Wedding of the Century

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Chapter 7

When Trixie, Di and Bonnie arrived at the reception, they immediately selected a table of twelve for the Bob-Whites. Sally hadn't wanted to do a traditional seating or a head table. She and Ben would share a small table for two in the very center of the room. As they waited for the rest of their group to show up, the three girls sat giggling and gasping over the wedding and the decorations.

About ten minutes after they arrived, a blonde-haired man about their same age and dressed as a groomsman appeared at the table with a petite blonde in tow.

"Excuse me," he said politely. "My name is Zac Smithson and this is my fiancée, Amy Wilson. May we sit with you?"

Trixie smiled and warmly replied, "Sure. You'll help fill up the table for us." She waved toward two chairs with no purse or shawl on them before she indicated her long-time friend. "This is Diana Lynch, she's engaged to my brother, Mart Belden. You would have met him, my brother Brian, our friend Dan Mangan and my boyfriend, Jim Frayne, in the wedding party." She smiled at her other friend. "And this is Bonnie Martin. She dates Dan. I'm Trixie Belden. How do you know Ben?"

After settling Amy in a chair with a tender smile, Zac said, "We met at summer camp twelve years ago. We used to run in the same circles and we went to college together. We were fraternity brothers. I haven't seen Ben much since college. Amy and I have been too busy working and we don't like to go to parties like Ben and Sally do. Amy is a nurse and I own a web design company."

"Congratulations on your engagement," Di said. "Mart and I have known each other since Trixie and I were six and he was seven." She discreetly nudged Trixie with an elbow after she noticed her roll her eyes. "How long have you two been together?"

"Honey, why don't you tell the story? I want to go and get changed out of these clothes. Every time I sit down, I just know that I'll rip the back out of these pants." Zac leaned over and gave Amy a quick kiss.

***

The girls laughed at Amy's story about Zac's experience with Raoul. Still laughing, Trixie stood and said, "I'll be right back."

She turned just as she completed the words and took a step into a chest that felt like a wall.

Strong arms enveloped her as Jim buried his face in her hair. "Finally!! Home," he murmured into her ear. "I needed this," he whispered as he drew her closer.

Trixie snuggled into his chest. "No place I'd rather be," she whispered back. "Are you all right?" she asked, concerned when he wouldn't let her step back from his tight hold.

"I'm perfect now. I just needed to hold you."

Trixie's feet started to shuffle in place and she wiggled around as she hugged Jim tight. "Um, Jim," she sighed into his ear. "I was actually heading to the ladies room when you showed up." Her movements became more rapid. "I really need to go but I promise you that I'll be right back."

Trixie's squirm made Jim smile as he squeezed her gently then loosened his arms to look at her. "Baby, you do the cutest pee-pee dance I have ever seen," he said softly with a laugh. He pecked a kiss on her nose before letting her go. "Looks a little like Sherlock's."

She stuck out her tongue at him, punched him gently in the stomach then with a wink, sniff and a curl-toss, she turned and walked hurriedly away.

***

Trixie stood in the ladies room washing her hands when the door opened and Bitsy, Mitzi and Barbi entered. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and counted to ten as she watched the trio surround her.

"Trixie," Bitsy said quietly. "We owe you an apology for letting Tiffi be such a pain."

Startled blue eyes popped open to stare at the three women. "Apologize?" She grabbed paper towels and proceeded to dry her hands. "Really? Um, sure, go ahead."

As Bitsy apologized and explained, the tension in Trixie's body began to relax. She listened to not only the words being said but also the tone and emotion behind them.

Just as the three women finished, the door opened again to show Honey and Di.

"Is everything all right in here?" Di asked, glancing at Trixie and the others.

"It's fine, Di," Trixie said as she stepped beside Bitsy and delivered a quick one-armed hug. "We were just talking and making up."

"Thanks, Trixie," Bitsy said quietly. "It's more than we deserve." She looked at the others who nodded. "We'll choose our friends more wisely in the future."

"I know you will," Trixie kindly replied as she and her two friends walked out to the hallway. "Make sure you keep that dog bite clean," she advised as the door shut softly.

She turned to Honey. "OK, Wheeler, spill it," she demanded. "I know there is more to the post photo story than Bitsy told me."

"Oh, Trix," she sighed. "It's like this…"

***

Jim leaned back in his chair as he listened to Dan and Bonnie discussing the wedding with Amy and Zac. He smirked as Dan's hand on Bonnie's shoulder slipped into a stealthy version of a well-known gesture. I don't think Dan means to tell me I'm number one, Jim thought wryly to himself.

"I can guarantee you that our wedding won't be like this circus," Amy declared emphatically. "Zac and I want a simple ceremony with family and just a few really close friends. Our mothers want a big society wedding but it's not going to happen."

A speculative look on his face, Jim dropped the front chair legs as he moved forward to lean on the table. "So, how long did you two date before you became engaged?" he asked with a quirk of his brow to Dan.

Amy smiled sweetly at Zac who winked back at her. "We've been together since college," Amy responded.

"When did you two meet?" Bonnie asked curiously, not realizing she was treading on a bet.

Zac pulled Amy closer to his side. "I volunteered to help with freshmen orientation when I was in college. Amy was one of the freshmen in my group. It was love at first sight."

"Oh, that's a great story," Bonnie smiled. "So you had a year or so of college together?"

Jim and Dan locked eyes over the table and waited for the answer.

Amy giggled before she replied. "Actually, we had three years together. It was wonderful." She gave Zac a kiss on the cheek. "Since Zac was a sophomore and my first year advisor, we kept our relationship pretty quiet. He took a bunch of razzing from his fraternity brothers about it. They couldn't understand dating just one girl."

Dan's chocolate brown eyes closed as soon as Amy started talking. He groaned quietly when he heard the answer. His hand flicked out and slapped Jim's shoulder then briefly resumed the prior gesture.

Jim laughed with delight for winning the bet. "Well, they're just jealous and don't understand the happiness of finding the right person at a young age."

A slim, feminine arm appeared in front of Jim's face holding a bottle of his favorite beer as a second arm circled around his chest.

"Thank you for loving me," Trixie sighed softly in his ear. "I heard you wanted a hot blonde and a cold beer. Well, here we are."' She took his lips in a sweet and delicious kiss. "I love you," she said on a last nibble of his lips.

His eyes darkened from the drugging kiss. "And I love you, Trixie. Always."

"Yo, Jim," Dan said. "Get a room, man."

"MANGAN!!" Brian and Mart exclaimed from behind Dan, before they issued twin slaps to the back of his head just like Gibbs on TV's NCIS.

"Hey! Don't yell at me. Jim was the one playing tonsil hockey with your sister," he chuckled with a roll of his eyes, as he redirected their attention. "I was just recommending they take the visual far away from me."

"Dan," Bonnie said with a husky voice as she leaned into him.

"Yeah, babe," he said focusing his attention solely on her.

She captured his lips with hers in a sensual assault to his senses. When she ended the kiss with a few nips from her lips, Dan was stunned and looked at her with eyes as warm as melted chocolate. She held his face in her hands and told him in a soft, sweet voice. "Pot. Kettle. Now hush up."

The entire table broke out in laughter.

***

The conversation around the table had returned to dissecting the wedding. Brian and Honey were laughing over one of Jim's comments when Brian felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Eggscuse me, El Grande. May Rosalee and I seet wit chew?" Raoul asked, as he indicated the quiet seamstress.

"El Grande?" Honey asked, her eyes wide as a blush stole across her face.

Snickers and laughter echoed around the table as Brian's face turned red with embarrassment.

"Yes, why don't you explain your nickname, El Grande," Dan teased. Mart's and Jim's hands shot out and smacked him. "Damn! Can't you people take a joke anymore?"

Brian recovered his voice. "Of course we can," he growled. "We're at a function called the 'Wedding of the Century' that has a color scheme that would give anyone a headache. There are probably no less than thirty videos of this thing on the internet already and, to top it off, it's being held on April Fool's Day because the bride thinks it's the 'best holiday'. How could we not take a joke?" He took two deep, cleansing breaths, feeling Honey place her soft hand on his arm. A hint of a smile appeared on his face. "Of course, Raoul. You and Rosalee are always welcome at the Bob-White table."

"Que?" Rosalee looked confused, as Raoul held her chair. "What ees a boob-white?"

He glanced at his companion. "No qué es lo que están hablando de la mayoría del tiempo, pero me gustan," he said with a shrug.**

** "I don't know what they are talking about most of the time but I like them."

"Gracias, El Grande," Raoul added as he took his seat.

"So, El Grande," Trixie said with a giggle. "I understand all the other names but what is yours all about?" Her blue eyes twinkled with mischief as she watched her brother turn redder and shift in his seat.

"Permit me to answer," Raoul replied. "I named him El Grande for him being…"

Ding! Ding! Ding! A spoon hitting a glass interrupted Raoul's answer. Ding! Ding! Ding!

Everyone's attention shifted to the parents' table where Claudia sat sideways, blocking the view of her holding a towel with a bag of ice to her face. Her ex-husband, Bill Wellington, was standing, holding a microphone in one hand and a champagne flute in the other.

"May I have everyone's attention please? We'd like for everyone to take their seats so we can start serving dinner and later begin the dancing," Bill announced.

He waited as everyone was seated and the waiters started delivering the salads before he continued. "As everyone eats, we're going to take care of some of the toasts and speeches. We're also going to pass around a microphone so everyone gets the chance to wish the lucky couple well. Since I'm the bride's dad, I get to go first," he informed the room. "My darling daughter, Sally, you'll always be my little girl. Your mother and I spoiled you way too much but we did it out of love. Today, you married a wonderful man and I couldn't be happier. Ben, I expect you to take care of Sally." He paused for a few seconds. "And spoil her, too," he winked as the crowd laughed. "Sally, I love you. Ben, take care of my little girl."

He handed the cordless microphone to Claudia before he moved to hug and kiss his daughter then to shake the hand of her new husband.

Claudia had her back to the guests. She turned toward the crowd and lowered the hand with the ice-pack. A collective gasp came from the audience.

"Oh, my," Honey said in shock. "She looks like a rabid raccoon."

The men of the table muffled their laughter with their napkins while the women looked on with horror.

The condensation from the ice-pack had caused Claudia's mascara and penciled-on eyebrows to run down her face. Along with the black eye from tripping over 'She-She' during the wedding, her ruined make-up made Claudia look like an extra from a zombie movie.

As the audience looked on and whispered loudly about her appearance, the group at the Bob-White table saw Maddie move silently to stand beside Claudia. She gently took the microphone from Claudia's hand then gave it to the best man to speak next. She then ushered a subdued and shocked Claudia along the perimeter of the room to an exit near the restrooms.

"Way to go, Mom," Honey whispered, in awe of her mother's grace and kindness.

***

Throughout the meal, various members of the wedding party made both teasing and serious toasts toward the happy couple.

The best man was at the table next to the Bob-Whites. Jason stood and smiled at the newlyweds. "Ben, take Sally's hand and place your other hand over hers." He paused as the groom complied. "Now…remember this moment and cherish it... because this will be the last time you'll ever have the upper hand!" The audience laughed heartily at his joke. "Seriously, I wish you both the best. To Sally and Ben."

Brian had been elected to speak for the table. He stood when Jason handed him the microphone, glanced around the room and then focused on the couple. "Sally and Ben. Everyone at this table wishes you only the best today and always. We hope that the happiness today within your hearts is but a mere foretaste of the joys you'll experience in the years ahead. May all your dreams come true. Together. Here's to Sally and Ben." He raised his glass in salute.

As Jason returned the microphone to Bill, Raoul leaned toward Brian. "El Grande, dat was de best espeech of de day. Eet was muy bueno."

"That reminds me, Raoul," Trixie giggled. "You were going to tell us why you call Brian, El Grande." She quirked an eyebrow at her oldest brother.

"Trixie, I really don't think it's necessary to have this discussion," Honey said quietly, with a pointed look at her best friend.

"Oh, Honee, eet ees not a bad ting," Raoul assured her. "I neekname hem El Grande because he ees de biggeest."

Mart and Dan barked out laughter, Trixie giggled and Jim smiled. Di's, Honey's and Bonnie's lips twitched as they stared at their champagne glasses. Zac, Amy and Rosalee watched the others with amused confusion.

Brian's blush deepened as he spoke quietly, "Raoul, please explain to everyone what you mean when you say I am the biggest."

Raoul leaned forward earnestly. "He ees El Grande. De biggeest. Ees he not?" He looked around the table at the laughing and smiling faces. "Ees he not de biggeest brother?"

"Raoul, dude, let's not do a familial comparison," Mart objected.

He looked at Rosalee for help. "¿Cómo se dice primogénito en inglés?" *

* "How do you say the firstborn in English?"

Rosalee blinked, then answered, "Primer nacido. Antiguo. Aulder."

"Si, El Grande ees de aulder," Raoul said with a grin.

"You call him El Grande because he is the older? Er, oldest?" Trixie questioned with a laugh, as she threw herself back in her chair. "Well, hell. That's not near as much fun as we were making it."

Ding! Ding! Ding! A spoon hitting a glass interrupted the laughter at Trixie's disappointment.

Slyly, Brian mouthed "Thank you," toward Raoul and mentally promised to send as much business as he could to Bradford's Menswear.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

***

"Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and groom will share their first dance as husband and wife to their song," a female voice announced across the sound system. "Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Riker."

A spotlight illuminated Sally and Ben as they stood at the center of the dance floor. Ben took her in his arms as the opening lines to Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" were heard.

A few lines of the song passed when Amy said to Zac, "I can't believe a song about a drunken booty call is 'their song'."

"Oh, how sweet," Trixie cried, as she buried her face in Jim's shoulder and her body quaked with suppressed laughter.

Jim's merrily twinkling eyes flicked around the table defying anyone to say a word. He glanced over Brian's shoulder into the sparkling blue eyes and smiling face that were a mirror image of the woman in his arms.

Helen Belden quirked an eyebrow at him, winked and then turned her attention back to the dance floor.

"She's overcome with the emotion of the wedding," he explained with a glance over his own shoulder to see who was attached to the elderly-looking hand which was poking him in the arm.

"Don't try to con me, James Winthrop. I know that she's laughing. I'm just surprised she's not rolling on the floor," replied the woman quietly. "Just remember, I will expect more from the weddings you and your sister have than this travesty."

Jim winked at the woman then leaned back to give her wrinkled cheek a kiss. "Yes, Grandmother."

Trixie's head lifted and she took the handkerchief from Jim's hand. "Grandmother Hart, you need to teach me how you make him so agreeable," she smiled sweetly at the older woman.

"My dear, I suspect you have a great deal more power over Jim than I ever dreamt of having," she laughed. "We'll talk more while I'm staying at the Manor House."

Trixie placed her head back against Jim. "I look forward to learning from your experience, Grandmother Hart."

Jim dropped his chin on top of Trixie's head and briefly closed his eyes. "Grandmother, seriously, she doesn't need any more help. She has me wrapped around her little finger as it is," he chuckled.

"Jim, dear, a woman never has too much control over the man she loves," Katherine Hart replied with a pat to his cheek before she walked away.

"I am doomed," he muttered into the top of Trixie's head as her giggles grew louder.

***

As the evening progressed, the Bob-Whites and their friends enjoyed themselves and each other's company with dancing, laughter and conversation.

The group had just returned to the table after dancing several songs. As they drank water and nibbled on their cake, Di and Amy continued the discussion of the plans for their weddings.

"I think even if I fall on my face and the church burns down, our wedding will be so normal compared to this one," Di laughed, looking at Mart as he finished off his cake.

"I do not perceive how you might perform an action so uncoordinated, my love," Mart replied. "However, my distaff sibling has previously established her deficit of ambulatory abilities at the nuptials of our charming Juliana."

"Mart, why don't you give it a rest? Geez. I was thirteen and everyone is clumsy at that age," Trixie retorted.

"What kind of wedding will you and Jim have, Trixie?" Amy asked innocently in an attempt to defuse what appeared to her to be a heated situation.

Trixie shifted uncomfortably in her chair. Rats! What can I say that won't embarrass Amy but still not be hurtful or sound like I'm fishing to Jim? she thought to herself.

Jim laughed and said easily, "Amy, the smoke you see coming out of the ears of my lady love is her brain overheating." He grasped Trixie's chair and pulled her against him. "You see, Trixie and I aren't officially engaged….yet! I plan on proposing…perhaps soon," he said, as startled blue eyes captured his. "And when I do, Trixie and I will plan our perfect wedding together. Even if she wants us to elope." He cupped her face gently in his hand. "Of course, I'm hoping she'll just want a simple wedding with our families and friends present."

"Yes," Trixie murmured as she pulled his head to hers for a gentle kiss of affirmation.

"You keep that yes in mind for when I propose," Jim whispered as he feathered his lips across hers.

A voice whispered loudly from behind Jim and Trixie. "Finally! I can't believe it has taken you this long to figure out that Trixie has always been perfect for you," Grandmother Hart declared. "Jimmy, you need to marry this girl. She's gorgeous and has a great sense of humor. Even with all your education, I've been worried you really weren't very smart."


Jim cheeks went pink as his fellow male Bob-Whites snickered. Quietly he answered, "Grandmother, I already knew she was a keeper."

"Well, see that you do keep her, Jimmy."

Ding! Ding! Ding!

"Saved by the bell," Jim muttered, as everyone turned their attention toward Claudia and Sally.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

***

"May I have the attention of all the single ladies," Claudia announced, her black eye barely visible now under expertly applied make-up. "It's time for the bride to toss the bouquet."

A twitter of voices was heard as Sally's sorority sisters quickly moved to the dance floor.

"Come along, ladies," Claudia urged. "We need everyone. Honey. Trixie. Bonnie. Yes, you too, Diana and Amy. Even if you are engaged, this could get you married sooner."

There was a general grumbling from the women as they stepped out onto the fringe of the group of giggling women on the dance floor.

"I've got five bucks that Trixie will step away from the crowd when Sally lets go of the bouquet," Jim predicted, as the women took their place at the back of the group.

"That's a sucker bet, Jim. Everyone knows she'll do that," Dan jeered. "My money says Bonnie will stick an arm in the general direction, but that's it."

"I think it's going to be a feeding frenzy among the rest of those piranhas," Brian laughed as the women elbowed for position. "I put my five on that Honey will make a polite attempt at it and clap for whoever catches it."

"My fair Diana already has her perfect mate so I think she'll just stand there," Mart said with a confident smile.

"I'm with you, Mart, so I'm not going to bet," Zac agreed with a nod, as he smiled and waved at Amy.

"You boys are lightweights," Grandmother Hart interjected from behind Jim. She waved a five dollar bill by his shoulder. "I'm putting five on my granddaughter. You, young man," she turned her eyes on Zac. "You'll hold the money and be the judge of what happens."

"Yes, ma'am," he answered politely.

"I dunt know de wemen so weel but I tink dat Treexie weel geet de booque," Raoul said. "Cheer ees my mooney." He pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to Zac.

As the men and Mrs. Hart placed their bets with Zac, the women stood at the back of the group watching the others jostle for a prime location.

"I can't believe how many women are up here," Trixie marveled to her friends. "There must be at least twenty women standing out here. Does the phrase 'desperate single women' ring a bell?" she giggled.

Honey stepped out of the way of a rather boisterous sorority sister of Sally's. "I have to agree with you about the count and the level of desperation. I think I see Di's sisters up front and there are at least two senior citizens out here."

"All right, ladies," Claudia's voice rang across the group. "Sally is ready now. I'll count to three and, when I say three, she will toss her bouquet."

Nervous giggles and movement broke out in the pack of women.

"One…two…three!"

Trixie turned to chastise Grandmother Hart for not joining them. As the bouquet sailed above the crowd, she stayed in place as the group around her surged forward. Diana leapt into the air like a wide-receiver and tapped the flowers to the back of the group. They bounced off Honey's head right into Trixie's hands.

Trixie stood staring at the flowers she held. A stunned look crossed her face. "I didn't even try to catch them," she muttered to Honey.

"It's fate, Trixie," Di said as she gazed at the day-glo green roses. "But I must say, those are the ugliest flowers I have ever seen. Who would do that to poor innocent roses?" she whispered.

***

"Chess! Chess!! I won!" The girls returned to the table to see Raoul counting five dollar bills.

"I never said she wouldn't catch it," Jim argued. "I just said she'd step back."

"But she didn't step back, Jim," Mart countered. "She just stood there. We all lost and Raoul won. Let's go get some cervezas and call it good."

Jim stood and pulled Trixie into his arms. "Wow, sweetie, you caught the flowers." He pressed a kiss to her forehead then whispered, "You know Mart's going to tease us, right?"

Trixie leaned back and looked into mischievous green eyes. She was about to reply when they heard, "Oh, no!"

Trixie and Jim turned to the table and saw Zac holding Amy's face where a bruise was rapidly forming over her eye.

"I was standing by Bonnie waiting for Sally to toss the bouquet and the next thing I know I'm sitting on the floor and it felt like I'd been hit with a hammer," Amy said through her tears.

Bonnie rushed up with a towel full of ice that she handed to Zac.

"Did someone in the group hit you?" Honey asked.

"No, it was a bouquet accident."

"I didn't see it hit you in the head like it did me," Honey replied, confused.

"Well," Amy murmured. "I didn't get hit by the flowers but one of Sally's friends swung her fist at another and I didn't duck sufficiently." After a quick glance at her new friends, she added, "So for paybacks I tripped them."

Once again the table broke out in laughter.

***

A few minutes later, Claudia had her glass and spoon working again.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Bill Wellington announced, "We will need all the single men out on the floor for the garter toss."

Ben led Sally to a chair by the band. After she sat down, he knelt in front of her and slowly ran his hand up her right leg. He leaned toward his new wife, kissed her gently on the lips and extracted his hand from under her skirt, twirling a lacy blue garter.

The Bob-White men stood at the back of the pack just like the women. They watched as the frat boys pushed, shoved and teased each other. As with the women, there were over twenty men waiting for the ritual to be done. Three of the men were senior citizens who stood teasing and flirting with Katherine Hart.

"My dear James, you do realize that whoever catches the garter will be placing it on the leg of the woman that caught the bouquet, don't you?" Mart queried. "I hope none of those frat boys get to run their hand up my sister's leg. It's bad enough knowing that you probably do. I really don't want to see someone else do it," Mart groaned with a mock shudder.

Jim's face took on a determined look as he listened to Mart's words. "We'll see about that," he growled under his breath while he flexed and relaxed his muscles.

"Jim looks like he's ready to go up for a jump ball against Croton," Dan jeered.

"Or, maybe against Ned Schultz," Mart said slyly.

"Zip it, Belden," Jim warned.

"Boys, boys," Brian chided. "Let's not fight amongst ourselves. As much as I don't want to put a garter on my little sister's leg, I'd rather do it than let some stranger."

"True," Dan agreed. "I wouldn't like it if it were Bonnie. I don't think you two would like it if it were Di or Honey either."

Ding! Ding! Ding!

"Heads up, gents. This is the same rules as the bouquet. I'll count to three and, when I say three, Ben will launch the garter."

The Bob-White men moved toward the front of the pack.

Raoul appeared at Jim's side. "I will help chew, El Fuego. No one weel touch Treexie's leeg but chew."

"One…two…three!"

Ben shot the garter toward the crowd like a rubber band, straight into the chest of a handsome gentleman of around seventy.

Applause and laughter broke out through the room.

"Congratulations, Bart," Grandmother Hart called.

"Thanks, Katie," he replied in a voice similar to Howard Keel's. "Now where is the lovely lass who caught the bouquet?"

Trixie giggled nervously as she stood by the Bob-White table and raised her hand. "Here."

"Come on out, Trixie," Bill requested. "Bart needs to put the garter on your leg before you dance together."

As she walked by Jim and the others, he gently touched her arm. "Baby, I never got a chance to catch it."

She kissed him on the cheek and whispered to him, "I know you didn't, Jim. It will be OK. He seems to be a friend of Grandmother Hart's, so I think I'll be fine."

***

"Sad Frayne, very sad," Brian said, shaking his head in dismay.

"I concur, brother of mine. Such a miserable showing should result in termination of presidential duties, don't you think?"

"Come on, give the guy a break. I mean, Grandpa Moses there was probably pretty spry in his youth, back at the turn of the century…the twentieth century, that is!" Dan teased.

"When the guys back in Sleepyside hear how you got spanked by a guy old enough to be your grandpa, they'll take your state 'Class A Athlete of the Year' trophy out of the case," Brian ribbed his friend.

***

When she reached the chair in the middle of the floor, Trixie introduced herself to the septuagenarian holding the blue garter.

"Hello, Trixie. I'm Bartholomew Astor," he replied politely as he bowed and kissed the back of her hand.

"Of the Astors?" she blurted curiously. "Oh, I'm so sorry, that was inappropriate."

"No harm, dear. I'm just a poor relation who did well," he answered, with a grin of his mustached lips. "Shall we take care of business? I'd like to get back to Katie before that scoundrel Rockefeller moves in on my territory."

"Oh, I can help with that," Trixie grinned. "Jim, come here a sec," she called.

Jim moved quickly to her side. "What's up?" he asked as he eyed the older man twirling the garter around his finger.

As Trixie whispered in Jim's ear, his eyes began to twinkle brightly. She kissed him on the cheek before sending him to stand beside his adopted grandmother.

"All set, Mr. Astor," Trixie said, as she sat down on the chair. "Once you get the garter on my leg and we start our dance, Jim will ask his grandmother to dance and then we can trade partners."

"Young lady, you think of everything." He knelt in front of her. "I sure hope I can stand back up from here."

"We'll get you upright again," Trixie giggled as he slipped her shoe off to start the garter on its path.

"I surely hope so," he agreed. He gently replaced her shoe and moved the garter up her leg as the cat calls and whistles grew louder.

"Way to go, old timer!" one of the frat boys yelled. "You may get lucky with that blonde."

Trixie looked up to see Jim's reaction to what was being said. She noted a furrow on his brow as he carefully watched Mr. Astor finish placing the garter just above her knee. She caught his eye, winked and blew him a kiss.

***

Mart sighed dramatically as his eyes twinkled. "Indubitably the Iowa sheik, Ned Schultz, would most assuredly have garnered possession of the bridal garter and would be ascending it onto my female sibling's limb as we speak."

"If I'd have known you were gonna choke, Jim, I'd have made more of an effort. Grandpa sure looks like he's enjoying playing with Trixie's leg," Dan teased with a slap on Jim's back.

"I would like to remind you who drove whom to this event. How do you all propose to get back to Sleepyside?" Jim said gruffly with a raised ginger brow.

***

Trixie stood, took Mr. Astor's hand and helped him ease to his feet. The applause died down as the band began to play "The Way You Look Tonight". Mr. Astor led Trixie in a circle around him then took her into a loose hold as they moved into the smooth steps of the dance. They moved gracefully around the floor together until they met Jim and his grandmother.

"May I cut in?" Jim requested, lifting Trixie's hand from Mr. Astor's. "I believe you have my special girl."

"And I believe you have mine," Mr. Astor claimed with a rakish grin, as he pulled a stunned Mrs. Hart to him. "Well, Katie Hart, will you be my special girl?"

"Oh, Bart, I'd be honored," she answered with a laugh. As they passed by Jim and Trixie, she gently poked Jim's arm. "I understand I should receive an ID bracelet as your special girl. Where is it?" Laughing, the older couple danced off to the romantic music.

Jim and Trixie chuckled and smiled at the antics of his grandmother and her beau.

"Your grandmother is so cool," Trixie said with admiration. "I was worried about her when your grandfather died five years ago."

"We all were," Jim agreed as they watched the other couple laugh and applaud at the end of the song. "She's been going out with friends, traveling and seems happier recently. I wonder if Astor has anything to do with it."

"He does," Ben interjected, as he stopped beside Jim. "Grandmother and Bart have been 'hanging out'," he said, making air quotes. "According to Mom, she's been acting like a teenager and is an embarrassment to the entire family."

"I think they're sweet together," Sally said sincerely, cuddled to Ben's side. "She was lonely before. Now she's happy." Trixie couldn't help but notice that Sally seemed pleasant and peaceful.

"You're right, darling," Ben agreed. "Just because we have money and can afford the best of everything, everyone treats us like that is all there is to our happiness. We need remember that we don't need to impress anyone. We just have to love each other and know that love, family and friends are what truly matters."

"Yeah," Sally murmured as the rest of the Bob-Whites joined them. "I just want to thank all of you for sticking with us through this whole wedding. I know I was kind of a bridezilla but I only plan on being married this one time. I love Ben with every breath I take and every beat of my heart." She looked pointedly at the couples surrounding her, including her new cousin-in-law, Honey. "Ben is right. Love, family and friends are all that truly matters."

"Sally and Ben," Jim addressed the newlyweds. "There was a lot that didn't go exactly as you wanted it to. And then again, there was a great deal that went right. The most important part of the day was the celebration of love," he said reverently as he gathered Trixie to his side. "Your love…that's what really makes a wedding of the century."

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