Helen did what she could to keep Dan busy by instructing him on the proper way to bathe Brenna and other aspects of her care. Also, since every member of the extended family was assigned to oversee one of the myriad last minute wedding details, he was drafted to help run errands for the bride-to-be.
Meanwhile, the girls and their mothers worked closely with the wedding coordinator to confirm the flowers, caterers, music, reception, cake and other items that cropped up.
By the time Wednesday morning arrived, Dan was a nervous wreck. He remembered Judge Capps as a fierce but kind man from when he was put under Regan’s guardianship. He gathered up all the paperwork he needed, loaded Brenna into the car and traveled to the court house in White Plains.
Once he gathered the baby and everything into his arms, he entered the building and asked for directions to his hearing with Judge Capps. He hurried down the hall and entered the last courtroom on the left side where he came to a stunned halt.
“What are you all doing here?” Dan asked in awe, glancing around the courtroom at George Rainsford, his Uncle Bill, the Bob-Whites, Samuel Maypenny, plus everyone from the Belden, Wheeler and Lynch households.
Matt Wheeler stepped forward with a grin. “All of us wanted to be here for you and Brenna, Dan,” he announced.
Dan looked at his extended family with wonder. “I don’t know what to say. You humble and honor me by being here,” he said huskily. “Thank you.”
“There is no place else we’d rather be,” Mart replied, slapping him gently on the back.
Dan had just enough time to get settled at a table in the front of the courtroom with Honey and George Rainsford. He noticed the social worker and the attorney who had explained that she was appointed by the Court to look out for Brenna. He had met with both a few days before and he knew that they had also interviewed the Beldens. Just then a bailiff entered from a side door. “All rise for the honorable Judge Josiah Capps.”
Everyone stood and focused their attention on the front of the room.
“Please be seated,” the judge directed
The Judge took in the people assembled in his courtroom, then redirected his gaze to Dan and became solemn. “Mr. Mangan, I understand you are coming before me for a better reason than when you were a juvenile. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir, I think so,” Dan said nervously as he soothed Brenna.
“According to the petition for custody filed by your attorney, you are petitioning the court with certified medical proof of paternity for sole legal and physical custody of the minor child, Porsche Cristal Belden, with a request for a corrected birth certificate to show the name of the biological father. You have also filed a petition, as the sole surviving biological parent, to change the child’s name to Brenna Myriam Mangan. Is this correct, Mr. Mangan?” Judge Capps questioned.
“Yes, your honor,” Dan affirmed.
The Judge looked over his reading glasses at Dan. “I was going to ask you where you came up with Porsche Cristal but…” His words faded as he continued to read.
The Judge turned to the attorney at the other table. “Ms. Callahan, I’ve read your report as the Guardian ad Litem assigned to this matter and the report filed by Ms. Rebecca. Smith of Child Protective Services, so I won’t make either of you repeat that information. Do I understand correctly that you are both recommending that Mr. Mangan’s petitions be granted?”
“Yes, Your Honor,” replied the attorney. “We’ve both concluded that it is in the child’s best interest that both legal and physical custody be awarded to the sole surviving biological parent. Mr. Mangan has demonstrated that he is appropriately bonded to the child and he shows a genuine concern for her welfare.”
Suppressing a smile, Judge Capps turned to Dan and said, “The certified DNA proof appears to be in order. However, since Mr. Mangan has appeared previously in my court, Mr. Rainsford, will you be presenting any witnesses on behalf of your client?””
“Your Honor, I would like to call William Regan to the stand,” Rainsford replied. Dan was familiar enough with courtrooms to recognize the process of Regan taking the witness stand and being sworn in, but was so nervous he had difficulty focusing on the preliminary questions that Mr. Rainsford was asking. Finally, he heard Mr. Rainsford ask Regan about what family support Dan would have in raising Brenna.
“Everyone you see in this courtroom is part of Dan’s family. They may not be blood relations like I am, but they are his family. We’ve watched Dan grow into a wonderful man, police officer and friend. Dan is currently staying with the Beldens with Brenna so he can learn everything he can from Helen and Peter Belden about raising children. There are no finer parents around.”
The Judge thanked Regan and Dan watched in a haze as he stepped down from the witness stand. He felt his uncle squeeze his shoulder reassuringly as he returned to his seat. Dan turned his attention back to the Judge.
“It is the order of this court that sole legal and physical custody of the minor child shall be with her surviving biological parent, Daniel William Mangan. It is also ordered that the birth certificate be corrected to reflect that Mr. Mangan is, in fact, the biological parent and that the minor child’s name be changed to Brenna Myriam Mangan. Mr. Mangan, your petitions are granted. With that, this matter is adjourned.”
A chorus of congratulations rang out over the courtroom as the judge stepped down from the bench and approached Dan.
Shaking hands with the younger man, Judge Capps smiled and said, “Dan, I’m very proud of you. I knew years ago that you were being placed in the right place to see you through. You are blessed to have you uncle, Mr. Maypenny, the Beldens and Wheelers in your corner.”
“Thank you, sir,” Dan replied huskily, gazing in awe at his baby daughter. “I know I’m lucky and now Brenna will have the same extended family that I have. She’s very lucky, too.”
“Good luck, son.” Looking up, he smiled at Matt Wheeler. “Matt, it’s good to see you. We should play some tennis soon.”
“I’ll call you to set something up. I might even let you win,” Matt said, slapping his friend on the back as they watched everyone else congratulate Dan and fuss over baby Brenna.
The final two days leading up to Mart and Di’s the wedding were a whirlwind of activity for everyone in the bridal party. Thursday morning brought last minute fittings of the bridesmaids’ dresses, mothers’ dresses and Di’s wedding gown at Lauren’s Bridal & Formalwear. Lauren’s head seamstress, Rosalee, was nervous about the final fit for the wedding at The Plaza, so she volunteered to be on hand two hours before the ceremony to help the women dress.
At the same time, the men picked up their tuxedos at Bradford’s Menswear and confirmed Raoul would be in attendance at the wedding on Saturday.
By late afternoon, the extended family had taken up residence in the Wheeler and Lynch penthouses in the Hart Building across from Central Park. They spent the evening relaxing, reminiscing and enjoying each other’s company.
Friday brought a day of pampering for the ladies at the Caudalíe Vinotherapie Spa in The Plaza. They had Vinoperfect facials, Honey & Wine Wraps, mani-pedis, and were waxed and massaged until they were feeling beautiful, glorious and relaxed. Bess and Tess had fun sharing the responsibility of watching Brenna around their treatments.
Meanwhile, the men went to Yankee Stadium for the first game of a Friday double-header. As a surprise for the groom, Matt had arranged for them to take batting practice with the team. The four Bob-Whites did themselves proud hitting the ball into the outfield and received praise from the Yankee team and coaching staff. Jim even hit a ball to the centerfield wall as his dad filmed all the action. Handing the video camera over to Jim, Peter and Matt took some swings and were happy when they got hits that went out of the infield. As game time approached, the group adjourned to Matt’s private suite to watch the game.
Later that evening, following Mart and the others, Jim walked beside Peter Belden across the Palm Court toward the Terrace Room where the wedding rehearsal would be held. At the French doors that formed the entry, the two men paused and looked around the grand room seeing the painted ceilings, crystal chandeliers and elegant décor. His green eyes finally found what he sought in the form of Trixie as she stood talking with her mother and the other ladies at the front of the massive room. She was dressed in a strapless blue dress of glittery mesh and beads. The sweetheart neckline and slim fit skimmed her luscious curves.
Swallowing hard, Jim ran a hand across the lower half of his face. “Peter,” he said gruffly, clearing his throat and drawing Peter’s attention from Helen and her long-sleeved lace dress of cornflower blue.
“Yes,” he answered, looking at the young man at his side before following his gaze to his daughter. Peter knew in his heart what Jim was going to say, so he closed his eyes and waited.
“May I have your blessing to ask Trixie to marry me?” Jim asked quietly, holding his breath as he watched Trixie tickle Brenna under the chin.
Peter sighed before opening his eyes to see Helen approach them with a curious smile on her face.
Jim watched nervously as Peter’s arm pulled Helen to his side.
“What are you guys up to?” Helen queried, looking at Jim’s flushed face.
Peter winked slyly at Helen before turning a frown toward Jim. “It seems Mr. Frayne here just asked my blessing to ask our baby girl to marry him,” he growled softly. “I was just considering my answer when you arrived.”
“Oh!” Helen exclaimed softly, turning to Jim. “Do you love her, Jim? Will you love and care for her always?”
A lopsided goofy grin appeared on Jim’s face as his eyes followed Trixie’s movement around the room. “Always and forever, Moms,” he vowed fiercely.
“Then you have our permission, dear,” Helen responded.
“Helen!” Peter growled.
Helen rose up on tiptoe and kissed Peter on the cheek. “Darling, let’s get our son married. Jim won’t do anything to take away from Mart and Diana’s wedding,” she advised her husband. “Besides, I’m sure Jim will want to do something unique and special for his proposal. It will take time,” she finished knowingly.
“It’d better,” Peter grumbled.
“Yes, it will,” Jim agreed, grinning. He kissed Helen on the cheek and then shook Peter’s hand before striding down the aisle toward Trixie.
“This is going to be a long summer,” Peter growled, as Helen merely patted him on the arm and walked him toward their waiting family.
Saturday morning dawned sunny and hot. A scrumptious breakfast buffet was spread across the counter, emanating the delicious smells of bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, muffins, juices and coffee.
“Dude, I can’t believe you can eat like that after the fantastic meal we had at The Four Seasons last night,” Dan marveled over the rim of his coffee cup as he watched his friend shovel food into his mouth.
“Muss habe fool,” Mart mumbled insistently around the good in his mouth. “Wewwing night,” he explained, waggling his eyebrows.
“Please don’t talk with your mouth full,” Brian admonished, biting into his blueberry muffin. “And quit bragging that you are going to get some tonight before one of us clobbers you.”
“Yeah, Mart, don’t allude to my sister like that,” Terry snarked. “Otherwise, I’m going to need some brain Brillo with a Clorox rinse.”
Swallowing, Mart grinned then shot back, “You guys are just jealous that I’m going to be married and able to make love to my beautiful wife every night for the rest of my life.”
“Crap! My eyes! My brain!” Larry exclaimed, grasping his face. “Someone change the subject, please!!”
A bark of laughter escaped Dan. “I can imagine myself making love to your beautiful wife,” he commented with a wolfish grin as he waited to see his friend’s reaction. “You keep eating and I’ll go prove it,” he teased, beginning to rise from his chair.
Mart’s face changed from smug to annoyed in a flash. “Park it, man. I’d hate to hurt you on my wedding day, Mangan,” he growled. “Especially since you’re my best man.”
“Hey, man, I was just trying to shut you up,” Dan said with a smirk, leaning back and crossing his arms across his chest. “I think I speak for all of us when I say that I hope it works.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Mart grumbled, picking up a flaky croissant to butter it.
“It was a really nice rehearsal dinner,” Brian commented to change the subject. “I’d never been to The Four Seasons before. I didn’t know they had those private rooms.”
Mart’s eyes glazed over with remembered gluttony. “Mmm...Scampi, corn ravioli and rock shrimp were sublime appetizers. I didn’t know which main course to choose, the red snapper with summer vegetable tart and lemon verbena broth, mmm, scrumptious, or the filet mignon with cabernet-cherry sauce and onion rings for the main course, which was to die for. And then, those delectable desserts of peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, raspberry summer pudding, coconut-custard pie topped with caramelized bananas and chocolate velvet.” He groaned and licked his lips as he relived the rehearsal dinner. “Of course, bless them, Moms and Dad provided me a plate with every single offering on it,” he sighed out, closing his eyes.
“You know, I wonder if Di ever gets jealous of Mart and his obsession with food. I mean, if you listen to him describe food, it’s like prose or poetry. Di he just claims is beautiful. It’s got to hit a nerve,” Jim teased.
“Why would she object?” Mart asked as syrup coated his chin.
The crowd of guys in the kitchen roared with laughter.
Meanwhile across the hall in the Lynch penthouse…
“Good morning, my precious daughter,” Caroline Lynch crooned to her sleepy bride-to-be. “It’s time for you to get up and start your wedding day.”
“Morning, Mummy,” Di muttered, rolling over to look at the clock. “It’s ten?” she shrieked, sitting up and throwing off her covers. “Why did you let me sleep so late?” she demanded.
“Diana,” Caroline said sharply to get her daughter’s attention. “You have plenty of time. After brunch with Trixie and Honey, you’ll pamper yourself in a bubble bath for a bit and then we’ll start getting you ready. The limo will be here at two to take us to The Plaza where you and your attendants will dress and get your finishing touches. There is plenty of time,” she soothed.
“We need to make sure Mart doesn’t see me today. He’s across the hall at the Wheelers’. I have to stay hidden from him. How will we do that?” Di asked, looking around as if Mart would pop out of a secret passage, see her and create bad luck.
“Don’t worry about that,” Trixie advised from the doorway, pushing the door open with her hip as she balanced a bed table in her hands. “Jim, Dan and Brian have promised to keep him busy and away from the hallway until three when they will head to the Terrace. Right now, he is in food heaven across the hall. Moms and Daddy outdid themselves with the boys’ brunch. He may, just may, be ready for food again by the reception,” she explained, rolling her eyes.
Honey, Bess, Tess and Di’s father, Ed, each carried a tray as they followed Trixie through the doorway.
“Mornin’, baby girl,” Ed said with a melancholy smile on his face. “Happy wedding day! I love you,” he murmured as he settled the tray he carried over her legs. “Are you sure you want to go through with this, baby?” he asked, hopeful that she had changed her mind.
“Yes, Daddy.” Di smiled a beatific smile. “I’ve wanted nothing else but to marry Mart since I was five years old.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t you that fell off the stage when we were dancing daffodils?” Trixie queried with a smile and a tilt of her head. “And maybe hit your head. Hard?” She snickered as she plopped down on the king-sized bed by her soon-to-be sister-in-law. “I mean you’d need to be a little ‘touched’ in the head to want to marry a goofball like him,” she finished, circling a finger around her temple.
A happy, silly smile appeared on Di’s face. “Damn straight I do,” she affirmed, sticking her tongue out at her friends.
The trio broke out in giggles as the others just shook their heads and smiled.
At Mart's request, the male attendants of the wedding party spent the morning together lazing around the penthouse watching movies on the big screen TV. They'd made their way through Die Hard, Independence Day and Stripes, when Trixie popped up in the doorway. Her sandy blonde hair was wrapped around rollers the size of soup cans and she had an extremely put upon look on her face.
"Baby, what's wrong?" Jim asked anxiously, rushing to her side. "What are you doing to you hair?" he added worriedly, gently running a hand over her upper arm.
Glaring at her boyfriend for a moment, her gaze upgraded to death-ray status as she looked at her almost-twin. She pointed at Mart and growled, "It's all his damn fault. His and Di's. If they would have just eloped, I would only have had to dress up for a reception party. But nooooo, they had to go ahead and have a super fancy wedding at 'The Plaza'."
Several snickers were heard from the younger men in the room.
"That look is sooooo you, Trixie," Mart teased, noting the faded shirt and holey jeans she wore.
Trixie eyes darkened as she easily pulled free of Jim's hand. "The wedding planner has a staff of 'professionals'," she grumbled, making air quotes. "Supposedly, they know how everyone is supposed to look to make this wedding ‘an absolute vision of beauty’. They've put these things into my hair in an attempt to torture it and me into submission," she explained with a scowl on her face but twinkling eyes.
A loud snort emanated from Jim. Shifting her eyes around the room to him, she saw his eyes water as he worked hard to suppress a grin. Trixie couldn't uphold the pretense any longer, so she allowed her giggles to bubble forth.
"I can't believe you were able to act so pissed for that long," Brian remarked.
"Yeah, Trixie, you really had us going," Bobby added with a grin from his position on the floor as he started Caddyshack on the DVD player and cranked up the volume.
"Damn, Freckles, you really had us going. I never knew you were such a good actress," Dan chimed in, lounging across a chair with Brenna asleep on his chest.
"Daddy, you'd better remember to watch your language around the baby or her first word is going to be 'damn' or something else even more colorful," Trixie admonished, crossing the room and scooping Brenna up into her arms.
"Hey!" Dan exclaimed. "Where are you taking my girl?"
"It's time for the ladies of the wedding to hit the road to The Plaza. Brenna is a little lady, so she's with us," Trixie explained, nuzzling the baby with her nose.
"Gee, Freckles, I thought this date would actually go to the wedding with me," he replied.
"Aw, Danno, she'll be OK with me. I promise you'll see her before the wedding and she's going to sit with Maddie and Matt during the ceremony," she assured. "I know you wanted Bonnie to come up from Kentucky to be your date and meet Brenna but her mother and grandmother need her more."
Dan stood up and stroked a gentle hand over Brenna's head. "Each day I understand more and more how she feels about taking care of her family. We talked yesterday. She's not sure when, or even if, she'll be able to get back up here. We decided to let go of each other for now. Long distance is hard and we're too far apart," he told Trixie and Jim quietly.
Laying a gentle hand on Dan's arm, Trixie offered, "Maybe you'll find your way back to each other someday. If it's meant to be…"
"Yeah," Dan agreed softly. "We'll see, but right now there’s another lady in my life." Picking up Brenna's soft lilac colored blanket and handing it to Trixie, he requested, "Take care of my girl, Trix."
“You know I will, Dan.”
Jim picked up the baby carrier and freshly filled diaper bag. “I’ll help you across the hall, babe,” he said, indicating she step out ahead of him.
“Dan, you’ll see Miss Brenna in about one hour. I promise,” Trixie assured him as she walked out of the apartment followed by Jim carrying the baby’s paraphernalia.
Rebecca Smith was a Child Protective Services worker for over 25 years. We salute her and all the other CPS workers who fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Thank you, Ms. Smith.
Special thanks to our editing attorney, KellyKath. Thank you so much, sweetie, for representing all the legal steps in a clear and easy way to enhance our story. We appreciate everything you do for us. **HUGS**
We need to thank Patte / FairyGodMom for providing Mr. Maypenny’s first name of Samuel. She picked a truly perfect name for him during a game of Trixie book trivia while at camp in New York. **HUGS**
Caudalíe Vinotherapie Spa is a haven of pampering within the Plaza Hotel.
The Plaza Hotel has seen marriages, celebrations and taken in weary travelers for one-hundred years. The Palm Court and Terrace Room have hosted numerous events, weddings and celebrations.
New York Yankees are a team of Major League Baseball players whose home field is Yankee Stadium. They are affiliated with the American League using the designated hitter. The Yankees have a long and storied history with such well-known players as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle.
Brillo is the trademarked named for steel wool pads that are impregnated with soap. They are used to scour pots, pans and dishes.
Clorox is liquid bleach used to remove stains from clothing.
The Four Seasons Restaurant is one of the most famous restaurants in New York City. Elegant, romantic or whatever you need it to be, the Four Seasons serves culinary classic and innovative seasonal dishes that blend flavors and presentation for the most discriminating palate. **Yes, YOU, Mart Belden! **
Die Hard, Independence Day, Stripes and Caddyshack are all great guy movies. Of course, Jo and Jenny would be sitting right there with the guys watching them..
Background is from allfreebackgrounds.com
Header and dividers created using MS Clipart manipulated by Jo
Word count – 3565