(As always if you are new to the book here are links to the earlier chapters, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 , Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8 and Chapter 9).
The faces of the two men walking out of the door told two very different stories. Byron, who emerged first, looked like he was preparing to audition for a part in The Walking Dead, and when Julie caught sight of him, she thought for sure the wedding was off—that is, until she saw her dad.
She hadn’t seen him look this excited since he had paid for the final semester of her college tuition. One of them looked like someone who had just managed to sell off swampland in Florida, and the other looked as if he had suddenly realized what he got. She wasn't sure what to make of it, but she did realize in that particular analogy she was cast the swampland.
Julie and Mother both, from opposites sides of the church, abruptly abandoned their conversations with relatives and dashed towards Pelham and Byron. But before they reached them, Father Young cut them off. “We really need for everyone to get into their places,” he said with no shortage of nervousness in his voice. A short nervous voice is never desirable, but even his was more voice than Byron could muster at this moment.
Julie’s face was pleading to know what had happened. Her Dad spoke up, “All right, everyone to their places.” As he spoke, he grabbed Julie’s arm and gave a little push to send Byron in the right direction toward the front of the church.
Pelham, in an effort to continue his orchestration, he leaned into his bride of many years, “Don’t worry hun. Everything’s okay. Go take your seat.” Byron had started his movement to the front of the chapel, but his pace was not brisk, nor linear. “Come to think of it, Maybe you’d better help Byron,” he added.
She walked up and helped steady Byron who had begun to tilt with nausea.
“Daddy, what happened?” Julie asked as they headed to the back of the chapel.
“You have a good man, Julie. He asked for your hand and I gave my consent.”
“Then why does he look like you punched him in the gut?”
“Does he? I thought he looked dapper when I was with him. Nice tux, did you pick that?”
“Well, don’t worry about it. Maybe he is just a little nervous. After all, it is his wedding day.”
It is not at all uncommon for there to be a slow dramatic walk down the aisle during a wedding, but it’s less commonly done by the groom and his soon to be mother-in-law. Byron was not sure why this nice older lady had taken his arm, but he was grateful for it. She was saying something but he couldn’t make it out. His body was preoccupied with two tasks: keeping the monster growing in his gut at bay and playing over and over again in his mind Pelham’s words, “Promise me you will always put her first, care for her and fight for her needs.” Nothing in this was above and beyond what he knew he was about to promise in his vows but coming from her loving Father it hit in a new way. His whole career was about protecting such vows, was he desecrating all he stood for? Was he betraying her Father, her Mother, Julie herself? Wasn’t he robbing her of any chance of ever having real love. With too much focus on the mind he almost forgot to keep the stomach from making an entrance and things began to bubble in his throat. He regained his focus on his gut and willed everything back down.
His rather slow saunter down the isle had come to an end and Byron now stood at the feet of Father Young. Julie’s Mother having gotten the package to his destination went ahead and took her seat. Left to stand on his own Byron decided he better take a seat as well and did so on the front pew. No sooner had he sat down then he felt a small tap on his shoulder. Turning around he made out the blurry outline of his secretary, Ms. Whitacker. “I’m so excited to be here. It’s really happening, you are actually getting married. I worried this day would never come. I am so happy and proud of you. It reminds me of when I married Tom. I wish he were here. He loved weddings, we even went to his Father's second wedding, after he ran off with his secretary and left his mother. That one was a little awkward. But don’t you worry I won’t be letting you run off with me.”
Byron loved Ms. Whitacker, she was always fun and helpful around the office but now her rather high pitch whisper reciting this rather long winded story was not helping settle either his stomach or mind. He attempted a small smile but didn’t dare attempt speech. Luckily, before further conversation was required the organ began to play the wedding march.
Julie and Pelham right on que began their own, much less wobbling walk down the aisle. Julie was radiant. Truly a beautiful bride, one worth all the attention that should have been shown her at this moment, but most eyes were fixed on the front of the chapel where Father Young was trying to becken Byron to stand up without abandoning post. Byron’s head was down until Ms. Whiticker always anxious to help tapped Byron again on the shoulder and pointed kindly to Father Young who continued his beckoning. Byron looked up, saw the beckoning and held up the “1 minute” finger.
Julie kept her cadence between walk and organ but her face showed worry as she noted Byron’s lack of uprightness. Was Byron able to handle this? Did she want to marry a man, even if she didn’t have to see him, who couldn’t handle the pressure of a little ceremony?
Byron taking a deep breath decided to ignore his brain and put all his energy on his nausea. His goal was simple, have the nausea far enough under control to be able to stand up by the time Julie made it to the front. Not standing for his bride while she walked down the aisle he knew was not kosher but he figured him sitting was preferable to him passing out, and he wasn’t jewish. As Julie came to the front Byron took a deep breath and stood with a little help from Pelham.
Father Young, happy everyone was standing and in place, quickly began. “Dearly Beloved and honored guests, we are gathered together here to join Julie Smith and Byron Lewis in the spiritual union of marriage.”
Up to this point Byron thought he might just be on the mend but that all changed as Father Young said, “This contract is not to be entered into lightly but thoughtfully and seriously and with deep realizations of its obligations and responsibilities.”
Father Young had told Byron and Julie that these would be the words of the vows and at the time he had thought nothing of it. But now he thought and thought and as he thought his nausea once again grew in vigor, and Father Young continued, “Please remember love, loyalty, and understanding are the foundations of a happy and enduring home.”
“Julie and Byron will now exchange rings as a symbol of their love and commitment.”
Byron panicked slightly, had he remembered the ring. But, as was usually the case, his Father was prepared. He handed the ring to Byron who after a few more breaths to calm his stomach took it out and placed it on Julie's finger. As Julie leaned in close to place the ring on Byron’s finger she whispered, “you okay.” Byron nodded as he closed his eyes and continued his deep breathing.
“Do you, Julie Smith, take this man, Byron Lewis, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness, “Julie felt this particularly apt right now.” and in health, in good times and woe, for richer and poorer, keeping yourself unto him for as long as you both shall live?”
Julie's confident and straightforward answer impressed Byron and gave him some strength. It also made him wonder how she could be so calm at a time like this. She was so strong, or maybe just a really good liar.
But he couldn’t worry about that. He needed to prepare himself. It was his turn and as much as he wished he had Julie's confidence, he knew it would be all he could muster to simply say anything.
“Do you Byron Lewis take this woman, Julie Smith, to be your lawfully wedded wife.” Sometimes knowing what is coming makes us more prepared and better able to handle what we must face, but at times the knowledge only seems to exacerbate the feelings, good or bad, that we feel, and much was the case with Byron, knowing what Father Young was about to say, his stomach went from churning to high speed mixer as he knew Father Young's words before he said to them, “To have and to hold in sickness and in health, in good times and in woe.” That was it. He was promising to have and to hold someone he never planned to see again, what what was he to do? Yell out. “I can’t do it.” Admit in front of everyone it was a sham. Julie would kill him. No alternative seemed fair to her. On one hand if he said, “I Do.” he would be robbing her of her chance at real love and true companionship, not to mention making a mockery of the vows he worked so hard in others to save. On the other hand, if he didn't he would have led her along, made her show up for her own wedding day only to embarrass her in front of all her family and friends. He didn’t know what to do, and his indecision only made him feel all the more nauseated. But despite his swirling thoughts and mixing insides Father Young marched on.
“For richer, or poorer, keeping yourself unto her as long as you both shall live?”
Every eye was on Byron. He took two deep breaths and said, “I…” vomit began to rise. He paused, forced it down lightly belched. Held his hand over his mouth in embarrassment, and as a safety precaution. Took two more breaths and quickly said, “do.”
There was an audible sucking of air as everyone in the building drew in breath as all had been holding theirs waiting to see what Byron would say.
It was done, but that did nothing to help Byron feel any better, and he wondered if he’d done the right thing as the room began to spin.
“By the authority vested in me I now pronounce you husband and wi.” Halfway through the last word Byron could hold it no more and vomit projected from deep within the troubled gut straight onto the front of Father Young. Byron’s stomach finally felt better but the rest of his body had had enough. Everything went black.
Here is Chapter 11