I didn’t want to write this story, but certain people who shall be nameless (see below) nagged and nagged and nagged until I gave in. When Margaret P. and I merged our universes it made some parts of the writing easier. Margaret has been a wonderful beta, refusing to let me just phone it in and insisting that I could indeed write a good story here.
So this story is dedicated to Margaret, Marlene, and Doreen. Thank you all!
Late April: Lazo
“Lazo?” Scott glanced at Johnny, sprawled on his back in the dappled shade of an oak tree. Spring was being kind today; the sun warmed their backs while a cool breeze kept the bugs at bay. “Do you mean a lasso?”
“Kind of. It’s a ceremonial cord. The best man loops it around the groom. It’s a symbol.” Johnny didn’t even open his eyes.
Scott dropped his horse’s foot. The chestnut gelding had tripped a time or two on the ride out; Scott had just worked a stone out from its shoe. “Symbol of what?”
“Gettin’ tied down, I guess.”
Scott snorted. Johnny sat up with a grin, brushing a few dried acorns from his sleeve. “No, it’s a symbol of the everlasting union of marriage. It’s like a long rosary, you know? Or a ribbon? And you loop it over my shoulders, give it a twist, and the maid of honor loops it over Emily’s. Then after the wedding we keep it to remind us…” Hoof beats from an approaching rider caught his attention; Johnny got to his feet as Barranca nickered a greeting.
Emily waved as she trotted up on Tramp. The gelding had barely halted before he nudged Johnny for a scratch. Laughing, Johnny complied before he reached up for Emily. Scott knew she didn’t need help dismounting, but who was he to begrudge Johnny an opportunity to play the gentleman?
The kiss they shared wasn’t accepted protocol for assisting a lady out of a saddle, though, and Scott felt an unbrotherly twinge of envy. His own courtship with Katie followed—more or less—Boston rules of social etiquette, while Johnny and Emily seemed to make up their own. “Free thinkers,” Scott could hear society-loving Great Aunt Winifred sniffing. They would not be welcome in polite society.
Scott was glad to be in California.
“What’s this?” Johnny was already rooting inside the sack Emily handed him.
“Lunch.” She pulled off Tramp’s bridle and hung it over the horn before grabbing the hobbles tied on the back of the saddle. As she secured the gelding’s front legs and loosened the cinch, Johnny surfaced with an orange and tossed it to Scott.
“Fresh picked, brother, just for you.” Johnny grabbed Emily’s hand and led the way to a flat rock on the other side of the oak. It was perfect for a lunch table.
After the first few bites calmed their hunger, Johnny turned to Emily.
“I was just tellin’ Scott about el lazo.”
Emily brightened. “Isn’t that a wonderful custom? I’d never heard of it before. I hope you and Katie will enjoy being part of it.”
Katie? Scott’s heart thumped in his chest. He hoped it didn’t show on his face, but one look at Johnny’s smirk and he knew it had. “Katie is taking part?”
“Uh-huh. I’ve asked her to be maid of honor. I thought you and she would make a very handsome couple. After all, attractive attendants make a wedding so much more meaningful. Don’t they?”
Emily’s face was innocent but Johnny’s grin gave the game away. Scott shook his head and bit into a tortilla rolled around last night’s roast beef. “Very funny, you two.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, Boston,” Johnny said around his own mouthful of lunch. Emily just smiled.
May 18: Las Arras
During Katie’s visit the Lancer family had fallen into the habit of having dessert away from the table, in the great room. Tonight, though, Scott and Katie went for a walk after dinner. Then Katie retired early and Scott, looking bemused, joined the rest of the family. Johnny and Teresa teased each other mercilessly, and Emily got in on the fun every once in a while. Scott kept his own counsel except when the opportunity to jab at Johnny proved too much to resist.
Murdoch couldn’t remember when he’d enjoyed an evening more.
“I think we’ve got this wedding nailed down, so could we talk about something else?” Johnny leaned back on the couch and dropped his arm over Emily’s shoulder. “Something more interesting, like paint drying?” Emily elbowed him in the ribs; with a loud “oof,” Johnny doubled over in mock pain.
Emily ignored the theatrics. “Mr. Lancer, on the subject of the wedding…there is one thing we’d like to ask you.” Johnny straightened up and ran his hands through his hair.
“I’m listening, Emily, but don’t you think it’s time you called me Murdoch like the boys do?”
Emily hesitated, then nodded. “Murdoch, then. You’ve helped us so much, and I hope you know how much we appreciate it. But there is one more thing. Would you do me the honor of walking me down the aisle?”
Murdoch hadn’t expected that. Emily was an independent woman, and he was surprised she wanted anyone to walk her down the aisle. “Of course, my dear. It would be my pleasure.”
“Oh, how nice!” Teresa put down her mending. “I was wondering who would give you away.”
“No, Teresa.” Johnny winked at Emily. “He’s not giving her away. He’s walking her down the aisle.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Nope. Think about it.”
Murdoch saw when the light dawned in her eyes.
“Oh, I see…you’re right, Johnny. Emily, you’re a grown woman making your own choices. No one can give you away because no one possesses you.”
Johnny made a clicking sound and a thumbs up; Emily grinned at Teresa before she turned to Murdoch. “Thank you, Murdoch.”
“Oh.” Johnny slapped his knee. “There is something else. We decided to give las arras but we don’t have a box for the coins. Does anybody have something we could use?”
Scott leaned forward with a frown. “I’m sorry, Johnny, but I don’t know what that means.”
Johnny dropped his gaze to his boots. Once Murdoch had thought the gesture indicated a lack of confidence, but now he knew his son was just gathering his thoughts. “Well, it’s another custom in Mexico. Someone gives the groom thirteen gold coins in a fancy box, and he gives them to his bride as a promise that he’ll provide for her.”
“Who might that someone be?” Murdoch suspected it would end up being him. He didn’t mind at all.
“Well, when people get married in Mexico they have sponsors to help ‘em. Emily and I don’t need sponsors, but I realized today I don’t have a box.”
“I do!” Teresa was eager to help. “It isn’t real fancy, but it’s a lovely blue enameled box and I bet it’s just big enough. It was something I bought years ago when I had money left over from a birthday or something. It’s beautiful, but it’s not the right size for anything else. It would be perfect.”
Teresa’s eyes shone with a look Murdoch knew well. She’d made up her mind.
“That’s sweet of you, Teresa,” Emily said. “It will mean even more coming from you.”
“Yeah, thanks, Teresa.” Johnny blew her a kiss; Teresa snatched it out of the air.
“Very generous, Teresa.” Scott nodded. “And now that the matter of the box is settled, may I offer to give you the coins?”
Johnny looked surprised. “Nah, Scott, that’s okay.”
“As do I.” Murdoch’s two sons looked at him with raised eyebrows, so much alike he had to chuckle. “Call it a father’s prerogative.”
“Well, that’s mighty nice of both of you, and I thank you. But I tell you what, I only need twelve. I got one for seed.” Johnny threw a boyish grin at Emily. “Like King Solomon, I’ll let you split the baby; you can each put in six.”
At the end of the evening, only Murdoch and Johnny remained in the great room. Murdoch watched Johnny lean into the lamplight to better see the book he was reading.
Reading…Murdoch remembered a time when he wondered if his son was even literate. Watching him read, here and now, seemed almost a miracle.
Without moving a muscle Johnny said, “You got something to say, old man?”
Caught—Murdoch chuckled. “I suppose I do.” He let the silence settle between them as he lit the pipe he kept by his chair but rarely smoked. After several puffs, curls of fragrant smoke rose above his head.
“Johnny, when I learned you…when I learned my son was a gunfighter…”
Johnny looked up from his book with narrowed eyes. Murdoch raised a hand to stop his interruption.
“I felt I had lost you a second time. I mourned for you. And I buried the hopes a father has for his son.” Murdoch sighed. “Then when you came home, I…I didn’t know what to expect.”
Johnny set his book aside and looked away, tapping the conchos on his trousers until Murdoch continued.
“I never expected what I’ve seen the past few weeks, John. My son, home, with me and his brother, healthy, happy.” Murdoch pursed his lips as Johnny relaxed back in his chair. “I dreamed of this day but I’m not sure I really believed it would happen. Tonight, watching you with Emily, I saw the son of the dreams I abandoned all those years ago.”
Johnny hid his face by looking at the floor, but Murdoch saw the smile lines around his son’s eyes deepen.
Johnny looked up, and Murdoch held his pipe out in salute. “I’m proud of the man you are. I had little to do with it, but I am proud.”
Johnny ducked his head. “Thank you. And Murdoch? Don’t sell yourself short.”
Murdoch smiled and leaned forward to slap his son on the knee. “Thanks, Johnny. Now how ‘bout we turn in for a good night’s sleep?”
“That’s it? Nothin’ about the birds and the bees?”
Murdoch laughed. “What do you want me to know?”
They got to their feet. Johnny reached the stairway first, then hesitated. He stepped back and, smiling, waved for his father to go first.
May 20: Preparations
No one answered her knock, so Katie opened the guest room door and peeked inside. “Emily?” There was no sign of the bride, but the dressmaker’s dummy in the corner displayed the wedding dress she would wear later today. It was beautiful, of course, but its simplicity had made it challenging for Katie to find a gown that would not look garish by comparison. She had settled on a gray silk dress with a V-neckline, long sleeves, and a bodice decorated only by a narrow ruffle.
Katie pushed the door open wider with one elbow to make room for the basket she carried. As she set it on top of the bureau, heavy curtains hanging over French doors parted. Emily slipped through, clad in only her chemise and pantaloons, a sheepish smile on her face.
“You were outside like that?” Katie clasped her hands to her face in mock horror.
“It’s a private courtyard. No one can see, and I needed some air.” Emily’s hair was loose and tucked behind her ears; it barely reached her shoulders. Katie knew her friend tried hard not to show how much her short hair bothered her.
“You’re a brave soul, going outside practically naked.”
Emily shook her head. “No, just overwhelmed.” She spotted the basket, generously filled with wildflowers, and leaned over to inhale their fragrance. “I’m so glad you’re here to help with all the pomp and circumstance. I’ve never been much good at social niceties.”
“I am at your command, milady. Now, which first? The dress? Or your hair?” Katie was already unfastening the buttons on the back of the dress.
“The dress, it appears.” Emily picked up her corset from the bedpost, and together they did the laces and hooks. Then Katie lifted the gown from the dummy and placed it over Emily’s head. When she pulled down on the skirt it fell in place easily. While Katie did the buttons Emily tugged the neckline up.
“Stop that. It doesn’t need to be higher, it just needs to curve more. See?” Katie fussed with the sides. “It’s got to be high enough to cover your cleavage, but low enough to be…interesting.” They both giggled.
A bit of lace from Emily’s chemise peeked out; Katie tucked it in and made sure no other errant undergarments might make an appearance. “I meant to ask how you came to choose this color. It’s not like any blue I’ve seen before; it has a silvery tint to it.”
“Do you like it?” Emily flushed slightly. “It matches Johnny’s eyes.”
”It does, doesn’t it? It’s beautiful.”
“Tell Johnny. He doesn’t seem to believe his eyes are this color.”
“Well, they are.” Katie grinned. “Not that I ever noticed, of course.”
Emily laughed. “Of course not. I myself have no idea that Scott’s eyes are a lighter shade of blue than Johnny’s…”
Katie smoothed the sleeves before shaking out the skirt so the gathers fell evenly to the floor. “I thought mauve would complement your complexion, but when you showed me this fabric I knew it was right for you. I just didn’t realize the significance of it.”
Emily stood up straighter, checking that the dress covered her toes. “I never even considered whether it complemented me or not. If was just so…so ‘Johnny’ that there was really no other choice.”
Katie shook her head. “You are in love, aren’t you? Fortunately, this color is perfect for you.”
Emily examined her reflection in the cheval mirror in the corner. “It does look nice, doesn’t it?” She started to pull up on the neckline and Katie playfully slapped her hand.
“Leave it. It’s perfect.” Katie fluffed the gown’s delicate lace. It stopped at Emily’s elbows, leaving the rest of her arms bare. “I love how this hugs your shoulders and covers the bosom at the same time. Very elegant."
“You’re sure?” Emily studied the dress, turning from side to side. “Look. It moves just a little after I do, like an echo. I didn’t know dresses could do that.”
Katie watched with a slight smile. “Wait until I get you into a proper bustle.” She placed a stool near the bureau where the light was best and the combs easily reached. “And now your hair. Hop up.”
Katie lifted the back of the Emily’s skirt over the stool to keep it from wrinkling. As Emily perched on the stool, Katie studied the drawing of the hair style they’d been practicing all week. She was determined to outdo herself today.
“First let’s get the front just right.” Katie lifted Emily’s light brown hair gently up from her face, swept it back, and pushed it forward to create a soft curve. She nudged in a comb; the curve held. “There. I think that looks perfect. Sweeping it off your forehead makes your eyes look bigger. Very becoming.”
Combing in sections, Katie reflected the ends back up toward Emily’s head to mimic the soft curve of the front. She placed combs and pins just so, to hold the hair in place without being seen.
“This is going much better than our practice sessions.”
But Emily spoke too soon; several sections had to be redone. Katie persisted until Emily’s hair wreathed her head in a loose curl.
The final touch was the weaving of the flowers into the curl. Emily’s eyes closed and her breathing slowed as Katie chose Mariposa lilies and white primroses from the basket, finding just the right place to pin them in.
“What are you thinking about?”
Emily opened her eyes. “I’m sure you can guess.” She smiled shyly. “Johnny is always in my mind. He’s the last thing I think about at night, and the first thing I think about in the morning. I can’t believe I’m about to be married to him. I never knew I could love someone so much.” She stopped to take a breath. “I’m the luckiest woman in the world.”
“I would say Johnny’s pretty lucky himself.” Katie stepped back and rubbed her hands together. “There. All done, and not badly, if I do say so myself.”
She passed Emily a hand mirror; Emily’s eyes widened. The effect was magical. No one would be able to guess that Emily’s hair was anything except her crowning glory.
“You’re beautiful, Emily.”
Emily dropped her eyes; it reminded Katie of Johnny. “Thanks to you.”
“And Mother Nature.” Katie picked through the toiletries on the chest of drawers. “Is your jewelry in here?”
Emily looked confused. “No. I don’t have any. Why? Do you think I need some?”
Katie considered her for a moment. The simple, elegant dress and the flowers in her hair captured Emily’s essence; what more was there? “You know, I don’t think jewelry would add anything. You look like a princess just as you are.”
Emily was smiling again. “This dress is the most perfect thing I’ve ever worn. I thought a locket or a bracelet would be gilding the lily. Or am I wrong?”
“No, you’re right. I spoke without thinking. You really do look lovely. Johnny won’t be able to take his eyes off you.”
Emily hopped down from the stool and opened a box lying on the bed. She pulled out two posies bursting with color: white and yellow poppies accented with blue lupine and a splash of owl’s clover, encircled by a doily and bound with the same blue satin ribbon she wore at her waist. She held one out to Katie.
“Here. I made these for us. Thank you, Katie, for all your help.”
Katie accepted the flowers and pulled Emily into an embrace. “You’re welcome.” She sighed. “And now I believe it’s time to get started.”
Katie pulled the door open and stood back for Emily to pass through. “After you, Mrs. Morris, soon to be Mrs. Lancer. And I intend to be the first to call you that.”
“I tried to warn you. You got ready too soon.” Scott straightened his tie as Johnny, fully dressed in his wedding suit, prowled around his room. “Unless you want to make small talk you’ll have to stay hidden until the ceremony. And don’t even think about going outside.”
Johnny fingered Scott’s suit jacket before he threw himself into a chair. “At least I don’t have to wear one of those things.” He pointed at Scott’s tie. Johnny’s Mexican wedding shirt was open at the neck, with brilliant blue flowers embroidered along the placket. “My outfit’s a whole lot more comfortable than yours.”
“For you, maybe, little brother.” Well, Scott had a point. He was used to dressing fancy; he probably felt just as easy in those pinstriped trousers and his suit coat as Johnny did in his charro suit.
The bolero jacket he wore was made of soft deerskin, dyed dark brown, with fine leather braiding on its collar and lapels. Emily had sewed silver conchos on the cuffs to match the ones on his new suede calzoneros. The only part of the wedding suit that wasn’t familiar to him was the sash around his waist. The sash was a tradition for charro suits in place of a belt, but Johnny’s was an untraditional blue. It matched the color of Emily’s dress and, according to her, his eyes. Johnny didn’t know or care, but if it made Emily happy, he was good with it.
“You better stay in the back hallway.” Scott walked with him until they reached the arched door to the great room. Johnny sent Scott through with a pat on the back.
They’d arranged the chairs so a wide center aisle ran from the French doors to the fireplace. On the hearth a table, covered with wildflowers, held a pillow with the wedding ring, Teresa’s box for las arras, and el lazo coiled on a silver tray.
Johnny could see Murdoch chatting with the Reverend Samuel Braithwaite. Pastor Braithwaite hailed from Bakersfield; his presence was the result of Emily’s search for a Unitarian officiant. Scott walked up and shook his hand. Johnny couldn’t hear their conversation, but Murdoch smiled a lot and looked as happy as Johnny had ever seen him.
Time sure passed slow when you were waiting to get married. Johnny paced along the back hallways, getting used to the sound of his new boots and missing the ‘chink’ of his spurs. Every so often he peeked into the great room to see who had showed up.
Charlie and Mollie Poe had been the first to arrive. When Johnny had told Emily he’d never known a happy married couple until he met them, she insisted on inviting them “as insurance” against Johnny getting cold feet.
It looked like the Poes had brought Audrey Waters with them. The retired schoolteacher was a kind of abuela to both Johnny and Emily. Her acceptance of their relationship quieted some of the gossip of folks not used to an ex-gunfighter in their valley. Miss Waters had hired a companion to help her now that all her sight was gone. Miss Campbell, a tiny woman with red hair, escorted Miss Waters around the great room. Johnny took a step back as they passed the door he lurked behind.
He hadn’t counted on Miss Waters’s keen hearing.
“Who’s there?” she called out, head tilted like a bird listening for a worm. Then she broke into a big smile. “Johnny!”
What could he do but show himself? “How’d you know it was me?” He took her gloved hands and kissed her forehead.
“Oh, Johnny, you’ll think me wicked if I tell you.”
“I like my women wicked, Miz Waters.” She couldn’t see his grin or his sly wink, but Miss Campbell did, and smiled uncertainly.
Miss Waters reached up and patted his cheek. “Johnny, you have a most distinctive smell—you smell of soap, and leather, and sun. And if I’m not mistaken you’ve laid your hands on some fancy cologne as well.”
He should have been embarrassed, but Miss Campbell had reddened enough for both of them.
“Good thing you said soap first. And you’re right about the cologne, too.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m glad you could make it, and I know Emily is, too.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. You and Emily are very dear to me. It pleases me that you have found each other. Now,” she pulled away a bit, and took the arm of her companion, “I don’t need to tell you that you must take very good care of her, or you’ll answer to me!”
“I promise, Miz Waters, but only if you make her promise to take good care of me.”
Miss Waters laughed as she and Miss Campbell walked away. The room was half full now, and the guitarist, hired by Jelly as a wedding gift, started strumming. Soon Val Crawford ambled in. Typical: Val had put on a clean shirt, but hadn’t gotten around to shaving. Johnny looked forward to giving him a hard time about that.
The sheriff glad-handed Buck and Aggie Addison, who introduced him to a pleasant-looking woman Johnny didn’t recognize. She must be the relative of Aggie’s visiting from England he heard about; she wore a big yellow straw hat with lots of feathers and beads. The hat did a lot of fluttering and shaking when Scott came over and kissed her hand. Johnny thought the thing might take flight, with all those feathers.
As Scott ushered the last guests to their seats, the guitar played a minuet. The room filled with the low rumble of conversation. Leaning back against the wall inside the doorway, Johnny caught a word here and there. He smiled inside when he heard someone mention Scott and Katie in the same sentence. Another voice said something about Emily, and Johnny wondered what she was doing right then. He hoped she was thinking about him like he was thinking about her.
May 20: The Wedding
(A special thank you to Lancer fanfiction enthusiast and writer Adriana Maffei for giving Scott just the right words to say.)
Everyone was seated; it was time. Teresa watched at the doors of the front hall for Emily and Katie to appear. The guitarist strummed a romantic galliard; the Rev. Braithwaite caught Johnny’s eye and nodded.
Johnny slipped into the great room to take his place beside the table. Every eye was on him; he planted his feet shoulder width apart, shook out his arms, and relaxed his shoulders. Something in the back of the room caught his eye. Scott was shaking his head.
It wasn’t until Scott mimed shooting a gun that Johnny realized he had relaxed into his gun fighting stance. Well, shit. He rubbed his nose to cover his embarrassment, then stood straighter and crossed his arms in front of him.
The ceremony started with the best man escorting the maid of honor down the aisle. Emily had insisted on this—not that anyone objected. Scott offered his arm to Katie, and when she took it he cupped his hand over hers. They made a handsome couple, and Johnny saw a few knowing smiles as they proceeded to the front of the room. Katie met Scott’s eyes as they parted to stand at opposite ends of the table, Katie by herself to wait for the bride, Scott taking his place beside Johnny.
Johnny shook his head.
“Are you sure you’re ready?”
Johnny shot him a smile, then focused on the doors to the front hall. “Oh, I’ve been ready, brother. I’ve been ready.”
The doors opened; Murdoch entered. Johnny knew Emily was on his father’s right arm, but he couldn’t see her until they turned to come down the aisle.
God, she was beautiful. She’d been right about the dress. It was simple and elegant and the silvery blue lace hugged her figure just right. Her light brown hair was lifted off her face and arranged with the same wildflowers she carried. He’d never seen her with her hair like that; it made her even lovelier. Her eyes searched for his. When she saw him she beamed and walked faster. His father gently slowed her down.
How had he gotten so lucky? Emily knew his soul and loved him anyway. No—she knew his soul and loved him, period. In his whole life he never imagined he would find anyone like her.
Then she was there, smiling up at him. Murdoch unhooked Emily’s hand from his arm. Placing it in Johnny’s, he clasped both their hands between his own and held tight. He closed his eyes for a moment, and swallowed hard.
Then he smiled at them and said, “Be happy.” With a final squeeze he let go.
As Murdoch took his seat, Johnny turned his head to run a finger under his eye. Behind him Scott shifted his weight; when Emily sniffed quietly Katie had a lace handkerchief at the ready. Petticoats and jackets rustled before Mr. Braithwaite cleared his throat.
The wedding party turned to face him. Emily took Johnny’s arm; he laid his hand over hers. The minister looked past them to address the guests.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us begin.
“I have never had the pleasure of performing a wedding quite like this one. It is a unique ceremony, merging the cultures and beliefs of two separate individuals. In the same way, God merges man and woman into one when they enter the state of holy matrimony.”
He looked from Johnny to Emily, smiling as if he knew them well, even though they had met just the day before. Mr. Braithwaite was the only Unitarian pastor in this part of California, and they were lucky he had been available.
“John Luis Madrid Lancer del Solar and Emily Grace Rust Morris, you have invited us to witness the happiness you have found in each other. Are you ready to make the pledges through which you commit yourselves to each other in love?”
Emily’s hand was warm on Johnny’s arm. “We are.”
He supported her as she knelt down, then took his place beside her. The soft cushions under their knees had been Teresa’s idea. They bowed their heads as the pastor began a prayer. Johnny stopped listening after the first few words; instead, he offered his own thanks to God for the woman beside him.
It was a long prayer, and at the end of it, as he finished the sign of the cross, something scratched Johnny’s neck. He looked up to see Scott laying the lazo over his shoulders. But this lazo was no delicate cord—this lazo was made of twisted hemp. It was an actual working rope, decorated with vines and flowers.
“I figured it would take more than a ribbon to tie you down, Johnny. This should do it.”
Johnny grinned while guests familiar with the tradition laughed. The mischief in Emily’s eyes told him she had been in on the joke. Scott handed Katie the other end of the loop, and she gave it a twist to form a figure eight. As she placed it over Emily’s shoulders, Katie took care that the lazo wouldn’t muss her hair.
Scott used that moment to lean close and grasp Johnny’s shoulder. “Soy feliz porque tú eres feliz, hermano mío.”
Johnny covered his brother’s hand with his own, touched both by the sentiment and by the Spanish in which it was spoken. Scott patted his back as he stepped back to his place by the table.
The pastor motioned for them to rise. Within the loops of the lazo, Johnny helped Emily to her feet. Facing him she bent her head, looking at her hands clasped in his. When she raised her head the love in her eyes took his breath away. He couldn’t speak. Then she smiled, and he found his voice.
“I, Johnny, take thee, Emily, to be my wedded wife…” Everyone knew the words, but they were good words. They deserved to be lingered over. “…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.”
The importance of the promise—and his relief at getting through it without forgetting the words—made his knees weak. He held himself together with a deep breath and a wry smile.
Scott, standing at his shoulder, handed him the ring.
It was a plain silver band. Johnny had taken it from a chain on his mother’s neck when she died; she’d gotten it from his papa’s dead hand. It was a miracle Johnny had managed to keep hold of it through the years. He’d been wearing it when he met Emily, and he’d had it sized and polished for her because she was a miracle, too.
He brought the ring to his lips before he slipped it on Emily’s finger. Her head bowed, Emily began speaking her vows with her eyes on the ring. She knew its story. They’d agreed to keep it between them because neither of them wanted to hurt Murdoch’s feelings.
“I, Emily, take thee, Johnny, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward…”
She raised her eyes to his. “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.”
He had always loved her voice. Today it made his heart stand still. Johnny wanted to sweep her up in his arms right then and there, but Scott was handing him las arras. Johnny hesitated until Emily nodded encouragement at him. He took a deep breath and turned to speak to their guests.
“A couple of years ago I got lucky. I got to come home. When I did, well, there was a twenty dollar gold piece in my room. Remember that, Murdoch? Guest money, I figured. There was one in Scott’s room, too. He told me to keep it. So I did.” He reached into a small pocket on the front of his jacket and pulled out a gold piece. “I spent mine that first day, but I still have Scott’s.” He flashed it around with a wink to his brother, then put it back in his pocket. “Yesterday, you and Scott added twelve more.”
Emily handed her flowers to Katie, and then offered her cupped hands to Johnny. He poured the coins from the enameled box into them, then balanced the box on top.
“I give them all to you, Emily, my wife.” He couldn’t help smiling. His wife! “I give them as a symbol of my complete trust and confidence in you.” He reached up and removed the lazo that encircled them, coiled it, and draped it over her outstretched arms.
As Johnny fished Scott’s coin out of his pocket again, Katie held out the silver tray. Emily set las arras and el lazo on the tray, and then accepted the final coin.
The words Johnny spoke next were not part of the official ceremony. They came from his heart and he wanted everyone to hear them.
“Emily, everything I have is yours, if you but love me.”
Her eyes filled with tears. She was silent for a moment and Johnny began to question his impulse. Then she spoke. “I accept your brother’s gold coin, and the twelve from your father and brother, as a symbol of my complete trust and confidence in you.”
With her face aglow, she answered Johnny’s promise, repeating the words of a poem he had once copied for her. “My husband, I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life.”
Johnny grabbed her into a fierce hug, squeezing her tight and lifting her off her feet. They both laughed as he spun her around, and when he set her down they hugged some more. Whoops and hollers filled the room, and the Reverend Braithwaite had to shout over them to start his pronouncement.
“For as much as Johnny and Emily have consented together in marriage, declaring their love for each other, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act of the Unitarian Church and the State of California, I do hereby pronounce you beloved wife and beloved husband, each to the other. May your days be long upon the earth and may you dwell in love and joy together.”
Someone yelled “Amen!” and Emily stood in front of him, still laughing, eyes shining. Johnny folded her hands in his and clasped them to his heart. She was perfect, and he couldn’t stop grinning.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
Johnny tore his eyes away from Emily and saw the pastor smile. “Go ahead—kiss her!”
So he did.
And they lived happily ever after.
Galliard – a form of Renaissance music that is often played by classical guitar for bridal processionals.
Scott said, “I am happy because you are happy, my brother.”
Emily’s gown Katie’s gown