Totally different take on the wedding!

Cold Feet
By Pam Gooderham

Pwhoogh.” Walker blew through his lips for what seemed like the hundredth time, and fingered the collar of his tuxedo, which appeared to be getting tighter each minute. His fingers nervously traced the outline of his lips. “Trivette? You said she was here.”

            “She is, man. She’s in the building.” His best man slapped the back of Walker ’s firm shoulders. “Will you quit worrying. Gees! Alex might have had a wardrobe malfunction or something. You know how it is.”

            “No!” Walker whispered through gritted teeth. “I don’t know how it is. In case you’ve forgotten - I’ve never been married before!”

            Trivette looked intensely at his friend. “We’re all nervous! We gotta help each other here, right? Right, pard?” Trivette’s knees bent to look more clearly into Walker ’s face; “Everything is just fine.” He had a sudden thought which he hoped would be a distraction. “Look at the church, Walker . Isn’t it wonderful?”

            The humble, wooden building, built originally by former old friend, Thunder Malloy, was splendidly adorned in blooms of yellow and white chrysanthemums, freesias, daffodils and gypsophilia. Alex, Josie, Sydney and a host of volunteer friends from Alex’s HOPE Center , together with church members, had created the arrangements the previous afternoon. There was a freshness that promised of new beginnings that was so much associated with the season of spring. Together with the bright May day, the plain church rose to the occasion; the clear sunshine streaming through the stain glass windows bathed the alter with God’s blessings. There was a Holy, rich feel, which defied words.

            “It is beautiful.” Walker forced a look around, only be to smiled at by the fifty or so witnesses to his and Alex’s wedding. A generalized, quick half smile back and he retreated to safety by looking to the front again. “Pwhoogh,” he blew.

Pastor Roscoe Jones smiled. “ Walker ? Will you relax? I can’t ever remember seeing you like this.”

            “And you never will, Roscoe. I’m not doing this again!”

The two men in his company laughed quietly.

“But, Roscoe. The church …” Walker was genuine, “it looks … beautiful. Thanks for the trouble you’ve all gone to.” His eyes narrowed, “It’s appreciated.”

            The Afro-American pastor gave a hearty grin, his white teeth sparkling. “If we can’t pull out all the stops for you and Alex, Walker , why, we might as well quit!” Roscoe’s joviality suddenly stopped and he frowned. It caused Walker ’s heart to race faster.

            “What?” The groom went to look behind and suddenly thought better of it. He directed his question to Trivette, who had looked back and also frowned. Roscoe lay the Bible on the table behind him and excused himself.

“One minute. I’ll be back.”

“Why is he leaving, Trivette?” Walker worried.

            “No idea. Probably a rip in one of the bridesmaid dresses.”

            Walker ’s whisper was forced. “That’s hardly likely, is it?”

            Trivette’s nerves were beginning to stretch too, and he fought back the butterflies in his stomach. Alex should have walked up the aisle ten minutes ago. If she didn’t come soon he’d have to excuse himself to the bathroom. If only he hadn’t had that extra cup of coffee. He checked in his pocket. Yeah. The wedding bands were still there. Good.

“Why did Roscoe frown and leave?”

“Well, pard.” Trivette’s job was to keep the groom calm. “He left because …”

“Because …what?”

Uerm, because …he …had to go to the bathroom.”

            “Oh.” The tidy, red hair on Walker ’s head gave a small nod. “Right.” his lips, surrounded by the neat, close shaven beard, pursed. “Pwhoogh,” Walker exhaled another long breath. If Alex didn’t hurry up he would need to answer the call of nature as well.

            Roscoe returned only to whisper conspiratorially in Trivette’s ear farthest from the groom.

Trivette’s look also changed. He leaned towards Walker . “I’ll be back in a minute, pard.”

            Walker grabbed Trivette’s arm in alarm. “You’re not leaving me up here alone?”

            “Roscoe’s here. I’ll be back in a minute.” There was something in his tone that prompted Walker to release his partner’s arm immediately.

            “Okay.” Walker said seriously. His instincts were more than adequate to know something was amiss. “Just hurry, will you?”

His partner and friend squeezed the tough guy’s biscep and left, and, after what seemed like a century, he returned three minutes later.

During that time Walker had faced the front, settled his weight equally on both legs, and thought of anything that might take his mind off his present situation.

            “ Walker …” Trivette paused. It sent off alarm bells throughout Walker ’s body. “Urm …” This time Trivette blew through his lips.

            “What is it?” It was direct and firm.

            “Ah, you need to come with me.”

            “Where?”

            “You need to …er …see Alex.”

The two men held eye contact and exchanged silent knowledge only available to an eon of trusted friendship.

            Walker nodded, his voice gravely serious. “Okay.”

Allowing his partner to lead them back up the aisle, Walker avoided every face in the congregation. He could hear the puzzled buzz as they left the main body of the church and entered the side corridor. Now out of the general gaze Walker tensed further. “What’s wrong?”

Roscoe and Trivette stopped out side a closed door and Trivette squeezed Walker ’s arm again, disconsolately shaking his head, “I don’t know, man. I really don’t. You need to speak to Alex.” And the two men quietly left.

            Walker looked at the door, back to his disappearing friends, and turned his gaze to the door again. There was a sudden deafening silence that threatened to consume him, but shrugging off the feeling, he gave a small knock on the door.

It opened to reveal Kim Holland .

Alex’s maid of honor was splendid in a classy, light yellow, long gown, edged with white. Her mid brown shoulder length hair was adorned with a flower Walker didn’t recognize.

            “ Walker .” She could barely hold his gaze as she slipped past him. “Go in.” And she stopped long enough to kiss him on the cheek and apply an extra squeeze.

It did nothing for Walker ’s intuition. Dread accompanied his every step as he entered and quietly closed the door.

            Alex turned and gasped - her senses kick-starting. He is so handsome, her mind raced. His red hair, the way it was turned in towards his collar - the handsome bearded face. The muscular body rippling through the dark tuxedo! The extra shiny new cowboy boots peering below his crisp pants. He looked wonderful!

Her head throbbed with these new feelings, and looking at him intensely, Alex saw pain starting to show in his deep, contemplating eyes. It made her tears well up once more.

            Walker ’s chest had constricted the minute she turned to face him. She was more than beautiful - she was stunning! In a class of her own when it came to dress, she had exceeded all his expectations. The torso of her long, slim-fitting white wedding gown was adorned with pearls, tapered off in a few long strands to the sweeping material of her small train. The bodice was low enough to excite, but elegant enough to be fitting and proper for the occasion, and her slim neck graced a single string of similar pearls. A base of pearls and tiny yellow and white freesias constructed Alex’s simple headdress; her hair softened by gentle blond curls. She was as magnificent as Walker had ever seen her and it took the Ranger a minute to find his voice.

            “Alex?”

            His voice ripped her to shreds. She adored the softness of his tone - she could listen to him talk all day and never tire once. It caused fresh tears to fall.

            Walker strode straight to the woman he loved. “Alex?” he repeated.

            Her head bowed and moved from side to side as she walked a few steps away. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…I …I …don’t know what I was thinking. I’m sorry. I can’t marry you. I should have known.”

            The whole of Walker ’s body sagged, his mouth falling open - the Ranger’s expression one of sheer disbelief. He felt as if he had been sidekicked in the gut. He swallowed heavily and looked for something to say, but his mind was void.

            His bride-to-be wiped away another tear. “I …I don’t know what I was thinking. This isn’t going to work.”

            Walker forced his mind to think and he felt he knew the answer. “I never did figure what you saw in someone like me, Alex. You’re in a different class. I’m happy with who I am and what I am, but, I never did understand why someone like you… became interested in someone like me.”

            Alex frowned. “What?” It took a moment to digest what Walker inferred. “ Walker ! Don’t you dare suggest that! I love you so much …just as you are …I wouldn’t dream of changing you. Class has nothing to do with it!”

            Now he was at a total loss. “Then …what?”

            The tears started slowly down her cheeks. “You’ve been a bachelor for years!”

            It still didn’t make sense. “So?” he queried.

            “Don’t you see?” Alex implored.

            Walker thought it through once more. “No.” he answered flatly.

            Walker , all these years! You’ve lived at the ranch - you’ve come and gone as you please. Did what you want, when you want. You can’t have me there! Another person to share your life! What if I don’t fit in? What if I get on your nerves? How will I know when to give you space? Oh, Walker !” her crying increased, “I’ll be an intrusion. We should never have thought about getting married. We should …should have ju ..st stayed friends…” the tailing off of her sentence was hardly coherent.

            Realizing he had hardly taken a breath while Alex spoke, Walker took one now and verbalized what he thought was the problem. “So you don’t think we should be married… because… you think I’ve lived on my own too long, and I won’t be able to adapt?”

            Alex’s breaths shuddered against her emotion. “Not that you …won’t be able …to adapt.” she panted, “but, oh God! What if you decide you like a solitary life better?” And with that, Alex’s hands covered her face.

            Walker chose his moment and embraced her, wrapping his arms around her so fully she was unable to resist. The woman he loved surrendered her body against his. Her gown was cut away allowing Walker to run his hand slowly up and down her back in an effort to console his fiancée.  Her skin was silky soft and warm, and not having seen Alex for two nights, he had been longing to take her in his arms again. Realizing he looked like losing her from his life, the Texas Ranger suddenly gripped her hard, steering them both to a nearby wooden chest, they sat down. Walker risked another hug, rocked her for a few minutes, and then straightened her shoulders forcing her to look him in the eyes. Brushing away her tears Walker took command.

            “Sweetheart.” He paused briefly, “Thank you.”

            His would-be-bride’s expression showed amazement.

            “You know why?” he continued.

            She shook her head, no.

            “For caring so much about me. Alex?” Walker searched her eyes. “Do you remember when I was blinded?” he carried on because of course she knew. It was a painful episode that would take further time to heal the emotional scars. Walker looked ashamed, “I knew, that if my sight didn’t come back, I had not only lost that, but my job, and my independence. I’ve never felt so insecure. And because of that, I pushed you away. I was wrong to do that. But now, you feel insecure about getting married, and now you’re pushing me away.” He paused, realizing the woman he loved was analyzing his theory.

            Walker lightly touched the side of her face. “I can’t guarantee we won’t have the occasional disagreement – we will, but … I’d never ask you to leave. When we get married it’s for keeps. I promise.”

            “You can’t promise that, Walker . What if you find you don’t like living with another person?”

            How could he explain? “This isn’t something I’ve entered into lightly, Alex. Look, I knew you… along time before we started dating, right?”

            The lovely blond nodded.

            “Then, we dated along time before I asked you to marry me?”

            “Yes.”

            “And I haven’t exactly rushed to the alter, have I?”

            “No.” Alex agreed with feeling, “but that only serves to increase my doubts, not relieve them!”

            “I’m trying to make you realize, that I am my own man. I don’t want to share my life with you now because I feel obligated – it’s because I want to! Hon, can’t you see the difference? When I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to wake up next to you. When I cook a meal, I want to prepare and eat it with you. I want to sit on the porch at night and share the stars with you!”

            The couple scrutinized each other’s hearts and minds.

            “But forever? Everyday?” Alex whispered softly, her face close to his.

            “Everyday, and forever.”

            Walker ’s lips touched hers and he kissed her. The expression of his love and affection was tender and reverent. After they parted there was another long silence, which Walker finally broke. He was intense.

            “Have I made your fears go away?” When there was no reply he added, “Maybe in time, I’ll prove to you that my ranch is now your ranch. My belongings are now our belongings. Actually,” he smiled, “they have been yours for sometime.” Walker looked firm. “Alex. I’m not leaving here without you being my wife!”

            Her eyebrows raised, and the troubled face took about new hope. “Really?”

            Mhuh!” Walker nodded, “Even if I have to carry you over my shoulder to Roscoe Jones .”

            Alex couldn’t help but give a small laugh at the thought, and the two smiled.

Walker cupped her face in his two hands, “Looks like we need each other.”

“Oh, Walker !” Alex rushed to his embrace, and this time the tears were of joy. “ Walker ! Oh, Walker . I love you so much.”

He could never tire of the warm and feel of her body next to his, and Walker savored the moment. His voice became husky. “And I love you, Alex. Just don’t ever doubt it, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Now,” Walker took control. “Why don’t you freshen up?” He pointed to the bathroom and smiled, “but let me use the restroom first!” He chuckled. “And when you’re ready, what do you think of us walking up the aisle together?” Walker looked comically chagrinned, “I don’t think I can face all those people on my own.”

And they laughed together.

As they parted and Walker made for the restroom Alex called out to him.

 “ Walker ?” He stopped and looked back.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For… being your own man.”

The tough Texas Ranger grinned, nodded, and went to take his leave when he stopped. His finger pointed directly at his wife-to-be and he gave her his serious look. “Stay right here. Promise?”

Alex’s smile lit up the entire room. “Promise”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     The End  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~