Saturday afternoon Father and I are in the sitting room quietly reading. Max and Kate burst into the apartment laughing. I couldn’t help but smile at them. They made a great couple. Max walked over to me and held out the bag he was holding.
“Helena, I have a gift for you.”
I took the bag and opened it carefully, expecting something to jump out at me.
“Chicken? Two chickens? Where did you get fresh chickens?” I asked. A few months ago, who would have thought that the sight of a chicken would make me giddy.
“We’re celebrating tonight,” Max said, motioning Kate to come over. He put his arm around her, but before he could say anything else, Kate held up her hand for us to see her engagement ring. She was bouncing up and down, trying to contain her joy, but she wasn’t doing a very good job. We wrapped our arms around each other, both of us bouncing now. Max wrapped his arms around both of us and began bouncing too.
Even Father joined in. “This is wonderful news,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier for you. We need to toast. Wait here.” He disappeared into his bedroom and returned with a bottle of wine. “I told your mother that case of wine would come in handy,” he said with a smile.
He opened the bottle and filled three glasses, mine only half way. We raised our glasses. “To Max and Kate, many years of love and happiness.”
I placed the chickens in the ice-box. Yesterday I was able to buy some carrots and beans at the market that I can sauté and add to rice for a nice side dish. I couldn’t find eggs and milk this week, so we don’t have anything for dessert. No, wait, Mother had hidden some treats in one of the storage boxes. It took a while, but I found a box of Belgian chocolates and hid them in my room to bring out later as a surprise.
“So when do you plan on getting married?” I heard Father ask.
“Monday,” Max said. “With the churches closed we’ll just go to city hall for a civil ceremony.” Max took Kate’s hand, “We don’t really see any reason to put it off. The world is changing constantly and, lately, not for the better. We need to keep moving forward with our lives. You’ll be happy to know--at least I hope you will--that I rented the apartment next door. After Mr. Wozniak’s stroke last month, they had to move in with their daughter. His care was more than Mrs. Wozniak could handle.”
“I like that,” Father replied. “It’ll be good to have you close by.”
I got up to get dinner started. “I’ll help,” Kate said.
As soon as we got into the kitchen, I had to ask Kate the question I was dying to ask.
“Kate, you’re not pregnant, are you? I’m just wondering with the quickie wedding,” I whispered.
Kate laughed. “No, I’m not pregnant. We just don’t see a reason to put off the wedding. Anyway, I don’t think either of us is ready for a baby.”
“What are you two laughing about?” Max asked.
“Nothing,” Kate and I said at the same time, laughing again.
We decided to cook both chickens so we can each have a drumstick. Any leftovers can be reheated for lunch tomorrow. It’s so nice to have fresh meat again, and my rice dish turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. After dinner I surprised everyone with the box of chocolates. You would have thought we'd never seen chocolate before. This is the best evening we’ve had in quite a while.
Monday morning we went to city hall for the wedding. Kate’s parents were there, and they made us promise to come to their apartment for a special dinner that night. Kate was beautiful in an ivory suit, and her mother had given her a lovely bouquet of assorted roses tied together very tightly in a compact ball of color. They weren’t very fragrant, but I love the colors. Max was wearing his best suit, a brown pinstripe, and looked a little nervous. There are still two more couples ahead of them. Apparently, marriage ceremonies are performed only one day a week, and there’s usually a line. I was glad we arrived early because at least half a dozen couples came in after us.
Finally, it was Max and Kate's turn. Just before we walked into the room I opened my purse and took out my parents' wedding photo. Father smiled when he saw it and put an arm around my shoulders. “Nice,” he said.
Max and Kate walked up to the front of the room, and we sat in the chairs set out for witnesses. The service was short, just the basics, but Kate’s mother cried anyway. Father was holding one of my hands, and in my other hand, I held up the photo, as if Mother were watching the ceremony.
“You may now kiss the bride,” the official said. After the kiss, they signed the marriage certificate and that was it; my brother was a married man. Back out in the hall, Father announced that he had a wedding gift for the happy couple. He scheduled a professional photography session, and we all need to go to the studio now, Kate’s parents as well.
“What a wonderful gift!” Kate’s mother exclaimed. “Will I have time to fix my face when we get there?” she asked, dabbing the last tears from her face.
“I’m sure you will,” Father said with a smile as we headed out.
The photographer took four photos: one of Max and Kate; one with Max, Kate, and her parents; one with Max, Kate, Father, and me; and then one with all six of us. The photos will be ready by Friday. Father ordered three sets. I’ll pick them up Friday afternoon. Afterward, Kate’s parents hugged her as if they were sending her away for a long time. We’ll see them for dinner. I think they're just saying goodbye to their little girl.
“Alright Mom, that’s enough. We’ll see you tonight,” Kate said, finally breaking free.
When we arrived back at the apartment building, Max and Kate went into their apartment, and Father and I went into ours. That seemed strange. We had moved their things into the apartment yesterday, and Kate’s parents donated a few small decorative pieces. They wanted to re-paint the walls before buying any larger furniture items but with the war, there isn’t much of a paint selection available. A light beige color was all they could find. At least that matched everything. A few hours later we all walked over to Kate’s parents for the small dinner party they had thrown together. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.