Edward felt as if he were in the eye of a mighty hurricane. The proverbial calm between two storm fronts. On one side he had his duty to his country; and on the other, the long-term commitment he was about to make. He paced the length of his room, then paused in front of the mirror to inspect his uniform, yet again. Behind him, he heard the door open; followed by the squeak of Charlie’s chair. He reminded himself that he needed to oil the wheels before he left for his honeymoon.
‘Hey, Mister Marine, you’re lookin’ right sharp.’ Charlie smiled up at him.
‘At least the airlines didn’t lose this piece of luggage.’ Edward chuckled. ‘And, hey, what happened to our agreement? You can call me Ed if you want.’
‘You’re dressed up like a soldier today. You told me that when you’re dressed up like this to treat you like a soldier…with respect.’ Charlie pulled himself up straight and whipped off a solid salute.
‘Yeah, I did, didn’t I.’ Edward winked. ‘Between us, this is just a monkey suit, Charlie.’
‘I’m Mister Hastings to you, MasterSergeant.’ Charlie grinned from ear to ear as he tried to sound big and important.
‘Almost… not quite, but almost.’ Edward wiggled a finger before reminding him of the reality. ‘We have to wait for the Judge to make his decision on that.’
‘It’s not fair.’ Charlie stuck out his lower lip in a serious pout. ‘Momma Kie gets to be Missus Hastings today. It’s not fair I have to wait.’
‘Tell you what, between us and Momma Kie, you’re already a Hastings.’ Edward fist bumped his foster-son. ‘I’m sure the judge will move as quickly as he can, Charlie, so you won’t have to wait long.’
Charlie shrugged. ‘As long as you and Momma Kie love me, it don’t matter.’
‘Doesn’t matter.’ He corrected. ‘You ready to roll?’
‘Oh, I forgot. Ms. Sparrowhawk said to tell you to get your wheels up, Sir.’
Edward laughed heartily. ‘Then we’d best be getting down to the church. Remember this, Charlie, the last thing that you want to do in this life is to be late for your own wedding.’ Edward grabbed the chair handles, spun him around in a wheelie and headed off down the hall at a fast step. ‘If you are, your bride will have you keel-hauled and have what’s left minced for fish food. You don’t want to be fish food, do you, Son?’
‘Nope, not me, Sir.’ Charlie chortled as they busted through the door and down the ramp to the truck.
At the same time, Keisha was anxiously pacing between the two windows of the Bride’s Room at the church. She kept looking up to the clock and mumbling to herself about time moving so slow. And though she could mumble, she couldn’t find a voice loud enough or strong enough to speak to anyone.
‘You’re doing just fine, Kie.’ Sparrowhawk encouraged her. ‘I just called the Ranch and told Charlie it was time to go wheel’s up. They’ll be here real soon, Keisha, real soon.’
Keisha’s eyes betrayed her anxiety all too well as her hands flew into rapid sign language. ‘What if I can’t speak? What if I can’t say ‘I Do’? What if…?’
Sparrowhawk chuckled. ‘Look at you. You’re worried about something that Edward won’t even notice. He won’t care what language you speak in, Kie. He loves you for everything that you are… signs included.’
‘But…?’ She stuttered.
Sparrowhawk enfolded her hands into her own. ‘Keisha, Edward loves you more than the world itself. He’ll be her any minute, and he won’t care about how you say your vows.’
Keisha took a deep, shaky breath, trying her best to believe her friend. Tears burned at the corners of her eyes.
‘Oh, no, no tears, Kie. It will make you look like a raccoon. I’m pretty sure Ed wants to marry a beautiful woman…not a raccoon.’ Sparrowhawk got her to laughing. ‘Now, look out the window. Isn’t that Ed’s pickup?’
Keisha did look. She watched as he helped Charlie from the seat to his chair with perfect ease. She knew in her heart that he was going to make a wonderful husband and an excellent father. They just had to get the formalities taken care of with the courts. They just had to find a way to convince the birth father that had never been a part of Charlie’s life to relinquish his paternal rights to the boy. It all sounded so simple, but it wasn’t. Keisha closed her eyes for a moment in prayer.
‘God, please, if it’s your will, make Charlie our son. We’ll do all we can to give him the best home he could hope for. Amen.’ Keisha opened her eyes as she heard a light tap on the door behind them.
‘It’s time,’ Alexander called through the barely opened door. ‘Are you ladies ready?’
‘Yes, we are. Come on in, Alex.’ Sparrowhawk kissed Keisha’s cheek. ‘You’re okay. Everything is going to be okay. I’ll just go out and find my seat. See you in a few moments.’
Alexander stepped into the room and whistled. ‘You are so beautiful, Kie. Edward is one very lucky Marine.’
‘I’m the lucky one, Alex.’ Keisha signed before taking his elbow.
Alexander placed his hand over hers on his arm. ‘So, there’s no chance you want to slip out the back door and make a quick getaway?’
Keisha gave a hearty laugh at the suggestion, bringing a bright pink to her cheeks that was far more alluring than any makeup could ever be. ‘Not – a – ch-cha-chance.’ She stuttered as they stepped into the hall.
As she entered the sanctuary, Keisha’s eyes traveled up to the stained glass window she’d designed and built for the church to replace the one that had been shattered. The morning sunlight twinkled through the red and white roses that encircled a clear glass sky. Within the sky, seemingly suspended in mid-air was a pair of eagles creating a circle with their wings. Below, in a small panel encircled by roses was the verse that had been her inspiration…
‘But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.’
She took a deep breath, feeling renewed as the triumphal entry began to echo a herald to her arrival.
Edward turned beside Charlie, and saw his bride haloed in the sunlight streaming through the open door behind her. His angel was coming home… to him. Life didn’t get better than this, he thought as he gulped and snapped to attention. Beside him, Charlie was grinning from ear to ear, just waiting to be part of a family again.
Everyone rose, partially hiding Keisha from Edward’s eyes for a moment.
Mr. Williams turned in his seat and watched as Keisha passed his pew. She was beautiful today, he had to admit that. He turned and his eyes fell on the window. Something was stirring within his heart that he couldn’t quite understand. As he sat down to watch the ceremony, his eyes fell on the small boy in the wheelchair. His son. How had he gone through this life without ever having spent a single day with his own flesh and blood? Yet, the boy looked so happy today. Jack remembered the boy’s mother. She had been a beauty that night so many years ago. He’d been a total ass. He had never forgiven himself for what he had done that night. He’d changed both their lives forever. He’d gone away to college never knowing that she was even pregnant, let alone that she’d given birth to his son.
‘Do you, Mister Edward Long Hastings, take Keisha Leann Eglan-Wormwood to be…’
Jack couldn’t focus on the ceremony at all. His thoughts were wrapped up in the boy. He’d only just learned that he even had a son. How could he be a father? How could he, an unmarried and confirmed bachelor raise a little boy… a crippled little boy, at that? He didn’t know where to turn. He didn’t know what to do. Would it be right to pull the boy away from a couple who genuinely seemed to love him, and who wanted him as part of their lives enough to go through the adoption process? Jack sighed, and bowed his head.
‘God, if you’re even still there, hear me, please. I’ve done my best to try to right all the wrongs of my youth, at least, I hope I have. But, this one… this one sin… I never knew.’ He paused in his prayer. ‘God, help me to do what’s right for my son, even if it means giving him to these people. I’ve watched them. I know them. They would be good parents. The boy would want for nothing. Oh, God, I can never do enough to earn your forgiveness for my sins. I simply can’t. I can only hope that by your grace I can be forgiven, and that I can make a better life for… for the son I never knew I had.’
Jack looked up to see Charlie handing up the rings to Edward. The boy’s joy couldn’t be hidden. ‘Lord, I never meant to go left-of-center. I never meant to hit his Mom’s car head-on. I never meant to kill her, Lord. I never meant to cripple him for life. He shouldn’t have to pay so dearly for my mistakes. I know that you have the power to forgive me for that. I trust that you can do that. I will never forget it, though. It’s what I do now… how you’ve changed my heart these past few months. Lord, this is a new day …and by all that I am I will make it a good one, for Charlie. Amen.’
Reverend John raised his hands over Edward and Keisha’s heads to deliver his final blessing on their union. ‘Father, we ask you to bless this couple with a long and happy life. May they continue to grow in their love for you.’ He looked down to Charlie. ‘And may their family always live in the light of your blessing. Make them a strong force for your service and a living example of your love.’
It took a record-breaking two months to formalize Charlie’s adoption. The Judge had said that the birth-father had called him at home the day of their wedding and refused to hang up until he had the Judge’s word that the adoption would go through. The next morning, all the paperwork had been drawn up, signed, witnessed, and sealed. The Judge had then pushed the paperwork through the system like a hurricane through the islands where the happy family had gone on their honeymoon. By the time they’d returned to the states, the adoption was a done deal.
Edward and Keisha each held one of Charlie’s hands as they waited for the Judge to join them. He did.
‘So, young man, I understand that you’d like to make your name Hastings?’ The Judge asked Charlie.
‘Yes, Sir, I would like that more than anything in the world.’ Charlie admitted.
‘Then, it’s done, Mr. Hastings.’ The Judge smiled.
‘Really.’ The Judge winked at Charlie who instantly squealed with delight. ‘Mr. and Mrs. Hastings, all the paperwork is in order and completed. You are now the parents of Mr. Charlie Hastings. Good luck for your future together.’
And, with that, it was over.
A few moments later, Edward had Charlie in his arms as they walked out of the courthouse. As they came to the end of the ramp, they met up with Mr. Williams.
‘Hey, Mister Williams, guess what?’ Charlie piped up.
‘What?’ He smiled at the boy.
‘I gotta new family today!’ Charlie squeezed Edward’s neck.
‘That’s wonderful news.’ Mr. Williams smiled, feeling a small catch in the back of his throat.
‘While I have you here…’ Edward began to speak. ‘I’d like to hire you to build us a house. Two bedrooms, at least.’
‘Better make it three.’ Keisha smiled with a hand on her stomach.
Edward grinned even more. ‘Better make it a four bedroom mansion, then, Jack.’
Mr. Williams couldn’t help but smile. Yes, he’d made the right decision. ‘Call my office and set up an appointment to go over what you want. I’d be honored to build your home.’
As Edward, Keisha, and Charlie left the courthouse to enter into their new life as a family, Mr. Williams spoke another prayer.
‘Father, thank you. You’ve restored the light of hope into my life and my future. Amen, and again, amen.’