The sanctuary of Saint Albert in Germantown was abuzz as Ed Penn entered the church alone. Rather than walking down the aisle like he would have if his daughter, Lisa was on his arm, he scooted over to the side aisle and briskly marched up, his wife with a look of terror on her face, having risen out of the pew to see what the delay was. Ed nodded to her to join him, and she did so, hyperventilating, knowing it wasn’t going to be good. The groom, Louie Blakemore, stepped down from his place at the altar to meet them, confusion replaced by knowledge leading to a broken heart. Lisa had apparently stood him up.
“Do you want me to say something?” Ed asked.
“Say what? What happened?” Louie asked. “I just talked to her an hour ago.”
Deciding to rip the bandage off the wound in one fell swoop, Ed chose to tell the truth.
“She’s still in love with Oscar,” he said. Martha gasped, breaking down in tears. “She’s left with him.”
“You can’t tell this crowd,” she cried. “It’ll be a mob scene out of Frankenstein without the torches and pitchforks.”
“I’m leaving,” Louie said, pale. “Tell them whatever you want.”
He ran out of the side door, leaving the job to Ed. Louie’s mother and father followed him out of the building, first telling Ed the reception would go on, to please let the crowd know.
“Come with me, Mother,” he said gently, offering Martha his arm, knowing what this was costing her.
Holding her head up was so hard as the tears came. She wanted to run out the side door and go home to bed. They climbed the steps to the pulpit together. The priest offered the microphone.
“Stop that infernal playing,” Martha cried to the organist and the music abruptly stopped, the last notes echoing throughout the vast space.
Handing Martha his handkerchief, Ed focused on her needs for a moment to get composed, his arm around her shoulder, patting her. Finally, the stood as a couple united at the pulpit, looking out over the congregation. He didn’t recognize one soul, only seeing a bunch of grim looking strangers in dress-up clothes. The heat up at the pulpit was exponentially worse than down in the pews and he’d make sure the trustees knew that something needed to be done about the antiquated air conditioning at the next meeting.
“Ed, spit it out,” Martha hissed, elbowing him, not applying the same gentleness he was showing her.
“Friends and family, as you can probably tell, we’re not having a wedding here today,” he said, rubbing his side where his wife had jabbed him. “Lisa has changed her mind and I agree now is the time to do it.
“We are going to continue on with the reception at two because it’s bought and paid for. By that time, I hope to have all the gifts over to Blakemore Farm where they will be returned to you. Thank you to the Blakemore family.
“Please give these young people your love and compassion at this difficult time.”
He helped Martha move to the stairs as she howled an audible sob. Their other girls circled around them, friends and family giving them room as they moved to the side door leading to the parking lot.
“I’m so sorry!” a voice called out.
“No one died,” Ed yelled. “Keep it in perspective.”
“What now?” daughter Mary asked.
“Let’s get your mother home and get out of these clothes. I’m all for blowing the diet today. How’s pizza sound?”
“Perfect,” Mary said. “We’ll see you at home.”
While the Penn family quickly made their way back home, their youngest daughter, Lisa was on the back of Oscar Butler’s motorcycle, holding the train of her wedding dress out of the way of the mechanism of the bike, an arm around Oscar, feeling freer and more alive than she had in weeks. Two blocks from the church, Oscar came to a stop and got off the bike. He had to kiss Lisa. They held on to each other, crying through the kiss, murmuring apologies.
“Lisa, I love you so much,” Oscar sobbed, holding her face. “I’m so sorry I drove you away.”
“No! It’s my fault,” she cried. “I’ll try to make it up to you.”
“What should be do?” he asked.
“Let’s just be together,” she said.
“Do you want to go to my place?”
When she nodded, he drove to the apartment above his motorcycle repair shop.
They’d come so close to getting married themselves months earlier, but due to a series of misunderstandings and miscommunication, Lisa broke up with Oscar, breaking his heart. Her mother had introduced her to Dr. Louis Blakemore, who’d fallen in love with her immediately, to Lisa’s family’s delight. They’d never cared for Oscar, referring to him as a dumb grease monkey behind Lisa’s back.
After Oscar had rescued Lisa in her wedding dress at the church, they’d retrieved her honeymoon suitcase, filled with beachwear.
“Where were you going for your honeymoon?” Oscar asked, holding up a bikini top.
He sat on his bed while she looked through her suitcase for something to wear, eager to get out of the expensive wedding dress.
“Bermuda,” Lisa answered, pointing to the zipper at the back of the dress. “I’m so relieved I don’t have to get on a plane.”
“So I saved the day for more than one reason,” Oscar said, teasing her as he unzipped her wedding dress. “I’m going to call Brenda and Larry right now while you change. You don’t have to get on a plane to get to the Jersey shore.”
Brenda and Larry were friends who had a beach house at the shore, and he’d beg them to hand over the keys for a long weekend. They were thrilled to let Oscar and Lisa use the house, cheering that the couple had reconciled.
Lisa stepped out of the beautiful dress, laying it across Oscar’s bed. Waves of hot shame and regret flowed over her body at the realization of what she’d doneruining lives in her wake. She couldn’t imagine what was taking place at the church, trusting her father to have made the best decision. Now if she could only make up to Oscar the betrayal, hurt and shame.
Unhooking garters, she rolled stockings down her legs and was in that position when Oscar returned from making the call. “They said the house is ours,” Oscar said, standing in his bedroom doorway after she’d gotten out of the wedding dress, Lisa in a lacy bra and panties.
“That dress is really something,” he said, pointing to it.
“My mother wanted it,” she said. “It’s not my style.”
Either was Louie Blakemore. Lisa studied Oscar’s face, saw the yearning and his eyes, and reached for him. They came together, Lisa standing on her toes to reach Oscar’s lips. As they kissed, muscle memory clicked in, remembering what the others lips felt like, how perfectly their mouths fit together, the line of their bodies melding. The only thing they didn’t know is what total intimacy was like, because Oscar had been too afraid. But he wasn’t afraid now.
“I want you,” he whispered. “I’ve thought of you every minute of everyday.”
“I want you, too,” Lisa replied. “I’ve never stopped wanting you.”
They kissed again, Oscar’s hands running over her body, touching her in places he’s never allowed himself to touch before.
“I wish we could stay here this weekend, but I’m afraid we’ll be bothered by all our nosey friends.”
“I guess we should probably get on the road then,” Lisa whispered. “Where do we have to go to get the key?”
“They live in Society Hill. We’ll swing by their brownstone on the way out of town. I’m taking the Walt Whitman Bridge, the quickest way to their shore house. All I want to do is get there and get you in bed.”
Running his hands over her strong back, memorizing the lines of her body made him thing of the mistakes he’d made when they were first together. He’d wanted everything to be perfect between them, including not having sex until they were married. And in planning it, he made one slip-up and that was not including Lisa’s wishes in the strategy.
Filled with regret, he concentrated on not crying again. They’d both been with other people during their break up. How would they overcome that?
Holding her tight, he whispered in her ear. “Can you forgive me?”
“Oscar, of course, there’s nothing to forgive. Can you forgive me?”
“It’s the same thing for me, Lisa, there’s nothing to forgive. I’m scared we won’t be able to overcome what happened. If your father hadn’t warned me, this would be a much different outcome.”
“So that’s how you knew. You’re timing was perfect,” she said. “Five minutes later and I would have been walking down the aisle.”
“That wouldn’t have stopped me,” he said. “We have a lot to talk about. Let’s go.”
He led her to the truck and opened the door for her, throwing their bags in the back of the cab. They were flying by the proverbial seat of their pants. Sometime soon, Lisa was going to have to talk to Louie who she felt horrible about humiliating. Her goal right then was not to let guilt about Louie interfere with reconciliation with Oscar.
Her mother, Martha would survive, but Lisa realized the damage to the relationship due to the embarrassment she’d caused her might make the rift irreparable. If Martha said one more unkind thing to say about Oscar, it would mark the end of their relationship.
Oscar slid onto the bench seat next to Lisa, and reached for her hand, pulling her next to him.
“This weekend is ours,” Oscar said, determined to stop obsessing. “We’ll deal with anything unpleasant on Tuesday.”
“How’d you know I’m worrying?”
“I’m doing it too. I can see the wheels turning,” he said. “We’re human, Lisa. You did what you thought would make everyone happy, me included. The hard part is going to be not letting what happened in the past ruin our weekend and ultimately, our future. We have to work at staying in the moment.” He chuckled, looking over at her staring at him. “I read that in a book.”
“I thought so,” she said, laughing. “It sort of sounds like something Terry might say.”
“Right, Terry,” he said, frowning. “Do you mind if we run up to the house and tell her? She’ll be hurt if she hears this from Brenda.”
Terry Kovac was currently Oscar’s landlady, but also through a complicated series of relationships, one of his closest friends. She was devastated when Oscar and Lisa broke up.
“It’s probably too late,” Lisa said. “But sure, let’s go.”
They got out of the truck and held hands walking up to the house. Terry heard the truck door close and waited for them, holding one year old Elizabeth.
“Oskie,” Elizabeth squeaked, pointing.
Terry held the door for them, eyes bright with excitment, and Elizabeth reached out for Oscar who took her in his arms, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“I’m so happy,” Terry said, hugging Lisa. “I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through, but so happy you’re back together again.”
“I guess Brenda called?” Oscar asked, smiling.
“She sent me a text while you were talking to Larry,” Terry replied. “You know we have no secrets around the eight of us.”
“Nine,” Oscar said, bouncing Elizabeth on his hip. “We’ll be back Monday after lunch.”
“You should stay longer,” Terry said. “They can’t use it until next weekend anyway.”
“I’ve got unfinished business to take care of,” Lisa replied.
“And I want to marry Lisa right away,” Oscar said, smiling down at a beaming Lisa. “Can we still do it here?”
“Of course! We’re ready when you are. My husband will be thrilled.”
“Where is Alex anyway?” Oscar asked.
“He’s in a race today. They don’t allow strollers, so the Queen and I are here alone.”
“Right, I forgot. Tell him our news when he gets home,” Oscar said, handing Elizabeth back. Thank you for everything.”
Terry leaned forward and kissed Oscar on the cheek again. Lisa couldn’t help but notice that Oscar and Terry had gotten awfully cozy since the last time she saw them interact.
Oscar would tell Lisa about the support Terry and Alex had given him after she left, making sure he ate, that he was rarely alone when the crushing pain of losing her made him consider taking his own life.
But not today. Today and the weekend were about love. Oscar glanced over at Lisa from time to time while they were saying goodbye, letting her presence sink in. He truly didn’t think this day would ever come.
They got back in the truck, holding hands while he drove into Center City to stop by Brenda and Larry’s brownstone. The familiar cityscape brought Lisa so much joy, and now that she was sharing it with Oscar, she couldn’t imagine ever thinking she’d be content in a marriage to a man she didn’t love.
“You know I didn’t love him, don’t you?” she asked.
“I hoped you didn’t. What did you plan on doing that could keep you in a relationship with him?”
Cringing, Lisa knew she had to be honest with Oscar and that the repercussions might ruin the weekend.
“I thought we were going to let the past stay in the past,” she answered.
Oscar laughed. “That’s true, but we do sort of owe each other some information. If it pops up later, it might be harder to deal with.”
“Did you love that woman you were involved with?”
Lisa had heard from Larry, who was a physician at the same hospital where Lisa worked as a nurse, that Oscar was in a serious relationship with the receptionist at the law office where his wife, Brenda and Terry both practiced.
“Ah, you’re avoiding the topic,” he answered. “No, I didn’t love her. I liked her, but I couldn’t love her because I was in love with you.”
“I like that answer,” Lisa said, putting her head on his shoulder. “It was the same with me. I planned on throwing my energy into restoring the house we bought. It’s my dream house, but when I was there working on it, it made me miserable because it wasn’t yours, too. I’ll be content to live in my row house with you.”
“Lisa, we can get a bigger house. It just won’t be right away. I’ll save money and when we have enough, we’ll buy one, okay? Don’t give up your dream.”
“Okay, I won’t. It was a stupid reason to marry him. My mother loved him. She’s probably in bed, moaning right now.”
“Yes, Martha is not my fan,” Oscar said, grimacing.
“Unless she crawls to us on her knees, we never have to see her again.”
“You’ve got to have a relationship with your mother,” Oscar said. “She won’t bother me.”
“We’ll see,” Lisa said. “It’s possible she won’t speak to me and that’s fine. I don’t want to think about her.”
Arriving at Brenda and Larry’s house on Pine Street in Society Hill, as Oscar expected, there was no place to park on the street.
“I’ll hop out,” Lisa said.
Oscar double parked and Lisa got out of the truck. Brenda and Larry heard the truck and ran to the door, Brenda meeting her on the sidewalk.
“I’m so happy,” Brenda shouted, grabbing her in a hug. “I was so sad to have to let you go.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” Lisa said, hugging her back. “Thank you for the house this weekend.”
A car pulled up behind Oscar’s truck.
“You’d better go. We’ll all get together soon,” Brenda said, letting go of Lisa who ran back to the truck, waving and smiling at the waiting car.
Brenda went back into the house. “Well, they’re back together,” she said. “I dread work on Monday.”
“Why?” Larry asked.
“Well, because his former girlfriend, Corinne is our receptionist, that’s why. I wonder if he told her yet.”
When Oscar made the decision he was going to go to the church to get Lisa on Saturday, he had called Corinne right away. Although his friends knew that Lisa was getting married, no one had the heart to tell Oscar about the wedding, thinking it wouldn’t help the situation.
But Lisa’s father, Ed Penn had had a heart-to-heart with Lisa days before the wedding and found out that she was still in love with Oscar. Ed decided to do an intervention, as he called it. Going straight to Oscar’s motorcycle repair garage on Friday, Ed confronted him, telling him that Lisa loved with him, and that the wedding was at noon the next day.
Stewing about it for hours, Oscar finally remembered Corinne. “I was getting worried,” she said when he called. “You’re usually down here by now on a Friday night.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not coming. I wasn’t sure until just now.”
“What happened?” she asked, but her heart sunk, Brenda having told her about Oscar’s old girlfriend getting married that weekend.
They were having coffee and Brenda decided to tell her about Lisa’s engagement because secretly, she wanted Corinne to tell Oscar, hoping he’d do something about it, confront Lisa, or at least contact her.
“Oscar’s old girlfriend is getting married,” Brenda had said. “I’m just warning you because I’m sure he’s going to be upset when he finds out.”
“Gee thanks, Brenda. I had myself convinced he was over her.”
“I’m sure he is,” Brenda had replied. “But it’s a process, you know? Once he hears, he’ll deal with the news. I just wanted you to know.”
But Corinne never said a word to Oscar about it. He seemed fine, until that Friday. When he didn’t show up, and then the call, she knew they were through.
“Corinne, I’m going to try to get Lisa back. I still love her. You’ve been great. We had some great times, too. I’m not getting over her like I should be. If it doesn’t work out, I’m still not sure you and I would have any kind of future together, and I’ve strung you along long enough.”
Breathing into the phone, Corinne’s emotions ran the gamut. “I don’t feel strung along.”
She waited, but he didn’t respond. “So I guess this is you saying, “Fuck off, Corinne.”
“Sort of,” he replied. “I’m sorry.”
“Fuck off, Oscar,” she said, and hung up.
He didn’t think of Corinne again. On Saturday morning, he got up early, shaved and showered, and waited, drinking coffee and watching the clock. At eleven thirty, he went around to the church and hung out in the parking lot of a small convenience store on Germantown Avenue. It was going to be a nice day for July, the sun bright but not too hot yet. At eleven fifty, he got a text from Ed Penn that he was getting ready to walk Lisa into the church. It was now or never. Oscar started up the bike, pulling in front of the driveway just as Lisa and her father left the parking lot of the church.
Watching her, the shock on her face, and then the joy, kissing Ed and running toward Oscar, he sputtered, laughing and crying at the same time. Lisa threw herself at him. They clung to each other.
“We’d better get away from the church,” she said, and Oscar helped her get on the motorcycle, pulling her dress around so she could hold onto it.
They waved goodbye to Ed before Oscar took off the few blocks toward her row house. Later, Lisa said she knew as they rode down the street that people were moved in some way by the girl in the wedding dress on the back of a bike. She wondered what they were thinking – if it was obvious she was running away from something, or toward it perhaps she and Oscar were headed to their own wedding.
Glancing out the window above his bed, she saw the leafy green tree tops of the woods behind the barn.
“I wish we never had to leave,” she said. “I’d hang out right here.”
But he didn’t want to stay in town. The danger of their friends and family converging with all their questions and advice was a scary threat, so they headed to the shore. Traffic was heavy, the usual shore traffic on a Saturday afternoon. They had the windows down in his truck, and the closer they got to the beach, the stronger the smell of the sea. In her white T-shirt and hair blowing in the wind, she looked like an angel to Oscar.
“Thank you so much,” she said reaching for his hand. “This is perfect. This is exactly what I wanted.”
He took her hand to his lips and kissed it, his facial hair tickling her, familiar and comforting. “We’ll stop at the next store we see and get provisions so we don’t need to leave again. I have no idea what they keep in supply.”
They wandered through the freezing cold air conditioning of the grocery store, hand in hand, putting whatever looked appetizing into their basket. Lingering at the deli counter, they ordered a pound of enough cheese and lunchmeat to last a week. They’d exist on sandwiches and chips and ice cream. Oscar food.
Lisa was in awe. “They have beachfront? Jeesh, must be nice.” Immediately sorry she said it, she was relieved that Oscar didn’t take it wrong, forgetting for a minute that with Oscar, she could say most anything and be herself. It was with Louie that she had to be careful.
“This is when having rich friends come in handy. I know Larry and Brenda worked their asses off. But we can’t all be doctors and lawyers.”
“You are so right,” she said. “It’s not over the top, either. It’s just a nice beach house with a fabulous location.”
They put the groceries away and then Oscar locked the front door. Taking Lisa by the hand, he led her to the back of the house to the bedroom he’s used when he took Corinne there, although he wouldn’t tell Lisa that. After placing their bags on the floor, he turned to her, and kissed her, pulling her shirt up.
“What are you doing?” she asked, giddy with excitement.
“I’m undressing you,” he said. “I think we’ve waited long enough.”