Chapter One - Gemütlichkeit
Nervousness took over shaking hands as Leta Feldman punched the office address into the app for car service to Hartsfield Airport. Today, if all went well, she would say "I DO" at three o'clock on the dot to one Evan Eaton of Meredith, New Hampshire. Over and over she second-guessed herself until the day arrived. There would be no looking back from this point forward. The apartment was cleared, the goods packaged, and shipped to New Hampshire, which left only her to get on the plane.
The lease was over on the Lexus she loved to drive about the Atlanta freeways, but the crowd, hustle, and bustle of it all left a dry coating on her tongue. She purchased a used Nissan all-wheel-drive vehicle for her new life and added it to the shipment of goods. Talking about living life and doing it were separate animals in two opposing cages. Life was a call to action and she'd been called. Seated in the rear of the vehicle, Leta's eyes ran over the screen of the phone, double-checking the flights to ensure she could board on time, but more importantly arrive on time. To save a few bucks on the airfare, the flight into Portland, Maine got in the air on a nonstop journey from Hartsfield to Maine, arriving in less than three hours. Leta reserved a rental car from the airport to drive over to Meredith and say the I Dos.
Tight hands fisted and clenched, then unclenched, as the car came to a stop. Most of everything she owned was neatly packed, rolled, and sorted in three very large suitcases plus one carry-on bag. At some point, she reined in her zooming thoughts, thinking she would want to get a small dog as a companion. Right now, Evan Eaton would have to suffice. She knew he was a busy man, serving as the Town Clerk of Meredith and a part-time photographer. The images he'd taken of the home they would share, the land, and lake were breathtakingly astonishing. A man with an eye for that much detail and composition should make a find husband and companion.
"Excuse me," Leta said, pushing past the crowd waiting at the curbside. "I need to check these bags, please."
"Of course. Right, this way. Need to see your ticket," the sky captain said, almost snapping his fingers at her. "Tickets out. Have your tickets ready."
He was a rude man in her estimation. She was the one catching the plane, not him, and it was clearly over an hour before her flight. Leta tipped her driver plus the sky captain as the doors to her new life opened, ushering out the cold air of the building, mixing with the heat she'd be bringing inside. Smiling as her high heels clicked on the tiled floor of the busy airport hub, Leta made a beeline for security, checking in with little to no effort, skirting her way around slower passengers walking in the middle of the thoroughfare. Hopping onto the downward escalators to the airport subway cars, excited bodies flooded off the trains to make connections as anxious bodies piled on the train to make destinations.
"This is it," Leta said excitedly as the doors closed. The calming voice came across the intercom announcing the terminals as the train slowed, dumping off more bodies, before collecting additional people and rolling on as if it were not a moving statement on the plight of mankind.
"D Terminal and the D Gates," the calm voice said. Leta, in the throng of bodies, inched her way off the train, to journey up the escalator to the departure gate. Moving at a clip, she arrived, just as the boarding began. More aggressive people stood, waiting, giving others the side-eye in an effort to get on board and be seated.
"We're all going the same place on the same plane, which means we all get there at the same time," Leta said in a husky, low voice.
A little old lady with stark white hair gave a half-hearted smile as if she wanted to take a running sucker punch at Leta's mouth. No one was going to ruin this day for her. It was the day she was getting married. Evan waited for her in Meredith, New Hampshire, and tonight before they made love, he would hand feed her a maple sundae, seated on top of a cider donut, as he gazed deep into her eyes and confessed his love.
An entire year of long love letters, only one phone call with photos outside of the one from the Mail Order Bride agency. The first-class seat, while spacious, seemed cramped by the judging eyes of people passing through the aisles, looking down their noses at a black woman the front rows. Everything was going to be first-class from now on in her life. Leta Eaton, which would become her married name was moving up in the world; no more back seats, sidecars or honorable mentions.
"I'm going to be Evan's wife," she said, smiling, allowing the tension to ease as the doors of the plane were closed, and the attendants prepared the cabin for departure. The week had been spent in such fervor preparing to take the life-changing journey from the four seasons of the south; well technically two- hot and not as hot- to a part of the country that would be buried under snow six months of the year. Droopy eyes gave up the fight as weary orbs closed, dreaming of her wedding night to a man she fallen in love with through his letters.
Evan Eaton waited in his office for the arrival of the mail-order bride. Today was the day. He really didn't want to be married any more than he desired to have his left nut snipped off in a cigar cutter, but life didn't always give you what you wanted. He knew he didn't necessarily want this, but he'd given it the old college try, by doing things the old fashioned way- courting through his words. Meticulous word choices were selected to avoid the misuse of clichés and oversexualized language. As a matter of fact, he'd intentionally went out of his way to write as asexually as humanly possible to avoid leading her on to believe the marriage would anything more than what it was.
He needed a wife and an heir in the upcoming year. Evan didn't want to romanticize the marriage, but the match was scientifically calculated which increased the probability that he would be able to share the house with another person without wanting to run a hot poker into his own eye. Twice, he'd offered to pick her up at the airport and twice she'd refused. This, of course, made him all the more nervous.
"Hell, I just hope she has all of her teeth," he grouched, picking up her last letter. He sniffed the linen stationary, inhaling bits of hyacinth and jasmine, hoping she smelled the same way. One last look into his computer, he clicked on the image, pulling up her smiling face. Long dark tresses hung down the side of her face and crystal clear baby browns stared back at him. She was a pretty woman with fetching eyes.
He'd had a lifetime of pretty and really wanted sustenance, but at this point, he was a beggar, and he really couldn't be choosy. Four candidates. Evan had been through four candidates who either wanted to chat, meet up, and spend hours on the phone. That wasn't his style. This was his last chance to lock this one in, get hitched, produce an heir, and hopefully, she would want to return to her life and he kept the kid.
"At least that's what I hope," he said looking at his watch. "Any minute now. Any minute now."
The bride to be would come through that door. A couple of signatures on six sheets of paper, a walk across the hall to the judge, and by 3:15, he would be a married man. He could keep his land for at least another six months as long as his wife conceived. He was the last Eaton. Technically, he needed an heir and a spare, but he'd take what he could get.
In a few sweet moments, he would be getting what life had sent him to get. If nothing else, Evan hoped for a bit of gemütlichkeit, a term his Grandmother used to express a cordiality or friendliness between two people. If they could be cordial, the marriage could work, besides, they lived in a small town covered in snow most of the year. There’s wasn’t much to do in winter other than making children and eat chili. He looked forward to welcoming her to Meredith.
Meredith wasn't a big town. During the summer season hikers, men who called sitting by the lake taking a nap to be fishing, and other tourists flooded the area. Having one or two more unknown cars in town wasn't that unusual as the black SUV pulled up in front of City Hall. Evan watched the tall, statuesque black woman leave the car with just one bag, walking with purpose into the building. The way she moved with such confidence drew him to the private show, as long legs marched her right into the building and the front desk.
His heart rate increased as he got to his feet walking towards the door, spying her, wanting to know more about the stranger, and hear the voice which he knew was going to be melodic. Chastising himself for sounding like a smitten kitten with a ball of yarn, he stood behind the counter. Uncertain if he were holding his breath or simply had stopped breathing, the door swung wide as she entered. Her presence filled the room and he nearly sucked in all the air his lungs could hold.
"Hello Evan," she said. "We had a bit of delay on takeoff out of Hartsfield, but I'm here and ready to be your wife."
"I've been waiting for you," he said with squinted eyes as his secretary watched with interest.
"Let's see the paperwork, I know I have to sign a few things, then you said we'd go across the hall and see the judge, have it all notarized," Leta said, with a wide smile.
Evan's thoughts ran amok as he flipped the folder around. There were lots of blanks on the page. Leta asked for a blue pen, writing as she spoke. "Okay, Leta Feldman, bride to be, goes here," she said looking up at her soon to be husband in approximately fifteen minutes. "Yes, your name is in all the right spots. Excuse me, shall you be the witness?”
"Yes ma'am, I'm Magda," she said. "I'm Evan’s, I mean Mr. Eaton's secretary. I guess you city folk call us administrative assistants."
"Magda, both Evan and I appreciate your help," she said, looking at her about to be husband whose facial expression hadn't changed. "Evan, again I apologize but were almost out of time. The Judge's office closes at 4 and the time is 3:45. Today is it, right?"
"Uhmm, right," he said, looking over the paperwork ensuring everything was in order. Stepping out from behind the desk, he offered her his arm, leading Leta to the judge's chambers, where they stood side by side, declaring to the town of Meredith, New Hampshire to love and honor each other in sickness and in health until death they did part.
"I now pronounce you man and wife, Evan, you may kiss your bride," Judge Harriman said.
Leta's cheeks warmed under her husband's intense gaze. The gold wedding band, inlaid with three diamonds she'd picked up to represent the three children she planned to give to him over the years, but she'd explain that part to him later. Intense brown eyes met hers as he lowered his head, their lips touching briefly as sparks shot through his body. Leta clung to him as if he were providing much-needed puffs of oxygen to sustain her life as his lips slanted over her mouth. The Judge clapped, Magda sniffled and it was nearly a done deal.
"Sign here, and here," Judge Harriman said, turning the papers around. "Get those across the hall and have Magda stamp them before 4:00 son!"
"On it," Evan said, handing the documents to his assistant who slid them into the time stamper, recording for history and prosperity the marriage of Leta Feldman and Evan Eaton. The forms were added to the safe and sealed for the weekend. The time seal on the safe made it impossible to open again before eight on Monday morning, leaving husband and wife to head home. "Honey, I'll ride with you to the house, then in the morning, I'll show you around town."
"Sounds like a plan," Leta said with a smile, waving farewell to Magda and shaking the Judge's hand once more. Evan held her elbow as he guided his blushing new bride down the stairs to the rental. He too waved at onlookers who gawked at the attractive African American woman as he closed the passenger door and trotted around the front of the vehicle to the driver's side. A few toots of the horn, after he started the vehicle and drove around the corner, he made way for the pass, exhaling softly.
"Well wife," he said looking over at Leta, "there is so much I want to say, and can't find the gentle words needed so I'm just going to come right out and ask."
"Ask me, anything husband," Leta said holding up her hand admiring the simple gold wedding band. Only one question came to mind for Evan Eaton as he looked at his very content wife. He centered his breathing, careful not to let the words come out too fast.
Evan wasn't smiling as he asked, "Who the heck are you?"
The previous cover, which I love, just didn't feel "write" for the story I was penning. I had to go back and create one that fit the story. I like this one so much better. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.