The plan was simple. Now that they were both of legal age, they could get a marriage license without parental consent. Since they couldn't risk discovery, they decided to meet in the Williams Street Alley, where Eddie had left the car earlier that day.
After dinner, Esther excused herself and announced that she was going to meet some girlfriends for their Friday night social. At the same time, a few blocks away, Eddie kissed his mother and told her he was going to work on the car.
The conspirators, unseen by their neighbors, met in the alley, and after a furtive glance or two, embraced and kissed. As fear, passion and anticipation mingled, they reassured each other, and, after a few hard turns on the old Ford's crank, the jalopy chugged to life.
The drive east was mostly accomplished in silence, with a few nervous attempts at small talk. Eddie almost missed the Justice of the Peace sign in front of the neat white clapboard home after they crossed the state border into Vermont. Esther spied it first and announced it excitedly.
They rang the bell and waited nervously. Finally, the porch light went on and Norman Rockwell's idea of a Vermont Justice of the Peace came to the door, complete with pipe, evening newspaper and slippers. One look at the eager couple and he knew what was up.
He ushered them in to the parlor, sat them down and began the interrogation. When the JP was satisfied that all was in order, he called for his wife, who had been in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner and pouring lemonade for the lovebirds.
They stood and repeated the words, Eddie slipped the thin, plain gold ring on Esther's finger, and the JP pronounced them man and wife.
The JP and his wife witnessed the first kiss, the license was signed, and as Eddie and the JP concluded the monetary transaction, the matronly woman of the house whispered in Esther's ear. Esther nodded.
As they left the home, beaming, the newly married couple barely heard the directions to the nearest roadside inn.
The innkeeper, having been forewarned of the newlyweds' imminent appearance by a phone call from his cousin, the Justice of the Peace, made up the bed in the bridal suite and hung fresh towels in the private bath.
Ten minutes later, when the Model A sputtered to a stop in the courtyard of the inn, the young couple found a host with an understanding smirk waiting for them. Even so, he dryly inquired as to their wishes.
“Two single rooms for the night, I presume?”
“Um, well, no,” Eddie said. “We just.. we're...”
“Do you have a bridal suite?” Esther interrupted.
“Oh, yes, of course,” said the innkeeper. “Congratulations. Here's the key – and pleasant dreams.”
“One more thing,” said the innkeeper mysteriously, stopping them in their tracks. With his wry smile slowly warming his lined face, he inquired, “Will you be wanting a wake-up call?”
They giggled no and tried to appear as if they weren't rushing to the room. They entered a plain room filled with soft light from a kerosene lamp, and furnished with old but comfortable rustic furniture, dominated by a handsome four-poster bed with a plush feather mattress.
Esther took her cardboard valise into the bathroom, and in a few moments emerged, wearing a nightgown that was just like the one that her famous customer, Mame Fay, had especially liked.
Esther blew out the light, joined Eddie under the covers, and they celebrated their union as man and wife.
The next afternoon, when they returned home, hoping for the congratulations of their families and friends, what they found instead was a bitter, cold reception in the middle of a summer heat wave.
©Copyright 2009 Frank LaPosta Visco
Next: In Part Ten, the punishment.