The Reluctant Bride

The Reluctant Bride
Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2011

“I don’t care that Tommy Kincaid is only seventeen. I think he’s dreamy,” Kelsey said matter-of-factly. She pointed to a picture in a magazine of a buff young man wearing only swim trunks and said, “I mean, like he’s totally hot.”

Frowning, I said as I glanced at the picture Kelsey was pointing to, “But he’s dating a fifteen year old girl! He must be some kind of perv.”

Miranda said, “Well, you know, celebrities can get away with just about anything.” She paused a moment, then looked back at me and said, “That letter really sucks, Chris. What are you going to do?”

I didn’t respond right away. I looked around the table in the student cafeteria at County College where I, along with my three new BFF’s, Miranda, Kelsey, and Lauren were having lunch. Along with the latest celebrity heart-throbs, we had been discussing a letter I had gotten from my boyfriend Joey. Let me re-phrase that. My ex-boyfriend Joey.

“What can I do?” I asked. “I mean, he’s a million miles away in Japan. It’s not like I can just go up to him and kick him in the ass.”

Joey Saotome had become my boyfriend just before the high school prom. For most of June right after graduation, he and I had become almost inseparable. Dad even remarked that we were together so much we might as well have been married. They never said anything, but I’m sure my parents knew Joey and I were having sex.

Joey had also helped me get in contact with a counselor who had put me on hormones at last and helped me get in contact with a lawyer that hopefully would get my status changed to legally female. We started making plans for me to get surgery the next summer. Joey seemed excited along with me that I’d finally become a woman. Then he went off to Japan with his family where they planned to spend the month of July.

I looked at my three friends and on one level found it amusing that they had no idea that I wasn’t a teen girl college freshman just like they were. I felt burdened by a secret that only a handful of people knew about and couldn’t wait to be liberated by a surgeon’s skill.

It wasn’t always so.

No one at County College knew that just one year ago, I was a boy. A boy that was invisible, socially anyway. In a few short weeks, I went from geek to cheerleader. Until then, I’d never even looked at guys, but I soon had a boyfriend named Jeff. But I have to admit that he wasn’t my first kiss…

“Earth to Chrissy!” said Miranda. “Kelsey and I are going to head on over to class. Are you coming?”

I blinked a couple of times, unaware that my mind had wandered off. “Um, yeah. Sure.” I started to gather my text books. I picked up Joey’s letter and put it back in my purse. I felt myself momentarily flash with anger at the thought that he dropped me for some girl in Misawa. He’s planning on staying in Japan and going to college there. That was bad enough, but for him to say he’d found a real girl was just too much.

Just as we were about to leave the table, Lauren nodded her head towards the cafeteria entrance and said, “Oh, snap! Take a look at that! I wonder where they’ve been hiding him!”

I looked in the direction she nodded and saw a young man, with chiseled good looks chatting with a mixed group of students at one of the tables near the entrance to the student cafeteria. Even through his clothes you could tell he was really muscular. But he looked strangely familiar. As we approached the door, he began to stare at me.

His staring really started to unnerve me. I wanted to hurry past him but my friends stopped to greet Nikki, who had just rolled her wheelchair through the door. The guy who was staring at me said to the group he was talking to, “Thanks. I think I just found her.” He stood up straight and took a step towards me. That’s when I recognized him.

“Eddie?” I gasped, as a mixed bag of emotions flushed through my body.

“Chris! Wow, you look great!” Ed stepped next to me, grinning like the idiot I remembered. “You look, honestly… I mean you, you look sensational.” My friends turned away from Nikki to look at Ed and me and began whispering to each other.

“Eddie! Wow, it’s been like forever. I thought you were at State. I…uh…well, what are you doing here?” I was shocked on multiple levels. When Ed shows up, it usually means trouble for me. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was totally gorgeous! His face had matured into masculine chiseled features and you could easily tell he’d been working out. Not over-muscled like a body builder, but just right.

Ed frowned as he said, “That’s not much of a greeting for your old boy friend.” Not just my friends, but now several people near us turned their attention on Ed and me.

“I’m just shocked, Eddie,” I said honestly. “I mean, you go off to college years ago and no calls or emails. You just took me by surprise.”

“Sorry.” He looked me up and down with a sappy grin on his face. “God, I wish I’d kept up with you now, that’s for sure.”

I smiled sweetly to him and said, “Well, it was nice seeing you again, Eddie. But I have to get to class.”

Looking disappointed, Ed said, “Ok, I won’t hold you up. But we need to talk, ok? Meet me tonight at Star Bucks at around six, ok? I really have to see you.”

“Eddie…” I said with exasperation growing in my voice.

“I have to see you. Be there, ok?” There was pleading in Ed’s voice.

With a sigh, I said, “Ok, I’ll be there. But I’m telling you right now Eddie…before you ask, the answer is ‘no’!” I started to walk towards the exit.

“Just hear me out. That’s all I ask.” Ed said to my back as I walked deliberately towards the exit.

Outside the student cafeteria, Miranda playfully pushed my shoulder and exclaimed, “You’ve been holding out on us! Who was that? He’s like, freakin’ hot!”

Lauren said, “Yeah, Chris! What’s up? How can you just walk away from that? Can I have him if you don’t want him?”

Frowning, I said, “Guys, come on! He’s a jerk, ok? I haven’t seen or heard from him in years.”

“Yeah, but where do you know him from?” asked Kelsey. “We want details, girl!”

We were approaching the entrance to the building where my next class was. I stopped walking and turned to my friends and said, “Well, if you really must know, he was my first boyfriend back in middle school. He’s the first guy I ever kissed.” I decided not to mention that he was also my first oral sex or that if it wasn’t for Ed, I wouldn’t talking to these girls and attending college on a cheerleading scholarship.

My friends all laughed and giggled at this confession. Lauren said, “Maybe he wants to start things up again. You could do a lot worse!”

I just shook my head and started walking to my next class. Over my shoulder, I said, “God, I sure hope not!” I heard a sudden commotion from behind me and turned to see Nikki’s wheelchair, with Nikki still in it, speed past, going backwards until it slammed into another student sending both cart wheeling into the shrubbery.

*     *    *

All afternoon, I thought about Ed. What did he want? Why would he come back into my life now? Maybe it’s not fair to him, but I always blamed Ed for the loss of my boy life. True, he wasn’t there when I changed sides to help out the cheerleading squad in high school. But I doubt I would have agreed to it if I hadn’t already had a taste of what it was like to be a girl.

And, I couldn’t stop thinking about how hot Ed looked now. I knew he was trying to hatch some new plot because, well, he’s Ed. It’s going to be tough to tell that gorgeous hunk “no”.

It was a couple of minutes past six when I approached the campus Star Bucks. The usual suspects were sitting at the outside tables, talking animatedly about something. I took a deep breath and walked inside.

Ed was seated at a corner table. As I entered the building, he motioned me over to him. I sat down at the chair opposite him.

Ed picked up the cup that was sitting next to his and placed it in front of me. “I’m not sure what you like so I just got you the same thing I got.” He looked at me and smiled.

With a heavy sigh I said, “You have five minutes, Eddie. Say what you came to say and then leave me in peace.”

“I’m not sure I can say it in five…”

“In four minutes, thirty seconds, I’m walking out of here.” I said sternly.

“Ok, ok. Here’s the deal. Remember my grandmother? Yeah, well she’s been recently diagnosed with cancer. She’s been given six months tops.”

Softening my tone, I said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I remember she always had cookies and Kool Aid ready for us whenever we walked over to her house.”

Ed smiled at the shared memory. “Yep. Well, anyway, there’s a favor I want to ask of you.” Ed grinned and said, “I’m sure you knew that was coming.”

“You have three minutes.”

“A few years ago, I sent her pictures of you and you and me and claimed you were my girl friend. Yes you were! Remember that one summer? Ok, I admit I sent the pictures after I started at State College so it wasn’t totally honest.”

“You? Saying something not totally honest? I’m shocked. Just shocked I tell you.”

“Well, anyway,” Ed continued, “since girls just throw themselves at me, I never kept a steady girl friend. Grams though likes things that are stable and long term. She kept asking about you and I kept telling her that you were still my girlfriend.” He took a long drink from his cup and just sat there for a few seconds.

I looked at him for a few seconds and then said, “And? You have a minute and a half.”

Ed still hesitated a few seconds as he looked at the window. Finally, folding his hands in front of him and looking straight at me he said, “Well, when I found out she had only a few months to live, I thought I’d make Grams happy by telling her you and I were engaged and gave her a date well into the future when she would sadly no longer be here. Well, she got all excited and decided she wants us to advance our wedding date to next month. She’s going to fly out here. I thought since she lived in New Jersey, she wouldn’t even consider coming out here even if she lived a few months longer than expected.”

I just sat there with a shocked expression hanging on my face.

Ed continued, “So what I’m asking you…would you pretend to be my bride? To make Grams happy?”

I sat there in stunned silence for several moments. With building anger, I said, “Times up. This is low, even for you, Eddie. I’m out of here.”

As I started to stand, Ed grabbed my arm. I couldn’t pull away. Damn those female hormones!

Ed leaned over the table and said, “It’s just for a few hours. I’ll pay for renting the wedding dress. Come on. You’ll make an old lady happy. I’ll even pay you…”

I snorted a humorless laugh and said, “You never paid me that fifty dollars you promised back when I pretended to be your date! Where would you get a preacher to fake a wedding? I’m not legally female yet and isn’t there now a same-sex marriage law? We’d be legally married. Forget it, Eddie. You’re insane!”

He held tight to my wrist. “I’ve thought of all the angles Chris. I’ll have a fake preacher. And that law isn’t in effect while it’s tied up in the courts. Look, Grams will be happy, you’ll have some extra cash in your purse and…and I get to kiss you again. It’s all good.”

“You’re out of your fucking mind if you think for one second I’m going to pretend to marry you. It’s a terrible thing to do to your dying grandmother and your parents. It’s a terrible thing to do to me. Everyone will think we’re really married and that’s going to suck for me. I was looking forward to dating college guys!” Well, now anyway since it looks like Joey is out of the picture.

“She’s going to be here next month. She wants to have the wedding that first Saturday. She wants to buy the napkins and plates and stuff like that, so she asked what your colors are, whatever that means.”

“Eddie!” I said too loudly and people turned to stare at us. I lowered my voice and said, “Eddie, you’re not listening. I’m not marrying you. No fucking way!”

*     *     *

“You definitely picked the most beautiful dress in the store Miss Davis,” said the woman helping me fit my wedding dress. Lauren, Kelsey and Miranda were there as well getting fitted for their bridesmaid gowns. I can’t believe I let Ed talk me into yet another of his hair-brained schemes. But it would make his grandmother happy as from the way Ed talked, she had one foot in the grave as it was.

When the woman doing the fitting left the room for a few minutes, Lauren said, “Oh I wish you were getting married for real! It’s terrible to waste these pretty dresses!”

“Not so loud, Lauren!” I hissed in a loud whisper. “Only you guys, my parents and Ed and his friend know this isn’t real. I want it to stay that way!”

I had to tell my parents. I couldn’t make them think I was actually marrying Ed, then tossing him out the next day. They didn’t really like the idea, but went along with it anyway.

“You know it’s going to be more than just us there,” said Miranda. “How are you going to explain dumping him so quickly?”

“I’m not,” I said, rustling in my satin gown. “We’ll keep the ruse up for a few months then Eddie will very publically do something stupid that will make me ‘divorce’ him. Eddie excels at being stupid so that part shouldn’t be too hard.”

Kelsey said, “Or you could just stay married to him. You have to admit that he’s one gorgeous hunk! After a while, you’d have a common law marriage anyway.”

Laughing I said, “I have to admit, him being a hunk took me by surprise. I always thought he was cute, but you don’t know him like I do. He’s too much of a putz. I don’t think I’d want to actually marry him.”

*     *     *

“Dearest Chrissy, I’ll make this letter as short as possible. Things have changed dramatically since arriving in Japan. I have decided to stay and go to college here. It’s a great school.

“Last Saturday, Dad took me down to Tokyo and I finally got to see the Ginza. For a geek and tech freak like me, it’s just so awesome I can’t describe it! You should really see it at night.

“I also met a girl. A real girl who has turned out to be my every fantasy…”

My eyes teared up again to where I could no longer read the letter. I wadded it up and tossed it into my trash can. Ed left me. Jeff left me. And now Joey leaves me.

And, to add insult to injury, Ed wants a fake marriage with me. A fake marriage to a fake girlfriend who also happens to be a fake girl…

*     *     *

“I think we’re ready to do this!” exclaimed Ed as he set his iPad to one side. “What do you think, Chris?”

I finished nibbling on a fry before answering. I looked at my half-eaten burger and realized that the last time I was Carl’s Jr. was probably with Ed, many years ago. I looked up into Ed’s face. Physically he’d changed so much. He’d always been cute, but now, it was hard to keep from looking at him. Mentally, Ed was still the same old Ed, always hatching some new scheme.

I said, “About as ready as we’ll ever be, I guess Eddie. Your grandmother will be here in two weeks. We have all the bridesmaid dresses and my gown rented and your tux. We’ll have flowers and a cake, lavender napkins with our names on them and all the invitations have been sent.”

Before Ed could say anything to that, I continued, “I’m still not sure if this is a good idea, Eddie. I said I’d do it, so I’ll do it. I just feel reluctant to go through with it. I mean, except for a handful of folks, everyone thinks I’m really getting married to you. And they’re all asking, why are you marrying him?”

“My sparkling personality and dashing good looks, of course” Ed said with a chuckle. “Seriously though. Even if you were getting married for real, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone but you.”

I took a hesitant bite of my burger before saying anything. “I know. It’s just that, Eddie, we’re going to a lot of trouble here. A lot of people are going to think I’m actually getting married. It may be years before I get another date. It’d be easier to just tell your grandmother we broke up. Make it my fault! I’m sure she’s a nice little old lady…and we’re basically lying to her!”

Ed shrugged and said, “Semantics! We’re not lying to Grams. We’re merely stretching the truth.”

Under the table, I kicked Ed in the shin. “Quit talking like a weasel, Eddie! This is serious! I have a bad feeling about all this.”

Ed just shook his head and said, “Well, don’t worry your pretty little head over it. I have everything under control!”

*     *     *

“You are not marrying that slime-ball brother of mine!” shouted Gwen as she slammed the door closed to her office. “Even in jest! How many times are you going to keep ruining your life? And how many times are you going to make me feel like a giant steaming pile of shit for dressing you up in the first place!”

“For the billionth time, it’s not your fault!” I yelled back at Gwen. “It’s my fault for letting Eddie talk me into stupid plots!”

“I know it’s a mock marriage.” Gwen said. “But you still have to put up a front while Grams is alive. That could be months or even years. Do you really want to start picking up dirty gym socks and washing them before you finish college?”

“Eddie said she only has a month or two.” I said, starting to feel worried.

Gwen laughed and said, “She was told that two years ago. She’s a tough old bird. She might outlive us all…especially me.”

I gasped. “Are you serious?” I shook my head and growled, “I’m going to kill him.”

“You need to stop this, Chris” Gwen said with a serious expression. “And you don’t have much time since Gram’s plane arrives tomorrow and I think she’s wanting to move the wedding up a week. She has tickets for some shows in Branson Missouri the weekend you have scheduled.”

“Tomorrow? Eddie told me wasn’t going to be here until next week!” I almost shouted.

*     *     *

I opened the door to our house and there on the front porch stood Ed, looking all innocent and carefree. He flashed a grin and said, “You wanted to talk to me about something?”

“Yes,” I said coldly. “Come inside. We’re alone.”

Frowning and plopping down on our couch, Ed said, “Why do I feel some shouting coming on?”

I stood by the couch, leaning over Ed and shouted, “You lied to me! Twice! Maybe more. Not that I want your grandmother to die, but I talked to Gwen this after noon and found out she’s no where close to dying! There’s no emergency! And you said she wasn’t going to be here until next week, but she’s arriving tomorrow! She wants to move the wedding up a week! What’s going on here, Eddie? I smell a rat!”

Looking angry, Ed sat up quickly and growled. “Of course you do! That rat is my sister Gwen! Why are you listening to her? She doesn’t know shit. Grams didn’t want to upset Mom and Dad with her latest doctor visit. She just wanted to see them one last time and she also thought that since we’ve been dating so long, she couldn’t figure what we were waiting on. She said she’d love to see me get married and she wanted to meet you.”

“Nice story, Eddie, but like I said, I’ve talked with Gwen. She was told she had two months to live two years ago.” I said, crossing my arms.

Ed dug into his pocket a moment and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He said as he held it out for me to take, “I’ve been carrying it around just in case you thought I was lying. It’s the report from her latest round of tests. She has leukemia. She won’t make it through mid October. Satisfied?”

I looked over the report, not really sure of what I was looking at, but the bad indicators were pretty obvious. Still scanning down the report, I said, “Oh wow, Eddie. I’m really sorry.”

Ed started to look genuinely upset as he said, “She just wants to see that her only grandson is happy. You know, she’s been handed a death sentence, she must be in pain, and she’s thinking of my happiness. I..I…” his voice faded off as his eyes glazed over in a far-away look.

I sat on the couch next to him and put my arm around his shoulder. “I’m so very sorry, Eddie.” He put his head on my shoulder and cried.

*     *     *

We sat in the grass on a low hillside, shaded by a large tree. A few yards away from us was the shoreline of Springer Lake. Almost on this spot marked the climax and abrupt end of our little summer romance. A slight autumn breeze kicked by, making me wish I’d brought a sweater with me.

“I always loved this spot.” Ed said. He laid on his back with his head using my folded legs as a pillow as I sat cross legged, my back against the tree.

“Oh, me too.” I agreed. “This is always the prettiest, and the most peaceful place in the park.”

We sat there in silence for over a minute. Finally, Ed broke the silence and said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

I laughed and said, “Well, you can ask…”

“Why are you still a girl? I mean, seriously.” Ed chewed casually on a blade of grass. Before I could answer, he continued, “I mean, we did the party thing. And then we kissed outside your house. That kiss…better than any kiss I’d ever had, that kiss made me realize, even more so than how hot you looked, that you were the perfect girl for me. My whole world turned up side down while I tried to figure out what that meant since you weren’t really a girl.”

I laughed and said, “Your world was turned upside down! Mine was upside down and inside out. That summer when we dated, I have to admit that I was the happiest I’d ever been. It was beyond just the clothes and make-up. It was deeper. I felt…whole. But after that night that I…um…”

“Gave me a blowjob?” interrupted Ed. “And a damned good one, too!”

Frowning, I said, “Yes, that. After that, except on a few occasions, I never dressed as a girl again until I was offered to fill in for Nikki on the cheerleading squad. It was then, that I discovered who I really was. I went much deeper into being a girl. The friendships with the other girls, having a boyfriend that I didn’t have to keep secret, that special feeling you get when you realize that you’re somebody’s girlfriend. It all came together to show me that I wasn’t a guy. I’m a girl. That’s who I am and that’s who I’m comfortable being.”

“Sounds like you’ve done a lot of soul searching,” said Ed.

“Oh, a lot! I’ve driven Diane almost insane over it.” I said with a giggle.

Ed fell silent again. For several minutes, we just sat there under the shade of a tree in the glow of a gorgeous afternoon.

With a wistful look in his eyes, Ed said, “Have you ever wondered how things would have turned out if we hadn’t stopped that night? If we had gone on to that next level, and if you had stayed a girl then? How different would our lives be, if any?”

Maybe being a bit too harsh, I said, “Probably where we are today since the time you left for college, you hardly wrote, didn’t return phone calls and just basically blew me off.”

“My bad, I agree”, agreed Ed. “But after I started working out, hey, girls just started throwing themselves at me and I was just too busy to be bothered by folks back home. Sorry.”

My nostalgic mood souring, “I said, yeah. Until you need help with another of your stupid schemes.”

Ed just shrugged.

*     *     *

“It’s so nice to finally meet you, dear.” Ed’s grandmother greeted me. Turning to Ed as she still held my hand, she said, “She is lovely, Edward. More so than the pictures you sent me.”

“Nice to meet you too, Ms. Stanislaski,” I said smiling.

“Oh, call me Francine, dear,” she said, patting the top of my hand. She finally released my hand and said, “We’re all about to be family.”

I hope she didn’t see me flash a look towards Ed that should have left him as a smoldering greasy spot on the floor.

Francine carefully lowered herself into a well padded chair in Ed’s parent’s house. She would be staying with his parents during her stay. “It’s funny the paths life takes you,” she said looking at me. “You’ve known Edward since before the first grade, right? I bet you never dreamed back then that you’d one day become his wife.” I sat down in one of the wooden dining room chairs across from her.

Smiling, I said, “You are right! Back then, I didn’t even entertain the thought!”

Patting my knee, Francine said, “And now look at you! The beautiful blushing bride! I know you are going to be just stunning in your wedding dress! Your father is giving you away, right?”

“Yes. I have to admit, I don’t think he thought he’d be doing that.”

Francine looked at me curiously. “Why would you say that dear? You are such a beautiful girl, that I’m sure you’ve had many young men vying for your hand.”

Frowning, I said, “Yeah, well. My boyfriends don’t seem to stick around.”

Eyes twinkly, Ed’s grandmother said, “I don’t think Edward will be going anywhere.”

Just for the briefest of moments, I thought about slitting my wrists.

*     *     *

“Chrissy, I think you’re making too much of this,” my mom said. “You’re not really getting married. It’s like you’re putting on a play.”

“I know, Mom. Part of me wants this to be totally perfect, and the other part of me wants me to run like hell.”

“Well of course you want everything perfect, honey.” Mom handed me another wet plate to dry. “For most girls, getting married, at least the first time, is what they consider the biggest day of their lives.”

“That’s one of the problems, Mom,” I said as I put the dish away and accepted another from my Mom. We had a dishwasher, like most of the civilized world, but Mom always preferred washing the dishes manually when she wanted to talk about something. “When I get married for real, it’ll be my second wedding and not as special.”

“It’s not going to be a real wedding, Chrissy,” said Mom matter-of-factly. “When you get married for real to some nice young man, it will be special.” She suddenly laughed and said, “It’s funny. Here you are, talking about your wedding and how you want it all perfect and all. How different this conversation would be if you were still a boy!”

I crinkled up my nose and said, “Well, we wouldn’t even be having it, that’s for sure.”

Mom set the dish she was washing back into the sink and said seriously, “You know I don’t approve of this. I applaud Eddie for wanting to make his dying grandmother happy, but this is involving a lot of people. Good friends who aren’t going to like being made fools of, no matter what the reason. Your father and I are doing this just to help you. When this is over, I think you should tell Eddie that he should never interfere in your life again. Ultimately, you wouldn’t be a girl now if it wasn’t for him and your father could have saved thousands of dollars on his therapy.”

*     *     *

“Stand still,” Mom said. “I’ll never get this adjusted if you keep squirming.”

“Sorry Mom,” I said. “I’m just a little nervous right now. I’m getting married in a few minutes.”

“Not if I don’t fix your gown.”

I stood there in a room off from the chapel of Ed’s family’s church, giving Soft & Dri a new stress test. I looked around the room and all my bridesmaids, the whole of County College cheer squad, fussed with each other’s hair, dresses and make-up. Diane, my Maid of Honor, looked over at me and just shook her head.

“Still time to run away,” Diane said. “I don’t think anyone would blame you.”

Not sure if I believed myself, I said, “It’s all good. The marriage license will be invalid since I’m not legally female yet. And the priest is an actor buddy of one of Eddie’s friends. The problem will be unwinding ourselves out of this.”

Diane just huffed and said, “Well, better you than me, sister. Eddie couldn’t pay me enough to marry him, even for a joke.”

Mom stood up and said, “Ok girls. Take your places.” To me she said, “I’ll send your father in after the girls leave the room.”

She paused a moment as my bridal party left the room. She looked at me and started to tear up. “You are just so gorgeous! You make such a beautiful bride!”

Emotion started to build up inside me. I said, “Mom. Don’t get me crying. I don’t have time to fix my make-up.”

Mom nodded and with tears flowing, she hurried from the room.

A few moments later, there was a knock on the door, and then my dad entered. He looked at me with the oddest expression on his face. His voice choked up as he said, “My little princess! You really are all grown up. You are just…just beautiful!” He brushed away some tears and said, “Sorry. But seeing my little girl in that wedding dress is almost too much.”

I smiled at Dad and said, “Remember, it’s all for show. Nobody is really getting married.”

He nodded and said, “I know. And, back when you were born, this wasn’t how I imagined it would be on your wedding day.”

I laughed and said, “I bet! Are you ready Dad?”

Dad forced a smile and said, “As ready as I’ll ever be!” His eye began to twitch.

Clutching my dad’s arm, we exited the room and started to enter the chapel as the organist began to play, “Here Comes the Bride.” I looked out at the room filled with expectant people and most notably, Ed standing on the right side of the chapel, looking back at me with a big grin. It was a Maalox moment.

As we started down the aisle, out of the corner of my eye, I got a glance of someone off to the side trying to get my attention, but my whole world was shrinking down to just that strip of carpet with Ed at the end of it. I’m not even sure if I heard the music any more.

Finally, we reached the spot a few feet from Ed and the fake preacher who said in a rich, tenor voice, “Who gives this woman away to be wedded to this man?”

Dad, eye twitching like crazy, said, “Her mother and I do.” He let go of my arm and took his place behind the Best Man. I took my place opposite Ed, who gave me a toothy grin. I smiled back nervously, casting my eyes shyly towards the floor.

I made a quick glance at Diane. She returned a soft smile. It was a smile that said, “I’m happy for you sis…” She knew it was all a sham, but with all the gowns, suits and flowers, it sure looked like someone was getting married. And even though I of course knew the wedding was bogus, staring at Ed’s eyes while the preacher spoke, I could tell I was getting all gooey inside.

“Repeat after me…” the preacher said turning his head towards Ed. “I, Edward Stanislaski take you, Christine Davis, to be my wedded wife. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ‘till death do us part.”

I was quickly turning into a pile of bubbling emotions as I listened to Ed repeat his vow. It was impossible to hold back any tears. I quickly wiped my eyes a few times, trying hard not to smear my make-up.

The preacher turned towards me and repeated the same vow. Overcome with emotion, I repeated the vow looking intently at Ed, my voice soft and earnest. My emotions didn’t care that what was going on wasn’t real. I was completely taken in by the whole ceremony. I was looking at the man that in a few moments would be my husband.

The preacher looked at me and asked, “Do you, Christine, take Edward to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

Quickly, I said, “I do.”

Diane was handing me a ring…the ring. Repeating the words of the preacher, I slid the ring onto Ed’s finger. “With this ring, I thee wed.”

The preacher turned towards Ed and asked, “Do you, Edward, take Christine to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

With an odd expression, Ed with obvious emotion quietly said, “I do!”

Paul, Ed’s Best Man — someone else from back when we were kids and was damned cute, handed Ed what was to be my wedding ring. My excitement was at such a pitch that I barely heard Ed say, “With this ring, I thee wed.”

“With the powers invested in me, I now pronounce you, husband and wife! You may kiss the bride.” The preacher smiled a big toothy smile.

Ed slowly lifted my veil, and leaned in, hesitated just a moment, then gave me a long passionate kiss as the chapel erupted in applause. I put my arms around his neck and kissed him again.

*     *     *

Fake or not, it was turning out to be a really great wedding. It wasn’t a big crowd, but it was friends and family. We took the traditional wedding pictures of Ed and I standing under the wedding arch and one with us and our parents under the wedding arch, and one with us and Ed’s grandmother under the wedding arch and one with us, our parents and Ed’s grandmother under the wedding arch and one with us and my bride’s maids under the wedding arch and one…well, you get the idea.

Of course we also got a picture of us feeding each other wedding cake and got Ed real good, shoving it into his face. Lots of people got pictures when I hiked up my skirt on one leg so Ed could get to the garter. Ed’s five year old nephew caught it. Diane caught my bouquet.

Ed’s grandmother was beaming the whole time. It was obvious that she was genuinely happy that Ed and I were married. She mentioned numerous times that she couldn’t wait to be a great-grandmother.

I was chatting with Miranda when a grim looking Ed approached.

“I’m sorry to interrupt this intellectual exchange between cheerleaders, but Chris, I need to talk to you in private.” Ed said without any humor in his voice. “Now, Chris.”

“Excuse me a moment,” I said to Miranda as I started to follow Ed.

Miranda huffed and “I hope you can get him trained, and soon!”

“What’s so important?” I asked after we were out of earshot of any one.

Frowning, Ed said, “We have a problem. A big problem.”

Getting worried, I asked, “What problem, Eddie? What are you talking about?”

Ed wouldn’t look at me in the eye as he said, “My friend’s actor friend who was going to perform the services was turned away by my grandmother. She asked the preacher of this church if he could do the service. A real preacher married us! It’s all legal.”

“Oh, my God!” is all I could manage to say at the moment. Finally I was able to say, “What?! How did you let this happen?! Didn’t you recognize your own preacher?”

“I can’t control my grandmother!” Ed said through clenched teeth. “I had no idea she’d sent the fake preacher away. And no I didn’t recognize him. One, I don’t usually go to church and two, I’ve been away at college for the past couple of years.”

As my anger over Ed’s usual lack of control on his own schemes, I suddenly realized something.

“Eddie!” I said, grabbing his shoulder. “There’s no problem. We go to Plan B. I’m not legally female yet. Same sex marriage is illegal in this state. We not legally married!”

“Thank God for Plan B,” said Ed with a sigh. “It’d be terrible to ruin this wedding with us actually getting married.”

*     *     *

We were back at Ed’s parents’ house to change out of our rented wedding clothes to something more suitable for a flight. Ed had arranged for us to fly Las Vegas for a honeymoon. I don’t know where he was getting all this money, but I was going to enjoy every dime of it.

Ed came up behind me and nibbled on my neck. “Are you ready to go to the airport Mrs. Stanislaski?”

I giggled and said, “It’s just us, Eddie. You don’t have to pretend you love me when no one’s around. And yes, I’m all packed.”

Ed said with a grin, “It’s best to stay in character at all times. That way you don’t slip up.” Ed suddenly looked worried and said, “Something I didn’t think about. What do we do about you with airport security?”

“I have a card from my therapist that explains my condition for authorities. I’ve never had to test it.” I said, checking my purse to make sure the card actually was in there.

“After they load your luggage, I hope there’s room for us on the plane,” joked Ed. “We should probably leave now.”

Right then my cell phone rang. I turned to Ed and said, “I’ll be right there. This is my therapist calling.”

“Does she know about the wedding?” Ed asked.

As I slid my finger along the bottom of the phone’s screen to answer the call, I shook my head “no.” Into the phone, I said, “Hello?”

From the phone, I heard Joanne, my therapist’s voice say, “Hey Chrissy! I have some great news for you!”

“Oh cool. What? I could use some good news.” I said into the phone.

Excitedly, Joanne said, “I just heard back from your lawyer. He managed to expedite your case through the system. As of yesterday, you are recognized by the state as legally a woman! Congratulations!”

I almost shouted into the phone, “Oh my God! I can’t believe it! I’m finally, legally a woman!”

A sudden thought shot through me that just as suddenly killed my enthusiasm. I said to Joanne, “What exactly does that mean, exactly?”

Joanne’s tone seemed puzzled, but she said, “Well, it means we get to change all your documents, including your birth certificate to indicate that you are female. You don’t ever have to hide who you are again. It means you’re free, Chrissy.”

Hesitantly, I said, “What about…um…marriage?”

Joanne giggled, “Let’s don’t rush into that, but yes. It means that as of yesterday, you could legally marry your boyfriend if you had one.”

I fell back into a chair, all energy drained from me. I said to Joanne, “That’s…that’s wonderful news, Joanne. Thanks so much for letting me know right away. I need to let this soak in.”

“No problem, Chrissy,” said Joanne. “I’ll talk to you at your next session. Bye now.”

I pressed the button image to hang up the phone and just sat there, repeating over and over to myself, “ohmygod,ohmygod,ohmygod…”

Ed came back in from outside and said, “Are we going? Are you okay? Do I need to worry?”

I just looked up at Ed and said, “Do we have a Plan C?”

*     *     *

We walked into our five star hotel bridal suite on the Vegas strip and Ed collapsed on one of the room chairs. I just sat down on the edge of the bed. We’d hardly spoken the whole trip. A pall of gloom hung over us. We both just sat in the room, silently staring at our hands.

I broke the silence by turning to look at Ed and say, “Well, my husband. Any bright ideas?”

Gesturing some frustration and giving the floor a throughout study said, “You know, it was just a simple idea, fake a wedding, make Grams happy, enjoy a weekend in Vegas and that would be it. What could go wrong?”

I pulled one of the pillows out from under the covers and whacked Ed upside the head with it, almost knocking him from the chair. “What could go wrong?!” I shouted. “What could go wrong? How about being legally married to jerk-off?” No sir, I didn’t like it.

Ed stood up and with sarcasm dripping from his voice said, “Oh. Do I detect that the little lady is unhappy about something? How about the fact that I gave you a beautiful wedding, and beautiful dresses along with beautiful people topped off by a beautiful weekend in Las Vegas, all for free!”

“Yeah, I’m unhappy. Unhappy that now instead of just walking away from all this, swearing to never speak to you again, I now have to actually divorce you, pay a lawyer, go to court with you claiming half of everything I own. Now when I get married to a real man, it’ll be my second wedding!” I said with eyes flashing. “And another thing! When I …”

Ed was suddenly kissing me. I tried to push him away, but he was much stronger than me. I pulled my face away long enough to gasp in some air and say, “What the hell are you doing?”

Ed just kissed me again, very passionately. “My God you’re gorgeous!” he panted. “Ever since that day you first put on that black dress to go to Lisa’s party I’ve wanted to make wild passionate love to you.” He kissed me again, his hot breath on my face.

We fell onto the bed, both of us breathless with pent-up passion as we kissed and struggled out of our clothes. All the anxieties of the past couple of weeks, all my anger at Jeff and Joey exploded in wild passion as we wrestled as one in the white satin sheets of the Bridal Suite. Ed’s apparent inexhaustible ability and passion led to a frenzy of orgasms. I wasn’t going to be able to walk for a week.

*     *     *

I laid on the bed, almost too weak to move. Ed was taking a shower. For the life of me, I don’t see how he was even able to stand. Never in my life had I experienced such sexual energy. We had definitely consummated our marriage.

The room phone rang and I looked at the clock, wondering who’d be calling at this hour, only to be surprised that it was just a little past nine-thirty. I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

“Chrissy! It’s so good to hear your voice,” said Francine, Ed’s grandmother. “I hope it’s not too late there. Could you give Eddie a message for me, dear? I told him I’d let him know as soon as all the arrangements had been made according to our agreement. Please tell Eddie that he’s re-instated in my will.”

“He’s what? A will? Of course, Francine, I’ll let Eddie know…” I said as my blood began to boil. I hung up the phone and sat on the bed fuming.

Ed walked out of the shower, naked and still drying himself off. “Francine called.” I said casually. “Something about a will.”

“A will?” Ed looked at the floor for a moment, his finger pressed to his lips in concentration. “Oh! Yeah. Well, yeah. It’s like this. While I’m not at liberty to say exactly why, but Grams said the only way I could be put back in her will was if I got married before I turned twenty-one. No big deal, right?”

As I threw a shoe at Ed’s head, I screamed, “You lied to me! You said this was supposed to be a fake wedding and that it was to make your grandmother happy before she dies in a few weeks!”

Ducking, Ed said, “Now now. That report I showed you was legit. It’s just from a year ago, but you didn’t look at the dates. She’s been in remission. And I do want to make her happy! Don’t you, babe? And…and…and…I planned on it being a fake wedding! I didn’t know she was going to use a real preacher!”

I put my head in my hands and started crying. “You lied to me! I trusted you yet again. I’m so stupid!”

Ed shrugged and said flatly, “Well, you are a girl after all…”

I screamed and threw another shoe at him.

*     *     *

I crept quietly away from the crib after the baby finally fell asleep. After walking back into the living room, I looked out the window to the back yard and watched Ed play with Marty, our five year old. Gwen would be over soon to baby sit as Ed would be taking me out to dinner.

Watching the two play outside made me sigh. I couldn’t believe we’d been married for seven years already. Seven years ago this day, I said “I do” to a man who has driven me nearly insane as well as to the highest levels of passion. I can’t believe I love that dork, but I really do.

I made a quick check on the baby before returning to the living room to look through the anniversary cards we’d gotten. It’s funny. After we told Gwen that our wedding was in fact, real after all, she was so overcome with guilt that she begged to be a surrogate mother for our first child. She used some of the sperm I’d put aside before getting the gender re-assignment surgery. I envied her being pregnant.

Then of course, Diane just had to copy Gwen, though we had her wait a few years and she was artificially inseminated from Ed. They were both as close to being Ed’s and my kids as we could short of me getting pregnant myself.

I looked through the anniversary cards. There were the expected ones from Mom and Dad, and Diane, and Ed’s parents, Gwen and even Francine. A card from Nikki had a picture of her, her baby and that boy she ran over with her wheelchair back at County College. They were celebrating five years of marriage themselves. I looked at the picture and to be honest, I didn’t think they put casts on babies that small.

And lastly, I picked up Ed’s anniversary gift to me and looked at it again. I laughed again and shook my head. After all these years, I couldn’t believe it. Behind glass and matted in a frame, was a brand new, crisp fifty dollar bill.

*     *     *

The End

The end of the Reluctant Series

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