In town, Vic, Alice and Greg continued to put all the little wedding pieces together. Mandy joined them when she got off work. Vic had already made sure that nobody was using the community hall on Friday, so they could set up for the wedding at their leisure. Greg suggested they arrange the chairs and get out all the serving equipment early, leaving only the arbor to be put in place after dinner. Since all four of them would be there, Vic suggested they do a quick "practice run" through the ceremony, itself.

   Vic planned to ask Rae to preside over the guest book. Alice had recruited Tim's parents and Bob Eastman's parents to oversee the beverage service while Bobby was taking the wedding party photos outside.  

   "The cake and the flowers will be delivered a couple of hours before the wedding. It's not going to take much work on our part - they know what they're doing - but we will need somebody there to  let them in, and give them any help they need."

   "What I thought we'd do," Greg began, "Is have Tim and me get dressed right after breakfast, and get over to the community hall. Does Marco just bring in the cake, anf put it someplace safe? What will the florist need?"

   "There's a little bit more to the cake delivery than just bringing it inside. Each layer will be in a box, frosted and ready to go. You'll show him where we want the cake to sit. We can decide that when we set things up tomorrow night. He'll build the cake there, by stacking the layers on top of one another. He'll probably have a tube of frosting to pipe the edges between the stacked layers."

   "Pipe?" Greg asked.

  "Oh, it just means to squeeze icing on the layer edges, to complete the frosting and make the cake look finished. Well, after that, Marco will add the cake top - you remember, Greg, we voted for wedding bells, rather than the little bride and groom figures - and the our beautiful wedding cake is ready.  It will sit there, alone and magnificent, until we step up to cut the ceremonial first piece, and then turn it over to the beverage servers to cut the pieces for guests.

   "Oh, one other thing about the cake. It is going to look delicious. Greg, I know you love frosting, and I suspect Tim does, too. You may have to sign a pledge or take a vow that you will not stick your fingers in the frosting or otherwise molest the cake while it is in your care.

   "Now, moving to the flowers. Mrs. Davidson knows what we want, and will have completed the arrangements at the shop. She'd probably appreciate some strong males to help her bring things in from her van, but she'll have the flowers for the front in containers, and she'll have the bundles to go on the arbor wired and wrapped with florist's tape, and ready to be hung.

   "Besides the decorations, she'll have a box with my and Mandy's bouquets, corsages for our mothers, and boutonnieres for all the men. Oh, I should call  her in the morning, and have her make up a corsage for Rae, too. Anyway, the ones for me, Mandy, Mom, and Daddy  will have to be brought to us before we come inside. What I was thinking, Greg, is that your parents could go over to the hall early with Rae. That would have her there to manage the guest book, and then she could bring out our flowers when we arrived."

   "That all sounds good to me," Greg confirmed.

   "Okay, now music. Mandy, did you come up with a good record player?"

   "I did. Terry is loaning us his, which is a really nice portable, with good sound. We also have a bunch of nice dance records."

   "Terry?" Greg inquired.

   "He's the boy I went with to my junior and senior proms. No, Greg, he is a boy, not a boyfriend!"

   "If you say so."

  "Let's move on, children," Vic intervened. "Now, before we talk about the dance, I'd like to have music when we're walking up the aisle. Is Terry just loaning the player, or will he be around? I mean, could he be our disc jockey for our processional?"

   "He's coming. The price of the loan is a dance with me. I can tell him I might make it two dances - or a longer one - if he can come early."

   "But this is not a boyfriend," Greg muttered. "Just a little business deal?"

   "Hush, Greg. I know what song I want. I didn't know if Terry would have it, so I went out and bought a copy. I'm sorry, Greg, that I didn't talk to you first, but time was getting so short, and I really believe you're going to like it. I'll play it for you, later.

   "One thing we should do tomorrow night, when we're rehearsing, is have Mandy and me walk up the aisle, like we'll do Saturday, and see how long it takes. Then, we'll know if we can let the whole song play, or have Terry stop it - or maybe rather than stop it, start turning down the volume so it's pretty well stopped when we get to the Mayor.

   "Okay, about the dancing. Mandy, I know you've wanted Greg and me to lead off, and make it a real bride and groom first dance.  I've wanted that, but I've pictured our dance in a more romantic, fairy tale setting than in a bare community hall. I think the hall is a great place for the wedding itself, but I just can't see it for my dream dance.

   "How's this as an alternative? About the time we cut the cake, you start some background music. As people are getting served, I want to make a little 'thank you' speech - for the people who came, for the toast we want Tim to make, for Bobby's work - I don't know. Whatever comes to mind. Anyway, then I'll acknowledge that some people need to leave soon. For those who don't have to leave right away, I'll invite them to stay and chat. Then, I'll call attention to your music, invite people to dance, and say that Greg and I will join them in a few minutes. Does that work for you?"

   Mandy smiled, but was obviously a little disappointed. "I guess I really was looking forward to seeing you and Greg dancing alone, in your  wedding gown and tux. But I guess I was also seeing an imaginary spotlight, twinkling stars overhead in the darkened room... Well, I can see your point that it can't be like that. I will accept your way, as long as Greg agrees to dance with me, after he dances with you."

   "Well, if Terry will permit it, how could I not dance with my teacher, and favorite sister-in-law?"

   Mandy stuck out her tongue at him.


      Friday morning seemed almost surreally calm. Mandy had taken time off work for the wedding and to help with moving arrangements (she hoped they'd take her back, and let her work until she left for school), so she, Vic, Alice and Greg had a quiet breakfast, with no immediate pressures. After, they listened to the song that Vic wanted for their processional  - "Seven Daffodils," a slow, quiet "folk song." They all really liked the sound, and Greg was immediately taken with the lyrics - I can't give you riches, "but I can show you morning on a thousand hills, and kiss you and give you seven daffodils."

   Vic called the florist for a little last minute discussion, and to ask that a corsage for Rae be included. All four went over to the community hall to begin arranging things. In addition to the case of sparkling cider, Alice had been accumulating various items they would need for the reception, and they took these along - sturdy paper plates for the cake, nicer-looking plastic glasses for the cider, coffee, several kinds of tea, sugar and coffee creamer, and plastic spoons and forks. There were plenty of coffee cups and saucers at the hall, and Alice hoped there would be enough real silverware to replace the flimsy plastic items. (There was.) They set up chairs, and tables for the cake, for beverage service, and for any presents that might be brought. They located the coffee maker and water heater for tea. They pronounced everything ready to go until Tim brought the arbor that evening, and headed back to the house.

   Soon after, they got a call from Greg's parents, announcing their arrival at the motel. Greg and Vic drove over for a quick reunion, then brought them back for a lunch of sandwiches and salad. They were introduced to Mandy, and met with Alice for the first time in person (although Merry and Alice were "old friends," thanks to the telephone). Chuck arrived from the refuge as they began eating, and the introductions between the Andersons and Clevelands were soon completed.

   Merry told about their trip, to date. "As usual this time of the year, it had been very hot driving up the Sacramento Valley, over 100 in the afternoon. We found a quiet campground near Mt. Lassen, where we got a little relief from the heat. The drive through Alturas, Lakeview, and Burns the next day was new to both of us. We liked a lot of the country, but the temperature stayed in the 90s most of the time. Last night, we camped in a little juniper forest, just before the road starts to drop down to the Snake River. It was okay, but didn't cool off much. You know how today went, because here we are."

   "We did the same thing from Burns to here that you did," Vic volunteered.  "But we had gone a little farther north - to Bend - before we started east."

   After they'd talked for a while, Alice asked if they wanted to go back to the motel to rest, or if there was anything else they wanted to do. "We're going to have dinner here at about 6 o'clock. It'll be us, Tim - Greg's best man - and Rae, his girlfriend."

   Vic took up the conversation. "Tim and Mandy have designed and built an arbor for us to stand under during the ceremony. Tim will bring it in his truck when he and Rae come in. After dinner, we'll take it over to the community hall and set it up, and do any last minute things that need doing. You can come over if you want, but feel free to stay here and visit, or go back to the motel.

   "We did want to ask you one favor. We'll cover it later with Rae, but we'd like her to get to the community hall about an hour before the ceremony, so she can supervise the guest book. Also, the florist will be delivering our bouquets and corsages, and we're going to ask her to bring them outside to us when we get to the parking lot. If you could drive over with her early, that would be great."

   "Sure, we can handle that fine," said Cliff. "What do you think about now, Mrs. Cleveland? Shall we go rest up a bit before dinner?"

   "I think that's a good idea. It's been a pretty long day already."


   Dinner was simple and fun, with Tim and Rae nice additions. Vic asked Rae about handling the guest book and the flowers. She was happy to do both. After dinner, Cliff and Merry stayed to visit with Chuck and Alice. The rest went to the community center.

   The arbor was a little cumbersome to bring from the truck,  but went up easily, and everybody was pleased and impressed with the effect. They wandered around the hall, trying to think of anything else they should do. They decided on the spot for Terry's record player but, other than that, everything looked good.

   "I've been thinking," Vic began, "If Terry's going to be here early, it might be nice if we had a little background music while guests are arriving. Something fairly quiet, and not too bouncy."

   "Sure," agreed Mandy. "When you see him, Greg, just tell him it's part of our deal."

    Greg winked at her. "I will tell him that."

   "Okay." Vic took command. "Next, I want Mandy and me to walk from the door to the arbor, to see how long it takes us. We'll try to do a sedate bride's walk - like they always show in the movies and on television - but" (She put her arm through Greg's) "I may be in a little bit of a hurry. Mandy, you may have to tug on my train a little bit, to slow me down. Anyway, let's try it. Tim or Greg, time us."

   They reached the arbor, and Tim told them how long it had taken. "Good. I think that's about how long we thought the song was when we played it this morning. Greg, why don't you get Terry to play it, and see how close the walk and the music coincide. What I think I would like is for the song to just barely get us to you and the Mayor, and to get quieter until it's almost gone when we stop.

   "Now, we're all here at the arbor. Greg, you're standing facing me. Tim, you're next to him - a little behind, but close enough to easily hand him my ring. I come up, and stand beside Greg. Mandy, you stand by my side, about the same distance away as Tim is from Greg.

  "Okay, now I hand you my bouquet, then Greg and I turn to face the Mayor. He takes us through the ritual, then asks for the rings. Greg, you turn toward Tim, and he gives you my ring. You turn to me, take my hand in yours, say something really nice - to convince me that I really want to marry you..."

   "I'll try to think of something."

  "... slip the ring on my finger, and let go of my hand. I turn to you, Mandy, and you hand me Greg's ring...

   "Now, here, I'm a little worried. Mandy, you're juggling two bouquets - not massive, but big enough - and you're going to hand me the ring. Is that going to work?"

   Mandy looked a little puzzled. "I don't know. It does seem to be doing a lot of things all at once. I think maybe I need to hand the bouquets to somebody, while I'm giving you the ring. I wouldn't want to drop it, or them."

   "Okay. The thing is, we want our bouquets back, when we walk back down the aisle, so they can't go too far away. How about this? Rae, can we offer you one more job? If you were to sit in the front row, fairly close to Mandy, you could stand and sidle up next to her while Greg was giving my ring. While I was turning toward her, she could hand you the bouquets, turn back to me with the ring, then turn to you  to take back the flowers. You'd then sit back down. Would that work?"

   Rae and Mandy looked at each other. "I think that's good," Mandy said. Rae nodded in assent.

   "Okay, great. Now, I have Greg's ring, I'm saying something sweet and profound to him, then slipping it on his finger. The Mayor says we're finally married, and tells Greg he can kiss me. If the Mayor should forget, I promise we won't. Once finished with that, we are announced to the guests as 'Mr. and Mrs.,' then we all walk down the aisle, and out the door. While we're doing that, the Mayor says we're going out to take pictures, but we'll be back shortly to cut the cake. Done!

   "No, wait. One more thing. The florist will be coming in the morning, to arrange the flowers and bring the bouquets for Mandy and me, and the corsages and boutonnieres for everybody. You three, and Greg's parents, can put yours on in here, and be ready to go. Mandy and I, and Mom and Daddy, will have to get ours outside when we arrive at the hall. We need somebody to be on the lookout for us, and bring ours out as soon as we get there."

   "I'll be on the guest book then, so maybe your dad, Greg, could be our lookout. As soon as he gives me the word, I can take the flowers out to you guys, then slip back in and get seated up front, ready to take the bouquets from Mandy."

   "That should work just right. Greg, you'll ask your dad?  Okay, I think we're through for this evening. Oh, wait. One more idea.

   "When the wedding is over, we're going to have all those lovely flowers left. They should be fresh enough to last several days, if they're cared for. I was thinking maybe we should set aside as many as we want - for ourselves and some of the special guests - and then offer those that are  left to whoever wants them. What do you think?"

   "Who did you have in mind?" Mandy asked.

   "Let's see. However many you and Mom want. Some for Greg and me. Rae, some for your family, and some for Tim's. Bob Eastman's parents, since they're helping with the food service. Maybe several bunches for Cora and Jackson, to dress up the diner. I don't know. Anybody else special we should remember?"

   Nobody else came immediately to mind. "Well, let's make a list before the wedding, and right after the ceremony, have somebody set aside what we want. Then, when I give my little 'thank you' speech, I can offer the remainder, first-come-first-served."

   Greg and Vic took Mandy home, filled Alice and Chuck in on what they had done, and headed for the motel. They visited with Merry and Cliff for a while, and Greg got his dad's agreement to be the lookout. "I guess we're as ready as we can be," Vic said. "Tim and Rae went home, but will be back for breakfast about 8:30. We're going to be next door, so we can go over together, in the morning."

   "Next door," Merry observed. "Getting a little jump on the proceedings, are you? My, what precocious children."

   Vic gave her a big grin. "As you well know. See you in the morning."


   They all met at the Andersons for breakfast at 8:30. Chuck made pancakes, served along with eggs and sausage. They ate and talked for an hour or so, then Greg, Tim and Chuck went to the motel to get into their wedding attire. Cliff and Merry soon followed. Rae stayed with the Anderson women.

   When they were dressed, Greg made a little speech. "Tim, I know you and I are not regular suit and tie wearers, but the occasions do arise, and I'm told that no dress-up ensemble is complete without a little jewelry." He presented him with the flying duck tie tack.

   Tim inspected it. "I've never had one. That's really nice, Greg. Thanks. I like it, and I think Rae will, too.

   " Speaking of Rae, I'm going to tell her how I feel tonight. I don't know if I'll go through all your crazy motel routine, but I will tell her. It's time. It's past time! I really do love her a lot, and love the idea of being married to her. I don't know why I've waited so long, but suddenly..."  

   "Yes, suddenly. I know what you mean. Well, from what I've seen so far, you're as lucky to be with Rae as I am to be with Vic, and that's pretty lucky!"


   When Tim and Greg left for the community hall, Chuck went next door, and visited with Merry and Cliff, until they were ready to go to the hall. They drove him back to his house, left him to wait for the women, then took Rae with them to meet Tim and Greg.

   In the meantime, Greg and Tim had made a last minute check of the hall, and had started the coffee and tea water heating. Marco delivered the cake, and put it together as Vic had told them he would. They both refrained from sticking their fingers in the icing. They helped the florist bring the flowers from her van, after which she very proficiently arranged them as she and Vic had agreed. Greg made sure that there was a clear pathway for Rae to get from her seat to Mandy, to receive the bouquets.

   Terry arrived as those present were donning their corsages and boutonnieres. He introduced himself and also his older brother, Scott, who had accompanied him. He noted that Scott had taken Vic to her Senior Prom. (Greg remembered his plan - only half joking - to cut Scott out of any prom photo he appeared in with Vic!) Mandy had made clear to Terry what she wanted, so he went about setting up his equipment.

   "So, I'm going to play background music while the guests are arriving, then start playing the daffodil song when the bride comes through the door. You want the wedding song to get quieter as the bride gets to the groom, and then kind of fade away."

   "Right. However, I see a little problem - not with your part, that's just right. My dad is going to signal us when the bride arrives, Rae is going to rush out and give them their bouquets, then she and Dad have to be in their places in the front row before the doors open. It's going to be awkward if the bride's party has to open the door for themselves."

   "I have a remedy for that," offered Scott. "Let me be the one watching for Vic to arrive. Then your dad doesn't have to be back there. I'll signal to Rae, hold the door for her to go in and out, then wait there to open the door when Vic and Mandy are ready to come through."

   "Scott, you're a lifesaver!" Greg exclaimed. "That will work great."


    It wasn't long before guests began to arrive. Greg and Tim stayed to greet the earliest, directed them to Rae and the guest book, and advised that they could sit anywhere but in the front row. As designated bouquet receivers came in, they were asked if they did, indeed, want flowers. Greg asked Scott if, during the picture taking, he would move the promised flowers out of the way.         When the Mayor arrived, they introduced him to the members of the wedding party that he didn't know, then went with him to the front of the hall to go over procedures. After that, they didn't have long to wait.


   Scott gave a sign from the doorway that Vic had arrived in the parking lot. He held the door for Rae as she took the bouquets to them, then quickly returned and took her place in the front row. Greg, Tim and the Mayor arranged themselves expectantly at Mandy's arbor. Scott motioned to his brother when the bride was almost at the door, and "Seven Daffodils" began to play. Scott opened the door, stood aside, and Mandy, Alice, and Vic holding on to Chuck's arm. started up the aisle toward the arbor.

   Greg's eyes focused first on Mandy's blue gown and long blond hair. She smiled at him, and he thought he returned the smile, but his  gaze had  already shifted. He felt tears on his cheeks, and he thought his mouth was gaping a little more than it should. He couldn't help it. He believed the old saying that all brides were beautiful - and with Vic, that was going to be obvious - but this was something beyond anything he had imagined. It was reality and fairy tale mixed in a way that - even with Vic! - he wouldn't have thought possible.

   Suddenly, she was standing beside him under the arbor. "Holy moly!" he said, but he wasn't sure if it was in his head, or if it had come out of his mouth. Vic's grin confirmed it was the latter. He grinned back, as the Mayor began the formalities.

   Vic couldn't stop smiling. The smile had started the moment she walked into the room, and saw Tim and Greg waiting for her. Except for the instant when Chuck gave her a brief kiss and released her, her gaze had never left Greg's' face. Later, she couldn't remember handing her bouquet to Mandy. It was all an amazing, happy blur.

   The mayor gave a little welcoming speech, took Greg and Vic through their vows, and asked for the rings. Tim gave Vic's to Greg, who lifted Vic's left hand, and held it gently with his. He had a little speech prepared. It was good and sincere, but he decided she knew all that, already. This demanded more.   

   "Vic, when God invented Rocky Road ice cream, I was sure he had reached the pinnacle of his imagination and artistry. How wrong I was! He had so much more to put into his pièce de resistance - you, my love."  He slipped the ring on her finger, kissed it, then gently loosed her hand.

    Mandy handed Vic the other ring. She took Greg's hand in hers. "I take it you like Rocky Road ice cream?"

   "Very much."

   "But you like me even better?"

   "So much better that there are no words - no comparisons - to be made between how much I like Rocky Road, and how much I love you."

  "I feel the same way - well, actually, my comparison is between you and marshmallows, toasted over a campfire until they are crispy golden-brown on the outside and deliciously melty on the inside. I've never tasted anything so good, yet my feelings for you surpass that pleasure a hundredfold - maybe a thousandfold." She slipped his ring on his finger, but didn't let go of his hand. "I think we're going to have a really good time!"

   The room was silent for a moment. Then, "Well, there's nothing I can add to that!" said the mayor. "You two are now legally hitched. Folks, let me introduce to you Gregory and Victoria - better known as Vic and Greg, Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland! Greg, Vic, give each other the kiss that you've been wanting to for the last twenty minutes."

   They did, to considerable applause. As they walked down the aisle to the back of the room, the mayor  announced that the wedding party was going to adjourn to the garden for a few photos. "You can watch, if you like, or get yourself some refreshment - coffee, tea, or sparkling cider - and gossip for a while. They won't be long, and then we'll have the cutting of the wedding cake."

   The photo session took about a half-hour. It was getting pretty warm outside, but Bobby had found a somewhat shady area that still had good light. He took group photos and a variety of individual and couple shots. As Vic had requested, he made sure to get photos of Tim and Rae, together. The party returned to the hall to find everybody contentedly drinking and visiting.

   Vic and Greg moved fairly quickly to the table with their cake, greeting people as they passed by. The rest of the wedding party joined them, and their guests gathered around.  Tim called for everyone's attention.

   "Before we dig into this beautiful cake, I'd like to say a few words about Vic and Greg, and the marriage we're celebrating with them. I think this will be the longest speech I've ever given - but don't worry, it still won't be very long.

   "I'll start with Vic. I've known her, and her sister Mandy, since they moved here in 1958. I've watched two above-average pretty little girls grow to be above-average beautiful women. They're sort of my sisters. Their dad, Chuck, likes to say that he and Alice adopted Rusty, my brother, and me when they moved here. There's some debate about that, since Rusty and I had been volunteering at the wildlife refuge since we were in our 'teens, so were already here when the Andersons arrived. Maybe we adopted them. Well, however it was, we've felt a part of their family ever since, and I've come to know the girls pretty well.

   "I'll save further comment on Mandy for her someday wedding - don't worry, Mandy, they'll be really good! - and concentrate for a moment on Vic. Not only is she beautiful, but she's clever, smart, caring, always wanting to learn, and always ready to tackle any new challenge. Greg, I'm sure you know this already, but I'll say it, anyway. You are not getting a - oh, what's the word you use for a pony that is so even-tempered that even the littlest kids can safely ride..." (He pretended to check his notes.) "Docile, that's the word! You are not getting a docile, obedient little wife, who will always take your word for everything, and let you make all the big decisions in your lives. You are getting a real, live, thinking, caring person who will work with you - be a part of you - in everything you do together. She's the real thing.

   "Now, about Greg. I have to admit I was not so thrilled with him, at first. He came here green as grass - a city kid, from California of all places, and a really rotten maintenance man. He didn't know how to build a fence. He didn't know how to back up a tractor with a trailer behind it. In other words, he seemed pretty useless on a wildlife refuge. When Rusty and I told him that - well, not in so many words - his only counter claim was that he bet he knew more scientific names for ducks than we did!

   "Well, I had to admit, he got us there. But think about it. Why in the world would you call a bird..." (He checked his imaginary notes) 'Anas platyrhynchos' when you could just say 'Mallard duck?' Besides that, do you know what the Latin words 'Anas platyrhynchos' mean in English? Wide-billed duck! How does that help? Aren't all ducks wide-billed? Okay, book-learning has its place, no doubt, but if I want to describe a mallard duck  to a friend, I think he'll understand 'greenhead' better than that Latin tongue-twister - or even, wide-billed duck in English.

   "Well, I don't want to belabor this, but this was my and Greg's history when he asked me to be his best man at this wedding. To tell you the truth, I thought I hadn't heard him correctly. Then, I thought he might be trying to play some trick on me. Whatever his motive, I thought I had to dissuade him. 'Greg,' I said, 'Think about what you're asking. What if we get almost all the way through the ceremony - to the part where they ask if anybody objects to the wedding - and I suddenly blurt out that Vic can't marry you. You're not good enough for her?' Do you know what Greg said to that? 'I'll take my chances.' I accepted the job.

   "Now, I've been teasing him a little bit here -- well, not entirely. Greg was a rotten maintenance man. But, setting that aside, Greg is one of the nicest men I've ever known. Not nicey-nice, if you know what I mean. Not always trying to make you comfortable, or to be pleasant. He's nice because he likes people. He likes to be with you, to talk to you, to know what's going on with you.  He isn't a do-gooder, but if he knows what you need, he'll work with you to get it. If he doesn't like you for some reason, he won't pretend he does, but he'll always treat you fairly. Any problems you have between you will stay strictly between you. And maybe the biggest thing - the thing I marvel at, regularly - is that his good will extends to everybody equally. If you are young or old, woman or man, rich or poor, black or white or any other color, any religious or political persuasion - any difference or similarity you can come up with, he treats you as a real person. And you know he really means it!

   "So, Vic, is he good enough for you? He's good enough for anybody! What he is to you is the rest of you, the half that makes you whole. Greg, is she your better half? No, she's the half that contains everything that your half doesn't already have, everything you need to be complete. Apart, you are both great people. Together, you are formidable! Best of all, as I see you here together, I think of something that I've heard you both express in various ways to one another - You are going to have a lot of fun, together!

   "So, once again, I introduce you all to my sort-of adopted sister, and my sort-of adopted brother  - Vic and Greg, Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland!

  "Now, let's eat wedding cake."

   Greg and Vic stepped up to cut the ceremonial first pieces of cake. As Greg offered a slice to Vic, he made sure that some blue frosting ended up on her nose. She left it there, as she offered a piece to him. Then, they stepped aside, and let their beverage servers cut pieces of cake for the guests. Greg took a moment to give her nose a delicious icing-flavored kiss.

   When everyone had been served, Vic gave her planned 'thank you' speech. "Greg and I want to thank you all for celebrating with us. I especially want to mention our servers here, the Johnsons and the Eastmans. The Mayor, of course. Tim for his fun and clever toast. Rae Lewis for handling the guest book, and for other very important chores. Bobby Coso, who you've all seen stalking around here with his camera. And Terry and Scott Black, for music and doorman services. This lovely cake was from Marco's Bakery, and the flowers from Mrs. Davidson's Village Florist, both local businesses, as you know.

   "I see that some of you left presents for us. We won't open them now, but will save them so we can take the time to appreciate each one separately. Thank you in advance.

   "I know some of you need to leave soon. Thanks again for coming, and celebrating with us. Before you leave, I'd like to  point out that there are some lovely flowers up in front that would like homes. If anyone would like to take a bouquet, feel free.

   "For any of you who want to stay around and chat a while, please do. The coffee and tea water are still hot. Also, courtesy of Mandy and Terry, we have dance music for those who'd like to take a spin or two around the floor. Greg and I will join you in a few minutes."

   The newlyweds made a point of being at the door as guests were leaving, making sure everybody had a personal 'thank you.' Quite a few groups were visiting, and a number of couples were dancing. Vic and Greg were just preparing to join the dancers, when Bob Eastman appeared beside them. "Hello, my favorite newlyweds." He put one arm around Vic, while he was shaking Greg's hand.

   "Bob!" Vic exclaimed. "I was sure I saw you earlier, and then I couldn't find you."

   "Sorry, I had to take an important phone call. But I saw the whole ceremony before I left. It was great, and you guys are fantastic together.

   "I want to ask you a big favor, but only because I'm already supposed to be out the door headed for another assignment. Greg, would it be too much if I steal the first dance with Vic away from you? I know it's not protocol."

   "Sure, if it's okay with Vic. I give you some of the credit for us being here today."

   Vic agreed, and they danced away. Greg found that Mandy, Alice and Chuck had all appeared at his side. "What's happening here?" Mandy asked, a little indignantly. "This is supposed to be your dance." He explained the circumstances, mollifying her somewhat. "Since we are both standing here, why don't we take the opportunity for our own dance?"

   They did. Bridegroom and bride's maid - teacher and student - they danced well together. He told her how beautiful she looked (she did), and thanked her for all the time and energy she had put into the wedding (she had). She loved the dance, and was a little sad when it ended.

   In the meantime, Vic and Bob were talking as they danced nearby. "Is it permitted for an old friend to kiss the bride?"

   "On the cheek or forehead, yes. I don't kiss older men. Well, I don't kiss younger men or older men, except for one slightly older one who I've tried to convince isn't really older than me."

   Bob laughed, as he kissed her on the forehead. "And how's that going?"

   "I'm not sure, since he never cared how old I was, anyway. He loves me, whatever age I am.  What's kind of funny is that our 'girl versus young woman' nuttiness grew out of that. We still regularly correct one another if one of us slips up and says 'girl.' Of course, the really funny thing is that there's no question anymore about what I am. Vic, the girl, has definitely been left behind."

   Bob was smiling. "You know, when Greg corrected me for calling you a girl, I was sure this day was going to come. I may have known it before you did."

   "I remember when you told me about that. But no, you didn't know before me. If I didn't know the first day I saw him, I did by the second. But yes, you did know quite a while before him. He was pretty slow, seeing the obvious.

   "It all seems so long ago, but it was just a year."

  "Well, that wouldn't even be noticed in geological time, but in people time, a lot can happen in a year."

   "You're telling me!"

     Then, after quick hugs for Alice  and Mandy, a firm handshake for Chuck,  and another for Greg, Bob was off on his new assignment. Greg and Vic joined the other dancers. Spotlight dance or not, they found they were both thoroughly enjoying moving around the floor in their wedding finery, and in each other's arms. But after a few minutes, Vic whispered rather urgently. "Greg, I need some air. Can we dance over to that door, and slip outside?"

   "Sure. Are you okay?"

   "I think so - just our usual dance problem."

   They slipped out the door, and stood in the partial shade of the building. "Thirty second rule?" Greg asked.

   "Maybe, although we went a lot longer than that. Maybe it's just the exhilaration and anticipation  of the wedding, itself. Whatever, I thought I was about to burn up if it went on much longer, and I suspected from the look on your face that you were about ready to start tearing my clothes off."

   He laughed, but a little shakily. "You're not wrong. Is it okay, now?"

   "No, but more tolerable."

   "I know what you mean. Maybe a little kiss would calm us down?"

   "A 'little kiss' is probably exactly what I don't need, now."

   They tried it, anyway. "I do feel a little more under control," she said, after a minute or so.

   "That's good to know. Whenever we want to cool our emotions, we can just kiss."

   "I don't think it will work that way, generally."

   A little more composed, they returned to the hall. Vic had short dances with Tim, Cliff, her dad, Scott, and Terry. Greg did the same with Rae, Jeannie, Nancy (whom he hadn't seen until that moment), Merry, and Alice. As the number of dancing couples began to dwindle, and more people were saying their goodbyes, Mandy and Terry had their dance. They obviously had done it before, and looked very good together. Mandy was a little embarrassed - but also a little pleased - when a number of people stood by, and watched them move around the room.

   It was a nice closing for the general festivities.


    When all the guests had gone, the wedding party returned to their home and motel rooms, to change and freshen up. The men went back to the community hall to bring out the arbor, and to look around for any items left behind. There was a volunteer group who would do the final clean-up of the hall, but the men did what they could to make the task easier. Eventually, everyone ended up at the Anderson house.

    Tim had definitely decided he was going to ask Rae to marry him that night, but not at a motel. When Alice invited everyone to stay for a little light dinner, he talked to Rae, then declined. They said their goodbyes to Greg's parents, said they'd see everybody else later in the week, then drove the ten miles to Burley. Tim knew of a place to get a good pizza that was a little more upscale than their local spot.

   "I should be taking you to a fancier restaurant," he said, after they were seated.

   "No, this is nice. I've heard their pizza is very good, and they serve wine. I think I'd like a glass."

   Tim wasn't much of a wine drinker - well, except for that cheap, red stuff that he and Rusty occasionally shared! - and he did have to drive them home. Still, a glass of good wine with the woman he loved didn't seem like a bad idea, at all.

    They sipped a burgundy wine as they waited for their order, and talked about the wedding and the people. "I hadn't had a chance to talk to you about your toast to Vic and Greg. I loved it. Clever. Funny. Heart-felt. Sincere. Nice."

   "Thanks. That's really good to hear, from you."

   Their pizza was served - it was good! - and they ate and talked for almost two hours. Tim couldn't have told you what they talked about, but the time flew by. The sun was already sinking out of sight when they left the restaurant, drove back to town, and then continued quietly and contentedly out the "god-awful road." It was dark when he turned into her driveway.  He stopped the truck before they could see the lights of the house, and turned off the engine.

   "So, what's this about?" Rae asked. "A little making-out before you deliver me to my door?"

   "I hope so, but I have something a little more serious that I want to talk to you about, first."

   She leaned back against her door. He couldn't see the details of her face in the dark, but he knew she was looking at him. "Okay."

   "Okay. I'm not sure I've ever said it out loud, Rae, but I love you. Starting with a schoolboy crush a long, long time ago, it was probably real true love by the time we graduated from high school. I don't know why I've waited so long to tell you, but I'm telling you now. With all my heart, I love you, and I hope you love me enough to want to get married."

   She didn't respond right away, then "Okay."

  "Okay, what?"

  "Okay I love you. Okay I've probably loved you as long as you've loved me. Okay I'm ready to marry you."

   He felt a little confused. "Just like that?"

   "Did you want me to say no. Did you want to argue about any of it?"

  "No, it just seemed so easy."

  "Well, it probably would have been as easy years ago, but it's finally done. So, okay."

  "I'm sorry to have taken so long."

  "It's okay. We've done all right. In this day of 'women's lib,' I could have taken the initiative, and not waited for you to confess. I repeat: It's done, so okay."

   She loosened her seat belt, slid across the seat, and curled up close to him. He was happy to have an older truck that didn't have bucket seats. "So, why did you decide on tonight? General wedding excitement?"

   He put his arm around her shoulder. "Maybe a little, but I also heard that Mike was telling people that I should have proposed to you about the time we graduated. It got me wondering why I hadn't."

   "Yeah, Mike talks to me about that, too."


  "Mike and I talk about everything. I have known her for a while, you know."

  "I know, but... Well, what did you tell her?"

  "To mind her own bees wax. She doesn't mind me doing that. It doesn't stop her, anyway. Still, she  did get me thinking. I've been happy with our relationship over the years - especially the last couple of months - but I am ready for more. You spoke up at a good time."

   She couldn't see it, but he was smiling in the dark. "Greg coached me on how to approach you about love and marriage. Luckily, I didn't take his advice. This was much easier - and nicer, I think."

   "What did Greg recommend?"

   He didn't want to go all through it, but she was insistent to know what she'd missed. Finally, he told her the whole story, in full detail.

   "That would have been good for somebody like Greg. He's romantic, and goes for big ideas. I like it in him, but I'm a pretty simple guy. I need to be a little more straightforward. Besides, I didn't think you'd go with me to a motel."

   "Why not?"

   "Why not? Well..."

   "We're over 21 - quite a ways over - we are neither of us married to anyone else, and that particular lodging is not exactly known as the 'no tell motel.' Obviously, you had something important to tell me in private, or you never would have suggested such a thing. I would have known your intentions were not carnal - or, at least, not completely carnal."

   He felt himself blushing. He was glad it was dark in the truck. He didn't know how to respond.

  "I think we would have had a lot of fun with Greg's suggestions. But I think I can guarantee that the no touching, no kissing rule wouldn't have lasted past the motel door closing behind us. If you hadn't started something, I'm sure I would have. I mean, we'd been around people getting married, love was in the air (so to speak), and we have kissed enough to know that we do it very well. A nice room to ourselves..."

   He was feeling a little bewildered, but had regained his voice. "Obviously, I don't read social things very well. You must think me an old fogey."

   "I think nothing of the kind. I think you're a chivalrous man concerned about the reputation and well-being of his lady. I think that's nice.

   "There is one thing about Greg's plan that I didn't go for, though."

   "What's that?"

  "Under no circumstances would that bed have been made unusable."

  He started to turn toward her. "Are you saying..."

  She lifted herself enough to kiss his cheek. "We'll never know, will we? No matter, there are lots of days and nights ahead of us."

   After that, they did 'make out' for a considerable length of time. If they had been paying attention, they would have commented on the jillion stars that had appeared above them as the night got darker. They would have heard coyotes howling not far away, and might have even seen the one that walked very close to the truck, on its way somewhere. They were oblivious to everything but each other, until he started the truck, and drove the short distance to her door.

   His short ride back to his own driveway was a very contented one.


   After Tim and Rae left, the Andersons and Clevelands shared a light dinner, and talked about the wedding, the upcoming move, and life in general. Finally, Greg, Vic, and Greg's parents went to the motel to gather up belongings. While Vic was helping get things out to the car, Greg went to the office, and turned in the room key. He explained that his parents had decided to go out to the refuge with him, but that he was still happy to pay for the room. He also kept the second room, not having any idea what Tim had decided. The manager hated to charge for the parents' unused room, so he declared it a wedding gift. Greg thanked him gratefully.

   Vic decided to ride with Cliff, as they hadn't had a lot of chance to talk. Merry went with Greg. Both parents commented on how long the "god awful road" was, and how empty the land was. That gave both Greg and Vic the opportunity to explain about all the hidden ranches along the way. They pointed out Rae's driveway, and then Tim's. The view off the cliff to headquarters and the forest impressed both parents, particularly as the sun was just going down behind them, and was casting an interesting light on the surroundings.

   Once in the house, they visited for a while, but everybody was suddenly very tired. Vic and Merry made up her parents' bed, gossiped a bit more, but both couples were down for the night by 9 o'clock.


   Later after what both considered a very satisfactory start to their wedding night, Vic said, "That was a very cute story about the Rocky Road ice cream. I liked it a lot, but clearly it was - what's that word? - oh, extemporaneous. What had you really intended to say?"

   Greg rolled over to face her. "Oh, I had a prepared speech, but it was just the usual. You know - I love you, I'm so happy that you love me, I'm looking forward to a long, happy life together. Blah, blah, blah. I just got to thinking, this girl..."

   "Young woman."

   "Sorry, young woman. This young woman deserves something original - something that really describes how I feel about her. I thought, what did I like best in the world before I met her?"

   "I don't believe it. I think your mind wandered to how good a big bowl of Rocky Road would taste, and you completely forgot what you were going to say. Then, you glanced up at my radiant face, smiling expectantly at you, and you thought, 'How am I going to make her think this is all about her, and not about Rocky Road ice cream?'

   "I give you a lot of credit. It was a nice recovery, and I don't think our guests ever guessed that you weren't just being clever."

   "Yeah, you know me pretty well. But what  about you? Your extemporaneous homage to marshmallows was a masterpiece, especially on short notice. I applaud you for it."

   "Thank you very much. It was a quick response, but all very true."

   "The sad thing is that I never got my bowl of ice cream."

   She snuggled closer to him. "No, all you got was a girl..."

   "Young woman."

   " Sorry. Young woman. All you got was a young woman who you already had."

   "I know, but I think I'm getting over my disappointment pretty nicely. And, by the way, my darling Victoria. I mean no disrespect, but if it's all right with you, you will always be 'my girl'."

   "That's quite all right with me."


   Vic was just stirring when Greg got out of bed. He got dressed, and went out to the kitchen. His mother was already there, seated at the table, drinking coffee. He kissed her on the cheek. "Hello, son. There's more coffee, if you'd like some."

   "I would." He sat down next to her. "Where's Dad?"

   "Oh, he's out surveying your kingdom. We were up pretty early. It's a lovely day - going to be a little hot, maybe."

   "Actually, I think the forecast is for the 80s, rather than the 90s, which will be a nice change." He sipped at his coffee. "Oh, here's Vic."

   Vic was dressed, but obviously still a little sleep-bleary. She kissed Merry on the cheek. "Good morning."

  "Good morning, daughter-in-law. No, wait! I am officially adopting you. As of this minute, you are just plain 'daughter.' No more 'in-law' tacked on."

   Vic laughed, and kissed her, again. "Oh, I like that! Thank you."

  "There's hot water for tea."  Vic said she'd wait for breakfast. "So, how did you children sleep?"

  "Deeply," Greg said, expansively. "We were both so exhausted, we were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows. I don't think either of us moved a muscle all night."

   "Yes, we could occasionally hear you 'not moving a muscle' in there."

   "Oops!" Vic giggled. "Sorry about that."

   "No need to be sorry. If you can't make a little noise in bed, it isn't serving its purpose."

   Greg raised his coffee cup to her. "You're my kind of parental figure."

   "I'm not a parental figure. I'm a mother, and mothers always know what's best for their children."

    "I think there's still some discussion among sociologists on that subject."

   Cliff had come in while they were talking. "I believe you're right, Greg, but I think it's more  disagreement, than discussion."  He poured himself some coffee, and sat in the remaining chair.    "I've made a tour of your compound, Greg. Some nice work space, lots of equipment, including the famous Fordson tractor. I have to say, though, most of the machines look like antiques."

   Greg laughed. "Yeah, we're a small, underfunded agency. They buy us new trucks every few years, but everything else is Army surplus - pretty much worn out before it gets to us. It works, but we're lucky to have somebody like Tim, who knows how to keep things going that shouldn't go, anymore."

   "Did you see any wildlife, Cliff?" Vic asked.

   "One small rabbit."

   "Oh, good! That's my cottontail. He's usually around here, somewhere."

   Greg fixed them eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese, served with toast and slices of ham. Vic made her tea, and they stayed talking at the kitchen table for some time.

   "You're still planning to go east to Pocatello, and then north into the mountains?" Greg asked. "Do you have a full tank of gas?"

   "Yeah," said  Cliff, "We don't have any specific plans after Pocatello, but that's the way we'll start. And yes, I gassed up the car, like you suggested. It is a long way out here on... What do you call it, the goddam road? I assume that's not its official name."

   "It's the 'god-awful road' and no, it isn't official. Just about everybody who comes out here says something like 'it's a god-awful long way out here., isn't it?' So, that's its nickname.

   "Since you're going east, what we thought we'd do is take you through the refuge, and out the 'back door,' so to speak. It's saves backtracking all that way to town, and lets you see some of our wildlife."

   "That sounds like a good plan."

   They started out with Cliff riding with Greg, and Vic with Merry. Greg led the way. When they came to the drying pool, Greg described the drought, and explained what he was doing about it. Cliff was interested in seeing the water control structure, so Greg stopped and they got out. Cliff was familiar with the concept - take boards out, or put them in, to maintain the water level you wanted - but he'd never seen that kind of weir.

   They drove on, stopping now and then to get a better view of the ducks and shorebirds. Both Merry and Cliff were surprised and excited by the numbers and the variety of species. At the east gate, Greg let the women go ahead, so they were first to get to the alfalfa fields. Vic had Merry stop the car, so they could view half a dozen antelope. Greg stopped behind them. The Clevelands had seen a few antelope in the past, but never so close or so apparently tame. They watched them for some time.

   There was one car at the diner when they pulled in. Inside, several bunches of gladiolas were prominently displayed. Cora greeted "the newlyweds" with hugs, and Jackson waved from the kitchen. "Did you get a chance to meet my parents yesterday?" Greg asked.

   "We said hello, but that was all. Hello again. I'm Cora, that's Jackson, we're the proud owners and operators of this booming establishment, and we love your kids. We wouldn't have missed the wedding for anything."

   Merry and Cliff introduced themselves, and they settled at a table. Greg noticed the other patron, and he took Vic to meet him. "Mr. McHenry, I'm Greg Cleveland, from the wildlife refuge."

   The man stood, and shook hands. "Sure, I remember Call me Ross."

   "Thanks. This is my wife, Victoria - Vic. "

   He nodded to her. "Pleased to meet you. Cora tells me just married. And you're Chuck's daughter, right?"

   "One of them. You have the alfalfa fields, don't you? I love your antelope!"

   "Yeah, they love that greenery. They don't eat much, and we like to see 'em, too. These your folks, Greg?"

   Greg motioned Merry and Cliff over, and introduced them. "His is the place up at the corner, with the alfalfa."

   "We were just enjoying your antelope," said Merry. "You have a nice spot."

   "Yeah, turning out to be more work than I anticipated. Gentleman farmer from California, come to retire in the country. The 'gentleman' has kind of disappeared, and the 'farmer' is sometimes a little iffy, but we're pretty content. I keep busy, and my wife has a job in town that she really likes."

   "How's your alfalfa doing in the drought?," Greg asked. "It looks pretty fair. We're having to drain ponds to consolidate our water on the refuge.  At this rate, we may not have much by hunting season."

   "Our first haying was pretty good. We should be doing a second about now, but there's not much there. Last year, we got that little bit of late summer rain that helped us through. I don't know about this year. Doesn't look so good."

   He got up. "I should get going. Congratulations, and nice to meet you all." At the cash register, he turned back for a moment. "Say, Jackson was saying that Chuck was leaving?"

   "Well, he and Alice are moving up to a refuge near Idaho Falls, but he'll still officially be in charge of this one, too. Vic and I will be here, but Chuck will still me my boss."

    "Well, give him my regards, and wish him best of luck from me."


   After Ross left, Jackson started cooking hamburgers, and Cora related the story of their business loss due to the Interstate construction. "We're not making enough, but we own the place free and clear, so we're not dipping too far into our savings, yet. We like it here a lot, business or no business, but I assume one of these days we'll have to sell out."

   Jackson stuck his head out of the kitchen. "Remember what I told you, Greg, about really needing all those hunter dollars this fall. You better figure out where to find some water, before then."

   "Yeah. Sorry I don't have any great ideas, yet."

   Jackson and Cora sat with them while they ate, traded stories for an hour or so, and then it was time to leave. Cliff and Merry said their goodbyes, and Vic and Greg walked them out to their car.

   "The evil Interstate is only a couple of miles away. This is the old Highway 30. Head east, and you'll soon pass under the Interstate at Raft River. There's an on ramp just past the little store, and a nice rest stop at the top of the hill."

   Greg and Vic went back in the diner for a final word with Cora and Jackson. "We're planning a little going-away party for my folks," Vic told them. "It will probably be August 6 - a Saturday - in town. Just cake and beverages, very informal. It would be nice if you could come, but I'm sure they'll see you before, or as, they leave. And Daddy will probably be back down here pretty regularly. Anyway, we'll get word to you when something is definite."

   They drove back to the refuge. As they passed the alfalfa, Vic said, "Ross McHenry. He's the water thief, isn't he?"

   "Probable water thief, yes."

   "He seems nice enough. But of course, he didn't get caught."

   "Yeah, illegal should be illegal, no matter who's doing it, but I suspect he got in what he thought was a bad situation, and made a bad decision. I don't want to stereotype him, but when I first met him, I got the impression of a big California businessman, used to making up his rules as he went along. He probably latched on to the local anti-Fed feelings, and let himself believe that water for private alfalfa was more important than water for ducks. Maybe he's getting more in tune with country ways.

   "Still, I wouldn't be surprised if he cut corners in other ways in the future. We'll see."

   Back at home, they both felt a little confused. "What do married people do when they're home all alone, with nothing special to do?" Greg asked.

   "In this case," Vic began, "I think we might do what you tried to convince your mother we did last night - go to bed, and sleep the hours away. I am suddenly feeling really drained. I guess it's all the excitement and business for so long, and suddenly nothing we have to do."

   "Strange as it may seem for me to say it, I think I agree with you. Suddenly, I'm feeling almost asleep on my feet. Let's do it."

   They were soon in bed, and really prepared to go to sleep without preliminaries. "But just so you know," said Vic, "I may wake up completely invigorated. Then, we'll have to find something else to do."

   "I'm your man!" he said.

  "You certainly are."

  They barely stirred until about 2 o'clock Monday morning. They 'did something else' for a while, then went back to sleep, getting up for a combined dinner-breakfast only shortly before they heard Chuck drive in.

   The work day had begun.

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