The late guests were welcomed to the Reiger wedding with delicate music which floated across the resplendent lawn.Groomsmen not yet on duty escorted them behind the house toward the decorated gazebo. They were seated in time for the young men to hurry behind the gatehouse where the wedding party gathered. The crowd of family and friends hushed when Steven and George stepped into position beside Pastor Nelson.
Attendants paired off for the stroll up the makeshift aisle when they heard the processional begin. The string quartet repeated its rendition of The Butterfly Waltz as Denise and Autumn started their walk toward the gazebo; the last of the bridal party before the bride herself appeared. When they arrived and took their places, guests rose from the white wicker chairs and expectantly faced the gate house.
The bride anxiously smoothed her satin gown, the fabric cool against her clammy hand. This was the day she dreamt about since she was in grade school; the day she met Steven Reiger. Her brothers were small boys at that time. Storm remembered when they were born, so close together. Silas was barely walking when Jude arrived.
“Ready?” Silas leaned over, whispering in his sister’s ear.
Storm fussed with her bouquet a moment, then looked up at him. Tall and lanky, he was all deep brown eyes and dark, unmanageable hair. She pushed a lock off his forehead before adjusting the vivid yellow bow tie. A sheen of sentimental, happy tears clouded her eyes a moment.
“You look so much like Daddy. Its like having him here.”
She turned to Jude. He shared their mother’s light hair and hazel eyes, yet possessed their late father’s muscular build.
“I know I could have asked Rob, but I really wanted it to be both of you.”
“Glad to,” Jude replied. “Just be sure you get tons of pictures of Si. You know how much he hates dressing up.”
The invitation of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring stalled the round of sibling jests. She linked arms with her brothers before they rounded the side of the house. They paused at the edge of the white runner a moment before leading their sister to greet her groom. At the foot of the steps, they embraced Storm before handing her up the steps to join Steven.
“Mom looks tired,” Jude muttered halfway through the service. Silas glanced at Sammie. The sight of his stepfather’s hand lightly clasping hers eased any concern. The upcoming birth of their new sibling added an element of excitement for the family.
“Rob’ll make sure she doesn’t overdo things,” he whispered back.
Pastor Nelson approved the final vow spoken, and the guests applauded when the newlyweds kissed. Ode To Joy burst from the string quartet as Storm and Steven dashed across the lawn to the white limousine awaiting them.
The remainder of the bridal party trudged to the slick, black car that would follow the couple to the country club. Silas tugged at his collar. “This bow tie is history as soon as pictures are over.”
“I’m starved.” Jude chimed, stepping in time alongside his brother. “I’m telling you right now, I’m having some good old rock and roll at my wedding.”
“Fair warning, dude. I am NOT wearing a tux ever again.”
Jude chuckled, pausing to watch the photographer click off shots of the couple in the car before it sped away. He turned, his professional eye searching for the next available subject. He spotted the bride’s brothers and waved to them. Silas groaned as Jude dragged him along, murmuring about the injustices of formal dress.
Lakeville Country Club was bustling with activities not related to the Reiger wedding. Silas and Jude waved to a group of caddies before entering the Clubhouse. The sounds of laughter greeted them as they hurried to the large reception hall.
After dinner, Silas sat at the bar with one of the cooks on break discussing the ins and outs of catering for large crowds. Denise floated past them on the dance floor, waving to him behind her partner’s back. He returned the gesture before resuming the discussion.
“How can you sit here talking about ordering enough roast beef, with all these beautiful girls dying to dance?” He watched the young couple dance away, noting Denise’s lingering look at Silas. “Especially that one. Hoo-whee.”
“Easy,” he answered with his typical, easy smile. “None of them are the one for me.”
The man shook his head before he leaned across the bar, anxious to impart his accumulated years of wisdom.
“Si, you’re young. Now’s the time to get in the action. So when the right one comes along…” He winked before downing the balance of his bright green soda. “Gotta get back to the grind. Wait till you see the cake!” He put fingers to his lips and kissed them, pantomiming a French chef’s gesture in an exaggerated manner. He disappeared behind a set of swinging doors.
The busy kitchen sounds drew Silas to leave the stool and glance through the window. Men and women in bright white linens hurried about, some scraping remains of the pignole-crusted chicken into an enormous trash can. Others were stacking dessert plates filled with mini pastries on a cart. A voice from behind startled him from his observations.
“Any girl should be so lucky to be stared at with that sappy, dreamy look on your face.” Jude pulled him away to allow a gaggle of waitstaff with arms overflowing brush by them. “It’s only a kitchen, bro.”
“A great one,” Silas sighed as he turned from the view.
“Denise was asking about you,” Jude said as they settled back at the bar, expecting a benign response.
Silas shrugged. His polite refusals to dance must not have registered. “She looks like she’s having a fine time with…whoever that guy is.” He raised his glass towards the dance floor.
Jude glanced their way. “That’s one of Steve’s friends from Wyeth,” he informed his brother. “You don’t know him?”
“I’m not a jock, remember? I guess he’s on the basketball team? I don’t pay much attention, except football. They had a great team this year. I missed the games, though. I’ll catch them in September.”
They discussed Wyeth’s chances for regionals, then Jude asked, “Did you hear from Baker Street yet?”
A cast of worry fled across Silas’ normally placid face. “Not yet. It’s still early. They may not let me know until October or later.”
“But, you want to start in January!”
“Dude, I know.” The outrage on his behalf soothed the anxiety that cropped up in Silas’ mind. He grinned after taking a closer look at his brother. “When did you start wearing lipstick?”
He exploded in laughter at the shade of red Jude’s face became. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, then stared at the slight, purple tinted smudge that appeared.
“For a shy, serious guy, you sure get around.” Silas mused, recalling more than one occasion Jude was found behind the caddy shed in the company of a particular hostess when they worked there the previous summer.
“It’s the dancing. Something about dancing makes girls all…romantic.” He picked up a napkin and scrubbed his lips. “One kiss doesn’t make me engaged, you know.”
“That’s all it’ll take for me.” Silas insisted.
“You know I’m not looking for anything serious,” Jude countered. “No harm in a dance here and there.” He was firmly committed to two goals: getting through mechanic school and boot camp.
“It can lead to…”
Jude stopped the discussion with a slashing motion across his throat. “No sermons tonight, Brother Young.”
He laughed–as always–when Jude called him that. It was fine they had come to opposite opinions on the mysterious subject of women. He knew Jude was serious about his faith, although he couldn’t resist one final warning.
“No more kissing, Private.”
Jude rolled his eyes, his annoyance with his brother’s insistent–and frequent–Biblically mandated warnings curbed by their affection. It would take much more than Silas’ fervent adherence to God’s word to cause a rift between them.
“Do you have a date to leave for boot camp?”
“I report to Phoenixville mid-September.”
Silas stared at his brother, stunned. “So soon?”
“Si, I’m not being deployed to Afghanistan. It’s only 45 minutes away. You’ll be farther than me when you’re in Philly.”
“I know, but…” Silas paused, an unexpected surge of emotion constricting his windpipe. Jude patted his shoulder, a wry grin quirking the corner of his mouth. Nothing would ever come between them.
“I think you should dance with Denise, just once.” Jude pulled Silas from the bar. It wasn’t difficult to get her attention, and in no time, they were off waltzing. He stood to the side of the floor as Silas patiently fended off the girl’s determined and multiple attempts at a more intimate stance.
“He’ll miss me,” Jude said to himself, the sentiment causing the same physical and emotional response Silas experienced earlier.
~ * ~ * ~
As Jude stuffed the last of his gear into the duffle bag, his phone rang. He smiled when he saw Silas’ name on the screen; he returned to school three weeks prior, and Jude missed him sorely. “Hey bro.”
“Just wanted to wish you blessings today.”
He snickered at the phrase remix: Silas would never wish anyone ‘luck.’ Jude sat on the bed, contents of the duffle bag forgotten. “Thanks, bro. How’s it going up there?”
“It’s going. Football starts next week. We’ve got a great team this year. You all packed up?”
“Just finished. Rob’s waiting to take me into town for the bus.” He breathed in a deep breath and said, “Pray for me, all right? I know this is where God wants me to be, but that doesn’t make it easy.”
As expected, Silas launched into prayer mode. Jude closed his eyes, solitude gently lighting on his shoulders, easing the stress of the morning. His brother’s conversational style of communing with Jesus always soothed him.
“Don’t let Mom get your uniform all wet,” Silas joked when he was through with his supplication. Jude’s laugh was tight with emotion.
“I’ll try. I’ll call or text when I can. It’s going to be a rough nine weeks. Thanks, Si.”
“Go with God, Jude. I’ll be praying.”
Jude flipped his phone closed, holding it tightly in hand as he looked around his room. “It’s only a few weeks,” he confirmed to his stereo. At the sound of light tapping, he turned toward the door. Rob leaned against the frame, a wistful expression on his face.
“I remember the day I went off to boot camp. It was a different time, then. I’m sure it’s just as daunting now.”
Unable verbally to confirm the sentiment, Jude nodded. Rob stepped forward, picking a stuffed elephant up from its spot on Jude’s desk. He looked it over, then replaced it with care. In the short time Rob was involved in his life, the boy became a man.
“If you need anything, you call. Any time of the day or night.”
Jude stood, crossing the room to the abandoned bag. He tugged the drawstring closed. “I will. Thanks. Where’s Mom?” He prayed Rob missed the way his question caught in his throat.
“Putting a cold washcloth over her eyes, so you won’t know she’s been crying.”
Gathering his apprehension and commanding it to cease, Jude managed a half-smile. His mother needed to see him leave strong.
“Are you ready, Private Young?” They nodded to each other, and Rob found himself enveloped in a quick, yet sturdy hug before he left the room.
He took one last look around then Jude hoisted the bag to his shoulder. “I’m ready, Lord. Let’s go!”
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