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ADRIFT

 

By Jo

 

Part 35:

 

 

The ceremony was short, lovely and honest, perfect for Ryan and Connie.  Afterwards, being somewhat

uncomfortable in the close mix of milling people congratulating the newlyweds, Marshall had found a

seat on the couch. 

 

Ryan leaned over the back of the couch, touched Marshall's shoulder, and whispered, "You're gonna do

it, right?"

 

"In a while, yes."

 

"You have my blessing, you know, for whenever."

 

"Thank you, Ryan.  That means a lot. But in a while.  Sounds like they're getting ready for you to cut the

cake."

 

Joan, Stuart's wife, had made this one just as she'd made one for Marshall and Eden.  This one, though, was

stacked layers, graduating in size, and iced in light blue with white seashells decorating it rather than flowers.

On its top was a signpost with many arms, giving the mileage to various places in the world from the inn. She'd

come up with the look of it by herself as neither Ryan nor Connie had made suggestions. 

 

"Seychelles seashells!" Ryan exclaimed upon first seeing it.

 

"She sells Seychelles seashells by the seashore," Connie chuckled.

 

Eden described the cake to Marshall, who was standing just inside the dining room with her arm around him.

"You're feeling all right?" she asked softly.  "For a moment there at the beginning of the ceremony I thought

you looked a little ill."

 

"I'm fine," he smiled.  "I think it was just the gardenias."

 

"What about the gardenias?"

 

"I have no idea.  The scent just kind of threw me for a moment."

 

"You, um, like the scent?"

 

"I love it.  It was my mother's great favorite.  I guess it just brought her to mind.  That's probably all there

is to it."

 

But Eden was thinking of a conversation they'd had in the vintage dress shop in Bellefonte:

 

 

"What about a veil?" Connie asked.

"No veil," Eden said firmly. "Maybe a flower." She turned to Marshall. "What sort of flower

for my hair, darling?"

"A gardenia," he replied immediately. 

"There you have it!" she smiled at Connie. "I'll be needing a gardenia."

Martha laughed lightly. "No problem with the decision-making process here, is there?"

 

She'd carried a bouquet of gardenias as well.  For her, the scent of gardenias was synonymous with

her wedding to him. 

 

"Only your mother?" she asked.

 

"Is there something else?"

 

"I just..." but Mike was giving the best man's toast and she didn't finish.  Then it was her turn as

anymore the maid or matron of honor also gave a toast.  Letting go of Marshall's waist, she straightened,

took a deep breath, and lifted her glass to Connie and Ryan.  "To the happiness of the sister of my heart

and her handsome, kind, clever, and not to mention amusing, husband.  I cannot begin to express how

glad my heart is that the two of you found each other and are now man and wife.  I know this is

supposed to make us all officially family but the simple truth is we have all been family right from the

very beginning."

 

There were all sorts of finger foods on the sideboard and on the dining room table.  Eden knew what

Marshall liked and made a plate for him.  The two of them went back into the parlor and seated

themselves on the couch.  Her bouquet was right in front of them atop the coffee table.

 

"Gardenias again," he observed.

 

"Yes...again."

 

"Is there..." he began but Eden saw Peter Powers standing on the other side of the coffee table, looking

down at them as though he were waiting. 

 

"Hello, Reverend Powers," she said.  "The ceremony was beautiful."

 

"As was yours," Peter smiled. 

 

Marshall set his glass down on the end table and turned toward Eden, taking her hands in his.  "I can

only imagine how beautiful our ceremony was," he said with a small, wry smile.  "But I love you now

as I loved you then.  For me, with no memory of my vows to you, I have felt the need, the desire to make

promises to you as I am now.  I know you are my wife but will you permit me to say the things my heart

wants to say to you so I, too, will have memories of speaking out my pledge?"

 

Eden was quite startled and glanced quickly between Marshall and Peter, who nodded wisely.  "Marshall,

you...really?"

 

"I really," he smiled. 

 

"I...I...yes, my darling...I...I..."

 

She was only vaguely aware of the others coming out of the dining room and standing behind Peter. It was

Marshall's face, the feel of her hands enclosed warmly in his, that was her entire focus at the moment. They

didn't stand, but stayed as they were on the couch.  Edith had Morgan in her arms and was patting his back.

It was his naptime and his head rested heavily, contentedly on her shoulder.  Both she and Connie wore

wide smiles.

 

Marshall lifted Eden's left hand, kissing her ring.  "It is here, where it belongs," he began, "and though I

don't remember placing it there, it is right that it is there, for you are my wife, Eden McLaughlin Sinclair,

and if my love is new again it is also deep and constant.  I pledge to you the entirety of my heart, that I will

love you always and ever, that it is the greatest endeavor of my life to be a good husband to you.  I vow to

you that it is you whom I love and none other.  You have anchored me into this new world I find myself

a part of, have provided harbor when I was lost and adrift.  I come to you as your husband, saying to you

that you lift me out of chaos, give my life meaning and direction, that I honor you, cherish you, adore you

and reaffirm that my life is linked to your life, husband and wife.  Will you have me again, my Eden, as I

am?"

 

She couldn't speak for a moment.  He could feel her hands trembling in his.  "Ha...have you?  Oh, Marshall,

yes, I will have you, yes, yes, yes!"

 

She wanted to say more, say what was in her heart, but she was still gathering herself together.  He started

to release her hands but she grasped his as they moved slightly away.  "Marshall..." she paused.  She wanted

to say something important, something that would...matter.  Perhaps if she just started speaking, the right

words would be there.

 

Taking another deep breath, she said, "I have loved you on both sides of this door.  You have been and you

are my world, the foundation upon which my life is built.  I have loved you continuously because of who you

are and who you are to me.  You..." she licked her lip..."you have brought grace into my life and made me a

whole person again."  She was thinking rapidly...couldn't stop thinking...was saying things she meant but

there was something else, something more.  She could see how intently he was listening to her.  My God,

how she loved his face...and his hands...and all of him.  What was the something more?  Then there it was

and the words flowed over her lips as she squeezed his hands more firmly.

 

"Before you, I lived under a dome of darkness and loss, thinking all my happiness was over and done. Then

you...you...were there and it was like the dome was punctured and the lights of the stars shown through. It

was as though I'd never seen stars before but suddenly there they were, bright little punctures of light in

my black sky."  She was watching his face.  Had he stopped breathing?  She knew no one had mentioned

his near-death experience to him, wishing to spare him the further pain of not understanding what sight

was.  She didn't phrase it in any way that would connect it to the sleigh accident, about which he was aware,

but carefully painted a picture for him of what he'd described and had lost the memory of describing.  It

had been a huge thing for him, even a life-altering thing, affecting his whole concept of his world. It was

why she had taken over the writing of Morgan Kent.

 

Marshall's teeth sank into his lower lip as his chin moved slowly down toward his chest.  He was breathing

short little shallow breaths.  Dr. Hersholtz stepped a little closer.

 

Suddenly he needed his hands and he pulled them free, resting his elbows on his knees, burying his face in

his palms.  Ryan, concerned, opened his mouth to say something but Terry put a hand on his arm, shaking

his head no.

 

Eden was silent, waiting.  Her words had affected him. But in what way? Was he just moved by the way

she loved him or was there more?

 

There was a rustle of movement as Martha ushered the rest of her family back to the dining room, leaving

only the three couples and the doctor in the parlor. 

 

"What's going on?" Harold asked.

 

"I'm not sure," Martha replied.  "We need to wait and see."

 

"He looked damn upset by what she said," Harold observed.

 

"Here, eat this." She popped a puff pastry into his hand.

 

 

Marshall was mumbling, "Punctures...punctures..." over and over.  Now it was Eden who was holding

her breath. 

 

Marshall felt as though he were caught up in the vortex of some vast whirlpool.  His mind was spinning

so hard he couldn't seem to form a clear thought.  Only the one word existed for him at the moment and

he said it again and again.  Because he was leaning forward, the scent of the gardenias on the coffee table

came even more strongly to his sensitive nose.  The scent joined in the whirlpool, swirling with it, around

him and around and around.  For long moments he drowned in the scent and the word and began making

little noises down in his throat, rocking back and forth, pressing his hands even harder against his face.

 

Hersholtz had moved close to the couch, tensed, waiting to see if Marshall were going to collapse.

 

For Eden, the rocking and the sounds seem to last forever, but she didn't touch him, just waited. 

 

Then he surprised everybody by letting out an explosive, "My GOD!", sitting straight and reaching

toward the side table, picking up the covered glass candy dish.  He held it toward Eden.  "Your

ring, your engagement ring!  It was hidden inside this and I, when we... I reached up and...and...that's

when I asked you to marry me."

 

Eden absolutely dissolved in tears and the candy dish ended up on the floor, rolling under the coffee

table, as he let go of it and wrapped his arms around her.  "Eden," he said, "oh, my God, EDEN!"

and he began to kiss all over her hair and face. 

 

Connie was crying, Amalie was crying, Edith and Martha watching from the doorway were crying, Ryan

wiped at his eyes, Terry was blinking fast and hard and Dr. Hersholtz relaxed with a big smile.

 

Eden couldn't stop crying. She sobbed deeply over and over and buried her face against his chest.  His

hands moved over her back, down her arms, then one hand went behind her head and another lifted her

chin.  He kissed her then as though he were some voyager, gone to the far side of the world and newly

returned home.   And, still sobbing, she managed to kiss him back.  Then she started to hiccup and he

simply enfolded her and rocked her a little, saying, "My wife...my wife."

 

Ryan hugged Connie tightly, her tears wetting his shoulder.  "Best wedding present ever!"

 

Mike leaned over Martha's shoulder.  "He remembers?"

 

"I think he remembers it all."

 

Finally aware again of the others, Marshall ended the kiss, still holding Eden's right hand in his left,

and asked, "Terry? You here?"

 

Terry came up to the coffee table.  "Right here, Marshall."

 

Marshall stood then, Eden standing with him as he still had her hand in his.  "Terry," Marshall repeated

with a satisfied sigh-sound in his voice.  "Terry."

 

"That's me, mate."

 

It was all there again, digging the bullet out of Terry's arm, the endless trek through the jungle, both of

them almost dying at the ruins, talking with him by the pool in Tuscany.  Marshall extended his right hand.

"My friend."

 

Terry took it in a hearty shake.  "And mine."

 

"Ryan?"

 

"Here, bro."

 

"I fear I've hijacked your wedding day.  I didn't mean..."

 

"Not hijacked at all, Marsh.  Completed.  I thought my cup was full but you've added more and now it's

overflowing and I can't tell you how happy I am about it."

 

Connie had come around and was hugging Eden as best she could with her cousin's hand in Marshall's.

"Thank God," she whispered, "and that it happened before we left."

 

Everyone came to greet Marshall and there was a lot of chatter swirling around him.  He remembered

each of them, mentioned something personal to each, but what he wanted was to be alone with Eden. 

Ryan and Connie left amid much well-wishing and congratulations, and a last fierce hug from each of

them for Marshall and Eden.  For Luke, the change wasn't all that much. Marshall had treated him the

way he always had and in so doing, the memory loss almost completely disappeared as a matter of importance.

 

Marshall held his son for a while, remembering every bit of Eden's pregnancy and Morgan's birth, but

finally Marshall whispered in Eden's ear, "Upstairs?"

 

"I think that can be managed."  She made quick arrangements with Edith then the two of them slipped

quietly up the stairs, Terry watching with a smile.

 

 

Once in their room, he toed off his shoes and lay on the bed, holding out his arms.  "I need to hold you.

All of me needs to hold all of you." 

 

"Ditto."  She lay beside him, reveling in the feel of his arms enfolding her again.

 

"I don't think I've fully grasped it," he said, "and understand that for a while I didn't know who you

were.  That now seems unreal to me.  You...Eden...my Eden..."

 

"You loved me again."

 

"I love you always, no matter what."  He kissed her softly.  "I'm so sorry I caused you pain."

 

"Nothing was your fault, nothing your choice.  And here you are, all of you."

 

"And every bit of me loves you.  Every bit.  I remember...I remember how it felt there in the

hospital...not to know...not to remember.  I felt so terribly lost, as though I'd misplaced a huge

piece of myself and had no idea where it might be.  But you were there and what I said tonight, that

you were my harbor and my anchor, I meant it.  You...I...oh, Eden, there's just so much to think

about my mind's not ready to absorb it all, not yet."

 

"Then don't."

 

"Don't...?"

 

"Don't think."  She moved his hand to her breast.  "Just love me."

 

A corner of his mouth quirked up in a smile.  "It is our wedding night in a way, isn't it?" And as

his fingers moved over the buttons of her green dress, he said, "Eden....Eden. In times past, the use

of a given name was not taken lightly but was something both earned by acquaintance and given as

favor. I say your name... Eden...and I am humbled by the fact of my right to have it on my tongue.

It is, I know, an old-fashioned concept and yet it has great value to me, for in this world where things

so often are taken before they are given,  part of my pledge to you as my wife is that I will ever honor

you, will ever treasure all things, no matter how small, that you bring to me, will do my best always

to recognize the value of the gift of you. It is nothing less than grace you offer me, the giving of favor

with no qualifications to be met, no boundaries to speak of edges or ends. And it is how I promise to

love you, with no edges and no endings. What I feel for you comes from a source that fills as I pour it

out.  It is, somehow, not only in me, this well that has no bottom, but I find myself immersed in it from

without. I swim in it, breathe in it, my heart beats in it, and all I want is to take you into it with me,

around me, in me."

 

The words were part of what he'd said to her during their wedding ceremony.  "You do remember,"

she sighed.

 

"I remember every moment."  He did but there was a part of him somewhere that felt kicked in

the stomach by the fact that there was a time he had not.  And it was true there was much he needed

to think about, but his fingers were sliding now beneath the fabric and as she gasped, thinking about

anything else at all could wait.

 

 

DIRECTLY CONTINUED AS: RAVENSCRAIG

 

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