Not My Type: Rhiannon Ch. 09byfirstkiss©
The plan was deviously simple. To be fair it was Violet's idea. We all knew without speaking it aloud that Joe would never forgive himself if his parents weren't present at our wedding. We also knew that they might not come even if invited. So really, as Vi pointed out, there was only one solution. Since there was no guarantee they'd come to the wedding, we had to bring the wedding to them.
Luckily, goings-on at the Tanner farm functioned like clockwork. Joe's father usually returned for lunch at noon and that's when the bunch of us planned to show up, with Reverend Nate in tow. Joe and I would then get married on the Tanner's front porch. His parents could hardly ignore a ceremony in their own yard. It was brilliant really.
Secretly, I'd wanted to get married on the beach in my own little cove, with our cottage in the background and the waves crashing onto the sand at our feet. But Violet's plan had merit and I agreed to it because I knew it was what Joe wanted most.
I felt surprisingly calm as Adele, Lilly and I got ready at my old place in town. Both of them had chosen simple sundresses in line with my own. Out of nowhere Adele produced a bouquet of white hydrangeas for me to hold.
"Something new," she explained as she passed them to me. "From my garden."
Lilly fussed with my hair until every wave lay perfectly. "Your 'something old' can be your dress." She blushed a little then added, "And 'something blue' is definitely what you have on underneath."
"So what's my 'something borrowed'?" I teased when our eyes met in the mirror. Up until that moment, I'd forgotten all about that particular silly bridal tradition.
Lilly pursed her lips then a look of happy inspiration crossed her pretty face. She reached up around her neck to unfasten the gold necklace she'd worn countless times over the years. Her hands felt warm as she placed the delicate, antique piece around my own throat.
"This locket belonged to my Great-Grandma Tanner. It was her wedding gift from my great-grandfather. She was rumoured to have been quite a spunky lady. I was pretty young when she died, so I don't really remember her but Mum always said she was a hellion." Lilly smiled. "In a good way, of course. There aren't enough hellions in the Tanner line."
"There is now," Adele murmured as she disappeared into the closet to dig out my shoes.
My fingers traced the patterns on the locket. I couldn't remember a time when I'd seen Lilly without it. "Thanks, Lil," I managed to get out past the tightness in my throat.
She leaned down and wrapped her arms around my neck. Her Tanner-blue eyes sparkled as she pressed her cheek against my own. "I've always been glad you and I were friends. I'm even more thankful now that we get to be sisters."
I pushed back the tears which threatened to overflow and instead patted Lilly's freckled arm.
Lilly laughed in my ear and said, "Let's go and get you hitched. I can't wait to see the look on Dad's face."
I, on the other hand, dreaded the look on Gerard Tanner's face when he realized what was happening on his front porch.
The ride out to the farm was pretty quiet. Adele seemed lost in her thoughts while she drove. I wondered if she was reliving her own wedding day. It had been a big Catholic wedding in Montreal with all the bells and whistles. Adele looked like a blonde angel, dressed in a fantastic, beaded winter-white sheath. That afternoon as she walked down the aisle, I'm sure she believed her marriage would last forever. It must hurt her now to remember the thrill of that day over four years ago.
I wanted to say something to her, to reassure her that despite her own experience, and despite the broken marriages she saw every day in her work as a lawyer, that there were marriages that could work, marriages that did. Joe and Lilly's parents were a good example of that. Mrs. Nichol too had been happily married for fifty-five years before her husband passed away. Partnerships could work if both people involved were willing to make the effort. I was just starting to learn that for myself, I wanted her to know it too.
But I didn't say anything even though I knew I should. Mostly because Adele would probably resent my assuming I knew what she was thinking. She always tried to hide her sadness from Lilly and I, as if we couldn't understand. Adele never was one for discussing her problems. She always kept them to herself. I was acutely aware too of how ironic my giving love advice to anyone was seeing as I was hardly a paragon of healthy interactions with men.
With a small sigh of resignation I flipped down the passenger side sun visor to fuss with my hair in the mirror. In it I could see the reflection of Lilly in the backseat as she looked out the window with a dreamy smile. It was the expression she got when she thought of Adam. I could easily picture her as the stereotypical blushing bride with him as the handsome groom. I hoped he wouldn't make her wait too long to make the dream a reality. I imagined hers would be a simple yet elegant wedding, with the finest food and lots of Tanners to create their own brand of havoc despite Lilly's meticulous planning.
For my own part I should have been a nervous wreck but there was a strange, out-of-body sensation about the entire day. I never expected I'd ever get married yet the moment got closer and closer as we passed rolling fields of green and red. I stroked the curve of my stomach. My entire life had changed so fast that at times it felt surreal. Somehow it all felt right though, and the thought made me smile.
The one regret I had about the day was that Mrs. N. wouldn't be there. I'd gotten up early that morning to visit her in the hospital. She laughed herself hoarse when I told her the plan and deemed it 'damn brilliant'. Joe's brother Chuck came up with the idea to broadcast the ceremony over webcam so Mrs. N and her granddaughters could watch from her hospital room on my laptop. It wasn't quite the same as having her there, but it was close.
The others were waiting for us when we pulled into the top of the Tanner's lane. Lilly and Adele made a beeline for Adam and Nate, who stood talking and laughing. The contrast and similarities between the two best friends struck me again: sinner and saint, both tall, lean, and ridiculously handsome.
But Joe stood apart from the rest, stalwart and silent, his large arms crossed over his broad chest. His auburn hair shimmered in the late morning sunshine. He was clean-shaven and grinning but that wasn't what caught my attention.
Joe-fucking-Tanner was wearing a suit!
I walked towards him without realizing I'd even taken a step. I'd never seen Joe wear anything but work clothes or jeans and a t-shirt. My eyes flitted over every seam of the tailored charcoal grey suit. Joe looked fantastic, better than fantastic. His white shirt was pristine. Silver cufflinks glinted at his wrists above his tanned hands, and his sea-blue tie matched his eyes. He wore the suit like he belonged in it. I'd guiltily pictured him being uncomfortable in dress clothes, instead he'd surprised me yet again.
Lilly could keep her Adam with his rock-star good looks. Adele could have her blond, saintly Adonis in Reverend Nate. All I wanted today and every day after was Joe, so rugged and sweetly shy as his gaze met my own.
"You look beautiful, darlin'," Joe murmured as we came face-to-face. He chuckled and his eyes lit up with recognition as he checked out the dress I'd chosen. He took hold of my hand, the one that didn't have a death grip on the bouquet of hydrangeas, and tucked it into the crook of his arm. The solid muscle beneath the layers of poplin shirt and wool suit was a comforting anchor.
I stood stunned and silent as the others crowded around us to offer their congratulations.
Nate glanced at his watch. "Twelve-fifteen—it's show time, folks."
We made a motley crew as we proceeded down the length of the Tanner's lane towards the house. There was no music save the laughter of Joe's brothers and sisters, the keening cry of the gulls overhead, and the constant crash of the waves into the bluff beyond.
Joe and I were the only two of the bunch who didn't make enough noise to be heard half-way to the city. We tromped up the front steps and took our places while Chuck set up his laptop and webcam in just the right place. A few clicks later, he gave us an enthusiastic thumbs-up before he slipped into his spot.
Joe and I stood front and centre with Adele to my left and Matt, as best man, to the right. Behind him stood Chuck and Adam, both wearing huge grins. Lilly and Violet stood with Adele, their expressions were twin mirrors of nervousness. Nate flashed me a reassuring smile and raised his hand to knock on the front door.
It took a moment before the curtain in the living room window twitched. There was a little scuffle behind the door before it opened a crack, revealing a surprised looking Pat Tanner.
"Good afternoon, Mrs Tanner," Nate said brightly.
She took in the crowd of us circled around her front porch. Her blue eyes flickered over my bouquet and Joe's hand in my own, before alighting on Reverend Nate and his clerical collar. She gasped.
I think we all held our breath. I felt the tension in Joe's hand as it clutched mine. I tried to reassure him that everything would be okay when I squeezed back. A strained silence stretched on before Joe's mother threw the door open wide.
"Gerard! You better get out here."
The clatter of dishes came from the back of the house followed by heavy, measured footsteps.
"What the hell?" Joe's father mumbled as he turned the corner into the hall. He froze.
Joe's face turned into an expressionless mask which I knew hid his fear. I was actually trembling. Matt looked amused, Chuck downright worried. I wanted to turn my head to see what the girls were thinking, but I didn't dare move an inch. My gaze met Joe's instead. He took a deep breath and gave me a tiny smile. I found myself smiling back.
"Dearly Beloved," Nate began in a solemn tone, as if this was a normal wedding, like the dozens of others he'd performed over the years. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the joining of two very special people, of two very different hearts."
Mr Tanner's eyes widened and he stepped forward into the doorway, but stopped when Mrs Tanner laid a small hand on his arm. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes and shook her head.
I didn't think I'd live to see the day when the giant force of nature called Gerard Tanner would be stilled by so gentle a touch. Lilly started to cry.
Then Joe's mother did something else which was truly amazing. She turned to Joe and me and smiled. The mood instantly lightened almost as if the sun had come out from behind a bank of clouds. Her big, blue eyes shimmered with tears as she nodded at Nate to continue.
The Reverend spoke then about love. About the love we have for our families and for our friends and about the invisible bonds which hold together the people in our lives. His words were simple, honest, and sincere. When his discourse shifted to the love parents have for their children Mrs Tanner began to sob in earnest. But it wasn't her Nate was talking to, it was me and Joe.
I felt the small ripple of agreement in my belly as Nate spoke of the instantaneous and deep love parents have for their child. Of the responsibility they feel towards their offspring, how their marriage vows to love and care for each other extend tenfold to the children they would have together.
"We often make mistakes in life, we're often faced with surprises," Nate said in his smooth, low voice. "And in the outside world we are judged for those mistakes and for how we react to those surprises."
"It is only in our home, when we're surrounded by the people who love us most of all, that we are free from that judgement, that we are supported for those choices and reactions—and in spite of them. Our family loves us for our faults as much as for our virtues, if not more, for our faults are what truly define us.
"Today we see a new family standing before us, and an unlikely one at that. There are probably not two people on this island more different from each other than Joe and Rhiannon, but that doesn't make them less as a couple. I believe in my heart it makes them more of one.
"They have already faced hardship and a decision which is bigger than the both of them. In light of all the difficulties, despite the surprises, they have stood firm and chosen to do what they know to be right."
"Love is a wondrous gift," Nate said as his gaze danced between me and Joe. "We should not question who it chooses. That is why it gives me great pleasure to ask: Rhiannon Elizabeth Barnes will you take Joseph Gerard Tanner to be your lawfully wedded husband, in health and in sickness, in times of prosperity and in times of want, through joy and through sorrow, until death parts you?"
I'd been watching Nate, caught up in the magic of his words and his beatific smile but when he called Joe's name, my eyes flickered instantly to the man who stood beside me, holding my hand. He was so tall, so strong, and proud. He was the best man I'd ever met. He was the only man who ever saw more to me than just my reputation or my money.
Joe loved me for me.
He'd grown to be the best part of my life and he always, always would be.
Adele hand was at my back and while it felt good to have the support, I didn't need it. I knew what I was going to say before my mouth opened.
Joe had been holding his breath and he let it out in a mix between a dry chuckle and a sigh of relief. Behind him Matt, Chuck, and Adam laughed. A chorus of sniffles came from the girls. Adele pressed the cool weight of Joe's wedding band into my hand. We'd bought rings yesterday after leaving the hospital. I'd chosen a slim, delicate one for my own. Joe's was easily twice the width of mine, solid and strong, like the man himself. I slipped it onto his finger.
"With this ring I take you as my own; my helpmate, my protector, my husband."
Nate beamed at me when I got the words right then turned his attention to Joe, whose brilliant blue eyes never left my own.
"And will you Joseph Gerard Tanner take Rhiannon Barnes to be your lawfully wedded wife, in health and in sickness, in times of prosperity and in times of want, through joy and through sorrow, until death parts you?"
Joe reached up with his free hand and brushed away the tear that sat on my cheek. I hadn't even realized I'd shed it until his warm skin met mine. His answered smile wasn't just on his lips, it was in his eyes.
Adam hooted and Matt and Chuck's laughter were twin echoes of surprised enjoyment. Adele stayed silent but I felt her shaking with amusement behind me. Both Lilly and Violet were giggling through their tears.
"Joseph,," his mother chided in a whisper, "do it properly."
My bear of an almost-husband actually had the nerve to look sheepish before he leaned down and rested his forehead against my own. "I do," he whispered. He slid the slim wedding ring down my finger. "With this ring I take you as my own; my helpmate, my treasure, my wife."
Nate clapped Joe on the back amidst the catcalls and shouts of congratulation. Adele squeezed my elbow so hard it was certain to be bruised while Lilly and Violet chattered on. Everything and everyone faded away except the steady gaze of Joe-fucking-Tanner.
"Well then," Nate continued with joy in his warm voice. "There's nothing left for me but to say, very proudly, that by power vested in me by God, the church I serve in his name, and the laws of this good province, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Joe, you may kiss your bride."
Joe didn't wait for the good Reverend to finish though—we were kissing well before we were bidden to. His mouth was hot and slick, his kiss both sweet and possessive. I pressed myself against the wall of his chest, crushing my bouquet between us. Joe's hand met the back of my head as the kiss deepened.
"Lordy," Nate said under his breath before giving a low, good-natured whistle.
The sound brought Joe's head up with a snap. His cheeks were stained a deep pink as we both fought to get our breathing under control. For a moment we really had forgotten anyone else was there.
Joe's father stepped forward into the sunshine which had crept onto the covered porch as the afternoon waned. As always, his face was stoic and composed. The cheerful chatter ceased as father and son stood face-to-face.
He raised his arm and for a brief moment I wondered if he would hit Joe. Another man would have flinched, but Joe stood tall and looked his father in the eye. Instead of a clenched fist though, Mr Tanner presented an open hand. Joe clasped it in a firm handshake.
"You ain't off the hook yet, boy," Mr Tanner said in a soft but reserved tone. "But it's a start. I didn't actually think you'd marry her. We cultivate the south field first thing Monday. Don't go sleepin' in."
Joe's mother bustled forward to pat both men on the upper arm, which was about as high as she could reach. "There now," she cooed. "Isn't that nice?"
I watched Joe in disbelief. He seemed a bit stunned himself. Matt and Chuck chuckled and Lilly's peal of laughter rang off the porch timbers.
"Welcome to the family dear," Mrs Tanner continued as she pushed her way between her husband and her oldest son to stand on tiptoe and plant a kiss on my cheek. "I wish you'd warned me though, there's nothing to feed this lot except grilled cheese sandwiches."
A sudden heat rushed to my face when I remembered the last time I prepared grilled cheese sandwiches—or at least tried to. Joe let out a lusty chuckle under his breath as we shared a significant look.
Adam swooped in though and took Mrs. Tanner by the arm. "Never fear, Pat. I was up half the night cooking myself. There's a veritable feast down the cottage. Even a wedding cake and everything!" He began the parade from the porch down the lane and back towards the little cottage in the cove. The rest of them trailed after, Lilly with her father, Violet skipped along beside Matt, Adele laughed lightly as Nate whispered in her ear.
Chuck moved to the little table where his laptop sat, still broadcasting the proceedings for Mrs. N. She appeared frail and colourless on the screen, but she was grinning. Her granddaughters surrounded her, each clutching tissues and sniffling.
"That was lovely, Rhiannon," Mrs. N said, her speech much clearer now. "And more fun than one of my soap operas."
Joe and I laughed. "I'm glad you got to see it," I said. "I wish you could be here though."
Mrs. N. waved a spindly hand. "It's more comfortable here anyhow. You bring me a piece of cake though, and some for the girls too, when you come by tomorrow to talk about the store."
I knew an order when I heard it. Stubborn old thing, she never stopped thinking about the store.
I knelt down so I was close to the webcam and smiled at her. "I'll do that," I promised. I blew Mrs. N. a kiss. "I love you," I whispered, regretful that I hadn't told her sooner, glad that I had the opportunity before it was too late.
"I love you too, girl. Now go enjoy your wedding day. You kids have tired me out, I'm about ready for a nap," Mrs. N said with a chuckle.
The granddaughters scooped up the laptop to give me and Joe their best wishes and cheerful promises to have the store ready to reopen by Monday morning. Chuck took over after I thanked them. He closed the program and packed up his laptop. Then with a half-bow and a big smile, he hurried down the lane to catch up with the others.
Joe and I lingered for a moment on his parents' porch. My gaze skimmed over the neat flower beds, the row of wind-swept trees, and the shaggy grass which carpeted the lawn until it met the edge of the bluff. It was all so dear and familiar I couldn't help but smile. I'd always felt at home here, now I truly was.