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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hurry up and post! 11 & 12

I am gearing up for our church's annual VBS. I'm a Bible teacher for the week. It's exhausting work and I never feel like cooking when I get home. So.....this year I am doing all my cooking ahead of time. Well, not ALL, but most of it. Here I must admit that I am not a planner as far as meals go and I get more stressed out trying to get it organized before hand than spur of the moment cooking. Now you know my day today! woopie! Ok, so since I will be in VBS all week and then out of town next weekend, I shall post 2 more chapters.
my funny white queen 6/3

    On the day of her flight to Spain, she entrusted her belongings to Kathryn and packed the rest in a large suitcase and small carryon. She slipped off her engagement ring and put it in a small box. She left it with Kathryn explaining that she didn’t want anything to happen to it in Spain and that she wanted to be sure that Scott really wanted to marry her before she wore it again. Scott and Spencer came to take her to the airport. Danny had called her early that morning to say his good bye. He thought it would be best if he didn’t get in Scott’s way. Rachel was happy that Scott at least wanted to see her off. He was very serious on the way to the airport, but didn’t offer any explanations or tell her anything. He didn’t seem to notice that she was not wearing her ring. She pulled her sweater sleeves down over her hands to hide the missing jewelry. She pulled him into a tight embrace as they were preparing to leave her at the departure door. She whispered into his ear, “Scott, no matter what happens, I love you. I’ll be thinking about you and hoping that you are happy.” He simply replied, “Thanks.” She wanted to kick him in the shins, but remembered what she had just finished telling him. She hugged Spencer and thanked him for everything. He was kind and gracious. Inwardly, he felt he owed her for the patient care she had given Danny when he was in the hospital. He felt embarrassed that Scott was being so smug and apathetic. So, Spencer showed her love the only way he knew how.  “Dahling, I thank you for your patience with my family. Please feel free to buy anything you want or need while you are in Spain. You deserve to be spoiled a bit. Have a lovely trip, dear,” he said. He kissed her on the cheek and they left. She rolled her bags to the ticket counter and began the next chapter of her life.
    Her first encounter with jet lag was not pretty. She was completely exhausted for several days following her arrival. She was quite thankful that the university had the foresight to send students in well ahead of classes so that they could acclimate. Her host family was an upper-class fixture in Madrid society. As a result, their home was a buzzing hive of activity from early to very late. “Do these people ever eat dinner at a decent hour?” she wondered. Being on American teams in South America had not given her a proper introduction to Latin culture. She was having a crash course in the culture her first couple of weeks. The first week she had the hardest time understanding the Castilian Spanish spoken around her. She gradually picked up on the differences and was at least aware of what was going on by her third week. One of the family’s daughters ran a cosmetology school and she gave Rachel a haircut and taught her to do makeup. They told her she was gorgeous and they wanted her to attend all of their social functions with them. She had male friends of the family asking her out on dates; to which she declined because of recent arrival to Spain. At times she wished that she had kept her ring on, but she wasn’t sure if that would have deterred these Latin lovers. She was becoming convinced that she should just forget about Scott anyway. He had not called her a single time since she had set foot in Madrid. She was relieved when her classes started because she could set her own schedule and not be at the mercy of her host family’s whims. Her routine became constant: morning classes, lunch and siesta at home, and evening classes. She loved her new schedule and was happy with her classes. She was fascinated by the flair and finesse of the Spanish and the way they lived their lives without focusing on making a living, but rather, on living.
     In late August, she was studying in her room. It was Saturday and she was trying to avoid being swept away by the household conveyor belt of social planning. She received an instant message on her computer. “Rachel, it’s me Danny. Open your Skype account so we can talk.” She slid her computer towards her on the desk and logged into the online video chat site. Danny found her and set up their call. She was happy to actually see him on the screen and forgot that he could see her. “You look awesome, Rachel! Spain must agree with you,” he said. He was smiling while he waited for her to say something. “Hey, it’s great to see you, Danny. I was feeling a little lonely even though I’m surrounded by people. What’s up with you?” “Well, let’s see…Dad sold off a couple of companies, but you know I don’t really have anything to do with that. Scott is…well, he’s as unsociable as ever. Oh, I have good news. International Conservationist hired me to write a piece once a month on green spots in large cities around the world. So, it looks like I’ll be travelling a bunch. How is it going there?” he said. A loud noise interrupted them from outside her door. “Well, let’s just say it’s never dull here at my host family’s house. They’ve been really good to me, but it gets a little overwhelming sometimes. I love my classes and I really love Madrid,” she replied. They chatted for a few more minutes and then Danny said, “Rachel, what do you say we do this every Saturday at this time? It would give you somebody to talk to every week and I’d get to see your pretty face. What do you say?” She smiled and pushed her hair behind her ear. “Yeah, that sounds great. I appreciate this, Danny,” she answered. As the weeks past, she found herself longing for Saturday to come so she could see Danny and talk to him. She rubbed her left hand nervously and wondered if she should feel guilty about wanting to talk to Danny more than Scott.
    As she was fretting over the decisions of her heart, Danny was having a serious talk with Scott. They were lounging in the elegant living room of their home. Danny sat forward in his seat and said, “Look, Scott, I’ve got to get something off my chest. Do you know why Rach went to Spain? She went because she couldn’t get a commitment out of you. She wants you to sweep her off her feet, romance her, make her a queen, and set a firm date for your wedding. You treat her like garbage. I just don’t get you. She is the most amazing girl you are ever going to meet, but you treat her like she is a common, annoying socialite. Dude, you’ve got to make a move if you want to keep her.” Scott jumped off the couch defensively and headed for the door, “I don’t want you or anybody else telling me what to do with Rachel!” Danny sat back and ran his fingers through his hair. He felt hopeless. What was he going to tell Rachel? His heart pounded at the very thought of her name. He had to just keep his relationship going with her until she pushed him away; or Scott gave up and let him have her. She needed him right now and he was going to be there for her whatever it took.
    The next Saturday, he had some news for her. “Hey Rach, guess what! I’m going to do a piece on a green spot in Madrid. I want to time it when you have a break so we can hang out together. When’s your next break?” he asked. She smiled and tried to calm the butterflies in her tummy. “Well, Christmas break. That would work because I’m not planning on coming back to New York then. I get two weeks off.” “Perfect! I’ll spend two weeks with you, then,” he replied. She blushed at the thought of spending two weeks alone with Danny, but she was unbelievably happy about it. They talked for almost an hour and found themselves having a hard time saying good bye. Rachel was helped by a knock on her door. She said, “Oh, I’ve got to go. Somebody is at my door.” Afterward she sat on her bed daydreaming about Danny. He was coming all the way to Spain to see her. She wondered if Scott even knew about it. Not that he would care. He had only called her once in three months. That one call had been so cold and shallow she felt like she was his estranged uncle, rather than his fiancé.
    Friday night after she had finished her finals, she was in her room organizing her books and papers. She couldn’t believe she had already completed a semester in Madrid. Now she had Danny’s visit to think about and then her next semester. She paused in front of the mirror and brushed her hair. She supposed she would probably get sucked into some activity or other at the host’s home that evening. Sure enough, as she laid down the brush, there was a knock on her door. She opened the door and it was not one of the family, but Danny, who was standing there. She was shocked, but then realized he hadn’t told her exactly when he was to arrive. He pulled her into a warm embrace and she welcomed it. “Oh my goodness, it is so good to see you, “she said. She took a deep breath to fully take in his smell and presence. It was intoxicating and she felt her butterflies going crazy. “So what’s on the schedule tonight, my dear?” he asked. He had not fully let go of her yet and she was having trouble thinking straight. “What would you like to do? Oh, never mind, I know what to do. I would love to go have a meal at a decent hour!” she exclaimed. He laughed and ran his hand through her hair. She thought that his hand on her hair had an entirely different effect than Scott’s. She grabbed her coat and the necessary Spanish accessory: the scarf. It took them a while to find a fine dining establishment that served an early dinner. It seemed they were all on Latin schedule and began serving dinner at nine. They finally found a place that catered to tourists and served food all day long. They were so happy to be together that they didn’t really care where they ate. They settled in at their candle lit table and began catching up. Danny glanced at her left hand as she rested it on the table. “Um, Rach, where is your ring?” he asked. She held up her hand and sighed. “Well, I left it with Kathryn. I told her I didn’t want anything to happen to it while I was here, but honestly I took it off because I don’t want to wear it unless Scott is serious about what it means,” she explained. “Ok, then,” he replied and smiled. “Well, I guess I have more of a chance than I thought,” he mused triumphantly.  
    The next day, after a pastry and coffee together, they went to the Parque del Retiro in central Madrid. Danny was doing his piece on this 350 acre wonder. “Did you know that Madrid has the most green spots of cities this size? Anywhere in the city you can walk a few minutes and arrive at a green area. Pretty impressive, right?” he said. She nodded. She enjoyed watching him work as he photographed various aspects of the park. He also took lots of pictures of her. She had never been photographed so much in her life. He pretended he was just joking around with her, but he was really thinking he would cherish each picture of her. After he had shot what he wanted, he put his camera away and they walked together through the park. She was starving when they finished, so they went to a café and ate. “Hey, why don’t we go back to my hotel for siesta? I mean, not like together in the bed, or anything, but you can see my room.” He was blushing as he finished his question, but she agreed to go with him. He was staying at The Westin Palace and it was a spectacular sight. She felt like she wore out the word ‘wow’ on her way up to his room. He showed her around his suite and the view from the large windows. He let her flop on his luxurious bed and squeeze the sofa cushions. She curled up on the soft couch and closed her eyes. “Mmmmmm, I could just take a nap right here,” she sighed. He draped a blanket over her and left the room as he said, “Sleep tight, then.” When she woke, Danny was sitting in a chair across from her typing on his computer. “Ug, how long did I sleep?” she asked. “Oh, about an hour and a half. Don’t worry about it, I’m sure you need it after all those tests this week. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Since you’ve got two weeks and I’ve already done my info gathering for my article, why don’t we travel around Spain a bit?” he said. She sat up and smiled, “OOOh, that sounds great! You can plan it and I’ll just tag along with you.” He had already packed up his suitcase, having hatched his plan while she was asleep. They took a taxi to her house and packed her suitcase. She told her host mother her plan and they left. They took a bus to Segovia and checked into a nice hotel close to the ancient Roman Aqueduct. She noticed that he had reserved one room with two beds. She respected Danny, though, and knew he would act honorably with her. As if knowing she was thinking about that, he explained, “The only other room had a shared door with a family.” They ate a fashionable dinner and walked a little before deciding to go to their room. Working out the bathroom schedule was a little awkward, but Danny was a gentleman and let her go first. She wore sweats to bed, but her feet were still a little cool. “Oops, looks like I forgot to bring socks,” she said. He pulled a clean pair out of his suitcase and brought them to her. “Here, you can wear mine. I don’t want your feet to be cold on my watch,” he said with a smile. She thanked him and put them on.
    The next day they toured the castle and walked around the streets. She did a little shopping and he patiently endured it. They could be together effortlessly and both felt very happy. Danny was only encumbered by the thought of Scott and his vague claim to Rachel. Still, he held her hand and put his arm around her when appropriate. She had not once rejected his mild affections and that emboldened him to continue to show his care for her. They travelled south to Seville, Malaga, and Granada. Then they went north to Valencia. Rachel enjoyed the National Museum of Ceramics and Danny loved all of the parks. The views of the Mediterranean Sea were spectacular from their hotel. Danny gave her a diamond necklace for Christmas and she gave him an alpaca scarf. She thought that his gift was much too valuable to be for just a friend, but didn’t want to read anything into his motivations. In Barcelona they took in a soccer game. It was so cold and they marveled at the dedication of the fans. Their two weeks were nearly finished by the time they left Barcelona. They returned to Madrid and spent the final days of December in quiet cafes and museums. They were sitting having coffee when she asked him, “Say, whatever happened to Kimberly Morgan?” Danny laughed and said, “Let me tell you about Kimberly Morgan. Six years ago she and Scott were class mates, and they were dating. She was what she is now and she pushed him around and he just took it. I transferred to his university and was doing my jerk thing of making him crazy. So, I got Kimberly to like me. It was weird, you would think he would have been happy to get rid of her, but he wasn’t. I think he actually liked having her in charge. Anyway, he was so mad at me over that and I dumped her in like three weeks for another girl. That was a horrible time in my life. So, I think somewhere in the back of his mind, Kim is his first love. I told her about that and she quit calling me.” Rachel was in shock. Scott had never mentioned being with Kimberly. In fact, she remembered him saying that she was perfect for Danny. Crazy wasn’t descriptive enough for this uncertain situation with Scott.
   Rachel had a knot in her stomach the day he was to leave. “I don’t want you to go,” she said at the airport. “I hate to leave you, too, but you’ve got to be smart person and do your studies,” he replied. He wanted to say a lot more, but didn’t. She cried after he went through airport security and was out of sight. At that moment she wished more than anything that Scott would call and tell her he’d met someone else and didn’t want to marry her.  The gray skies outside of her taxi seemed to mimic the mood of her soul. “At least I can look forward to Saturdays again,” she thought. She had to focus on her degree in order to garner the strength to stay in Madrid without Danny.
    She worked hard all week on her studies and her Saturdays were dedicated to Danny’s call. She tried not to look like she had been waiting by the computer for an hour, but it seemed as though Danny had done the same. Their conversations were longer and longer. “Don’t you wish we could virtually eat dinner on this thing?” she asked. He laughed the laugh that gave her butterflies every time. “I hate to ask this, but he won’t tell me. Has Scott called you lately?” he asked. She shook her head, “The last time he called was in November.” Danny clenched his jaw and looked angry. He tried to relax and said, “Hey what are you planning for spring break?” “Um, nothing, yet,” she replied. “Well, I’m going to come see you again, then. Would that be ok with you?” he asked. She swallowed and tried not to act overly excited, “Yes, that would be fine. I would like that.” She wished so much that she could touch his hand through the screen; not knowing that he was wishing the same thing. She would only have to wait a month for spring break and she would have to conquer mid-terms before then. She was beginning to wonder why she was getting a degree, but always remembered that it was an accomplishment she needed for herself. She didn’t dare think about what came after that. The thought of being with smug Scott filled her with dread.
    She slogged her way through her mid-term exams and came out victorious. Danny came on cue the Friday evening after finishing her last exam. He told her to pack a suitcase for the week and he would surprise her the next day with their destination. They went out to dinner at the correct Spanish time and it was late when she returned to her room. She was on cloud nine to have been with Danny again and excited about his surprise. The next day they took a bus to Mar Bella. Danny rented a bungalow for the whole week. Rachel was in awe at the picturesque setting on the edge of the ocean. Behind the bungalow were all the shops for the elite class Mar Bella serviced.  She was excited about at least pretending to shop there even though she knew Danny could probably buy anything he wanted. Their bungalow had two bedrooms, but they didn’t spend much time in them. There was too much to do in Mar Bella.  She noticed that Danny was acting a little nervous and at the same time super happy to be with her. On their second night, Danny had arranged to have a fancy dinner to be catered to their bungalow. They finished their appetizer and Danny hopped up from his chair. “I….I just can’t wait anymore. I’ve been trying to keep my feelings in check for more than a year. I’ve tried to give Scott time to do the right thing with you. I can’t wait for him to be a man and treat you the way you deserve to be treated. I love you more than you can even imagine. I want to be the one to spoil you and treat you like the princess you are. I want to wake up every morning next to you. I want you to be my wife. And I won’t make you wait. I will marry you as soon as you finish here in Spain and that is my promise. What do you say?” She sat with her hand over her mouth for a minute. Tears started running down her cheek. She sighed and said, “Danny, I love you, too. I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you. But I have a huge problem and his name is Scott. I tell you what, let me call him and get an answer once and for all from him.” He tossed his phone across the table and said, “Call him.” She dialed his number and waited. “What do you want?” Scott said when he answered, thinking it was Danny. “Scott, this is Rachel. I need something from you. I need you to tell me if you want to marry me. And you had better tell me the truth.” The pause on the other end was deafening. She knew he was trying to choose his words carefully, but in the end they were harsh and cutting. “Rachel, I need to be honest with you. The only reason I proposed to you is because I thought I needed to rescue you; just like a school that needed repair. I felt sorry for you and what you had been through. I haven’t loved you for a long time, if ever. I’m sorry, but I just can’t marry you.” She swallowed hard to push down the anger that swelled up inside. “Thank you,” she said and then hung up the phone. It was clear to her then that Scott had taken her on as a charity case and then grown to resent her. Danny knelt down in front of her and asked, “What did he say?” When she told him, he had to get up and look out the window to cool down. “Ok, as much as I hate what he told you, it means we can be together. Here, this is the ring I bought you. I hope you like it.” He pulled a large chocolate diamond ring and put it on her finger. She took a deep breath and smiled. She sat in stunned silence for a few minutes. She had been engaged to Scott for so long that it took a while to fully comprehend her freedom. She hadn’t realized how much his negativity and lethargy were affecting her until she felt the burden of him lift off her shoulders. “I feel about 180 pounds lighter,” she said. She stood to face her new fiancé. He held her tight and the last bits of pain left her. “Let me show you what it’s like to kiss someone who really loves you,” he said and then he delivered. The floor melted away and she floated on air. The whole room disappeared and there was only Danny. She knew she would talk about this day many, many times. “When you said you had a surprise for me, you weren’t kidding!” she teased him later. “Well, I can’t stand having all these Spaniards hanging over you, slobbering, and waiting for a chance to have you. Meanwhile, I’m thousands of miles away taking pictures of grass and trees and I can’t do a darn thing to protect you. Now you have protection,” he said and raised her left hand. No one could miss the large diamond ring. “Ok, now that I have your approval, my love, let’s talk wedding day,” he said. He had no intention of hurting her as his brother had. “My, but you don’t waste time,” she replied. They settled on the first of June. It didn’t give her any time to plan, but Danny assured her he would get a wedding planner to do all the work. “So that’s settled. What do you say we enjoy the rest of our vacation in Mar Bella?” he asked. She nodded and kissed him on his scar. That spot on his forehead became her new favorite spot. She caressed the scar with her finger and said, “If it weren’t for this scar we probably wouldn’t be together now.” “You’re probably right,” he replied.
    The next morning she called Franklin to tell him the whole story. He was so surprised that she had gone from one brother to the other, but was glad she was happy. He promised to attend the wedding and be her acting father for the wedding. After her call to Franklin, Danny took her shopping. He lavished gifts on her out of his sheer excitement that she was to be his. “Have you told your dad about this?” she asked. “Well, I kind of hinted that I loved you, but couldn’t do anything until Scott gave you up. He actually told me he hoped I won this one,” he replied. Since she had jogged his memory, he called up Spencer and told him the news. He was all smiles as he listened to his dad’s response and gave Rachel a thumbs up sign. At the end of the week, he hired a private car to take them back to Madrid. He didn’t want to share Rachel with a bus full of strangers. He was uninhibited with his affection. His feelings had been bottled up for so long by giving preference to his selfish brother. Now he was able to open the floodgates. He tried not to overwhelm her, but she didn’t seem to mind his constant attention. Rachel was so happy because she knew his attentions were genuine. He was in love with her and she knew it without doubt. After they arrived at her house in Madrid, they told the host family about their engagement. She then enlisted the help of their cosmetology school daughter to find a wedding dress. She was thrilled to take on that job with Rachel. Danny spent his last night on the couch at Rachel’s house. He didn’t want to waste precious minutes away from her. She accompanied him to the airport and didn’t leave his side until he went through security. She thought she would cry when he left, but she was too happy about the wedding to cry. She had only two months left of classes. She would get to New York two weeks before the wedding. She didn’t really like having to trust the wedding planner to do everything, but she didn’t have a choice. At least she would get to pick out her own dress.
    The next week, Elena, her host’s daughter, wanted to go ahead and shop for her dress in case it needed to be altered. She took Rachel to a fancy bridal shop that carried dresses from designers around the world. She was immediately overwhelmed. How was she to choose one from all of those dresses? Elena steered her toward a princess cut style that was flattering on her. She fell in love with a gorgeous dress with tiers of ruffled organza. It had lovely embroidery and stones sewn around the high waist. She chose a long, simple veil to complete her bridal visage. She was shaking as she made the purchase. She glanced around the studio at other blushing brides picking out their dresses. They had all manner of family gathered about them to help them make choices. She put her hand to her throat as a knot formed there. She thought of her family and how they would have judged her new dress harshly. Lace and organdy were not permitted in her home. Nor was the cut of her dress that showed her feminine figure allowed. Her mother would never see this dress and never admire her daughter as a beautiful bride. She tried not cry until she was alone once again in her room. She called Franklin and talked to him for a while. He was her family and she knew that he would rejoice with her over wedding details and the dress. She felt better after she spoke with him. After that detail was taken care of, she felt better about focusing on finishing her classes.
     She tried to enjoy her final weeks in Madrid, knowing it was an experience she would remember for the rest of her life. She wanted to remember the people, smells, and sights. She studied hard until she felt that she was ready for finals. She felt a little guilty that she didn’t have time to do anything with her host family because of papers and studying. They were gracious and understanding since they had been through this with many foreign students before her.
    Finals week was really tough and she was so thankful when it was over. Danny came to help her pack and travel back to the States. She gave her host family some gifts and an invitation to her wedding. They were thrilled for an excuse to visit New York. Danny had come in the Fillman jet, so they didn’t have problems with her luggage and its quantity. She carefully handled her wedding dress and hung it in the coat closet of the plane. She made sure that Danny did not peek at the dress while they were traveling. She didn’t have anything to worry about since he was only interested in being with her; not her dress. They slept for a few hours in the plane to offset the jet lag that was sure to follow their flight. When they arrived in New York, they went to Spencer’s home. He had designated a bedroom for Rachel since she would only be there for two weeks. Once again, he had it completely remodeled to suit her even though she would only be there for a short time. She immediately noticed that he was very chipper and smiley when he was around her. The next day after they settled back in New York, Spencer told her, “Dahling you can’t believe how happy I am that you and Danny will soon be together. You are the best thing to happen to this family in a long time. I think you will find Scott a little more tolerable to be around as well. Anyway, I hope you are comfortable here and that you have everything you want.” She smiled and gave him a hug. “Thank you, Spencer. You are a wonderful father-in-law,” she said.
   After Rachel had recovered from her jet lag for the most part, Danny took her to meet the wedding planner. Rachel was definitely unprepared for this woman. She was in her forties and wore a fuchsia silk dress and hat, with matching shoes. She was loud, dramatic, and her taste was quite different from what Rachel liked. Rachel winced at the flamboyance of Claire Boud’s office. She hoped this was not a foretelling of the plans for her wedding. She was greatly relieved when Claire pulled out the book of Rachel and Danny’s plans and saw very muted tones. Danny had obviously stressed Rachel’s sensitivities and tastes. She loved the pale blue color scheme that they had chosen. The flowers would all be pale blue hydrangeas and green bells of Ireland. Rachel didn’t have a bridesmaid and was a little embarrassed about that. Spencer met them at the wedding venue, an old church with beautiful stained glass windows streaming light in every color into the sanctuary. Rachel’s breath caught in her throat at the beauty of it all. “This is perfect, Danny,” she sighed. Spencer came up to them excitedly and said, “Rachel, I just had the grandest idea! Why don’t you let Kimberly be your maid of honor and then Scott can stand with his brother. What do you think?” She had a confused look on her face until Danny explained, “Um, Rach, Scott and Kim are back together.” “Oh, I see. Well, that would be nice for Danny to have his brother. So, I guess that would be fine,” she replied. Claire went into a tizzy, “Oh my word, do you know what that means? We have less than two weeks to find a tux and a bridesmaid dress! Oh goodness, we need to get them something today!” Spencer called Scott and told him the news.
    Rachel met Kimberly at Klienfeld’s on a warm afternoon to pick out a dress.  “Rachel, I know this is really awkward, but I am grateful to have the chance to be in your wedding. More than that, I am so happy to be with Scott again. I was wrong to ever pursue Danny. Scott and I just fit. I hope we can be friends and just forget all the weirdness,” Kimberly said. Rachel smiled, “I just don’t know anyone else who could be a bridesmaid, so I am glad you agreed to do it. And, of course we can forget the past. Well, shall we go try to find something for you?” They walked up to the salon with all of the bridesmaid dresses and waited for a consultant to help them. Their bubbly consultant nearly fainted when Rachel told her the wedding was mere days away. Kimberly took over lest the ambitious salesperson should get snarky with Rachel for coming in so late. “Listen, if you don’t want to help us, we can just shop somewhere else!” The consultant became contrite and asked what precisely they were looking for. After quite a few misses, they came upon the perfect blue dress for Kimberly. It was not only the exact color of the hydrangeas; it fit her exquisitely and did not need to be altered. They went out for dinner together afterward and enjoyed getting to know each other more. As they stood outside the restaurant, Rachel said, “Kim, even though you and I come from opposite sides of the spectrum, I think that might actually make us better friends. Thanks again for doing this with me.” Kimberly grabbed her in a big hug and exclaimed, “Well, of course! I knew we would be good friends when I met you in the art gallery.” They parted ways and Rachel smiled at the thought of having a girl-friend to help her navigate New York. She called Danny and told him about their successful shopping trip. “We are still at the tux shop. They are trying to locate one in his size. He might just have to borrow one from Dad. I’ll give Claire a call and let her know that at least you’ve gotten a dress for Kim,” He said. “Will you be home soon? I want to spend the rest of the evening with you,” she pouted. He told her he would be home, since they were running into a dead end at the tux shop.
    The next day, Rachel sat in the kitchen eating a bagel and drinking chocolate milk. She was contemplating the whirlwind that she had been in since she came from Spain. “Hey, where are you?” Danny said while waving his hand in front of her blank stare. She laughed at herself and looked up at her fiancé. “I’m right here with you,” she replied. “I need to show you something and have you meet someone else today,” he informed her. “Oh, okay, I’ll go get dressed,” she said. After donning her favorite jeans, she chose a pink ruffled t-shirt and matching shoes. She put up her hair and did a light makeup job and then ran downstairs to find Danny. She found him in the front hallway tying his shoes. “Ready?” he asked. “Yep!” she replied. They went out and climbed into one of the family cars. Danny hadn’t driven a car since his accident; he also hadn’t had any alcohol. Rachel didn’t mind, because it meant that he got to sit in the back seat with her. They drove to SoHo and pulled in front of an old, brick warehouse building that was being renovated into lofts. “Dad owns this,” he said as they got out of the car. They took the service elevator to the third floor of the building. When the doors opened, it revealed a hall with only one door. Danny searched through his pockets for his keys and then for the appropriate key for the door in front of them. He finally found the right one and opened the door. “My love, welcome to our home,” he said as he guided her inside the loft. It was completely bare and Rachel was having a hard time picturing this place as a home. It was an enormous space, but was simply four brick walls with large windows. He saw the empty expression on her face and said, “Our next stop is to an interior designer who is going to fix up the place while we are on our honeymoon.” Rachel felt relief and said, “Oh, that’s good.” They went back out to the car and were driven to the designer’s office. “She’s the same person who did your apartment and the room where you are staying now,” he explained. That made Rachel feel even better since she already knew she liked what this designer could do. They went into her office and she introduced herself, “I’m Margaret. I feel like I already know you since I’ve done two jobs in your style.” Rachel was overwhelmed by the stacks of fabric swatches, floor samples, wallpaper books, tiles, and furniture catalogues. It took her a few minutes to focus on what Margaret was telling her. She had already drawn out a plan for their apartment that included a large kitchen, a huge living room, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms. “Now, let’s talk kitchen, fabrics, and floors,” Margaret said while flopping several of her books on the desk. After an hour, they had picked out everything Margaret needed to get started with their project. Danny was sighing and pacing and obviously completely bored. “Okay, dear, we can go now,” Rachel told him. He smiled, thanked Margaret, and swiftly led Rachel out to the car. After they were seated he said, “We are having lunch with family.” She loved how that sounded and smiled contentedly as they drove to the restaurant of Spencer’s choosing. Spencer, Scott, and Kimberly were already waiting in front of the famous Mexican eatery when they arrived. “Have you gotten your house all squared away?” Spencer asked her as he kissed her cheek. “Yes, I think so,” she replied. It was the first time she had been around Scott for any length of time since her return. He was actually smiling and quite affectionate to Kimberly. It was hard for Rachel to swallow the hurt that he had caused her, but she was genuinely happy for him. All she had to do to conquer her feelings of pain was to look into Danny’s eyes. He loved her so much and was so protective of her. She felt completely safe with him. “You okay?” he asked. She stroked the scar on his forehead and said, “With you, the answer to that question will always be yes.” Mid-way through their meal, Spencer said, “I definitely feel as though I am the fifth wheel, but I am so glad that our family is growing.”Rachel smiled and patted him on his hand. Kimberly had stars in her eyes as she gazed at Scott. Rachel got the sense that for them to fight against being together was like fighting gravity; it is possible, but extremely difficult. They simply belonged together and she knew it. “In the end it all works out for the best,” she contemplated as the last dessert plates were removed from the table. Danny spent the rest of the day with her dreaming about their future as a couple.

   The first Saturday in June, the sun was shining brightly; Rachel rolled over in her bed and it took her a few moments to cognate that it was actually her wedding day. She was fully aware of the fact, however, when a maid came in with her breakfast, followed by a stylist who was anxious to get her hair and makeup done as soon as possible. She ate her English muffin sandwich slowly and sipped a rich espresso as the stylist started to work on her hair. She felt like she was in a daze, or a dream, and hadn’t fully awakened. Danny popped his head in the door with his hand over his eyes. “Is it safe to look at my lovely bride?” he asked. “There isn’t much to look at yet, my dear. Come on in,” she replied. He laughed and walked over to her. He lifted her head to kiss him, much to the stylist’s disapproval. “Alright, I’ll let you finish your masterpiece here. I just wanted to kiss my girl!” he said and then backed out of the room. Rachel continued to enjoy her breakfast as the stylist worked diligently on her hair. When she was done with Rachel’s hair and makeup, she left swiftly to go on to her next client. Rachel sat in her room and stared at the mirror. She hardly recognized the woman staring back at her. She was amazed what the stylist had been able to do in less than an hour. Her hair was long in the back with loose curls in layers. In the front it was parted on the side and pulled up with a beautiful rose clip. Her veil would be added later and clipped behind the rose. She began to take deep breaths to avoid crying. “My real family will never know what I look like today. They will never meet Danny, or know what a wonderful man he is. My side of the church will be completely empty.” Her pensive mood was interrupted by the sound of the door bell. She was glad because she didn’t want to mess up her makeup. From downstairs she heard a familiar voice and ran down to greet him. She was so happy that Franklin had come to be her father for the wedding. She reached the bottom of the stairs and got a shock; there beside Franklin stood David. “Oh my goodness! Franklin! How on earth did you get him to come?” she asked as she gave him a tight squeeze. “Well, now, I just didn’t like the thought of your side of the church being empty. So I worked on the fella until he agreed to come with me,” he replied. She hugged David and then looked him over. Franklin had obviously bought him some normal clothes for the trip since David was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. David in turn was looking over his sister and her bridal hair and makeup. “You……you look real purdy,” he finally said. “I’m so happy you are here, David. Here, let’s go in the living room and you can tell me all about your trip,” she said. Just then, Danny came in and she introduced him to her brother. “Wow, this is awesome! I’m so glad you came to be with your sister for her wedding,” he said and then excused himself to take care of errands before the wedding. Rachel, Franklin, and David went to the living room and sat on the plush couches. Franklin spoke first, “David, I’m sure she’d like to know about the family and about your decision to come with me up here.” David cleared his throat, sat forward in his seat, and faced Rachel. “Well, after you wrote them last year, they couldn’t very well go on tellin’ everyone that you was dead. So, Mama talked about you every now and then. And me, well, I missed you a whole lot. I mean, you was the only person who wasn’t bitter or mean, you know. Anyway, Franklin found me at Smitty’s and told me about your weddin’ and that you would like it if I came, and that he’d buy my ticket. So, I just went to Dad and I said, “Dad, I’m going to Rachel’s weddin’ in New York and I’ll be back in a week.” Well, he wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t tell me not to come. Mama whispered to me to tell you she loves you. I was purdy surprised about that. So, maybe our family will come around after all.” Rachel sat quietly for a moment trying to absorb what David had just said. “Gracious, that’s amazing. Ugh! I cannot cry or that stylist will be mad at me for messing up her makeup job,” she said.
    They visited until lunch time. Spencer had a nice lunch catered to the house so they could all eat together and then go to the church for the wedding. Rachel wished that the lunch could last longer so she could spend more time with Franklin and David. At exactly a half hour before the wedding, though, they all shooed her upstairs to get dressed. The maid helped her into her dress and veil. “Sweetie, you don’t have time to admire yourself in that mirror. We need to get you out to the car,” she said while handing Rachel her shoes. Rachel smiled and hugged her. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’m a little scatter brained today. This all feels like a dream,” Rachel said. She was soon loaded into the car and situated properly so as not to mess up her dress. She felt butterflies as the car pulled in front of the church. Franklin was waiting out front to walk her inside the church. He kissed her on the cheek and said, “You ready, gorgeous?” She sighed deeply and replied, “Yes, I think so. It still feels so surreal.” “Well, my dear girl, there is a handsome fella waiting at the front of this here church that says this is all very real,” he chuckled.  Just listening to Franklin speak dismissed all her butterflies and helped her enjoy the moment. They went inside and saw that most of the people had already been seated. There were no mothers to seat and so that traditional part of the wedding was excluded. Kimberly looked lovely with her golden hair in a fancy up-do and the bouquet that matched her dress perfectly. She hugged Rachel and then walked down the center aisle to the front. It was then that Rachel paid attention to the lop-sided audience at her wedding. David sat alone on the left side of the church. He would soon be joined by Franklin, but even then, the stark difference between the sides was laughable. As the ushers were about to open the doors of the sanctuary to let her and Franklin in, Rachel heard the front doors of the church fly open. Her host family from Madrid came rushing through the door. They were full of apologies and excuses, but Rachel assured them she was just happy they had come. The ushers escorted them inside and seated them behind David. By then, the organist was getting a little irritated and began her wedding march song again. “This is it, kid,” Franklin said and they began their walk down the aisle. At the front he kissed her and handed her off to her waiting groom. “You are so beautiful,” Danny whispered to her as they stepped up to the minister. She smiled and looked down at the floor. When she looked up again the rainbow colored beams of sunlight coming through the stained glass windows caught her eye. The beauty of it only added to the dream-like feeling she was experiencing. Although she had seen very few traditional weddings since leaving Tennessee, she was fairly sure this was the most beautiful wedding she could have ever had. Scott seemed to be all smiles and kept staring at Kimberly. Rachel turned back to focus on Danny when the minister cleared his throat and began to recite their vows. The ceremony was over soon and everyone was encouraged to follow the wedding party to the hotel for the reception. Rachel and Danny took advantage of the car ride to catch up on the affection that had been missed during the busyness of the day. It suddenly occurred to her that she had no idea where they were going to honeymoon. “Danny, um, where are we going on our honeymoon?” she asked. “Ha, well, are you ready for this? Dad has a condo in Hawaii and we are going to spend a month there!” he answered. She sat open mouthed. “A whole month! What will we do for a whole month?” she wondered. “That sounds great!” she said. “I guess I’ll just worry about finishing school when we get back.”
     The reception was an intimate affair in the conference room of a nice hotel. There were tables of desserts and one large round table with the six tiered wedding cake. Rachel wanted to go around and sample everything, but also wanted to stay close to her husband. She still had an incorrigible sweet tooth from being brought up on large quantities of sugary sweets. Franklin saw her staring wistfully at the dessert tables, so he made a plate of a few of the delicacies and took it to her.   “You read my mind,” she whispered to him. She had nearly tasted all of what Franklin had brought her, when they were summoned to cut the wedding cake. Rachel was so happy to be making all the traditional memories on her wedding day. They even had fun with feeding each other the cake. She didn’t have a lot of time to visit with everyone, but she wanted to take time to thank Kimberly for standing with her. She found her talking with Scott by the drink table. “Kimberly, sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to thank you for being such an important part of this day,” she said. “Oh, dearie, you are so welcome. I have enjoyed every moment. Especially the moments where Scott stares at me like I’m the Queen of Sheba,” Kimberly said while laughing. Rachel laughed too, and then left to go be with her husband again. They danced for a while and then he whispered in her ear, “My love, my wife, let’s go and be alone.” A shiver went down her spine, but she was ready to leave the crowd and be with him. She made a quick circle around the room to thank the meager number of people who had come to support her. She hated that her Spanish host family had come so far to only see her for a couple of hours. They assured her, however, that the best part of their trip was to come, as they were thrilled about seeing all of New York City. “David, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you came. I hope and pray that everything goes well when you get back home,” she told her brother when she hugged him. “Aw, don’t worry about me. Who knows, maybe I’ll go travel the world like you did,” he said with a smile. After a thorough expression of gratitude and salutations to Franklin, Danny was able to take his bride out to the waiting car. They went to Spencer’s house to change and pick up their luggage. Rachel had no idea what to pack for a whole month in Hawaii.
   The flight from New York to Los Angeles seemed endless to the newly married couple. Danny had wisely planned for them to stay the night in a hotel and then fly to Hawaii the next day. They were both exhausted when they finally entered their hotel room, but still excited to be together. They didn’t even think about food until the next morning. They had to grab a quick continental breakfast before being shuttled to the airport. The air in Hawaii seemed different to Rachel. She had felt humidity before, but this was a damp, tropical air that made her feel relaxed. Their condo overlooked the ocean on the north side of the big island. Rachel had fun walking to the stores and learning to cook with Hawaiian ingredients. As they lay on the beach they talked about jobs, children, pets, and many other subjects that marriage necessitates. Rachel was firm on finishing school when they returned and thought she could finish within a year. Danny and Rachel were very happily together all the days they were in the condo. She was totally satisfied that the man she had married was happy to be with her alone. There was no guessing whether or not he loved her; she knew without doubt. The month went by much quicker than they expected. She had received a few calls from Margaret with design questions, but it sounded like she was right on schedule to finish before they came home. The day before they were to fly home, Margaret called and informed them that the apartment was finished. Rachel sighed as she  packed up suitcases and thought of the lovely time they had in Hawaii. As they boarded the plane, they felt a bit melancholy about leaving their own tropical paradise.
    Rachel was very tired when she and Danny walked into their apartment for the first time. They had just flown all the way from Hawaii and they were ready to sleep off their jet-lag. They had to take a few minutes to look over Margaret’s handy work. Rachel thought she loved it, but decided to reserve judgment until she was more lucid. They slept for twelve hours and Rachel awoke somewhat refreshed. She now noticed much more detail throughout their home. It was lovely and exactly what she had wanted. Except for a funky green pillow on the couch, Rachel was happy with Margaret’s design. The kitchen cabinets were a soft, country blue and the countertops were a crème colored  granite. The blue color was carried by the dining room table legs and then the living room sofa. It was all very soothing to the eye and Rachel thought it would be a perfect environment for studying. After looking over the apartment to her satisfaction, she sat down with her laptop and started registering for a couple of late summer and fall classes. Danny emerged and asked, “Hey, whatcha doing?” She kissed him and said, “I’m trying to register for classes. It’ like a puzzle trying to get everything I need for my degree in the time frame I have.” “Well, I’ll be so proud of you when you finish and also happy that you will be mine all the time,” he said.  
    Danny and Rachel soon settled in to their routine as a married couple. She was the ever diligent student and he worked on his green area journalism. They were both very busy, but that did not take away from their joy of being together. They knew there would come a day soon enough that their lives would slow down and they could concentrate on being a family.
    The next summer, Rachel graduated with her degree in anthropology. Danny was indeed very proud of her. The whole family had come to congratulate her. Kimberly was flaunting a very large engagement ring and Scott didn’t seem to mind the commitment that ring entailed. Spencer kept hugging her and telling her of his pride. He gave her a Mercedes for a graduation present. “I may need that soon,” she thought as she caressed her belly. A tiny kick inside her responded to her motion. “Oh! She moved!” Rachel exclaimed. “She’s just proud of her mama, too,” Danny replied. Rachel had graduated in plenty of time to enjoy being pregnant. She would have five months until her sweet baby made her debut. After they went home, Rachel sat down at her computer and composed a letter.
Dear Anna,
I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. I have to tell you, my life has been so very full and blessed. I’m about to celebrate my first anniversary with my husband, Danny Fillman. Today I graduated with a degree in anthropology. In five months our first baby will be born. I was thinking of naming her Anna. Would that be okay with you? I feel like you have been such an inspiration for me and the changes in my own life. I’m just so thankful for the life I’ve had since leaving Tennessee. Who knew it could be so amazing? The world is a big place and there are good people everywhere.
Well, I send my love to you and your lovely little family, Rachel
She sent the letter and then closed her laptop. She sat for a moment on the couch, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks. “I really could not ask for a single thing more. I am happy.”

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