This story is by P. S. Headrice and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Ricardo walked into the kitchen and handed his wife the mail. “Anna, next month is our 10th anniversary. Let’s go to Las Vegas.”
“Just which anniversary do you suggest we celebrate, my dear husband? The day we met, the fabulous Spanish wedding we planned, the attempt in Gibraltar, our Muskokee wedding, the Tennessee attempt, or the one in Vegas?” She began to riffle through the mail as they reminisced.
* * *
Senior Master Sergeant(Sgt) Ricardo McIntosh and Captain Annabelle Dupree met on 25 June 1979 at Torrejon Air Base, Spain. Both were assigned to the same organization; Captain Dupree was Sgt McIntosh’s supervisor. It was a good match. They worked well together and their organization received many awards and high praise.
A year later Captain Durpee walked into her office and found a crystal vase containing twelve red roses. The card read, ‘Happy Anniversary’. She suspected Sgt McIntosh. Soon little romantic gifts appeared on her desk every few weeks. One afternoon, after all other personnel left, Captain Dupree went to Sgt McIntosh’s office.
“Sgt McIntosh, you must stop with the gifts. You know officers and enlisted are not to fraternize. “We –,” she paused. ” I could get in a lot of trouble. It would ruin my career. It might even ruin yours.”
“Captain, we are not fraternizing. I’m thanking you for being such a good boss and leader,” he replied.
“I appreciate the complement, but I must order you to stop. People are beginning to talk.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’ll stop. You know there are four officer/enlisted married couples on base. I don’t think one more would be a problem, especially since our organization keeps getting outstanding reviews.”
“I know about the other couples, but this is my care–,” she stopped. “What did you say? Are you flirting with me?”
“No. I’m saying–, Marry me.”
“Are you out of you mind?”
“At least I tried. You can’t do the impossible if you don’t try,” he stated with a smile.
“Yes, impossible,” she mumbled and walked off.
After duty hours, Annabelle and Ricardo began meeting at out of the way places. One night at a quaint little bodega, they ran into Captain Blythe Perkins and her husband MSgt Mel Perkins. The four quickly became friends.
One evening, Mel asked, “So, when are you two getting married?”
Ricardo didn’t react, but Anna dropped her fork.
“Did you put him up to that, Ricardo?”
“Noooo. But it is an excellent idea.”
“We’ll discuss it later, Ricardo.
Then Blythe added, “I think it’s a great idea, too.”
“Change the subject.” Anna insisted. “Do you know what’s required for non-Catholics non-resident military to marry in Spain?”
“No. Do you?” asked Blythe.
“Yes,” replied Anna. “Ricardo and I checked the military regulations. Then we checked the Spanish government’s requirements. While waiting the government’s reply, we set a date, 25 June, this year. I bought a formal Spanish Lace wedding dress. Ricardo had a tuxedo tailor made.”
“I knew it! However, I believe 25 June has passed,” Blythe replied with a cherubic grin. So, why didn’t you marry?”
“One of the Spanish government’s requirements,” Ricardo declared. “Anna has to have a letter of consent from her father.”
“Sooo, it shouldn’t be a big deal?” queried Blythe.
Anna snapped. “It is for me. Why should a 38-year-old woman need her father’s permission. I didn’t need nor require his permission when I joined the military.”
“So, we’ll just wait until we return to the states,” lamented Ricardo.
Later, Anna and Ricardo were at their usual hangout with friends, and Juan asked, “Well, when is the wedding?”
“Sometime after we return to the US,” moaned Ricardo. “Anna refused to ask her father’s permission.”
“Have you ever considered going to Gibraltar? You could drive down to La Linea, cross the border and get married within a few hours. It’s British territory. You could make the trip there and back within a few days,” Juan explained.
The next Friday, Ricardo and Anna headed south to Gibraltar. Upon arrival, they secured accommodations, put on their Sunday best and drove to the border. It was closed.
On their return to Torrejon, Ricardo reminded Anna, “You remember, I’m native American.”
“Yes, of couse.”
“We could have a Muskokee wedding,” Ricardo suggested.
“A Muskokee wedding?”
“You’ll like it, Anna. You won’t need you father’s permission. The Muskokee are a matriarchal society. Custom requires that my mother approach your mother. She in turn, consults the brothers and uncles on the maternal side. If they approve, the marriage can go forward. The ceremony is simple. I come to your house and stick a reed into the ground; you place a reed into the ground beside mine and thus we are bound together as husband and wife. The reeds are laid aside and kept as certificates of our marriage. The two clans have a feast, and I move in with you.”
“So, what we need is two reeds, my mother, brothers and uncles approval. I give myself permission to marry you and we can plant reeds in the flower pot on my porch. And yes, you can move in with me. We can have a formal ceremony with the clans when we return to the states.”
The next four months passed quickly. Anna was assigned to a base in California. Ricardo was going to Nebraska. Their first stop, Tennessee, to visit Anna’s family.
Anna told her parents that she and Ricardo wanted to be married in Tennessee next July. Anna asked her stepmom, Audrey, if she would help plan the wedding. Audrey gave her a strong NO. Anna was disappointed but not surprised. They left for their respective assignments.
Over the months, Anna and Ricardo stayed in touch. In late March 1983, Anna called Ricardo.
“My leave request for July was denied. Apparently, I was chosen for a special assignment for June and July, so we won’t be getting married on the 4th this year.”
“Let’s get married sooner?” Ricardo suggested.
“Okay. How about Saturday, 9 April? Can you get leave for a week?’
“Yes,” Ricardo gasped in surprise.
Anna continued. “Vegas is only a four hour drive from here. You fly out next Wednesday; we drive to Vegas Friday afternoon; get married on Saturday and come back on Sunday. I’ve already made arrangements. Your parents and mine have agreed to fly to Vegas on Friday. I sent their airline tickets this morning, and made hotel reservations for all of us. I also made arrangements at a lovely little chapel.”
“It’s taken us three years to plan wedding after wedding and now you put one together in a few days?!” Ricardo was amazed.
At noon on Friday, as Anna was preparing to leave her office, the phone rang. “Yes?”
It was Ricardo. “Audrey called. Their flight was diverted to LAX. They will land around 2 pm.”
“I’m on my way.”
As soon as Anna pulled into the driveway, Ricardo put their luggage in the trunk and they headed to Los Angeles. Thirty minutes later the right rear tire blew. Ricardo pulled off the road and began the dirty job of replacing the tire.
“We’re really going to be late,” Anna declared.
Ricardo dropped Anna in front of Delta arrivals. “You go find your parents. I’ll meet you here after I park the car.”
Just as Ricardo arrived, an anxious Anna came out the door. “I couldn’t find them, and Delta was no help. Where are they?” a worried Anna exclaimed.
Ricardo put his arm around Anna. “They’re sitting on a bench in front of American Airlines waiting for us. Let’s go get them and head for Vegas.”
As Ricardo pulled onto the freeway Anna told her parents. “We should be in Vegas in four hours and you can rest.” However, Ricardo made a wrong turn, and four hours turned into eight. They arrived at their hotel after midnight. Ricardo woke his parents and introduced them to the Dupree’s. Anna told the parents that the wedding was at noon. The limo would pick them up at 11:45.
Early Saturday morning Ricardo and Anna left to obtain their marriage license. When they returned, their parents could not be found.
“Go get dressed, Ricardo. I’ll look for them.”
Ricardo, dressed in his Spanish tailored tuxedo, returned within 15 minutes.
Anna went to get dressed. “If our parents aren’t here when I return, we’ll just get married without them.”
Anna was almost dressed when Audrey entered. “Let me help, Anna.”
It wasn’t a big wedding. Audrey was matron of honor. Mr. McIntosh was best man. Mrs. McIntosh was the audience. Anna’s father walked her down the aisle.
* * *
“What’s this! A letter from Las Vegas?” Anna wondered. “Happy Anniversary, Ricardo.”
Anna reads the letter aloud. “‘This is to inform you that your marriage on April 9, 1983 may be null and void…..'”