by M. Mitch Marmel & E.O. Costello
© 2010 By E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
All characters © E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
I nod and hold my arm out for him. I fake a shiver (pretty easy, actually), knowing that he’d assume I’m too jittery to talk. Keep the Willow accent firmly in place, girl.
“Thank you, Inspector. I’m honored,” I manage to say, in a voice just above a stage whisper. It’s easy to make my voice quiver.
I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears anyway.
I feel his paw on my arm, the grip gentle, yet firm. A snuffling sound and he says quietly, “Iv I bay, you loog woddervul. I am remindet of by wedding.”
(Oh, God . . .)
“By wive . . . by lade wive . . . well, id wazn’t a jurj wedding, bud zhe still looged beaudivul.”
“By eldest dotter would be your age bow.”
(Da . . .)
A pause. “I am . . . honowed . . . you loog zo beaudivul . . . juzt az I thing zhe would, had zhe married.”
I couldn’t take it any longer.
And that’s why the doors swung open to reveal me hugging Inspector Stagg.
I swear on a stack of Bibles, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Willow stopped hugging Franklin and smoothed herself out, then offered her arm again. He took her paw, a gesture that forced a collective “Aw” from most of the women in the church.
I felt my heart swell at the sight of them. Franklin may hate dressing up, but I recalled him wearing a tux in Tillamook, so I knew he’d clean up nice.
And in his white formal uniform he looked magnificent. He was having a bit of trouble breathing through his nose, so I guessed that the attar at the altar made a minus for the sinus.
Willow, though . . .
Her gown was an avalanche of white. Brocaded lace sleeves from her wrists to her shoulders and a mountain of white silk starting from her shoulders and down to the hoops and stays that made her look like a princess from some fairy tale. Her cleavage was screened from inquiring eyes by the same kind of lace that covered her sleeves, and she wore a heavy veil secured by a fillet of seed pearls.
I glanced over at Lover Boy, who looked dumbstruck (well, more than usual). Les caught my eye, reached over without even looking and closed Reggie’s gaping muzzle with a forefinger.
They reached the appointed spot and stopped as the music reached its end, and Father Merino stepped forward. The altarkit held open the missal for him as he spoke.
“In nomine Patris, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus,” the ram intoned, signing the cross. “My friends, we are gathered here today to shackle this poor fool to this conniving wench . . . “ His voice trailed off as he suddenly realized what he was saying.
Dead silence in the church, broken by a deep chuckle, then a laugh.
Coming from the one fur no one would have ever suspected.
Lord Josslyn Buckhorn stopped laughing and grinned at his son. “Got you,” he said.
The rest of the congregation saw the joke, and several of the girls giggled.
Willow bowed her head, either trying not to laugh or asking for strength, I couldn’t tell.
Merino cleared his throat and removed the offending paper from his book while giving the altarkit a look. “Ahem. We are gathered here today in the sight of God and in the presence of this company to witness the marriage of Willow Fawnsworthy and Reginald Buckhorn. If there is any here who knows any just reason why these two should not joined together in marriage let him speak now, or forever hold his peace.”
I half-expected a few of the girls from the Lotus to say something. A couple told me that they liked Willow and thought it a damned shame she was taking herself off the market.
No one said anything, and Merino asked, “Who is here to give this woman in marriage?”
“I do,” Franneleh said. Poor buck, he sounds like his nose is really stuffed up.
He gently led Willow forward to Reggie’s side and as he turned to walk to his seat she gave him a brief, gentle hug.
Like I said.
Not a dry eye in the house.
Franklin gained his seat and leaned over to the Brushes. I could hear him ask, "I beg your poddon, Mizzuz Brush. Do you hab a natib rebedy for nose codes?"
I was certainly surprised at Joss.
I really hadn’t expected him to display his sense of humor at this point, but he sat back after pulling his practical joke, looking very pleased with himself.
And he has the nerve to ask where Reggie’s playfulness comes from.
Inspector Stagg blew his nose as the service began. My heart really went out to him, especially as Vee and Willow had given me the whole story. I also found myself agreeing with Vee that he was made of sterner stuff than anyone else assumed.
I was starting to get worried that Reggie's attention was drifting. Now, I'll grant you that I was no mastermind during my own wedding to Inocenta, but then again, my wedding (thank the Architect) wasn't being billed as a Social Event.
Father Merino was reading straight from the script, and was expecting everyone else to follow it, which shows you how even a Jesuit can be naïve. I mean, he had had a lot of experience with deer just over the last year or so...
Anyway, things were working up to the climax of the show, and Merino looked up to deliver the questions that everyone was waiting to hear.
He discovered what I had already noticed. Namely:
Reggie had lifted Willow's veil, and was rubbing gently at her cheek ruff with a forefinger. He wore a totally dazed expression. I mean, one vastly more dazed than I'd ever seen him use, and that was saying something enormous.
Willow, for her part, was flagging furiously, and her eyes were locked on Reggie's. I don't think she was paying much attention to Merino, either.
I shot a quick glance at Merino, who seemed mildly annoyed, especially since the altarkit had started to snigger slightly.
"Do you, Reginald Patrick Roderick Buckhorn, take Willow Diana Fawnsworthy to be your mate, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death do you part?"
Now there was a "gimme" if I ever saw one. But Reggie continued to merely brush Willow's cheek ruff gently. I'll grant you, Willow was showing not the slightest objection, and I'll further grant you that the audience was on Reggie's side. But still.
Merino's look was split between the very happy and totally besotted couple on the one paw, and the increasingly insubordinate altarkit, who was enjoying this greatly. A not so deferential clearing of the throat didn't help matters.
As best mel, it was my duty to right things.
So I gave Reggie a gentle kick in the ankle.
In hindsight, maybe a kick to the head would have been better, though I doubt he would have felt it there, either. Eventually, Reggie's thoughts drifted over to me.
"Oh! What ho, Les."
There was not much I could say to that, so I just shifted my eyes meaningfully at Merino, back to Reggie, back to Merino, and back to Reggie. He eventually got it, and beamed at the ram.
Merino mumbled something to himself, which I imagine was some sort of act of contrition, and then repeated the question.
Reggie turned back to Willow, and for an awful moment, I thought he'd relapse, since he started to brush her cheekfur again.
But no, he came out with a rather soft and pleasant "Right-ho!" Merino rather generously took that as a "yes," and turned with some relief to the doe of the duo.
"Do you, Willow Diana Fawnswor..."
Merino looked up, startled. He continued on, gamely.
"...take Reginald Patrick Rod..."
"...Buckhorn to be your mate..."
"...in sickness and in health..."
”Yes and yes."
At this point, Merino gave up, especially since the couple had proceeded directly to the kissing, skipping the bit about the proclaiming of buck and doe, and skipping the bit about the ring.
Well, who comes to see the best mel, anyway.
The audience got what it wanted, and there was lots of applause and lots of tears. (Some of which were going to be coming from the altarkit, if I was any judge of the glare he was getting.)
Inspector Stagg, I noticed, had his chin on the top of his cane, and his eyes closed. He looked very lost in thought, his mind somewhere else.
The Inspector bowed out shortly before the end of the service, slipping through a side door as the string quartet started to play Mendelssohn’s wedding march and my son and daughter-in-law marched down the aisle, followed by Rosie (wiping away a tear) flanked by Leslie.
The bride and groom were preceded down the aisle by a photographer from the Mirror, a lean feline fellow in a suit long past mark of mouth who took snap after snap.
Throughout the ceremony I had kept glancing at my mate. Josslyn started looking subdued after playing his little joke, as if he had a lot on his mind.
No doubt, part of it might have had to do with his own wedding. It had been rather a hurried affair, I recall, based largely around the fact that he’d seduced his secretary (namely, me) in the upstairs library of his parent’s house in England.
My word, where does the time go?
Now he looked a bit apprehensive, surveying the scene in the church through his monocle with a rather bleak air. As I’ve said, Josslyn has been flinching at the sound of church bells, which could indicate that he’s aware now that he might not live forever. He isn’t reading the obituary pages in the newspapers with the same relish he used to.
At some point he’ll have to face it, and start making arrangements.
But that’s for another day.
Right now we emerged into bright sunshine, the rest of the congregation showering the happy bride and groom with rice as Reggie helped Willow into a ricksha to take them back to Shepherd’s. We boarded our own, and as we set off I could see a slim canine girl walking down a side alley.
She seemed rather angry, for some reason.
Franneleh hadn’t hung around, and I can’t say as I blamed him.
I’ll have to drop by Printer’s Lane later.
But for now we had a reception to attend.
Chef Joseph certainly believed in doing things up properly. Instead of the usual cakes and finger foods you normally expect at a reception, l’Etoile was set up for a full wedding dinner, with plenty of tables and seats and the food arrayed for service, buffet-style.
There was even a dance floor set up outside, on the terrace overlooking the gardens.
The Chef himself was presiding over the serving line in state, all snowy white uniform and broad smile.
I thought I saw several of the girls from the Lotus slipping him phone numbers (and, in one case, underwear).
The dessert table included small cream tarts and small cubes of delicate sponge cake with different types of frosting. I asked a waiter what they were and he said they were “Le gateau petit de Krimpette au butterscotch.”
He added that they were a specialty from Philadelphia.
Everyone sat down to a wonderful dinner. I was seated between Reggie and Les, and tried hard to stop laughing at the sight of Willow trying to engage her new father-in-law in conversation. The Blivet looked like he was slightly off his feed.
With dinner done and the dishes cleared, some of the revelers started to get up and mingle. They moved out of the way, though, when an aisle was cleared by a squad of busfurs.
Chef Joseph led the cake in, borne on the shoulders of four brawny waiters. The cake was five layers tall, with cervine statuettes atop it.
Willow and Reggie held paws as they walked up to the cake, and the Poodle from Paris opened a velvet-lined box with a flourish and presented a sterling silver cake server.
The happy couple held paws as they cut the cake, and everyone applauded as they shared the first piece.
I found myself blinking away tears again.
I could really see myself and a certain buck in formal white uniform standing there.