We left his office, turned to walk down the aisle, and went arm in arm through the front door. We stopped on the porch and then went slowly down the steps to find that Bear had managed to borrow the Commanding Officer’s sedan for our trip to the NCO Club for the reception. When we arrived, everyone was waiting outside to usher us in. They clapped, yelled, and made such a fuss that people inside came out to see what was up and joined in the celebration.
Virginia was spirited away from my blind side while I was led into the room Bear had booked for our reception. Food was everywhere, as was punch, and an open bar. I thought it best for me to stay away from there for the time being. I foraged down the tables loading my plate with snacks while returning handshakes, smiles, and other forms of congratulations.
A quiet voice sounded at my elbow. “Boy am I ever sorry I let you go. You’re the real thing, aren’t you?”
I turned to meet the green eyes of Cleo. She and I had had a little fling right when I arrived at Stadt. It lasted three weeks and consisted of a few movies, a dinner or two and one very heavy, memorable, petting session. She held up her hand in a ‘stop’ gesture.
“I’m not here to make trouble – but to compliment you. I should have realized that when you made a commitment you meant it to be one hundred percent. I just couldn’t handle that because I know I’m way too superficial. I’m so happy for both you and Virginia. Good luck.”
She went to tiptoes and kissed me on the cheek then she pivoted and walked away. Well, son of a gun.
I took my filled plate over to the parents table and set it down at the head where the two of us were to sit. Gradually, everyone else sat down until we were all chatting merrily. Virginia finally made an appearance and, when she did, we were asked to stand. I stood tall beside her while they pushed a huge wedding cake into the room. It was enormous and covered a whole sheet that was easily four feet square. Two knives, tied up with ribbons, were handed to us and we each cut a sliver off to feed to the other.
No hanky panky took place as we crossed arms and fed it to the other awkwardly. Clapping and cheering followed as the rest of the cake was divided up in short order for the masses.
The evening began to wind down after dancing, toasting, and general bedlam. The ‘younger set’ had much more staying powers than the older set but finally we had to go. Virginia and I had made arrangements to go down and stay at Franz and Angelina’s Inn for the night so we made preparations to leave.
As we went outside to locate my car, all four of our parents were grouped; they stopped us.
“We, the four of us, want you kids to have this.” Said my dad solemnly as he handed over a large buff envelope.
I held it while Virginia opened it. Her eyes got wide and she gasped as she turned so I could see what was in it. The first thing I saw were two green railway tickets stamped “Amsterdam” with a departure date of tomorrow at eleven hours.
“It’s called ‘The Tulip Express’ and only runs three times a year.” Said Bear.
“There’s more,” my mom added, tapping her finger against the envelope.
I looked in again and saw what turned out to be almost six hundred dollars and quite a few Deutschemarks.
“We want you to have a real honeymoon. Your office was happy to let you go for a week, Tom. Their instructions were to take a lot of pictures and they would run a weekend spread on your trip.”
I choked up, but Virginia came to my rescue by throwing her arms wide and capturing everyone for a big hug. All I could manage was an almost strangled ‘thank you all’ before I teared up again. That money represented a lot of money in any language.
I hugged each of my parents, and then Virginia did. I turned to Myra, Virginia’s mom, and kissed her on the cheek. I held out my hand to Bear and again he encompassed it with both of his hands. We shook.
“Take good care of my girl, Tom.” He repeated.
“I will, sir, I will with all my heart.”
He opened his mouth as he turned back to Virginia and then got a strange look on his face. He began to laugh until he shook his head and explained.
“I was about to ask Virginia if she wanted a ride home with us. Now, how dumb does that sound?”
We all wailed at that one as we broke up to find our cars. Mine was parked at the bottom of the front steps. As I got closer, I could see it was literally covered with hundreds of tulips and bundles of straw tied to the door handles and hood ornament. The tulips for the trip, no doubt; and the straw a traditional German good luck token.
Our suitcases were loaded (so that’s why I couldn’t find some of my casual clothes – they’d packed them for us). I started the car, flipped on the lights and off we went to the accompaniment of what seemed like a complete brass band. Horns of every tone began sounding as we left the Club and followed us down towards the main gate. Cars would peel off and head home leaving just the two parents cars behind us.
We passed through the gate and went down the street towards the Inn. None of our parents had ever been there before and now they were going to see where Virginia and I spent a lot of our time. It seemed strange to know that we were now married and could stay there with them knowing for sure. The thought must have occurred to Virginia at the same time because she looked at me with a strange expression.
“This is going to sound weird, but…”
“…you feel uncomfortable at the inn with your folks being there?”
“Oh, I forgot! You’re a mind reader. Are we going to be one of those couples that finish each other’s sentences?”
“I sure hope not. Once in a while is fine, but if we both think exactly the same way we’d get bored in no time.”
“Well, I can guarantee you right now you’re never going to get bored, buster. Two drinks and up the stairs we go. I’ve been horny for the last hour.”
“And you think I haven’t? Check it out.”
She put her hand in my lap and encountered the extent of my interest.
“That’s what I like to see – anticipation. I have a nightgown that Janice bought me in a sex shop downtown. I get to wear it don’t I?”
“Sure you do, honey. You wear that, and I’ll get out the whips and chains my brother bought me. If we can get the trapeze set up, we’ll have a grand time.”
She looked at me for a half-second and then broke up, shaking her head all the time.
“Sometimes I just don’t know when you’re kidding.”
I lifted my eyebrows and let them fall several times while pretending to hold a cigar to my mouth a la Groucho Marx without saying a word. She bopped my on the shoulder.
We arrived, parked in the lot, and went inside. Franz was at the Maitre’d station but when he saw us he called to an assistant to take over. He bustled up and took charge of our check in. He appeared to be beside himself with happiness and when Angelina came out from the kitchen, he gave her a blast of local German that I had trouble understanding. I think he was warning her to be careful what she said in front of our parents.
Finally, Franz handed me the key with a flourish and put his arms out wide to herd all of us into the Inn’s sitting room. It was a little warm for a fire, but the rest of it was all dark wood, smoke, and soft pillows on overstuffed chairs. We sank into a small sitting area that had a Schnapps decanter, and a tray of glasses. He carefully measured out equal amounts, after twice counting to make sure, and recapped the decanter. I could tell that this was some of his absolute private, top of the line, stock. He offered a toast to the two of us and we lifted glasses. I was right; it was nectar of the Gods on the way down. I revised my estimate of two drinks down to one but that didn’t happen. We ended up with three toasts on two glasses each.
Otto pretended not to see my dad reach for his wallet, and when I nudged his knee and shook my head minutely he gave up trying to pay. He looked at me and then nodded – now fully aware that this was our ‘home away from home’ and that Franz would be insulted.
We all stood, hugged again, and our parents left us standing, looking out the window to the back yard and the old mill. I put my arm around Virginia’s shoulder, pulled her close, and kissed the top of her head. Without losing hardly any contact, she twisted around to take the rest of my kiss full on the mouth. We tapped each other’s teeth with our tongues like we’d been doing since our very first kiss. This time it seemed to have much more significance.
“I love you, my husband,” she murmured.
“And I love you, my wife.”
We put the glasses down on the tray, waved to the innkeepers as we passed the main desk and climbed the stairs for the first time as a real man and wife; we had two very shiny rings to prove it.