CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and TWENTY-ONE
Friday night – 10:15 p.m.
“Let’s begin,” Delphie said.
Tanesha took Jeraine’s hand and he pulled her in front of him. This was the moment she’d dreamed of all of her life. She put her hands over his and leaned back into him.
Jacob opened the chapel doors to reveal Rodney and Yvonne. The sight of them caused the audience to gasp. They were gorgeous. Jeraine nudged Tanesha forward and she stepped out into the aisle. Seeing Tanesha waiting for them, Yvonne gave a bright smile and took Rodney’s arm. The beaming coupled started walking toward her.
Yvonne wore a floor length light sky blue silk dress. The tulip sleeves gave way to a tight waist and A-line skirt. Unsullied by sparkle or bead, the dress bore an old world quality that served to accentuate Yvonne’s natural brilliance. Rodney looked every bit her prince in his no-lapel matching silk tux. Tanesha glanced at the people in the chapel. Everyone looked as if they were seeing something beautiful and extraordinary.
Yvonne took Tanesha’s hands when they reached her. Her parents kissed her cheek and the family turned to Delphie.
“You may be seated,” Delphie said.
Tanesha kissed her parents and sat down next to Jeraine. Yvonne and Rodney stood in front the alter.
“Sit,” Delphie looked across the crowd to MJ. “The baby will arrive after we’re done. Honey will suffer more if you don’t stay. You’re better off waiting a bit.”
Tanesha turned around to see MJ standing with Honey in his arms. He looked so frightened and overwhelmed. She glanced back at Delphie to see what she’d say.
“You’re sure,” MJ said.
“I’m sure,” Delphie nodded.
MJ sat down, but Tanesha was pretty sure he didn’t move Honey off his lap. She wondered for a moment if she should call the midwife Camille. She was about to move when she caught Delphie’s look. Delphie shook her head and gave her the “don’t you dare” look she usually reserved for the kids. Tanesha settled in her seat. Jeraine put his arm around her.
“I’d like each of you to remember a moment you felt love,” Delphie said. “It might be the moment you met your child. It could be the moment met. It might even be the love you felt from your mother or father. Join me now in remembering a moment of love.”
Delphie lit the pink taper candle on the alter.
“Yvonne, do you remember the moment you knew you loved Rodney?” Delphie asked.
“When he found me under the hay in the barn,” Yvonne’s sweet voice drifted through the chapel. “I remember.”
“Rodney, do you remember the moment you knew you loved Yvonne?” Delphie asked.
“The first time she said my name,” Rodney’s deep voice came out like a rumble of thunder. “It was the first real word she said. She wasn’t more than a year old. My heart kind of seized. I…”
Rodney looked over to see Yvonne smiling at him.
“Hasn’t unseized yet,” he added.
The audience chuckled.
“If you’ve been in love, please take a moment and remember the moment you knew you were in love.”
Delphie looked out over the audience. People moved closer to each other. Katy laid her head in what was left of Jill’s lap while Paddie rested against her. Tears ran down Tanesha’s face. Delphie smiled to herself. It was happening just like Celia said it would.
“Sometimes, for some people, life gets in the way of love,” Delphie said. “We have love and then, in a moment, life breaks our love in two.”
Delphie picked up the lit pink taper candle and broke it in half. She put the lit portion back in the holder and broke the unlit portion in half again. She put the two pieces into small holders and moved them in front of the lit candle.
“Yvonne, have you ever, even for a moment stopped loving Rodney?” Delphie asked.
“Never,” Yvonne said.
“Did you ever believe he didn’t love you?”
“No,” Yvonne said. “I believed he shouldn’t love me. But I couldn’t imagine that he… that he… didn’t love me. I don’t think I could have survived that.”
“Have you ever doubted his love?”
“I doubted that he could still love me after… what I had become, what I’d done, what I was. I prayed that if there was any way, he could… but I…”
A fat tear dropped down Yvonne’s face.
Delphie held out the candle lighter. Yvonne stepped forward. Delphie looked up.
“Will you join me?” Delphie asked. “Repeat after me. My love…”
“My love,” Yvonne said along with everyone, but the only voice she heard was the low timber of Rodney’s voice.”
“…washes away,” Yvonne said with everyone else.
“…my doubt,” Yvonne said with everyone.
“I am worthy of being loved.”
“I am worthy of being loved,” Yvonne said with everyone. She heard a few sniffles behind her but dared not look.
“You may light your candle,” Delphie said.
Yvonne lit the piece of pink candle. Delphie nodded and she went back to stand next to Rodney. He took her hand.
“Oh lord,” Rodney said. A few people chuckled. Delphie smiled.
“Rodney, have you ever, even for a moment stopped loving Yvonne?”
“Not since the moment I met her,” Rodney said.
“Did you ever believe she didn’t love you?”
“Never,” Rodney said. “She has this ability to love that… Only the Lord himself can love better.”
“Have you ever doubted her love?”
“In the dark moments, the evil violence and horror…” Rodney’s deep voice came like a sigh. He fell to his knees. His large hands covered his face.
“Dad!” Tanesha jumped up to rush to him. Delphie gestured for her to sit down. A shocked silence fell over the chapel.
“I am not worthy of her love,” Rodney said.
Yvonne dropped down to him.
“They need your help,” Delphie said to the audience. “Will you love them?”
“I love you!” Tanesha ran forward. She wrapped herself around her mother and father.
“I love you!” Dionne’s voice launched a chorus of voices around the chapel. The sound of “I love you” from voices young and old filled the air with sound. A tinkle of piano music joined the sound until the piano came to a halt.
“I love you!” Katy’s voice gave the last blessing.
“Jeraine?” Delphie gestured for him to get Tanesha.
Jeraine peeled Tanesha off her parents and held her tight. He led her back to their seats. Delphie nodded to Bumpie and Dionne. They helped Yvonne and Rodney to their feet. Bumpie held Rodney in place. Yvonne put her arm around him.
“Rodney?” Delphie asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Rodney said.
Delphie held out the candle lighter. Bumpie helped Rodney step forward.
“Everyone now, they need your help?” Delphie asked. “Repeat after me. My love…”
“My love,” Rodney’s voice was so low it was barely audible under the crowd.
“…washes away,” Rodney said with everyone else.
Rodney’s eyes went to the heavens.
“You can do it,” a man’s voice yelled from the audience.
“Just let it go,” Sam yelled.
“I love you Dad,” Tanesha said.
“My love washes away my doubt,” Delphie repeated.
“My love washes away…” Rodney swallowed hard. He turned to look at Yvonne.
“I love you, Rodney,” Yvonne said.
He nodded and looked back at Delphie.
“What am I supposed to say?” he asked.
“My love washes away my doubt,” Delphie said.
Rodney nodded to Bumpie and his best friend stepped back. He looked at the window in front of them. A dark skinned man and woman held a two year old child that looked just much like Tanesha. From the farthest corner of his mind, he remembered holding his daughter for the first time. A flood of emotion came over him. He wiped his eyes and smiled.
“My love washes away my doubt,” Rodney said. “I am worthy of being loved.”
The audience cheered.
“Will you join him?” Delphie asked. “I am worthy of being loved.”
“I am worthy of being loved,” everyone said.
“You may light your candle,” Delphie said.
Rodney took the lighter from Delphie and lit the piece of pink candle. The audience cheered. Delphie nodded. He hugged Yvonne.
“Rodney and Yvonne would like to make a new vow,” Delphie said. “One they won’t have to break.”
The chapel became very still.
“Yvonne?” Delphie asked. “Your vow?”
Yvonne took a piece of paper from up her sleeve. Tanesha had written her vow down and helped her hide it right there.
“My soul belongs to you,” Yvonne said. “My love belongs to you.”
“My soul belongs to you,” Rodney said. “My love belongs to you.”
“For the rest of my life, I am yours – mind, body, and spirit,” Yvonne said.
“For the rest of my life, I am yours – mind, body, and spirit,” Rodney said without being prompted.
Delphie nodded and Rodney swooped Yvonne up in a kiss. Everyone cheered. When the cheering died down, Delphie said:
“Rodney and Yvonne need our help,” Delphie said. “In order to seal the reforging of this love, this vow, this bond, unbreakable, we must add the power of our love.
“Will you help?”
“We will,” the audience responded.
“Good, that’s very good,” Delphie smiled. “As you’ve done with word, do now with your heart.”
Delphie lit a green pillar candle.
“Close your eyes,” Delphie said. “In your mind, imagine love. Give it shape and color.”
Delphie let the silence drag.
“Full of love.”
She waited a few more minutes.
“Full of love.”
She allowed more time to pass.
“Imagine your love growing like an unbreakable balloon,” Delphie said. “It grows larger and larger and larger until it fills the room. Slowly, every so slowly, it grows to fill the city, the country, and the world.”
“I see it Mommy,” Katy whispered to Jill.
“I see it too,” Delphie whispered back. To the audience, she said, “You may open your eyes.”
A murmur went through the crowd. The ceremony was almost over.
“With the love in your heart, please greet your neighbor,” Delphie said. “We have done something incredible today. We have repaired a broken vow and reforged a perfect love. We’ve consecrated this sanctuary with the power of our love. We are now and forever family.”
Delphie watched everyone greet each other. The energy and noise in the chapel rose. Nash and Noelle came to her side. She gave them packages of small green candles.
“Before we leave,” Delphie said. Nash and Noelle went to the end of each pew to hand out the candles. “Please take this candle. We have a small reception with cake, champagne, and some appetizers in the ballroom. If you’re able to stay, please light your candle and set it on your table. If you’re not able to stay, please take this candle to your home and light it. Let the candle burn down to send the love we’ve shared here out into the world.
“Know that you are welcome in this sanctuary any time. Feel free to come in mind, body, and spirit.”
“Now,” Delphie said. “May I introduce you to Rodney and Yvonne Smith.”
The audience applauded.
“Kiss, kiss, kiss,” a chant began at the back of the chapel.
Rodney kissed Yvonne again and everyone cheered.
“Before we leave, MJ?” Delphie asked.
MJ stood up with Honey in his arms.
“They are waiting for you upstairs,” Delphie said. “You know where to go?”
“We’re going to go to the hospital,” MJ said.
“We worked this out while you were gone,” Delphie said. “Everyone please. MJ and Honey need to get upstairs and have a baby.”
MJ slipped past the people in his row and ran out of the chapel.
“Steve? Colin? Off you go,” Delphie said.
Steve Roper and Colin Hargreaves got up and ran after them.
“Let’s let them get where they need to go,” Delphie said. “If you can spare one, please send a prayer for Honey and the baby. Feel free to come celebrate in the ballroom. If we’re lucky, we’ll welcome a baby soon.”
They waited a few minutes and Delphie nodded to Yvonne and Rodney. Like royalty, they walked down the aisle and everyone followed them.
“How did it go?” Sam asked when the chapel was almost empty. He helped Delphie out of her robe.
“Perfectly,” Delphie said. “Thanks for waiting for me.”
“Shall we go help Honey?” Sam asked.
Arm in arm, they went upstairs to wait for Honey and the baby.
Saturday early morning – 2:15 a.m.
“You know they closed Pete’s Kitchen for remodeling,” U.S. Marshal Jasper said to his partner U.S. Marshal Kowalski.
“Oh that’s right,” U.S. Marshal Kowlaski pulled the dark sedan to a stop at the corner of Race and Colfax. “There’s Mama’s Café.”
“Let’s just go to the 7-11 there,” U.S. Marshal Jasper said. “They make coffee all night.”
“Roger that,” U.S. Marshal Kowalski said. He pulled the dark sedan into the parking lot and parked under a street lamp next to a gorgeously refurbished 1964 Thunderbird convertible with the license plate “MSTSDDY.”
“Now that’s a nice car,” U.S. Marshal Jasper said. “Don’t you think so?”
He turned around in the passenger seat to look at Aaron Alvin who was sitting in their back seat. His wrists were handcuffed to the loop in the seat and his ankles were shackled through a loop in the floor. U.S. Marshal Kowalski got out of the car.
“Hey, where you guys going?” Aaron Alvin asked.
“We need to get some coffee and maybe a snack or two,” U.S. Marshal Jasper said. “It’s a long drive to North Dakota and we don’t plan to stop along the way.”
“You can’t just leave me here,” Aaron Alvin said. “What if they come for me?”
“What if they do?” U.S. Marshal Jasper shrugged. “These window are tinted so dark your own mother won’t see you inside. The glass is bullet proof and the car is armored. We need to get something to sustain us on our way out of town.”
U.S. Marshal Jasper got out of the car. He made sure the car was locked and slowly walked across the parking lot and into 7-11. He was almost to the door when he heard a woman laugh the way she does when she’s really happy. He turned to watch.
A tall, muscular black man about his age carried the most beautiful woman he had ever seen across the parking lot. They were laughing and talking over each other. While they both wore jeans, she was carrying a bundle of flowers as if they’d been at a party. He set the woman on the trunk of the Thunderbird and kissed her in the hard way that indicated that sex was imminent. She giggled. He swooped her up and set her in the passenger seat.
From where he stood, he could see his dark sedan rock as his prisoner jerked against his restraints. The man in the Thunderbird glanced over at the car and then cast a brief look at the Marshal. He jogged around his vehicle and got in the passenger seat.
“Where are we going?” the beautiful woman asked.
“Paris,” the man said.
“Really? Paris?” The woman’s voice was sweet that U.S. Marshal Jasper couldn’t help but smile. “But I don’t have a passport and I didn’t pack anything.”
“I have it,” the man leaned over to kiss her again. “A present from some of our friends.”
He gave her the passport. She opened it and leaned over to kiss him again. The U.S. Marshal’s car jerked and shuttered with increasing violence. It was a good thing the car was so heavy or Aaron Alvin might have tipped it over.
“I don’t care if you’re naked all week,” the man said. “You?”
She kissed him. They kissed for a while before he leaned back against his seat to catch his breath.
“Are we really going to Paris for a week?” the woman asked.
“Unless you want to stay longer,” he said.
“I don’t know,” the woman said. “Do I have to decide now?”
“We can decide when we’re there,” the man said. “But we’d better get going or we’ll miss our flight.”
With that, he backed the Thunderbird out of the parking space. He waved to U.S. Marshal Jasper and took off out of the parking lot.
“That’s so sweet,” U.S. Marshal Kowalski set a cup of coffee in U.S. Marshal Jasper’s hand.
“Yeah,” U.S. Marshal Jasper said. “Nothing beats real love.”
“Nothing at all,” U.S. Marshal Kowalski looked at their car. “You think our prisoner hurt himself?”
“Don’t want to have to clean up the mess,” U.S. Marshal Kowalski said.
“I guess we better go see,” U.S. Marshal Jasper cast one last look in the direction of the Thunderbird and walked to their car.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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