Gary and Marissa were sitting in the office of McGinty's that morning, discussing a promotional plan that Mark had submitted for increasing the weeknight business. Marissa mentioned that it had some good potential, but wanted to change a few things around. Gary liked it and said they should give it a try. She pointed out that if it didn't work, they could lose money and they were just breaking even as it was.
"We've been down before," quipped Gary, "And we came through it just fine. We just need to bring in some more business during the weeknights, that's all."
"I know that, Gary," Marissa explained, "But we can't afford to be wrong on this. We need to modify a few of his ideas. If Mark thinks we can pay for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team to make a personal appearance here, he's sadly mistaken! We simply can't afford it!" Marissa was indignant; she didn't want to spend any money that she considered wasteful.
"It wouldn't be that bad of a promotion for the bar if the team was any good," Marissa pointed out, "But they stink! Who'd show up to see them?"
"Mark would, they're his favorite team."
"My point exactly!" Marissa exclaimed, "Mark, probably, would be the only one. I rest my case."
"Okay, okay, no Blackhawks," Gary replied, "But his idea of 'Hockey Night in Chicago' with the staff wearing hockey jerseys and having some games on TV once or twice a week, stays!"
"Okay, that's acceptable." Marissa smiled, "See, I'm flexible."
Marissa smiled. She then wanted to ask Gary something important, only didn't quite know how to phrase it. After a moment of indecision, Marissa nervously began to speak, "Gary? Uh...may I ask you something?"
"How long have we known each other?"
"About eight or nine years, why?"
"No reason....um...Gary...what do you think of Mark?" she asked innocently.
"He's a nice guy," he replied, "And what I think shouldn't matter, after all, he's your boyfriend, isn't he?"
"I just wanted to know if you like him."
"Of course I like him, he's a good friend, a great help with The Paper and a decent bar manager," Gary continued, "Why are you suddenly so concerned whether I like him or not?"
"You would never...um...hit him...would you?" Marissa timidly asked.
"Howzat? Hit him? Are you crazy? You know damn well I wouldn't."
"What's with all the questions, anyway?" inquired Gary, "Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing is wrong...." Marissa looked anxious and finally said, "Um....Gary...I-I...I'm pregnant."
"DOES MARK KNOW?"
"Yes, Gary, I told him three weeks ago."
"Where is he?" demanded Gary, "I'm gonna kill him!"
"Gary, you told me you wouldn't hit him!" said Marissa, surprised at his reaction.
"I LIED!" Gary yelled as he went quickly out the door in search of Mark.
"GARY HOBSON, YOU GET BACK HERE!!" shouted Marissa, "GARY!....??"
Five and a half months later:
Mark was doing the morning bar set up when Gary came down from the loft.
"Hey, Gary, how ya doin’," replied Mark, "Anything interesting happenin' in The Paper today?"
"Just the usual," Gary answered quickly, "An accident on Sheridan, a man choking on a hot dog and a huge traffic jam caused by a woman losing her dress after getting it caught in a taxicab door."
"Uh...that last one," Mark grinned, "You don't suppose I could take care of it for you, do you?"
"No," answered Gary sternly, "I want to make sure she's not standing there naked."
"I'd give her my sportcoat."
Gary shook his head and changed the subject, "How's the mother to be?"
"Good, I guess," Mark answered, "I just wish she'd make up her mind on a date for the wedding! She keeps putting it off and I'm beginning to think she really doesn't want to go through with it."
"Really?" Gary was surprised, "I thought it was you that kept changing the date, not Marissa!"
"I wanted to get married over five months ago," replied Mark, "After all, she said yes when I asked her! I just don't get it! If we don't get married soon, we're gonna have to send our baby an invitation to the wedding! I don't understand her."
Gary smiled. "I think I do. All her life, Marissa has prided herself on her independence and not having to rely on anyone to take care of her. To her, being blind is merely an inconvenience and she's never let it get in her way. Maybe the idea of getting married has frightened her into believing she might lose that independence."
"I love her, Gary, and I would never get in her way of doing anything!" answered Mark, "Marriage is an equal partnership and I'd never try to control her or tell her what to do. She could be as independent as she wanted!"
"Have you told her that?"
Gary laughed, "I think that maybe you should, pal!"
"You're right, I should.....sometimes, I just assume she knows how I feel."
"By the way," asked Gary, "Have I ever told you how sorry I was that I broke your nose on the day Marissa told me she was going to have the baby?"
"Yeah, at least a half dozen times," Mark replied with a slight scowl, "And I've forgiven you each time."
"Oh, right, well, I'm sorry anyway."
As he rubbed his nose, Mark said, "As always, I forgive you...just forget about it, okay?"
"Hello, Sweetstuff, how are we feelin' today?" Mark cheerily asked while entering Marissa's apartment.
"Like a beached whale," answered Marissa sharply, "And if you say I look like one, Perini, I'll find a way of making your life a living hell for as long as you live!"
Mark kissed her and said, "And I love you, too."
She smiled and kissed him back. "I'm sorry about all of the mood changes, my love, but sometimes I just feel awful. You've been very patient with me and I consider myself lucky to have you for my love mate."
"Marissa, that goes for me, too, but I'd sure prefer to be your husband, instead," he quickly replied, "I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but when are we gonna get married? I don't want to rush you, but you *are* eight and a half months pregnant!"
"I don't know, Mark…I'm not sure about a lot of things yet, that's all." She looked worried.
"If you're afraid you'll lose your independence, don't be. I love you and would never try to change or control you. I thought you knew me better than that. Marriage is an equal partnership between two people that love and respect one another's feelings and desires. We already do that, it's just that I'd like to make it permanent....you know, 'til death do us part." He put his arms around her.
"I guess I've been worried that I wouldn't be the same person I've always been," Marissa said, "But I'm also worried that I might have some difficulty with raising the baby. I-I'm blind and for the first time in my life, I think I might not be able to do something and this frightens me."
"You'll do fine, you always do. Besides, it's my baby, too, ya know. I can help, if you'll let me."
Marissa smiled broadly, "Okay, okay, we'll get married next week! I'll start making the arrangements. I love you Mark, I really do." She kissed him passionately.
"I love you, too, Sweetstuff. We'll have to get the ball rolling quickly on this."
"I'll call Father McAllistor at the church and let him know," Marissa said while tapping her cane towards the telephone, "I’m sure he'll be pleased!"
It had been a very quiet afternoon at McGinty's as Gary entered the bar, holding his hand over his right eye.
Gina, the bartender, eyed him suspiciously and asked, "Mr. Hobson, what happened to you?"
"Some woman hit me," he answered angrily, "She complained that I was trying to lift up her dress. I just was making sure it didn't get caught in the door of the taxi she was getting out of. She called me a pervert and punched me in the eye! Try to help some people, sheesh!"
"Why were you grabbing at her dress, anyway?" asked Gina.
"It was going to get caught on...oh, never mind. If anyone needs me, I'll be upstairs."
"Uh-huh...sure…okay, Mr. Hobson."
"Yes, Father, I understand...Yes, that's okay...I'll let you know where as soon as we do...okay, I'll call you, yes, I'm sure we will, thank you, Father, goodbye." Marissa slammed down the phone. "Damn!"
"What's wrong, Sweetstuff?" asked Mark innocently.
"Father McAllistor said that we couldn't use the church because it's all booked up. He said he'd marry us, but we'd have to find our own place to hold the wedding!" She was upset.
"It's going to be tough to find a hall or room to hold this wedding in at the last minute, Marissa, I just wish we'd done this earlier." Mark shook his head.
"I know....so do I. I'm sorry, Mark, it's all my fault," said Marissa sadly, "I wish I hadn't been so....."
"Stubborn?" he interrupted.
"Shut up, pizza boy."
Mark smiled. "Any ideas?"
"No...Wait a minute! Yes, I do! McGinty's! We could have our wedding at McGinty's! We had a wedding there once before. Gary's ex-girlfriend got married there about four years ago!"
Marissa was excited, "It'd be the perfect place for us, after all, we work there and the baby was conceived on the sofa in the office." She grinned broadly.
"Great idea, Sweetstuff, I like it!"
"I'll call Gary and set it up for next Saturday. This is going to be great!" She was very pleased.
"Do me one favor, Marissa, please don't tell Gary about what we did in the office. It took me just about a month to heal from that broken nose he gave me the last time you told him something to do with the baby."
Marissa laughed, "Mark, it's not like I would tell him that anyway."
The phone in Gary's loft rang and he went over to pick it up, "Hullo?...Marissa!...How are you?...good! Uh huh...yeah, that's a great idea!...Next Saturday?...Sure, that's not a problem...yeah, I agree, it's about time...The reception too...good!...No, you shouldn't pay for it...no, I won't take your money....Marissa, you own half of the bar...Okay, we'll talk about that...I'm happy for you...okay, I know that you have a lot to plan...okay, me too, goodbye." Gary placed the phone down, laughed and said to the cat, "Well, they're finally gonna do it! The two of them are actually gonna get married! I wonder what kind of menu she'll want for the reception?"
"You really don't think you're gonna get invited, do you?" Gary asked.
"Hey, gang, look who's here!" said Mark as he escorted Marissa into McGinty's.
The staff greeted Marissa with a chorus of "Hello's" and "How are you, Ms. Clark's". She was obviously pleased to be out and was elated at everyone trying to say hello.
Mark guided Marissa over to the nearest table and sat her down, "And what would you like to drink, Sweetstuff?" he asked her, "An iced tea, maybe?"
"Iced tea would be fine, as long as it's decaf," said Marissa, moving her hands up and down her very swollen belly, "I have to look out for the baby, you know."
"Tommy.....a decaf iced tea for Ms. Clark!" shouted Mark as he sat down with her.
Gary came out of the office and made his way over to Marissa and Mark's table.
"Hi, Marissa, I'm glad you came to see us! What brings you to the bar?" Gary hadn't seen her in a while and was shocked at how huge Marissa's stomach had become.
"I wanted to give you the guest list and go over how we'll set up the seating, Gary."
"Mark could do that with me, shouldn't you be taking it easy or something?" inquired Gary.
"I just needed to get out of the house," she replied, "You have no idea how bored I am."
"Well, you'll be busy in a day or so," said Gary, "I understand most of the wedding guests will be arriving tomorrow."
"Yep, my mother, my sister Monica, Mark's cousin Anna Maria, your mother, Crumb, and Chuck and Jade. I'm sorry to hear that Bernie couldn't make it, but I know it was very short notice and he's at that Florida RV convention."
"Yeah, him and that damn *Grey Ghost*." Gary sounded disgusted.
"Gary, it WAS very short notice!"
"I know, Marissa, I just wish he was here to give you away."
"Crumb is going to give me away, instead."
"I wish someone would give Crumb away."
"You really don't mean that, Gary."
"No, I suppose I don't."
"I had invited Erica Paget, but she can't make it."
"Why?" Gary answered with a sarcastic scowl on his face, "Can't she face me again?"
"No, her mother called from Galena," said Marissa, "It seems that Erica is in jail for embezzlement!"
"Oh, really?" chuckled Gary, "Why am I not surprised?"
"Gary, Mark and I have a favor to ask you to do tomorrow. Mark has to pick up my mother and Monica at Midway at two o'clock and his cousin is flying into O'Hare at two-fifteen. Could you meet Anna Maria at the airport?" she innocently asked, "It would really help us out....we have so much to do."
"Sure, if The Paper lets me."
"Thanks, Gary," chimed in Mark, "I'll give you some money so you can take her out to dinner while we figure out where everyone is going to stay. It's a logistical nightmare!"
Gary had only two saves to take care of and both were in the morning. The first was stopping a construction crane from hitting an office building with a steel beam, killing three workers, and the second was preventing a tourist from drowning after falling into Lake Michigan at Navy Pier.
He took care of both and was free to go pick up Anna Maria Perini at O'Hare. He knew what flight she was coming in on and was going to hold up a sign with her name on it. Gary watched as the passengers departed from the flight 88 exit gate. Holding up his sign, he kept watching for an Italian looking woman that somewhat resembled Mark. He wasn't paying much attention when a strikingly beautiful, statuesque blonde tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
Gary hadn't turned around yet and answered, "Who wants to know?"
"I'm Anna Maria Perini, Mark's cousin."
Gary turned to face her and his jaw dropped.
"Wow!....I mean how....I mean...I'm H-Harry G-Gobson!"
Mark was not looking forward to meeting Marissa's mother. They had talked on the phone and she had made it abundantly clear that she did not care for him at all. Marissa had told him it was because of the pregnancy and not his being white. Mark had his doubts though, since his own family, with the exception of Anna Maria, had refused to attend the wedding because of Marissa's being black. "It's their loss," he told her, "Who needs them anyway." Mark had wanted Marissa to come to the airport with him, but because of the lateness of her pregnancy, Dr. Curtis had told her to limit her traveling about.
Mark went to pick up her mother and sister at Midway by himself. He had met Monica once before and they had gotten along fairly well, so he was glad that she would be there, if only to make it easier to spot the two of them. Glancing at the arrival screen, He saw that the short flight from Milwaukee was delayed. "Great, just what I need," he muttered under his breath, "This'll probably make her mother even more upset."
"G...Gary...Gary Hobson," he stuttered, "Y...you're Anna Maria?"
"Yes, I am." She laughed.
"You don't look anything like Mark" said Gary, astonished.
"Thank God for that," she answered, "And Mark didn't mention how good looking you are!"
"Uh..yeah...he didn't tell me about you, either."
"Well now, since we have introduced ourselves, Mr. Hobson," she said, smiling, "I'd suggest we go over to the baggage claim area and get my luggage, don't you agree?"
"It's Gary and...uh...I agree."
"My friends call me Amma, short for Anna Maria."
"Uh...sure...Amma, let's go get your bags" Gary said as they started walking. 'Whoa!' he thought, 'She's Mark's cousin? Wow!'
Mark saw the flight was going to be late and decided to call Marissa to let her know about it.
"Marissa, it's me...Yeah, I'm at Midway...Your mother's flight is delayed about forty minutes... Yeah, the van drove okay...Yes, I promise I'll be nice to your mother...Of course I will!...I wish you were here with me...Yeah, I'm glad Monica is coming, too...You take it easy and don't strain yourself...Don't worry...I know...I love you...I'll see you in a couple of hours...Yeah, me too, 'bye."
"So, tell me about yourself, Amma," said Gary as he drove, "What do you do for a living?"
"I own a small flower shop in Center City Philadelphia," she said, "It's a living, barely."
"Yeah, I know what you mean, it's like that with my bar, McGinty's."
"I'm hardly ever there," she said, "I always seem to have some other place that I need to be. It drives my employees nuts."
"I know exactly how you feel!" laughed Gary, "Believe me, I really know what you mean!"
"I really want to thank you for being such a good friend to Mark. He's had a very difficult time over the past couple of years. I'm very embarrassed and upset that my family refused to attend the wedding just because he's marrying someone black. She loves him and he loves her and that's all that should matter."
"I agree. Um....by the way, uh, you do know that Marissa is....blind, don't you?"
"Yes, Mark told me. That too, shouldn't matter."
"Marissa's not only my business partner, but also my best friend. I've known her for a very long time and I'll say this about her...even though she can't see with her eyes, she can see better than most of us with her heart." A small smile appeared across Gary's face.
"She sounds like a wonderful woman, Gary."
Marion Crumb arrived at McGinty's at three o'clock. He went over to the front bar and ordered a beer, "Hey, Gina, good to see ya again. Hobson around?"
"Nope, he went to the airport to pick up Mark's cousin."
"How 'bout Marissa, is she here?"
"Of course not," Gina replied, "Not in her condition."
"What condition?" asked Crumb, "She sick or somethin'?"
"Didn't you know?" answered Gina, "She's gonna have a baby!"
"A BABY?" Crumb was surprised, "No, I didn't know, geez, and I got to give her away at the wedding! How far along is she anyway?"
"About eight and a half months."
"She's cuttin' it kinda close there, ain't she?"
Gina smiled and nodded her head.
"Oh, well, kids today, whatcha gonna do?" said Crumb while sipping his beer, "At least she's gettin' married."
"Monica! Monica Clark!" shouted Mark, as he saw her exiting the gate, "Over here!"
"Mark!" Marissa's older sister acknowledged his calling her name and walked over towards him along with another woman.
She greeted Mark with a hug and a kiss and introduced him to her and Marissa's mother, "Mark, I'd like you to meet my mother, Cassandra Clark. Mother, this is Mark Perini, Marissa's fiancé."
"It's finally nice to meet you, Mrs. Clark," he replied, trying to be pleasant, "I've looked forward to seeing you."
"Yeah, I just bet you have!" Mrs. Clark replied tersely.
"Mother, be nice to Mark, okay?" admonished Monica, "I'm sorry, Mark, the flight was fairly turbulent and Mother is a little bit, well, cranky."
"Uh...that's understandable," said Mark, "I'm not crazy about flying, myself."
"How's my daughter and why isn't she here to meet us?" demanded Mrs. Clark.
"She's fine, Mrs. Clark. The doctor just wanted Marissa to limit her traveling, not that anything is wrong, mind you, he just didn't want her to take any chances with the baby." Mark quietly sighed as he knew it was going to be a rough ride to Marissa's apartment.
"I'm not staying at Mark's place, it's too small for the both of us," said Amma, "So I booked a room at the Cass Hotel on Wabash. I know it's a cheap hotel, but it'll do for a few days."
"It's not that far from McGinty's," Gary said, "About eight or nine blocks. We'll get you checked in and then I'll take you to dinner, I'm sure you're a bit hungry after your flight."
"That would be wonderful, Gary, I'm famished!"
"Good! It's a date then...I mean an engagement...no, I mean dinner between two strange people...I mean strangers...oh, I don't know what the hell I mean." Gary was flustered.
Amma giggled, "You're cute when you're confused, Gary. I know what you mean, even if you if you can't quite say it! I'm looking forward to it, it'll be a lot of fun!"
Crumb turned around in his bar seat and saw Lois Hobson, Gary's mother.
"Lois! How the hell are ya? Long time, no see!"
"Just fine, Marion, it has been a long time, hasn't it?"
Crumb pulled out the seat next to him, "Take a load off Lois...where's what's his name...Barney?"
"You mean Bernie," Lois said as she sat down, "He's in Florida for a RV show, he never misses them, you know. I'm still a little peeved that he wouldn't cut it short for Marissa's wedding, but he didn't want to leave that stupid trailer in Tampa!"
Crumb smiled, "It worked out for me, 'cause now I get to give Marissa away. Hey, did you hear? She's got a bun in the oven, if ya know what I mean." Crumb winked.
"The baby?" answered Lois, "Of course I know about it. It's due in a couple of weeks!"
"How come I'm the last to know?"
"Maybe she thought you wouldn't attend the wedding, if you knew. I'm not sure," she answered, "Maybe she just forgot to tell you or she thought you already knew. I do know she likes you very much or she wouldn't have asked you to give her away."
"I'm honored to do it," replied Crumb, "I like the kid too, ya know. So what if she jumped the gun a little, she's a smart cookie and I'm sure she planned this whole thing out."
Lois chuckled and shook her head, "No, I'm afraid not. This was definitely not a planned event, it just sort of, well, happened."
"These things sometimes do...." Crumb smiled, "Wanna beer?"
"Sure, why not!"
"Momma!" cried out Marissa, after Mark, Monica and her mother entered her apartment, "I'm so glad you're here!" she hugged and kissed her, "Monica, you're here too, aren't you?"
"Oh, sweetheart, we're both here!" said Mrs. Clark, "Let me take a look at you! You're as big as a house, my baby girl!"
"Gee, thanks, Momma," Marissa answered sarcastically, "You really know how to make me feel good."
Monica laughed, "Marissa, you look so....so....pregnant!"
"I should hope so! I'm due in a couple of weeks!"
"I have to go back to work, Marissa," said Mark, "So I'll leave you with your family. It was nice to finally meet you Mrs. Clark and good to see you again Monica. Now remember, all of us are going to meet up at McGinty's tonight at eight o'clock, so I'll see everybody then, okay?" He gave Marissa a kiss goodbye and left out of the door.
"He really loves you, doesn't he?" asked Mrs. Clark as soon as Mark was gone.
"Yes, Momma, he does, and I really love him, too."
"Maybe I've been a bit too hard on him, I suppose he's okay."
"Mark’s a good and decent man, Momma, and I'm proud to be marrying him and to carry our child."
"Then I'm happy for the three of you!" replied her mother as a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Momma, then please do me a favor," Marissa asked softly, "Would you say that to Mark, tonight?"
"See, honey, I told you this place never changes!" said Chuck Fishman to his wife Jade as they entered McGinty's. "Lois!...Crumb!....how the heck are you guys? Where's Gar?"
"Geez, they let anyone in here, don't they?" commented Crumb sarcastically.
"Gary's out, Chuck," replied Lois, "It's good to see you again, too."
"Yeah," said Crumb, "Hobson had to go pick up Perini's cousin at the airport." Crumb noticed Jade, "Hey Fishman, who's the lady?"
"That's no lady, that's my wife!" Chuck laughed, "I've always wanted to say that line!"
"Shut up, Chuck," Jade sharply replied. She turned towards Crumb and laughed, "You just can't take him anywhere!"
Crumb was shocked. "You actually married the little guy?"
"I sure did!" Jade smiled broadly, "Two years ago!"
Crumb shook his head, "Geez, nobody tells me nothin'!"
"So, where's the bride to be?" asked Chuck.
"At home, Chuck, she has to rest because of the baby!" Lois quickly answered.
"BABY?" Chuck was shocked, "BABY?...WHAT BABY?"
"Marissa's pregnant, Chuck. You didn't know?" asked Lois.
"NO!...Pregnant?...Marissa?...How?...She never...I didn't think she...HOW?" Chuck looked confused.
Lois smiled and shook her head, "Both you and Gary always thought of Marissa as *one of the guys*. The two of you never realized that she was a woman, a beautiful woman with needs and desires like anyone else!"
"Apparently, Perini *did*!" snapped Chuck.
"Chuck, be nice, Marissa is your friend," replied Lois, "And you should be happy for her."
Chuck shook his head in disbelief, "I guess I'm just a little surprised, that's all, but I am happy for her."
"So, Gary, tell me about yourself," Amma asked as they had dinner, "Are you married?"
"No, I'm divorced."
"Are you seeing anyone?"
"Nah, there never seems to be any time for that," he replied, "How 'bout you? Married?"
"No, and I'm not involved with anyone, either," she answered, "Just for the same reason you said, never any time for it."
"If ya ask me, the two of us need to make some time, don't ya think?" smiled Gary.
"You're right, Gary, we should," Amma replied, "So what do you say to showing me Chicago? I've never been here before and I have three days. Mark will be too busy with the wedding and I don't know anyone else here."
"Sure," said Gary, "I'd be happy to show you around town. We could start tonight after the get-together. We don't have to stay there long, just an hour or so and then we could leave to go out. What do ya say?"
"I say yes!"
It was a little past eight o'clock when everyone was sitting in the back area of McGinty's. Gary looked around the group and saw most of the people that had always meant something special to him over the years. As they laughed and talked, Gary felt good about his life for the first time in a long while.
Gary stood up and raised his glass, "To Marissa and Mark, may your life together be blessed and forever happy!"
"Thank you, Gary," Marissa said, as small tears appeared on her cheeks, "I'm already blessed, with my family and all of my friends just being here."
Marissa's mother asked Mark if they could speak privately. They walked over and entered the office. After the two of them sat down, Cassandra Clark began to speak to him. "Mark, I know I've been very hard on you, but I was upset about you getting my daughter pregnant. I know Marissa has always lived her life in the way that she wanted to, but I'm her mother and still consider her my *special* baby girl, and sometimes still treat her that way." She continued, "I know she loves you and you obviously love her. You seem to be able to take good care of her and even though she'd never admit it, she worries about her life. You respect her and treat her as though she was a woman that can see and that is all she has ever wanted from anyone. It won't be easy for the two of you, but I believe that you'll both make this marriage work." She took Mark's hand, "I want to apologize for my treating you so badly and welcome you to our family. I'm very happy for you, Marissa and my grandchild to be." She gave him a hug.
"I don't know what to say, except, thank you, Cassandra, thank you." Mark wiped a tear from his eye.
Around nine o'clock, the get-together was winding down, with everybody starting to walk around and talk with each other one on one. Lois took this opportunity to have a chat with Marissa.
Lois came over to Marissa and led her to the office. "I'm glad we have this chance to talk, Marissa," said Lois, "You're not the first woman to get married while being pregnant and you won't be the last. I should know....I was pregnant with Gary when Bernie and I got married!"
"You're just kidding, aren't you?" asked Marissa, trying to hold back laughing, "I can't think of you and Bernie *having* to get married."
"Oh, yes, we *had* to get married, alright, Gary was conceived in the back seat of a Chevy."
"Oh, my, I just can't believe it!" laughed Marissa, "And since were *sharing*, please don't tell anyone, but this baby was...um...conceived on the sofa that we're sitting on!"
"How do you know that for sure?" Lois quickly glanced down at the sofa, made a strange face and shook her head.
Marissa smiled, "Every time Mark and I made love, we were, um, careful. The only time we weren't was the day we did it in here. It was my idea, a spur of the moment thing, I was feeling somewhat *adventurous*, I suppose. I caught Mark by surprise, but I guess the surprise caught me!"
Lois laughed, "Your secret is safe with me!"
"Hey, Gar," Chuck asked, "What do you say me, you and Crumb take Perini out tonight? You know, sort of a bachelor party type of thing. We could go to Rush Street!"
"Some other time, Chuck, I...uh...have plans."
"Since when do you have plans, Gar?" Chuck grinned, "What is it, a hot date maybe? Like that would ever happen, buddy."
"Are you ready to go Gary?" asked Amma as she came over to where he and Chuck stood.
"Uh...sure, I'll see you later Chuck, okay?" said Gary as he and Amma walked away.
Chuck's mouth was wide open as he watched the two them leave the bar together.
"The world must be coming to an end," Chuck mused, "First Marissa gets pregnant and now Gar has a date with a beautiful woman, go figure?"
"You say somethin', Fishman?" asked Crumb.
"Yeah, Crumb, let's you and me leave this dump and go get a beer!"
"What about your wife, Fishman?"
"What about her? She'll keep. Let's go."
"What was that all about?" asked Amma, "Your friend Chuck looked like a little boy lost."
Gary shook his head, "Nothing really, it's just Chuck being, well, Chuck. It's hard to explain, so I won't even bother trying."
Gary and Amma went all over Chicago that night. Gary had fallen for Amma and she had fallen for him. They ended up at Navy Pier, looking out at the moon over Lake Michigan. Gary placed his arm around her.
"I've had a wonderful evening, Gary." said Amma.
"So have I, Amma." Gary slowly raised her chin with his fingers and gently kissed her.
"Gary, it doesn't have to end yet," she said, "Let's go back to my hotel room, okay?"
Gary thought about all the times he had turned down requests like that before, only to feel like kicking himself later on. He smiled softly and gazed at Amma, "I would love to."
"I'm glad that you and my mother are finally getting along well, my love," Marissa said, "I was beginning to get worried that two people I love so much would never be friends. I told you that your being white had nothing to do with the way she was acting towards you."
"I know that now, Sweetstuff," replied Mark, "I guess I was assuming that your mother was just like my family. I'm sorry I doubted you."
"Your family will accept me someday, you'll see," she remarked, "But until then, always keep the door open for them."
"I will, I promise. I'm going to go home, Marissa, it's been a long day and I'm tired. Amma’s staying at a hotel and my place will be quiet. I really need that right now." He kissed her goodbye.
After waking up, Gary looked at his watch on the nightstand and it was 6:30AM. Making sure not to disturb Amma, he quietly got out of bed and went to the hotel room door to get The Paper. "You can always find me, Cat, can't you?" Gary whispered, "I really hope The Paper is quiet today, I'm in too good of a mood to have to take care of the city's troubles."
"Good morning, Gary," said Amma as she woke up, "Who were you talking to?"
"Oh...uh...no one, I was just saying it's nice to, uh, get a paper delivered in the morning, that's all."
"A paper? What kind of paper?" she said, anxiously.
"The Sun-Times!" Gary was a bit puzzled by her reaction.
"Oh, that's okay then." She smiled.
"I'm going to go take a shower," said Gary as he kissed her, "Care to join me?"
"Uh...no, I think I'll take mine later, but thanks for the offer!"
Gary went into the bathroom, making sure to take The Paper with him. While showering, he could have sworn hearing a dog bark, but laughed it off, "A dog? In a hotel? No, I'm just hearing things."
"Hmm...bacon...and pancakes! Somebody's in here," Marissa smiled as she walked into her kitchen, "And breakfast sure smells good, who made it?"
"I did!" said Monica, "I wanted to surprise my little sister with a good breakfast this morning! There's juice, bacon, blueberry pancakes and decaf coffee! After all, tomorrow is the big day!"
"Yes, Monica, it is. Thanks for making such a wonderful breakfast!" Marissa paused for a moment and then made her way over to her sister, "Monica, you like Mark, don't you? I mean, you do think he'd make a good brother-in- law?"
"Of course I do! I can see how much he loves you and I love him like a sister would love her brother. Marissa! You're not getting cold feet, are you?"
"Oh, no, it's not that, I just want him to feel like a part of our family, that's all. Mark's relationship with his own family is, well, a bit strained at the moment."
"I know, he told me about it last night," Monica replied, "It's a shame that some people can still behave and think like that in this day and age."
"Yes," sighed Marissa, "It is a shame."
As Gary left the bathroom after taking his shower, he saw Amma talking on the phone while sitting in bed and holding something under the covers.
"Remember, Mickey, get there at three o'clock sharp, you know what to do...You have my number here at the hotel...I gotta go, talk to you later, okay?...'bye."
"Problems?" inquired Gary, "Everything okay?"
"Oh, uh, I just had to take care of something with, uh, the flower shop." Quickly changing the subject, she cheerfully asked, "Did you have a nice shower?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Gary was puzzled by her behavior since she seemed to be trying to hide something, but he wasn't sure what.
"So, how are you this morning, Gary? Sleep well?...I want to thank you for such a wonderful time last night. I haven't done that sort of thing in a long time...I mean go out, of course, and, well, the other thing, too." Amma giggled nervously.
"Uh....yeah, me too, on both counts," chuckled Gary as he got dressed, "I have a few things that I need to take care of today and then I have to go pick up me and Mark's tuxes. What do ya say to dinner later on after I'm done?"
"Sure, Gary, only it's my treat this time though, okay?"
"Okay," smiled Gary, "I gotta go, I'll see you later."
Gary left the hotel and walked to McGinty's. He thought about what had happened the night before and it felt good. It had been a long time since he had been with a woman in that way. One thing bothered him though, Amma was hiding something and his past experiences with anyone who was that secretive made him suspicious. "Maybe it's just my imagination."
When Gary entered McGinty's at 7:30AM, Mark was already there, setting up the bar.
"Hey, Gary, I see you've been up and about already this morning. The Paper got you busy?"
"Uh, no, I, uh, just finished taking care of some business, that's all." Gary replied.
"Wait a second, aren't those are the same clothes you had on last night when you left to go out with Amma? You...you haven't been home, have you?" Mark got angry, "What in the hell were you doing with my cousin?"
"Uh, Mark, let me explain, pal, okay?" quickly answered Gary, "I, uh, we...damn it, Mark, I didn't think it would happen, okay?"
"And I didn't think this would happen, either!" yelled Mark as he punched Gary in the face.
"Good morning, my darlings! It's so nice for the three of us to be together!" said Mrs. Clark as she entered the kitchen, "When was the last time that we had breakfast with each other?"
"It has been awhile," said Marissa, "Too long awhile!"
"That's true," chimed in Monica, "We have to do more things together, Marissa. After you have the baby, maybe the three of you could come up to Milwaukee to visit me and Mother, okay?"
"That would be fun and I'm sure Mark would love that, since he really likes the both of you."
"We have the room, sweetheart, so you tell him to get his tail up to see us!"
"I'm sure I won't have to ask him twice, Momma," said Marissa, "Now let's finish breakfast, I'm eating for two and no offense, but I would rather eat than talk right now."
Gary was sitting on the floor, his back against the front bar. He felt his nose and knew it was broken.
Mark looked at him and realized what his anger had made him do, "Oh, God, Gary, I...I'm so sorry, oh, man, what have I done? Do you need an ambulance? A doctor? What can I do?"
"Ow!" said Gary as he touched his nose. He looked up at Mark, "I guess I deserved that. Now I think we're even."
"No, Gary, not by a long shot," said Mark, "I didn't mean to do that, I guess I just lost my head. Amma may be my cousin, but you guys are adults and can do whatever you want. I feel so stupid!"
"I know how you feel," Gary said, "It was that way with me when I punched you after Marissa told me about the baby. I've always kinda thought of her as being like a little sister and I guess both you and I try to protect family."
"Let me help you up," Mark said, grabbing Gary's hand, "This was no way for me to treat my best man, my best friend and my boss. I wouldn't blame you if you fired me on the spot!"
"No," answered Gary, "You know I won't do that. You finish getting the bar set up and I'll take care of bandaging my nose. I'll just tell everyone that I walked into a door. They'll believe it."
"I'm really sorry, Gary, I really am."
"It's okay, pal, I'll survive."
Mark took care of The Paper while Gary was recovering up in the loft. There were only two stories that he needed to take care of that day, a purse snatching in Grant Park and a kitchen fire at the Chicago Chop House on West Ontario Street. Gary treated his nose and after resting, left to go pick up his and Mark's tuxedos. He called Amma and asked her to meet him at La Strada on North Michigan Avenue at 7:30 that evening for dinner.
"I can't wait to see your wedding gown, sweetheart," Mrs. Clark said, "Was it difficult to find one that would, um, fit?"
"I had to shop around and after I finally found one, I had to get it altered just a bit, but I'm pleased," said Marissa as she brought out the dress, "I just hope that it's ivory, like I asked for."
"Ivory?" inquired her mother.
"Well, Momma, I really shouldn't wear white, should I? I am pregnant, after all!"
"That's true," said Monica, "But it is a lovely dress, Marissa and you'll look very beautiful in it."
"Yes you will, my baby girl," said Mrs. Clark, "You'll be a beautiful bride!"
"Thank you both," said Marissa, "Mark said he's wearing a charcoal gray morning coat and an ascot. He told me it was traditional to wear that for a daytime wedding."
"I believe he's right," said Monica, "What's Gary wearing?"
"Something similar, but a bit shorter and a tie instead of ascot. Anyway, I think that's what Mark said, honestly, I don't care what they wear as long as I get married. I'm just really excited!"
"I think we all are, sweetheart!' said her mother while hugging her.
"What happened to your nose, Gary?" asked Amma as they met for dinner.
"I, uh, walked into a door by mistake."
"That door wouldn't have the name Mark, by any chance, would it?"
"It was just a little misunderstanding, that's all," said Gary, "We've gotten over it."
"I'm going to have a little talk with that idiot cousin of mine," she said, "He shouldn't have hit you!"
"No, Amma, leave it be. He feels bad enough as it is, don't make it any worse, after all, tomorrow is his wedding day."
"You're a good man, Gary Hobson."
The day started off with The Paper arriving at 6:30 as it normally would. Gary read it quite thoroughly, but was very surprised to find that there was not much for him to do that day. A small traffic accident in the loop that snarled all downtown traffic for about two hours was the only thing that needed his attention, and even that he could skip since no one got hurt.
"Well, Cat, it looks like even The Paper wants this wedding to take place!"
"Gary, are you talking to that cat again?" asked Lois from the sleeper sofa, "One of these days it just might answer you back and wouldn't you be surprised!"
"Mom, The Paper has nothing for me to do! It's gonna be a great day for the wedding!"
"That's wonderful, son, Marissa and Mark deserve that!"
Mark arrived at McGinty's at 7:30AM to set up for the wedding. He started moving the tables, the chairs and then put a sign in the window that read: 'McGinty's Closed Today For Special Event', he looked over the sign and smiled. At that point, Gary came down from his loft to give him a hand with the set up.
"Great day for a wedding, eh, pal?" said Gary as he turned on more lights.
"I know it is for this one, anyway!" Mark replied as he moved a table to the side of the bar.
"Mark, I need to talk to you about something that is, well, important."
"Sure, Gary, what's up?"
Gary could barely get the words out, "I...I think I've fallen in love with Amma."
Mark looked at him, waited a moment and said, "Wow! Really? How does she feel about you?"
"I'm not sure," answered Gary, "But I think that she loves me, too."
"Don't get me wrong, Gary, I'm happy for you, but she lives in Philadelphia and you live in Chicago. Where are you two gonna meet? Cincinnati?"
"I know," answered Gary, "It's not gonna be easy, but if this is meant to be, we'll find a way, I'm sure of it!"
"Marissa told me that The Paper always seems to get in the way of you having a relationship, Gary," said Mark, "What makes you think this time will different?"
"Nothing at all, pal, but I have to try, I'm in love with her."
"I wish you luck, man, I really do."
"Thanks," said Gary, "I'll need it."
"Don't you look the vision of loveliness, sweetheart," said Mrs. Clark as Marissa came out of her bedroom wearing her wedding dress, "I think I'm going to cry!"
"Please don't cry, Momma," replied Marissa, "Then I'll start doing it and mess up my makeup."
"What time is that Mr. Crumb going to be here to pick us up?" asked Monica impatiently, "I'm starting to get nervous and I want to go!"
"Crumb said that he’d be here at eleven o'clock since the wedding is at one," answered Marissa, "Would someone please tell me what time it is?" She made a grimace as she spoke.
"It's ten-forty five, sweetheart, are you feeling okay?"
"My stomach is bothering me a little, Momma, but I think it's just nerves," Marissa answered, "I'll be okay."
"Well, Jade, in a just couple of hours, Marissa will be married...finally!" said Chuck to his wife in their hotel room, "I still can't get believe her getting pregnant, but I guess anything can happen!"
"You, if anyone, should know that, Chuck," laughed Jade, "After all, who'd of thought of us getting married?"
"Point taken, honey!" laughed Chuck.
At eleven o'clock, Gary let in the caterers, because Marissa and Mark had invited McGinty's staff to the wedding and didn't think it was right to have them work the reception.
Mark decided to leave McGinty's since he didn't want to see Marissa before the wedding. "It's bad luck, Gary, and I want nothing but good things to happen in this marriage! I'm going to Grant Park and walk around. I'll be back at twelve-thirty."
"Hey, pal, why you're out, do you want to take care of a small car accident in the loop? It's not much and no one gets hurt, but it ties up traffic in the city this afternoon."
"No, I'll pass. I'm far too nervous to do anything with The Paper today, Gary, and you did say that no one gets hurt."
"Yeah, that's okay then, it won't really matter if we blow it off, I mean, nobody gets hurt, big deal."
Marissa, her family and Crumb arrived at McGinty's at eleven forty-five and the guests started arriving at noon.
"Gary, you do have the rings, don't you? Asked Marissa, "I know that you have a lot to do, but they are important and somehow I just keep thinking that you might forget." She chuckled.
"Yeah, I got 'em, they're in my vest pocket. Hey, Marissa, guess what? The Paper has nothing for me to do today!"
"That's great! She replied, "I don't want anything to go wrong today," then she added, "Gary, I'm pretty nervous, but make no mistake, I'm very happy!"
"You look very beautiful, Marissa, and don't worry, everything is gonna be just fine!"
Mark just wandered around Grant Park, first looking at the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago and then the view of the lake. People would occasionally stare at him since he was wearing his wedding tux, but he didn't care. He sat down on a park bench, lit his pipe and thought about how his entire life had changed since he arrived in Chicago eighteen months ago. He thought of how fortunate he was to be marrying Marissa and her having their baby. He then thought of Gary and The Paper and how it had changed his life forever. He smiled when he thought of McGinty's and how great it was to manage it. He paused for a moment to say a small prayer for his late daughter, Lisa. He wished that she could have somehow been there with him, but knew that she was at peace now. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was now twelve fifteen and since it would take him about fifteen minutes to walk to McGinty's, he knew he had better get going. He started on his way there with a smile on his face. "It's gonna be a great day," he said quietly to himself, "I can just feel it."
The guests were all seated and Father McAllistor was at a small podium that served as his table for the ceremony. Marissa and Crumb waited patiently in the office and Mark was upstairs in the loft with Gary.
"Well, Mark, are you ready?" asked Gary, "We have to go out via the side door and then come in the front entrance because Marissa is in the office with Crumb."
"I'm ready, let's do it!"
Mark and Gary came into McGinty's and went to the back area of the bar where Father McAllistor stood waiting. The wedding music started coming from the jukebox and this was Marissa's cue.
In the office, Crumb held Marissa's hand, "Okay, Marissa, it's time...Are you feelin' alright?" Crumb was concerned because she seemed to be in some discomfort.
"I...I have a slight stomach ache, Crumb," replied Marissa, "I think it's just my nerves, that's all."
"In a few minutes, you'll be married and it'll be all over," said Crumb, "So just hang in there!"
As they left the office and headed towards the podium, Marissa stopped for a second and made a quiet grunt.
"Crumb! Crumb!" she whispered out of the side of her mouth.
"What?" Crumb answered out the side of his.
"My water just broke."
"I'm going to have the baby! I'm going into labor!"
"Oh no, not now, keep it in if you can!"
"I don't think it works that way, Crumb."
"Let's just keep walking, you've got some time. How far apart are your contractions?"
"I...I'm not sure."
"We're almost there, just hold on for as long as you can."
As they got to the podium, Crumb whispered to both Mark and Gary what was going on with Marissa.
Gary told the Priest, "Make it fast, Father, they don't have much time!"
"Because of, ehem, certain circumstances, we will dispense with the vows that the bride and groom had written and go straight to the marriage ceremony," said a somewhat flustered Father McAllistor, "Do you, Mark, take Marissa for your lawfully wedded wife?"
"Marissa, do you take Mark for your lawfully wedded husband?"
"I DO!" screamed Marissa in obvious pain.
"Before God, Cook County, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may, ehem, kiss the bride."
"I think he's done a little more than that, already!" quipped Chuck.
Jade jabbed Chuck in his ribs, "Be nice!"
Mark, Gary and Crumb took Marissa to the office through the kitchen. Lois realized what was happening and called 911 as Crumb left McGinty's to see if he could find a doctor somewhere.
Mark and Gary placed Marissa on the sofa, just as Lois came in and told them, "The ambulance can't get here for a while, boys, there's a huge traffic jam all over the city!"
Mark and Gary both looked at each other and said at the same time, "The small accident! OH NO!"
"GARY!" screamed Marissa, "You're gonna have to deliver my baby! You've done it before, remember? In the elevator with Chuck? Please, Gary, YOU have to do it!"
Gary shook his head, "Oh, no, not again!"
"Push, Marissa, push!" yelled Gary.
"ARRGH! The pain, OWWW!" shouted Marissa
Mark held her hand and put a damp washcloth on her forehead, "Come on, Sweetstuff, PUSH!"
"ARRGH! PERINI, if you EVER touch me again, you're a DEAD MAN!"
"She really doesn't mean that, Mark." said Lois, smiling.
"THE HELL I DON'T! ARRGH!!" yelled Marissa.
"She doesn't mean that, either."
"Push, Marissa, I can see the head!" yelled Gary.
"It's....It's a boy!" shouted Gary as he held up the newborn.
"I have a son!" beamed Mark.
Everybody started congratulating the happy couple on the birth of their baby, but Marissa was still in pain and very concerned about it.
"Aren't the labor pains supposed to stop after giving birth?" asked Marissa while grimacing.
"They should," said Lois, "Are you still having contractions?"
"Oh, no...I think...ANOTHER BABY!" shouted Gary, "I can see the head! Push, Marissa, PUSH!"
"TWINS?" Mark was in obvious shock.
"PERINI! If you ever touch me again, you'll be singing SOPRANO!" shouted Marissa.
"She doesn't mean that either, Mark" said Lois.
"ARRRGH!! PERINI! YOU'RE A DEAD MAN!!"
"It's...it's a girl! You have a daughter!" Gary said as he held up the second infant.
"TWINS! We have twin babies!" Mark then fainted.
The ambulance finally came and took Marissa and the twins to the hospital. After a while, everyone came into the hospital room to see them.
"Mother and babies are doing just fine," said the doctor, "And you did an excellent job of delivering them, Mr. Hobson."
"It was nothing, nothing at all." Gary said while rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.
"Thank you, Gary," said Marissa from her hospital bed, "I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!"
"So...What are the little darlings names?" asked Lois.
"Gianfranco and Cassandra," replied Marissa, "After Mark's grandfather and my mother!"
"Well, I think we should give the new parents some time to themselves, don't you, everyone?" said Lois to the group, "We'll see you guys later, okay?"
After everybody left, Mark and Marissa kissed each other and the babies.
"Mark, I'm sorry for yelling at you like I did during the births, I really didn't mean what I said."
"I know that, Sweetstuff. In all the excitement, I never got a chance to tell you how happy I am to be married to you. I still don't know what to call you, I mean, are you going to keep your maiden name or what?"
"Mark, my love, I had thought about keeping my maiden name, then I thought of *Clark-Perini*," she answered, "But I'm very proud to be your wife, I love you and I want everybody to know that, so I'm going to be Marissa Perini from now on!"
"I love you, Marissa Perini!"
"I love you, too, you proud poppa!"
"What a hell of a day," said Gary to Amma, "But everything turned out alright in the end. Marissa and Mark not only got married, but she had twins to boot! What a day!"
"You're right, Gary," she replied, "It really was a hell of a day! And you did a great job of delivering the babies, so you should be very proud of yourself!"
"It was nothing. I just did what I had to do." Gary paused for a moment, "Amma, I need to talk to you about something."
"Sure, Gary, what is it?"
"I....I'm in love with you."
Amma smiled, "I know," she took his hand and placed it in hers, "Gary, I love you, too, but I'm afraid our love can never be. I can't leave Philadelphia. Too many people depend on my being there. I wish I could explain it to you, but I can't, I don't think you could understand."
"You're right," said Gary, "I don't understand. You just said you love me, too, but you can't come here to Chicago?"
"I really do love you, but I have a responsibility, I...Gary, I'm going to tell you something important, all I ask is for you to keep an open mind, can you do that for me?"
"I...I guess I can." replied Gary.
Amma took a deep breath, "It all started four years ago....with a dog at my doorstep."
"Gary.....you see....back in Philadelphia....I-I get tomorrow's newspaper.....today......"
THE END (?)
Email the author: