Chapter 18: One More Day THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 1961, MITCHELL RESIDENCE Al pulled up to the Mitchell residence, weary and hungry. In an effort to get their home ready, Al and Beth had spent the last three days shopping, laying carpet, and moving furniture (then re-arranging it, because she didn't like the way it looked). Janet and Kelly were there most of the time, and a few of his friends pitched in, but the bulk of the work still fell to them.. Tomorrow, they would finish hanging the curtains and maybe start unpacking a few boxes and hang some things on the walls. All Al wanted right now was a hot meal, and hot bath, and a warm bed. Not necessarily in that order either. He could forgo the meal, and the mere thought of drawing a bath was tiring. He was met by Mrs. Mitchell as he came through her kitchen on the way to their den. "Dinner will be a little late, Al." He nodded. Helen was already in there, playing with her Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. He smiled sleepily at the little girl and she readily smiled back. She returned to her little game, leaving him in peace as he stretched out on the couch. He closed his eyes and in seconds, was sound asleep. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Margaret Mitchell placed the last pan on the table as her husband walked through the door. She greeted him with a kiss. "I'll get Al and Helen, while you change. Don't be long, though." Margaret entered her den, about to speak, when she realized her houseguest was asleep. Helen, playing quietly nearby, made shushing noises at her. She carefully approached the sleeping figure and lightly brushed his forehead. He didn't have a temperature. When he passed her earlier, she thought he looked a little too pale. *I'll let him sleep.* Margaret gathered up her daughter and the dolls, and carefully closed the den door behind her. "Where's Al?" Dennis asked, when they joined him in the dining room. "He's asleep," Helen informed her father, matter-a-factly. "Let him sleep, Dennis. The poor man looked worn out. I'll put a plate aside for him, just in case he does wake up later." "Uh, Margaret, he has some place to be tonight." He threw a quick glance at Helen. Margaret understood. "That's tonight?" "When else could it be?" Margaret shook her head. It wasn't her business to tell the young man what to do, but she felt that he needed to rest. "You can wake him, if you want. Personally, I think he'll fall asleep again before you get to. . .wherever this. . .party is being held." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * George pulled up to the Mitchell residence and noted that Al's car was there. He wasn't exactly happy with the fact the he had no other choice but to hold Al's party tonight. Al's own personal preference aside, Janet had already planned the rehearsal dinner for Friday. On top of that, Thursday night turned out to be the only night that Gino would close the restaurant to the public for a private party. It turned out to be a blessing that he couldn't persuade the restaurant owner to close on last weekend. Al hadn't asked him about the party, but knowing Al, he probably had all the details already. Mrs. Mitchell greeted him at the door with a funny look. She led him to the den and opened the door. George's jaw dropped. Al was sound asleep. "Are you going to wake him?" Mrs. Mitchell asked him in a low voice. "He'll be upset if he misses his own party," George replied, in a low tone. "He'll sleep right through it." "I seriously doubt that, ma'am." She said nothing. "Al?" George called out, in a slightly louder than normal tone. Al didn't move a muscle. Before he could do anything more, he heard Commander Mitchell behind him. "Lieutenant?" He turned to face his commanding officer. "Let him sleep." "Sir, I think he would want us to wake him." "Lieutenant, my wife is right." George sighed, glancing back at the sleeping figure. He knew Al enough to also know that he had to be pretty exhausted. It took a great deal to tire out the wiry pilot. For Al to be zonked out on the couch, he had to be stretched to the limit. George followed the Mitchells out, closing the door behind him. FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1961, MITCHELL RESIDENCE Al stretched, without opening his eyes, wondering if dinner was ready yet. The smells that drifted into the den were of bacon and eggs. Confused, Al opened his eyes and saw sunlight peeking through the shades. He sat up and looked at his watch. He had slept for over twelve hours. Al couldn't remember when he had last done that. His stomach was rumbling, having not be fed since lunch the day before. Al wandered down the hall, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Helen was sitting at the table, waiting for her breakfast. She smiled at him. He returned it. Helen giggled at him. In the short time he'd known her, Al came to realize that she wasn't a very talkative child, but smiled a lot and loved to laugh. Mrs. Mitchell came out of the kitchen just then with Helen's plate. "Well, I see you've decided to rejoin the living. You must be starving." Al yawned and nodded. Before Mrs. Mitchell turned away, Helen spoke up. "You missed your party." Al looked at her mother, confused. "What party?" "The one George Whitmore organized," she replied, giving him a knowing look. Al's brain wasn't fully awake, so he stared at her idiotically until the light clicked on in his head. *The bachelor party!* "That was last night?" "Didn't you know?" "No. In fact," Al said, leaning his elbows on the table to support his head. "I completely forgot about the whole thing." His mind had been preoccupied with the house, the wedding, and Beth, that he never gave the party another thought since Monday. "George is going to kill me." "He was here last night. He tried to wake you, but Dennis and I convinced him that were too tired." "Yeah, I would have been the life of the party," Al replied drily. "Anyway, he didn't look too upset. Disappointed, maybe, and a little concerned that *you* would be mad at missing it, but he wasn't homicidal." She disappeared into her kitchen, leaving him stunned. He, Al Calavicci, had forgotten his own *bachelor party*. The man who had organized some of the wildest parties, had literally slept through one. There was no way he could live this one down. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Beth carefully stacked the last of her new dishes in the cupboard. Down the hall, she could hear Kelly and Janet as they stocked up the linen closet with the towels, linens, and toiletries. Beth was happy with the way things were progressing. She heard the front door open and looked out to see Al. He saw her and came into the kitchen. She kissed him warmly. Judging by his damp hair, the smell of shaving cream, and the taste of toothpaste, she gathered he hadn't been up long. "Sleep in?" He kissed her again before answering. "Yes." Beth studied him with a critical eye. "Look's like you could've slept in a little while longer." "I know, but if I did, I'd have a hard time getting to sleep tonight," Al replied, smoothing back a stray lock of hair. "I don't want to sleep through the wedding ceremony too." "‘Too'?" Al nodded. "I crashed out on the sofa last night, before dinner. They let me sleep. Turns out, the party was last night." "Oh, Al," she said sympathetically. "I'm sorry you missed it." Al did a double take, realized that she was sincere, and started laughing. He pulled her gently into his arms. "Beth, you're amazing. You're the only woman I know that would feel that way about her groom's bachelor party." She slid her arms around his neck. "You've behaved yourself for a whole year. I think you would have behaved yourself for one more night." His expression grew serious and he began to kiss her again. She ran her fingers through his slightly damp hair, and was dimly aware that he had more on his mind then just kissing. For the first time, she gave no thought of stopping him and he knew it. One more day wasn't going to make that much difference. Al was kissing her neck when she finally remembered something important. "Al," she whispered into his ear, "we're not alone in the house." He moved his lips up to her ear. "Kelly and Janet?" She nodded. "I'll tell them we'll finish up here." "Please do," he whispered, before kissing her again. Before Beth could pull away, the door bell startled them. Al swore softly, pulling away. "I'll get it!" he yelled down the hallway, for the benefit of the two nurses. Once he was out of sight, Beth leaned against the wall, collecting herself. Though they had been interrupted before they could get very far, Beth still checked to make sure all the buttons on her blouse were buttoned. She smoothed down the front of her skirt. The new arrival turned out to be George. The others were already greeting him. "How'd it go last night?" Al was asking. "The guys were disappointed," George replied. "I'm sorry George. I forgot all about it," Al apologized, sinking into a chair. "We'll live," he said, shrugging it off. "We still had the party, just no guest of honor." Kelly looked from one to the other. "You still had the party?" George shrugged again. "Why not? Everything was already paid for. Why waste good money?" "Well," Al said, getting up from the chair. "You don't have to stick around here, George. The work's almost done." He glanced, almost as if in afterthought, at the two nurses. As casually as possible, he said to them, "If you two have things to do for tonight, go ahead and go. There's no need for you to stick around." Beth held her breath. "Um, Al," George said, obviously aware of the real reason he was kicking the three of them out, "I think you should know that my father, Mrs. Townsend, Eddie, Daphne, and the McGintys, are on their way over. They were a few minutes behind me." "Well, we can give them a quick tour of the house," Al said, shrugging. "They're coming with gifts and a picnic lunch. It's suppose to be a surprise from Doris and Don," he added. Al glanced at Beth, clearly disappointed. "Figures," he said drily. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * "It's nine-thirty, Al," Beth murmured against Al's cheek. "I know," he said against her temple. Once again, they were sitting on the Layton's couch. From the kitchen and dining area, they could hear the sounds of Gran, the commander, and Kelly cleaning up after the rehearsal dinner. For the last half hour, Al and Beth sat in the dimly lit room, snuggled together on the couch, not saying a word. All previous attempts to be alone that afternoon had failed. First the surprise housewarming picnic, then the nearly overlooked meeting with the chaplain who would perform the ceremony, and finally the rehearsal and the dinner. "Just think," he said, "by this time tomorrow, we'll be in Niagara." Beth smiled ruefully. "Right now, I can't think past twelve hours from now." She snuggled closer, feeling nervous. Al wrapped his arms around her tighter. Gran chose that moment to step into the doorway. She had a determined, no-nonsense look on her face. She pointed at Beth. "You, upstairs," she commanded, and then pointed at Al. "You, out." Neither moved, startled by her brisk tone and expression. Al recovered first, turning on the charm. "Just half an hour more, Gran." "No," she informed him, firmly. "How about twenty?" he bargained. She shook her head. "Fifteen?" "No, Al." "Ten? "Absolutely not." "How about five?" Beth giggled. "Al, out." Al heaved a sigh. "Oh, alright, if it makes you happy." The couple rose together. Al, still holding her, was determined to prolong their parting for another five minutes. He cupped her face in his hands. "See you tomorrow, honey. I'll be waiting. Don't be late." "I won't," she promised softly. "I love you." "I love you, too." He drew her closer and kissed her deeply. Beth was acutely aware of her grandmother still standing in the door way; however she did not interrupt their kiss. "Happy?" Al grumbled, approaching Gran. "I'm dancing for joy," she replied drily. He studied her a moment, then grinned. "Goodnight, Gran," he said, kissing her affectionately. "That won't work this time, mister," she informed him. "It doesn't hurt to try," he replied, lightly. He smiled once more at Beth and then he was gone. Gran turned her attention to Beth. "To bed, young lady. Now." In spite of the brisk tone, Beth found herself smiling at her grandmother. She saluted. "Aye-Aye, captain."