Wedding Bells
Home Destiny


PART TWO:
THE WEDDING CRUISE

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN:

WEDDING BELLS

Written by Rick Archer 

 

 


SUBCHAPTER 036 - moving in

 

September 2002

The 2002 Cruise Trip brought Marla and I closer together than I ever imagined possible.  To be honest, Marla's story about the Gypsy Prophecy left me absolutely floored.  The Gypsy had told Marla that if she took the trip she was considering, she would meet the man she would spend the rest of her life with. 

For the rest of the trip, I was riveted by that thought.  That prediction meant a lot because I assumed it referred to me.  Marla is the woman I am meant to spend my life with.  Wow.  That is the way I had felt all along, but it is one thing to sense it, it is another thing to see it predicted in a Prophecy.  What I should have done was propose to Marla on the spot, but with two divorces in my past, I wasn't quite brave enough to go that far. 

What I did instead was bring up the idea of having Marla move in with me.  Although Marla's house was far superior to mine, my house had three major advantages.  One, Marla's house was an hour drive from the dance studio compared to my fifteen minute drive.  Two, I had added a special dance room on the side of the house that I used for private lessons.  Three, Marla's beloved dog Peanut loved visiting my two dogs and my big yard.

Marla agreed my house was the better choice.  Only one problem.  She wasn't ready.  She wanted to think about it.  Anyone who thinks Marla agrees with me on everything doesn't know Marla.  She has a mind of her own and is more than willing to speak it.  So I backed off, but not for long.

Over the following month, Marla slowly warmed up to the idea.  Living together did make sense.  Over the past year, our relationship had been wonderful.  Marla and my daughter Sam got along well, a factor I found gratifying.  For that matter, our dogs got along well.  Marla's Peanut  joined my two border collies Amy and Stacy to form a happy trio.  Seeing Marla thaw a bit, I asked Marla again.  She wavered, then decided to wait.

A week later I asked again.  Marla said soon, but not yet.  Round and round we went.  This was the first time we had disagreed on anything, except that we didn't really disagree.  Marla was just dragging her feet.

Finally I lost my patience.  We had been talking about this for over a month and I figured that was time enough.  So at the end of September, I asked my next door neighbor Solomon to lend me a hand.  On a day when Marla was visiting her daughter Marissa up at Texas State, we drove Solomon's truck to Marla's house in Kingwood.  When Marla returned home, she gasped.

Her desk was gone.  Her file cabinet was gone.  And her dog was gone.  Fortunately Marla had a pretty good idea where she could find these things.  Driving faster than necessary, Marla showed up at my house fuming. 

"What on earth gives you the right to kidnap my dog and steal my desk!!"

"Marla, you already know you're stuck with me for the rest of your life, so what are you waiting for?"

"That was a dirty trick!"

"Yes, dear, but Peanut loves it here.  Do it for Peanut!"

On cue, Peanut came over to me and smiled.  If Marla hadn't been so mad, she might have laughed at Peanut's decision to side with me.  It was obvious Peanut did not mind being kidnapped at all.  Marla begrudgingly admitted Peanut greatly preferred the companionship of my two dogs to being alone much of the time, so she finally consented. 

Within a month, Marla moved in and put her house on the market.  But she never completely forgave me for accelerating her timetable. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 037 - MARLA MAKES AN IMPORTANT DECISION

 

In addition to discussing the Gypsy Prophecy and the possibility of moving in together, there was another important development on our 2002 cruise trip.  To be honest, I had been so preoccupied with my sudden romance with Marla on the first cruise trip in 2001, I did not pay nearly enough attention to my guests.   Fortunately, they were too busy dancing all the time to care. 

 

Somewhat irritated at myself for neglecting my duties in 2001, I vowed to do better in 2002.  As before, our huge number of guests danced up a storm every chance they got.  This time Marla and I were out on the floor with them.

One of the unique features of our group was the ease with which couples interacted with singles.  Due to the sense of Community that had grown over the years at SSQQ, everyone danced with everyone regardless of marital status.  What pleased me most was seeing deep friendships develop as people got to know each other.  This was how it used to be back in the Eighties on our ski trips, except dancing was much more effective at forming close ties.  I was gratified to see my cruise trip experiment pay off so handsomely. 

In particular, the famous 'SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance Magic' was just as powerful at sea as on land.  On our first cruise I noticed that love found at sea followed our guests back to shore.  Marla and I were perfect examples. 

 

One night a man named Dave came up to thank me for teaching him how to dance. 

"Rick, you are my hero.  Thanks to you, I will never be lonely again.  I swear I dance so much I don't even get a chance to sit down.  A new woman grabs me the moment a song ends.  Not only that, all these passengers who like to watch our group dance tell me what a great dancer I am.  Just for the ego boost alone I am grateful I took dance lessons.  And my love life, well, I better stop there, but you know what I'm talking about."

"You seem surprised, Dave.  Why is that?" 

 

"Back at the studio, I'm a nobody.  There are dozens of guys who are better dancers than me.  But here on the ship, I have an audience of passengers who love to watch me dance with all the pretty girls.  Haven't you noticed the people who stop to watch?"

"Actually, yes I have.  But what is your point?"

"Everything is relative.  A lot of these viewers are from places in Texas where no one dances.  They see me dance and think I am some sort of superstar.  When the song is over they love to compliment me and ask questions about our dance group.  I have never gotten so much flattery in my life."

I smiled.  Our dance group was the talk of town.  Dave was referring to all the passengers who milled around watching as 30 SSQQ couples danced the night away.  Since the majority of the passengers aboard had no clue how partner dancing worked, we had the floor to ourselves every night.

 

One night Marla and I were watching the action out on the dance floor.  Marla commented, "Does it ever bother you to give all these cruise commissions away to that travel agency?"

"Yes.  I have been thinking about that on this trip.  In fact, I've been meaning to ask you something.  You love to travel and you have a real talent for business.  Would you ever consider learning how to be a travel agent?  Wouldn't it be great to keep these commissions in house?"

"Gee, Rick, you read my mind.  Yes, I think that's an excellent idea.  I was hoping you would ask me to marry you first, but no matter.  I will become so valuable you won't have any choice."

No truer words were ever spoken.  The first cruise trip organized by Marla came one year later in 2003.  It was huge success.  144 guests.  Not bad for a first try!  The Era of the SSQQ Love Boat was here. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 038 - MARRIAGE PROPOSAL

 

May 2003

Over the Memorial Holiday, Marla and I took a vacation to Colorado.  Marla was correct about making herself valuable.  By organizing our upcoming Jubilee trip, she had added a huge new dimension to my dance studio.  We were quite a team. 

After landing in Denver, we drove to Estes Park, gateway to the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park.  Making a stop at the spooky Stanley Hotel, we were fascinated to learn the Stanley Hotel had served as the inspiration for Stephen King's amazing book The Shining.

In 1974, Stephen King found himself checking in at the Stanley Hotel just as the other guests were checking out.  Curious, he was told the hotel was shutting down for the winter season.  King roamed the lonely halls, then went down to the hotel bar where he was served drinks by a bartender named Grady.  When King returned to his room, 217, his imagination was fired up by the hotel's remote location, its grand size, and its eerie desolation.  'What if somebody died here?' King thought, 'This place is the perfect setting for a book.' 

 

By chance, Marla and I visited the same bar that had given King his inspiration.  To my surprise, Johns Hopkins, my alma mater, was on ESPN involved in a lacrosse playoff game.  Mesmerized, I asked permission Marla to watch the entire game.  To placate my impatient girlfriend, I plied her with Bloody Marys, a house specialty.  I may have had a couple myself.  To my delight, Hopkins won the game.

Afterwards we walked around and marveled at this awesome hotel.  We were both in a super good mood.  And there it was, a wishing well.  I know what I wished for and Marla later confessed she wished for the same thing.  If I had a brain... which we all know that I don't... I would have proposed right there.  It was the perfect moment.  But I knew I was drunk and maybe I should wait till I was sober before making such an important decision.  Fortunately, the thought was now prominent in my mind.  Two days later a quirky romance in the movie Bruce Almighty made me realize I had put this off far too long.  As I drove us back to our hotel, I was consumed with guilt over my delay.  Embarrassed that I had failed to propose at the wishing well like I should have, I accidentally began to talk out loud.  Without any warning, I suddenly blurted out, "Besides, you do want to marry me, don't you?"

Marla was startled.  "Are you asking me to marry you or are you asking a question?"

I stuttered badly.  "Yeah, I think so."

Confused, Marla replied, "Well, which one is it?  What are you talking about?"

"Yes, I want you to marry me!"

"Yes, I would like to marry you too, but this has to be the worst wedding proposal in history.  Typically, a man would say something like, 'Marla, would you be willing to marry me?'  Not you.  You are practically ordering me to marry you.  Besides, why didn't you ask me at wishing well like you should have?"

Ouch.  I clearly botched that one.  Feeling defensive, I bickered with Marla all the way back to the hotel and all the way up to our room.  Finally I came to my senses.  I sat Marla down on the couch and said, "Marla, will you please marry me?"

Marla smiled.  "Much better.  Yes, I will marry you."

 


SUBCHAPTER 039 - THE
OOPS WEDDING

 

September 26, 2004

At first we wanted to have our wedding at the Stanley Hotel.  But then we changed our mind.  Since we had connected on a cruise ship, it stood to reason we would marry on a cruise ship.  Let's bring this Gypsy Prophecy full circle.  Marla got right to work.  First she booked the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody for our annual studio cruise trip.  This trip would also serve as our honeymoon.  Then she reserved the wedding chapel for a 1 pm wedding ceremony with reception to follow.  For good measure, Marla signed up 120 SSQQ dance students to come along on the trip. 

As it turned out, there was a boatload of drama surrounding our Wedding.  I will let you in on a secret... Marla and I somehow managed to get married as planned.  However, to truly appreciate this story, pretend you do not know the outcome.  Put yourself in our shoes and enjoy the ride.

The ordeal began three days prior to the wedding.  As Marla and I went to pick up my tuxedo, some idiot ran a red light.  I had no choice but to smack broadside right into their car.  Fortunately my car wasn't damaged, but the unexpected delay of waiting for the police was costly.  After we got the tux, I told Marla we needed to get the marriage license as planned.

"No.  I'm upset from the accident and we don't have enough time. How about tomorrow?"

"We're not far from downtown, so let's get it over with.  If we hustle, I think we can make it."

Marla frowned, but reluctantly agreed.  At 4:20 pm, we walked into the marriage license office.  The sign said it closed at 4:30 and the place was deserted.  In fact, the clerk was coming to lock the door.  She took one look at us, looked at her watch, then frowned.  I could tell she wanted to go home, but tough.  I was ready to argue if she crossed us.  Once the woman saw the look on my face, she glanced at the clock.  “Okay, I guess we have enough time to do this.”   10 minutes later, the woman handed us the license.  "When are you getting married?" she asked.  Sunday.  "You really cut it close.  If you were getting married on Saturday, you would have been too late."  When I asked why, she reminded us the certificate had to be obtained 72 hours in advance of the wedding.  When the woman said that, Marla nearly fainted.

Today it was Sunday, our Wedding Day on the Rhapsody.  The moment we awoke, Marla said she was certain something was going to go wrong.  I reassured her there was nothing to worry about, but now I was worried too.  I have learned that Marla's instincts are usually right. 

I went to check on Aunt Lynn.  The last time I had seen her was my 2001 visit to Virginia.  For the event, my beloved Aunt Lynn had flown in from Northern Virginia the day before.  Something in her face gave me concern.  Lynn was clearly upset.  “Rick, I am so worried!  I can’t find my passport or any of my cruise documents!  I have looked everywhere!  I think I left one of my bags at home."

Uh oh.  We had just observed the third anniversary of 9-11.  War was waging hot in Iraq and homeland security was as tight as it could possibly be.  The cruise lines said in no uncertain terms you had to have your documents or stay home.  If they took a hard line, we were out of luck.  Ashen with guilt, Lynn offered to get a cab and fly back to Virginia.  Unfortunately, she had a point.  There was literally NOTHING I could do about this problem but plead Lynn's case to the authorities and pray.  If they did not let her on the ship, what on earth was I going to do with Aunt Lynn?  I decided to take a chance.  It was parachute time - Jump and hope the chute opens.

The only thing I knew was that I could NOT tell Marla.  Lynn and I completely agreed on this.  Knowing Marla was a nervous wreck, this wild gamble could put her over the edge.  Marla is a worrier by nature, but right she was out of her mind with anxiety.  

Sure enough, the authorities gave Lynn absolute hell.  "No passport and no cruise documents?  Are you out of your mind, lady?"  They gave Lynn such a hard time that she began to cry.  Meanwhile Marla was having a nervous breakdown.  The only thing Lynn had was her Virginia drivers license.  But that wasn't good enough.  I pointed out that the risk was not very high.  One, Lynn had no weapons.  Two, I was willing to vouch for her.  Three, Lynn didn't fit the profile.  Unfortunately, that logic was not good enough.  As far as they were concerned, this 70 year old grandmother had Terrorism tattooed on her forehead.  Then something strange happened.  At exactly 30 minutes after the arguing started, the authorities told Lynn she could board.  Huh?

I was shocked.  They had been adamant for 30 minutes that there was NO WAY IN HELL THEY WOULD EVER BEND THE RULES, but now by some miracle Lynn was free to board.  My brow furrowed.  It was as if someone had a 30 minute stop watch.  They would harass the woman and make her miserable for 30 minutes as punishment, but when the time was up, she was free to go. 

I have no idea why they changed their mind, but now they did the same thing to my daughter.  The lady in charge of the wedding announced my daughter Samantha would not be allowed to board the ship.  Sam was supposed to have her birth certificate with her.  Marla and I immediately pointed fingers at each other.  "Rick, I can't believe you forgot the document!"  "No, I didn't, you never told me I needed it!"  "Did too!"  "Did not!"

Apparently, due to 9/11 regulations, the ship was forced to do an identity check on each of the 30 people boarding for our two-hour wedding ceremony.  After, we all know wedding ceremonies are likely loopholes for any terrorist operative to sneak aboard, especially 13 year old girls.  I knew suspicious guests such as Mike Fagan and Tom Easley, my Best Men, would be heavily scrutinized, but it never dawned on me Sam needed an ID too.  They asked me if I had a picture of her in my wallet.  No, but I told them I could show them a picture of us together on the Internet. This didn't work.  After all, the lady said, any picture placed on the Internet might be a terrorist fake.

"Well, so could the picture in my wallet!" I replied.  The lady didn't like that answer.

Did Sam have a student ID?  No.  Did I have any proof that Sam existed?  I had several choice replies to that question, but decided to hold my tongue.  Now in tears, Sam frantically searched her purse to prove she existed.  Magically, Sam produced her SSQQ ID card.  Aha!  Finally the guard had a useful document.  Did it have her picture?  No.  But it did have her name!  Okay, that's proof enough.  Finally the guard relented.  The absurdity of the moment crossed my mind.

 

Marla and I were a giant bundle of nerves and we were not alone.  Lynn and Mary, my mother, were ready to drop from all the stress and confusion.  After dying a million deaths thanks to my wild gamble, Lynn was exhausted.  She and Mary were going to their room to take a quick nap, then get ready.

The next mistake was completely my fault.  There had been intense traffic as many people tried to board the Rhapsody at the same time and we had lost a lot of time fighting the authorities.  Marla went ahead to get her hair fixed aboard the ship while I stayed behind to carry 8 pieces of luggage and supervise the wedding party.  Here for the wedding was Sam, Lynn, Mary plus Marla's brothers Larry, Neal, and their wives Roz and Ellen. 

The first clue that all was not right came when I got to my room and realized my tuxedo was missing.  I nervously raced all the way back to the terminal.  Imagine the sigh of relief I experienced when I saw my suit bag hanging there right where I had left it.  However, more precious time was lost. 

The stress of the two arguments with the authorities plus the loss of my tuxedo had left me completely drained.  Getting married on this ship obviously required more stamina than I possessed.  I needed a nap in the worst way, but that was out of the question.  One look at the clock showed I would be lucky to make it to the wedding on time.  

 

Still wearing my jeans, I was about to put on my pants when I noticed I did not have my black dress shoes.  Oh no, where are my shoes?  Which bag did I put my dress shoes in??  I frantically searched every bag.  No shoes.  I must have forgotten to pack my shoes!  Then I remembered I did have my shoes, but had put them in the wrong suitcase. 

This whole process had been way too complicated for me.  Since were getting married at 1 pm, I was supposed to pack twice... a special carry-on for the wedding clothes, the suit bag for the tuxedo, and the large suitcase which needed to be checked on arrival.  Darn it, I had put my dress shoes in the wrong suitcase.  Right now my dress shoes were down in a giant storage area along with a thousand other suitcases.  What do I do?  All I had were the basketball shoes I was wearing!

I had an inspiration. 
My friend Paul Foltyn was here for the wedding!!  That was the answer.  They call him Tall Paul for a reason.  At 6' 3", he was even taller than me.  However, now I made another mistake.  Instead of putting on my dress pants first, I raced upstairs in my blue jeans.  Bless his heart, Paul was more than happy to swap shoes with me. 

Just then I realized my mistake.  If I had worn my dress pants, I could have simply put on his and let the wedding begin.  Instead, I was forced to go back to the cabin to put on my dress pants.  This mistake would make me twenty minutes late.  I was so anxious I was losing my mind.  Then there was another problem.  Paul's shoes were too big.  This wasn't a problem for me, but it meant Paul could not put on my basketball shoes.  The poor man was forced to spend the next two hours walking around my white socks.  And why didn't Paul walk around in his own socks?  Because I had to borrow Paul's black socks and give him my white basketball socks.  "Paul, I so much in your debt!"

"Rick, if you asked, I would give you the shirt off my back."

Paul saved the day!  He was my hero!!  By the way, did I mention that later in life Paul would become a Catholic priest?  Wonderful man.  I never met a finer person in my life. 

 

As it turned out, the situation afforded everyone some much-needed comic relief.  After all the tension with the traffic and the boarding problems, everyone was pretty wound up.  While they waited for me to return from the cabin, all the guests had a good laugh at my mistake.  The laughter grew even louder when one of the guests said he had overheard Paul's comment about giving me his shirt.  There was a roar of laughter when he said, "Did you know Paul also offered Rick the shirt off his back?" 

Nor did the teasing stop there.  All day long, I heard variations on the socks and shoes story.  If you believed everything you heard, I ended up wearing Paul's shoes, socks, belt, shirt, coat, tie and pants to the wedding.  In fact, since I was late, someone suggested Marla simply marry Paul and save some time.  Very funny.  Incredibly ironic as well.  After what happened next, I am fairly sure if Marla had been given a choice that day between me and Paul, I would still be single. 

I was very embarrassed when I arrived at the Wedding Area.  Looking at the clock it was 1:20 pm.  I was mortified about being late.  Tom, Mike, and the cruise ship wedding representative were waiting for me in a special area hidden from the guests.  The representative asked me if I wanted to escort my mother into the ceremony.

"Well, of course I would!  Thank you so much for reminding me."  Since I was behind a wall, I peeked around the corner to look at our guests.  "By the way, sir, where are you hiding her?"

The poor man had a blank expression. He wasn't hiding my mother anywhere.

"What about Aunt Lynn?  Oh my God, I don't see her either!" 

This comment generated another confused look from the representative.  I asked Tom and Mike if they had seen Mary or Lynn.  Their looks were equally blank.  They had not seen them all morning.  When they said that, I lost it.  I had overcome every damn obstacle life had put in my way over the past three days.  In addition, I had handled two major crises this morning plus my lost tuxedo plus my missing shoes.  This was too much, the final straw.  The ceremony was already twenty minutes late, so where in the world were those two women!?!?!  Fortunately I did not say out loud what I wanted to say.

I did not know it at the time, but the women had overslept because Lynn's watch was wrong.  Back when Lynn was getting grilled by the Immigration Nazi earlier this morning, she glanced at her watch and realized it was still set on Eastern time.  Lynn decided to change her watch, but she was so flustered by the harassment that she reset her watch to Mountain Time instead of Central Time.  Lynn and Mary had laid down for a much-needed nap in the knowledge that they had a bogus extra hour to get ready.  In their mind, it was now 12:20 pm when in reality it was 1:20 pm. 

Obviously I needed to find my aunt and mother.  In my haste, I grabbed Mike and Tom and told them to help me search for the missing women.  Without a word to anyone, including the Wedding Rep, the three of us took off running.  This was a serious mistake on my part.  My talk with the Wedding representative had taken place out of sight.  Not one of our guests seated ten feet away on the other side of the wall realized I had been in the Wedding area.  They had no idea where I was or what the problem was.

Now I made another error in judgment.  I knew my mother's cabin was on the eighth floor, but did not know the room number.  What I should have done was go directly to the Purser's Desk to get the number.  Or I should have delegated Tom and Mike to do it for me.  Instead they just stood there as I walked up and down the hallway calling loudly for Lynn and Mary. 

Since the regular cruise guests had not boarded yet, the floor was completely deserted.  There I was going cabin to cabin I made an idiot of myself by hollering "Mom! Lynn! Where are you?" at the top of my voice 

I can't imagine what Tom and Mike were thinking as I bellowed my head off. Actually, I don't want to know.  No doubt Tom and Mike were well aware I had completely lost my presence of mind.  As I passed the neverending series of closed doors, there was no answer.  I wasted ten full minutes running the entire circuit on Deck 8 without results.  That is when Mike and Tom suggested I go to the Purser's desk on Deck 5.  Good idea!

We raced down three floors to ask for help.  The woman at the desk patiently looked up their names, then called their room and handed me the phone.  To my shock, Lynn answered on the first ring!! 

"Aunt Lynn, are you ready? It's time for me to get married!"

Lynn answered, "Yes, of course. The ceremony is at 1 pm, right?"

I blinked. Huh?  "Yes, Lynn, the wedding is at 1 pm."

"Don't worry. We are almost ready!  We will be there 15 minutes early."

15 minutes early?  Lynn was so calm I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.  With the eerie theme music playing in my head, I looked at the clock on the wall.  It read 1:40 pm. Was I going crazy?

"Lynn, it is almost 2 pm.  I am already 40 minutes late for my wedding!"

There was a gasp on the line. Then silence. In a barely audible whisper, she said, "
We are almost ready, so come get us.  We are in room 821." 

I sent Tom and Mike ahead to explain I was on my way, then went to Room 821 to fetch Lynn and Mary.  After escorting Lynn and Mary to the wedding area, the ceremony had been delayed 45 minutes.  As we walked in, the looks on the faces of the wedding guests were incredulous to say the least.  

I did not know it at the time, but Marla was absolutely devastated during my 25 minute search for Lynn and Mary. 
Rick is missing!  No one had any idea where I was.  Looking at the clock, Marla was incredulous.  What could possibly explain the groom being nearly an hour late?  After all, my cabin was 5 minutes away by elevator.  Something is very wrong.  Fighting back tears, the tension of not knowing what was going on was unbearable. 

I had been so frantic to discover my mother and Aunt Lynn were missing, it never crossed my mind that I was out of sight when I got the bad news.  After all, the guests were a mere ten feet away on the other side of the wall.  Surely they had X-ray vision.  Or ESP.  Nope.  Where are the psychics when you need them?  From the viewpoint of the guests, Rick, Mike, and Tom had never shown up for the ceremony!  Looking at their watches, they were just as worried as Marla.  WHY IS THE GROOM MISSING?

Thank goodness Paul calmed people down.  Paul told everyone about the shoe problem and reassured everyone this could not possibly be a case of Cold Feet.  Ha ha ha.  After all, the basketball shoes would have worked fine if I was going to skip out.  Still, that did not explain the extra delay.  What on earth could have gone wrong?  Was this a case of Alien Abduction?

At this point, Marty, one of the wedding guests, threw gas on the fire.  Marty said he had looked up at the exact moment to see Rick dart down the hall with Tom and Mike behind in frantic pursuit. 

Marty said, "I'm not sure what this means, but Rick looked really upset.  He was angry about something and lost his temper.  He ran off and the two men began chasing him.  You don't think they were trying to get Rick to change his mind and come back, do you?"

Uh oh.  Everyone froze at the implication.  Was this even possible?  Everyone knew Rick loved Marla.  However, as each minute ticked off the clock without explanation, the unthinkable became more thinkable.  People were starting to get worried.  Very worried.  Where was Rick?  Where were Tom and Mike?  Why didn't someone explain what was going on?  The whispers between the guests reflected the growing alarm. 

At Marla's request, her brother Larry came out to ask what the delay was all about.  Someone blurted out, "Rick lost his temper and went running away.  Tom and Mike are trying to catch him."

Those were the words Larry took back to Marla.  When Larry said I had run off and the best men were missing too, Marla turned white!  Marla had started the day with a premonition that something going to go wrong and now her worst fear had come to pass.  Totally unaware of the missing aunt and mother, Marla was deathly afraid she was being stood up at the altar.  Her brothers Larry and Neal did everything in their power to reassure her, but it didn't do any good.  Sick with worry, Marla's eyes filled with tears. 

One guest after another came backstage to calm an increasingly jittery Marla.  "Don't worry, Marla, there's got to be an explanation.  Rick loves you, everyone knows that.  There's nothing to worry about.

Marla wasn't so sure.  The worst part was the uncertainty because nothing made a bit of sense.  All this waiting caused her mind to think of every possible explanation, but nothing clicked.  The agony was killing her.  5 minutes passed. 10.  15.  20.  Marla waited 25 minutes till finally there was news.  After Tom and Mike returned to explain the problem, someone went back to tell Marla there was a rumor I had gone to look for my mother.

This explanation sounded preposterous.  It was expletive deleted 1:45 pm!  What was the reason for this delay?  What the heck was Rick and his mother talking about?  Was Rick's mother trying to talk Rick out of marrying Marla?  Was Rick's mother trying to talk Rick into marrying Marla?  Marla's brain raced overtime trying to process this absurd shred of information.

Tom and Mike had broken the news at 1:45.  However, I did not reach the wedding area with Lynn and Mary until 1:50.  During this gap, Marla was filled with a strange cocktail of relief, rage, suspicion, and uncertainty. 
Marla's brother Larry tried to cheer her up by claiming this story was too goofy not to be true.  However Larry would later admit forbidden thoughts had crossed his mind.  Poor Marla.  Between my shoe problem and my mother/aunt problem, Marla had been standing in place for 50 minutes holding her little bouquet of flowers.  Left completely in the dark, it had taken every bit of will power she possessed to keep the Cold Feet possibility from getting to her.  Marla could not take it any more. 
She tried hard not to cry, but it was too much for her.  As tears rolled down her face, her makeup was smeared.  Beyond miserable, Marla reached for tissues to dab the tears. 

At 1:50 the Wedding coordinator came back and announced Rick had magically appeared with his mother and aunt in tow.  Time for Marla to get married!   Not so fast.  With tears flowing freely, Marla needed to know the truth before proceeding.  A million thoughts raced through her mind, some pleasant, some dark.  As Marla later confided, why even bother getting married?  After all, even if Marla did marry me, she was going to push me overboard the moment no one was looking.  Marla was only half-kidding.

Marla wasn't moving until she got a complete explanation.  Did Mike and Tom have to talk Rick into returning against his will?  Someone whispered to Marla not to be upset with Rick; the story was true.  Rick had spent all this time searching for his missing mother and aunt.  Finally it made sense to Marla.  She knew just how absent-minded I could be.  No doubt my aunt and mother were just as wacko as me.  Runs in the family.

So there was going to be a wedding after all!  Marla took stock.  The makeup was ruined.  She was a huge jangle of nerves and it was too late to redo the makeup.  Marla would just have to tough it out!  The music started, so half-crying, half-laughing with relief, Marla began the trip to the altar escorted by her brothers Larry and Neil and bridesmaids Marissa and Sam. 

Thank goodness the wedding ceremony was short and sweet.  I think my smile helped cheer Marla up considerably, but our shattered nerves still managed to show.  I was a little impatient so I said "I do" before the minister could even get there.  Everyone had a little chuckle at that one.  'Who cares?' I thought.  The guests had been having fun at my expense all day long.  Besides, if anyone ever deserved the flack, that would be me. 

Now it was Marla's turn to get flustered.  Marla was shaking so bad she had trouble putting the ring on my finger.  Seeing the look in her eye, she was prepared to take my finger off if that was what it was going to take.  I grabbed the ring and placed it on myself.  I was in no mood for social niceties.  All I cared about was getting married to Marla!

The moment I got the ring on marked the end of the snafus.  From here on out it was pure happiness.  Well, there was one more little thing.  Marla pulled me backstage.  Looking around to make sure
no one could see us, Marla kicked me really hard in the butt.  Ouch!  That hurt!!

"What was that for?"

"You deserve it!  You made me wait, you didn't tell anyone what the problem was and you ruined my makeup.  Plus you scared me.  Thanks to you, our beautiful wedding was an hour late!!  You will hear about this for the rest of your life!"

Then she paused for a moment.  "But I do love you.  Maybe."

 


SUBCHAPTER 040 - THE WEDDING RECEPTION

 

After the ordeal, things went smoothly.  After some much-needed champagne and much-needed lunch, it was time for our wedding dance.  Marla and I were ready to Waltz to a pretty instrumental version of A Time for Us from Romeo and Juliet.  Normally this is a moment of great anxiety for most grooms.  A survey on wedding preparation reported 500 wedding couples agreed the one thing they would do if they had to do it all over again was prepare for their wedding dance much sooner.  Not me. I had an edge.  I had been preparing for this wedding dance for 30 years. 

Nevertheless, in the middle of the song, something funny happened.  Someone whispered a little too loud, "Oh, that move was so lovely!!

I love flattery!  Overhearing the remark, I looked over to see who had said it.  It was Sharon Crawford, the lovely lady who taught Waltz at my studio.  Coming from Sharon, a high compliment indeed.  Only one problem... I forgot where I was in my pattern!  I had no choice but to stand there a moment to catch the next beat and start over.  It wasn't an obvious goof.  I was hoping it would go unnoticed, but no such luck.  Sharon Crawford let out a chuckle as she watched from above.  Don't you hate people who are perfect?

It crushes me to say this, but we never got that wasted hour back.  Use it or lose it.  Well, it was my own fault.  Due to our late start, now we were practically out of time.  We had promised lots of dancing at our reception, but we only had enough time to play three songs for our guests to dance to.

I very much wanted a group picture, so I organized everyone and took them downstairs to the Centrum.  Our photographer lined up everyone on the stairs and took a wonderful group picture.  That marked a very happy end for a very happy group.  After all the worry I had put them through, they were all so forgiving it made my heart ache.  What I wouldn't give for a redo.  Oh well.  The wedding officials pointed to their watches to indicate it was time for the afternoon guests to depart.

Things were a bit awkward because half our wedding guests were signed up for the trip while the other half had simply driven down from Houston for the two hour wedding event.  Oddly enough, several of the day trippers regretted being forced to leave.  Several guests said the wedding adventure was so beautiful and romantic they wished from the bottom of their hearts they could come with us on the trip that was to follow.  I thanked them for their kind words and replied I wished they could come along too.

One couple wasn't just being polite.  Patty and Joe really meant it!  They could not stop gushing over how beautiful the ship was.  They had never been on a cruise before and had no idea the ship was so beautiful.  Now that they had seen the ship with their own eyes, this seemed like such a wonderful way to spend a vacation.  

Patty would later tell her close friend Marla, "Leaving the ship that day was the hardest thing Joe and I ever had to do.  As we drove back to Houston, we could not bear the thought that you were headed off to surf and sand while we were stuck with summer heat and Houston's concrete jungle."

Joe got the hint.  For her birthday, he surprised Patty with a berth on our 2005 trip.  One year after we were married, Patty and Joe joined us on the next trip... and the trip after that... and the trip after that.  Joe and Patty never missed another trip all because our Wedding had opened their eyes. 

After the group picture, our guests hugged us, shook our hands, and said their goodbyes.  As much as they wanted to stay, it was time to go.  I have to say our guests were really nice to us.  I had wasted an hour of their time, but they turned around and said it was the most EXCITING wedding they had ever been to, even better than the movies.  Bless their hearts.  Even if they were fibbing, they managed to assuage my guilt feelings a little bit. 

The hardest part was saying goodbye to our daughters who were now sisters in law.  All four of us were in tears.  Here in late September, both girls had to get back to school.  Sam had Eighth Grade at Duchesne Academy and Marissa had her Senior Year at Texas State University.  After lots of sad but happy boo-hoos, the new sisters waved goodbye and took off for Houston.

Suddenly we alone.  Mary and Lynn had the good sense to stay out of our sight.  Once the girls left, Marla and I looked for the nearest seats in the Centrum and collapsed.  We were exhausted.  As we melted into our chairs, I reminded Marla we had a second Reception starting in just a couple hours.  There were 120 SSQQ guests on board for the entire upcoming week.  We had promised to hold a Wedding Reception for them too.  Marla shook her head.  There was no way she had any strength left for that. "But if I can just rest for a moment, maybe I can find a second wind."

As Marla and I sat in the Centrum, we heard the announcement come on that the MANDATORY life vest drill was about to begin.  I looked at Marla and she looked at me.  We both groaned.  Oh no, not that!  We were too tired to move, so we just sat there waiting for some ship person to order us out of our seats to attend the drill.

To our amazement, no one said a word.  Maybe they saw how tired we looked and took pity.  With me in my tuxedo and Marla in her lovely wedding gown, I guess we were King and Queen for a day.  We were shocked that no one bothered us.  I was deeply grateful for this unexpected privilege.  We both needed the rest!  We looked at each other and let out a simultaneous sigh of relief.  Just then the most beautiful song began to play.  Neither of us had ever heard it before, but we immediately thought the same thing. 

Without hesitation we rose and slow danced to the song.  We were so much in love.  Unbeknownst to us, one of our SSQQ friends spotted us on their way to the fire drill and snapped a photograph.  That dance was pure magic.  It was such a powerful moment, Marla's frustration from the longest day eased up.  When we finished, Marla took a step back and grinned.

"You know, Rick, Weddings are very important to women.  When we are growing up, we fantasize about our future husband and dream of having the perfect wedding.  Thanks to you, I had an 'Oops Wedding'!  But all's well that ends well."


 


 

 

 
 


EPILOGUE

 
 

Rick Archer's Note:

When I originally wrote my Wedding story in 2004, I was in such a good mood following our honeymoon that my mind was not really on Fate.  People don't think much about Fate when things are going well.  However, when I updated the story in 2020, I realized I had missed something.  My first clue came when I realized what an unusual story this was.  One of our guests said it best.  "Your wedding was even better than a movie!"

It's true.  The story of our wedding read like a crazy Hallmark Romance script.  People like Hallmark cable TV movies because they always have happy endings.  No matter how far-fetched the script, everyone enjoys the ride because they know things will work out in the end.  Relieved of any real tension, it's fun to watch the bewildered expressions on the characters' faces as they deal with the ups and downs of a romantic rollercoaster.  Not so for Marla and me.  Thanks to a neverending procession of predicaments, we experienced a level of anxiety that went far beyond our worst nightmare.  Nor did we have any idea we would have a Hallmark ending.  Fortunately, it all worked out.

So here is a question for the Reader.  Did you catch the potential supernatural event that I missed back in 2004? 

As I have said previously, in order for certain Fated Events to occur, often someone needs to be asleep at the wheel.  Regarding my wedding, can you think of someone who was asleep at the wheel?  Actually, we all were.  Marla forgot we needed to get our marriage license 72 hours ahead of time and forgot to tell me about Sam's birth certificate.  As for me, I committed an extensive assortment of dumb mistakes.

But who was the real star of the Rick and Marla Comedy Hour?  Who stole the show?   

 

Lynn was a woman with a heart of gold, but she had her quirks. If this story ever makes it to the Hallmark Romance Channel, I envision actresses of advanced years clawing for the role of Aunt Lynn.  Lynn had four children: Rick, Dale, Tammy, and Todd.  In addition, Lynn and I became so close during college she made me feel like her fifth child.  Trust me, I would have never made it through college without her help.  That's why I love her so much. 

Considering how good she was to me, to this day I still feel guilty about throwing Lynn to the Homeland Security wolves.  How can I forget the anxiety Lynn faced regarding her lost passport?  Lynn, bless her heart, is a rule follower.  Me, hmm, I say dumb rules are meant to be broken.  Although I am glad I persuaded Lynn to take the gamble, I had no idea those men would be so ugly to her.  Lynn had every right to get flustered.  As a result, Lynn was not paying very good attention when she reset her watch to Mountain Time.  Or so I thought at the time.  Now I wondered if perhaps there was a Cosmic explanation.

At the time, I was so busy coping with problems it never occurred me that Lynn's mistakes had the earmarks of Cosmic Blindness.  She later found her passport and cruise documents in a special purse lying on top of her bed at home.  Hmm. 

 

As for switching her watch to Mountain Time instead of Central, I can understand making a mistake one hour forward or backward, but who accidentally makes a two hour mistake?  I knew Lynn had a reputation for being absent-minded, so I never gave it much thought back in 2004.  But now as I look back, I can see that both of her mistakes could just as easily been caused by someone turning her brain off.  You know how I am about Cosmic Blindness.  How does someone overlook a bag lying on top of their bed?  Someone would have to be blind to miss that.

Speaking of Cosmic Blindness, eight years later someone turned Marla's brain off as well.  In 2012, we were flying to Denmark.  Marla and I had a system.  Marla kept both passports.  She would hand me my passport whenever necessary at the airport, then I would hand it right back after the guard checked it and waved me through.  That is exactly what I did in Houston... I handed my passport back to Marla.

In her haste, Marla misplaced my passport into a side pocket of her carry-on suitcase rather than her purse.  We all make absent-minded mistakes like that.  But none of us ever catch on that maybe the Force of Fate is what caused us to make that mistake.

We had a stopover at Reagan airport located in the Washington, D.C. area.  When we were about to board the plane for the second leg to Denmark, Marla could not find my passport.  As usual, she blamed me.  I knew better, but what good did it do to yell at her?  The passport was lost and there was nothing we could do about it.  Since Marla was responsible for 25 other guests on the cruise trip to Russia, I more or less demanded she get on the plane and I would fend for myself.  Marla was sick with worry.  Bless her heart, she knew how helpless I was when it came to travel.  But she understood where I was coming from... her 25 guests needed her too.  One last kiss and Marla boarded the plane for Europe. 

 

As I sat there feeling lost and lonely, the lady who had denied my entrance onto the plane came over to cheer me up.  The lady said, "Don't give up, all you need to do was get an emergency passport replacement.  I will hold your reservation for tomorrow's flight."   She wrote out a document that would expedite things just in case I decided to take her up on the offer, then added the address of the building in downtown D.C. 

I have to be honest... I was terrified.  Back in those days, I did not have a cell phone.  Nor had I ever made a plane reservation in my life.  Marla took care of everything related to travel.  Helpless?  Yeah, I was little better than a kid when it came to travel and fending for myself.  Feeling overwhelmed, I figured my trip to Russia was toast.  I probably should just book a flight back to Houston.  But the lady had given me an idea.  Why not take a taxi into D.C., rent a hotel room, get the new passport, then take a taxi back to the airport?  I frowned.  Not only did that sound expensive, it sounded complicated too.  It was easier to just go home.

I was about to give up when a funny thought popped in out of the blue.  Hmm, doesn't Aunt Lynn live nearby?  Why didn't I think of her earlier?  What a strange coincidence to get stranded in her hometown of all places. 

 

Since I did not have a phone, I found the Information Desk in the airport lobby.  Some nice lady located Lynn's phone number, but was forbidden by law to give me the address.  Oh great.  Compounding my dilemma, no answer.  Deciding there was no time to waste, I hailed a taxi and told the Nigerian driver to take me to McLean, Virginia.  Only one problem... he didn't know how to get there.  Nor did he have GPS.  So I told him to pull over at a convenience store and I went inside to buy a map.  You remember maps, right?  I did not know Lynn's address, but I remembered she lived on Kellogg Drive.  Locating the street on the map, once we got close enough, my memory from college kicked in and we found Lynn's home. 

I knocked.  No answer.  It was 3 pm, so I figured my best bet was to wait for her to come home.  Then it crossed my mind maybe she was on vacation in Maine with her adult-age children.  Or maybe Lynn had moved.  Just then her next door neighbor pulled up.  She was a sympathetic Asian lady who confirmed Lynn still lived there, but she rarely saw her.  Just then, the lady remembered something... Lynn's grandson Dale mowed her lawn.  Aha!  The lady dialed the number for Dale, but his sister April answered instead.  Bless her heart, April remembered me as her distant uncle from Texas.  We had met back on my trip to Virginia back in 2001.  April called Lynn's cell phone.  It turns out Lynn was already home.  She was in the back of the house watching Oprah and doing a jigsaw puzzle.  This explained why she never heard the door bell or her land line when I phoned earlier. 

The next thing I knew, Lynn opened her front door with a shocked look on her face.  Surprise, surprise!  A tearful reunion complete with a big hug quickly ensued.  What a wonderful break!  Fighting back disbelief at how well this had worked out, I suddenly had the chance to reconnect with Lynn as well as Todd and Dale, two of my four long-lost cousins.

 

That evening Todd stopped by with his lovely wife Nancy and their precocious son Joey.  Joey, 13, challenged me to a game of chess and nearly beat me.  Joey ain't gettin' no rematch. 

Then Dale dropped by.  After listening to my story, Dale had an idea.  Let's drive into D.C. tomorrow and visit the emergency passport office.  Really?  I had no idea where the place was, but Dale said he would be glad to help.  I couldn't believe it.  This was going to work out after all. 

That night Lynn and I sat up nearly till dawn talking about old times.  Of course we laughed and cried about all the headaches on my wedding cruise and my troubles in college.  It was so wonderful spending precious time with this gentle, caring woman.  I could see why her children and grandchildren adored her.  Lynn was a born mother. 

In the morning Dale dropped by to take Lynn and me into the city.  It took some patience, but three hours later I had my replacement passport.  After lunch, Dale drove me to the airport.  A handshake with Dale, a kiss goodbye from Lynn and I was off to Denmark.  What a remarkable stroke of fortune.

 

When I got to Copenhagen, I took a train ride into downtown.  Then I got directions to the hotel.  It wasn't far, so I walked the rest of the way.  When I got to the hotel, the cruise group was assembled in the dining room for breakfast.  Nice timing!  Now it was Marla's turn to be shocked.  Since I did not have a cell phone, Marla had no idea what had become of me.  She rubbed her eyes just to be sure it was really me.  After tears of joy and a huge hug, Marla invited me to join the group for breakfast. 

Later in our room, Marla said, "I have a confession to make.  I found your missing passport.  It slipped to the bottom of my suitcase side pocket."

I nodded.  "Ah, you forgot to put it in your purse.  I figured it was something like that.  Don't worry, Marla, things worked out just fine.  Actually, it worked out even better.  I got to see Aunt Lynn."

Marla had tears in her eyes.  "I can't believe you made it all the way here without my help!  I am so proud of you!"

"Don't give me too much credit.  If it hadn't been for Lynn and Dale, I would not be here.  They really bailed me out.  Of all the places in America to get stranded, I was in the perfect spot."

"That was quite a coincidence, wasn't it?"

"Yes.  Isn't it strange that Lynn lost her passport when she came to see me and now I lost my passport when I came to see her."

Marla grinned.  "You're not going to start that Fate stuff, are you?" 

I smiled.  "How did you guess?"
 


RICK'S OBSERVATION LIST
 

   100            
   099            
   098    Suspicious

   Cosmic Blindness
Coincidence

2004
2012

  Aunt Lynn loses her passport prior to joining my Wedding Cruise.  I rescue Lynn.
  I lose my passport prior to my cruise trip to Russia.  Lynn rescues me.
   097

Serious

Predestination
Cosmic Blindness

  2002  Gypsy Prophecy:  Marla's future is foretold by a psychic using Tarot Cards.  Then her mind was erased.
   096

Serious

Synchronicity   2001  Stroke of Midnight Synchronicity: Rick and Marla's Midnight connection at the Disco,
 Ashley Rumor misunderstanding, Dark Night of the Soul, Second night coincidence outside Rick's cabin
   095

Suspicious

Cosmic Blindness

  2001  Marla does not know I exist for six months despite my neverending attempts to get her attention
   094

Suspicious

Coincidence
Cosmic Blindness
  1994  My 3 year old daughter Sam falls to the bottom of the swimming pool the moment I turn my head
 


 

PART TWO: THE WEDDING CRUISE

Chapter FIFTEEN:  DESTINY

 

                   

MAGIC CARPET

TWO MOUNTAINS DRY SPELL THUNDERBOLT MIDNIGHT STORMY NIGHT CONFUSION DESPAIR OBSERVATION CHARLES DICKENS

001

002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010
CLARITY PERCEPTION GYPSY PROPHECY WEDDING BELLS DESTINY DESTINY DESTINY DESTINY DESTINY DESTINY
011 012 013 014 015          
 
 
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