Castle Roland

Feel, Don't Think

by Michael Kyle-Ducharme

In Progress

Chapter 25

Posted: 5 Mar 15

The first day of the New Year and Marcus and I decided to sleep in. When I finally stirred about ten, I was surprised to find Marcus still in bed with me. He was propped up on one arm and smiling at me.

"How long have you been looking at me?"

"Actually, I just woke up a couple of minutes ago. I think after I hit the bathroom, we need to start this year off right."

"Sounds like a wonderful plan. But I vote we share the shower… "

"Oh yeah, I like your thinking… "

It was magic. When we started to dry each other off, Marcus gave me a kiss.

"Babe, I want to spend a little time talking about the wedding after breakfast. Or should I call it brunch at this point?" He chuckled. "Anyway, do you want to go to Jamie's for dinner? Or just spend the day at home?"

"Let's go out to see Jamie, Sarah, and the boys today. Are you going into the office on Thursday or Friday? We still need to get my car situation solved. I love riding to work with you, but I need my own set of wheels soon."

"Tomorrow I need to go in for just a couple of hours. It will be a quick in and out. Do you have any idea what kind of vehicle you want? Any ideas as to where we are going to start?"

"I have no idea. I'm not even sure what kind of payment we can afford at this point. I haven't had to deal with a car payment in a few years. What do you think? Should I think about a used something?"

"You can get whatever you want. You don't need to worry about the payment. Believe me you should only think about used, if you see a car you absolutely have to have, there is no reason to buy used because of the money."

"But, Hon, I don't want to get something too expensive. I like that we contribute almost equally for the household bills. I don't want to throw a big car payment into the mix."

"You need to stop thinking that way. Remember it's our money, we are a team and we can afford whatever you want to buy. Please trust me on this one."

"I'll think about it. But today is wedding plans day. Let's eat and then we can cuddle and plan. What time should we go to Jamie's?"

"Sarah said dinner is at four. Nick, Jess and Mallory are going to her mother's today, and Dad is with Carolyn. She said to bring just ourselves, but we can stop on the way and pick up an ice cream cake.

"I'll call them so they know we are coming, and then I can start to cook brunch. Why don't you make a list of the things we need to think about, and we can go from there."

After we ate, we moved to the living room. Marcus sat next to me on the couch and started to read down my list. He jotted down a few notes and gave me a smile.

"Okay, let's begin. Do you want to do the list in order, or do you have someplace in particular you want to start?"

"Well some of the things will need to make a list of possible options. The venue, the caterer, the florist, the music, the photographer, and the cake, we just need to come up with a list to pick from. I thought the guest list we could both write down who we thought should be invited and narrow it down if we need. Honestly, most of my list will already be on your list. I really have very few relatives and even fewer to invite. Plus most of my friends are our friends anyway.

"I was really thinking this would be a time to make little choices or plan when we start narrowing down the other options. Tomorrow, I can start making calls to see if our date is available. I think some of our choices will be eliminated before we begin. I'd also love to figure out how to get Mom involved.

"Honestly, I have lived here for over three and a half years, but I really don't know where to begin. I've only been to one wedding, and that was with DH near the end of our disaster. I don't think I noticed much about that wedding."

Marcus chuckled and gave me a kiss. "I love that you called him DH. Let's do some easy stuff. I totally love cobalt blue as one of our colors. I really want all the guys in very formal tuxes, not the ones that look like suits. I think it would be cool if we all wore black ties, but the groomsmen have a blue pocket swatch while ours are white." Marcus started.

"I'm with you so far. I think at the reception the linens should all be blue and white. I think it would look really great if some tables had a blue runner on top of a white tablecloth and then just the opposite on others. The head table thing is going to get tricky though. Except for the kids, everyone is partnered up. That makes for one huge table."

"What if we put Nick and Jamie's families together at one table, and Scott, Jon, and Jen at another table with their partners? Would it be weird to do a head table with just the two of us? I know maybe three rounds up at the front, kind of touching, instead of the usual long table." Marcus sketched out his idea.

"I can see that. I really like it. I'm getting excited about this already. Then just off of the front tables we could do a table with my parents," I drew in three more tables. "And then one for your Dad, and if she decides to join us, another for your mother. The rest of the room can be round tables set up anyway we want."

"That's perfect. I really love that whole idea. I just thought of another thing when it comes to venues… I wonder if some places only let you use their catering. When you call, that will be another question to ask. I think we need to get your Mom and Dad here for a weekend soon. They could help taste caterers or cake people. If that doesn't work, she can help with the florist. Maybe if the weather co-operates we could pull things together for the long weekend coming up or the one in February."

"That would be perfect. Give me a list of places and caterers to call tomorrow. You know so much more about places which do this. I will make the calls and see where we stand. If I can arrange it, I will try to get tastings that long weekend. Even if my 'rents can't make it, that's a good weekend for me.

"I just had a scary thought though… what if that's the weekend your mother comes to town. That could throw a serious monkey wrench into the plans."

"We have no control over my mother's visit… I'm not going to worry about it. I do hope she meets your parents soon. I really think she will learn a lot more about you when she meets Betty and Sam."

"Well I know one thing, when they do meet… my parents will kill her with kindness."

"Exactly, Babe."

We spent a couple hours listing places that might work for the reception. Marcus also wrote down the names of the good caterers the firm had used. Finally, we had a list of florists that had done work for the AIDS Task Force. I loved the thought of using people who gave back to the community. In fact when Marcus told me Luigi's had once catered a dinner for the Task Force, and had only charged their cost, and their staff had worked for free, that really moved them way out in front for me.

At about three, we set our lists aside and got ready to join Jamie, Sarah, and the boys for dinner. We did stop and get an ice cream cake for dessert.

Needless to say when we arrived, Stephen and Josh slammed full force into Marcus. I got the slightly less intense greeting. It was weird, but I was actually a little disappointed that my greeting was a little less enthusiastic. Marcus gave me a knowing look. He whispered to me, "You are too cute, the boys were told a hundred times to be careful around you. Don't be upset."

I nodded my head and mouthed back "I know."

"Well boys, after dinner I hope you are ready to play a game. I have been very lucky lately. I think I might find a way to beat you guys finally."

"I don't know Uncle T, you have to be really lucky to beat me." Stephen had his hands firmly on his hips.

"Okay, we will see. I beat Uncle M last night at Scrabble and that hardly ever happens. I'm just warning you, it could be my night finally."

"After we eat, you and me is going to play a game of war. I'm going to kick your butt, just you wait."

"Oh no, you didn't just say that. Now it is so on…"

"Never mind you two; it's time to eat first." Sarah laughed.

After dinner, Stephen and I played a quick game of war. I actually tried very hard to lose, but war is one of those games where luck really is the deciding factor.

He was a very good sport, "You were right Uncle Tony, you are lucky right now. That was fun, but I want to play a game with everybody now."

"Okay kiddo, what game should we play?"

The whole family played bowling on Wii. Neither Sarah nor I really had a chance. She was seven and a half months pregnant with twins, and I was still in a sling with serious co-ordination issues. The boys all had a great time (especially Marcus and Jamie). When Sarah and I finally gave up, Marcus, Jamie, and the twins played for another hour.

Marcus and I headed home about ten. On the way, Marcus's phone rang and I answered it while he drove.


"Hello, is this Anthony?"

"Happy New Year, Mrs. Taylor. How are you tonight?" I gave Marcus a 'why me' look.

"I'm well. How are you Anthony?"

"I'm doing okay. My cast should come off this week. I think that will be a huge step in making me feel back to normal. Thanks for asking. Marcus is driving. Would you like to have him call you back when we get home?"

""That won't be necessary. Please have him call me tomorrow evening."

"Absolutely, Mrs. Taylor, I will make sure he does."

"Thank you."

She hung up the phone and I took a deep breath. "You need to call your mother tomorrow evening."

"That was a quick conversation. Is everything ok?"

"I have no idea. She asked how I was doing and pretty much ended the call. I think she was disappointed to hear my voice."

"Don't even think about it. I guess I have something to look forward to tomorrow night, Oh boy."

I smiled and grabbed his hand. "Better you than me."

"Oh, I see how it is. But I suppose she is my mother, so I get to have all the fun. Enough about her though. Let's get home and call it a night. I want to get in and out of work early, and then I can help make calls. We can start the car process in the afternoon. Does that sound like a plan, Babe."

"Sure, I'm going to start with caterers and try to get tastings set up first. Then I can call my parents and try to get them here for that long weekend. Just so you know, I'm leaning heavily in favor of Luigi's if they are available."

Marcus chuckled. "I have no doubt. But I know you will enjoy the tastings. If you can get the venue's to let us have a look that weekend too; that would be w… very cool."

I burst out laughing. "You were going to say wicked cool. Now who's going all New Hampshire? That is so flipping awesome."

As we pulled into the condo parking lot, I leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I love you so much. I still wake up sometimes and think I'm having the most spectacular dream."

"I love you more. I really get excited when we talk about wedding stuff. Let's call it a night. We have a lot to do tomorrow, especially since you are supposed to relax for the next few days to get ready for school on Monday."

"It's just a few phone calls and a little car shopping. Not to worry. I might even get a nap in before we head out to look at cars."

"Good plan."

In the span of a couple hours the next morning, I had managed to schedule tastings with three caterers and found two venues from Marcus' list that still had availability for August ninth. I made arrangements to see the venues that weekend, so we could nail down a place before they got booked.

I called my parents about eleven. Dad answered on the first ring.

"Dad, that's the second time lately you've been on top of the phone. Don't tell me you were going to call."

"Happy New Year, son. Not this time. I just got off the phone with Crystal. A friend of her's has a gallery in Boston and is asking to display some of my stuff. I guess Crystal is going to send out ten of my photos. It's a quiet time in Hampton Beach, as you know, but the gallery in Boston is busy still. If these shots are successful, Crystal's friend wants to do a real show in May. Crystal thinks there is no doubt about the show happening… "

"Dad, that is exciting. I'm thrilled for you. You will have to get us all the details when it happens."

"Of course, but what's up Tony?"

"Well, Marcus and I are going full bore into wedding plans and I was hoping you and Mom could make a trip out here for the long weekend coming up. I scheduled tastings with three caterers. Plus, I wanted to talk over some of the family and friends I should invite from there. I know it will depend on the weather, but I hope you will consider making the trip."

"I think it's a good idea. We have state tests right after the long weekend, so I could take an extra day to get back if needed."

"You would take an extra day? Wow, what's gotten into you? If you have taken more than ten days off in the thirty years you have been teaching, I would be shocked. And all those days were when Mom was ill or after my accident."

"Well, sometimes it takes a lot to get things through my thick skull. But your accident reminded me about what's important in life. But, anyway, here's your Mom; let her know what's going on."

"Hey Baby, how are you?"

"Happy New Year, Mom. I was just telling Dad you two should come visit for the long weekend coming up. I scheduled tastings with three caterers. By then we might have the venue booked, too."

"Oh that sounds great. I'm very excited for you. What else have you guys arranged?"

"Well we got the whole wedding party on board and made a couple of other decisions. Overall, things are starting to fall into place. I really hope you can make it out here for the tasting."

Marcus walked into the condo and gave me a kiss. He shot me a questioning look.

"Mom, Dad says if the weather cooperates you guys will definitely make the trip. So, I will keep my fingers crossed. I need to go. Marcus just got home and I want to fill him in on the morning. I will give you a call on Wednesday after I get this cast off. Tell Dad I said goodbye and love you guys."

"Love you too Baby, Good luck with your arm."

I hung up the phone and gave Marcus a hug and a kiss.

"My, my, don't we look very pleased with ourselves. Things must have gone well this morning."

"Actually, very well I think."

I filled Marcus in on all the calls from the morning. When I told him about Dad's possible Boston show, he got as excited as I had been.

"Babe, you were very productive this morning. So, you have three caterers lined up that Sunday afternoon for the tasting. They are two hours apart, but do they know about each other?"

"Of course, I was very clear that we were trying to decide between the three. They asked about what kind of dishes we were looking for… I told them we really wanted something memorable but different. I insisted they come up with dishes that showcased their style. When I talked to the owner of Luigi's, he had already spoken to his cousin and promised to do the lasagna we had in New York. He actually laughed and said his would be better. I'm really excited about the whole thing.

"I hope the venues this weekend are workable. I set up appointments quickly after the first few were booked. I hope that's okay with you."

"It's perfect. I think both places would work well. We can book one or the other to get that settled. I can't believe how excited all these plans are making me."

"I know, right? The cake place you suggested only does tastings on Sunday and Thursday night, but you need to book ahead for the Thursday slots. On Sundays, you can just show up. The woman I talked to suggested we think about booking a baker soon. They tend to be very busy in the summer, obviously. They only can book one cake on each weekend, because of all the work involved. But, on the other hand, if we aren't having an elaborately decorated cake, we could try a few different smaller cakes. She said that idea has become quite popular. It was an interesting thought; having five or six differently flavored cakes to choose from.

"She emailed a couple of pictures of traditional cakes and of a table of cakes. You need to look. I really am intrigued by the idea of a few smaller cakes with different flavors. I really like the look of the table she sent with the flowers around the cakes, instead of the big decorated cake. Take a look."

"I have seen that. I think it's a great idea. Plus, the guests have a choice of flavors. Babe, no wonder you are grinning. You did awesome this morning.

"Do you want to head out to look for cars now or should we nap first?"

"We could start out now, hit a couple of dealerships, have lunch, and see where things stand."

"Sounds like a plan. Any thoughts about what you'd like to drive?"

"Honestly, none. I have always looked at my car as a thing that gets me where I want to go. I really don't care that much about it. Frankly, I'd be okay if I drove your car and you found something new. I know some people are all about their wheels, but that's just not me. I just want something affordable that runs."

"Well, we can start where I got my car. I liked the salesperson that sold me the Lexus. She is very patient. If that doesn't work, we can try someplace else."

"I'm not sure I can afford a Lexus. I was thinking smaller and less amenities."

"Babe, let me make it clear again. You can get whatever you want, except maybe a brand new Porsche." He grinned at me. "Please stop thinking about the payments and trust me. We can discuss the cost when you find something you like. Just don't worry."

"I'm not going to argue. It's been too awesome a morning, but don't push too hard. Okay, Hon."

"No problem, we will find you something I'm sure."

We did. The salesperson, Marcia, was really very patient. We tried any number of cars. The Lexus dealership was actually part of a row of dealerships owned by the same person. Marcia spent a couple of hours suggesting various cars to me. Some of them I would take one look at the sticker price and freak, others just didn't feel right. Finally, just before I had completely given up, we walked from the Ford dealership back to the Lexus one.

There it sat. I was intrigued by the color at first. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw metallic turquoise tinged blue. A Mazda, I was surprised by the car. It seemed to be everything I wanted. A little sporty, but with four doors, I could still throw car seats easily in the back. The sticker promised really good gas mileage and there was a decent sized trunk. The car itself had been made in America, even though it was a Mazda. There was no price on the sticker.

The minute I sat in it for a test drive, the search was over.

"Marcia, judging from the look on his face, you just sold a car." Marcus smiled. "How soon can we pick it up?"

Marcia did a double take, "Seriously? We just got this car as a trade. I don't even know how much we are asking for it."

"Well, when we get back to the lot, you had better find out. Frankly, my fiancĂ© here might just try to drive it straight home. How's this for a plan… Tony and I will go grab something to eat. That will give you time to get the price and the timeframe for when we can pick it up. It's three now, we will be back at four thirty. How does that sound?"

"Actually, it sounds perfect. Wow, the boss will be impressed I could sell a car before it's even priced. He was a little concerned when we took that one in as a trade. He doesn't really know Mazdas"

I started to chuckle. "Marcia, you have been very patient with me. I really had no idea what I was looking for until I saw this car. Marcus is right. I would love to just drive it home right now. But, I will be honest. Regardless of what he says, if it doesn't fit my budget then I will keep looking."

Marcia looked at the two of us and grinned. "I'm not worried in the least. Marcus and his family have done business with Mr. Vincent for years. I have no doubt we will find a way to get you in this car. I will see you guys in a little while. Enjoy your meal."

We drove to the mall and had a quick lunch. While we were there, Marcus led me to a tuxedo rental place.

"Babe, let's pick up a couple of brochures. We can look at tuxes and try to decide what style we like for the wedding.

We got back to the dealership just after four thirty. Marcia had paperwork lined up across her desk and a big smile on her face.

Basically, I could pick the car up the next day. They had already figured payments with the insurance money I had gotten for my totaled car as a down payment. I was a little surprised at the price of the car. I had expected it to be much higher. Marcia noticed my confusion.

"You got the car for a steal, Tony. Marcus and his family have been customers for years and frankly I think Mr. Vincent was happy to dump the car. The service manager wants to meet you after we get done with paperwork. But your car search is over I think."

"Wow, this is flipping awesome. Thank you very much. Hon, I think we need to go buy a lottery ticket. My luck has been crazy good lately."

Marcus burst out laughing. "I'm glad you're happy. Let's head for home. I still have a mother to call tonight. My luck isn't quite as good as yours."

As it turned out, the weekend Marcus's mother visited was exactly the same one my parents came to help with caterers. Marjorie was arriving Friday evening; my parents were expected on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, Marjorie had given no clue as to what she wanted to talk to me about. I tried to put it completely out of my mind, but it was like an annoying fly that wouldn't go away. It just kept buzzing my brain.

This time around she was picked up by Jamie at the airport with no issues. The retirement party she was here to attend was on Saturday night. Taylor family dinner was moved to Monday at Jamie's, everyone had the holiday off. Marjorie called us on Saturday morning.

"Good morning Mother how was your trip this time? That's good. Where is the party tonight… Tomorrow? We have plans. Tony's parents will be here and we have three tastings with caterers. Yes, Mother we are still going through with the wedding… No, Mother, there is nothing you can say to change my mind… Yes, we will be there on Monday. His parents are headed back Monday morning. We planned on brunch with Betty and Sam, and then head out to Jamie's. Okay, Mother, we will see you on Monday. Oh, okay, we will see you then."

"Oh joy." I said. "I can hardly wait for Monday dinner now."

"Well, actually she is coming over tomorrow morning to meet your parents. I suppose I should warn them when they get here."

"Well once she finds out about it, my mother will actually be looking forward to meeting your mother. I just hope she understands when we have to leave to meet the first caterer."

We spent the night playing cards with my parents. My cast had been taken off and the headaches were a less frequent visitor. I was beginning to feel like myself for the most part. I was doing PT three times a week to strengthen the left arm and work on loosening up the elbow. The only time headaches had hit me lately was when I was really overtired.

Sunday morning we took my parents to the chapel at the University. I wanted them to see the space we were going to use for the ceremony. On the way home, Marcus's phone rang. Again, it was up to me to answer it.

"Hello, Mrs. Taylor. We are on the way back to the condo from the University."

"Well, Anthony, I'm waiting at the door."

"We weren't expecting you until eleven. We will be there soon."

"Fine, I'll be waiting."

I turned to Marcus, "Your mother is at the condo waiting for us. She sounds irritated already. It should be a great morning."

We arrived at the condo just minutes later. As we approached the door, Marjorie was bundled up and waiting. My mother walked right up to her and stuck out her hand.

"Mrs. Taylor, it is a pleasure to meet you. I'm Betty Wallace and this is my husband Sam. We are Tony's parents."

"Hello, Mrs. Wallace, it is nice to meet you too."

"Please call me Betty. We will be family soon."

Marjorie looked like she had been slapped, but recovered quickly.

"Very well, Betty. Marcus let's get inside its very cold out here."

"Please Marcus; remember your mother is not used to these temperatures. How was the party for your friend last night?"

"It was very nice. Thank you. How was your drive here yesterday?"

"Actually it was a very easy trip. Sometimes there can be snow in the mountains of western Massachusetts, but we had an effortless drive. I could use a cup of tea to chase the chill, would you like to join me?"

"I'd love a cup of tea. Marcus, do you still have some of my herbal tea?"

"Of course, Mother, I'll throw the kettle on the stove."

"Here take our coats, Anthony."

"Mrs. Taylor, do you have plans today? Perhaps you would like to join us as we taste caterers' offerings for the upcoming wedding?" Mom asked.

I held my breath, and not figuratively. I stopped breathing, moving, and perhaps even my heart stopped beating at that moment.

"That's very kind of you to ask. I don't think the boys would care for me to participate."

"Actually, Mother, we would love to have you join us. We hadn't gotten the chance to ask you yet."

"Well I have no desire to join you anyway. But since you brought up the unholy event, I wish to ask a few questions.

"Marcus, have you taken care of a pre-nuptial agreement yet?"

"Actually, Mrs. Taylor, he hasn't. But, when he does… I would be happy to sign it. I don't care about Marcus's money."

"Mother, you have no idea what you are talking about. If you took the time to actually get to know Tony, you would realize there is no need for a pre-nup. In fact, let me tell you a little about my fiancé. Tony and I have had maybe two disagreements ever, and both of them had to do with money.

"Why am I not surprised?"

"Mother, please. Our first real fight was over buying a desk for the office. Tony kept trying to get me to buy a less expensive desk for him to use and I kept insisting on getting the better desk. The other time we disagreed was when I pushed him out of the way to pay for groceries. He was upset he wasn't contributing to our household expenses."

Marcus started to raise his voice. "You really have no idea the kind of person he is… Tony just signed off on a settlement with the insurance company. He didn't even ask how much it would be before he gave me instructions. His first instruction was to donate ten percent to the LGBT youth program where I volunteer. Then he told me to put aside twenty thousand for our wedding, because he wanted to feel like 'we' were paying for the wedding. The rest of the settlement he wanted to be invested for our future. Mother, at this point he still doesn't know how much the settlement was worth.

"He got so frustrated with me when I tried to get him to actually read the figures that he worked himself into one of his headaches. A case could be made for him actually needing a pre-nup to protect his assets.

"Seriously, Mother he just bought a used car because he wanted to keep the payments in his budget. In the entire time I've known him. Tony is the most generous, loving, giving person I have met. Although if you spend any time at all with his parents, you'll see he comes by it naturally.

"Again, if you would just take the time to get to know Tony and his family you would understand. Mother, Tony is the most amazing person I have ever met. I wish you would give him a chance."

I started to walk towards Marcus. When I got there, Mom wrapped us both up in a hug.

"Well boys, it's time to head for the first tasting. Are you sure you don't want to join us?"

"No thank you, I will see you two at dinner tomorrow. Betty and Sam, it was a pleasure to meet you. As you might gather, I'm not happy about this event. However, you both seem like lovely people. I suspect we shall see each other again."

"You can absolutely count on it. I look forward to chatting with you about the joining of our families. Plus, we will need to compare notes about dresses. I wouldn't want our outfits to clash. We should exchange numbers so we can keep in touch, don't you think?"

You could see Marjorie trying desperately to figure out a way to not actually exchange numbers. Finally, after a deep sigh, she gave her number to my mother and grudgingly took Mom's. She gave Marcus a scathing look and dashed out of the condo.

"Well, I look forward to seeing her again, just not anytime soon." Mom smiled. "But never mind her, it's time to head out and taste some food."

I must thank a couple of people…

My Husband, Ray for you love and patience My Editor, David, for making me look smarter than I really am…

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