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JoAnne De Soto and Kathy Kildare looked at Lee and did not have a clue what they could say to stop the hurt look in her eyes. They both were so angry with the salesclerk neither dared to say a word. When she finally got her emotions undercontrol, Lee opened her purse and took out a bottle of aspirin swallowing 4 of them. Jo cringed at the thought of taking aspirin dry.
“Didn’t I tell you to stop that?” Kathy scolded her. “You take way too many of those a day.”
“I take too many an hour some days and some days I don’t take any. So tell me how bad it is and find me something stronger that works but doesn’t make me feel like as zombie.” She bit her lip. “I’m sorry…just because I’m in a bad mood I don’t have to be rude to you.” She laid her head back and closed her eyes. “What did she gain by being so mean and hateful?”
“Mean petty people like her only feel good about themselves when they’re making others feel bad.” Jo said. “You can almost feel sorry that they are so miserable in their own lives.”
“You maybe, me not so much….” Kathy said with a groan. “I just wanted to smack her …”
”You’re the one who is supposed to tell me not to say things like that…You’re the proper British lady.” Lee said laughing. “Your mum gave up on me years ago.”
“You know she hates it when you call her that…and I’m American not British. I was born here and have lived all my life here …well except when we were …” Kathy was glad Lee was laughing now. When they had gotten back into the car, she was close to tears.
“Hope the guys are having a better day. Johnny sounded tired and they still have another 16 hours or so left on this shift. He said the longer shifts were easier than pulling a double since you knew you would be at your station. We are not going to mention this morning to him, right. He would just get upset and he does not need to worry about me.
“Did you two go up to the Bed and Breakfast yet?”
“No he has been working so much overtime …when he is off he sleeps or just lies around the pool. He slept four hours out by the pool. Maria would not let the kids out to swim until he woke up. Then he stayed out and watched them but never got in the pool. He keeps telling me he is ok but I’m worried.”
“Roy slept through the kids and their friends being over playing out in the back. They try to be quiet but still it gets a little loud and there was even construction work going on across the street and he never heard it.”
“Let’s check about the flowers and then have lunch. Even without the numbers we can get an idea of what you want and if it’s possible.”
“Oh it will be possible,” Kathy said with a smile. “This is one dream that is coming true.” She remembered when Lee had told her about her dream wedding and how it would never happen with her dream prince or anyone. “Even better than the old one?”
“Much…Johnny would be fine with just getting married at the apartment with you and the guys and the Alvarez family…Maybe that is what we should do. A white sundress…”
“NO!” Kathy and JoAnne both said. “You and Johnny are having a grand wedding with all your family and friends and all the pomp and circumstance…You deserve it and that’s what you are getting.” Jo looked like she could have easily smacked that old crow who had told Lee it was ridiculous someone like her would even think about a wedding dress from their shop. As horrible as the words had been the tone of her voice and the smirk on her face had been worse. She had just went on and on…the dress would be ruined if she bunched it up in that chair and how would they even beable to fit her…the inconvenience and problems it would cause…
Johnny and Roy finished hanging the hoses and went into get some ice tea. Johnny checked the clock. “Wonder how the girls are doing? She was really excited about looking for a dress…Glad we don’t have to worry about all that.” The guys were wearing their dress uniforms. “I went back to the jewelry store where I got her ring…I ordered her a set of earrings and a necklace for a wedding gift. They’re designing it so no one else will have a set like it.” He rinsed his glass out and put it in the drainer. “Can you believe all she has gotten done already? Jo said that no one in their right mind would try to plan a huge wedding in such a short time.” Roy listened to Johnny smiling. In the two weeks, since he had asked Lee to marry him his usual rants had been replaced by wedding plans and plans for their future.
“Gage, she agreed to marry you…Doesn’t that give you a clue she might not be in her right mind?” Chet said as he came into the kitchen. “And she seems to be so smart in all the other stuff…did you see how fast she did the math the other night figuring out how much the flowers would be? Man can you believe that much money for flowers?”
“If she wants 20 dozen roses then I’ll get her 20 dozen roses…or whatever else she wants…Soon as this shift is over we’re gonna go check out a few places to have the wedding…soon as we do that we’ll get the invitations printed.” He shook his head and went out to the clean the yard and get it ready to mow. Roy looked at Chet.
“You amaze me…you gonna keep pushing his buttons until he decks you? And when he gets hauled into headquarters I’ll be there to defend him.” Roy‘s facial expression let Chet know he was dead serious. “Ride him all you like but don’t let him think you’re being unkind to her."
The SCU toned in, “Squad 51 Engine 51 structure fire at 377N. Crammer …3 …7...7 N. Crammer…. cross street Ryan Dr….time out…10:22. Cap responded and handed Johnny the slip as he came back into the bay.
The small wooden building was being used as storage. There was a little of everything in it from papers to old paint cans according to the owner, a gentleman in his eighties.
“My grandsons and their friends put stuff in there once in awhile...I haven’t been out there for years. They were out there earlier …Thought they had gone but their bikes are still here.”
“Roy, John there maybe kids in there.” Cap yelled two paramedics. They quickly suited up and got their air tanks on. The building wasn’t much larger than a 2 car garage but there was rows of boxes stacked everywhere. The smoke was thick and had an oily feel to it.
They made their way slowly through the maze of boxes. Roy found the first boy lying half under a stack of boxes that had fallen over. Taking off his glove, he felt for a pulse. It was there. Looking around he saw Johnny bending over another boy. Johnny had taken his mask off and had it on the boy. Roy frowned but continued moving the boxes. They were large but not heavy. He soon had his patient freed and did a quick assessment. The boy was unconscious but had no apparent broken bones or spinal injuries. He had also given the boy his mask.
“Johnny, get out now.” He couldn’t explain exactly what he heard but he knew they had to get out of there now. Carefully picking up the boys they made their way towards the front. Roy went first with Johnny close behind. Roy made it to the edge of the yard before the loud explosion rocked the area. Johnny was closer to the building and felt the wave of hot air and debris hit him in the back.
Struggling, he managed to keep his balance and to protect the semiconscious 10 year old boy he was carrying. Each step was harder and he was finding it hard to keep his balance. Marco was beside him and took the boy and Chet took him by the elbow guiding him to Roy. Johnny felt his legs turning to rubber as he twisted slightly side’s way.
“Roy, he’s hurt” Chet said as he eased Johnny to the ground and stood behind him his eyes widening as he saw his friend’s back.
“J…Just a … little too…. Much …. Smoke,” he got out between coughs. “Give me a minute.” The coughing made the ache in his shoulders worse and was out of rhythm with the drumming in his head.
“Marco gets him on 6 liters of O2...” Roy ordered as he continued checking the vital signs of the boy Marco had brought to him.
“Roy, its more than smoke he’s got a piece of wood sticking out his shoulder.” Chet said as he watched Johnny twist more sideways. “There’s blood.”
“Kelly, don’t joke ‘bout stuff like that.” Johnny growled taking off the oxygen mask Marco had just put on him. “Don’t you think I’d know…?” Before he could finish the sentence he slumped over as his vision faded to black. Chet repositioned him so he was lying on his side
Roy was on the bio phone with Rampart when he heard the additional engine that Cap had called for arriving soon followed by squad 36. Cap had called for it when he saw Johnny staggering out of the building. Doug Stone and Jay Cameron were soon taking care of the two boys so Roy could move over to his partner…
“Junior, come on open your eyes.” Roy ordered his partner as he began taking his vitals after Chet helped him take Johnny’s right arm out of the heavy coat, not disturbing the 10 inch long piece of splintered broom handle sticking out of his left shoulder. Roy winced when he saw the bruise showing from under the shaggy black hair. “Chet, did he have his helmet on?”
“Yeah it was kind of cockeyed but he had it on for a change.” Chet answered watching as Johnny’s eyes opened slowly then closed again as the light sent a stabbing pain through his head. Chet picked up the helmet from where he’d dropped when he put the oxygen mask on Johnny. “There are some cracks on this thing. Man whatever blew in there must have been heavy duty.”
Rampart we have a third victim a code I…male 25 years old…he has a bruise on the back of his neck at the hairline…he was wearing his helmet…there is a 10 inch piece of a splintered broom handle imbedded in his back through his turnout coat, There is blood visible on the coat. He is unconscious but showing sign of waking up…pupils are equal and reactive. Vitals are BP110/70 respirations are 20 pulse 60.”
“Squad 51 starts an IV of D5WTKO. Secure the splintered wood and transport as soon as possible. Keep him quiet as possible so not to dislodge that wood.”
“Come on junior wake up.”
Cap had walked over there and heard Chet’s comment. “The old guy that lives here just told me his grandson builds off road racers as a hobby and is a welder. What you want to bet he had tanks stored in there? Said the kid’s mom won’t let him keep them at her house---thinks they’re too dangerous.”
“Hu…rts,” Johnny opened his eyes. “F…f eel’s fu… nny…” His eyes were closed but Roy knew he was working to open them. “Gonna b…beee sick?” He opened his eyes and tried to turn. Roy, Cap and Chet helped him and waited for what little he had in his stomach to clear his system.
“Chet take the squad in. Soon as we clean up we’ll come to Rampart. Is Lee there today?”
“No, she is wedding gown shopping with Jo and Kathy. Emily had already made plans with someone when they asked her to go along.”
“Ok…we’ll have to try to get a hold of her…”
Lee and her friends drove to the flower shop without the usual laughter and chatter. Lee was trying to figure out how to get everyone comfortably arranged around the pool and decided that wouldn’t work. Maybe her “cousin” Amos would let her use his garden. Amos’ great grandfather and her grandmother had been second cousins and Lee had jokingly called him her cousin for years. His home in Beverly Hills had a lush garden and…maybe it could be a nice substitute for the wedding he had promised her 10 years ago.
Jo was thinking about what Johnny had told her about the night of the engagement party. Lee had thrown up because she was so scared his friends would think she wasn’t good enough to marry him because of the chair. What no one else (including Johnny) knew was that after hearing Chet Kelly’s attempt to be funny, Lee had taken the ring off and was going to give it back to Johnny the next day. She was praying that Lee wouldn’t consider that an option later this evening when she was alone.
Kathy was just plain mad at the whole situation. She had never seen Lee so completely happy and for the narrow minded old cow to ruin what should be a joyful time. But she had no doubt that Lee would handle it fine once she got her second wind. Besides her and Jo would make sure she did not get married in a white sundress.
Jo heard the sirens and pulled over to the side of the road. She watched the ambulance go by and then realized it was squad 51 behind it. She looked to see who was driving and with a sinking heart realized it was Chet. It could be the patient required both Roy and Johnny’s help but she had a horrible feeling it was not that simple. Lee had seen her reaction. “Who was driving?” Lee said softly.
“Chet….I’m almost positive.” She watched Lee’s face as she closed her eyes and said a quick prayer. She had done that most of her life…Maria had taught her that when she was little. Whenever you saw a policeman or a fireman at work always pray for their safety and the safety of those they are helping. Cisco was from a long line of law enforcement officers.
“Think I need to go check something in my office…” Lee‘s smile was forced but she managed not to cry. “Guess I need to get used to this…”
“You don’t get used to it you learn to live with it and control the fear…when Johnny’s friend Drew died…he told me he was glad he didn’t have a family…but that wasn’t true then…and it certainly isn’t true now. And remember if you ever get to feeling too scared or lonely or just plain mad you’ve got me…Em and Melissa and a lot of others to talk to and lean on.”
Kathy wondered why they were so sure it was Johnny and not Roy who was injured. Lee saw the look on her face. “A scary and sad side effect of my job…not only do they have the highest survival rate for serious injuries and illnesses but they have the highest rate of injuries to personnel …and Johnny has more than Roy. He doesn’t give up easy…and he will do anything he can not to lose a patient.”
“I think it would be ok if you explained…” Jo said reading the expression on Lee’s face.
“You already know Johnny lost his parents…his dad was killed in an oil rig fire when he was 8...that’s what drives him…He never wants to see that look on another child’s face…or another wife when they are told …When they lose someone it tears him up…makes him feel like a failure.” Kathy heard the quiver in her friend’s voice and saw the pain she felt for the kind gentle man she loved so much. “Shall we go see what they got themselves into now?”
Carol was at the desk when Lee and her friends came in. “Dr. Brackett has him in treatment 3...Dixie is in with them.”
“Lee why don’t we go into the doctor’s lounge?” Jo suggested. Carol nodded as she caught the look of the new nurse who clearly disapproved of Jo’s suggestion.
“Any idea what exploded in there?” Kel asked as he was probing the edges of the wound.’’
“No the old guy who lived there said he hadn’t been in there in years …His grandsons keep stuff in there and there may been a welding tank…” Roy said as he helped hold his partner still. “How are the boys?”
“Good…a few cuts and bruises nothing serious thanks to you two…Apparently they were mixing up some concoction to power a balloon racer for a school project.” He gave Johnny another shot to numb the area before he began cleaning the debris from the edges. “My guess would be bleach and ammonia…There was enough ventilation that while it made them pass out it wasn’t as serious as it could have been.”
“Hey handsome what was Lee doing today? I didn’t see her this morning.” Dixie wanted Johnny to relax and stop trying to turn to see what was going on behind him. Kel hadn’t wanted to put him out completely since he’d been unconscious earlier. Busy making plans?”
“Dress shop...ping,” He hissed as Kel pulled on a particularly stubborn splinter. “Flowers.”
“Good…there... that is the last of them…” He stitched up the incision he had made getting the giant splinter out. “Your turnout protected you... that splinter acted like an arrow…had enough force behind it to bury its self about an inch and a half in your back. Missed everything vital just gonna be sore …You know the routine. X-rays were good on your head…just take it easy for a few days.”
Dix went back to the desk where Carol was finishing up a chart. “What’s with Kramer? She looks like someone gave her a lemon to suck on.” Dixie said as she watched the older nurse walk by.
“Don’t think she approved I sent Lee and her friends to the doctor’s lounge to wait.” Carol answered with a shrug. “I figured the rest of the guys would be here soon and Lee didn’t need that to hear them going over the details till she talked to you or Dr. Brackett.”
“You did right. Leave Kramer to me.”
The three were at the table Lee making a list of things they needed to do. The big party at the FOP Park was next weekend. Mrs. Lopez was helping Maria. In the short time they had known each other Maria and Mrs. Lopez had became very good friends. Anything to keep busy…They all jumped when Dixie came in.
“Thought you were out shopping for a special dress?” Dixie teased. “And a million faerie roses?”
Lee relaxed knowing Dix wouldn’t be teasing if he wasn’t ok. “We saw Chet driving the squad. How is he? Can I see him?”
“He is fine…and I would say you can take him home in a little bit. He won’t be lifting your chair or you in and out of the car.”
“I can get in out of my car fine... it’s when he insists on taking his car.”
“I think he just likes holding onto you…He always gives you that smile when he lifts you.” Kathy said teasing her. “And he knows he’ll get a kiss when he sits you down.” It was nice to hear her giggle at that.
“A cheerful bunch in here,” Kel said as he came in. “You can take that hose jockey of yours home and put him to bed. At your place if you don’t mind. I know you’ll keep him in line.”
“I have never seen the inside of his apartment. Has nothing to do with my virtue,” At the upraised eyebrow and smirk Kel gave her. “I refuse to let him carry me up 2 flights of stairs.” He laughed. Seriously, anything I need to do for him?”
“Just keep him from lifting anything or moving around anymore than necessary.…no swimming or getting the stitches wet for 48 hours…call if there is any increase in temperature or excessive pain. He has a headache and I gave him a shot that should help that. So once you get him settled he should asleep most of the day. Do you think you’ll have any trouble getting him up to your apartment?”
“Nope...In fact I can make sure…I’ll call Maria if Hector or Eddie aren’t available she’ll make sure someone is there to help.
“Go see Johnny I’ll call her.” Kathy said pointing to the door.
Lee was almost to the treatment room when Nurse Kramer stopped her. “Where do you think you’re going? Authorized personnel only in the treatment rooms.”
“Dr. Brackett said I could go in. Now if you’ll excuse me.” The nurse had moved so she was standing in front of the doorway. “I told you Kel said I could go in…please move. …NOW.” Her voice low the tone deadly. Her friends may joke about her being spoiled but Lee really tried to be nice and not cause problems. This was beyond anything she would tolerate especially after the way the clerk treated her that morning.
Kel and Dixie heard Lee’s tone of voice as they turned the corner. They saw Nurse Kramer grab the wheelchair by the arms and push it backwards. “I said you weren’t authorized to go in there…Until Dr. Brackett tells me himself…and I am sure he will agree hospital policy…”
“I don’t need you to interpret hospital policy nurse. Lee, are you ok?”
Near tears, she shook her head. “She wouldn’t let me see Johnny.” She turned so she was facing him. “Why? Why do people see this wheelchair and think that gives them the right to treat me like I am a nobody?” She did not wait to hear an answer but went in to see Johnny. “Roy, Jo is in the doctor’s lounge. Hi, Chet… thank you for taking good care of him.
“Come on Chet; let’s go say hi to Jo before we leave, check with you later.”
“Wake up sweet heart.” She kissed his hand. “I need you to wake up so we can go home….” He moved slightly and she held on tighter. “I need you to smile at me…It’s not been a very good day for either of us…But you’ll make it ok once you smile at me.” She held his hand absent-mindedly rubbing the top of it in little light circles.
“Feels good. Sorry you had a bad day…”pose to be a good one.” His voice was soft and caring. “What’s wrong?”
“After we get home and you rest.” As if it had been scripted Roy, Jo, Chet and Kathy came in. Roy was pushing a wheelchair and Jo with the discharge papers and instructions.
“Too much trouble for you.” Johnny said.
“Don’t do that to me…not today…not you too.” Lee said with a sigh. “Please not you too.” Lee started to wheel away but he had a hold of her. She had to stop afraid to pull on the stitches Kel had put in earlier. “Let Roy help you so we can go home. We’ll talk then.”
“Ok.” He was not sure exactly what had happened but he knew she had been hurt somehow No one had a lot to say on the way back to the apartment. Johnny had fallen asleep again. Lee was relieved to see Hector and Cisco there when they pulled into the parking lot. Johnny woke up when Hector slammed the tailgate shut after getting Lee’s chair. Johnny started to get out of the car and would have fallen if Cisco had not been standing there.
“Come on mijo, you’re a little too wobbly.” They got him settled in Jeff’s old room.
Kathy checked the stitches and gave him the meds Kel had sent. “Ya know Kathy, I have a feeling you could get rich being this one’s doctor.” Cisco said with a grin as Lee frowned.
“Not even funny besides Kel is his doctor. Thank you.” She giggled at the shocked look on Kathy’s face.
Everyone left and Lee went in and changed into sweats. It had been a crazy day.
She had dealt with all kinds of reactions to her chair before but that clerk today had been horrible and then the nurse and Johnny’s reaction had been the last straw. Maybe this wedding was a bad idea. She knew Chet had been teasing Johnny about being so slow he got caught by a wheelchair. She had heard him at the pool party for A shift the Sunday after they got engaged. Was she being fair to him?
“A penny for your thoughts?” She had not heard him come into the room. He was moving slow but was steady on his feet.
“Can I get you something?” He carefully sat down in Jeff’s recliner.
“No I need to ask you a question. Did I say or do something wrong? At the hospital?”
“No, “she answered not wanting to deal with how his reaction had hurt her feelings
“Good because I was pretty foggy from the bump and from the stuff they gave me to stitch me up…Didn’t know if I said something …You seemed pretty sad.”
“I guess it was just seeing you hurting but I’m fine now. You hungry” She transferred back into her chair. “I made chicken salad yesterday… Make you a sandwich or a salad plate with fruit?”
“No thanks…so the dress hunting didn’t go well?”
“I’m gonna get a soda you want one or some tea?” She started towards the kitchen ignoring the question, which pretty much gave him the answer. When she came back in, she had a tray with some milk and a piece of cake on it as well as her soda.
“Thanks.” He watched her as she started out of the room again then turned back.
“No the dress hunting didn’t go well and I let someone make me feel small and stupid and ugly…because I wanted a beautiful wedding gown.”
“Wanted?” Alarmed at the flatness of her voice. “Don’t you still want one?”
“I don’t know…Maybe a small wedding would be better…not so involved. We could get married here around the pool…I could probably find a pretty plain white dress to wear…One that I wouldn’t ruin sitting in and wouldn’t be hard to fit and not inconvenience anyone.” She took a deep breath. “And Kel told me I could go see you this witch of a nurse wouldn’t let me … Then when I did…you looked so pale and in pain and …and then acted like you didn’t think I could take care of you.”
Johnny was drinking his milk as she said all this and he was trying not to laugh because he knew that would just make it worse but he couldn’t help himself. She glared at him and that just made him want to laugh even more. “Sweetheart, you know what Roy would say if he was here? He would tell you that you just had a Gage rant and be shaking his head. I am sorry those women were idiots. I never thought you couldn’t take care me and I’m sorry if I made you feel that way.” She looked at him trying to decide what to think. “Maybe tomorrow if everything goes ok we can go look at the gardens at the bed and breakfast. Plain or fancy you ‘re gonna be the most beautiful bride in the world.”
“I wasn’t going to tell you all this because I didn’t want you to think I’m a cry baby. But I knew the longer I held it in the worst my mood was going to get.”
“If I wasn’t so tired and this chair wasn’t so comfortable I’d come over there and kiss you.” He said as his eyes began to go half-mast.
“Put your feet up and sleep. Later I’ll fix us a nice dinner.” He laid back and she covered him with the blanket that she kept on the back of the couch. At least I can still do that right.”
Dixie was finishing up some charting when she saw Roy and Brice come in with patients. She had been thinking about calling Roy since she and Kel had a talk with Nurse Martha Kramer. Soon as Roy was finished in treatment room 2 she called him over to the desk. “Have you talked to Lee since they left?”
“Yeah a little while ago. Johnny was sleeping again. Reminded her he probably wouldn’t ask for any pain meds so watch and if he looked like he needed them give them. She sounded better.”
“Nurse Kramer has a bad attitude towards paramedics and an even worse one towards Lee.” Dixie told him. “If she is going to work in ER she better get over that quick. Kel let her know you all are valued members of the medical team….As for her problem with Lee I’m not sure what the answer is.”
“Lee can handle it…She would have run Kramer down with her wheelchair in a heartbeat to get to Johnny. I’d guess unless something else happens Lee will just ignore her.”
“Kramer better hope that Lee doesn’t decide to complain…People don’t realize how much influence she has with some pretty important people.” Dixie looked up and saw Brice coming out of the treatment room. “You doing ok with him?”
“Yea it helps knowing it only for this shift.….Johnny was lucky that turnout coat kept that wood from going in to deep.”
Lee was asleep on the couch when Johnny woke up. Johnny watched her thinking about what she had said about a small wedding and a plain white dress. He would be happy just going to the justice of the peace or a judge just with Roy and Jo there. But , she deserved the big fancy wedding with all their friends there. He wanted her to have her dream wedding in a special dress not just something she settled for because it was easy. He knew soon as he moved she would be awake but he had to get up. Trying to be quiet he let the foot rest down and stood up.
“Are you ok?” She asked as she sat up. “Is there anything I can get you?” She rubbed her eyes trying to wake up.
“I’m fine…You make sure you’re awake before you try to get up.” He smiled at her. “Thanks for taking such good care of me. We will Not have a small wedding around the pool and you will Not wear a plain white dress. I know this is important to you. So it makes it important to me too." He smiled at her disbelief.
"Roy teases about my lack of social skills…but I’m learning…Just be patient with me, ok?”
“Your social skills are fine. I was just having a hard time with that woman at the dress shop. Now are you hungry?”
“Yeah I am…You said something before about a chicken salad sandwich? On that good cheese bread from the bakery?”
A little after 10 Lee gave him his meds and they both went to bed. She had turned on the intercom so he could call her in the night if he needed anything. (Jeff had the intercom system put in when they redid the apartment after the wreck.) By 11:30, she was asleep. Lee was up by 7 but stayed in her room making some lists and just trying to get herself organized for the day after a quick shower. About nine, she heard Johnny getting up.
The smell of coffee and bacon greeted him as he came into the front room. The stereo was playing some soft jazz. The balcony table was set up for breakfast.
Lee was cutting up fruit when he came into the kitchen. She smiled when she saw him. His color was good and he was moving easier. “Good morning. Coffee is ready. Do you want pancakes, waffles or French toast?’
“Good morning to you…Is this what it’s going to be like when we’re married?” He was pouring a cup of coffee. “You looking beautiful and being very domestic?”
“Hopefully …except we won’t be coming out of 2 separate bedrooms,” she teased. She giggled when he turned red. “So what do you want?”
“Besides a kiss? Maybe French toast?” He put the cup down, went over, and kissed her. He was relieved to see the laughter in her eyes because yesterday it was gone.
She put the bread on the griddle and dished up some fresh fruit for him.
“You realize that the majority of people at this wedding will be medical, law enforcement or fire department personnel or their families?”
“Never thought of it…but I guess that is who we hang out with.” She put all 4 pieces of French toast on one plate and started to wheel over to the table. “Where’s your plate?”
“I have fruit and granola and yogurt over on the table healthy and good for me…Besides it’s what I like.”
“You know what I like?” He was moving his arm to see if it pulled on the stitches; it didn’t so he took the sling off and sat down.
“What?” As she moved to the table
“Seeing you smile and waking up to this…” She nodded and reached for his hand. “After breakfast we’ll go look at gardens…Bear said his friend was excited about us coming out there.”
“If you’re sure you feel like it. Remember this is your wedding too. I don’t want you to think everything has to be my way just because I do.” Giggling as she said it.
“What did Cisco tell me about Maria being the boss…think you’ll do just fine as the boss in our house.”
“Not our house our home…Any place can be a house…what I want for us is a home.” Johnny knew exactly what she meant. His apartment was his house…Roy and Jo’s place was his home. “A home where all our friends and family feel comfortable just dropping in and where we feel safe and secure.”
“That sounds perfect…Maybe someday we’ll build a house.”
“Since we own 75%f one of the biggest real estate development and property management companies in L.A. I don’t think that will be a problem…but for now I think staying here is best…like we talked about before.”
When did WE get 75 %?” He raised his eyebrow questioning her statement.
“Jeff told you his wedding present to you was 5% of the stock in WBS he has. And I have 70% I think.”
”I thought him and Matt were giving us plane tickets as a wedding present? I’m confused.” He did a double take. “You think you have 70%?”
“They are but Jeff is also giving you the stock and he has something for me but he wouldn’t tell me what it was. I think that’s it…maybe it’s more.”
“Every time I think I have you figured out you surprise me again…” Laughing as he said it.
“Well that’s good…because you wouldn’t want me to be boring would you?”
“I’m going to kill Chet Kelly one of these days…”
“Let me do it…the jury will feel sorry for the poor mousy girl in the wheelchair.” Seeing the look on his face. “I accepted his apology I didn’t say I forgot what he said.” She finished her fruit. “If we are going to Rose Hill I need to change …I’ll be ready in 5 minutes. “
The estate had belonged to a movie producer from the 1930’s. The house needed some repairs and updating but basically was in good repair. The huge terrace opened into a sweeping lawn with several garden areas. The couple who had bought it from a bank were trying to convert it into a bed and breakfast and event site. It was built on the plans of a French palace. There were stairs out front but also a ramp that had a low incline and had been added in such a way it seemed to have always been there. Lee had fallen in love with it as soon as she saw it. . Marshall and Cynthia Hogan were friends of Barry Baricza who was one of Johnny’s friends from CHP. Barry or Bear, as his friends called him, had suggested they check it out.
“The downstairs is all done and we have several of the guest room’s upstairs ready.” Marshall said as they looked around the ballroom. “If the weather turned bad we could move the tables in here and set up serving lines …or were you planning a sit down dinner? And how many people are you inviting?”
“This is where it gets interesting…We sending out 175 invitations so roughly 250 people from them but there are going to be open invitations going out to the LA County fire department, several law enforcement agencies and to Rampart hospital. My guess is another 100 to 125 from that. So we’ll plan on 350.” Marshall’s eyes got big. “Ok I have a question…is there a place downstairs we can use for a dressing room for me…Since stairs are not an option”
“The library would work fine and it’s near the small downstairs restroom. Actually, we have an elevator but are having trouble with it and are having even more trouble getting it fixed. The library will be big enough for you and several others. People can use the rooms upstairs. Seven of the twelve are ready for guests… The others just need some minor work and if I could get someone out here we’d be able to offer your guests a good rate for anyone who wanted to stay over.”
“What would you say if I guaranteed your rooms would be done and we’ll take all 12...And if you agree I can get people out here to help finish up with your garden work . But I have a favor to ask about that.”
“Like what?” Marshall was surprised at this offer. Barry had said his friend was a paramedic and what they were talking was big money.
“The beautiful stone planters along the terrace…if we provided them I really would like to fill them with faerie roses. Is that ok with you?”
“I have no problem with that…” Marshall said in shock. He had never met anyone like this before. When Bear had said they were a special couple he wasn’t kidding.
“You know what I think …anything you want you get.” Johnny smiled glad she was getting her dream and not settling for less. “That’s what your uncles and Kathy and Jo have been telling you just like I do.”
“If you want to talk to Cindy about food…She teaches pastry and some other food related classes at the local junior college…”
“Great we can get that settled…Every one told me I couldn’t get this wedding together in such a short time…”
“That sealed it…soon as they told you couldn’t--- you made up your mind to prove them wrong.” Johnny grinned as he said it. “They should know better than to underestimate you.”
“May I use your phone?” Lee asked as they were being settled in the dining room. “I need to call Ben and Hector…” Hector answered on the third ring and she explained what she wanted. He promised Eddie would be over there by 4 and that everything would be as she wanted. “The landscaping is taken care of. Eddie is great.” She dialed the number for WBS.
“WBS Real Estate Developers and Property Management. How may I direct your call?”
“Hi this is Lee Spencer. I need to talk to Ben Oliver, please.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Oliver is with Mr. Franklin. Mr. Franklin said they were not to be disturbed.”
“I suggest you find out exactly who I am… get him on the phone now, please.” Her tone left no room for questioning her.
“Yes Miss Spencer please hold.” She went over to the office door and knocked. “Mr. Oliver there is a Miss Spencer on the line…She said it was very important.”
“I thought I said we were not to be disturbed? If you can’t follow simple directions…”
“Quiet Ralph…Put the call through Janet and you did the right thing.” He frowned at the grumbling real estate broker. “Lee, my dear, what can I do for you?”
“I need a crew out at Rose Hill to finish up some remodeling and repairs. I’m having my wedding here. I think it would be nice if the bridal party except me and Johnny could stay here ….How soon can you have someone come out here and talk to the owner, Marshall Hogan? I’m paying for this so whatever they want they get.”
“There will be someone there by 6 if that works for Mr. Hogan.” Ben Oliver smiled thinking how much she sounded like his old friend. Her grandfather would have enjoyed hearing her give orders.
“That will be grand…See you and Aunt Lilly at the party Saturday?”
“Of course my dear. I’m looking forward to meeting your young man.”
“Thank you …love ya and Aunt Lilly.”
“There now we get to the part Johnny is going to have the most say so in.” She giggled. “What he wants is what we’ll have …Seems to me that is what you’ve said about anything I wanted. We will probably have about 60 at the rehearsal dinner…”
Cynthia came in with a tray of sandwiches and salads. “I thought since we were talking food we may as well have lunch. I brought ice tea but I can get coffee or whatever you would like.”
“This is fine with me,” Johnny said as she put a plate in front of him. “This looks really good.” His stomach growled.
“I did feed him this morning… Do you want a pain pill?” She asked as she watched him carefully move his left arm. “He had some stitches yesterday when he got hurt at a fire…that’s why he gets to spend the day with me.”
“As if that wasn’t my favorite thing to do,” laughing at the face she made.
“So what is your favorite type of food? Do you have any idea what you might like to have?” Cynthia asked as he took a bite of the barbecued pork sandwich.
Remembering to swallow before answering, “I like about anything…I guess the only thing I don’t like is lamb and mutton as far as meat goes.”
“I didn’t know that.” Lee said surprised. She liked lamb.
“I had to help heard them when I was little…I always felt bad when they went to slaughter.” His smile did not reach his eyes. “I like spicy food…and most vegetables. I want everyone to have a good time and eat well…There has to be some seafood since that’s Lee’s favorite…shrimp and crab especially. Nothing real fancy something the kids will like. I want it relaxed and friendly not stuffy and formal. Is that ok with you?” Lee nodded as she had a mouthful of sandwich.
“Do you have a theme or a particular time period in mine? What colors do you like? Do you want a lot of candles?”
“No I’m not going to listen to a bunch of firemen give me a hard time about my candles…” She was serious but laughing. “I like purples and lavenders and soft blues and greens…We are having lots of flowers especially faerie roses.”
“What if we just plan a picnic type meal…informal and relaxed? Fresh fruit and veggie trays…maybe homemade ice cream and cookies. What to drink?”
“That sounds perfect to me. There needs to be lots of sodas and ice tea and lemonade. Maybe some beer and wine coolers but no hard liquor.” Johnny nodded in agreement.
"We are booking all 12 rooms for 3 days…We’ll have an exact count and breakdown on who and how many by the middle of July. All the New York people so that is two rooms for Johnny and Marie connecting if possible. Chris and Nancy …all 3 nights…Thursday till Sunday after breakfast…Merce and her family will need 3 rooms Friday till Sunday…So when we figure the prices include the rooms and any meals…Why don’t I just write you a deposit check and let me know what else there is…”
“I’m going to hire some of my students to work on the food and maybe help serve. Do you have a problem with that?”
“No…hire as much help as you want…Marshall you can hire people to help set up but I think maybe Hector and Eddie will be more than glad to help and provide extra workers from their crew. Someone from WBS will be here to get started making plans for the remodeling and Alvarez and Son landscaping will be here to do that…And I will probably drive you all crazy with my questions and lists…and ideas.”
Lee wrote a check and gave it to Marshall. “This should cover the deposit and I will give you the address where to send any remaining charges…” She giggled. “My friend Kathy told me I was becoming hyper active and out of control…but I think am doing well. This is my faerie tale…Where the wedding is not the end but just the start of happily ever after. And you John Roderick Gage can’t tell me you aren’t tired and your arm isn’t hurting…Because you didn’t keep the sling on like Kel told you.”
“I’m the paramedic not you,” Laughing at the look she gave him. “Has Roy been teaching you to read my mind?”
“I’m not as good as he is at it but I can read the look in your eyes my love.” The Hogan’s walked them out to the car. “Oh parking…you all worry about that.” Marshall put the wheelchair in the back seat and promised to call her soon after talking to the others.
“Now aren’t you glad you didn’t settle for a wedding in the backyard?”
“Very now just have to do invitations and flowers and dresses … And food for the reception. However, we are not doing that now. Now you are going home and taking a nap and a pain pill. You are important... not all this other stuff…”
“Home or my apartment?”
While Johnny slept, Lee called the printer and gave them the information they had been waiting on to start printing the invitations. She grabbed the phone quickly when it rang so it wouldn’t wake Johnny. “Hello.”
“Hi…Roy was wondering how things are going?” Jo asked trying to keep from laughing. “You know how mother hens are.”
Tell him I’m taking good care of his partner. We went out to Rose Hill and made arrangements …He has been asleep about 2 hours.”
“I just talked to Kathy…Roy said he would come over and visit Johnny if you wanted to go see about the flowers.”
“That would be great…The kids can swim if they want as long as the guys are down there…We’ll stop at the deli and get stuff for dinner on the way back to the apartment. Still have to work on what we want at the reception.”
“And the cake…Did you hear the conversation between Johnny and the kids? I swear I thought I was going to cry I was laughing so hard. Chris was putting his vote in for chocolate and Jen wanted strawberry…Johnny said next to your pineapple cake his favorite was your carrot cake…then it was caramel versus chocolate versus peanut butter icing…You would have thought they were solving the world’s greatest problems.”
“That’s one of the things that make him so good with the kids. He takes them serious when they want him to even if it’s something most grown up would think is trivial.”
“Yep…see you in about an hour…I’ll call Kathy and let her know…”
Johnny came out into the front room about a half hour later. She smiled but did not say anything about the fact he had his arm back in the sling. She told him about the others coming over and dinner plans. “You have everything under control.” He kissed her lightly. “Smile. It’s going to be beautiful besides no one is going to be looking at anyone or anything except you.” He was in the recliner, which she had begun to think of as Johnny’s chair.
“You are a little bit bias…No there are going to be some who’ll find fault with everything I do…”
“As long as you aren’t finding fault anything anyone else says matter. Can I ask you a question?” Knowing sometimes, she was her harshest critic he worried about her.
“Yes but that doesn’t mean I’ll give you an answer that you’ll like.”
“You said you had a dream wedding and a promise from Amos…tells me about it?”
“Some day when you have lots of time to listen to whine and complain and feel sorry for myself…Today is a happy day and I’m not gonna spoil it.” He nodded in agreement. “So anything you need before I leave?”
“No I’m fine…Don't look at me that way.”
“I was trying to remember what you’re saying I’m fine translated into…Roy needs to write that all down for me.”
“It means I am doing good just a little achy no fever no major concerns. So you know what you want at the flower shop?”
“I think so I want fun pretty center pieces not the big dramatic things in that magazine Kathy got. I did like that canopy that was all flowers…And the flowers made into a picture especially the butter fly.”
“Well just make sure you get whatever you want…Because that is what I want.”
Lee looked at the steps going up to the flower shop and her heart sunk. She did not want to deal with that at all. Then she realized there was a ramp behind the planters and it was a gentle slope. The outside of the old Victorian house and its gingerbread style porch was a mass of hanging pots and containers with a sprinkling of wind chimes. There was something soothing about it. A small silver bell rang as the three came into the main room of the shop. Lee felt as if she had been there before from Johnny’s description. When Nana came into the room she instantly knew her.
“Good afternoon, how may I help you ladies today?” The light accent had a musical quality just as Johnny had said.
“I’m getting married August third and I‘d like to have you do the flowers. Faerie roses on all the tables and a canopy of them for us to stand under…it is a garden wedding.
“So the young brown eyed paramedic has found his lost heart. I told him it wasn’t lost that his lady was keeping it safe for him. He told me that she had beautiful green eyes and a smile that lit up the room…and that she loved looking for buried treasure in the faerie roses.” She smiled at Jo and Kathy as they looked around the shop. “I think the heart you give him in return is as kind and gentle as the one he gave you.”
“Thank you…that is the greatest compliment I could ever receive.” She looked at the shelf full of antique teacups and saucers. “We will need about 50 of those for the tables and I saw a picture of a canopy made of flowers…It just seemed perfect.”
“We will make one that is perfect for you and your Johnny…He comes in every week and is so happy to be going to see you…even when he is looking tired and sad as soon as he talks about you that is replaced with a joy and a light that comes from his heart.” Lee blushed and nodded. “And the brides flowers?”
“I haven’t found a dress yet so I don’t know that or what colors or style the attendants will be wearing but there will be 5 and two flower princesses and then the 5 groomsmen and some others who we want to have flowers that day…and the flowers for decorating the food tables and the table for the wedding party.”
“The colors will be purples and lavenders and blue and greens if what I have heard is right…Those are your favorite?”
“Yes…He has told you a lot about me?”
“Yes little one he has…but what he did not tell me was about that chair…He does not see it when he looks at you he only sees the one he loves. And the one who loves him.” Nana smiled as she saw the tears in Lee’s eyes and knew they were joyous tears.
“Leave it to John Gage to find a florist who is also a West Indian priestess.” Jo told Kathy as they listened to the conversation with lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes, A few more minutes and Nana had a good idea what Lee wanted and promised her everything would be perfect
“Now if finding a dress was as easy and painless.” Lee said with a loud sigh. “This is what I’m dreading the most.”
“Why does this trouble you so? Most brides look forward to finding the perfect dress.” Nan could see the tightly drawn mouth and down cast eyes.
“We were in a well recommended shop and they were very rude and hurtful. “ Kathy said frowning. “It was not a good experience.”
“There is a new shop not far from here…A young lady and her mother own it…They have vintage fashions as well as fabrics. Elizabeth is an excellent designer…I am sure she can help you. It is called Styles Remembered.”
“Thank you…for everything…” She paid for the flowers she bought to take to Maria.
No one had much to say on the way over to the dress shop. Lee was thinking about what Nana had said. The other two were worried about what would happen if it was another bad experience. The shop was in a small upscale shopping center. Lee was glad to see there were no steps. They went in looking at the various displays from different eras that greeted them.
“Good afternoon. Welcome to Styles Remembered. I’m Liz and this is my store…mine, my mom and the bank’s. Nana called and said you were coming over and gave me an idea of the flowers you’ll be using. Is there anything in particular you have in mind or do you just want to look around? “
“I want something that will be elegant and a little sexy and won’t look like it’s been crammed into the chair. It really needs to be something that doesn’t take a long time to get into…I can stand with something to hang onto for maybe 10 minutes…I have some adaptive equipment we can use maybe?” Waiting for Liz to tell her, it’s too much trouble and she didn’t want to be bothered.
“That’s no problem…Is there a particular period in history you like? That blouse has a Victorian feel … Do you like the high neckline?”
“It makes me uncomfortable when someone I barely know is looking down at me…especially strange men …and I feel like the neckline is too low.” Jo and Kathy both looked surprised at this. “So I just try to make sure they aren’t.”
“Let’s go look thru some books…and besides your dress what else will you be needing?”
“2 flower princesses and 5 attendants…The flower princess are 6 year olds…”
“I have just gotten some fabric…would your princesses like looking like they had stepped out of a Beatrice Potter book?”
“I know Stacy would…those are some of her favorite stories right now,” Kathy said.
“Jen loves them too.” Both looked relieved. Liz quickly sketched a little girl in a dress and pinafore and a hat with ribbons down the back.
“The ribbons can be the same colors as the flowers in the material or they can match the colors in the attendants.”
“I like that but instead of the hats could they have more like a band of flowers with the ribbons hanging down…or would that be mixing eras?”
“It’s your wedding you can mix and match as you like…whatever you want we will do,” Liz told her with a huge smile. “Have you chosen a tux type for the men?”
“No tuxes they are wearing their dress uniform…LA County Fire Department…my uncles are escorting me down the aisle in dark suits.”
“Kathy and I are going to go look at the kids clothes and some other things call us if you need us.” Jo waved and they were off exploring. Lee and Liz went over to the fabric and she showed her the lovely soft cotton print for the girl’s dresses. It was a soft white with delicate pink and lavender roses. The pinafores would be out of heavier cotton.
“I love the fabric it’s a shame to cover it up with that pinafore…” Lee said.
“Then we won’t…I can make it more of an empire waist and accent it with ribbon. Why don’t you take some samples and let your princesses pick what they would like. White tights and white paten slippers I don’t think they would want gloves but we can get them….lace ones of course.”
“You seem more excited about the dresses for the little girls than your own. Is there a reason for that?”
“My first shopping trip was horrible. I was told I was stupid for me to want a formal wedding gown.” Liz looked shocked and then angry but made no comment.
“I think for you we need something that blends the Victorian and Regency period…Lots of beading and detail work at the fitted top and a modified A line for the skirt. It should be just a wee bit above your ankles when you sit so your white satin slippers will show. Flats or heels”
“Flats…heels are not allowed unless I am not standing at all.” Lee said glad that Kathy or Jo hadn’t heard that remark. She did a quick sketch and Lee loved it. They agreed not to share the details of the dress with the others. Kathy and Jo came back to where they were. They loved the design changes for the girls and they had found some things they liked as well. Liz did another quick drawing after getting some input from the two and they came up with an idea for the attendants dresses. Liz promised to have more detailed drawings and samples of material by Friday.
The bakery/deli was near the apartment and Lee went there often. Lee ordered fried chicken and some salads and rolls then decided the brisket looked really good and added that to the list. Thinking about Johnny and his conversation with the kids ordered an assortment of cupcakes.
“I am stuffed.” Johnny announced to the world at large. “That was the best beef I ever ate. With or without the sauce.”
“Yeah I liked that Asian one and the mustard vinegar based one…” Roy added as he watched Johnny get another cup cake.
“Want to go talk to them about catering the reception?” Lee asked as she picked up a spice cupcake with caramel icing. “I use them when we have the catered lunches for the advisory board….Hopefully they can do the wedding. I don’t know why I didn’t think of them before.”
“Maybe because you have too many things on your mind.” Jo said with a grin. “Now that the dress issues are taken care of. The boys will just have dark pants, white, short sleeve shirts and the vests…The guys are done …We see the sketches for our dresses Friday…”
“So what is your dress going to be like?” Jim asked as he grabbed a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing. “Something big and poufy?"
“She isn’t telling anyone anything about her dress,” Kathy said as her husband grinned at her. “Remember I told you that.”
“Well whatever it’s like she’ll be beautiful,” Johnny said as he sat down besides her. Thank you two for helping her…She forgets sometimes it’s ok to need help.”
“Look who’s talking …Junior it’s nice to know you’ve been listening to me even when I don’t think you are.”
“Yeah I am …just a little slow on the up take sometimes.” Johnny looked over to Lee who knocked over a glass of soda as he said that. “You ok?”
“Yeah I am…” she looked at Jo pleading with her eyes for her not to say anything that would ruin the happy mood everyone was in. “Just a little clumsy paying more attention to the kids than what I was doing.”
“Ok.” He and Jim started talking as Roy went over to the pool edge. Jenny and Stacy didn’t have life jackets on so they had to stay in the shallow end but had been inching closer to the deep end. Jo followed him over as Kathy and Lee took some of the left over’s upstairs.
“Ok what was that look about that Lee gave you. She looked scared to death.”
“Chet Kelly. He has to stop before he does real harm.” Jo said very disgusted with the Irish firefighter. “The first night they were all here…Lee heard him say something about Johnny slowing down if he let a wheelchair catch him…she was ready to give his ring back.”
Why?” Roy could not believe Lee would ever do that to John.
“She’s still scared they don’t think she is good enough for him…So help me I don’t understand why…” She saw Johnny coming over to them. “You look like the canary that ate the cat.”
“Not me…Jim and Kathy are heading home…Kathy wanted to ask you something, Jo.” She left them to go over to where Kathy was.
“You got something on your mind Junior?”
“Yeah I do. Do you know why Lee looked so sad when she knocked the soda over? It was more than just a spilled drink. She looked almost frightened.”
“No maybe she was just tired. These last few weeks have been pretty busy and this is the first time she’s really has dealt with you getting hurt.”
“I think she’ll relax a little since she has her dress problem solved…you’re probably right…Cap called earlier to check on me…Said everyone’s looking forward to Saturday. I guess Maria and Hector have got a real big fiesta planned…games and music and food and dancing…Lee has no idea of my surprise…”
Friday morning Lee, Jo and Kathy dropped Johnny off at the station to visit and pick up his rover then went over to the dress shop. Johnny was going to meet them at the bakery/deli at 1:00. They were supposed to pick up the invitations at 4:00. Lee was glad they were on a schedule so she had an excuse not to see Chet.
She knew they had to work this out sooner or later but right now she preferred later.
Johnny got out of the back seat and opened the front passenger door. Bending down carefully he gave her a quick kiss and whispered something in here ear. She giggled and turned red. Another kiss and he went inside leaving Lee smiling and the other two looking puzzled. “Ok, are you going to tell us what he said?’
“Nope…it was something special just for me.” She got red again. “Do you have any suggestions for the menu for the reception?” Changing the subject quickly. “Did you think about the dresses?”
“I really liked the design she came up with…and I think for an outdoor wedding in August she the materials she suggested were wonderful.”
“Lee knows that the only sewing I do is an occasional button…and it takes me longer to sew it on than it lasts.” Kathy admitted with a laugh. “But I agree with Jo. And I absolutely love the dresses for the girls.”
When Johnny went into the station they were just finishing up morning chores. Roy and his temporary partner had just gotten back from an early morning call. A two year old had managed to fall off a dining room table after his 5 year old sister had lifted him up to a chair and then he had crawled up on the table. Luckily he wasn’t hurt and his hysterical grandma had calmed down once she knew the baby was fine. Cap and the others were glad to hear he would be back on duty Tuesday.
“So is everything set for tomorrow, Junior?” Roy said as he got a glass of ice tea. “The kids are excited…Seems they have a special surprise for you and Lee…They won’t tell us anything about it except its awesome.”
“Speaking of awesome surprises…Lee hasn’t got a clue…
“Oh yeah we could have told you that when she said yes to you…” Chet said as he and the others came in. Roy shot Chet a dirty look but Johnny just laughed.
“Chester B today I am in such a good mood not even you can ruin it. Cap tell Em Lee has found this shop that does designing and has fabric and vintage clothing as well as a lot of other cool stuff. The girl that owns it is designing the dresses for the wedding. Then we are going to go see about the food. You all have rooms at Rose Hill for Friday and Saturday nights.…Chet you and Marco are sharing a room….And Lee is making arrangements for babysitting and someone to help with the kids…One of Maria’s grandkids I think.”
“Sounds like you have it under control.” Cap said. He was enjoying watching the sad shy insecure kid he had first known sit there a happy confident man. Part of it was maturity and confidence in his ability as a firefighter and paramedic but Hank knew a greater part was John’s feeling of being accepted as part of a family. The De Soto family had given him the chance to know what love and family was and that had carried over to A shift going from a group of guys who worked well together to being family. It went beyond the traditional concept of the brotherhood of firefighters to a deep personal connection. Even with Chet’s teasing, they all knew he and John were good friends underneath all that. “So how much is the room?”
“That’s all taken care of in the rental agreement.” Johnny grinned. “Roy, don’t tell Jo I said so but Lee has already taken care of the dresses and Jen’s outfit…and she’s planning on getting Chris and Jimmy’s outfits too.”
“She doesn’t have to do that.” Roy said knowing it was useless to try to change her mind. “We appreciate that.” He was the only one at the station to know about Lee’s money. “So you headed over to O’Sheas?”
“Yep then we are going to pick up the invitations…Mike, Lee said to be sure to tell you how much she appreciates Melissa’s help in addressing these.”
“She’s glad to help…She and Lee are gonna be really good friends, they seem to like a lot of the same things.”
“Yeah Lee is already making plans for all the parties she wants to have. She calls you guys her family of the heart…guess that sort of sums it up how we both feel about you all.” No one said anything for a minute each absorbing what Johnny had said in his own way. And each remembered when Johnny felt as if he had no family or friends and belonged nowhere. “Well I had better get going…see ya all tomorrow…and Chet and Marco, remember all your family is invited …”
Chet went over to Roy a short time later when no one else was around. He looked at Roy then down at his feet. “She heard me didn’t she? At the pool party.”
“Yeah she was ready to give him that ring back…Jo managed to talk some sense into her. She is afraid you all think she isn’t good enough for Johnny.”
“Why? Because I was teasing?” Chet was truly shocked.
“Because she loves him so much she doesn’t want to cause trouble between him and his family…Because she doesn’t want to be the reason he stops camping and fishing and hiking…. Just think about how he is now and what it would be like if she did call off this wedding…for both of them.”
Liz was excited to show them the sketches she had done for Jenny and Stacy and the ones for the attendants. The batiste dresses for the little girls looked like they could have been illustrations in a Beatrice Potter books. The dress for the attendants was elegant and practical. Lee decided to let Kathy and Jo decide if they wanted long or short dresses. After much discussion they decided the long ones would be best and they picked out the colors. The jewel tones or pastels was the issue and finally it was decided they wanted the softer pastels in purples and lavender and greens.
“Everyone lives in the area except Mercedes who works all over but she will be here the last week of June for a job.. I can have her send you her measurements and maybe do her dress first…she is something like a size 2. After that Lee asked the other two to go to the other side of the store so they could talk about her dress. The attendant’s dresses would be silk double Georgette (and Lee’s a silk char Meuse). Stacy and Jen would get to decide what the ribbons on their dresses would be…The streamers on the flower wreaths for their hair would be all the colors of the dresses.
“Did you decide which one of the drawings you liked the best?” After Lee had been looking at the three sketches, Liz had done of gowns. The girl in the sketches looked like Lee and each had a different hair style. Lee giggled and told her what Johnny had said as she was leaving him at the fire station. Liz smiled and promised to keep his wishes in mind. Before leaving Lee did a little bit of shopping in the vintage clothes section of the store. Johnny was waiting for her at O’Shea’s even though she was 10 minutes early after dropping Jo and Kathy off at Jo’s.
“Mick and Sean will be right with you…Lee did they like the salmon salad at the last meeting?” Shelia asked as they were waiting. “Mick has found a supplier that flies the salmon down within 4 hours of being caught…Its iced but never frozen…” Shelia did the decorating for the cakes and was married to Sean.
“I liked it but the salmon with the brown sugar glaze is still my favorite. In fact that is one of the choices we’d like to have …”
“How many will be at the reception? And where?”
“Rose Hill and we are estimating 350 to 400...mostly fire, medical and law enforcement personnel and their families…The Hogan’s are doing the rehearsal dinner but Cynthia has another commitment and can’t do the reception…”
“Lucky for us,” Mick said as he came into the room with a tray of samples. Lee, I take it this is your young man?” Johnny stood up and extended his hand to Mick.
“John Gage this is Mick O Shea chef and co owner,” Lee introduced the two. “Johnny’s a paramedic on the advisory board so he gets your lunches.”
“And my crew mates get the left over’s which they appreciate.” Johnny added as he looked at the tray.
“Now would that be why the amounts you order have increased and you’re feeding the same numbers?” Mick gave her a wicked grin. “Especially the number of cup cakes and a request for more of the chocolate with peanut butter and chopped nuts.”
“That was supposed to be a secret Mick. I know we want the salmon with the brown sugar glaze and the brisket with the 2 sauces…ham or chicken as the third meat?”
“That fried chicken the other night was great…as good as Mike’s if not better. In addition, with the number of kids there maybe that would be a good choice. And the salads you get for the lunches…”
“Do you want some hot veggies or potatoes?” Mick asked as he was busy writing things down…"We do potatoes au gratin that are excellent…green beans, corn…”
“The potatoes” Johnny said as he ate some of the broccoli salad from the plate Mick had handed him. “Corn or green beans either one sound good.”
“You heard him...and of course the veggie and pickle and olive trays along with cheese and fruit…Talk with Marshall Hogan about the wine and beer and soda it may be easier to just order it all for the rehearsal and reception at once…Jamie Frasier has an excellent wine store that also carries other beverages…I have used them for both work and personal events…There won’t be any liquor besides the beer and wines…”
“I’ll get with Sean and we’ll work up a price …probably $15 to $25 per person but that includes everything…not like some of these places that give you a price then add on extras…The only additional may be the wines …but I think we can cover that in the $25.00”
“Great now I have a question…If I gave you a cake recipe could you do a 3 tier wedding cake from it then about 600 cup cakes? We are sending cup cakes over to the hospital, the police station and several firehouses for the people we’d like to have there but have to work. In addition, we will figure this out later some food to the firehouses…especially Station 51. For all the flack I have been getting from HQ from the people who do scheduling we’re going to be sending them something on the Monday after.” Lee giggled. “Chief Houser said I was a trouble maker and owed them.” While they were talking, Shelia had assembled a tray of cake slices to taste. “Johnny’s eyes got big at all the choices. "He’s gonna need some milk with that." A half hour later it was settled.
“We thank you for thinking of us,” Mick said as he looked at the check Lee had just written him.
“Sorry I got tied up on a phone call with a supplier,” Sean said as he came into the room. "So what did I miss?” Mick handed him the check and Sean did a double take. “How big of a wedding is this?”
“Well it keeps growing.”Someone told me if we get a 50% yes response it would be about normal…But I think it’ll be higher so I’m thinking around 300.” Lee answered.
“I’d guess higher because we’re including families. Cap said half the department has asked off for the day and HQ is telling them if they can find someone to work trade among themselves.” Johnny said with a grin, “All those jokers who didn’t think I’d ever find someone who’d put up with me want to come see if she’ll wise up at the last minute.”
Johnny woke up before the alarm went off and just took a few minutes to lay there and think about the day. He was suppose to be at Lee’s by 1 so he had plenty of time. He got up and went out to find something to eat.
He decided he really needed to get some groceries for the apartment. It seemed as if anymore he was at work or with Lee but it would be nice to have some milk, juice and bread in case he woke up hungry. Laughing at that thought the only time he didn’t wake up hungry was when he was sick. After deciding there was nothing to eat he went in and showered and shaved. He had laid out his clothes the night before. A habit he had gotten into after over sleeping too many times.
He needed to do some laundry soon, His new black jeans and Western cut shirt was on the chair. His dress boots were shined and ready. He had found the belt with the silver buckle that Mario and his family had given him last Christmas and was going to wear it today. He finished dressing then called Lee. She answered on the third ring. “How are ya? I missed seeing you this morning.”
“I missed you too. I went out and did exercises and laps and getting ready to get dressed. So did you get some breakfast?”
“Not yet nothing here to eat…” His fridge had a carton of spoiled milk and some lunchmeat he wouldn’t trust and no bread or eggs. “Want me to grab something and bring it over? “
“There is milk and cereal here and fruit…I can cook you some eggs…”
“Nope today is your party day no cooking just enjoying yourself…But I appreciate the thought…I’ll stop buy the bakery and then be over.”
“Love you too…be there soon.”
Maria came up a few minutes later to help Lee dress. Lee had picked out a white peasant blouse and a Mexican white underskirt that had a ruffle that just peeked out from under the multicolored over skirt. Maria braided the sides of her hair and pulled the braids back so they met in the middle of her head and fixed a bunch of silk flowers there. The back hung down just touching her shoulders. Double silver hoop earrings and a silver necklace with a lace work heart completed her outfit. “Maria, do you think Johnny will like the way I look?”
“No, he is going to love it and he’ll be falling in love with you even more if that is possible. Theressa and Elaina went to the dress shop and they have been telling me how beautiful the dresses will be…”
“The plans are coming together and I’ve stopped having nightmares about things going wrong. Well at least they aren’t happening as often. And it’s always the same one.”
Maria had just left when Johnny up. . She was out on the balcony when he came in. She turned when she heard the door open. “Hi darlin’.” She waited as he sat the box of rolls on the table. “You look so handsome…”
“Just trying to look good enough to be with you…” She blushed as he came over and bent down to kiss her. “You look so beautiful…”
“Only because you think so…I always thought I was pretty plain and as much as I hate to admit it, boring. But don’t tell Chet I said that” She smiled. “Sure you don’t want some eggs or bacon?”
“No I want you to go over to the table while I get us some milk or would you rather have juice?”
“Milk is fine… Eddie said that the Lopez and Alvarez families have adopted one and other.” He carried 2 glasses of milk to the table. Lee had already set out plates and napkins.
”Roy said the kids are really excited about their special project…Jenny said she and Stacy worked on something for you and Jimmy and Chris worked on something for me but that is all they would say.” Johnny took a big swig of the milk to keep from adding any more. He had his own special surprise for her.
They talked about wedding plans and plans for redoing the bedroom. They were going to have it painted and new curtains and a new bedroom set. They really couldn’t change the configuration because of the special equipment in there for Lee.
They had talked about a new couch and chairs but really didn’t need them so decided to wait until they built their own house. Johnny said he was giving most of the furniture he had to charity the only good pieces were his stereo system and the television. And he was giving the TV to the station to replace the old one they had. He had some photos he had taken and of course his pictures of the DeSoto family and station would still be out.
Lee had cried when Johnny told her of the first Christmas with the guys from the station and the special gift from Roy. Jeff had made arrangements with a photographer friend to do the wedding pictures and to be there today filming the party and taking pictures.
“Are you ready? “ He asked watching her as she played with her ring. He had noticed when she was getting nervous she would twist the ring around and around. “Something bothering you?”
“No, not really.” She looked at him and decided to be totally honest with him and herself. “Sometimes I get scared…and really don’t even know why. That nerdy kid that never fit in seems to come out and wants to ruin everything that makes me happy now by reminding of all the things that use to make me sad. And there is no reason for me to feel like that today…”
“Ya know, I think that’s one reason we belong together. We both had some stuff that made growing up even harder…But instead of letting it make us feel sorry for ourselves and helpless we worked at making ourselves stronger and wanting to help others not feel that way. Think it might have taken me a little longer to learn it’s ok to let others know how we feel and it’s ok to feel.” He squatted down in front of her and took her chin gently in his hand. “I’m here to tell that nerdy kid she grew up to be a beautiful and loving woman…One who makes a difference in the lives of a lot of people…And I thank God that she loves me and makes a difference in my life.”
“He gets a lot of thanks from a lot of people for all the good and kind things you do,” she told him. “I believe good or bad everything in life is part of His plan and I thank Him for bringing you into my life…Sometimes I wonder why things happen but I never doubted He knew best…And I know you are a gift from Him to all of us who know and love you.” He leaned in and kissed her. It was a long slow kiss that finished the thoughts of each of them. They had never really talked about religion or church but had just known their feelings and beliefs would be respected by the other.
He gently wiped the tears from her cheek. “Hey, you better stop that…Maria and Hector’ll have my hide if they think I made you cry. Especially today,”
“Oh they know me…I cry when I’m happy just as much as when I’m sad…or mad.” She giggled as he stood up. “Let’s go party …”
After they entered the park there was signs along the road welcoming friends and family to the fiesta with bright colored streamers blowing in the soft breeze. Across the front of the large shelter house was a banner that said Johnny and Lee…and more streamers. Johnny pulled up and soon as he was out of the car Roy and Hector were there. Hector got the wheelchair out and took it around to Lee’s door. Roy held out his hand for the car keys. “I’m your valet parking attendant, sir,” he joked. “I expect a nice tip when I return your keys.”
“We will wait for Roy before we go in,” Hector said as he gave Johnny a nod. “You will make your grand entrance to begin the fiesta after a few words of welcome the party will begin.”
Johnny and Lee know that invitations had been sent out to all the fire and law enforcement agencies that they had friends at and that one had went out to Rampart also. Maria and Kathy and Jo had also sent invitations to several out of town friends. What had started out as a simple picnic had grown as more and more people had wanted to help show a special couple how much they meant in
Their lives. But still it was a shock when they went down the path to the shelter house. There were people everywhere and behind the main shelter house was a collection of brightly colored stalls like you would find in a small Mexican village. Once the clapping and yells of congratulations had died down Hector and Maria went over to stand by the awestruck couple.
“I want to thank you all for coming to our fiesta. As some of you may know, Lee’s uncle Jeff hired me to be a nanny for Lee when she was 7. What none of us knew then was I wasn’t going to be her nanny but we were going to be a family…Love makes a family and these two have shared with us love and friendship through the good and bad times…Always putting others first…Now it is time for us to return that love and friendship as we celebrate their upcoming marriage and life together. Johnny has a special gift for Lee but before he gives his gift …we have something special for them…Francisco, please ….” Cisco and the kids came out from behind the crowd. Chris and Jimmy handed Johnny a large wrapped box and Stacy and Jenny handed Lee one that was smaller but just as colorfully wrapped.
“Ok you want to open them together or one at a time?” Cisco asked.
“Johnny first.” Lee declared. The paper came off quickly but there must have been a roll of tape closing the box. While the on lookers cheered and gave helpful hints Johnny tore thru the tape. Wide eyed like a kid on Christmas morning he slowly…Pulled the box open to find another box buried under wadded up tissue paper.
“Let me guess you guys wrapped this.” Looking at the two boys who were laughing so hard they were wheezing. He tried to sound serious but no one was fooled.
“Cisco helped.” Chris said with a big grin. “He gave us suggestions.”
“I bet he did…” There was a sharp intake of breath when he opened the last box. He pulled out a white Stetson with leather hatband decorated with silver and turquoise. “It’s the Roper…I was looking at it in the catalog.” His voice was cracking and soft, “It’s beautiful. Thank you…”
“The boys wanted to get you the black one but I told them good guys wear white.” Cisco said grinning as much as the boys. “That’s from a few of your friends from the fire department and a few of us in the different departments you’ve helped over the years…even before you hooked up with that one we knew you were one of the good guys. There was more money collected than we needed so the extra went to the Aspergers ‘s foundation where you guys volunteer.” Johnny nodded his thanks.
“Your turn Aunt Lee,” the girls squealed. Since Jenny called her Aunt Lee, Stacy had started doing so. “We didn’t wrap yours funny because it would be hard for you to open.” Jenny primly announced.
“I appreciate that…especially since your Uncle Johnny doesn’t have his knife or scissors with him today.” The girls giggled as she slowly and carefully unwrapped the oblong box. She didn’t say a word as the tears slid down her cheeks. She took the lace veil from the box. “My mother’s lace… How? Where? My dad had the lace made when he was in Ireland before they were married…I remember seeing it in pictures and in my bedroom there is a piece they framed…She had her veil cut up and used in the Christening dresses for me and my sister. Thank you so much.”
“When I wrote my mom about your getting engaged she remembered having a piece of the lace in a box …When your mom had the dresses for you and your sister made she sent some to my mom to have for me…and Mom has kept it all these years and sent it to me. I took it to Liz and we had this veil made…Its from me and all the ladies of Station 51 and Dixie. There is a pillow for the ring bearer and a small purse for you that you’ll get later.” Johnny had came over and was standing behind her, She reached up for his hand.
“Ready for another surprise?” She nodded as he bent down resting his chin on the top of her head. “Close your eyes tight and don’t look.” She did as she was told and she could hear people moving around. “Ok open your eyes.”
“You said…” She was sobbing so hard Johnny was afraid she was going to hyperventilate. “…come….”
“Think we would miss this for the world, sweet pea?” Jeff said as he bent down to kiss her. “Don’t cry.”
“Hey, I had to check this guy out before I gave my final ok.” Matt kissed her and wiped the tears away. “The others couldn’t come but sent you and Johnny this.”
He handed Johnny an elegantly wrapped package. “Marie and Nancy said this was the perfect gift… Johnny you hold it while she opens it.” Johnny went around to the front of the chair and squatted down so she could undo the wrapping. Johnny helped her take the lid off as she was shaking so much. Inside was a photo album. The white satin had been embroidered with small delicate roses in pink and lavender and in the center was a heart shaped place to put a picture.
“Marie did the embroidery and Nancy made the book…They said it was a combination photo album and journal.” Matt said as he flipped the pages showing her the journal. “I had some old pictures of you but they left spaces in the front for you to add pictures, Johnny. To chronicle the Spencer-Gage family history.
“Thank you all…This is so kind and generous of you…” Lee told the friends and family standing there.
“Th…ank you a…a…ll.” Johnny looked at Lee embarrassed by the stutter; she squeezed his hand tightly reassuring him. “Mmmm…eans a lot.”
“Ok let’s get this party moving,” Cisco said “My mom and Mrs. Lopez has enough food fixed to feed a village…out there is snacks and drinks…Dinner will be served here at 6:30 but don’t worry there is plenty to hold you all till then…Both those ladies are on a mission to fatten Johnny up…There are games and activities for all the kids regardless of age…After dinner there is one more surprise for the those two as well as music for dancing…My nieces have a tent set up to watch any of the little ones who get tired and need a quiet place to rest…Other than that…have fun.”
People came up and congratulated the couple then wondered off to join in the festivities. Hector and Cisco locked the veil and album in the storage closet in the corner of the shelter house. (The lock was brand new one that Cisco had put on and he and his dad had the only keys.) Lee and Johnny and her uncle’s were off in a corner talking. “So were you surprised?” Johnny was sitting on a picnic bench beside her. “I called Jeff a few days after the date was set and he called Matt and …and we thought this would be a nice surprise.”
“Plus if something happen and we didn’t make it that wouldn’t ruin it for you.” Jeff added. “He offered to buy us plane tickets so we could come.”
“Didn’t know you had use of the company plane, did he?” Lee giggled but it meant a lot to her
“Johnny, you know I was teasing about giving you a final ok…I knew that night you called that nothing I could say or do would keep you two apart. As long as she is happy that’s all that matters…Of course it’s nice you’ll be happy too.”
“Thank you sir.” He looked at her smiling and laughing at something Jeff said.
“Hey, you two need to go enjoy your party…we’ll be here until late tomorrow.”
Lee gave her uncle’s a smile and he pushed her off to join the fiesta. Matt watched them as they moved away.
“She looks more like her mom every day.” Matt said with a sad smile. “You’re right he did give her giggle back to her…I don’t think I ever heard that before. Come-on lets go join the party.”
Roy and Jo and the kids were watching Johnny throw baseballs at a stack of tin cans as Lee cheered them on. Jeff introduced Matt to the De Soto family. “Jo, I don’t know if it was you or Kathy but that veil is perfect.” Jeff said after giving Jo a kiss on the cheek. “Did you know she called me after that witch made her so miserable?”
“No but Kathy and I wanted to do something special and we were at the shop when we saw the lace they had Kathy remembered that her mom had some from Lee’s mother. Liz wouldn’t tell us anything about the dress but said the veil would go perfect with it. And the band its on is not the one she’ll be wearing that day…it’s a decoy.”
“Can I ask a question?” Matt turned to Roy. “I saw your face when he was thanking everyone and I noticed he didn’t say much …Does the stutter happen often?”
“No and never when he's working…It’s when he is emotionally stressed or over whelmed…today the emotion was happiness. For all that he comes across confident and brash he has a shy side.”
“Just like her…I’ve seen her argue with state senators and federal judges and parole boards then turn shy when around people she has known for ages if it gets too personal.”
Awhile later Johnny and Lee were walking around talking to their friends and just enjoying themselves. They watched the kids getting their face painted and Johnny smiled as he watch the artist draw a fire truck on someone and then he laughed when he noticed Jenny had a squad painted on her cheek. Stacy had a caduceus on her cheek.
“Hey, Gage, you gonna get let them face paint you?” Chet said as he and Marco came up behind them.
“Don’t know about him but I am,” Lee said before Johnny could answer. She wheeled herself up to the artist’s table. “Hi, I need a heart on my cheek that says Lee loves Johnny.”
“Pink with purple letters.”
“And I want one that says Johnny love’s Lee …red and blue”
“You two are just big over grown kids….” Chet said shaking his head. “And who ever heard of an Indian cowboy?” He added looking at Johnny’s hat. (Seeming to forget he had thrown $5 in the pot to help buy it)
Lee just smiled because she knew what was going to happen next. Chet had been so busy giving Johnny a hard time he hadn’t noticed Cisco and Hector coming up behind him. Chet about jumped out of his skin when two hands were placed on his shoulders. “Now Chet…let me be sure of the situation…You wouldn’t be harassing my mijo Johnny now would you?”
“Or disrespecting my adopted daughter?” Hector growled. “Not a nice young fire fighter like yourself? Especially at this party in their honor…”
“What do you think Lee? You know Chet, my mijo is a brave person taking on a hell cat like her…when she gets mad at someone she can hold a grudge for years…”
Johnny and Marco were trying not to laugh at the look on Chet’s face. Lee just looked up at him in wide eyed innocence and smiled. To make matters worse Cap and Emily and Jo came over. “Um, no I’d never do that not at their party…”
Chet said quickly not wanting trouble with anyone.
“I’d hate to think what would happen if the Phantom had nerve enough to show up today…Wouldn’t you Cap?” Lee said so sweetly.
“Yeah because I think I’d have to wait in line to deal with him…after Maria and Mama Lopez and Jo and Em and then of course there is Matt and Jeff and Cisco and Hector…and probably Hector’s other sons that are here…and a few others who would be real unhappy if anything made Lee unhappy today.”
“Ok I get the message…besides the Phantom had no intention of coming today…He is getting wiser in his old age.”
“Good…Em lets go see how the others are doing…I think they are about to start letting the kids break the piñatas.
Lee pulled herself to standing and held on to the rail with both hands as her hip tightened in protest. She had stood unaided for 3 minutes the day before. Today she was going to try for 5 minutes. As the tightness eased she let go of the railing. She let out a breath and watched the minute hand on her bedside clock move slowly. This was going too slow and not accomplishing what she wanted. Holding onto the rail with one hand she carefully pivoted so she was standing sideways. That was better and the pain in her hip seemed to lessen. Concentrating she took a step still holding on. The second step seemed easier. As she went to put weight on her left foot her knee buckled and she went down hard…Her left shoulder hitting the railing hard as she twisted.
She wasn't sure if the tears were from the pain or from being angry as she caught her breath. Suddenly doing this when she knew no one was home downstairs didn't seem like such a smart idea after all. Working hard not to panic she managed to get herself turned around so she could get both hands on the railing. It took her 4 tries to pull herself up and her arms and shoulders were protesting especially on her left side.
She managed to reach the wheelchair and sat down hard. She could see in the mirrored wall that bruises on her shoulder and arm. She was glad that Johnny and Roy had just started a 48 hour shift. Maybe by then her bruises would be fading. Fat chance but she could hope. She called her office glad that she had a part time assistant and let her know she would be working from home since she had a killer headache. Which wasn't a lie she just didn't say why she had the headache. She dialed the station's number.
"Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking…"
"Hi Hank…It's Lee. Could you give Johnny a message for me?"
"Sure but he is here if you want to talk with him. He's hanging hose."
"No, don't bother him…just tell him I decided to stay home today…I’ve got a bad headache and gonna try to get some sleep and that I love him."
"Sure thing. I'll tell him not to call that you'll call him when you wake up."
She went into the bathroom and found the pain pills that she had for emergency use and took two them went out and made an ice pack for her shoulder and grabbed a soda then went back into the bedroom. Getting into bed was a little painful but between the ice and pills was soon asleep.
Lee did not want to move…it hurt to move it hurt to breathe. And what was worst was that in 90 minutes Johnny and Roy would be there for breakfast. And they had errands to run after that…and she could not think of a good excuse for wearing long sleeves in 85 degree weather. At least it was better than it had been 2 days ago. Her shoulder and arm was a yucky yellowish green with purple splotches. She knew that sometimes it took her bruises longer to fade than normal. She hoped they would fade quickly she did not want to get married looking like she had been beaten. After taking four aspirin with lukewarm soda she went in and took another hot shower.
The smells coming out of the kitchen made Johnny’s mouth water. Bacon and cinnamon competed for their attention. Johnny was surprised Lee was not in the kitchen when they got there. “Sweetheart?”
“Be out in a minute…” She could not put it off any longer. She went out to the kitchen. “Hi darlin’…Hi Roy.” She wheeled over to Johnny and looked at him and waited for him to say something. “Breakfast is ready except for the eggs…didn't know if you wanted scrambled or over easy.”
“Forget the eggs…what happened? When did this happen?” He squatted down in front of her.
“It’s no big deal I fell 2 days ago.” She said not looking at him but at her feet.
“Why didn't you call me or have someone take you to Rampart?” His eyes were gentle but his voice was firm. He began to pull up her shirt. She pushed his hand away. “Stop that and let me look.”
“No …it’s ok…I told you I have 6 years of practice falling.”
“And I have 6 months of practice loving you…and I need to check you out.” Johnny told her gently as he pressed on her shoulder as he moved her arm.
“I have good range of motion the swelling is gone and the bruises are fading…the pain is manageable with aspirin. I know the drill.”
Roy surprised them both by laughing. Johnny looked at him and then began laughing also. Lee was not sure what exactly was so funny. She knew she had just witnessed one of their famous wordless conversations. She just was not happy to be the subject of said conversation.
“Sweetie, this is what Roy has been threatening me with for years. He is always telling me paybacks are hell and this is a payback situation.”
“I wasn’t laughing at you Lee, I was laughing at how much you sounded like Junior. Even to batting his hand away it was like watching a home movie.” He took a good look at the bruises and pushed on a large one. “Did you ice it?”
“Yep and have had several showers and did my exercises yesterday in the pool. Now are you two eating breakfast?”
“Yes but promise me if you fall again to tell someone.” Johnny kissed her.
“I fall once in awhile it’s no big deal…but if I think something is wrong I’ll tell you, ok?”
Thursday was the first day of Johnny’s vacation, Soon as Dwyer came in Johnny left to go over to see Lee. Jeff and the New York family would be in about 4 o’clock and after getting settled at Rose Hill would come over to the apartment for dinner and to swim and just visit. Lee was curled up on the couch making a list. When he came in, she started to get up. “Stay put…I had coffee cake and juice at the station. You look tired."
“I woke up early…You know that pesty nerdy girl that lives in my head? She was telling me all the things that can go wrong. She doesn’t like it when I get too happy.” She didn’t want to tell him some of the nurses at the hospital had been teasing her about his reputation with nurses and dating. They had not been trying to be mean they were just teasing. God how she hated that phrase and the people who used it to hurt others “She was giving me a list of all the things I can’t do.”
“Tell her she is evicted.” He kissed her lightly on the forehead. “I need a nap and so do you.” He pulled her chair over closer to her. “When we get up you can make me a sandwich …” He saw her frown. “Problem?”
“I was just thinking how it would be in 3 days…then we can take naps together…”
“And that makes you frown and look sad?”
“It scares me a little…That I won’t…that you’ll be disappointed…”
“Do you know how hard it has been to keep my promise to you and your family?”
“I never asked for that promise.”
“No I gave it because I wanted to…do you know how many very cold showers I have had in the last 6 months?”
“No but …what if…you know what I’m trying to say.”
“How did you ever convince me to write these vows? Why can’t we do the regular ones? What if I stutter and embarrass you? What if I forget the words?” He wanted to change the subject quickly and he knew the best way was to make her laugh.
She looked shocked then started laughing. “You aren’t playing fair, John Roderick Gage.”
“Well you know what they say, all’s fair in love and war and this is definitely love.” He pulled her over onto his lap and kissed her, His tongue licked her lips then pushed gently on her mouth until it opened. His hand slipped under her shirt and he began kneading the knotted muscles in her neck then let his hand work down slowly down her back. She let herself go limp and leaned into the kiss and the feel of his touching her skin. “Soon baby girl, soon,” He whispered in her ear as he carried her into the bedroom and laid her on the bed. “Call me when you’re ready to get up.” He put the pillow behind her back as she lay on her side. “You call me and I’ll bring your chair in.”
“This is not fair…I’m stuck here until you let me up.”
“Exactly my plan. Now relax we have some serious partying to do the next few days…” He kissed her lightly and left after turning on her radio to a soft easy listening station. He went out and got a glass of milk then went into the living room and laid down on the couch. He could hear the music from her room(he had left the door open in case she needed him).
It was almost two when he woke up. He laid there listening but he didn’t hear anything except the music. He went into the bathroom that Jeff’s old room and the guest room shared and laughed when he saw the note she had taped to the mirror… Johnny, your stuff is in the other bathroom now…had to move it so I could see how much of my stuff I had to move/get rid of…love ya! P.S. Your clothes are in the closet in a suit case…They’ll move the furniture out while we are gone…you’ll have to teach me how you like your stuff arranged !oxoxoxoxoxoxo!
Last shift off Roy and the guys had helped him move everything over to the apartment except a few bare necessities. He had his suitcases packed for their honeymoon and he thought she had most of hers ready also.
While they were gone the painting and new furniture would arrive and be all ready for them. Everyone thought they were going to stay at a hotel the first night since they had an early morning flight to Hawaii but actually they were spending the night at the apartment. Maria, Hector, and Cisco were the only ones who knew. That was to keep Chet from planning any surprises. But neither one really thought Chet was foolish enough to risk the Alvarez’s displeasure. He thought he heard her and went into the bedroom they would soon be sharing. She was awake.
“Hi …was wondering when you’d remember me in here.” She grabbed the crossbar and pulled herself up so she was sitting. He watched as she carefully turned and moved so she could ease her legs off the bed. “You’ll get use to me and the way things work maybe if you stick around 50 or so years. May not be graceful but it works.”
“Looked pretty graceful to me.” He went out and got her chair.
After eating a tuna fish sandwich and some chips Johnny went into watch the ball game while Lee got ready for their company. Johnny asked her if there was anything to do to help but she had said no. Maria was taking care of dinner she just had to change and fix her hair.
She had on a new swimsuit it was a little more conservative than some of her others. It had a pretty wrap around skirt and she was hoping she didn’t have to swim…but knew from experience it probably wasn’t going to work out her way. A little after 5 the two cars pulled into the lot and Jeff lead the visitors to the patio. After hugs and introductions were made and they were settled around the table with drinks talking and catching up. (JJ and Michael were already in the pool)
“Lee did you tell Johnny that when you were 16 you had a crush on Chris?” Johnny Russo said with a laugh. Chris Ballard just laughed at his friend.
“I was 15 and that was before the wreck. Chris had just been promoted to homicide then. And I spent 6 weeks in New York and he was very kind to put up with me.”
“Well even then you had great taste,” Nancy said. She and Chris had been married 3 years. “So have you put many pictures in the album? That was a lovely thank you note you sent and the flowers were so different from anything I had ever seen…”
You’ll be seeing a lot of them this week end…how many dozen did you get?”
“I lost count you’d have to ask the accountant…I am sure this wedding has given him an ulcer.” She giggled and Matt shook his head. “I just tell people what I want and I get it…”
“Yeah she has trained me well.” Johnny said as he came back with another soda for her. “The boys want to play volleyball.” He looked at her and she knew there was no putting it off. “The chair or just throw you in?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time…” She undid her skirt. “Deep end…that’s a house rule…You guys decide who is on what team.”
“Leave us old people out of this,” Matt said. Johnny stood up with his back to Matt and the Russo’s and took his shirt off and stepped out of his cutoff jeans. Marie looked at his back and the sound she made drew his attention to Johnny’s back. Before there was anything said they watched as Johnny picked Lee up and gently sat her on the side of the pool. He dove in and she did a seated dive after him. Marie turned to Jeff. “What happened to his back?”
“He signed up for the fire academy the day he turned 18...graduated first in his class and became the youngest rescue man in the department’s history…same story when the paramedic program began...He and his partner Roy are the best team in the county if not the state. He puts the victims first. But in the last 6 months there hasn’t been any serious injuries except the 10 inch splinter in his shoulder…went through his coat. Lee handled it well.” He watched the two playing in the water. “Probably better than he would if something happened to her.” He knew a little of Johnny’s background and the Aspergers. “The other big scar is from a bear attack,”
“He adores her as much as she does him,” Marie watched them as he jumped up and hit the ball out of the pool. You’re right they are perfect for each other.” While she and her husband had trusted Matt’s approval of the young fireman they had needed to see for themselves. They had loved and worried about Lee since the first time they had met her when she was eight. Over the years their love and respect for her had deepened so she was as much family as their sons.
“Jeff, check with Maria to see how soon we eat. Someone is complaining they are starving…poor baby just had tuna salad and chips for lunch and a dozen chocolate chip cookies.”
“Did not… only had 8,” He corrected her and disappeared under water. A minute later she squealed as he balanced her on his shoulders then flipped her over his head. Everyone laughed and it was amazing for the New Yorkers and Jeff to watch them rough housing but they also knew he was totally in control so nothing would hurt her.
Lee was still clinging to his back. “Ok I’m tired…” To every ones delight he walked down to the shallow end and up the stairs and carried her to the lounger and sat down. She moved back and he helped her get positioned then quickly covered her legs with an oversized beach towel. After getting them a soda he sat down on the lounge beside her. By this time Maria was bringing out the fixings for tacos and several trays of cookies and fruit. The party broke up a little after nine since it had been a long busy day for everyone.
Lee and Johnny had some last minute projects to do on Friday and had told everyone they would see them at Rose Hill at 6. The rehearsal was slated to start at 6:30 and dinner at 7:30. Johnny was picking her up at 5:30. She was brushing her hair thinking about her gift for Johnny. It was down in Maria and Hector’s apartment and they would bring it upstairs tomorrow. Roy had helped her with it and she was so grateful to him.
She braided her hair and let the braid hang down her back. She had a white sundress on…Liz had made it for her after she’d told Liz about Johnny’s declaration they would not have a small wedding and she would not get married in a white sundress. Johnny came up to the apartment at 5:15. He had on a light blue polo shirt and a pair of khaki slacks. He had gotten his hair trimmed after he had dropped her off.
“Ready for this?” He kissed her lightly. “I wanted to give this to you before we went over there.” He handed her a small box.
She opened it and smiled at him. “You remembered.” It was a heart shaped locket. LGJ was etched on the front. When she opened it, there was the first picture they had taken together. Roy had taken it the day of Chris’ school festival as just before they got off the Ferris wheel. “You remembered when I told you I always wanted a locket. That was months ago in passing when we were just window shopping.”
“It was important to you so I remembered.” He kissed her then he fastened it around her neck.
“You have to wait for your gift…but I wanted you to have this also.” She gave him a small package and held her breath while he opened it. It was a tie tack with a jade star as the center. “My mom gave this to my dad on their 5th anniversary.”
“That makes it even more special…” The kiss was long slow and full of promise. He wiped a tear from her eye. “They’ll be waiting for us…”
Lee could not believe the change in the terrace and the front garden area. Hector and Eddie had planted the faerie roses she wanted but there were also other flower beds with blue and purple and pinks and a trellis of some deep purple climbing flower. Hanging baskets of ivy and rose geraniums were lining the drive on Sheppard hooks. There were rows of chairs and in an area near close by tents and tables. The tables were covered with pale lavender cloths and there was flowers in teacups on the table.
Jeff and Matt met them at the car and helped them take the boxes they had over to the tent where they would have dinner. Lee was surprised at how over whelmed she was feeling and suddenly was worried about how Johnny would handle all this. When they had began all this planning she had not taken into consideration his reaction to all this. She looked around for Roy in a panic. She saw Jenny and Stacy running to Johnny saw him scoop them up in a hug. Roy was talking with Cap and Mike who had just gotten there. Lee jumped when Jo came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to scare you.” Jo said looking at how pale Lee was. “Are you ok?”
“Jo, can you ask Roy to come here? Please it’s important.” Lee said softly. Jo quickly went over to Roy and Lee saw her pointing to where she was sitting. He nodded came over to her.
“Hey, you need to take a deep breath and let it out slowly…Come on, again…” She followed his instructions. “Now can you tell me what’s wrong?” He was holding her wrist taking her pulse. “Now slow down and relax. Are you hurting somewhere?”
“No… just a plain ole case of guilt…Roy is Johnny going to be ok with all this? He was teasing me about being embarrassed if he stuttered…but what if he wasn’t teasing. Maybe I should have …”
“Lee, its ok…we talked about all this…He wants you to have this…he is fine with it…I think he is more than fine with it…he is enjoying it. Seeing you happy is all he is needs. He knows we are all here for him but most of all he knows you are supporting him.”
“It’s nice having another big brother…thank you for letting me be part of your family.” Lee felt all the tension and fear dissolve as he talked. “Cisco and Johnny are going on a 5 mile run in the morning and Cisco said if he was too hyper he might make it a 10 mile run.” She giggled. “Can you imagine anyone thinking Johnny might be too hyper?”
“Nope not at all…Come on I think they are waiting for you.” He pushed her over to the others. Johnny had noticed them talking and was curious but didn’t ask. Jo and Kathy were trying to get everyone situated so they could begin on time. Lee introduced every one and waited as Father Chuck O’Malley finished talking with Marco and Chet. He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Johnny was standing behind her and shook hands with the priest.
“Well, you see promises are kept and dreams do come true,” Father Chuck said as he looked around.
“They do and I’m finding the reality is so much more than the dream…You’ve waited 6 years so I think you’ve earned a “I told you so.’ or two or three…Why you ever put up with me is beyond me…I was terrible. I am probably the second worst patient in history.”
“And who would be the first worst?” The twinkle in his eyes suggested he knew what her answer would be.
“That would be a certain hose jockey who never admits he is hurt.” Kel answered as he and Dixie came up behind Lee and Johnny.
“At least he never threw a bedpan at you…my only regret was it was empty and I miss that idiots head.” Lee told them laughing.
“Let’s get this over with so we can eat.” Johnny said with a grin. “Glad you made it Doc, Dixie.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Tiger.”
The rehearsal went well and smoothly. Fr. Chuck enjoyed the teasing between the groom and his groom’s men. The good-natured teasing kept the mood light and relaxed. Everyone laughed when Lee did a double take at something Chet said to Marco.
“Hey give me a break…the Phantom knows this is no time for his jokes…He wishes you two the best of everything.” Chet said knowing an appearance by his alter ego would not be tolerated. “Give me some credit.”
The tables were groaning under the weight of the barbecued pork and hot dogs and hamburgers and the baked beans, Cole slaw, sauerkraut salad, deviled eggs and potato salad , chip and dips. There was a sundae bar set up with fresh fruit and a variety of toppings . Platters of cookies were passed by the young servers Cynthia had hired. Lee and Johnny were moving among the tables talking with everyone. Dixie, Kel, Hank and Em were sitting with Merce and her parents.
“John Paul was just telling us you are responsible for his son becoming a doctor instead of a football player.” Kel said. “How did you accomplish that?”
“Easy I yelled at him and told him he was a dumb jock that had mush for brains.” Lee said very matter of fact.
“She told him he should get down on his knees and thank God he had parents who loved and cared for him and stop wasting his time complaining that Papa cared enough to yell at him about his grades.” Merce added. “Lee was my tutor but Paul would sit in on the sessions. He worked just hard enough to keep his grades up for football. One day he was complaining and belly aching that Papa had threaten to take his car. Lee had enough of it and let him have it.”
“Merced worked hard on the math but did not understand it…we were happy she passed the class with Lee’s help…Her talents are in the arts…designing beautiful clothes and jewelry…Now she is making a lot of money wearing others people’s designs…Paul was taking everything except the football as a joke.” John Paul looked at Johnny. “If you ever need anything, anything at all you call me if I can help. She has chosen well …welcome to our family Johnny.” The big man smiled tenderly at Lee. “She has a giving soul and I think you as well.” The Cajun accent became more pronounced as he spoke softly.
“Thank you Mr. Broussard.” John was touched by the sincerity he saw in the older man’s eyes. “Lee I think we need to start with the presents.” They excused themselves and went up to the front of the tent where a table was covered by several sheets. Johnny took the sheets off with Roy’s help.
“Johnny and I want to welcome you all and thank you all for being here. Not only here tonight but in our lives…and we have a few gifts. Jen and Stacy come up here please. These two are our flower princesses and have been kind enough to allow us to be their aunt and uncle. You all are part of our family of the heart and we love you all for the special joys you bring into our lives.”
The two little girls had come up and were waiting patiently. Johnny handed each a brightly wrapped box that was almost as big as they were. Their eyes wide they opened the boxes to find dolls that looked like them and were dressed in their flower princess outfits. The adults were as thrilled as the girls with the unique gift.
“These dolls are made to be played with and loved not to sit on a shelf and be lonely…They have other outfits…We wanted to let you how glad we are that you’re sharing our special day with us.”
“Thank you Uncle Johnny.” Jenny ran to him and gave him a hug and kiss as he picked her up. “You’re the best uncle and aunt in the world.” He let her down and she went over to Lee. “I’m glad you are my aunt and sharing Uncle Johnny’s heart with us.” She took her doll and ran to her mom and dad.
“Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lee, thank you…and thank you for my new cousin Jenny…we have so much fun together.” Stacy said as she gave hugs and kisses.
“Ok, that’s a hard act to follow…Johnny…your turn.”
“Cap, guys…” They came up. “I don’t have the words to tell you what you mean to me…and to Lee since you’ve saved my skinny butt more times than you can count according to Chet…Just wanted to give you something to remind you how we feel…Thanks for being there for us.”
He handed them all small packages. They opened them to find silver money clips engraved with a fire engine and the number 51. In each clip was a gift certificate--- each one different reflecting something each man was interested in.
“Roy, I didn’t forget you…Roy is not only my partner but my best friend my big brother and sometimes he and Cap share being my dad…” There were nods and a few laughs at that. His package was a little larger and when he opened it found a watch with an inscription on the back as well as a money clip. Instead of a fire engine there was a squad etched on his. No words were said as Johnny and Roy looked at each other.
“Why do I feel like I just eaves dropped on a private conversation?” John Paul asked Kel.
“Because we did…that is what makes them the best team in the county…they have this connection where they don’t need words to communicate.”
“Ok, Lee you have something for your ladies?” Johnny broke eye contact with Roy.
“Yep, ok ladies …I have been blessed with friends who have put up with my tantrums and moods…and in the last few months I got another wonderful lady to add to my sisters…another gift from Johnny…bringing the De Sotto family into my life…”
The packages were handed out. Inside was a gift certificate that matched each of their interests and a necklace. The gold chain’s charm was a heart with a gem stone that matched the color of each dress. “Jim, thank you for sharing your family with me and letting Kathy be the big sister I needed so many times…”
“Chris, Jimmy you guys want to come up here…We couldn’t forget you two…These two young men have been given a special task by Lee not just for tomorrow but long term…So to say thank you…” He handed them their packages. Their eyes got big as they realized what they had. Autographed shirts from their favorite football players on the Rams and each had a gift certificate for a ball game.
“Wow Uncle Johnny…How?”
“Your Aunt Lee knows some people…Me , you and your dads we’ll sit down and find the game we want to go see.”
“Ok, we have a few more…Em and Melissa, would you please accept these small thanks you for everything you have done to help me learn about being a firefighter’s wife. Mrs. Lopez thank you for helping with our wonderful party…Chet would you give this to your mom as a thank you for her help on some special projects…” Johnny and Roy were passing out packages. Em’s was a beautiful book of quilt patterns and the history of each pattern. Melissa received a gift certificate to her favorite craft store. (Chet would find out later his mom got a set of tapes from her favorite Irish singers.)
“Back in February Kelly Brackett and Dixie McCall decided Roy and Johnny needed to be on the new advisory committee being formed. I was the chair person for that committee and I heard later a certain dark haired paramedic grumbled about being asked to join us…” Johnny shook his head no and looked very innocent. “And we all know what happened after that…”
Johnny took the packages over to Kel and Dixie. Kel was surprised at the book he had gotten. It was an out of print edition of one of his favorite writers. He had been looking for this book for years. Dixie opened her box it was charm bracelet with just one charm. A gold tiger with a topaz eye. She smiled as she had Kel put it on her. “There are some more gifts but they are going to be given in private because I don’t want to keep everyone here too late. Cisco, remember you have to have him back here by 3: 00...and don’t run anywhere he can get hurt…no mountains …” With that everyone laughed.
Fr. Chuck and Jeff were standing off to the side. Watching and listening as Lee and Johnny moved among their friends and family. “So what is his story?”
“Just that his story to tell or not…Just let’s say he was raised about as opposite as you can get from her. And they both have lost too much to be that young.”
“I heard him whisper something to her…It was a language I didn’t recognize.”
“He grew up on a Cheyenne reservation in Montana…He was probably telling her he loved her or calling her sweetheart. He doesn’t do it often but she looked a little stressed when they first got here.”
“Maria, Hector…” Lee called as she saw them walking towards the parking area. “Wait up a minute please.” Johnny pushed her over to them. “There is something for you back at the apartment…I knew I couldn’t talk about what you mean to me without crying……”
“We know how you feel…you show us every day And you are right it is not a night for tears. It is a night to dream of tomorrow and say a prayer of thank you for all the blessings…As for the present don’t you know seeing you this happy is the best gift you could have ever given us…You rest well and if you need me in the morning…” Maria said kissing her on the cheek.
“Thank you.” Johnny didn’t say anything just let her sniffle as they went back to the group. Matt, Johnny and Marie and the Ballards were talking to Hank and Mike.
“There are packages for you in your rooms…I …love you…” Lee told them.
“Young lady you have already spent way too much money on us…the flight…and I find out today there is no hotel bill…What am I gonna do with you?” Johnny Russo growled.
“Same thing you have done since I was 8...give me a kiss on the forehead and love me.” She smiled at him. “Take the money you saved here and spoil Marie and the boys…”
“She has you there Sergeant.” Matt shook his head. “You both did a good job with the speeches…”
“Yep I think we need to get home …Tomorrow is gonna be a long day…” Hank said. “So you go running in the morning?”
“Yep Lee and Roy figured that would keep me out of trouble. She has to get her hair done and all that so she’ll be busy.” He laughed as she wrinkled her nose at him. “She has this silly idea I can’t see her until the wedding,” he complained.
“It’s not a silly idea and you can’t…Lee if he gives you any problems call me, “ Cap said bending down to give her a kiss.
“Can I at least call her?” He frowned but it didn’t come anywhere near the laughter in his eyes as he wrinkled his forehead.
“Before you go running …,” Cap said grinning. “But not afterwards she’ll be busy”
A few minutes later Lee said a private good bye to Jeff and Matt. They then walked her and Johnny to the rover. Johnny lifted her into her seat and whispered something in her ear. Matt and Jeff kissed her bye and they left. Neither said much as they drove back to the apartment. Johnny wasn’t even sure if she was awake.
“Can I walk you to the door?” He had lifted her into the chair.
“Yes …Johnny this time tomorrow you won’t have to leave…ever again…neither one of will ever be alone…the kind of alone we talked about so long ago…not the I am the only one in the house alone but the no one cares alone…” He kissed her and pushed her inside. They didn’t talk as they rode the elevator up to her apartment. He unlocked the door and stood there a minute before bending down to kiss her.
“Tomorrow I’ll carry you into our home.
“Just like in the movies and the faerie tales.” A last kiss and he was gone.
Johnny had just gotten out of the shower when the phone rang. Grabbing it quickly as he looked under the bed for his other shoe. “Hello.”
“Good morning. Just wanted to tell you have a good run.” Lee said wondering why he sounded so aggravated. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah just looking for a shoe…They were both here last night…It’s under the bed…What are you doing up this early?”
“Thinking about you…and finishing packing…I have repacked about 3 times now…I better let you go you’re supposed to be meeting Cisco in twenty minutes…Love you.”
Cisco was waiting for Johnny at the park entrance. He was doing a set of stretching exercises when Johnny drove up.
“That looks almost like dance.” John said as he watched him finish up. He was doing some stretching as he talked.
“It’s a Shaolin exercise…Did you ever study any martial arts?”
“Nope if I had maybe I wouldn’t have gotten beat up so much.” The sad thing was Cisco knew Johnny wasn’t joking. “I have to be at Rose Hill and dressed by 3 so they can do some pictures of me and the guys.”
“Then let’s get moving.” They ran at an easy pace for about half an hour then picked the pace up for another half hour before starting back to the cars. As they reached the parking lot, Cisco got serious. “John, I know I tease about Lee being a hell cat and the girl does have a temper and has been known to hold a grudge…But she is still really young in some ways…Just like she can hold onto the old grudges the old insecurities are still there.”
“The nerdy pest that lives in her head…I evicted her the other day…But those old hurts and insecurities are hard to get rid of.. But I’m gonna do my best to make sure they don’t hurt her anymore.”
Lee had just gotten dressed when Maria and Hector came up with some fruit and yogurt and rolls for her.
“You need to eat, There isn’t anything in the fridge since we cleaned it out yesterday..no fresh fruit or vegetables or milk…I will make sure there is something here tonight.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Eat…she isn’t going to be happy until you do. Eat that and I’ll get you a soda.” Hector sat down and she knew she had to eat. Surprising herself once she tasted the food, she was hungry. They talked and just kept it low keyed. Soon as she had ate they gathered up her makeup case and they left. She was meeting the others at one to get hair and makeup done.
A friend of Merced’s was doing the makeup and hair for all of them. Liz had delivered all the dresses on Friday and would be there for any last minute needs. No one had seen the dress or even what the final design was for the veil. Jen and Stacy were thrilled they got to wear a very pale pink lip gloss and their hair had been curled and they had their head bands on. They were sitting in a corner of the library coloring and looking at books.
Chris and Jimmy were upstairs in the adjoining rooms the guys were using as a dressing area. Cynthia had provided snacks in both dressing areas.
Hair and makeup was done everyone except Lee was going to the parlor to rest and eat. As Kathy and Jo started to leave Lee asked Kathy to stay. Lee told Kathy what she had decided.
“You are not serious…Tell me this is a joke…” Kathy was up pacing around and trying hard not to yell at her friend. “You honestly can’t be considering…What did Matt and Jeff say? Or have you even told them yet?”
“No not yet.” She wouldn’t look at Kathy. “Don’t be mad at me.”
“I’m not mad I just think this is so wrong…I …What is Johnny going to say?”
“I’m doing this for him…as much as for me me…Will you please go tell Matt and Jeff I need to see them but don’t tell anyone else what I am going to do.”
Kathy knocked on Matt’s door. She was still upset and it showed on her face. Matt opened the door and she went inside. Jeff was there watching a ball game on a small TV.
“What’s wrong?” Jeff knew Kathy’s expression wasn’t good news.
“Go talk to her…try to talk some sense into her…”
“What did she do now?” It was times like now he regretted giving up smoking. “She seemed fine a few minutes ago…A little nervous but nothing out all that bad…”
“Go talk to her…Please.” She explained what Lee had decided to do
“Ok but if her mind is made up there isn’t much we can do…I just hope you’re wrong.”
Johnny walked into the room that Marco and Chet would be sharing for the night. Mike and Melissa had the adjoining room but it was also being used by the people. Melissa was down the hall in the small sitting room the bridesmaids were using. There was a cooler with beer and soda sitting by the window and snacks on the table. Mike, Marco and Cap were there. Chet looked up from the small TV. “Bout time you go here. Was starting to think you’d changed your mind.”
“Fat chance of that happening, Chester B…I ran 10 miles with Cisco then went home and cleaned up….Traffic is a mess…usually takes me 20 minutes to drive out here today it took me 35...Where is Roy?” He had been undressing while he talked. His dress uniform was hanging in the closet since he had brought it over Friday. Roy and Cap came in before anyone could answer. “How’s it going Junior?”
“Fine as rain Pally…I’m ready to get this show on the road.” He opened the cupboard door and 2 dozen helium filled balloons came floating out of the closet. Some were heart shaped and some were pink and purple. Johnny had jumped back when the first ones had sprung out at him and would have lost his balance if Roy hadn’t grabbed him. “Thanks Pally, for having my back.”
“Chet, you twit…” Cap tried to sound stern but couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on Johnny’s face. “You got 10 minutes till we’re supposed to be down by the fountain for pictures, Johnny.
“The Phantom just wanted to tell you how happy he is for you and Lee and wish you the best of everything,” Chet said.
No problem Cap,” the grinning groom answered batting a heart shaped balloon at Chet’s head.
Jeff and Matt knocked on the door to the library. Lee asked who it was ad told them to come in.
“Heard you needed to talk to us.” Jeff said as he leaned on the corner of the desk. He waited for her.
“You aren’t going to try to change my mind?” Biting her lip as she waited for his answer. “Tell me what a stupid idea this is?”
“No we just want to hear your reasons.” Matt answered in a cool controlled voice that had a calming effect on her. She explained and they listened. After some discussion and a tear or two on her part, they reached an understanding.
Liz came into the library ready to help Lee dress. The heavy curtains had been shut so no one could see in the windows that ran along one wall.
“Do you want Kathy and Jo here to help?”
“Yeah…that would be a good idea I think…just for moral support hopefully.” she had not talked to Kathy since Matt and Jeff left as she and Jo were busy with getting the girls dressed and checking on the boys. Pictures would be taken of Lee and the attendants in the library before the ceremony. Nana had fixed a background for the indoor pictures. They had wanted as many of the formal shots taken before the wedding as possible.
The large desk made a good place for Lee to lean against as she stood up. Kathy and Jo helped Liz slip the dress over her head. She took a step forward supported by her friends as they smoothed the dress so it hung perfectly. Liz fastened the hook and eyes that were hidden under fake buttons . She adjusted the off the shoulder sleeves and made sure the bodice fitted tightly.
The dress was perfect for her. The low scalloped neckline was beaded, as were the small sleeves and bodice. The empire waistline let the skirt hang in a soft straight flow. The lace veil was gathered in the back of a wreath of silk flowers of pale pink and lavender so pale almost white. The white slippers matched the creamy ivory of the dress. Her hair was up like Johnny liked with the soft wisps around her face. She had the locket on he had given her the night before and pearl earrings that had been her mother’s.
“You look like a china doll.” Kathy said. Carefully they helped her back into her chair and they went over to the area where the pictures would be taken. Hector had brought an antique white iron garden bench in for them and there was flowers in arranged at the sides. The attendants would be standing behind the bench. Several different poses were taken. Lee’s favorite was the one with her flower princesses’ sitting in front of her. Pictures of Lee and Kathy were taken and a picture of the girls on the bench and the adults behind them were taken.
The guys had been getting pictures taken outside at the same time. A variety of poses and individual pictures of Johnny and Roy then Johnny and Cap and then one of all three . Theirs were taken by the fountain. As they were finishing up guests were starting to arrive. Johnny and Roy went back inside and the others began their duties as ushers along with Cisco and Eddie. There was no seating brides or grooms side as most people were mutual friends. Cisco had talked with some of his friends and parking was being taken care of by some of the recruits from the academy a donation would be made to the FOP as well as a $50 per person working.
Cisco was talking with Vince and Scotty as they watched the packages being carried into the house. “Lee called me up about a week ago dying laughing. Seems this joker called her up and told her he was with the security company hired by Rose Hill and wanted information on where the gifts would be kept during the ceremony and what type of security she had arranged for and was there another location where gifts would be stored during the ceremony. So she listened and played along…Yes she was glad to know her gifts would be protected and could she have a number to call them back after talking with her fiancée… The jerk gave her the number…They busted the guys a half hour later and solved 3 major robberies…Lee called me and I went in and they were a couple of guys I had busted before. They couldn’t believe it when I told them it was my little sister they’d been gonna rip off.”
“Gentlemen you need to go to the terrace ,” Maria told the nervous group of fire fighters. Johnny is going to the fountain now.”
Earlier Matt had talked to Marshall about a slight change in plans and no one seemed to notice that a pub chair had been placed back behind the fountain and it was draped with a white sheet and had a bow holding the sheet in place.
The bride and her attendants were lined up ready to go out the door. They would go out to the terrace and down to the fountain. When they had decided on the fountain as the ceremony spot they had dropped the idea of the canopy but there was flowers floating in the fountain and the water pressure had been turned down as low as possible to keep the splash down. The music began and Jenny and Stacy waited as Chris and Jimmy unrolled the runner.
Johnny stood there feeling as if it was a movie he was watching. The boys slowly unrolled the white fabric then went to their seats next to Jim. Stacy and Jenny came towards them tossing the pink and red rose petals as they walked. So serious and focused. Then came Elaina and Marco, Theressa and Mike, Merce and Chet , Jo and Hank then Kathy and Roy.
The long simple but elegant dresses shimmered in the sun. Then Matt and Jeff came each with a hand on the handle of her chair. There wasn’t a sound except the birds, the water and the soft music. Instead of the traditional wedding music the do was playing songs requested by the bride and groom. As they reached the half way mark down the aisle Matt and Jeff stopped. Johnny frowned worried she was ill or worst having muscle spasms.
It was if everyone there was holding their breath as Jeff put the brakes on the chair and moved the foot rest. Slowly carefully Lee stood up and got her balance. Matt and Jeff offered their arms as support and slowly with a look of determination Lee took a step. With each step the look on her face relaxed from concentration to pure joy as each step brought her closer to Johnny. Roy had his hand on Johnny’s shoulder in support knowing the fear in Johnny’s heart but also knowing how proud he was of her.
Roy whispered something and Johnny nodded never taking his eyes off her. When she had only a step left til she reached him he went to her. Someone quickly moved the hidden chair to the place she was to stand. Looking in her eyes Johnny smiled and with as much ease as if it had been practiced sat her on the chair. There was a collective sigh of relief as she was safely seated.
All watching realized what a gift she had given Johnny and what a gift her uncle’s had given her by allowing her to do it.
“Who gives this woman in marriage?” Father Chuck said clearing the lump that had formed in his throat. He had been there 6 years ago when they told her she would never walk again and had seen the struggle she faced accepting that fact.
“I give myself to my love with the blessing of all my family and friends.” Lee answered. Matt and Jeff kissed her and went to their seats.
“We have all heard at most weddings that love is kind…but today we have seen that love is strong and brave and gives us a strength to draw from. In addition, what we just saw makes what I was going to say seem trite. I don’t need to ask you if you …either one of you understands the responsibilities of love and the commitment it requires. I am not sure if you who were not close by could see how badly John wanted to go to her and keep her safe or hear the soft reassurance all was well from his best friend . Lee and Johnny have chosen to write their own vows."
“John Roderick Gage you are my love, my heart and soul belong to you. I love you for so many reasons and that list grows every minute I spend with you. But the fact you accept me for me…That you invited me to go dancing on our first date because you had never noticed the wheel chair in the corner of my office…That you threw me into a swimming pool because I was too scared to show your friends the scars on my legs…That when I went to order flowers for today the wise and beautiful lady who owns the shop knew who I was soon as I said I wanted faerie roses…and told me how you described me to her…but it was the last thing she told me that made you love me even more…She said that you never mentioned the wheelchair that you never saw it that you saw only me the one you loved and who loves you. I can’t promise there won’t be bad days and you know what a temper I have and how I like things my own way…But this I do promise you …I love you for you…and whatever happens nothing is going to change except that each day I’ll love you more. You have my love and my respect always…And also my promise never to be boring.”
“Leona Elizabeth, I forgot everything I planned to say when I saw you walking towards me. As much as I knew I loved you and respected you it seems so little compared to what I feel now. You have accepted me for me and love me knowing all about my past. The past is just that past…now we are going to build a future together and that is what is important….A future full of family and friends but most importantly full of love and respect.” That crooked grin slowly made its way to his lips. “Just promise me no more surprises like that…Man I thought I was gonna pass out when you stood up like that so afraid you’d fall.”
“I promise,” she giggled. “But why worry? The best paramedics in the county are standing here plus all the doctors and nurses …I wasn’t worried.” She smiled and he rolled he rolled his eyes at her before laughing. "Because I know you will always be there for me."
“I love you Baby girl and I don’t think bored is something we’ll ever be.” There was scattered laughter and one groomsman with a red face.
“Ok lets see if I can get some sort of control over these two…but this is what your life and marriage should be. A free and joyous reaspect of each other…a life of love and laughter… Johnny will you please place this ring on Lee’s hand as a symbol of the never ending love and respect you have pledged her today.” He slipped the gold band on her finger. “And now Lee will you please place this ring on Johnny’s hand as a symbol of the never ending loving and respect you have pledged him today.” She did. “Now you two are one …and may God’s smile always be upon you. Please kiss to seal the promises made before God and your family of the heart this day.” Johnny helped her stand and she put her arms around his neck as they kissed. His arms around her holding her tight and safe. With what seemed practice ease he helped her to turn so they were facing all their friends. His arm around her waist and her leaning into him for support. To no one’s surprise Johnny sweep her up in his arms kissing her again. Then as their friends clapped and cheered he carried her to the wheel chair and gently sat her in making sure she did her seat belt before moving the chair forward to the fountain. There were very few dry eyes in the crowd male or female.
“While pictures are being taken of the bridal party there are refreshments being served at the tent… May God be with all of us as we celebrate this joyous day and bless the friends, family and good food we are about to share.”
The photographer got some sort of order and pictures were snapped. The pub seat had been moved and was used in some of the pictures.
“I thought Gage was gonna pass out before he could grab her,” Chet said he watched as the photo of Johnny and Lee and the little girls was taken.
“Think a lot of us were feeling like that…She didn’t tell anyone she was going to do it until right before the ceremony.” Roy said watching his daughter as she clung to her uncle’s hip and was whispering in his ear. “But Jo thinks she has been planning to do it all along. I would guess that’s how she got all those bruises practicing standing up.”
The pictures were finished and they made their way over to the tent. The guys quickly got rid of coats and ties and Lee noticed several pairs of heels sitting under the table and the slippers she had put on the chairs at the bridal table on relieved feet. She had had time during pictures to talk with Jeff and Matt and thank them again for helping her make her dream wedding come true. She had had a chance also to talk with Amos and she told him his promise had come true with just a few modifications. By the time, everyone was served and settled down at the tables Lee and Johnny had eaten. Maria and Hector had fixed their plates and brought them to the table while the rest of the bridal party had went thru the buffet line at the head of the line. Mick, Sean and Cynthia had worked together to make sure everything was perfect.
“I think Lee wants to start moving around talking to people…You all just sit and relax for awhile.” Johnny had said as he got up. Jeff, Matt, Maria, Hector, Jen, and Stacy were at one table. That was where they stopped first. Then onto the table with Cisco and Linda, the Russo’s(minus sons who were off with a bunch of kids their age) and the Ballards. The women were trying without great success to keep the conversation away from police topics. Dixie, Kel, Jim and Joe Early were at a table with Melissa and Emily.
“You almost gave some of us heart attacks with that little stunt, young lady.” Joe said kissing her lightly.
“Don’t tell anyone but I was glad to see that pub chair…and have Johnny hold on to me.”
“He had a good grip on you that are for sure.” Joe teased.
“How did Chet rate getting paired up with your model friend?” Dixie asked as she watched Chet escort Merce to get some more food.
“They were a good match in height and I knew she could keep him in line…” Lee giggled. “Her brother was suppose to be here but he got a call and is in surgery with some football player…He is gonna try to get here soon.”
Slowly they continued on their rounds. Chief Houser and his wife were sitting with John Paul, Maggie, Will, and Tom and their wives. Johnny was a little taken back at first by the teasing way Lee had with his Chief. “John, you did the department proud today. We’re delighted to be included in this day.”
“Well, just remember it’s because you’re a friend not the boss today…As unnerving as that maybe for Johnny….you and I have been friends a long time…since before the paramedics came into being officially."
“So Will, Tom when are you coming down for your ride along? See I told you the guys at 51 were pretty nice.”
“Actually that is about all you told us about 51.” Will say laughing. “You worked very hard at being impartial.”
“Oh it was very hard indeed…But worth it…”
They were called back to the head table so they could do the cake. Lee was giggling with Jo and Kathy so Roy and Johnny knew something was going on. They brought out a cart with the 3 tiers of pineapple cake with butter cream icing and decorated with small pink and lavender faerie roses. Then another cart came out with a package sitting on it.
“Johnny…everyone here knows I am pretty spoiled and you have let me have everything pretty much my way…”
“Yeah he’s a fast learner he knows it’s easier that way.” Cisco yelled to her.
“Anyway, this is my way of saying thank you…and saying thank you to you guys from Station 51 A shift.” The servers lifted the box up and there were two cakes. One was the squad the other engine 51. “The squad is a carrot cake the engine is chocolate…”
“Lee and Johnny made sure cupcakes were sent to all the fire stations that 51 works with and to their friends at Rampart and the various law enforcement agencies they are friends with,” Jeff announced.
“I have been told under no circumstances am I to smash cake in her face.”
“Already taking orders, Gage,” Chet called out.
“Yeah Kelly, from me,” Hector called back. "This time.”
“Are you ever gonna learn Chet?” Marco laughed as his best friend turned red.
Lee cut a piece from each cake and fed them carefully to Johnny. He smiled and making sure he had frosting on his lips leaned closer and kissed her. Everyone laughed and Hector the loudest. Johnny did the same cutting a small sliver of each and feeding her careful not to spill on her dress then leaned in for another kiss.
As the cake and cupcakes were served the music began and the dance floor was cleared.
Amos was given the job of emcee. He called for everyone’s attention…”For those who may not know me, my name is Amos Burke and I’m an old family friend. My grandfather and Lee’s grandmother were cousins…our grandfather’s friends. I made a promise to a little girl once …and as she told me earlier today with some modifications that promise was fulfilled today. …Thanks Johnny for keeping me honest and keeping my promise. The bride has requested that Johnny dances with Maria, Jeff with Jo and Matt with Kathy, Hector with Dixie to the songs that were the favorites of their parents.”
Johnny looked shocked and started to say something but Lee shook her head no. The soft sounds of Unchained Melody began as the couples danced then changed into Secret Love. Roy and Cap stayed with Lee while the songs played. At the end of the song, Johnny went over to the DJ and talked for a minute then to Amos. “Ok the groom has a request, will the bridal party join him and Lee on the dance floor…”
It was Lee’s turn to look shocked but Johnny went over to her and picked her up and took her out to the middle of the dance floor. Her arms tightly around his neck her head on his shoulder the music began. There wasn’t a sound except the music as it reminded all it only takes a moment to be loved your whole life long. After a short while Lee whispered in his ear and he smiled as he let her stand.
They stood in one place but moved to the music before he lifted her up and carried her back to the chair. “Please all who would like to dance…” Jim claimed Kathy and Roy took Jo into his arms. Hank went over to Em and Cisco smiled as he saw Charlie Dwyer go ask his sister to dance. About an hour later after visiting with people sitting around talking and enjoying the music Jeff went over to went over to Amos. Amos handed the mic to him. Lee and Johnny were getting ready to leave.
“Excuse me…As some of you noticed Lee and Johnny skipped the toasting of the bride and groom as they wanted the dancing to begin. However, Matt and I want to take this time to thank you for all coming and sharing this day. We want to thank you all for sharing in the lives of these exceptional people…And we want to thank them for all the love and happiness they have brought into our lives…And a special thank to the Hogan’s, O’Shea’s , Liz and Nana and all who did the work to make this a dream come true….And Johnny I have a message for you from Liz…yes she did as you asked. Every time Lee went in for a fitting she was reminded of your request.” Jeff handed the mic to Roy.
“Johnny has been my partner and best friend since the paramedic program began…From the first time I met him I just had a feeling he was someone I wanted to know and be friends with…Today we are more than friends … we are brothers and Junior I just want you to know how proud we all are at Station 51 to call you friend and be your family. Lee welcome to the family…crazy as it may be at times.”
Lee and Johnny looked at their friends and family…Lee took the mic first.
“I …heard Jeff tell Johnny he was a miracle worker a few months ago and I have to agree…I…am so thankful for each and every one of you in our lives and for the way you have given us a family to love and be loved by…” She handed the mic to Johnny.
“Lee said it all …Thanks.” Johnny handed the mic back to Jeff.
“Lee for weeks Johnny has been whispering something in your ear every time your dress was mentioned and you'd turn red…What did he say to you?” Kathy called out to them.
“Be sure to tell Liz to make it so it comes off quick and easy…And she did.” Everyone laughed as Johnny turned red this time.
A short time later Lee and Johnny and her uncle’s were off by themselves.
“I can’t say good bye…because even as happy as I am right now that hurts too much…I love you…tell Uncle Johnny and Aunt Marie and Chris and Nancy we’ll see them soon.”
“I will…love you…” Matt kissed her and nodded at Johnny. “I don’t have to tell you to take care of her…That’s a given.” He shook Johnny’s hand then gave him a hug.
“Jeff…love ya” She swallowed…”See ya soon?”
“Only a phone call and plane ride away.” Roy joined them.
“Keep Chet in line Roy…and be safe Pally,” Johnny said.”
When Johnny and Lee got home they were surprised to find Joey K sitting on the doorstep. He was one of the people on Hector’s payroll. Joey smiled as he saw Lee and Johnny coming up the walkway.
“Evening Mr. and Mrs. Gage…nice night for a wedding.”
“Joey…yeah it is. What are you doing here?’
“Hector and Maria hired me to watch the place…to make sure no one thinks it’s funny to bother you tonight…No practical jokers or worst…I made some easy money and got to eat Mrs. A’s good food. In addition, they are going to bring me some cake."
They went upstairs. Johnny unlocked the door then with a crooked grin picked her up and carried her into the apartment. “Welcome home Mrs. Gage.” He sat her on the couch then brought the wheelchair in. He locked the door. He sat down next to her. “You doing ok?” She had been very quiet in the car. “How would you like the first in a long line of showers for two?”
“Sounds wonderful…do you want to do your package tonight or wait?”
“You know you can’t keep doing stuff like this…those cakes were fantastic…and you’ve already given me the tie tack…”
“Let me splurge right now Mr. Gage…I have a lot of years to make up for of not having anyone special to spoil…” to herself …and to make up for all the years you had no one to spoil you…”There is a package on the dining room table.”
The brought it over and sat down next to her. The package was about 30 inches squared and not very heavy. Lee was chewing on her lip as she waited for him to carefully open it. He looked at the painting in his hand and it took his breath away from him. Tears came streaming down his face. He looked at her in total disbelief. All the emotions he had kept in check that day were released. He slowly touched the painting with soft loving fingers. He was pale and still not breathing normally.
“Johnny…says something please.” She looked at his face so like the one in the painting except for the color of his eyes.
“How? When?” His voice was soft but urgent.
“Roy went to your apartment and took your photo and had it copied then to the artist. He put your photo back. I had one done of my parents also. You don’t like it?”
“Not like it? This is so much more than anything I could ever do for you…That you love me so much to go to al that trouble…Isn’t she beautiful? And dad’s expression…”
“When I saw that picture I cried…Johnny that’s the same look you get on your face sometimes when you look at me. That is the look I saw today when I walked into your arms. I had never felt so loved as I did when I saw you looking at me like that…knowing how much they loved each other…”
“Where is the other one?” He stood up
“On the bed in Jeff’s room. No one has seen them…not even Roy…”
Johnny went in and brought the painting out. Her dad was in his Marine dress blues. His smile was a lot like the one Johnny had seen on her face when she getting ready to zap someone. Ornery but kind was how someone had described it to him. Matt had told him she looked a lot like her mom and now he could see it. Carolyne’s hair had been darker but the eyes and nose were the same. “You look a lot like your mom but you have your dad’s smile. Full of life and mischief. Thank you so much…Now you ready to take the first of many showers’ for two?’
“Sounds like the start of a lovely tradition. Help me out of this dress please.’
“You are something else, Baby girl.” He carried her to the bedroom and sat her on the bed. “Tell me what to do.”
“You’re the one who should be telling me what to do, sir, since I‘m the one who has never done this before.” She giggled and he just shook his head. “Ok Help me stand up and let me hold onto the railing. She had kicked her shoes off. “There are 3 or four buttons to undo that aren’t really buttons but hook and eyes. Once you do that the dress will just fall to the floor.” He did as he was told and then carried her back over to the bed after he finished undressing her. When she shivered he wasn’t sure if it was from the cool air or his touch but decided hopefully it was his touch. He undressed feeling her eyes following his every move. He went into the bathroom, started the shower, and did some rearranging of the bath chair. While he was doing that, she took her hair down.
“Ready?” She nodded not trusting her voice. She held on tightly burying her head in his shoulder. “Are you scared?”
“Yes.” Very softly.
“I won’t hurt you…I’ll let you control it…”
“That’s not why I’m afraid silly…I’m afraid I won’t be…That you’ll be disappointed…”
“There is nothing in this world you could do that would disappoint me as long as you are honest with me. Understand? I know that there are some limits to the way you can move but think of the fun we’ll have finding ways you can…” He kissed her neck and nibbled on her ear. “Bet there are lots more ways you can than can’t …”
By the time the shower was done Lee and Johnny were at ease with each other and she had only cringed slightly as he traced over the scars on her leg and hip with the wash cloth. The smaller one on her back and on her lower stomach didn’t bother her. He let her trace the various scars on his body and she was surprised she had never noticed the ones on his left knee. They explored each other’s body Johnny guiding her hands or moving her hips carefully. She moved closer wanting more of his touch when she suddenly arched as he kissed the long curved scar on her hip that ran down below her knee. She pulled back and he raised himself so he was looking in her eyes. “Why did you do that?”
“To make a point…there is nothing about you I see as ugly or deformed…I see you my beautiful wife….You’ll tell me if I hurt you? “
“Yes but you won’t…”
“Johnny, you asked me to be honest with you…now it’s your turn…” He opened his eyes and looked at her turning slightly so his mouth was touching her ear. He had discovered she was very ticklish there. “Did I do ok?” Suddenly wide-awake again he frowned slightly before kissing her ear. She snuggled closer.
“No you did not do ok.” He propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at her. “You were wonderful…what kind of silly question was that?”
“It wasn’t a silly question…you’ve done it lots of times…”
“No my sweet Baby girl…I’ve had sex before…but this was the first time I’ve ever made love. There is a difference between making love and having sex…it’s kind of sad some people never learn the difference…but you taught me that tonight.” His mouth found hers then he moved slightly as his body responded to her moving closer .
It seemed to Johnny they had only been asleep a very short when he heard his name being called.
“Sorry darling but you have to get up…at least long enough to bring my chair here.” She watched him stretch and thought of pictures she had seen a big cats out in the wild.
“In a minute.” He was not ready to move.
“Dear heart…I need my chair so I can go to the bathroom…so please…” That was a different matter all together. He went out to the living room and brought the chair in and watched as she transferred then went into the bathroom.
He went out to the kitchen and opened the fridge. There was a small bottle of milk and a note saying there was doughnuts in the container on the counter. He had never seen the fridge that empty.
He got the milk and some doughnuts and went back to the bedroom. Lee had slipped on a robe. “Why isn’t there any food in the fridge?”
“Because we are going to be gone for 2 weeks…and we have to be at the airport in two hours…Someone will be here in about 45 minutes to pick us up…You want another shower? Or was the two we had last night enough?”
“Since we have to be ready to leave in 45 minutes I suggest a shower for one…Me first…It takes me longer to dress and do my hair.”
“Ok” He laid back down on the bed as she went back into the bathroom. “Oh by the way, I love you! Even a t 5:45 in the morning when we didn’t go to sleep till 2.”
“That’s good to know,” she called back.
“Are you always so cheerful in the mornings when you first get up?’
“Only since my mornings start with you beside me.” He laid there listening to the water running in the bathroom and the next thing he knew she was waking him up. “You have 30 minutes to get ready…Your clothes are laid out and your camera bag is on the table with my purse so get moving my love.”
“Ugh. Not only cheerful but bossy in the mornings…Why didn’t you warn me?” He gave her as kiss and went on into the shower.
Hector knocked on the door at 6:30 and said the car was loaded and he was going to drive them to the airport. Johnny grabbed the camera and handed Lee her purse which was actually a small tote.
They went into the check in area and Lee gave Johnny the tickets. He was surprised to find out they were first class and that arrangements had been made for them to board first so that they could get Lee’s wheelchair stowed and out of the way. Soon everyone was seated and the plane began its take off. Johnny leaned over and kissed her lightly. “Welcome to the first day of the rest of our lives, Mrs. Gage.”
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