Nathan opened the door to his apartment before she could even knock. At the look on her face, he immediately drew her into a tight hug.
“That bad, huh?” he asked, his lips brushing lightly across her hair. She squeezed him tighter.
Oh, she loved this man!
Pulling back, Julie said, “Nathan, I just can’t handle any more of this. You know how my mother is. There is no way our wedding day is going to be about us, unless we take control and just escape!” She knew that he could hear the desperation in her voice.
“We will do whatever you want, Honey,” he said earnestly. “If a big fancy affair is what you want, then that’s what we’ll do. If a quick trip to the courthouse is what you want, then I’ll be right there next to you.”
Relief flooded through her. Julie hugged Nathan again. “Thank you for understanding!” She kissed him, and he responded with a passionate kiss of his own. Fumbling with the door behind him, he half carried Julie into his apartment.
“I love you, Julie. I’d do anything for you,” he said, in between kisses. “If we’re going to do this tonight, I want to do it right.” Julie stopped her kiss, and looked at him curiously. Nathan laughed. “I mean, if we want to elope tonight, let’s make it memorable.”
Julie giggled nervously.
Eyeing her duffel bag, Nathan asked, “Did you bring something to wear?”
“Yes, it’s nothing fancy, but it will do.”
“Great. Go get dressed while I pack a bag. We should be able to leave here in a few minutes.”
Of course, Nathan hadn’t lived with a female for a long time, not since his mother passed. He didn’t realize that asking a woman to get ready in a few minutes was completely out of the question.
Thirty minutes later, Julie emerged from the bathroom, a vision in pale blue. Her hair was pulled back in a loose chignon at the base of her neck, revealing the sparkling diamond studs on her ears, understated and elegant, and she held her cream-colored clutch tightly in hand. She was glad that she had sprung for the deep red lipstick the girl at the Chanel counter raved about. Julie had never worn red lipstick before, and was surprised to find how it made her skin glow. She felt amazing. New. Radiant. Perfect.
Nathan stammered when he saw her standing in the threshold. “Julie, you look…wonderful!”
Julie giggled self-consciously, and felt herself blush.
“Let’s get out of here!” she said.
Nathan picked up both their bags and headed for the door. Turning the knob, they ended up face to face with Julie’s parents, her mother with her hand poised and ready to issue her first authoritative knock.
“Mom! Daddy! What are you doing here?” Julie asked, astounded. This was the last thing she expected. She couldn’t even manage to run away effectively, without her parents following close on her heals.
“I might ask the same thing of you, young lady,” Connie started, a stern look on her face.
“Ahem…” her father interjected, and there was a not-so-subtle look passed between the two of them.
“What your mother means to say is,” he started slowly, but then dropped off with an awkward grunt. After a pause, he seemed to pull himself together and addressed Julie again.
“Honey,” he started, taking Julie’s hands into his own large ones. It reminded Julie of when she was young, and would take her father’s hand, thinking it looked like it belonged to a giant. Looking her in the eyes, speaking in a gentle voice, he continued, “Are you and Nathan planning to elope?”
Julie looked down for a moment, unsettled by her father’s approach. She sensed Nathan’s nervous shifting around behind her. Suddenly she was filled with a new resolve. This was hers and Nathan’s decision. They were adults. She didn’t need her parents’ approval. They both already loved Nathan. He was a wonderful man, and they made a great couple together.
Only thirty minutes earlier, she had been a nervous little bird, anxiously retouching her makeup, adjusting her hair. But something changed as she saw herself evolving. Her hair, her old blue dress, her immaculate red lips, her little diamond stud earrings, a gift from her father when she graduated from college….She watched as she became Julie the Bride.
It was what she had wanted from the beginning.
Let them try to stop her.
Julie looked up at her parents, a hint of defiance sparked in her eyes, daring them to contradict her. “Yes, Nathan and I are planning to elope. We are leaving right now, as a matter of fact.”
A gasp escaped her mother’s lips, but was quickly stifled.
“Where are you planning on going?” Frank asked. “The courthouse will be closed by now.”
Julie and Nathan looked at each other, an unspoken question between them.
“Then we will catch a flight to Las Vegas. It never matters what time it is in Vegas,” Julie stammered.
“May I suggest…” Frank said slowly, not wanting to frighten off his daughter, but then plunged ahead. “Give me an hour. Let’s do this at the house. Your mother and I will arrange it all.”
This time Connie’s gasp was not stifled. She stood looking agape at her husband, her mouth dropped open in a perfect shell-pink “O.”
Julie also looked stunned. Had her father just offered to help her with her frenzied shot-gun of an elopement?
“Do you mean it?” she asked. “You want to help us out. Tonight.”
“Absolutely,” Frank replied, with resolution. “You’re my only daughter, my baby girl. If this is what you really want, then I will do anything to accomplish it. I love you.”
Julie rushed into his arms, and was enfolded into the warmth of the other man in her life.
“I love you too, Daddy.”
Looking to Nathan for his enthusiastic approval, she agreed to the arrangement.
Back in the car, with Julie and Nathan following behind in his rattling little Fiat, Connie came down on her husband.
“What are you thinking?!” she wailed.
“Honey, listen, it’s what Julie wants. I could see it in her eyes. She doesn’t want the big wedding, with all the trimmings.” Connie bristled, but Frank continued. “And besides, I’ll be darned if I miss my only baby girl’s wedding because her mother was too stubborn to hand over the reigns!”
The now familiar look of shock crossed Connie’s face again, but she resolutely shook it off. Composing herself slowly, she said, “I only meant, what are you thinking giving us only an hour?!”
“Between the two of us, I think we can make some magic happen,” was Frank’s reply.
He was right, of course.
An hour later, Julie walked through the front entryway of her childhood home and into the parlor, on the arm of her beaming father. She carried a lovely round bouquet of white roses and violets, wrapped in a pale blue ribbon, accenting her simple dress. Fastened in the front of her hair was a vintage ivory half-veil, draping sweetly over her eyes. And her newly discovered shade of red was not the only thing that played across her lips…the radiant smile present even managed to tease her dimples into action.
Julie the Bride was here.
An old friend of her father’s, Pastor Francis from St. John’s Parish, conducted the happy service. The bride and bridegroom simply glowed, repeating their vows in a hushed reverence. Tears were shed by all, including the proud mother-of –the-bride.
“Congratulations, honey,” she whispered warmly, embracing her daughter after the ceremony.
“Thank you, Mom, for everything,” Julie said, her eyes still brimming with tears.
“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Connie insisted. “Who needs the headache of all those nit-picky guests!”
The two of them laughed and hugged again.
Frank shook Nathan’s hand, welcoming him into the family, and secretly congratulating himself in having saved a fortune, as well as saving the day.