Friday, Anna woke bright and early and called a cab to come to Crofton and take her to Newbury. She wanted to be alone while she made purchases. James had also gone out early to find someone to officiate the ceremony. She wandered around Newbury until she found a small resale shop. Thankfully, they had a whole rack of used wedding dresses. As she sifted through them, she thought, “Gosh, are they all from the seventies?” Finally, near the end of the rack she found a gorgeous, strapless, taffeta gown in her size. She tried it on and nearly cried. It was perfect. “Well, at least I can say I’ve tried on a wedding dress now.” She bought the dress and headed out to find a fabric store. She found one and bought a roll of wide, pale pink satin ribbon, some thin ribbon of the same color, and some tulle for her veil. She stopped at the supermarket and bought a do-it-yourself-in-the-dryer dry cleaning kit. She knew she would never have time to take the dress to be cleaned professionally. “Um, I think that’s all,” she said as she climbed into a cab and asked to be taken to Crofton. As soon as she got back in the house, she took the dress to the laundry room. She sat on the floor and read all the directions for the do-it-yourself dry cleaning-- twice, and then started the process. Her aunt found her and wanted to hear all about the morning’s acquisitions. “I’ll help you press the dress when it’s done,” she said. Anna got out Beth’s sewing machine. She cut the tulle into a large rectangle with rounded corners and then sewed the thin pink ribbon around the edge. She gathered the top and fixed it to a large barrette. “Well, that’s the veil,” she thought looking it over thoroughly. The dress made it through the home dry cleaning well and Beth pressed it so it looked brand new. “It’s lovely,” she told Anna. James came back to Crofton in the afternoon and said he had finally found a preacher in a small church to come out for the wedding tomorrow. “You would think half of Newbury is getting married tomorrow,” he said of his difficulty in finding someone. “Well, it is awfully short notice, “ Beth said and winked. “What about the license?” she seemed to suddenly remember. “We will handle all the legal stuff when we get back from our honeymoon. There’s no time to do it now,” he answered. Anna’s mind went to the mountain of paperwork they would have to do for her British citizenship, name change, and marriage license. “At least I will have James to get me through all of it.”
Saturday morning, Beth was out in the garden early to pick a bouquet of perfect pink roses the same color as Anna’s ribbon. She wrapped the stems in a wet paper towel, plastic wrap, and then wound some of the pink ribbon around to cover them. Anna’s eyes teared up when Beth gave her the bouquet. She began to think of all of the differences between this wedding and her first. There were no flowers at her first wedding; that was a frivolity in Platzville. Today, she would be surrounded by happy, smiling faces and love. She knew without a doubt that she was completely and totally in love with James. She knew what it was like to be held by him, to kiss him, and even to be intimate with him without fear. She absolutely knew she would go into her wedding night without a speck of hesitation. This man knew how to make her feel loved and special. Her one and only regret about this wedding was that her parents would not be there. She had called them on Thursday, but there was just no way for them to travel to England on such short notice. She seriously doubted her father would want to travel that far anyway. Thinking of them, she decided to call her mom. “Hey mom, I just wanted to call you today, so you would be a part of my day,” she said when her mom answered the phone. Her mother expressed her happiness that her daughter was getting a second chance at life shared with someone special. She was especially happy that Anna was marrying someone who would never pin her down in one place, or keep her from the adventure she craved. As she hung up the phone, James came in the room. His smile was so big, Anna thought his face would crack. He held her close and kissed her long. “Have you had your breakfast yet?” he asked her. She thought for a moment and then replied with a sheepish grin, “Um, no, I’m a little distracted because I think something is supposed to happen today and I can’t remember what.” “I think what you are forgetting is the grand opportunity to become my wife,” he said. He walked her down to the kitchen to grab some breakfast before they had to get ready for their wedding. They had decided to do the wedding at 11:00 a.m., so they could eat lunch afterward and then have the whole afternoon to travel to their honeymoon. Anna went to her room and Aunt Beth helped her to dress and fix her hair. She tied a long piece of the wide pink ribbon around her small waist. They also tied a ribbon in her hair for after the ceremony when she would remove her veil. The veil was clipped to the back of her hair and flowed beautifully down her back to the floor. She did her makeup as best as she could without having any formal instruction on such things. Her aunt did give her a few suggestions on her hair and makeup. She slipped on a pair of pink heels she had bought in London on a whim. This whim matched her ribbons perfectly and she felt so beautiful. Her aunt stood back and just kept saying, “Wow!” over and over. She was gorgeous and she loved the feeling of knowing it. “You stay here and don’t wrinkle anything. I’ve got to make sure everyone else is ready,” her aunt said as she raced out of the room. She stood in front of the mirror for a long time. She reveled in the feeling of happiness that was more than she had ever experienced in her whole life. There was an absolutely gorgeous man downstairs who wanted to spend the rest of his life only with her. It dawned on her as she looked into the mirror that her dream from many months ago was coming true. For she was standing there with a dress she loved and handsome blonde groom waited for her. “Wow! I have to think about something else or I’m going to explode!” she thought. Explosion was evaded when one of her cousins came to her room to tell her it was time. She walked slowly down the hall and staircase, taking large breaths to keep from fainting. Her cousin walked her out to the garden where a small gathering of people were waiting for her. Everyone sat in chairs except for Beth, Peter, the preacher, and James. She walked calmly to where James was standing. The ceremony was a dream with this small town preacher and his pleasing British accent. He read from a book of ceremonies and picked one that was short, sweet, and beautiful with symbolism. Anna loved the sincerity of James’ voice as he recited his vows. His eyes also told her that he was extremely serious about this day and that she was what he wanted most in the world. She tried to hold back tears as she gave her vows to him. She came to the line “’til death do us part” and was especially choked up. She had to take a breath and told herself that James would not be taken from her that way. In contrast to her first wedding, when the preacher pronounced them man and wife, she received the kiss of her life. She was left a bit light headed as they went to the dining room for their reception lunch. Everything was beautiful and peaceful as they sat at the table surrounded by loved ones. James leaned over and whispered in her ear, “You are the most beautiful and stunning bride I have ever seen in my life.” Her face turned red for a second. She looked him in the eyes and said, “You’re not a half-bad groom, either.” They laughed together and then got up together to cut the cake that Anna had made herself the night before. It was a delicious layer cake of strawberry and lemon cream. It was delicate and melted in the mouth. She thought about the nasty cake of last year. She ate every bite on her plate. James had two pieces before announcing that they should go change for their trip.
James put their suitcases in his car and after happy “good byes and see you laters” were said, they headed for London. “Where exactly are we going?” she asked him. “Let me just surprise you,” he said. She sat back in her seat and enjoyed being with her new husband. He drove to the airport and they caught a small plane to Paris. Anna was beside herself with elation. To honeymoon in Paris was an icon of the ultimate honeymoon. They checked into a nice hotel and suffice it to say, they did not come out of their room until the next day. That morning they ordered room service and had a lovely breakfast in their robes. When they were done eating, James took Anna by the hand and sat her on the bed. He sat next to her and said, “Anna, I really need to talk to you about something and I need you to swear to me that you will never, ever tell another living soul about the things I tell you.” She started to get a little frightened. “I’ve never sworn in my life, but if it’s that important to you, I promise I won’t tell anyone,” she said. He began to tell a story that would change her life forever. “When I was in the army, I was in specials ops and did many secret missions for my country. I was trained in everything you can imagine for executing these special ops and I did them well. The reason I got out of the army was not because I retired or was discharged. I was actually asked by the government to join MI6. Since you are American, you might not know what that means. It just means I’m on a team of the best spies in England. It’s a James Bond type of a job, if you’ve ever seen that. My cover story given to me by the government was the illustrator for children’s books. I do like to draw and they took that and created my cover. I hope you don’t feel like I’ve lied to you. I really hate that part of this job, but I am allowed to tell one person who I trust implicitly about my job. You are my one person. I’m going to give you a card with the name of my handler and her phone number. It’s a fake name on the card, but one that she will use only in a situation when you need her help. Hide it and don’t ever show it to anyone. Alright, moving on to the next bomb. We are to move to Trieste, Italy next week so I can begin reconnaissance tours of countries to the East. We will rent a home there under the guise of needing a quiet place for you to write books and for me to draw. Let me repeat, you can never tell your family or anyone else what I do, or why we are in Italy or exactly where in Italy. Love of my life, I can see I’ve shocked you completely, but I know you are strong and will acclimate to this life.” Anna sat there for a moment in stunned silence. She didn’t even know what to say or ask. She looked into his eyes and found what she needed: the solid reassurance that despite what he had just told her, he would love her for the rest of his life. “I’m going to need to process all of this for awhile, but I pray to God that you will be kept safe and not taken from me by some terrorist,” she said. The rest of their stay in Paris, she didn’t want him out of her sight. She no longer wanted to see the sights of Paris; she wanted only to be with James. “I knew you were the right woman for me,” he told her after remarking how calm she was about the whole spy thing. “If he only knew how frightened I am right now.” The flight back to London they were quiet and sober, but determined to face their new life together. They found their car and started to drive to Newbury to pack up the rest of Anna’s things. Anna suddenly turned to James and asked, “Tell me again why we are moving to Trieste? I mean what was I supposed to tell Aunt Beth? “You tell them that we’ve decided to move to Italy and find a nice house where you can write books and I can draw pictures,” he said. “Okay, yeah, I can tell them that they know how much I’ve wanted to see new places,” she chimed in. He loved that she was going along with his life and even doing her part to protect him.
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