A WEDDING IN VEGAS
"I said in my letter all those years ago we should wait until your 21st birthday."
Slamming the whiskey and putting the glass on the mini wall bar, I place my hand on his and smile. I am not in the mood to argue.
"I will not wait for the future when we can begin our life together now. Why would I put off until July being able to call you my husband?"
He shrugs and pours another drink. I worry he will be drunk for the ceremony, but push the thought from my mind. Does it matter? Nobody will be there anyway.
"Why can't we wait and plan a wedding?"
I give his hand another squeeze and resist the urge to sigh. "Who would we invite? We don't need watching eyes. Not from the police or FBI or the press. Besides, once we are married, will it matter if we had a big ceremony or got married by an Elvis impersonator?"
He laughs and finishes the whiskey before putting a hand on the door handle. "I have to see this Elvis."
The door opens and George escorts us to the front door. There are couples and wedding parties everywhere and the place seems more like a circus than a place to be married. Ray and I hold hands in the lobby while George tends to our arrangements. Beyond the front desk a drive through window bustles with activity and I burst into laughter.
"That couple is getting married in a pink Cadillac!"
"Wedding in a drive-through. I've seen everything now," Rays says with a laugh, squeezing my hand.
A man in an Elvis costume enters the main lobby with George and a sudden burst of nervousness explodes in my stomach. He approaches us and offers his hand to Ray.
"George filled me in on the details of the wedding. He told me you want it simple. No pomp. No circumstance. George will sing a song and I'll marry you in a short ceremony. Do you have anything to add? Tell me anything you wish me to say or read."
My mind feels empty. The suddenness overwhelms me and I can't think of a single thing to say to Elvis. I thought the preparations would take more time than this and I'd have an opportunity to at least write down a few words. What will I say during the ceremony? Will speech fail me? Will I even be able to manage to say I do? My mind whirls and skips and I follow George and Elvis and Ray into a small chapel set off from the main lobby.
Ray holds me tight against his arm as if sensing my nerves and kisses me on the forehead. The Elvis talks and talks, but I don't understand a thing. I'm going to be married. I want to scream and shout and instead remain silent and still as stone. The room slows to a sepia tone of colors as workers carry in baskets of flowers and a banner announcing our impending nuptials.
"I can't breathe, Ray," I whisper.
He squeezes me and rubs my back, but doesn't speak. What can he say? All I want is the moment to be over and this tightness in my stomach to pass. One of the workers pulls me away from Ray and hides me behind the door. Without hearing a word the woman says, I understand the ceremony is about to begin.
"Do you have any family?" The woman attempts small talk while we wait.
"No. Everyone is dead," I say. The question makes me think of father and pushes the tightness from my belly.
The music begins, Love me Tender by Elvis. I hear George singing and feel tears in my eyes. What a marvelous voice, deep and sorrowful. A voice full of secrets and knowledge of everything in the world.
My legs are moving and I'm walking down the aisle by myself. Nobody can give me away for nobody can claim the least ownership of me. I've always hated that part of weddings and made sure George told the Elvis to keep it out. Joining Ray and Elvis at the mini-altar, my eyes take it all in. The white flowers and drapes, Ray looking handsome in a gray suit, and the utter emptiness of the room. George counts as the one and only person of our party.
Elvis begins to speak, but I can't concentrate on his words. There will be no vows to repeat, just the simple answer to the eternal question.
"Ella Thomas, will you marry this man Ray Holden III?"
"I do," I say without a moment of hesitation. It makes me smile that I didn't stammer or stumble over the words.
Elvis turns towards Ray and asks, "Ray Holden III, will you marry this woman Ella Thomas?"
"I do," Ray answers.
"By the powers vested in me by the state of Nevada, I pronounce you husband and wife. Ray, kiss your bride."
Ray sweeps me into his arms and I feel his lips against mine. The world fades away as a single thought erases all others. I am kissing my husband. You may now call me Ella Thomas Holden. The thought of having his name fills me with glee. The kiss ends and I open my eyes. Over Ray's shoulder my eyes lock on a man standing near the entrance of the chapel.