Alexa Chapter 28: London Baby, Part 3
Marty stood as we entered the lounge area. The look on his face was priceless. His eyes were wide, his mouth was open. Jenny and I looked at each other and let the smiles on our faces grow. Marty began to say something. “You two, ah um.” You could see the frustration at the inability to speak come over his face. We both walked over to the man who has become like a father to me and each kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks” Jenny and I said in unison. Marty began to blush at the realization of his embarrassment. Finally, he let out his little famous throat clearing and spins away from us. “You Ok daddy?” Jenny asks.
“Uh yeah I’m fine. It’s just that you both look so beautiful. I guess I wasn’t ready to have the two of you seem so grown up.” Marty informed us as he reached into his tuxedo coat and pulled out a handkerchief. The snort came back. “Way to make me feel old you two.” He said with a chuckle as he dabbed the tears from his eyes. He straightened up a bit and looked at us. The smile on his face slowly dissolved. “Did you two buy those yesterday?” He asked as a frown began to form. Now it was our turn to be speechless. We both looked down and slowly nodded. That was when he shocked us. “Whatever it cost it was well worth it. You two look beautiful.” We both looked up in shock and I could feel a smile spread across my face. “But that’s it you two! You two need to slow down until Christmas OK?” We took the lecture but were pleased that Marty didn’t get mad over the dresses. He took us each by the arm and escorted us from the room and down to the waiting car. Once again Marty had a bottle of champagne waiting for us for the drive to the Grove. Jenny and I were good, since we were with Marty, but we still were in a giggly mood from the two glasses of bubbly we did have.
We were helped from the car by a valet and led by Marty into the large reception room. Unlike the Thompson party the other night, we didn’t have to play hostess and could mingle around. For me, it was wonderful. Not only were there several of the big-name sponsors of the Vikings, but there were several former Vikings who had been brought over as ambassadors. There were heroes from my youth and legendary players from the past. They were all very gracious as we were introduced to them. I was almost as fan crazed with them as I had been with Jamie and Out of Heaven. Jenny and I had a few selfies with some of them and of course I had to send them to Danny just rub it in. We also met the some of the front office staff as well as the family that owned the team. After all the excitement of the past heroes and the front office staff, the event became pretty boring. That was until I met Andrew Wolfe.
Jenny and I had found a table a bit away from the mingling and decided to relax a bit. “I’m going to get us another glass of wine, you going to be OK?” I nodded, “Thanks babe, I need to rest my feet.” So, Jenny went off and left me alone. I texted with Nikki a bit and found out how her night had gone. I suddenly felt someone next to me, but by the smell of whiskey I knew it wasn’t Jenny. “So here all alone? How about a little company?” He asked. I politely told him I was here with someone and turned back to my texting. “I didn’t see you here with anyone, unless you are with that grandpa that brought you here. Why don’t we take a little walk around the gardens out there and we can learn more about each other?” He started to move closer, and I tried to stand up but he grabbed me and pulled me down. He began inching closer to me. “You don’t want to leave baby. Don’t you know who I am?” The anger in me built up as I forcefully pulled myself up from his grip. “Get the hell away from me” I said in a quiet voice not wanting to cause a scene. “I am here with my fiancée and her father. If you don’t want to get kneed in the balls you better let me go.” But he didn’t, instead he stood up and grabbed me around the waist with both arms. “Come on babe, you and I could have some fun.” At that point, I knew exactly what I had to do.
My knee came up swiftly and connected with that center part of the body. A place that no man wants to be hit. Jenny and Marty happened to be coming towards the table as my knee connected and I said, “Leave me the fuck alone!”
“What is going on here Alexa?” Marty asked as I worked my way over to Jenny and broke down in tears. I didn’t see what Marty did, but I heard him. “What do you think you are doing here young man?” The voice I heard was one that Marty had used a few times and it was one that commanded authority. “Were you bothering this young woman? You must have been pretty obnoxious to receive the treatment you received.” I looked up and I could see Marty’s face was extremely red and I hear the little weasel begin to clamor about letting him go. Then he said something that really got Marty going. “Do you know who I am? I am with the Vikings! I am the Public Relations assistant!” The man’s’ comments did not get Marty mad, they got him laughing. “Wow! Public Relations assistant trying to pull rank on me. Well sonny, I am the head of one of the Premier Partners of the Minnesota Vikings and that young woman there is my daughter’s fiancée so I guess you could say my daughter just kneed you in the balls!“ Marty stated before giving a little chuckle “Do you know who I am?” He let go of the little worm who stood there scared. He was the same size as Marty and if it was to come to blows he probably could have taken Marty, but Marty had one thing that this little slime didn’t and that was class.
Marty turned his attention to me and surprisingly moved Jenny to the side and took over the consolation of me. I looked up and through the tears told him ‘Thanks”. Marty didn’t say anything, but pulled me closer. I could hear Jenny behind me crying and it wasn’t long before she returned to her spot holding me. I felt Marty let go of me with one arm and then I felt Jenny envelope me. “It’s OK Alexa. I wish you didn’t have to go through that but you did the right thing. You did exactly what I taught Jennifer to do.” I looked up at Marty and that fatherly smile was there again. He kissed me on the forehead and said he would be right back. Jenny took over her normal position at these times and I knew I needed to gain a bit of control. I looked at Jenny and said, “You know Jen, I think he is coming around.” Jenny began giggling and wrapped me in a hug. “I think he is too” Jenny said before she kissed me. She leaned back and flashed the smile that warms me every time. Before I could say anything, Marty came up with our wraps. We turned and looked at him a bit confused.
“Come on you two, let’s get out of here. I’m not in the mood for dealing with this place after that, besides we haven’t spent any time together.” We stood up and Marty helped the two of us with our wraps and then led us towards the main entrance. As we are walking out, a man who I had only seen on the television came rushing up to us. “Marty where are you going? There is nothing wrong is there?” Robert Anderson, one of the executive Vice-Presidents of the club asked. Marty didn’t even look over at us. “Yes, there is Bob. There is some little shit named Andrew or something, works in Press Relations. Well he was more than rude to one of my girls here. As a matter of fact, he was a complete Neanderthal. It makes me wonder what kind of people are working for this organization. After this little incident, I think it would be best for both parties if I called it a night.” The man who had driven through the building the new stadium in Minneapolis became quite shaken over Marty’s comments. He pleaded with Marty to stay but Marty just continued to escort me and Jenny out the door and to the waiting car. As we settled in Marty spoke again. “God, I could use a drink.” Jenny and I both giggled and once again I gave Marty a hug. “Thanks again Marty.”
“Alexa, you don’t have to thank me for that” Marty explained “As I have said a million times, you are one of my two girls. I would go to hell and back for you two.” We both basically attacked Marty with hugs. “OK, OK you two. Let’s go somewhere and have a drink and maybe some dinner.” He then asked the driver if he knew where he could get some Scotch or something a bit stronger than champagne. The driver calmly exited the car and went to the trunk of the car and pulled out a bottle and handed it over to Marty. “Glasses and ice are right over there. Any place in particular, sir?” Marty gave a brief description of what he was thinking and the driver said he knew just the place. Even though neither Jenny and I were big Scotch fans, we joined my future father-in-law in a drink as we sped down the road to a new adventure. As we are driving, the smile on Marty’s face was huge and I could sense he was more relaxed than he had been on this whole trip. That was when he made another pronouncement.
“You two tried to talk me into staying all day Monday the other day. Well I think that is exactly what we will do. We will be complete tourists. I even have my Bermuda shorts and black socks ready to go.” Marty joked. “No!” Jenny and I screamed in unison.
After about 20 minutes and another drink, we were stopped at a quiet little café right on the west end of London. Nothing incredibly fancy but still quite upscale. The driver helped us from the car but it was Marty who took the two of us by the arm and escorted us in. I looked over at Jenny and she just happened to be looking at me. If my smile was as big as hers we must have been quite the pair. Marty held the door open for us, and everyone on the place turned and looked at us. We both felt like we were a bit on display, mostly because of the way were dressed. None of the women had on the chic dresses that Jenny and I wore and none of the men wore a tuxedo like Marty. He strode right up to the maître d and asked for the best table in the place for “me and my daughters” and flashed a fifty-pound note in the man’s face. It was funny to watch the man stumble over himself locating a table. Jenny just pulled me in tight as I began to tear up over Marty’s words. Marty just smiled at us as we were led to our table. He wiped out a £20 note and told them to bring their best champagne.
Once the glasses were poured. Marty held up his glass. “A toast” he began “To the two most beautiful women in the world. Thank you for showing an old man there is more to life than money. True love is the most important thing.” We all drank and Marty looked at us again. “And yes Alexa, I said my daughters. That is if you will have me?” I broke down in tears at this part and Marty moved over to my side while we shared a hug for a moment before he eased me over to the equally crying Jenny. Jenny and I shared a quick kiss before we dried our eyes and excused ourselves to go to the ladies’ room. When we returned, Marty was still full of smiles. “Enough of that you two. I want to celebrate a bit.”
Jenny eyed up her father a bit. “Who are you and what have you done with my father?” she asked with both of us giggling away like school girls. Marty sat back and smiled at us. “It’s me, but a new and improved one. And that is thanks to you two. But enough of this talk, I am starved!” And we ordered up a very fine meal. As hard as Jenny and I tried to order something to share, Marty put his foot down so I went with the monkfish and Jenny went with the lamb. We did embarrass Marty a bit when we shared our food with each other, but he was used to it. He was also used to us harassing him about what he ate. “How can you order veal Daddy? Don’t you know what they do to those poor calves?” Jenny piped in. I didn’t have a problem with the veal but had to pile on. “They keep them penned up in the little cages and only feed them milk! They are basically tortured!”
“You two can go on all you want, but I like veal and I am going to enjoy this meal.” Marty said with a cocky little grin. All through the meal we would shoot him little looks of disapproval, but I think he knew we were just teasing him. Me and Jenny enjoyed a simple desert of strawberries and nectarines, while Marty enjoyed a brandy following dinner. This was as relaxed as I had seen him in the whole time I had known him. The way he sat back reminded me of Don Draper on Mad Men, all he needed was the cigarette. After paying for dinner we all went out to the waiting car. Marty at that point decided he was going to call it a night. “Oh no you’re not!” Jenny said, “You are coming out with us” I added and we proceeded to ask the driver to take us to a night club that was close to the hotel, which he did.
It was a night club with an 80‘s theme. We teased Marty that he would fit right in,and he did, ‘This is like the old days” he said, “wish Rob was here he would love this” We found a spot at the bar and proceed to order up some drinks. We both tried to get Marty to join us on the dance floor, but he begged off, so we decided to leave him to his own devices. Jenny and I hit the dance floor and had a blast. No one seemed to care that Jenny and I were a couple. It was great. After a few songs, we decided we needed to get something to drink. Marty was leaned up against the bar with a smile on his face that seemed to broaden as we approached. “You two look like you were having fun out there.” He was truly happy for the two of us and you could see almost pride in his gaze as he spoke to us. He started to speak again.
“This is a fun spot, but it is a little much for me. Would you mind if we found somewhere a little quieter?” Jenny and I looked at each other and then nodded. Marty grabbed our wraps and led us back out to the car. This time, the drive was short and we ended up back at our hotel. Marty escorted us into the hotel bar, where there was a trio playing and a woman would occasionally come up and sing. Marty found us a table and ordered us a round of drinks. As we sat, Marty began to ask us all about everything that had gone over the last few days. It was then we realized we had not told him everything we had done. We told him all about meeting up with Steph and Jamie at Heavenly Talent and our subsequent lunch. “They were such nice people daddy, and Jamie’s daughter was so precious.” I then went on about the trip shopping at Harrods with Snikki. “Do I even want to know how much?” Marty asked. “We will figure out a way to repay it Marty” I assured my future father in law, which earned me a slight kick under the table from Jenny and a laugh from Marty.
Jenny and I began trying to ask Marty about his meetings and if the trip had been productive. Marty found a way not to answer just by saying he was glad he came over and that it had been very productive. As he was telling us not to think about it, the trio began playing a slower song, that was when I got one of the biggest surprises of my life. Marty stood up and held out his hand to me. “Alexa, would you dance with me?” I was speechless and I could hear a gasp from Jenny. “Marty, I, um I would love to but I have never danced a, um, slow dance before.” The grin on Marty’s face was comforting. “Well it’s time you learned then. I would be honoured to be the first.” I looked over at Jenny who had her electric smile on her face and was dabbing the tears. She nodded and I took Marty’s hand and followed him to the dance floor. I was surprised at how easily I fell into him leading me. I looked up and began to sob a bit. Marty smiled down at me. “You are pretty good.” He told me as he led me around the dance floor. I looked over at the table and could see Jenny still smiling and crying at the same time. I rested my head on Marty’s chest and knew at that moment I was the luckiest girl in the world.
For the fourth day in the row, I was awoken the same way. “Hey get up. Got a match to attend.” The voice said to me. I didn’t have to even pull my head up from the mass of blonde hair I was nestled in. “How did you get in here Nikki? And it is a game, not a match” I said to my friend who was giggling away. I rolled over and instantly panicked because I realized I was naked underneath the blankets. I instantly began to get mad at my British sister. “I’m naked here Nikki get out of here!” I could hear two voices giggling in the doorway of the room, one I recognized, the other I didn’t. I propped myself to see not only Sarah standing in the doorway, but Stephanie too! “Oh my god! Steph, you’re here? Um, sorry you had to see us like this.” I exclaimed. As soon as I said ‘Steph’ Jenny shot up “Steph! Um, give us a few minutes to get ready.” Jenny began looking around all nervous, only to be calmed by the singer.
“Don’t hurry on my account you two. Take your time.” Steph said. It was amazing how friendly she was. You always think that stars would put on some airs, but not Stephanie Abbott. She seemed like a very down to earth girl. We shooed the three out of the room and quickly ran to the shower. We didn’t have time for a more ‘complete’ shower but we did still go in together. When we came out to get dressed, I began to panic as what we should wear. Jenny began laughing at me. “Just because they are dressed up in skirts, does not mean we have to change what we are going to wear.” Jenny told me and I just nodded. We had planned on wearing our birthday gifts to each other, and that is exactly what we did. We may not look as girly as the rest, but if we were back home we would blend right in. Jenny had gone with a pair of black leggings and a pair of purple Chuck Taylor high tops. She had put her hair in pig tails and instantly looked about five years younger. I had decided to wear a pair of my tightest jeans, but did opt to go a bit girly with a pair of boots under them. I also decided to put my hair in a ponytail and then strung it through the back of the pink Viking ball cap I had bought along. As we always seem to do, we found ourselves in front of the mirror. “The hat is cute, Lex.” Jenny told me. And we shared a quick kiss before we went to find our friends.
We found them sprawled out on the various chairs in the lounge area. “Well about time you two” Nikki said as we entered the room. “How did you get in here anyway?” I asked and was informed that Marty let them in. Jenny went over and knocked on her father’s door and then after being told to come in disappeared. I looked at Nikki while Jenny was gone and began to tease her about waking me for the last four days in a row. “Can’t wait to get home so I don’t have you waking me every day!” The two both giggled at my comment. Soon Jenny was back from her little confab with her dad “We are all set” she announced as he held up an envelope. “Let’s get something to eat. I’m starving!” The five of us stopped at a little café just outside the hotel and got something to eat before we made our way over to the college, where they had set up the bus to take us over.
I was surprised at all of the people and how nice they were to us ‘Colonials’. All of them except for the ‘Baltimore Blondeshell’. She started in on me as she saw Jenny and my jersey’s. “Going all out? Can’t believe you wasted good money on those things” Jessica teased as we exchanged hugs. “Just remember we were the original purple team” I told my friend. We met all the other girls who had come along. It was kind of surprising that the women outnumbered the men today. Stuart greeted us warmly and introduced us to all the boys that were milling about. “I bet you could use one of these” a guy who looked like Dave Grohl said as he handed over a couple of beers from a cooler. “I’m Mikey by the way. Thanks for lining up the tickets.” We thanked him for the beer and continued to mingle around talking to all the people. We barely got the first beer down, before the bus showed up. It was just like many of the tailgating parties I had been to before games, just no cooking out. “Haven’t you taught these people how to tailgate yet?” I teased Jessica as we boarded. “Tailgating? What is that?” Natalie asked and we went on to explain to her the tradition of partying before a game. The food, the drink and festivities. “That does sound like fun” Natalie said. “We are going to have to come over and check one of these out. Who has the best?” Of course, Jessica and I get into a bit of an argument over who has better tailgating parties.
The bus ride over to the stadium was a lot of fun. Nikki and Sarah had the bus decorated with lots of purple and gold streamers and signs supporting the Vikings. The guys were loud but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Nikki seemed to be the one in charge and got up and gave some direction, which of course caused some teasing from the boys. She then dragged me up next to her to get me to say a few things. “Thank you all for coming to the game and thanks for the great reception. Now just remember the Browns will be the one in the Brown Jerseys and orange helmets and VIKINGS will be in white and PURPLE.” I emphasized, staring at Jessica, which got me a tongue stuck out at me by the blonde flight attendant and a giggle and thumbs up from her fiancée. “But seriously, don’t hesitate to ask questions during the game. We will explain the best we can. Just have fun and remember Skol Vikings! Woo-hoo” I screamed out. As soon as I said it I had to explain that it was a term Viking fans used to cheer on the team.
After arriving, we made our way to the seats Marty had gotten us. They were at about the 30-yard line and right near the front of the section. The group was fired up and the Vikings helped keep their energy up. The defense was flying around the field knocking Browns all over the place. The defense had controlled the game the whole half, and the offense, after a great opening drive finally got back on track just before half with a touchdown and a field goal, making it 17-0 at half. It was funny how excited the British fans were over the kicking game. I got a text from Danny during the second quarter asking if we were having fun. I responded by taking a picture of the assembled group mugging it up for the camera and telling my brother that there were new converts in the UK. As half time was approaching Jenny told me we had to go meet her father. We grabbed Nikki and Sarah to come along with us to the VIP area that just sat behind the Vikings bench.
“So, are you girls enjoying the game?” Marty asked Nikki and Sarah, who acted enthusiastic but admitted they were still trying to figure it out. “Aren’t these two helping?” Marty said trying to tease Jenny and me. “I am daddy, but Lex is too into the game” Jenny said. I saw Sarah lean over and heard her whisper “ass kisser” into my lover’s ear, earning giggles from all of us, including Marty. “I figured as much” Marty said which earned him a face from me. “I just want to make sure that you four don’t get too out of control. I’d like to take you all out for something to eat after the game. I figured I should get to know the two of you, Sarah and Nikki, since I have a feeling I may be paying for at least one more trip over here before the wedding.” Nikki and Sarah readily agreed while Jenny and I tried to act all casual and looked away, but we knew we were busted. As usual. We said good bye to Marty and told him we would meet him back at the hotel.
The second half continued to be pretty much the same as the first. The Vikings continued their defensive dominance and the large group that had assembled with our new British friends continued to cheer them on. Jenny and I made our way through the rest of the group and continued our lessons on American football. The boys, especially Stuart’s band mates egged us on a bit and got us to down a few beers with them. They were all very nice and continued to thank us for getting them the tickets. We worked our way through the group and got to the rest of the girls who seemed a bit unimpressed with the game, but were enjoying the experience all the same. Jessica and I of course got into it a bit again over whose team was better. We then made a deal that if the Ravens and the Vikings were in the Super Bowl, that she would fly over and we would find a way into the game. “The Vikings may be there” I said, “But you still have to go through Foxboro to make it there” I said, referring to the fact that the Ravens would have to play the New England Patriots and Tom Brady just to get to Minneapolis.
‘I’ll go over and take care of Tom Brady for you Jessica.” Jacinta said. “Have you seen him? Oh my god is he hot.”
“About the only chance the Ravens will have Jacinta. But I agree, he is cute” Jenny said. I tried to act all hurt by Jenny’s comment but couldn’t hold out too long and began giggling. and we shared a kiss, which earned us an “Aww” from the assembled group of women.
The game ended and the Vikings walked off with a well-earned, but deceive victory and we began to make our way out of the stadium. It amazed me at how natural all of this felt. The people over here, at least this group, had just accepted me for who I was and not some sideshow that at times I felt like I was back home. Maybe it was because they never knew Alex or maybe they were just extremely nice people. And as much as I somewhat hoped that it was the former, it seemed to be the latter. On the bus ride back to London, several of the boys started back on quizzing me about the game and then asking me what I thought of their football. I might have earned a few ‘enemies’ at that. Not because of my feelings for it but over the club I had chosen. “Natalie got to you huh?” Stuart asked. A laugh was shared by all and the good-natured byplay went on during the ride. I knew that I had just fulfilled Jamie’s commandment. ‘You can never have too many friends.’
We arrived back at the College and the group began to disperse. Jenny and I shared hugs with many of the girls and even a few of the guys. We shared hugs with Zoe and Natalie, wishing them the best. We of course shared hugs with Paige and Jessica. And while Jess and I continued our good-natured ribbing of one another, I told her how much both her and Paige’s friendship meant. All the while, Jenny was negotiating with Paige about wedding attendance. Soon all the partyers were gone, leaving Jenny and I alone with Nikki and Sarah. “So, what exactly did your father say?” Nikki asked. Jenny informed her that he just said he thought he should get to know the two of them better. Before anything else could be said, Jenny received a text message from her father saying that he was at a little pub called Elliot’s. “I know where that is.” Sarah stated and began leading the way. We hadn’t noticed it before, but it was right across the street from the coffee shop we had been at during the week with our friends. We entered and found Marty at a large table, already with a pint of beer in his hand. He waved down a waitress and we all ordered something. As we were getting settled, Marty started questioning our friends. “So, what did you two think of American football?”
Sarah was the first to answer ‘It was fun. Pretty violent but very interesting” Nikki nodded in agreement with her wife’s answer, “but not as violent as rugby, which I remember all too well.” Nikki stated. I watched Jenny out of the corner of my eye. I could see she wasn’t buying the friendly banter Marty was trying put up. “Daddy, what is going on?” Marty looked at Jenny and then over at me with his little smart alek grin. “Well since you talk to these two all the time and the fact you were going to ask them to be in the wedding, I figured I should get to know them a bit.” The four of us just starred at Jenny’s father and his announcement. He spoke up again “I pay a little more attention to what you two are talking about than you think. I want to get to know your friends and especially the ones that seem to be such big supporters of the two of you.”
“We are huge supporters, these are two of the sweetest people we know Mr. Thompson.” Sarah said. Nikki stepped it up a bit as she put an arm around me. “And I know what Alexa is going through. It helps to have somebody who has been there to help. I had Jamie and I figured Alexa here could use the same support.” Marty just nodded. “Well I am glad that you found these two. They can use all the support and advice they can get. They get a little full of themselves.” Marty said and braced for the attack from me and Jenny, and it came.
The food was good, but the companionship was even better. Marty really warmed up to Sarah and Nikki and was very interested on what they were doing with their lives. As we were finishing, I started to get a bit sad because I realized that this was probably going to be the last time we got to see these two for a while. Nikki picked up on it “You OK Alexa?” I nodded and told her that I just realized we weren’t going to see them for a while. Nikki began to tear up a bit too. It was Sarah who began to tease us “There they go again, the crying girls” Jenny tried not to laugh out loud but Marty had no problem teasing us. “If Nikki is as bad as Alexa, I feel for you Sarah.” For the first time ever, I slapped Marty on the arm and told him to be nice. This just made him laugh even harder. Sarah though came up with a way to make this goodbye a little more private than being in the middle of a restaurant. “You know, we never got your guys measurements!” Sarah said in an almost panicked state. “Can you two come back to the flat?” Jenny and I both nodded. I thanked the lord right there for Sarah. I still don’t know if she was thinking quick or was generally panicked but once again our friends came through.
We said our goodbyes to Marty. Nikki and Sarah thanked Marty for everything and as has been usual of Marty recently, he deflected the praise. “Not a problem. Why don’t you guys have the driver take you to Sarah and Nikki’s, get the measurements taken care of and then have him bring you back” Marty offered. We tried to tell him we would just take a cab and he told us he would prefer the driver take care of us and that he would walk the short distance back. The four of us piled into the car and went back to Snikki’s. Sarah had us change into some extra leotards she had around and had us stand so she could take our measurements and had Nikki write them down. Sarah was a true drill instructor and a perfectionist. She had no problems pushing and prodding us to certain points. I had never gone through anything, but Jenny had and began questioning not only our designer but her wife. “Is she like this all the time Nikki?” I watched as Sarah shot Nikki ‘the look’. Nikki said nothing but I burst out in laughter and soon had Nikki giggling along with me. Jenny and Sarah looked at each other and shook their heads.
It wasn’t long before Sarah had the measurements she needed. I helped Jenny off the little stand she had been standing on and we went into Snikki’s room and changed back into our clothes. We returned to find Sarah and Nikki standing there waiting. As soon as the four of us looked at each other, the tears began, and not just for Nikki and me. Sarah and I hugged first. “We are going to miss you two.” Sarah said, “When do you think you will be able to come back?” she asked and I told her I didn’t know. ‘Christmas?” Nikki asked Jenny as the released their hug. “I wish we could, but I have my cousins wedding on New Year’s Eve in Florida” a crying Jenny began. “I know,” she continued “you guys should come to Florida! We have plenty of room and Julie won’t care if you come“ . Nikki got a sad expression on her face. “That sounds like fun, but we can’t” a clearly saddened Nikki stated.
“Nikki still won’t be able to travel. She should be done in February.” Sarah said as she looked over sympathetically at her wife. Jenny allowed her anger to come to the surface “I am so glad we didn’t run into that Dannii bitch. I don’t know what I may have done.” By this time, I had moved closer to Nikki and I had begun to giggle at my fiancée and it became infectious and soon all four of us were giggling. I teased Jenny “Ooh, I would be so scared of you” I said which earned me a slap on the arm from Jenny. “How about Valentine’s Day? I asked. Nikki looked over at Sarah, “We tend to have bad days on Valentine’s, beside I think it is in the middle of the week this year.” Nikki and I began to share a hug just as Sarah and Jenny were beginning theirs. “We’ll figure something out” I whispered before the waterworks began in earnest for Nikki and me. This time there was no teasing from our partners as Nikki and I just held each other. “Like I said, I am here whenever you need me Alexa. The phone is always on and we have texting and Skype and messaging.” Nikki said through the tears and I just nodded unable to say anything. Minnesotans have a reputation for having a hard time saying good bye, but this was the toughest ever. Jenny and Sarah stepped in and gently broke up my and Nikki’s hug. We finally said our good byes and made our way out the door and down to the car. I cuddled in next to Jenny. She didn’t say anything, but just held me. As we returned to the suite, we found that Marty had retired to his room. Jenny led me to our room where we stripped down and pulled on our Gopher Jerseys. I looked up at the beautiful blonde woman who had held me this whole time. “I love you Jenny” I said as I buried my head into her again. “I love you more than anything Lex” she replied as she kissed me on top of my head as we eased back on the bed.
The next morning, we were awoken again, this time it wasn’t Nikki but it was Marty banging on the door. “Get up you two. Time to see London!” Jenny and I both groaned as it seemed that morning had come to early. I leaned over and gave Jenny a kiss to get her up. She just pulled me down. “Not yet” she said with a wicked grin on her face. About twenty minutes later, we emerged from our room. “No! No way! I am not going out with you dressed like that!” Jenny exclaimed as I began to giggle at the sight of my future father-in-law standing before us. To start with he had on a red Hawaiian shirt and khaki Bermuda shorts. On his feet where a pair of sandals. While overall it wouldn’t be a bad look, but it was the rest that got my fiancée wound up. The bucket hat and sunglasses were obnoxious, but I didn’t think that it was that bad. It was either the black, knee high socks he had on, the camera he had draped around his neck or the fanny pack that might have put Jenny over the edge. I could only giggle as Jenny chastised her father. Marty was laughing as well before he gave into Jenny and told us to go get ready. Another 30 minutes later, Jenny and I emerge in short skirts, fashionable tops and our trainers, looking as girly as possible and we find Marty more sensibly dressed in a pair of khakis and a golf shirt.
“About time you two are ready” Marty teases as he hands each of us a cup of coffee. “So where do you want to go?” he asked. He started to go through the list of the places we talked about. Westminster Abbey. Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London. We wanted to be true tourists. “Oh, there is one other place we want to go Daddy.” Jenny announced. I look over at Jenny because I was at a loss for where else we had talked of going. “We need to go to Harrods. There are a couple of things we need.” Jenny flashed the smile she uses on me when she is trying to be funny. I began giggling away as Marty began shaking his head.
“You two have already done enough damage at Harrods. My credit card has been beaten and battered.” Jenny pouted a bit and I tried to join in the pouting but couldn’t stop giggling. Jenny looked at me and began trying to tickle me. “Stop it stop it” I yelled out between the laughs as I fell on the couch and tried to cover up. Jenny finally let up and gave me a long kiss. We stared into each other’s eyes. That was when reality hit us and we looked at Marty. I half expected to see him trying to avert his gaze in some way but he didn’t. He stood there with a grin on his face, and not laughing at us. But there wasn’t only a grin, but it looked like he was getting a bit misty. When I watched him turn from us and heard the snort I knew what was going on. Jenny looked at me and I knew she was thinking the same thing. We shared one light kiss as we jumped off the couch and flanked Marty, both giving him hugs. This time a tear was noticeable on the face of my future father-in-law. He wrapped us in his arms. “We should, um, get going.” Marty said as I heard him sniffle a little bit. Jenny and I looked at each other and smiled. We let go of Marty and grabbed our purses. Marty held the door for us and we made our way down to the lobby.
The first stop was to be Westminster Abbey, but the taxi driver in his route took us by Buckingham Palace. “Stop” came flying from my mouth as we approached the front gate. The two Thompsons looked at me a bit confused. “It’s Buckingham Palace! I want to see it!” I said. Jenny began to giggle while Marty reached for his wallet. Jenny and I held hands as we walked up to the gate and looked in at the grounds. It was then we could hear what sounded like a marching band. We looked around us and realized there were tourists everywhere. “It’s the changing of the guard” Marty said as he came closer to Jenny and me. The two of us held each other and I then realized Marty had wrapped an arm around me. I looked up and saw a warm smile on his face and realized I had seen that same smile before, on his daughter. It was smile of love and caring. I returned it as best I could as we watched the ceremony before us. As that was completed we decided to make the walk to Westminster Abbey rather than hail a cab. Jenny and I held hands as Marty began in on his lecture of the history of the area. Jenny and I listened halfheartedly, instead preferring to enjoy each other’s company as we walked along on this beautiful October morning. The enjoyment was soon challenged.
“Look at the muff divers” a scary looking man yelled out as his friend laughed away. “Going to enjoy some fish later?” the ruffian continued. Marty had been lagging behind us, admiring the sights of St. James Park when he heard the commotion up ahead. He could see that both Jenny and I were a bit upset. “Is everything OK girls?” he asked which got the scumbag going again. “Ah great, a bloody fucking Yank coming to help the Lezzies. Why don’t you piss off tosser and leave the carpet lickers to us. We will teach them that a man is better.” Marty became outraged. He turned to the pair, fists clenched in anger. “What the hell did you just say about my girls!” he growled. I had thought I had seen Marty as upset as I ever would see him the other night at the reception, but this was different. This time he was ready to inflict some pain on some one. Jenny and I nervously looked around for help as my future father-in-law moved ever closer to the hooligan. Luckily, we spotted a Bobby across Birdcage Walk and began frantically waving and screaming. The young officer rushed over in time to break up the impending fight.
“That will be enough you two” he called out to the two ruffians as he made his way towards us. “It’s a fucking peeler” the quiet one yelled. “Run” and the two took off into St. James Park with the constable close on their heels. Jenny and I rushed to Marty’s side to try and clam him down. “Are you two alright?” was all that he could ask. We told him to knock it off but he wouldn’t listen. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there sooner” We assured him that it was OK and that we could handle ourselves. “Besides, we have kind of become immune to it Daddy” Jenny said to her father which stopped him in his tracks.
“You two run into this often?” He asked. Jenny and I looked at each other before turning back to Marty and nodding. “It can get worse for me” I said in a soft voice. A dumbfounded Marty just stared at me as I stood there with my head hanging a bit. As was always the case when these moments happen, Jenny put her arm around me and told me to quit feeling so down. “Stand proud for who you are babe. You are a beautiful woman not what some of these jerks think you are” I nodded. “I know Jen, but you know I hate when these people come after you too.” I said as I looked into the eyes of my soulmate. We shared a kiss and I could feel my mood begin to lighten, simply from the love that Jenny had shown me. As we turned to look at Marty, we could see at first some confusion in his eyes that slowly turned to acknowledgment and then pride. The smile on his face began to grow as he reached for the two of us and pulled us in. All he could say was “You two are amazing” As Jenny and I were looking at each other, we heard the tell-tale grunt come from Marty. We both broke into to bigger smiles.
After our little moment, we continued our trek to Westminster Abbey. The imposing western facade of the church was incredible. As we walked in, the beauty of the place blew us away. “This blows Winchester away” I whispered as we took in the expansive and ornate nave of the gothic church. We moved and took in our surroundings. Marty began to lead us around the edges of the nave and transept and began looking at the various tombs. When we reached the tomb of Sir Issac Newton, Marty began saying something out loud “In London lies a knight A Pope interred. His labor’s fruit a Holy wrath incurred.” Instantly I knew it was a line from the book ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and finished of the riddle from the best-selling book in unison with Marty “You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.” Marty and I both began laughing and compared notes on the book. “Incredible book” he stated while I told him about how I skipped school one day I was so into the book I couldn’t put it down. Jenny looked at us like we were both nuts. “You have never read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ Jennifer?” Marty asked his daughter who shook her head. “We will have to rectify that. Maybe we can buy you the actual book for the flight home.” I giggled at the teasing while Jenny just pouted. “The three of us are never going on a vacation together ever again!” Jenny stated before I took her in my arms and kissed her on the cheek. “We only tease because we love babe” I tried to tell her. She relented but did tell me and Marty to be nice.
There was one area of Westminster I wanted to see, an area which seemed crawling with people, and that was Poet’s Corner. As an English major, some of the writers I admired were buried in this section of the church. Chaucer, Kipling, Dryden, Fox, Tennyson but most importantly Charles Dickens. Ever since I was child and first saw ‘A Christmas Carol’ staring Alister Sim, I became fascinated with his work. As time went on and I began to read some of his other writings, I began to feel touched by his work. I knelt ever briefly at his grave. I crossed myself and whispered a thank you to the man who had brought the joy of the written word to me. Jenny and Marty gave me the moment to myself and as I stood up Jenny wrapped me in her usual hug. Nothing was said. She knew my love of his work. ‘Thanks babe” I whispered as we slowly moved off and out the doors of the church.
We continued our tour of Westminster, stopping at the Palace of Westminster next, the home of Parliament. Marty began to go on about the how this was truly how the birth place of bicameral legislative system. Jenny and I feigned interest at Marty, who finally got that we didn’t really care. “Fine you two. If you don’t want to learn anything, what should we do?” Jenny and I looked out at the Thames and we spotted what we wanted to do just across the river and slightly to the north. We both pointed at the London Eye. “Really?” Marty asked. ‘With all this neat history around, you two want to go up in some Ferris wheel and look at things?” We gave a very enthusiastic nod. “Whatever my princess want, they get. As usual” an exasperated Marty said to us. A mocking hug of my future father-in-law by the two of us came next. We hailed a cab and made our way across Westminster Bridge.
As we were walking to the Eye, Marty spotted a street vendor selling various trinkets with a British theme. I watched as Marty spotted something and instantly reached for it. ‘No way are you getting that” I told him, and was soon joined by my fiancée who disapproved of the purchase. “If I want a hat like this, I will get it. Marty told us as he paid for the Dr. Seuss like hat with a Union Jack emblazoned across it. “Daddy!” Jenny yelled out “That is the same stupid hat that Joey on Friends bought. It looked just as silly on him as it does on you!” Jenny said before apologizing to vendor for her views. He just chuckled and said he sells more of these hats because of that show than he ever thought, and that the women the purchasers are with say the same thing. Marty stood there looking all proud as he paid for the headwear. As a final bit of homage to one of our favourite shows, he tilted just like Joey did. Jenny rolled her eyes and I giggled away as Marty strolled away all cocky of his purchase.
As we waited in line for our pod, Marty was almost embarrassing. He was talking to some of the other people in line. He struck up a conversation with a couple of teenage boys, both wearing Cleveland Browns shirts and teased them about yesterday’s game. He spotted a couple of Viking fans towards the front of the line and yelled out “Skol” It was returned just as heartily as it had been given. He was not Marty. He was a new improved version. He even began teasing the two of us. “Isn’t this better than shopping at Harrods? I bet you couldn’t even get a hat like this at Harrods.” We rolled our eyes at his comment. As odd as Marty was behaving it was great to see him acting like this. As I had done several times since that fateful dinner where Marilyn stormed off, I marveled at the changes in this man. He was nothing like the stuffed shirt I had met almost a year ago. He was playful, outgoing warm, caring, all the things people would want their father to be. I reflected some more on that and felt an arm around me. I wasn’t crying, I was smiling. Jenny leaned in a whispered. “You did this to him, you know that don’t you?” I tried to protest. But Jenny placed a finger over my lips. “This is the daddy I remember. The father I had before Abby died. You brought him back Lex. Thank you.” A kiss replaced her finger. A kiss that was interrupted by Marty.
“Enough you two, we are in public. If you don’t stop I’m going to tell Char and you two will have to go to confession when you get back.” The smile on his face more than genuine. I knew he was teasing the two of us, but the smile he projected was that of a proud parent. Proud that he his daughter had found someone to care for and was more than willing to reciprocate the caring. But it was then I realized that the smile was for me as well. I stood a little straighter than I had and began back in to the teasing of my future father-in-law as we waited for the pod. “Is Thompson Companies going to survive with you playing hooky today Marty? “I goaded him. His answer left Jenny and I stunned.
“They are going to have to learn. I have lots of vacation time accumulated. I think it’s time I used it” Marty said with a smile. Jenny how ever brought him down to earth. “Yeah the Company might be fine but what about grandma? She is going to be all over you if you play more than you work” Marty’s demeanor changed. “Don’t remind me. I will have to sit her down or she will go into one of her snits.” He replied before straightening up a bit “I think I will be fine, unless two unnamed girls rat me out.” Marty said accusingly, though playfully. Jenny and I began to snicker at that, a snicker I decided to turn into a full out laugh. “Yeah but we do owe her for the car incident in Florida, Marty. But our silence can be bought with say a trip to Harrods” Jenny broke out into laughter as I smiled back at Marty. “That’s blackmail” he said in mock horror. Jenny began nodding “Damn straight and we will use it to our full advantage.” Jenny and I pulled each other in a bit tighter and continued to laugh at a defeated Marty Thompson. Under his breath I heard him mutter “You two play hard ball”
We finally made it through the queue, a term I had just learned on this trip and entered the pod. There was an older American couple from Bozeman, Montana who were visiting London on their 50th anniversary and another American couple a little younger than Marty who were from Montgomery, Alabama. We all made idle chitchat as the pod slowly began its trek up. The sights we began to see were amazing and beautiful. We had seen London at night from the Sky Garden, but the chance to take in the is magnificent city while in the sky was breathtaking. The Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges with their suspension pylons were neat and on the other side of the River we could see Whitehall Gardens. As we reached the apex we could take in Big Ben and Parliament. Jenny and I moved close and shared a kiss. It was a magical moment. A moment cut short.
“That is just disgusting, can’t you people do that in the privacy of your own home?” I heard in a female Southern drawl. After our run in early I was not about to deal with some Red State bigotry. “We do this in the privacy of our home but we also do it out here as we share a beautiful moment. Why don’t you just keep your Trump loving mouth shut and allow me and my fiancée to enjoy this view.” I told the woman, who became a bit flabbergasted by my comment. Just as her husband was about to say something, the gentleman from Montana broke in. Being from the west, I was sure his views were going to be aimed at me, but instead he focused on the Southerners. “Let them be. If they love one another, what’s it hurting you? They didn’t try and force their ways on you, they just shared a kiss. You on the other hand are telling them how they should act. You are the kind of people who make me sick.” Jenny and I were floored by the old man’s words. I had to restrain myself from going over and hugging him. It was then that Marty got involved. “You two can have your views, but my daughter and her fiancée are free to express their feelings anytime they wish, just as you and your husband are. I can’t help that your Southern upbringing taught you otherwise but I can help that you are being insulting to these two so watch it.” Marty warned. We didn’t hear from the pair again. The older couple, the Millers, were very nice. Mrs. Miller was very curious of our status but also very kind and gave us a little advice on married life, though she was surprised by one response from us.
“At least you won’t have to deal with your spouse sitting around watching football on Sundays” Rose said. Jenny began to laugh. “I do have that problem Mrs. Miller. One of the reasons we are in London is so my father and Alexa could go to the Viking game.” Rose shock her head a bit and patted Jenny on the shoulder “You poor dear.” I instantly tried to get Jenny in a bit of trouble. “Um excuse me, Miss Thompson. I believe you were the one who got a little worked up a couple of weeks back and broke a lamp.” Jenny looked down because she knew that I had her. A couple of weeks before, while watching the Viking- Packer game, Jenny got so mad she threw a pillow back at the couch and it bounced off the arm and broke the lamp. I told her at the time that she will never live that down. Danny commented that even he had never broken anything while watching the Vikes.
Sadly, our sky tour of London came to an end. The couple from Alabama almost ran off the pod as it came to the platform. As we exited we said our good byes to the Millers and told them to enjoy the rest of the trip. Marty and Mr. Miller shared a hearty hand shake and Marty leaned in and said something to David. Rose gave us a hug. “Good luck you two. If you two continue to love one another, you might make it as long as David and me.” We thanked her and began to move off with her husband. We joined up with Marty to see what he wanted to do next. “I don’t know about you two, but I am hungry. I know the perfect place. Come on girls.” Jenny began to giggle at her father’s pronouncement. I looked at her and knew exactly what she was thinking. I simply said “Katie?” and the two of us began giggling harder. Marty looked at us as if we were crazy. Marty ushered us into to a taxi and then gave the address to the driver.
When we arrived at the restaurant, Marty held the resaurant door opened and led us in. Marty went right up to the maître d. “Mr. Thompson. So nice to have you back with us this evening. How many in your party?” Marty told him but then leaned in and whispered something to the man. We are lead to our table and each handed a menu. It was then I realized where I had seen the name of this place before. This was Smith & Wollensky. It was an American restaurant with about 10 locations back in the States. Marty leaned in from his side of the table “London has been fun, but I need a big piece of American beef. Plus, who knows, we could be eating some of Uncle Rob’s cattle. I know he sells to this group.” We each ordered a drink and then perused the menu. I was in the mood where I didn’t care what Jenny said, I was getting a piece of beef, but thankfully she was in the same mood. We began debating sharing something and for once Marty said nothing, mostly because he was in heaven. He had a glass of Maker’s Mark in his hand and he was debating whether to go with a Bone in Ribeye or a T-Bone.
As we sat there debating, Jenny elbowed me and we looked up to see the Miller’s being led to a table. Rose looked a little lost by what was going on while David looked as proud as a peacock. It took me less than a second to figure out what was going on. I looked at Jenny and she figured it out too. I was the one to confront the man across the table from us. “Marty” I said in the voice I use when I am about to accuse him of something and he shot back with his normal response. “Alexa. Yes, you two I did tell David to bring Rose and yes I told the maître d to bring me the bill.” Jenny and I stared at Marty with our mouth open and tears starting to form. “Any two people who can last that long deserve a good meal on someone plus they were awfully nice to the two of you.” This was one of those times there was no arguing with the man. It was then he waved our waiter over and asked him to send over a bottle of their best champagne to the celebrating couple. I could see Rose dab at her eyes at the gesture by Marty. She wasn’t the only one moved to tears, as Jenny and me both became a bit emotional.
The dinner was beyond excellent. The beef was perfectly done and the company I shared it with was even better. Jenny and I couldn’t help but feed each other which only earned us a groan from Marty. And some teasing “You know after 8 days in London with the two of you I am more convinced Katie might be the strongest person I know. I don’t know how she puts up with you two“. We just smiled and told him that she was lucky we put up with her “and her boyfriend” I added, “He can be a real pain in the ass”. That got Marty to choke on his wine but it was funny. I teased him a bit more about that. “Thank god that did happen during the starters, or we would have a Linda Blair moment”. I was alluding to the fact that Marty had ordered Split Pea soup. Jenny and I turned our nose up at it but Marty was all excited. And other than that, everything went wonderfully, especially the large piece of chocolate cake that my fiancée and I shared. We might have pushed it with Marty at that point as he sipped on his brandy the groaning really began. Jenny stuck her tongue out at her father and told him to deal with it.
We could tell it was getting late, as the sun was beginning to set. Party paid our tab and on the way out, we all three stopped at the Miller’s table to wish them well. “Oh Mr. Thompson, you didn’t need to do this for us.” Rose said. Marty just let it roll off his back. “First, Rose, it’s Marty and second after the kindness you showed my girls this was nothing. After 50 years together you two deserve a special night, if I could play a minor part in it that is all the thanks I need. Enjoy the night.” Marty and David shared another hearty handshake while Jenny and I each shared a hug with Rose, and gave David a kiss on the cheek for being so nice. We got the man to blush a bit. As we were heading out, Jenny realized she had forgotten something at the table. I looked at Marty and asked him what the deal was. “David there admitted to me that this was a trip that Rose had always dreamed of, but because of his job as a plumber he could never really swing it, but he scrimped and saved and with the help of his son they were able to come over for their anniversary. I don’t know how hard it is not to have the money to just be able to go somewhere when you want. And after what he said on the Eye I knew he deserved something. So, picking up the tab on a meal is no big deal” Marty explained. I reached up and kissed my future father-in-law on the cheek, fighting tears the whole time. “You are the best Marty.” I told him. He put an arm around me and told me thanks and said I was pretty good myself.
We finally able to make it into the cab when Marty pulled out his latest surprise. “The Tower” he told the driver. “We have tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys.” Jenny and I looked at Marty because we had no clue what this was. Marty went on to explain. “Every night since the 14th Century, there has been a ceremony that locks down the Tower of London. It is said that after it is locked up, it is said to be the most secure spot in Great Britain. This Ceremony has never stopped, even during World War II when the Germans were bombing London.” While this seemed like one of Marty’s history lessons it sounded interesting. We pulled up and were let off near the grounds and we made our way up to the Tower. Marty slipped the guy a £50 note and told him to be back at 10:15. We had some time before the ceremony, so we walked the grounds outside and Marty told us a few things. The night was just as beautiful as the day had been and the Tower was just as impressive. About 9:30 we made our way over to the visitor’s area and were escorted into the viewing area. Just before 10:00, we could hear the click of shoes and see a lamp. A minute later we could see four guards in their big bearskin hats surrounding a man in the complete ‘Beefeater ‘uniform marching towards us. Just as they got to the archway of the Bloody Tower, a guard confronted the group. “Halt!” the lone guard commands the group “Who comes there?“ he asks.
“The Keys!“ replies the Beefeater in the center the group. The guard asks whose keys and the Beefeater answers “Queen Elizabeth’s Keys.” The guard responds, “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All’s well.” The group continues a few more steps until they stop in front of the larger collection of guards. The Beefeater takes off his hat, holds it high and proclaims God preserve Queen Elizabeth.” The larger guard group responds “Amen”. As we watch this I am overcome with emotion and I kiss Jenny. “I love you. I want to come and see this for our 50th anniversary.” She tells me that she loves me as well and that we will be back for our 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries. We share a long kiss and stare into each other’s eyes with love as we are led from the viewing area
As we walk back to the where the taxi will pick us up, I begin to reflect on everything that has happened to me over last year. Here I was saying goodbye to a city I never thought I would see and the reason I am here is the beautiful woman cuddling up to me as we walk. All my happiness is because of this angel. “Thank you for loving me” I whisper. She replies with the greatest answer ever. “Loving you is easy Alexa.” I didn’t know if life could get any better than it was right now, but with Jenny at my side I am sure it will.
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