Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"She's No Angel" - Chapter One

Following is chapter one of a work in progress, "She's No Angel."  Comments are welcome:

     “Do you, Megan Adrianna Berman, take this man, Winston Lee Nesbitt, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do you part?” The Reverend Vincent Neville’s voice picked up by the lapel mike he wore under his dark blue silk suit and transmitted to the speakers positioned along the walls of the cathedral-like Church of Redemption, rang sonorously throughout the room.

     Megan, resplendent in a snow-white gown, her brown face glowing with joy, quivered as she looked up at the tall, broad-shouldered, brown man standing before her.  Her heart pounded, and she wasn’t sure it was from happiness at finally getting Winston to propose, or suppressed lust generated by the nearness of a preacher as handsome and sexy as Neville.  No, she thought, it’s not the preacher; I’m happy to be marrying Winston.

     “I do,” she said in a quiet voice, and squeezed Winston’s arm.

     Reverend Neville smiled, his thin lips only slightly parted, revealing gleaming white teeth.  He nodded at her and then turned to Winston.

      “Do you, Winston Lee Nesbitt, take this woman, Megan Adrianna Berman, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do you part?”

     Winston cleared his throat and looked down at the floor.  His stomach felt like it contained a bowling ball and a bottle of seltzer, and he was sweating profusely, and not just because getting married was a new experience; his grandmother was sitting on his shoulder.

     Even though he knew that no one but Megan and he could see her; well, one other person sitting in the church could, but Dennis Alexander, the guard from Winston’s building, where he and Megan worked as senior analysts for Advantage Consulting, Inc., was accustomed to ‘haints’ and spirits, and wouldn’t let on that he saw the nine-inch, wizened woman perched on the shoulder of Winston’s rented tuxedo; Winston was still worried that his grandmother’s mischievous spirit would break out and turn the ceremony into pandemonium.  She’d done so on more than one occasion since she’d literally popped back into his life on his fortieth birthday.

     Come on, boy,” he heard her cracked voice in his head.  We ain’t got all day.  Answer the man.”

     At least Winston had mastered the art of conversing with his grandmother in the presence of others.

     “Okay, Gran . ., er, granny, I will if you’ll just stay out of my mind for a few minutes.”  He put as much firmness as he could into the thought.

     His grandmother sniffed and folded her bony arms across her flat chest.  She was wearing a gingham dress that looked like a tiny item of wardrobe from some old western movie, and had her iron-grey hair tied into a bun, making her high-cheeked, light brown face look even more severe than it normally did.

     Reverend Neville made a sound in this throat and nodded his head toward Winston, his eyes narrowed.

     “Uh, I do,” Winston said.

     Thank goodness,” Winston heard Megan’s voice in his head.  I was beginning to think maybe you’d changed your mind about marrying me.   She, like him, had the ability to communicate silently.

     You know that’s not so, Megan, honey.  It’s just hard for me to concentrate with you and granny popping into my head without warning.”

     “Sorry,” Megan said.  “I’ll leave your head alone.  You too, Granny; let him have his thoughts to himself.”

     “Happy to,” Winston’s grandmother said.  “He never thinks anything interesting, anyhow. Not like you; thinking ‘bout that this long drink of water in front of you.”

     Megan blushed.  “Not true!  I was not thinking about Reverend Neville.”

     “Child, if you wasn’t thinking ‘bout the good reverend, why you blushing?  You best be thinking ‘bout how you gonna help Winston Lee here do his duty on your honeymoon.  You know he ain’t got much experience in that department.”

     Megan blushed deeper.  Winston, who had been an unwilling witness to their mental exchange, blushed as well.

     “Could you two get your minds out of the gutter,” he said.  “I’ll have you know, I am not as inexperienced as you think.”

     “Your little games in the bathroom when you were a kid don’t count,” Winston’s grandmother said.

     Megan put a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh, while Winston just crossed his eyes in frustration. 

     Reverend Neville, accustomed to strange behavior in couples about to take the serious step into matrimony, ignored their facial by-play.

     “Inasmuch as marriage is a sacred institution,” he said, scowling slightly.  “Not to be entered into lightly, but reverently, we come together here today to witness the joining of this couple enter into this holy estate.  If any person here can show just cause why they may not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

     In the front pew, Winston’s mother, who along with his father had come up from Florida for the wedding, started to raise  her hand, but his father reached over and clamped it against her thigh, giving her a stern look.  Megan’s parents, sitting in the front pew across the aisle, looking uncomfortable in their stiff clothes, had traveled from South Carolina, and they merely sat looking alternately glum and slightly pleased.  Her mother sniffed back tears.

     Most of the rest of the congregation sat quietly in the pews behind Winston’s parents.  Dennis Alexander, the guard, beamed proudly at his friend Winston.  Next to him, his wife Dorrie, a medium brown skinned woman of broad girth and fierce demeanor, also sniffed back tears.  Co-workers from Advantage, led by their boss, Leland Carter, also smiled broadly, but remained silent.

     Neville scanned the church, empty except for the small knot of people.  A couple of Winston’s co-workers, the guy from the mailroom, and the head of custodial services, were seated behind Megan’s parents so that side of the church wouldn’t be empty.  Seeing that no one objected, Neville cleared his throat.

     “Very well, then,” he said in his deep voice.  “There being no objections to this union, by the authority vested in me by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and before God, I now pronounce you man and wife.  You may kiss the bride.”