high school and found the field shallow but interesting in a way, when she got to the university and found the clinical cosmetology in the catalog, she beat down the door to get in the classes. She did know what she was talking about, and Mary was very grateful.
Mary went into shock when she looked in the mirror and saw her mom standing there smiling at her.
"Now Mary, don't get blubbering and make your eyes all red, our thanks will be seeing you at your beautiful best walking down the aisle, and when I show my patients the pictures they'll I'm not using them as Guinea pigs." Sandy told her, Mary just smiled.
Colleen just ate dry toast, and sipped the cheap store brand tea Ralph had in the cabinet. Ralph ate everything. "Do you mean it?" She asked. He broke his chow rhythm to answer her in a minute.
"Yeah, there's an open apartment on the second floor, just remodeled, with almost new carpet. I'll move in there if you'll live with me."
"Sure. Sight unseen, I trust you. Next week, we'll do it." She said.
Jack was wide-eyed open-mouthed amazed.
His manhood had surrendered without a whimper.
Mrs. Caldell was inspecting her shaving job on his neck. "Don't worry you'll make us all proud on your honeymoon, I want the details, and pictures. Don't look so stupid, I'm kidding. Ramsey wants the pictures. Now, let's get out of here and get some lunch. You've got to be at the church in less than two hours. All dressed and ready to get hitched."
Jack watched her walk out of the shower, she didn't even consider that somebody else might be in the bathroom with them.
He heard her talking to somebody, but he didn't recognize the voice.
Jack finished washing up, and wondered what other tricks this strange woman knew. He wrapped his towel around himself and tried to sneak back to the room.
He didn't make it.
But the little pocket of uneasiness in Dale's brain that had got him away from Ellen was back, this time the nerves were a little slower to mount the counter-attack, but they finally did, and it was a strategic assault that could not be ignored. The dissidents cleared his memory fog.
They were on her bed, she was lying on top of him with her robe partially undone.
He was holding her tightly, they were kissing to beat the band. Then Dale heard the voices in the back of his mind. At first he let the voices go, he was busy.
But his conscience didn't listen to him.
Finally he rolled Peggy off him, she tried to pull him over on top of her, but he just eased up on one elbow and tried to talk. Peggy wasn't in the mood for talk, her hormones had been fired up and she wanted to go for it. Dale didn't seem to be going for it though.
She took a deep breath.
"I just remembered something. We didn't do anything last night. I went to bed, and then later you came to my room and wanted me to go get some coffee and cookies and stuff from downstairs." He looked at the expression on her face, it was as unreadable as some of Canney's scrawls on the blackboard. "We couldn't drink the coffee, we ate some doughnuts, and fell asleep."
Peggy thought about it, it sounded more like them then the passionate scene of wild abandon to animal lust she had envisioned, No, wrong word, the scene she had fantasized about.
"So we didn't do anything?" She sighed. "And its only eight O'clock."
Dale looked at her clock. It was just after eight. He nodded.
"Then get moving, we've got a lot to do. I want to take a gift to the reception, and by the time we get ready the mall will be open." Peggy was so relieved that they hadn't done anything, she forgot she had wanted to do something. The mood had passed, she was now in shopping gear.
Dale wondered what happened, but he was relieved in a strange sort of way.
He stood up and felt the tug of the tape on his back, his souvenir of the night.
Jack was glad he had given the earrings for Mary to the butler at the party the night before.
He had carried them in his pocket all through the rehearsal, and never found the right time to give them to her. When the butler told him she had been put to bed, Jack felt a letdown, there was no way they were going to let him go see her, so he gave the butler the earrings, and explained what they were for.
The man said he'd take care of it, and smiled at Jack a thin smile that made Jack wonder if the butler wasn't a werewolf working a straight job.
Mrs. Caldell had him sitting in the chair, with his towel still wrapped around him. She was brushing his hair. She was so short she had to stand on tiptoes to get to his cowlick right dead center on top of his head. She had a thin housecoat on, loosely tied, he could live with that. But she had brought the person she was talking to with her.
Cammey was standing in the middle of the room, holding hair spray in one hand and three different brushes in the other. Mrs. Caldell was still beating on his hair, now thick with hair spray, trying to get the wild mane to settle down.
"Maybe if you tried to tame it while it was wet." Cammey offered.
"It didn't lay down wet either, this is bad C.C. I wonder what a beauty-shop would do with it?" She used her hand and pushed down on the hair.
The light-skinned black girl smiled at Jack sitting in his towel, he didn't look the part of the handsome groom, the envy of girls and women everywhere.
His head was hanging low, barely upright, his bare feet scooted around on the floor without direction, his hands took turns keeping the towel in its place and drumming on the arms of the chair.
Finally Mrs. Caldell figured out the right combination of chemicals and violence that would keep his hair in place. "We'll hit it again when you get into your tux. Now try to get dressed without messing it up too much. Then you might be fed."
They left him alone.
Jack was relieved. He stood up and fought down the urge to dig his fingernails into his scalp. He got out his stuff for the honeymoon, including the necklace for Mary, and what passed for his good clothes, and tried to pack them as neatly as possible in an overnight case that should be abandoned at the nearest train station.
He looked at his watch.
The deal went down at four, he had about five hours to flee.
He knew he could hitch a ride out on the bypass, five hours in a semi, he could be nearly to Kansas City, or Indianapolis. He could hide out someplace like that.
Maybe he could get a job with the Pacers on their practice squad.
"Nah, Kim and C.C. are probably standing watch outside. I'd never make it."
He remembered Mary had left her suitcase here for him to bring with. He sat them by the door and dressed for battle. Then taking a deep breath, he went to meet his Fate.
Mary could get to like being treated like this. While the girls were giving her her first manicure, the butler brought a silver tray with a very delicate tea setting for them, she was deciding how many sugar cubes she wanted when she noticed a small silver box sitting so she would see the tag on it.
'from Jack' it said simply but she knew it wasn't his handwriting.
She didn't have a free hand to reach for it but the butler knew she had seen it. He took it and opened it for her, then presented it to her for her inspection.
"They're beautiful." Mary said in almost simultaneously with the other girls.
Jack was going to have a surprise later. The small cheap freshwater cultured pearls had grown in beauty and size. Still basically the same setting, but a little more to it. The earrings he had bought were in the bag with Mary's clothes, now clean, that she had worn the night before.
The grinning butler had made a run early that morning, and done something positively spontaneous. He realized those earrings would never be seen under her hair and the veil and headpiece of the old dress, so he 'upgraded' them, he was at the jewelry store when it opened and asked for a pair of earrings, of the same description, but slightly larger. He got them, and presented them to Mary with the tea.
She was smiling as she thought how wonderful her groom was.
The butler knew Jack had the right intentions just more than likely not the credit rating to pull it off. He didn't know however Jack had found them at the same store where shoppers could cheerfully purchase a half-mile roll of barbed wire or a dump truck load of fresh manure. The butler enjoyed it. She looked so happy.
Ralph grabbed Colleen as she walked by. She was fairly strong and almost got away from him. But he wrestled her to the floor and pinned her hands. He liked the way she fought back, she could have probably gotten away, but she really didn't want to. He wanted to talk to her on his terms. Namely with her pinned to the floor, naked, with him on top. A position he liked immensely, but she didn't seem to mind much either, for a little bit at least.
"I want to get some ground rules in before we get moved in."
She stopped squirming and looked at him with that spirit that he loved in her eyes. "What?"
"All my crap, is my crap, and yours is yours."
"I can live with that. Also we are not a couple-couple. More of a professional collaboration. OK? We do not mettle in the others life."
Ralph thought about that. "Sure, the apartment is two bedroom, we only sleep together when we aren't sleeping, otherwise, we each get our own space. You can fill your bedroom with artsy stuff, and that lamp."
"And you can fill yours with your crap." She smiled at the mess around them. "I'll cook, and clean, you don't. You just contribute, well, what can you do as far as housework is concerned?"
Ralph showed her, but what he showed her wasn't housework.
Mary had to have the earrings in right then.
Sandy did one side, Sue did the other. The earrings were beautiful, they felt wonderful, and they looked good on her.
She was amazed the difference a little expert attention could do for her.
She had decided she didn't want the bright red polish, she chose a slightly more sedate shade of red. Her hair had been brushed out, and given just a little body. The rest would be done later. Her face had just a little makeup, the big show that way would be later for that as well. She felt like a Miss America anyway.
The butler reappeared a minute later, he looked her over and stood at attention with a slightly toothy smile, "You look radiant Miss. Ladies, luncheon is served." Mary looked at her watch. It was just after noon.
The day was flying by.
She had hoped to rest and visit a little.
"Let's go. I'm starved." Mary said, "Let's eat and talk." She said to her mom who had simply been standing there taking it all in.
Ralph was a genius, that was well documented in the world of high-energy physics, though he bounced into the world of theoretical physics, and the nether-world of meta-physics too much for any serious scientist to respect. The man's intellect was never questioned, his judgement was often suspect, and his actions, well, sometimes criminal. But his raw brainpower in his chosen field, never.
The reason Ralph Cook did not have a PhD was simple. He had been fired, busted, and thrown out of every doctoral program he had ever been associated with. His stunts and misdeeds were as famous as his scientific work. He had been on a team of physicists that had been nominated for a Nobel Prize, but he had managed to get caught with the wife of the director of the project, with some illegal smoke, without clothing, in a steam room. He was quietly asked to leave the project. He was run out of Britain after another incident.
A high energy experiment had failed. The experiment involved some explosives, a laser borrowed from the campus, several mirrors, and a pub in town.
You get the idea.
Ralph's ideas that rated him in the top twenty of the best minds in physics came to him at odd moments. A flash of insight that he could never get to happen when he wanted it too, and usually he could not control his mind once it happened until he saw the idea through. This is why he would go downtown sometimes, shoplift something and get locked up for a weekend until somebody bailed him out, or get picked up on a plain drunk charge, and such. He could do his hard thinking then, what he had to do when the flash didn't come. He described the flash as - thousand camera flash bulbs that suddenly lit the problem in a new way, and he could see the answer.
Colleen was in ecstasy. Ralph was good with his mouth and hands.
And he was busy working her over with both.
Guess what's next...
Jack was taken downstairs by the two women who had been standing guard.
There was a lunch waiting for him, but he had to put up with a bit of silliness from many of the dorm couples and kids to get it.
About six of the older kids brought him a pizza, they told him it was to remind him of all the pizzas he had eaten when he was just a kid before he got married. Jack didn't try to understand them, he just thanked them and told them it looked delicious. Somebody told the kids they had a pizza waiting in the TV lounge and they ran out. Jack knew he was in for the worst of it.
"These are real Gulf oysters. RAW! Jack. You said your honeymoon was going to be in Iowa, you'll need these." Jerry parked the plate in front of him. Six raw oysters on the half shell 'looked' at him. Jerry wasn't going to move until he had eaten one. Jack looked over at Jerry's wife, Angelia.
"I'll eat half if you eat the other half." Jack said, but it backfired. Jerry wolfed down three of them while the people kidded Angelia. Jack didn't think about it, he just swallowed them, and chased them with pizza.
"This is real Polish kelbassa you won't get anymore." Warren told him.
The thing on the plate smelled like it was on fire, but Jack had had these when they played in Chicago last year. Ben knew a soul kitchen near the campus up there that bought sausage from some butcher shop near the stockyards. With sauerkraut, onions, and mustard they'd kill. With chili and cheese, it'd bring the dead back. Jack loved them, but they hated him. He tore into the thing with abandon. He noticed everybody else seemed to be having their lunch with him, there was sausages floating around in potato rolls with red sauce dripping on the floor.
"This is macaroni and cheese with tuna in it. This is the first dish all husbands learn to cook." Betty told him.
Jack loathed that dish. It stunk, it was slimy, he didn't like the look of it.
"I cooked at the house, I can do baked chicken breasts with sweet and sour sauce." Jack told Betty.
She was impressed, Jack didn't touch the macaroni with yucky stuff. He ate more pizza.
Mrs. Warren brought him a real homemade casserole that smelled like a real homemade casserole a la Mom. "You probably won't get something like this anymore either." The older lady sat the whole pan in front of him. Then she handed him a serving spoon.
Jack dug in, the casserole nearly exploded with meat and cheese and other good things. The steam made a cloud over the table. The rest of the dorm people lined up, and Jack ended up serving all of them.
Then he got to eat.
Jack looked up from his plate, he had even tried the macaroni and cheese. Mrs. Caldell was sitting across from him, smiling.
Dale changed and wondered if it was too late to get breakfast. There was no sign of Peggy so he went downstairs. The dining room was empty. He poked his head into the kitchen area. Everybody in there was busy cleaning up and starting lunch. He had missed the breakfast,
Dale felt his stomach protest. He walked back into the main hall. Dale had never seen the house this empty. There was nobody there. The big music room was empty, the meditation room was empty, nobody. Dale wandered back down the small hallway that lead back to the guestrooms, silence. He turned around. The butler was standing there looking at him.
"May I help you sir?"
Dale always felt like there was somebody behind him when the butler called him sir.
"Mister Hinerick, are you looking for someone."
Dale always felt like his father was there when the butler called him 'Mister Hinerick'.
Peggy came down the stairs. The butler came to attention when he faced her. "Yes, Miss High. Very good to see you."
Dale wondered at the difference in his attitude.
"We were just going to run out to the mall to get a gift for the wedding."
The butler looked at her, then at Dale. "Very good Miss, I believe several of the others are going as well, if you wish to wait in the dining room I will see how long they will be."
Peggy went down the hall, Dale watched the butler go upstairs, then he followed her, as soon as she walked into the dining room, one of Martha's helpers asked her if she wanted a croissant and tea. She said, "Yes, for two please." And it was brought in just a couple of minutes.
Dale wondered if may he was invisible or something.
Mary and her mom ate, then Miss Alice said they had a problem and needed to go immediately and deal with it. Mary's mom said to go on with Miss Alice and check on things, she'd meet her at the church. Mary was herded into the limmo, by Miss Alice, and the others went their own ways.
It was an expedition of utmost importance. They stood by as Miss Alice checked on the flowers, the florist glanced at her nervously as he confirmed that the delivery would take place within the hour.
Mary was glad now her mom had decided to stay at the motel with her dad since they had gotten into town late yesterday instead of taking a room at the married dorm. Her mom had said that they had been delayed because her dad had a bad spell, but she didn't want to leave him at home for his own daughter's wedding.
Ralph felt the idea come upon him like an Earthquake.
His conscious mind was very preoccupied with making Colleen see the Northern Lights in the middle of the day. Then the answer to a question somebody had asked last week in the Greek Math class hit him.
At first he didn't know what to do with the revelation, but he found it difficult to concentrate on her with the idea bouncing around his head.
Colleen came back to Earth as his attention wandered from her. She looked at him, his eyes told the story, something else was working on him besides sheer lust.
"Ral, what's wrong?" She asked.
"If all the variables are in play at once, and work into a single solution, no matter the combination of variables within the same frame of the relative reaction, they must resolve themselves into one solution to produce the one product- a photon that exists in real space and time with the limitations on it of our universe."
"What the hell are you talking about?" She asked, but she knew.
They arrived at the Cathedral near service entrance on the campus side of the huge old building. Mary got out and walked into the church with Miss Alice.
Sandy and the others were already there. The vicar had set them up in a room near the small chapel, her dress was hanging there, with Cindy's and Maggie's.
The vicar had a long face when he met her in the hallway. He told Mary to go see the bishop about some last minute details. She walked down a side hall, glancing at paintings and the dark doors to classrooms and offices until she came to the front of the building and the bishop's office. She knocked on the old wooden door, she heard a muffled response, she pushed the door open.
Her mom was there, with her dad sitting on the couch.
The bishop was behind his desk with a very sad look on his face.
Mary's dad was having one of his bad times, he was drooling, and talked in a loud voice without making any sense.
Mary's mom got up and hugged her while he shouted at unseen people he had known years ago at the shipping depot. Mary wanted to know how long he had had this spell.
"On and off since Thursday. He had been looking forward to the wedding, but he started in Thursday morning like this, and hasn't been better for more than a couple of hours since." Her mom looked at him sadly.
The Bishop was deep in thought. Her father was silent for the moment but his eyes weren't looking at anybody in the room.
Then Bishop Frakes stood and walked around the desk, "Mary, I want you to think about this before you answer. Do you want your father to be in the sanctuary during your service?"
Mary was shocked by the question. Her dad hadn't even looked in her direction since she had been in the room. He made a guttural noise and waved one arm towards the window. She knew the answer but she couldn't say it. Her mom held her hand, the bishop was silent.
Cont in Two Dorms Part 33
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