The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Twenty-Five
So, Max popped the big question to Katie and, of course, she said yes.
The long, improbable journey that these two individuals began, many months ago in Pittsburgh, is reaching an end, and a new life, a life of “us,” is beginning.
It began on a bitterly cold morning in Steel Town, a morning that had us all wondering if the sun ever does rise on the homeless, the abuse victims, those suffering from PTSD, and those just lost in their own minds.
And now here they are, on a dazzling August day in Seattle, three-thousand miles and countless nightmares removed from those fateful first steps.
It’s been one hell of a journey!
Thanks for coming along!
Morning Has Broken
No nightmares! That’s the first thing I thought of as I opened my eyes and heard the squirrels chattering away about their morning . . . I hadn’t had any nightmares.
I turned my head and saw the wild fan of red hair spread across the pillow, the elegant neck, the snow-white shoulders, her breathing soft and steady, drumming a soft rhythm of contentment. I draped an arm over her, kissed that inviting neck, and whispered in her ear.
“It’s our wedding day, Katie!”
And I was given the first wedding gift of the day.
An hour later we were both showered and trying to be quiet in the kitchen, cracking eggs, sizzling bacon, toast popping up in need of butter, coffee dripping, the smells drifting down the hallways, up the stairs, footsteps approaching, yawns and kisses from Mom, Dad, and Sister Jeannie, tired smiles, loving smiles, the smiles that keep me upright and in touch with a reality I so desperately want.
“We want to leave here by ten, right?” Dad asked.
“That should give us enough time,” I told everyone. “We don’t want to have to rush. A nice, casual stroll in the sunshine sounds damned nice to me.”
And so it was that at ten that morning, the twenty-ninth day of August, two-thousand-sixteen, the five of us left the home of my childhood and started out on our journey.
Picking up Friends As We Go
The first stop was “Perfect Cup,” the place Jeannie and Katie work. The manager, Jo, saw us coming, flipped the sign on the door, closed up shop, and she and the two employees walked out to join us.
“It’s a great day for it,” Jo told us, kissing Katie and Jeannie.
A half-mile north the church came into view, it’s stone steeple rising above the Ballard neighborhood, its cross beckoning to lost souls. Father Patrick was sitting on the front steps waiting for us. He slowly pushed himself up, doffed his hat, and smiled that smile I’ve known since I was an altar boy many years ago.
“Top of the morning to you all,” he said, Bible cupped in his hand, the white chasuble draped over his frail body. “Can you hear them?”
“Hear what, Father?” my mother asked.
“The angels, my dear. They’re singing up a heavenly storm this morning.”
Three blocks south we went, to the park where my CYO team was waiting in uniform, tossing balls, laughing, being kids, shouting out “Morning, Father Patrick,” and “Last chance to run, Max,” and I hugged them all, not ashamed of the tears, feeling fully alive for the first time in a decade, the sun warming up, a soft breeze caressing our growing party, smiles overcoming all concerns, past and present.
Turning Towards Town
Aurora Avenue pointed straight and true to downtown Seattle, the city spread out before us, an urban jewel on the shores of Elliott Bay, the bluest skies you’ve ever seen, green waters sparkling, our party growing as we walked, shouting out to people in their yards, to people on the streets, “Come join us, wedding day, all are invited,” and I’ll be damned if some didn’t join us, our little group totaling fifteen, then twenty, twenty-five and by the time we reached the area around the Space Needle we had over fifty, some friends, some complete strangers, all coming together, black and white, brown, yellow, old, young, healthy and hanging on by a thread, and then it really grew, downtown bustling with people, going about the business of life, and quite a few just curious enough about our mission, joining us as we walked along Second Avenue, a crowd of over one-hundred and God Almighty it was joyous.
The Second Street Mission is a non-descript building in a part of Seattle experiencing gentrification, dwarfed by new high-rises, an old brick throwback to an earlier Seattle, the only hint at its purpose a neon cross in the window. Into the Mission we filed, Brother Thomas welcoming us, leading us all to the auditorium in back, the room barely big enough to handle the surging crowd, the air suddenly heating up in that cramped room, sweat breaking out on my brow.
“Are you sweating because you’re having doubts, soldier?” Katie asked me, smiling that smile, weakening my knees, squeezing my hand and my heart.
I kissed her. It was the only answer she needed. She looked into my eyes, searching for the demons, wondering if they were going to surface, but I just shook my head and relieved her of such thoughts.
And so It Begins
“Friends,” Father Patrick began. “We are here to celebrate the union of Max and Katie. I’ve known Max since he was a squirming little bundle of diarrhea, and I’ve known Katie long enough to know that Max just won life’s lottery. May the saints forgive me this morning, but I’m going to dispense with the regular Catholic ceremony and simply ask you all to hold hands with the people to your left and right. Go on now, they won’t bite, reach out and connect with one another.”
Hesitant at first, but not willing to break the gloriousness of the moment, all of our guests did as instructed. The old man continued.
“Love fills this room. Love fills out hearts. Love has the power to heal old wounds, and love has the power to shed light on the darkest of personalities. So it was the day these two were born, and so it shall be for the remainder of their lives.
“The journey was not easy for them. They stumbled along the way, as we all do. They fought back great legions of doubters and the unforgiving, haters and the uncaring. And when those battles had ended they took on the greatest opponent they had ever faced . . . themselves . . . and they stand before you, today, two united into one, unbeaten, unbowed, and completely focused on the only thing that really matters in this life . . . love!
“Katie, do you love Max?”
“Yes, Father, with all my heart.”
“Max, do you love Katie?”
“Yes, Father, with all my heart.”
“Then I pronounce you man and wife, partners on a new journey. May the road ahead always bask in the warmth of the sun, and may that sun never set.
“May God bless you both!”
A New Journey
It’s been a little over five months since we shared our “I dos” in the Mission.
The demons still visit us both, from time to time, but not as often, and when they do they lack the power they once had.
Dad is recovering from that heart attack he had. It forced him to retire, but that just gave him time to help me with the CYO teams. I think he’s happy with the tradeoff.
Jeannie found a guy. Pretty good guy, as a matter of fact. He has no choice, really. If he doesn’t treat my sister with respect, and give her all the love she deserves, I’ll snap his neck. Just kidding . . . barely!
Mom is busy as ever helping out at the church, but the bulk of her time is spent on her new business.
She invested money she was saving over the years and bought the “Perfect Cup.” Now her, Jeannie, and Katie work together in a family enterprise.
Me? I wake up every morning to the sight of wild red hair splayed over the pillow, and every morning I kiss that chalk-white neck and place my hand over that beating heart and silently scream to the banshees that they are not allowed to invade our haven of love.
The power of love, baby! So far it’s been enough.
THANK YOU ALL
Yep, one hell of a ride. I offer no apologies for the feel-good, fairytale ending. Every once in awhile we all need a “feel good” story, and this is mine.
May love always be your guiding star.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)