Copyright© 2018 by Kraken
Friday the fifteenth of March dawned a bright, clear, chilly, beautiful day. After breakfast, which Tom and I had alone, we took our clothes down to the barbershop. By special arrangement, the barber was waiting for us. We got a shave and a trim before taking a hot bath. When we were done, I dressed in my wedding finery, and donned an overcoat to walk down to the church.
Arriving at the church, Tom and I both removed our gun belts, hanging them on coat hooks before covering them with our overcoats. Moving to the front of the church, I waited for Anna’s arrival, standing in front of the prie-dieu.
As the church was filling up, I couldn’t believe all the people who were attending the wedding on what would have otherwise been a busy Friday morning. Anna was the last to enter with Yolanda carrying the train.
My breath caught at the sight of her. She was absolutely beautiful and, oh lord, the Anna smile she was beaming stunned me with its intensity. I remember almost nothing of the ceremony from the time her hand was placed in mine, until we were walking down the aisle together to the church door. I vaguely remember receiving communion and the vows starting with the phrase, “do you, Anna Maria Jaramillo,” but that’s about it. Every time I’d start to come back to some semblance of self-awareness, I made the mistake of looking at Anna and the intensity of her super megawatt smile would put me under again.
We stood just inside the church entrance with our big smiles, and thanked all the guests for coming. It seemed to take forever, but when we’d finally thanked the last guest and the Padre we turned and giving each other a hug walked over to get our guns and coats or, in Anna’s case, heavy shawl.
As we were strapping on our guns Anna’s beautiful smile turned to a frown.
“What’s wrong, my love?” I asked with concern.
“Mi Pablo, I’m afraid the time you warned us about has come,” she answered unexpectedly. “Yolanda and I saw at least four men we didn’t know as we walked to church this morning. They were all wearing guns.”
I felt the smile leave my face, to be replaced by a frown matching Anna’s as my mind raced to process what she’d said, analyze the implication, and develop a viable plan. A few moments later I was mentally cussing myself for being a fool. In retrospect, it should have been obvious that I, or rather, we, would be attacked today. Whoever this mysterious boss in Santa Fe was, he had already shown he liked to make very public statements with his violence, and what better day to make an example of us than on our wedding day. Our wedding date was public knowledge, and anyone could have learned of it with no trouble at all.
Settling my gun belt, I looked at Anna. “I’m sorry my love I should have realized an attack would come today. I can’t jeopardize everyone at the reception by avoiding this, so I’ve got to face them.”
I started to tell her to go out the back while I went to face the men alone, when Anna interrupted me.
“No, mi Pablo, we can’t run from this, and I won’t leave you to face those men alone. I told you that they would face us both. We’re married now. I am your wife, and we will face this together, side by side,” she said with fire in her eyes. “Besides, we won’t be alone. Yolanda, Tom, and some of the others will be somewhere close by to help us.”
With a deep sigh, I nodded my head and put on my coat. If I’d learned nothing else about her in the last three years it was that it was almost impossible to change her mind when she had that fire in her eyes.
Anna settled her shawl around her shoulders before wrapping her arms around me in a long hug. I bent down giving her a long kiss.
“Whatever happens in the next few minutes, know that I love you with all my heart,” I whispered before standing upright and offering her my right arm.
Reaching out, she intertwined her left arm in my right while beaming me that brilliant Anna smile I’d so come to love. With smiles on both our faces, we walked out of the church, turned north on Main Street, and began our long slow walk to the wedding reception in the courtyard behind the restaurant.
During the walk, we chatted about the service and the ceremony. The closer we got to the courtyard, the more I thought that perhaps it was a false alarm. Three blocks from the stables, that all changed.
Anna and I were in the middle of the block, when six armed men walked out onto Main Street from the side street in front of us. Spreading out across Main Street they took four steps towards us and stopped. As we walked towards them I saw a flash of reflected sunlight from the roof of the stable and figured it was Yolanda using her A700. I gave a slight smile at that thought, as Anna and I stopped ten yards away from the line of men.
“Can we help you with something, gentlemen?” I asked addressing no in particular.
All six men were medium height and very similar in physical appearance although two stood out. One man on the end was about forty pounds overweight while one of the men in the middle of the line was wearing much newer and cleaner clothes than the others. It was the clean man in the middle of the line that answered.
“No. We’ve managed to find what we were looking for on our own,” he replied to the snickers of the other men in the line.
“Well, in that case, my wife and I would appreciate it if you’d step aside so we can pass. We have a wedding reception to attend a few blocks down, and we’re a little late,” I said with a smile.
“Oh, we can’t do that. You see the wedding reception is really a wake, and you two are the guests of honor,” he said with a sad shake of his head.
“Why would that be? I don’t think either one of us has ever met you, have we?” I asked, hoping to gain some information.
“We’ve never met that I know of,” the man replied. “But the boss said to kill you both, and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s a shame such a pretty little lady has die though.”
“The boss? You mean the man in Santa Fe? What’s his name?” I asked angrily.
“Only one man has ever met the boss that I know of, and he don’t talk about it. That’ll change though, when I bring back the news that we killed you. Then I’ll get to tell the boss, personally.”
Anna quietly murmured, “You take the talker. I’ll take whoever is fastest. After that it’s pick and choose.”
With a small nod at Anna I continued talking to clean man. “Well what’s the name of the guy you got your orders from?” I asked. “I can at least tell him how you died on our next visit to Santa Fe.”
Clean man gave a start, and took a quick look around trying to figure out why I was so confident. We were unarmed as far as he knew and his quick glance told him there was no else on the street to help us.
Suddenly, a shotgun blast sounded from the next street over to our left and everyone was reaching for their guns.
My gun had just cleared my holster when I heard Anna fire two shots and saw the fat man at the end of the line collapse into a heap. My two shots at clean man were immediately followed by the completely unexpected sound of rifle shots from behind us as well as shotgun blasts from both sides of the side street the attackers had come from. Anna fired two more shots as I spun around ready to fire on the attackers behind us.
There was no one behind us! I stood ready but clearly perplexed until Tom walked out from the side street behind us slinging his rifle. With a sigh of relief, I turned back around to face the six men. All six men were lying in the street. Juan walked out of the left side street in front of us, his shotgun still pointed at the downed men. Jorge walked out from the right side street carrying his shotgun
Holstering my pistol, I quickly turned to make sure Anna was okay. She was standing next to me with her gun still pointed at the line of men. Her shoulders were squared as she calmly holstered her pistol and turned, giving me a weak smile when she saw that I was okay. As far as I could tell Anna hadn’t been hit, either.
“I’m fine, mi Pablo, but that didn’t go at all like I expected. Only two of those men got off a shot and both of those were fired into the ground at their feet,” she said in a wondering tone.
As we hugged each other tightly I whispered, “We were both faster than they were. They didn’t know we were armed, and that combined with Tom, Juan, and Jorge joining the fight surprised them. Surprising an enemy helps an awful lot at times like this.”
We shared a short kiss before turning to the sound of more people walking up. Giuseppe came out of the side street carrying a shotgun.
He took one look at the dead men as he walked by them and said, “The one holding the horses a block over is dead, too.”
That explained the first shotgun blast that had started the shooting.
The undertaker was also walking up to us from the street Tom had been on, followed by three more men.
He stopped in front of Anna, took a quick look around, and stoically addressed Anna. “Your grandfather sent us to take care of the trash Doña Anna. With your permission, we will handle things from here. Your arrival at the reception is overdue.”
Trying to hide the smile that was growing on her face, Anna replied, “Thank you, Tio. Please take anything you want from the dead men, as well as their horses, in payment for your services and for causing your late arrival at the reception. Giuseppe can tell you where they are. There is also another dead man there as well.”
“Thank you, Doña Anna. I already have two men taking care of the body with the horses. Now please, get to the reception before everyone becomes more worried than they already are,” he said turning away to start giving instructions.
While this was going on, I was giving Tom, Juan, Jorge, and Giuseppe our thanks and a hand shake for their help. Anna added to my thanks, giving a hug and kiss on the cheek to each of them before we turned and walked up the street.
As we walked, I asked Tom if Yolanda had been on the stable roof. Surprisingly, it was Giuseppe who proudly replied that it was indeed Yolanda, along with Sofia.
Tom left us at the stables to put away his rifle, telling us he’d see us in the courtyard. The rest of us were a few steps away from rounding the corner when the opening trumpet call of “Lonely Bull” came from the courtyard. Juan, Jorge, and Giuseppe had fallen back a few steps behind us as we entered the courtyard, which turned out to be a good thing for them. We were bombarded by rice being thrown from both sides of us, all the way into the courtyard itself while the band played “Lonely Bull” from the impromptu band stand. The courtyard was packed with well-wishers, and Anna and I spent what seemed like hours greeting everyone. Finally, we found ourselves somehow seated and served a late lunch.
The party started right after the lunch mess was cleared. As she wanted, Anna and I danced our first dance as a married couple while I sang “The Impossible Dream” with the band playing. It was a sublime moment as far as I was concerned.
I was standing on the edge of the dance area waiting for Anna to join me when the band prepared for their second set. I was startled when they started playing because Anna hadn’t rejoined me yet and the music they were playing wasn’t the planned “Ten Minutes Ago.”
By the time I placed the music, Anna had already started singing “From This Moment On” as she slowly walked towards me from the other end of the courtyard. I just stared in fascination as the smiling angel with a beautiful voice walked towards me. Along with her voice, Anna’s timing was impeccable. She held out her hand just as she sang “I give my hand to you.” We both stepped out on the dance floor and danced as she sang this unexpected gift.
Anna beamed me her first super megawatt Anna smile as my wife as the song and the dance both ended. As we hugged each other in the center of the dance floor, she said, “I love you with all that I am, mi Pablo. Thank you for making all my dreams come true.”
Bending my neck, I gave Anna a deep kissing trying to convey my surprise, happiness, and love to her all at the same time.
We finally broke the kiss when the band started the next song. As with the first set, Anna was whisked away to dance with the men while I danced with any of the ladies who asked.
When the band took their next break, it was dinner time, and again we found ourselves sitting down and being served, while everyone else served themselves from the buffet that had been set out. With the sun setting the lamps were being lit. I found the trumpet player and asked him to play the surprise we’d arranged at the start of the next set. Grinning at me, he simply gave a nod. I rejoined Anna at our table drinking tea and talking with Yolanda, Tom, and the rest of the family. The next time I looked up the band was getting ready to start their third set. The trumpet player saw me watching and gave a brief nod telling me they were ready.
I stood up and held out my hand to Anna who took it as she stood up beaming me one of those special Anna smiles I loved so much. Just as we reached the dance floor, a steady soft throbbing beat began on the bass drum the band had found somewhere. Two steps onto the dance floor I twirled Anna into my arms and started singing “If I Didn’t Have You”, a song I’d never sung for her before. Anna’s smile got bigger and bigger as I sang and we swayed together, oblivious to everything else going on around us. When the song was over, we were again in the middle of the dance floor. Anna reached up pulling my head down for deep soulful kiss. Again, we parted after the kiss, and danced with whoever asked never sitting down until the band took their break.
The fourth and final set of the night started with the song we’d originally scheduled to start the second set with: “Ten Minutes Ago.” We both sang our parts with smiles on our faces while staring into others twinkling eyes. This set was only half as long as the others, as it was getting late, especially for the kids. With a start, I quickly glanced around and realized that the kids had been conspicuously absent for most of party. Afterwards, Anna told me that some of the teen girls had agreed to babysit the entire group of kids, keeping them entertained out in front of the Mendoza’s house while the party was going on.
Finally, the last dance was played and Anna, holding on to my hand, loudly asked everyone to clear the dance floor. When the dance floor was clear Anna gave a nod to the band and the opening notes of “Lonely Bull” once again drifted over the courtyard. Those notes were apparently a signal to the kids as they began pouring onto the dance floor from every direction. By the time the band was done the kids had all settled down sitting on the dance floor in front of Anna and I in excited expectation.
Anna gave them all a few more moments to settle down before turning and giving the band another nod. As she turned back to the kids she murmured, “You know what to do.”
The band started the opening chords and I gave a brief laugh before singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Anna and Yolanda had done a great job teaching the kids, and not just the Mendoza kids their part. It went flawlessly with most of the parents joining in as well. As usual, I sang it through twice before the band brought it to an end.
Anna thanked everyone for joining us in celebrating our wedding, and wished everyone a good night before turning, still holding my hand, and leading us into the house.
Cuddled close together in the early morning hours, we finally fell asleep with Anna’s head on my shoulder. As I drifted off to sleep I was having an internal debate about which song best captured the last few hours, “Welcome to My World” or “Behind Closed Doors.”
Suddenly, I was at the table in the RV having a cup of coffee with Laura.
“Well, Paul, I think congratulations are in order. You not only married a woman I highly approve of, but you’ve also managed to keep your promise. You’ve finally returned to being the man you were always meant to be,” Laura said in a soft melancholy voice.
“Thank you, Laura. I wish I could have kept that promise while you were still alive,” I replied in an equally soft voice full of the same melancholy.
“It wasn’t meant to be, my love, but we did have over thirty great years together, and I wouldn’t have missed them for the world,” she said with a look of love and devotion in her eyes that left no room for doubt in her words.