Chapter 19: To Have and To Hold SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 1961, MAIN POST CHAPEL George paced the anteroom, more nervous than the groom, or so it seemed on the surface. The only indicators that Al was nervous were his distracted look and the continual glances at his watch. Even during breakfast at Bob's Diner, as they reminisced over the past year, Al *looked* completely calm. However, Al couldn't finish his breakfast, and he kept checking the time. Al glanced at his watch. "She should be leaving the house in about five minutes," he informed George. This time, George noticed a slight tremor to Al's hand as he straightened the cuff of his crisp white uniform. George stopped pacing and looked out into the sanctuary. The guests were getting settled. Eddie and Daphne where unpacking the camera. "I think you're right, Al," he said over his shoulder. "I see Eddie and I think Mrs. Townsend just entered. Yep, that's her coming down the aisle with a member of the honor guard." Everywhere George looked, there were vases of Beth's favorite flower, decorated with bows in pastel colors. Her grandmother was wearing a pale shade of purple. As expected, most of the guests were dressed in dress whites. There were a few Marines in dark blue, and at least five Army nurses that Beth had become friends with at joint services training seminar. George saw the McGintys, the Laytons, and the Mitchells. Janet was going up and down the aisle, greeting guests and trying to balance out the seating. George was shocked to see Chip. He hadn't expected to see him here. Al had pretty much avoid the other pilot during the cruise, and Chip's opinion of the whole thing hadn't changed. "She should be on her way," Al said, updating him. George still had his back to Al. He nodded absently, frowning. He scanned the sea of Navy uniforms. "Where's my father?" Al came up behind him them, and peered over his shoulder. He waved to the McGintys, who spotted him standing behind George. "Maybe he's looking for a parking spot." "Dad's using the limo. The driver would have dropped him off at the door first." George reminded him. "Maybe something's come up." "JP?" Al asked, concerned. "God, I hope not." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Beth sat nervously, with Kelly and Helen, waiting for the limo that would take them to the chapel. Gran and the others had already left. "The limo should be here by now," Beth said, nervously toying with the pale pink roses in her bouquet. Kelly glanced sympathetically at her. "He still has a few more minutes, Beth." "I don't want to be late." "I know. You won't be, trust me," she said, soothingly. "And even if you are a few minutes late, it won't be enough time for Al to decide that you're not coming at all. Beth continued to toy with the flowers in her bouquet. Very soon, she would be Mrs. Albert Calavicci. She felt exhilarated and nervous. The door bell ran, startling the already edgy bride. Kelly peered out the window. "It's Admiral Whitmore," she declared, surprised. This brought Beth immediately to her feet. Panicking, she hurried to the door, with Kelly and Helen in her wake. "My God, something's happened to Al." Beth threw open the door with such force, she startled the man standing on the other side. Admiral Whitmore, as expected, was in his whites. Though concerned for Al, Beth instinctively reacted to the person in front of her and saluted. Mildly surprised, he returned it. "You look absolutely beautiful, Lieutenant," he said, sincerely. There was an odd look in his eyes. "Sir, is Al alright? Did something happen?" He stared at her puzzled. "He's fine, Lieutenant. In fact, he and George should already be at the chapel." He paused, realization finally dawning. "You think that's why I'm here, because something happened to him?" Beth nodded, still apprehensive. The admiral took her trembling hands in his. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you like that, my dear," he said soothingly. "May I come in?" His soothing voice and gentle touch calmed Beth down considerably. "Please." Backing up in a wedding gown turned out to be tricky, but with Kelly's help, no one stepped on her modest train. "I've come to ask you for a small favor, Lieutenant. I noticed last night, at the rehearsal, that you have no one to escort you down the aisle. I was wondering if you would allow me to be your escort?" Kelly gasped, startled, and Beth just stared at him. Without his wife around, Adam Whitmore-Jones became more ordinary. Yesterday, he had kept Gran company, and Beth had nearly forgotten who and what he was. The request seemed innocent enough. Al was considered honorary member of the family, so it was only natural that he would take some interest in her. She also remembered that George's twin sister had died, and this was the perfect chance to stand in as father of the bride. He was staring at her, waiting patiently for her answer. There was something akin to pride in his eyes, and he seemed wistful. Beth was sure he was thinking of his daughter. Seeing no real harm in the request, and realizing that she may need someone to hold on to, Beth nodded. "Thank you, Admiral. I would be honored." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Grace craned her neck to see if there was any activity going on in the back of the chapel. Still nothing. She wasn't late yet, but Grace worried nonetheless. Edward St. John came out of the little office on Grace's left and shook his head at George, who was standing in the doorway to the anteroom. A relieved, but perplexed look crossed his face. Grace caught Edward's attention. "What's wrong?" "We are trying to locate Admiral Whitmore. I just called Maryland to see if Admiral Jones' health had anything to do with his absence. It doesn't, thankfully." "Oh, I'm sure it didn't. After all, someone would have come for you and your cousin. I'm sure it's nothing serious." Janet nudged her. "They're closing the doors." Grace turned, just in time to see the honor guard close the inner doors, signaling the arrival of the bride. George and Al, both relieved to hear the news about Admiral Jones, came out of the anteroom. George was checking for the rings, more to reassure Al than himself. She caught Al's eye and he winked at her, face solemn. Grace smiled and winked back. Taking a cue from the chaplain, the organist began to play, as the doors reopened. Grace turned and watched little Helen as she walked confidently down the aisle, all smiles and giggles. Next came Kelly, trying her best to look demure, with head bowed. Grace could see the Cheshire Cat like grin on her face, as if she were privy to some huge joke. Grace wondered what the young woman was up to. She didn't wonder long. Behind Kelly, Beth appeared on the arm of Admiral Whitmore- Jones. There were quite a few startled gasps and murmuring as the congregation realized who was escorting the bride. Grace glanced at George. The admiral's son was staring at the approaching bridal party, stunned. Even Edward, standing next to him ready to snap a picture of the advancing party, did a double take. The only person oblivious to the admiral's presence, was Al. The young pilot only had eyes for one person in that chapel. The person escorting the bride could have been the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Al would not have noticed. Grace turned back to watch her granddaughter. The bride's face was all but obscured by her veil she wore, but Admiral Whitmore wore a solemn expression. As Beth drew nearer, Grace could clearly see the death-grip her granddaughter had on the admiral's arm. Beth's entire bouquet, gripped just as tight, quivered. Grace's breath caught in her throat and her heart gave a painful little tug, when she realized that Beth hadn't looked in her direction. Beth sought out one face, and once she found it, she didn't look away. Even with the rehearsal, Helen still sat on the wrong side. Instead of taking a seat next to Grace, she took the empty spot beside Daphne. Admiral Whitmore's presence posed another problem, a problem that apparently been discussed by the admiral, the bride and the maid of honor. Traditionally, the father of the bride would continue on with the rest of party as it advanced in front of the chaplain. Instead, the admiral brought Beth to a stop next to Al and Kelly took her bouquet. Beth took Al's arm as she let go of the admiral's. Once the bride and groom had continued, Admiral Whitmore took the seat next to Grace. He offered her an extra hanky, and passed another to Janet. Grace didn't kid herself into thinking that she wouldn't cry. She only wished she could see their faces during the ceremony. Beth sounded so nervous as she said "I do." Even so, there was no hint of hesitation in her voice. Al's voice didn't waver. In fact, it sounded as if he was daring anyone to contradict him. As they said their vows, Beth's voice sounded less and less nervous. By the time George handed over the rings, Grace could no longer clearly make out the couple through her tears. Admiral Whitmore patted her hand, comfortingly, from time to time. "You may kiss the bride." Al turned toward Beth and carefully lifted the veil. Grace saw the tender expression on his face as he moved to kiss her. The music began and the couple turned to walk down the aisle. Beth looked radiant and very happy. Al still wore the same expression, and he was smiling at his wife. Grace dabbed her eyes and took Admiral Whitmore's arm. They fell in behind Kelly and George as they passed. "That was a very nice gesture, Admiral," she whispered to her escort. "Giving her away, I mean." "It seemed the appropriate thing to do," he whispered back. As the newly married couple passed under the arch of steel, Admiral Whitmore snagged his son's arm. "I want you, Lt. Hardy, and Helen to ride with us." "Yes, sir." "To give them some privacy," he explained. "Understood," George replied. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * With Al's help, Beth carefully climbed into the waiting limo. Once situated, he climbed in next to her. The driver closed the door and the couple, bewildered, looked out the window. "What about..." Beth began, and then she saw Admiral Whitmore herd the rest of the bridal party into his limo. "Well," Al said, pleased. "It looks like we're alone." "That was sweet of him," Beth commented, laying aside the bouquet. Al turned his attention back to her. He grinned. "I didn't get the chance to tell you earlier, because I couldn't get a word in edgewise, that you look beautiful." "Thank you," she said, turning pink. "I love the dress, by the way." She couldn't reply to that, since he decided to kiss her. The reality still hadn't hit her and she fleetingly wondered whether it was the same for him. They didn't part again, until the limo pulled up in front of the officers' club. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The bouquet and garter had been tossed, the cake had been cut, and the toasts had been made. Now, the only thing left was the dancing. Al lead Beth out on to the dance floor, for their first dance. Naturally, it was "Georgia On My Mind." It was there, as she looked into his dark eyes, that it finally hit Beth. They were married. She was his wife and he, her husband. He seemed to know what she thinking. "I love you, Elizabeth Calavicci." *Elizabeth Calavicci* That was the first time anyone had addressed her by her new name, and it was only fitting that it be her husband. She touched his cheek. "I love you, Al." Al kissed her softly once, and she lay her head on his shoulder as they danced. She saw Gran and Admiral Whitmore watching them. Gran smiled at her. Beth looked up at Al, and then smiled at her grandmother.