They had chosen a tiny chapel for the ceremony. Quaint. Cozy. Perfect. Pretty much the kind of setting
he had always imagined. Sure, it wasn’t a sunny day in spring. Or even one of those sunny days in January when
the snow covered earth sparkles under a bright winter sky. The falling snowflakes made it more festive than lilacs in
bloom anyway, a sort of heavenly confetti sent down in celebration.
He forced himself to concentrate on his driving. They were probably already there waiting for him at
the chapel and he couldn’t risk being late because he'd lost control of his car and slid off into a snow bank. So he
stayed focused on the road ahead. Driving to the future that awaited him. Driving to fulfill the silent promise he had made
to her on that day she had first came into his life, his promise to always be there for her. To love and to cherish her.
It was the first time he had ever worn a tuxedo. Some would think it was silly, wearing one when it
was going to be just the bride and groom plus the minister and his wife. But he had missed the chance to wear one at his high
school prom. Actually, he had missed the last two years of high school entirely, having dropped out to get a job to support
himself. He’d been in foster care since he was five and had finally had enough. It just took moving to a different town
for the system to lose track of him. Fallen through the cracks? Hell, he’d fallen through a big, gaping, desolate hole.
Nevertheless, he had worked hard to build a new life. He became the manager of a Burger King in Missoula,
Montana just two weeks after his eighteenth birthday. He parlayed that experience into becoming an assistant manager at an
Olive Garden. Then restaurant manager by the time he was twenty-seven. No one could ever say he was fickle or couldn’t
stick with anything. After all those years of being shuffled from home to home as a child he was determined to stay in one
place. Determined to make something of himself. Determined to live the life he’d always dreamed of.
Three years later, that’s when he first laid eyes on her at Olive Garden. It was the 4th of July.
She was wearing faded denim jeans, a lavender t-shirt and fluffy pink and purple flip-flops that were obviously intended for
use as house slippers, her hair in a ponytail. A guest apparently in a hurry to get to the restroom had bumped into a waiter who
in turn had dumped a tray of food into her lap. He had witnessed the mishap and saw her eyes open wide in surprise as she
jumped up and looked down at herself. As manager, he had rushed over to apologize when she began to laugh amiably. He had
fallen in love with her right then and there, beauty garnished with Fettuccine Alfredo and Linguine alla Marinara.
After she left he was distressed knowing that chances were he would never see her again. He’d
met the girl of his dreams and he didn’t even know her name. Three weeks later he was euphoric when she came in again
with two girlfriends. She smiled at him and he somehow just knew that she had come back hoping to see him again. It had happened
just like in the movies. He introduced himself this time and she introduced herself. Mindy. The love of his life.
Thus began the tale of true love that he had never doubted would someday come his way. Now, a year
and a half later, they would be joined together forever. Mindy had already brought such joy into his life. He never thought
of his empty childhood anymore. It had faded away into the forgotten past. She was his today and all his tomorrows. She was
his reason for living.
Suddenly he was overcome by a strange sensation, as if he were living the recurring nightmare
that he had experienced ever since childhood. In the dream he would be traveling down a highway in a blizzard and it
would go on and on forever. He could never figure out what had triggered the dream. Maybe some forgotten road trip from
long ago that as a child had actually seemed to go on forever. Or perhaps some rerun of an old Twilight Zone episode
had given birth to the nightmare. It had always been terrifying to be trapped in an empty eternity, nothing changing.
Snagged in some sort of hellish semi-existence with no end in sight. Then he saw the small church as he turned a corner
and the illusion vanished.
He swung into the parking lot. Full of adrenalin driven anticipation, he got out of his car and climbed
the steps to the entrance of the little chapel. Today they would be joined together forever. He opened the chapel door and
stepped quietly inside.
A small wood stove warmed the tiny chapel as would a midsummer sun. They were standing there waiting
for him just as he had imagined they would be. The dim light from the candle nubs sent their shadows dancing on the empty
pews. His adorable Mindy dressed in white.
“If any of you can show just cause why these two may not lawfully be married, speak now or else
forever hold your peace.”
He coughed nervously. As all four turned his way he raised his revolver and fired once, claiming the
beat of his beloved’s heart. Then smiling, he turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger after whispering, “I