Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crescent Bay

Chapter 4 Finale – Tony

Chinese Wedding

Boris and Jing arrived a week before the wedding along with his family. Mr. Yong called a meeting at his home; in attendance were my father and I, Boris his father and family, Mao, and Laila’s parents.

Mr. Yong began to explain the customs and traditions so that Boris and I, as well as our families would know what to expect.

After the meeting; Jing and Laila came downstairs and met up with Boris and me, we then walked them to the car, sitting in the car were two of Jing’s and two of Laila’s childhood friends. I kissed Laila good-bye as Boris kissed Jing good-bye. Part of the tradition is for the bride; or brides in this case; to go into seclusion with her closest friends. This Chinese custom gives the bride-to-be some time to symbolically mourn the loss of her friends and family. During this time the brides sing songs of mourning of the loss of their friends and family as soon the will devote all their time to their new family with their husbands.

Boris and Mao stayed with me at the Yong home until the night before the wedding. The next morning Mao and Mr. Yong went out to purchase two beds, one for Laila and I, the other for Jing and Boris, they had the beds setup in the Yong’s home; Once the beds were made; they invited the children from the neighborhood over to play on the beds and had them blessed. The children playing on the bed was symbolic gesture of the women being fruitful and as many children as they wish.

After the beds were blessed, Mao had Boris and Jing’s bed packaged and sent to Boris home. While mine and Laila’s bed stayed in the Yong’s home until Laila and I decided where we would live.
Red is the Color of Weddings in China

I was seeing so much red I thought my eyes were bleeding. Red is central to the wedding theme of China. It signifies love, joy and prosperity and is used in a variety of ways in Chinese wedding traditions. The bride's wedding gown is often red, as are the wedding invitations, and wedding gift boxes and envelopes for cash gifts. Even the bride and groom's homes are decorated in red on the wedding day.

Boris and I found out that the wedding itself was not going to be such a big event; there was more discussion about the time of the wedding than the wedding itself; It is customary for couples to be married on the half-hour on their wedding day rather than at the top of the hour. In this way, the couple begins their new lives together on an 'upswing', while the hands of the clock are moving up, rather than down.

The wedding was going to be a small event and attended only by the couples' immediate families.  Boris and I was upset about this and explained that our friends were coming all the way to China for the wedding. So a compromise was made, we would have the family only wedding, but just before the reception in the hall; we would do a mock wedding for our friends, and we will wait until the mock wedding to recite our vows to one another.

The Wedding

Boris, Mao, Ning and I arrived at the Chapel, Our families were already there, Jing and Laila were being dressed by their two friends and would arrive shortly; the wedding held true, it was a small event with only our families, but the reception would be another story with standing room only.

When Jing and Laila arrived, the Minister said his blessings, it was decided that Jing and Laila would both keep their last names and not take our names, yet our children would receive our last names.

Before I knew it we were married.

We were then taken by a limo for a photo shoot.  After the shoot, we arrived at the reception hall. 

There was a long line ahead of us as we slowly approached the reception hall; I could not believe all the people that were standing outside the hall, as there was a small parade, there were martial arts displays, followed by the dragon dance, then a fireworks display. As they marched and danced down the streets we finally arrive to the front of the hall.

As we got out of the limo, it sounded as thunder as the people clapped and cheered as we exited the limo and entered the hall.  Boris and I handed Jing’s and Laila’s two friends red envelopes of cash gifts; it was a gesture of exchange, for them letting go of their friends. Once everyone on the guest list entered the hall, they then began to let everyone that was outside enter the hall, as long as there was room for them to enter, once the hall was filled the doors were closed and we began.

After everyone was seated the Minster took his place and Boris, Jing, Laila and I stood before him. 

I’m not sure if our friends understood what he was saying as most of the blessings were in Chinese, and then after he explained to everyone that this was being done for our friends, he began in English:

Laila and Anthony, Boris and Jing, you are about to embark on an lifelong adventure together, the rings you have placed upon each other’s finger is a complete circle with no beginning and no end, it’s symbolic of your love for each other, before the beginning of time, now and forever your love for each other shall stand the test of time.

The Brides and Grooms will now for the first time recite their vows to one another, he then looked and Jing you may now make you pledge unto Boris.

Jing: “I Jing, take thee, Boris, as my lawful wedded husband, to love and honor, for richer or poorer in sickness and in health till death do us part, you have given me happiness that words cannot explain, from the moment we met, till I close my eyes in death I have and will love you, I give my life, leave behind my friends to start life anew with you, you are my morning sun, and my moon and stars at night, always giving light unto my path that I no longer walk in darkness. I will always love you, now and forever this is the promise I make unto you.”

Boris: “I Boris, take thee, Jing, as my lawful wedded wife, I promise to love you and care for you, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, to have and to hold, from this day forward till death do us part; you too have given me happiness and blessed me with a loving son, I vow to forsake all others, and love only you for the rest of my life, all that I have is now yours, as we enter this marriage knowing nothing can separate us from each other’s love, I have lost you once, my life was so incomplete without you, I vow that that shall never happen again as long as we both shall live.”

Then the minister turned to Laila, “Laila you may now make your pledge unto Tony.”

Laila: “I Laila, take thee, Anthony, as my lawful wedded husband, to love and honor, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, as long as we both shall live, Tony, my rock and my mountain, I promise you shall never feel alone and forsaken again, I will be here for you always till the end of time, If I shall die before you, even in death, I will look over you till your eye are closed in death, then we shall be together again.  If you shall die before me, I shall love no other, and know that you are still with me even in death, I shall remain faithful to you, to the memories of you, until we are reunited in death. This promise I make unto you always and forever I will love you and be your wife.”

Tony: “I Tony, take thee, Laila, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, in good time and in bad, to have and to hold, this day forward until death do we part, Laila when we first met you were very tough on me, because I did not understand you ways, yet you trusted me and taught me your langue and the ways of your people, you have open my eyes to a new world, now I give you a new life as my wife, this promise I make unto you, I will always be here for you, I will always love you, I will always take care of you, now and till the end of time.”

The minister then gave his final blessing chanting in Chinese, when he had finished with his blessings he turned to Boris and Jing “Michaels Boris and Wan-Yi Jing, I now pronounce you husband and wife you may now kiss the bride”

Then he turned towards Laila and I, “Starks Anthony and Yong-Lin Laila I now pronounce you husband and wife you may now kiss the bride”

Then the minister turned to the guest, “I now present unto you for the first time as married couples; Boris and Jing, and Anthony and Laila, will the in-laws of Wan-Yi Jing and the in-laws of Yong-Lin Laila please come forward and be seated as we now honor the custom of serving tea.”

Jing’s in-laws took a seat and my dad took a seat as Jing and Laila followed the custom of serving tea unto their in-laws before the reception was under way, after tea they then served them wine, having been served the reception was officially under way.

When and all the guest were seated and served, there were a 10 course meal it had been a long day and I must admit the food was great, well, I’m sure the fact that I was famished had a little to do with it. I looked across the table Boris and Jing looked very happy. It was good to see everyone having a good time.

Mao then got up to make a toast:

“To Boris and Jing may the two of you find a lifetime of happiness together, I love the two of you very much.  After our parents passed away, Jing took care of me as a child and always made sure I had a roof over my head and there was food to eat, and when we thought we had lost her forever.  Boris then took me in and made sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat, Now my wish to the two of you; that you will always know happiness, that you will always find shelter in each other’s arms, and you never starve for love and affection and you show each other the love and generosity that you have given me over the years.” Mao then lifted his glass of wine, “To Boris and Jing, I love you both.”

Everyone then lifted their glass and said “We love you guys.”

Then my dad stood to give a toast:

“It was not long ago that I remember Tony taking his first steps as a child, he never really walked it was more like a wobble; then started to run through the house.  Next thing I knew; Tony graduated from high school and joined the service, I was so proud of him, but I never told him how proud I was of him, now he is a man, with his own wife and maybe soon his own son.” He then lifted his glass “To Tony and my new daughter, Laila; may you never want for anything, and may your lifetime together be long and full of happiness, I love the two of you very much.  Mr. Yong and I have a surprise for the two of you.”

Mr. Yong then stood up and walked over to Laila and I, and handed me a red envelope, we opened the envelope then Laila shouted “Thank you both very much!” She then looked at the guest and showed the paper in her hand and shouted “it’s a deed to a new house.”

We then thanked them; Mao then stood up “Can I get everyone at this front table to please move for a few minutes.” As they stood up and moved to the back of the room, Mao came to the center “It’s time for the Brides and Grooms to have their first official dance as husband and wife, here they are for the first time anywhere dancing as husband and wife, Boris and Jing and Tony and Laila!”

Mao: “Now everyone dance.”

Everyone began to get up and start having a good time.  I notice Jing was officially being welcomed into the family, I’m not sure if they were giving her instructions on being a Michaels or just chatting the night away.

Laila was spending time talking with her family.

Boris and I noticed Molly was sitting at the table alone, thinking about Colin no doubt, I walked over to Molly “Hi Molly, May I have this dance?”

I’m not sure what time it was over, but everyone had a nice time.

I thought either Boris or myself would wind up with a face full of cake, but the brides were merciful.

Stormy was very happy for us, I missed hanging around with her so very much.

Even my dad got out there and danced, although I’m not sure he could handle Ruby, she can really shake it on the dance floor.

"Now it was time to spend a few days with my friends and do it all over again!"

End part

Chapter 4 Finale – Molly

The Dragon Festival

Along with the weddings, our arrival in China happened to coincide with the local Dragon Festival, giving us an opportunity to see even more of the area culture than we might have otherwise. The Festival was actually spread throughout the city but the core of it was near the market and the Palace. Ruby, Stormy and I conspired to steal the brides from their new husbands for a little shopping and glam time. After shopping for some clothes, we happened on a booth set up by a couple local women to style the hair of visitors and tourists; I'm not sure how culturally accurate the styles were, but it qualified as glam time in my book so I steered the girls toward the booth.

"And Byron is an active one!" Ruby was telling Stormy as I looked in the mirror at my up do. "He's always got me on my toes!" she laughed. I was happy to see she seemed better than she had been when I'd visited over the holidays.

"Will there be more little Lotharios in the future?" I teased. I suspected that Ruby had her hands plenty full with the triplets at this point and wouldn't be adding to her clan in the near future. "You seem to have really taken to being a mother of three - what's one more?" I grinned at her

Ruby laughed; she knew I was just messing with her. "With our luck, we'd have another set of triplets! Can you imagine?!" she pretended to look horror struck at the thought and we all laughed.

"What about you Molly?" Jing asked. "Are you and Colin planning any children?"

"Not anytime soon." I said with a smile. "Least not for a year anyway - have to survive my internship and get married first." I added. "But I do want children eventually, and Colin's house is certainly big enough for them." I said chuckling.

We played around with the makeup and hair accessories until they finished pining up Stormy's hair. I felt very girly and only wished Colin was here to see - everyone else had their significant other with them. Before heading back into the main throng of the festival I pulled Ruby aside and asked her to take a couple quick pictures of me so I could email them to Colin later. The first one was a blurry picture of my forehead as she fumbled with my camera some but the next few were much better. "Thanks Ruby." I said as we joined the others.

They were scattered around one of the areas set up for the visitors to try their hand at board breaking. "I don't think this is really necessary." Boris was saying.

"Why, scared I'll beat you?" Axel argued with a cocky smile.

Boris rolled his eyes and I thought I heard Jing scoff at the idea. "Okay fine, let's do this." Boris motioned to one of the attendants who placed foam boards before each of them. Axel and Boris shared a conspiratorial grin - the foam, balsa and oak boards were easy breaks for both of them.

The more boards they went through, the tougher the material got and I couldn't help but cringe every time one of them made a sweeping motion toward the blocks. But every successful break brought a round of cheers from the group.

Axel had grown more arrogant with each successful break to the point that he was strutting around a bit while waiting for another set of boards. Ruby would take this time to shower him with congratulatory kisses. Jing, on the other hand, watched Boris as an attentive teacher watches over a student. They would share a simple bow to each other with each success; an outsider would never suspect they were anything but teacher and student. I could see the love in their eyes though.

On the first level of the stone block, Axel got his comeuppance when he failed to break the board. I was more afraid he'd broken his hand! Ruby and others huddled around him in an attempt to help and he flung them away with a series of grumbled curses. He pushed himself out of the throng and Ruby looked at us apologetically for a moment before going after him.

I don't know how long Ruby was gone, but when she returned she was alone. "Axel went to rest." she said shortly. Stormy and I had been walking along the river bank, watching the colorful Koi swim around. Beau was off watching one of the martial arts exhibitions She fell into step beside us and we walked together quietly for awhile.

We turned back toward the inner part of the city, to track down the others. I saw them first; I grabbed Ruby and Stormy's arms, pulling them up short.

"Wha?" Ruby asked looking at me confused and I shushed her and pointed across the way.  About twenty feet away, newlyweds Tony and Laila had stolen away from the main part of the festival to find a more secluded area.

"Awww." Ruby said with a smile. "They're cute together I think."

"Yeah they are." I said grinning. "I'm glad they found each other."

I admit, we watched them quietly for a few more minutes until we all felt a bit like voyeurs. I think it hit us all about the same time because we exchanged looks with each other and starting hurrying away at the same moment and with very little stealth.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tony had heard us and saw us scurrying away, giggling like school girls.

As the sun started to sink behind the mountains, the colorful lanterns throughout the city flickered to life and everything was bathed in a lovely glow. A parade of lanterns, colorful costumes and paper dragons wound its way through the onlookers. We followed the parade and met up with the rest of our group along the way. Axel had returned and wrapped his arms around Ruby as we watched costumed dancers at the steps of the Palace. Jing, Laila and Stormy were all snuggled within the arms of their guys as well.

As much as I missed Colin at that moment, I couldn't help but smile at the happiness that seemed to have enveloped my friends. Just then, fireworks burst forth from behind the Palace. Peels of laughter, coupled with oohs and aahs rippled through the crowd.

I felt an arm go around my shoulder and jumped in surprise because I'd been so focused on the display of colors around me. I turned to see the source and grinned at Boris, who now had one arm around Jing and one around me. He winked at me before we turned our attention back to the show.

End Part

Chapter 4 Finale – Stormy

Seeing the Sights

Several things came to mind as far as what I wanted to do here while in China.  Of course aside from going to my friends’ wedding, fishing for the elusive dragon fish was top priority.  But it could wait.  I also wanted to go sightseeing, take pictures, sample the food, and learn some things about Chinese culture.  Some time alone with Beau would be nice too.

The last time I spoke to Laila, she suggested some places to visit if I wanted to learn some of the history here in Shang Simla.  The first attraction we all went to was the Terracotta Army.   Its history was remarkable!  They were carved over 2000 years ago during the Shen Dynasty.  Their emperor at the time, Yin Yang, commanded the most powerful army that kept their country free from neighboring countries.  In honor of his reign, and awesome warriors, he had the best sculptors carve the likeness of his brigade.  It took all about 40 or so years to complete, and it was the responsibility of several chosen nearby households to preserve the statues.

Today, almost all the paint has been peeled off the statues, but the rest of the details stayed in tacked for the most part.  Only a small number of statue warriors out of 6000 were missing a head or leg after the Shen Dynasty ended many years later after Emperor Yin Yang died.  Armies from surrounding countries tried their luck with taking over Shang Simla, resulting in damaged works of art, but a few of them were pieced back together.  Another thing that was neat is that the weapons the statues held were made of bronze, gold and other metals, and stayed in excellent condition. They just needed to be polished up. 

We took  pictures, pored over the history a little more, then studied the positions and details of some of the statues.  We were all fascinated by the displays and what we have learned.

Afterwards, we all went our separate ways for the time being, until we met later this evening in town for an early dinner.

“Want to go for a walk?” asked Beau.

I smiled. “That would be great.” 

We strolled  and talked for a while enjoying the warm, slightly humid, summer air, when Beau bent down, picked up a small rock and tossed it across the lake as it skipped across the surface of the water five times before it sunk below.

“That was awesome, Beau! Do it again!” I have never seen anyone actually skip stones across the water before.

Beau laughed looking around the ground for a suitable rock perfect for tossing.  He picked one up checking it out, feeling it, tossed it in the air and catching it twice before he threw it across the lake once again.  This time it skipped across the surface three times before it sunk into the water.

“Man!  Not so good second time around,” Beau shrugged.  I still thought it was still a neat trick.

“Are you tired or want to relax back at the hotel?” I asked him.

“Not yet.  To be honest, I am glad to have you to myself.”  Beau put my hand in his.  “But if you are tired, we can go back.”

“No!  I mean, no, I’m good.  It’s so serene out here.  Just listen to the sounds of the birds chirping and the quiet sounds of rippling water coming from the lake.”  Beau gave my hand a squeeze.

Two of the local children peered from behind a bush to stare at us.  I smiled and waved at them knowing they probably have never seen people that looked like us around here much, or even at all.  The youngest, the little girl with smudges of dirt on her plump cheeks shyly waved back, hesitant to smile.  She was so cute.  The boy with her, perhaps her older brother, raised his hand as if about to wave, but thought better of it, took the girls hand and ran back in the brush somewhere.

“What is that?” Beau said, almost breathless.  I looked in the direction his finger was pointing, and way in the distant was a mouth of some sort protruding from the mountain, with vapors comings from its mouth. 

“Oh Beau!  That must be Dragon's Teeth; or Dragon's Mouth!  I forget the name, but I’m sure I saw it being advertised somewhere.  We should go check it out!” I was excited, and really wanted to go see what this mountain was all about.

“Hey, you’re right!" Beau chimed in. "There was a poster of it in the hotel’s lobby.  It's called The Dragon's Maw, but we may have to come back and visit China for a more sightseeing, and for you to get a look at that dragon fish you’ve been talking about.  Beau chuckled. “Remember, we are flying back home very soon.  But next time, I want to see The Temple of Heaven, too.”

By early evening, all of my friends and I went to grab a bite to eat at Blue Orchid Restaurant.  I ordered the stir fry, which was good, but the tea was kind of blah without sugar.  Mao says, traditionally, nothing is added to their tea like we do back home.  Beau ordered eggrolls, and fed me the first bite.  I offered him none of my food because, well, I’m stingy and greedy I guess.  Maybe if the portion was as large as they give in the restaurants in Crescent Bay, I would have shared….or not.  I had to laugh at myself.  I can’t be greedy if I want a good relationship with this man.  Or can I?

When we were done eating, we poked around the shops to pick up last minute souvenirs.  Beau surprised me with this beautiful handmade hair clip.  Closer inspection of the hair clip revealed tiny beads in different colors, shaped into three butterflies.  I thanked him as I gave him a huge hug then went to show off my hair clip to the other girls, as they were making final purchases of their own. 

It was a great evening.

End part

Chapter 4 Finale – Ruby

Martial Arts Competition

We had watched Enter the Dragon right before we left for China. I think that is what possessed me to join a Martial Arts Competition.

Axel laughed at me, “I think you’ll only succeed in getting your butt handed to you by a bunch of ten year olds.”

“Ha Ha, you just wait and see. If nothing else, it’ll be a fun, learning experience.”

“And what’s that?” He asked.

“Don’t try everything you see on TV.” I replied laughing.


When we arrived in China, I was amazed at how much there was to do. The Dragon Festival was being held, which was also where the Shang Sim La Martial Arts Competition was to be held.

“Oh Axel, this is so exciting! Not only do we have the weddings, but I’m going to kick some serious tail at that competition later today.” I said, merrily.

“Sure, honey, whatever you say.” He said, not bothering to hide his sarcasm.

“You just wait, Mr. Smarty Pants.” I said smiling.

“Just take it easy, we don’t need you pulling a muscle or something. That’s all I need is to take care of 4 whiney babies.” He remarked jest fully.

“Pfft. We shall see, won’t we?” I said, poking him in the ribs. 


The competition was starting soon, so made our way to the sparring area. There were already some participants practicing as well as spectators finding suitable places to watch.
“Wow, there is a lot of people here. Who knew this was so popular.” I said in awe at all the onlookers.

“Getting scared?” He asked with that raised eyebrow of his.

“Of course not.” I answered adamantly. “I am merely making an observation.” I said smugly.

“Oh look, the gang is over there.” I pointed them out to Axel. I walked over to Molly, who had her trusty camera in hand.

“I’m glad you guys are here. Are you going to be my cheer section?” I asked happily.

“Of course, I hope to get a winning picture or possibly of you getting your butt handed to you.” She winked and laughed.

“Har dee har. You sound like Axel. You might be pleasantly surprised.”

“I’m sure you’ll be great, Ruby. Really. Break a leg.” She replied jokingly. “Not literally, I mean.”

The participants made their way to the sparring section. The competition started with the Basics and went on to Advanced. It was so neat to see all the different colored belts, I wouldn’t admit this to my friends, but I really was getting nervous. I mean what if end up looking like a total newb. I didn’t have time to think about it as the competition began.

I didn’t remember to bring an outfit of my own, so I was provided with one. I considered it the “newbie one”.  For those dumb enough not to bring their own.

I was up against Maya Wang. She looked pretty fierce. With butterflies in my stomach we bowed to each other respectfully.

Then I unleashed my inner dragon. I surprised myself at how well I was doing, matching her moves and parrying at the right moments.

“I’ve got this.” I thought to myself.

At that moment I let my guard down and she got a swift kick in, directed right to my ribs. The sudden loss of air dropped me to my knees. All I could think was, “Crap! That freaking hurt!”

I could hear a collective gasp coming from my friends and Axel’s voice encouraging me, “Get up, Ruby. You can do it, babe.”

As quickly as one can get up from having the wind knocked out of them, I was back on my feet. We bowed once more and took our respective stances. I was bit shaken from the first round, but I was determined to finish this; win or lose.

After an intense round of blocks and parries she rose as the victor. We bowed one final time, “You fought well, Ruby. Good job.” Maya said truthfully.

“Thank you and you as well.” I replied.

Walking over to my friends, I felt good about it anyway. So I didn’t kick butt like I had envisioned, but it was fun. Who knows, I may give it another go again.


“Have you seen Axel around, Stormy?” I asked. He seemed to have disappeared. I wanted to see if he wanted to join the competition as well. He and Boris had trained as young boys. I thought it would be neat to see him in action.

I wandered around the Academy until I saw them talking away from the group.

“Ax, I’m really sorry you lost your job. Have you found anything else yet?” Boris asked.

“No, not yet. It’s tough to find anything, what with my current skills.” Axel replied.

“Well, let me know if you‘d like some help.” Boris offered.

“I don’t need help. I can do this on my own. Thanks though.”

“Oh and don’t worry about what you spend on that credit card I gave you. I just want you and Ruby to have good time. I’ll cover all expenses.”

“Thanks, Karloff. I’m glad you stuck by me.” Axel answered.

I had heard about as much as I could stand to hear, with a heart pounding in my chest I strode over to them.

“Axel! Just when were you going to tell me you got fired?”

“Oh dammit, Ruby! How long have you been standing there?”

I interrupted him, “How long, Axel? How long have you been out of a job? A month? Two months? And if you weren’t working, just where in the hell were you? I’ve sat here worrying about you, defending you…and you’re off God knows where!” I could feel the tears stinging my eyes. I couldn’t hold them back. I let them fall. I was mad. I felt betrayed.

What were we going to do? How would we manage three babies, a mortgage and medical expenses? Seeing him standing there with his head hung low, made me feel bad. I felt bad for the babies, for me and for us.

“I’m sorry Axel, I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I replied sorrowfully.

“What are you saying, Ruby?”

“I think we need some time apart.”

“You don’t mean that. You’re just mad and you have every right to be. I’m sorry, Ruby. I really am!” He replied with tears in his eyes.

“I can’t!” I said as I ran from the area.

End part

Chapter 4 Finale – Boris

Western Wedding

Dad chartered a jet to transport everyone back to Riverview for the double wedding he had planned for the four of us; Tony and Laila and Jing and me.  He had originally begun planning for Jing and I, until she and Laila decided on a double wedding; actually two double weddings. 

Having the entire plane to ourselves, we were able to spread out, but most everyone opted to stay in First Class.  Due to the awkward situation between Ruby and Axel, I took up a seat next to Axel in the business section; not wanting to see him spend the entire flight by himself and selflessly allowing Ruby to enjoy first class with the rest of the entourage.  Ruby seemed to not want to talk with me either.  I am at a loss as to why. 

Once we were airborne, I made my way to the upper lounge and retrieved some drinks for Axel and myself.  I stopped to chat with a few of the other people on my way back downstairs.  Mao and Jing each came to see how we were doing and spent some time chatting with us.  Each tried to coax me to the lounge to mingle with the others, reminding me that I was one of the guests of honor, but understood my wanting to avoid a scene.  And boy could Ruby cause a scene.

The morning following our arrival in Riverview, we were busy with preparations for the wedding scheduled to take place the next day.  Things had to happen fast and execution must be perfect.  The caterer, Riverview’s Innovative Provider of Fanciful Foods, was on the ball; there before most of us were out of bed, making sure the last minute touches were made and everything was accounted for; from the seating to the flowers to the food.  He meticulously made sure his crew did not forget a single flower petal.  Contrary to the name, RIPoFF, they were well worth the hefty price I’m sure Dad paid.

They returned before the dawn the following day.  The owner, Josh, seemed to be as pleased as we were with the layout.  I couldn’t believe how swiftly they had setup everything; like the crew from an episode of Extreme Home Makeover.  Satisfied that everything was in place, the caterer dismissed all but the essential staff, to lessen the traffic during the ceremony.

Molly arrived earlier than the rest of the guests, photographing everything in sight.  I’m surprised Josh and his crew didn’t object; but they kept to their work, moving around the rest of us.  The caterers also provided a buffet breakfast for the families; served in the dining room.  Of course the brides were taken trays as they had been sequestered; hidden away from the prying eyes of their [already] husbands.  Soon after, all the guests began arriving, with the brides’ and grooms’ parents arriving ahead of everyone else. 

Shortly before the guests began to arrive on the big day, Mao became ill.  It was a sudden wave of nausea that he was able to hold back.  It was probably nothing more than jet lag, considering the closeness of the flights to and from China.  He insisted he was fine and soon felt well enough to assist with the final preparations.

Ning was a little trooper, following Mao everywhere, wanting to help.  He sure loves his Uncle Mao.  I was surprised that he was not filthy before the wedding began.  He just marched along behind, carrying what his little hands could.  At least we didn’t have to worry about him wandering off.  With everything ready, we were afforded a short respite to catch our breath.

The time came, the guests were seated; Tony and I were ushered out to our places.  The music began, and Ning emerged from the house.  Carefully, he made his way down the stairs, and proceeded to advance toward us.

All eyes turned as Ning began to toddle down the petal strewn “aisle” towards the grooms.  He began his trek carrying a white satin pillow with the rings firmly attached to it.  After a few steps on his yet wobbly legs, he dropped the pillow to the ground and marched fervently on.  I couldn’t help but chuckle, certain some of the guests had heard me, as many covered their mouths to stifle laughs themselves.

Following Ning were Laila and her father.  She was a very beautiful bride.  Tony is so lucky to have found Laila.  I wish them a long and happy marriage. 

Jing and Mao came last.  She was absolutely radiant.  I could feel the smile widening, beginning to engulf my ear lobes.  I’m know that’s an exaggeration; but that’s how it felt.  Tony and I are two of the luckiest men on the planet today.

Cameras began clicking and flashes popping, capturing Ning, strutting along on those tiny little legs of his!  He was met with “awws” as he passed each row of guests.  More flashes and clicks as each of the beautiful brides with their escorts passed, greeted with “ooohs and ahhhs.”

As the music came to the apex, The brides arrived at the podium, their hands presented to the grooms.  The Reverend Casimir Przybylski  promptly began the ceremony, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the face of this company – to join together these men and these women in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men; and therefore – is not by any – to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly – but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly.  Into this holy estate these four persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

As a hush fell over the congregation, a faint “I do…” was heard by all, followed by words that were muffled and inaudible to anyone.  With a collective gasp, everyone begins to look around for the source of the objection.  Suddenly, all eyes turn to see a woman standing off to the side, with her back to the crowd. 

As she turns around and sees all eyes upon her, Rev. Przybylski asks which couple she objects to and why.

An extremely embarrassed Molly raises the phone in her hand and quietly avows, “Erm…not them,” as she points to the phone and begins to turn several shades of red.  She quickly returns to her seat as the ceremony continues.

I had great difficulty trying to suppress my laughter and, glancing over at Tony and Laila, I could see that Tony did also.  Laila and Jing were less amused.  The question is merely a part of the traditional ceremony and should probably have been removed as we are already married.

The minister continued, “Marriage is the union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind. It is intended for their mutual joy – and for the help and comfort given on another in prosperity and adversity. But more importantly – it is a means through which a stable and loving environment may be attained.”

Ning got away from Mao and I felt him crash into my leg.  I placed my hand on his head and he was content to stand there next to me for a time.  As his legs began to tire, he returned to where Mao was sitting, extending his arms; wanting to be held again.  I had thought about asking Ruby and Axel to bring their hoodlums along, but thought better of it.  At least Ning is well behaved; though I would never suggest to Ruby or Axel that the triplets are not.

“Through marriage,” he continued without missing a beat, “Anthony and Laila, and Boris and Jing, make a commitment together to face their disappointments – embrace their dreams – realize their hopes – and accept each other’s failures.  Anthony and Laila, and Boris and Jing, will promise one another to aspire to these ideals throughout their lives together – through mutual understanding – openness – and sensitivity to each other.

“We are here today – in God’s presence – because marriage is one of the most sacred wishes – to witness the joining in marriage of Anthony and Laila, and Boris and Jing. This occasion marks the celebration of love and commitment with which this man (nodding towards Tony) and this woman (indicating Laila), and this man (he nods toward Boris) and this woman (finally Jing) begin their lives together.  And now – through me – HE joins you together in one of the holiest bonds.

“Who gives this woman in marriage to this man?”

From the first row of seats, on either side of the aisle, our families rose and turned toward the minister.  In unison, they all replied, “Her family and friends gathered here today do.”

Rev. Przybylski proceeded, “This is a beginning and a continuation of their growth as individuals. With mutual care, respect, responsibility and knowledge comes the affirmation of each one’s own life happiness, growth and freedom. With respect for individual boundaries comes the freedom to love unconditionally. Within the emotional safety of a loving relationship – the knowledge self-offered one another becomes the fertile soil for continued growth. With care and responsibility towards self and one another comes the potential for full and happy lives.

“By gathering together all the wishes of happiness and our fondest hopes for Tony and Laila, and Boris and Jing, from all present here, we assure them that our hearts are in tune with theirs. These moments are so meaningful to all of us, for “what greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together – to strengthen each other in all labor – to minister to each other in all sorrow – to share with each other in all gladness.

“This relationship stands for love, loyalty, honesty and trust, but most of all for friendship. Before they knew love, they were friends, and it was from this seed of friendship that is their destiny. Do not think that you can direct the course of love – for love, if it finds you worthy, shall direct you.

“Marriage is an act of faith and a personal commitment as well as a moral and physical union between two people. Marriage has been described as the best and most important relationship that can exist between them. It is the construction of their love and trust into a single growing energy of spiritual life. It is a moral commitment that requires and deserves daily attention. Marriage should be a lifelong consecration of the ideal of loving kindness – backed with the will to make it last.”

As the couples turn toward each other, Tony begins reciting his personal vow to Laila.  Laila responds with her vow to Tony; then Jing and I exchanged our vows to each other.

The couples turned their heads toward the minister again as he continued, “Do you Anthony take Laila to be your wife in the holy estate of matrimony?  Will you love her; comfort her; honor and keep her; in sickness and in health; for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse; in sadness and in joy; to cherish and continually bestow upon her your heart’s deepest devotion; forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?”

Tony excitedly answered, “I will.”

“Do you, Laila, take Anthony to be your husband in the holy estate of matrimony?  Will you love him; comfort him; honor and keep him; in sickness and in health; for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse; in sadness and in joy; to cherish and continually bestow upon him your heart’s deepest devotion; forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him, as long as you both shall live?”

Laila replied, “I will.”

“Do you Boris take Jing to be your wife in the holy estate of matrimony?  Will you love her; comfort her; honor and keep her; in sickness and in health; for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse; in sadness and in joy; to cherish and continually bestow upon her your heart’s deepest devotion; forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?”

Elated, I answered, “I will.”

“Do you, Jing, take Boris to be your husband in the holy estate of matrimony?  Will you love him; comfort him; honor and keep him; in sickness and in health; for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse; in sadness and in joy; to cherish and continually bestow upon him your heart’s deepest devotion; forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him, as long as you both shall live?

With a loving smile, Jing replied, “I will.”

“What token of your love do you offer?” turning to Tony and Laila.  Ning, prodded by Mao, took Xiang’s hand and they came forward with the pillow bearing the wedding rings.  The minister asked, “Would you place the rings in my hand?”

Xiang removed Tony and Laila’s rings from the pillow and placed them in the minister’s hand.  He urged Ning to return to Mao and then returned to his own seat.

“May these rings be blessed as the symbol of this affectionate unity.  These two lives are now joined in one unbroken circle.  Wherever they go – may they always return to one another; may these two find in each other the love for which all men and women year; may they grow in understanding and in compassion; may the home which they establish together be such a place that many will find there a friend; may these rings on their fingers symbolize the touch of the spirit of love in their hearts.”

Handing a ring to Tony, “Anthony, in placing this ring on Laila’s finger, repeat after me...”

Tony repeated the words, while slipping the ring upon Laila’s finger, “Laila, you are now consecrated to me as my wife from this day forward and I give you this ring as the pledge of my love and as the symbol of our unity and with this ring, I thee wed.”

Handing the other ring to Laila, the minister recited, ”Laila, in placing this ring on Anthony’s finger, repeat after me...”

Laila repeated the words while slipping the ring upon Tony’s finger, “Anthony, you are now consecrated to me as my husband from this day forward and I give you this ring as the pledge of my love and as the symbol of our unity and with this ring, I thee wed.”

The minister, turned to Boris and Jing, “What token of your love do you offer?” he inquired.  Axel rose and, taking Ning’s tiny hand in his, came forward with the pillow bearing the wedding rings.  He asked, “Would you place the rings in my hand?”

Axel removed Boris and Jing’s rings from the pillow and placed them in the minister’s hand.  He returned to his seat after returning Ning to Mao.

“May these rings be blessed as the symbol of this affectionate unity.  These two lives are now joined in one unbroken circle. Wherever they go – may they always return to one another; may these two find in each other the love for which all men and women year; may they grow in understanding and in compassion; may the home which they establish together be such a place that many will find there a friend; may these rings on their fingers symbolize the touch of the spirit of love in their hearts.”

Handing the first ring to Boris, the minister continued, “Boris, in placing this ring on Jing’s finger, repeat after me…”

Boris repeated the words while slipping the ring upon Jing’s finger, “Jing, you are now consecrated to me as my wife from this day forward and I give you this ring as the pledge of my love and as the symbol of our unity and with this ring, I thee wed.”

Handing the last ring to the Jing, the minister recited, ”Jing, in placing this ring on Boris’s finger, repeat after me...”

Jing repeated the words, while slipping the ring upon Boris’ finger, “Boris, you are now consecrated to me as my husband from this day forward and I give you this ring as the pledge of my love and as the symbol of our unity and with this ring, I thee wed.”

Looking form one couple to the other, Rev. Przybylski continued, “May you always share with each other the gifts of love – be one in heart and in mind – may you always create a home together that puts in your hearts – love – generosity and kindness.

“In as much as Anthony and Laila, and Boris and Jing, have consented together in marriage before this company of friends and family and have pledged their faith – and declared their unity by giving and receiving a ring – are now joined.

“You have pronounced yourselves husband and wife but remember to always be each other’s best friend.

“What – therefore – God has joined together – let no man put asunder.

“And so, by the power vested in me by the State of California and Almighty God, I now pronounce you men and wives – and may your days be good and long upon the earth.

“You may now kiss the brides.”

The guests rose and applauded.  We did not opt for the customary procession back down the aisle, but instead met all of the guests near the reverend’s podium.  The four of us were pelted by rice.  I do so hate the traditional tossing of the rice.  We’ll probably be picking it out of our hair for the next week.  I’ll bet the caterer was behind it!

Many of our high school classmates and friends were in attendance.  It was good to see some of the old faces again.  They were mostly from the groups that Tony and I hung with.  Although I wondered what had become of the others.

Getting married in China; spending a few days with our close friends there; then the flight back to Riverview, with just enough time to change for the wedding.  It felt I was on a carnival ride.

Stormy followed Sunny over, who charged through the throng of guests to give me a hug.  I was happy to see her there.  Stormy stopped to chat with Tony’s mother on the way over.  Beau and his father George joined Sunny in well wishes.

Molly’s brother, Jacob and his fiancé, Natasha came.  He was our math teacher for a year and the faculty advisor for the Chess Club.  I’m glad to see Molly found some time to spend with her brother, as she seemed to be on the phone every time I saw her.  Judging from the look on her face, there is some crisis going on in her life.  I wish I had the time to ask her about it; however, she would disappear each time I looked for her.  I do hope everything is alright.

My very good friends Leon and Martin from my early high school days were there, as well as Emma.  Martin finished his degree and has a good job with a computing firm in Crescent Bay and Leon is applying for a position at the Riverview Research Facility.

I looked around for Tony, to find him and Laila engaged with their families.  Tony’s dad, Hank was going on about something, waving his arms as he spoke.  Laila’s family seemed to be interested in what he was saying.  I am so glad I was able to locate Laila’s brother, Xiang, and get them reunited.

We arranged for the meal to be served mid-afternoon.  There was plenty of food and something for everyone’s palate.  Everyone commented on the wonderful meal, so I could only assume they all enjoyed it.  Any food that was left over went to the orphanage here in Riverview.

As afternoon slipped into evening, many of the guests began leaving, stopping to extend their well wishes and say their good-byes.

Sometime later in the evening, as the event was winding down, Ruby slipped going down the stairs, not used to the heels she was wearing.  Axel just happened to be in arms reach and grabbed a hold of her arms, breaking her fall. 

I was near, chatting with Principal Jamison and the remaining high school gang.  It was hard not to hear the exchange between Ruby and Axel.

“Get away from me, you liar!”

“Ruby, please don’t be like this.  Let me explain…” He trailed off, Ruby giving him a scalding look.

“Look, just stop!  Don’t you understand?  I don’t want to hear what you have to say.  Get away from me,” she shrieked.

She was escorted away by Uncle Hector, presumably taking her away from Axel in an attempt to calm her down, as Axel looked on, dumbstruck.  Several of the guests had gathered around a short distance behind Axel, looking on in disbelief at the events that took place.  I myself, kept my distance, knowing full well what was taking place.  Although I knew Ax brought this all on himself, I could not help but feel an outpouring of sympathy for him.

I hope that they will be able to get past this episode and patch their relationship.  Enough about them; they have done their share of ruining this day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love both Ruby and Axel, but sometimes they go overboard.  I must admit, though, that it kept everyone talking about this event for several days.  Between their display and Molly’s faux pas during the ceremony, it was be a wedding to remember. 

End Finale

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