Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Part V

The Father of the Groom

Nine hours before I have to be on a plane to Mexico.
Six hours ago, I should have been in a meeting with the Diplomat in Canada.
Oil in Canada will not wait for my son's wedding.

My Son. 

I could not control the loud scoff that escaped my lips with that thought if I tried. But quickly I remember where I am as my wife tightens her grip on my upper arm, reminding me to behave myself. I attempt to stare her down with a black look; a futile attempt really, the woman has never been a pushover. Or we wouldn't be here. A supportive family putting on a lavish ceremony for our disowned, undeserving son. The bane of my existence. A murderer, a waste. If I had my way he would be far away, a destitute, not living off my wealth like he has a right to it. But his mother always has the last word, and because she wants us to be here, we are here. 

For a man known in many circles as someone to be feared, my wife has a big influence on most of my actions. Lesser men would say she is controlling, or she wears the pants in our home. I say, I love her, and why not indulge the woman who has sacrificed most of her life and her dignity to give me a wonderful home? I know I am a difficult man, and yet she has never complained. Letting her have her way is only one of the ways I reward her for pleasing me. 

What she doesn't know, what no one else knows, is that there is another woman who holds the reins on my decisions even more firmly than my wife does. She is my confidante, my advisor, and her wishes to me are law. I look to my left and watch in fond amusement as she sits still in her pew, her back straight, eyes fixed on an unseen object in the front of the chapel. Velda. Tough matriarch. The single most fearful woman in the room. And my benefactor.

 No one remembers now, but there was a time when my now-sprawling empire was only a far-fetched dream. I was a young man with big dreams, and no means of ever achieving them. And then I met this mysterious heiress who changed my whole life in one afternoon. No one really knows the source of Velda's wealth, and naturally I was curious, but when she offered me her unlimited means to pursue my dreams of tapping into the earth's liquid gold, I asked no questions. In seven years, I was wealthier than I had ever imagined. And now, thirty years later, Velda still remains in the background, giving advice, planning the great future, pulling the strings, learning my many secrets...

Like my son. I remember her words clearly, many years ago when I had gone to her, mad with fury, murder on my mind. My wife had come home with good news: after three years of trying unsuccessfully to have a child, she was finally pregnant. I knew without a doubt that she had been unfaithful, it was impossible for me to have children. Velda had listened quietly, without judgement, speaking only after I had said all that was on my mind. Then she looked me in the eyes and said firmly "You will go home, tell your wife that you are happy and excited about the news, and you will love that child like he was your own. You need a heir. No one needs to ever know that you are impotent. No one." It was difficult, but she was right. I had discovered very early that I was unable to ever have children. But I kept it a secret and to my shame and discomfort I allowed my wife to deal with the guilt that it was her fault and that somehow, she had failed me. But Velda was right, I could never accuse her of anything if I wanted to keep my secret. So I accepted my first son, and my twin daughters, knowing every day of their lives that they were proof of the greatest betrayal from the woman I loved with my whole being.

However, a secret I could live with turned out to be almost too much to handle as our son grew from a delightful boy into a reckless young man. The ungrateful bastard has caused me and his mother more grief than any other problems we have ever had to deal with. From the bad behavior all through his younger years, to more dangerous activities as a teenager, all culminating in the murder of an innocent man outside a bar abroad. At every turn, his mother has pleaded and I have obliged her, paying the best lawyers money could buy to make all his troubles go away. But after he was convicted I knew that he could never inherit my empire. His mother asks why I hate him so much, it is not hard to point at his actions instead of his conception...

I look away from him and exchange a nod and smile with the Best Man. He could be my heir. He had lost his family at a young age, and my wife had convinced me to officially adopt him as my own. It was the best decision we ever made. He is everything I want in a son: smart, respectful, responsible. Velda agreed. It was also a brilliant coincidence that he was in love with Velda's god-daughter. We had it all planned out, we would wait until she was done with college, and guide them gently into a lasting relationship together. He would be my heir, she would be Velda's heiress, as well as her father's. Together, we would create the greatest empire in the country, and I would finally have a son I could be proud of.

But as she walks down the aisle towards the wrong son I have no choice but to accept that even without a penny to his name, he has again thwarted my plans, reminding me why I hate him so much. But there is still time to put our plans together. Velda has a plan and she is patient. So am I.

We all face the priest.

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together..."

This needs to be over soon. I glance at Velda and her displeasure is evident on her face. I always wondered why she never said anything. For a woman so powerful and vocal in society and business and politics, she never seems to exert much influence in her family. But as I have learned, things are never as they seem with her. The priest continues to drone on and on about the sanctity of marriage, I tune him out as I rehearse again the few words I have prepared to sway the Board of the new company I am acquiring.

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

The silence gets my attention and I look around. Everyone is staring at the one person who dared to interrupt this joyous occasion. And for the first time, Velda is smiling...

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding VI (Velda)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Family Wedding: IV

Mother of the Bride

FIFTY FIVE years old and still as dumb as the day I got here.

Every day since I have had breasts, I have gotten myself into one kind of trouble or another. And it always comes back to bite me right where it hurts...

Or at least leer at me, like my son-in-law's best man is doing right now... in front of 350 guests.

What an irreverent imp!

I have stooped really low many times in the past years, but my daughter's best friend is a mistake that I will never be able to explain, if it ever got out. It had meant nothing at first when I started to flirt with him at a wedding many months ago. Ever since I turned fifty I had been feeling old, and something inside of me craved attention, and passion, anything to feel young and attractive again. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that he wanted me too. What started out as thinly veiled banter quickly escalated, and before I knew it we were upstairs together in the Mayor's Manor while the entire city partied the night away at the biggest wedding of the year. It was so exciting, knowing we could be discovered at any time. I know that a part of me wanted to be caught. How envious would my friends have been? Only I could still command the attention and ardor of a twenty-something years young man. Just what I needed...

But at the back of my mind was one thought... He is in love with my daughter...

I have seen the way he looks at her with naked, intense longing when he thinks no one is watching. For so many years I was convinced that he was the one for her. No one has ever been as devoted to her as he is. All her life he has followed her everywhere like a lost puppy. I shake my head in bemusement. I have always been surprised that she does not seem to notice his desire. I see myself in her, a self-absorbed princess who barely notices anyone else in the room but herself. She is spoiled, just like me, and she feeds off the adoration of others, expecting nothing less than their undivided attention at all times. But I feel no sympathy for her love-struck friend, he had his chance through all the years he wasted being just friends with her. Good thing he has kept our affair to himself, no reason to create a scandal. what was I thinking? If this ever got out... If any of the things I have done ever get out...

I distract myself from my wayward thoughts by checking everything over one more time with my well trained eye. The flower arrangements are beautiful, flawless, they will be imitated by many brides in the coming months. The guests are seated just the way I planned, beautiful people in prime spots for the pictures, and the others tucked neatly in corners where they will not be photographed. I should commend the ushers for doing a neat job. Everyone is right where I want them to be; everyone except Aunt Velda, of course. No one tells her what to do. If only she would just smile. It is a happy day! It should be a happy day...

My baby is finally about to marry the man of her dreams. He is a charming young man, from a highly respectable family. And even when I voiced my fears about the speed of their courtship, her father insisted that it is a good match. I know what he really means is that merging his company and the new in-laws' in the future is a good idea. But still, he is her father...

Or is he?

The first time I was introduced to my future son-in-law, my heart stopped. Memories of the early days of my marriage came flooding back. My wedding was a grand affair, much like this one. I was the talk of the town for many months. But wedded life was not what I expected. My new, rich husband had no time for me. Gone was the attentive, dashing man that courted me for many months. Suddenly he was busy at all hours of the day. I spent many lonely afternoons while I listened in on business conference calls and pretended to be interested in his new ideas and his work. My young ambitious husband was caught up with building his empire.

I was bored out of my mind, tired of shopping, tired of long days at the spa. Being a trophy wife was starting to feel like a chore. Until he suggested that I take my first vacation: he pointed to the globe on his desk "pick any point on the map. I'll pay for it". My first holiday was an exotic island: it was a wonderful time. The sights, the food, the men: charming gentlemen, older, more worldly, distinguished and very determined. It was not hard to break my vows and allow myself to be seduced. It was my delicious secret. As my husband got busier I took more trips, until I discovered I was pregnant... I was always afraid my secret would be discovered when she was born. But she looks exactly like me, she always has... maybe I am afraid for nothing, but I wonder every day...

I could hardly wait to be done with dinner as she introduced her boyfriend to the entire family. And as soon as I could get away I was on the phone with the man I had always feared to be her father. He assured me coldly that I was mistaken. There was no way on earth my daughter is his. Now I know my fears were unfounded. Whoever her father is, my daughter is not getting married to his son.

Or is she?

The music begins and I watch with tears in my eyes as my beautiful daughter floats down the aisle on my husband's arm. She is so beautiful. At least I got that right. My heart swells with love for her, but it leaves an after-taste of intense fear...

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the face of these witnesses, to join this Man and this Woman together..."

My palms are sweaty now. My heart beating in fear. Can I allow her to take this big step without ever really knowing for sure? Can I trust the word of a man I hardly know? Would he be so cold as to allow a marriage between his only son and his daughter? What kind of mother am I? I have not prepared her to be a married woman. What if she ends up like me? Makes my mistakes? She knows nothing about being a wife, nothing about making compromises and sacrifices for another person. She is not ready... The thoughts are tumbling over themselves in my head...

"Now, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace..."

I feel dizzy. Now is the time. She will hate me forever. Before I allow my head to stop me from doing what my heart knows is right, I hear the words whispered over the nervous silence of the chapel "I DO"

Coming soon: Our Family Wedding V (The Father of the Groom)