Jarlut called Bithot into his office before Bithot set off on the mission to find new partners for Jimmy and Anne.
“While you are at Earth making the rescues you must check on Anne's former friend, Dennis, as agreed so that we can bring her news of him. Do you want to take one of the screeners with you to help you locate this Dennis?” Jarlut said.
“Certainly not. I would not like one of them on my ship. I will have no trouble finding him in England. I have got all the information I need to find him from Anne’s inner thought waves. I will just take Ekurb as is normal.”
"As you wish then.”
“After calling to see their love partners, Axonia and Arnia, Bithot and Ekurb set off on their quest. “You say Jarlut wanted you to take a screener instead of me. Should I be flattered?” Ekurb said.
“Not really. I do not want a screener on board if I have to do something unorthodox.”
Ekurb shook his head. “Do you not think you got into enough trouble last time by doing something unorthodox?”
“I must do what I must do.”
Bithot was drawn towards the Yorkshire coast. They had trouble locating Dennis for a while but knew they were closing in.
“There he is on that motorcycle. He looks like a soldier,” Ekurb said.
“They are called recruits,” Bithot said.
Dennis rode into a field along a cliff top path as the waves were crashing into the cliff face below.
“Well, he looks healthy enough does he not?” Ekurb said.
“Yes,” Bithot replied. “I need to check his brain pulses.”
“There is no need to do that yet,” Ekurb said. “He is in no danger. Unless he is foolish enough to fall off the cliff.”
Bithot took no notice of his friend. “No wonder the two of them are in so much love his pulses are perfect for her.”
“Gather whatever information you can from him and then we can concentrate on drawing in the birds.”
Again Bithot took no notice of Ekurb and caused Dennis to blackout. The motorcycle veered out of control over the cliff edge.
“No! No, Bithot, you can not do that again.”
“Do what again, Ekurb? It is nothing to do with me. It is lucky we were here to save him from certain death.”
In seconds Dennis was lying in one of the tubes. Ekurb looked at Bithot. “I can see why you did not want a screener on board.”
Anne woke and looked up at the sky. She quite liked the way that the sunlight woke her in the mornings. She was becoming accustomed to the lifestyle on the island, especially shopping in the capital with Eve, and the days spent having fun on the tropical beaches. She was often lonely, but was used to that in her life, and wondered if it would ever change. She had received a memo from the administration centre a few days before giving her news of Dennis: telling her he had joined the army in Yorkshire. It also told her that he was not currently involved with any girls. She was happy to get the news but frustrated because its content was limited.
Anne put on her dressing gown and made her way to the living room. It surprised her that the old man was sitting with Eve and Roger. She sat at the table, while Eve poured her a cup of tea, and Anne knew that that the old man's visit was for her benefit. She looked at him, waiting for what he had to say.
"Anne, we kept our side of the bargain and gave you news of Dennis. We must now ask you to keep your part. We have a partner for you and have arranged a wedding service for this afternoon."
A noticeable silence filled the room as Anne sat staring at the old man, her face expressionless.
Eve broke the silence. "Well," she said, "I might get me dance now."
Anne started to laugh, but it was only brief. "You're having a laugh, aren't you? This is some kind of joke, isn't it?"
"I am quite serious, Anne. As I said, it is arranged for this afternoon."
She stared at him again for a few seconds before she spoke. "This afternoon, that can't happen. I need a bit of time to get to know him."
"You have many years to get to know him. I am afraid I must insist. The service has been arranged and preparation has already begun for the reception in The Red Lion. Your dress will be here in an hour for a fitting, and Roger has agreed to give you away if that is all right by you."
"All right by me. All right by me. No, it bloody well isn't all right by me. You can forget it."
The man glanced at Eve and Roger. "Can you leave us for a while," he said.
The couple got up and left the room, closing the door behind them and returning the silence to the room.
"So, what is this where you threaten me?"
The man shook his head. "Trust me, Anne, this man is right for you. I've checked his pulses myself."
"Don't give me all that technical stuff. All my life, nearly everybody I've ever cared about has shit on me."
"There is no need to swear, Anne."
"No need to swear. There was only one person who cared about me and look what a mess I made of that. So what makes you think that you can get the right one for me, with my track record?"
"It is done. He is the perfect match for you, and you will have some fine children between you."
She thought of her time in Spain and how because Craig tricked her, she should have been pregnant but wasn't. "Don't you know? Don't you, who knows everything, know that I'm addled, I'm useless?"
"You are not infertile. Maybe your partner was but you certainly are not. Even if you were, we could soon put that right. You must put some trust in me. I would not do you wrong. This man is perfect for you and you are perfect for him. You will enjoy parenthood with him and I know you will be a very good mother."
So Craig is sterile after all, she thought. She could hardly believe he told her he wasn't sterile just to upset her and to make her think she was pregnant. What a slag that man is. Mischief, Ruth calls it. Mischief, I call it evil. She gave a large sigh. "Where is he then, where is this mister perfect? Can I see him?"
"Under your tradition that would be bad luck on your wedding day."
"Bad luck! What is there any other kind?"
"Please, Anne, just go to the church, and if you walk down the aisle and you do not like the look of him, just turn and walk back out. I promise no one will try to stop you."
"And what will happen to me then?"
"Nothing will happen to you. Some other selector will find you another partner."
"And what about you? What will happen to you?"
"That is not something for you to concern yourself with."
"You'll be in trouble, won't you?" She waited for a reply, but he just looked back at her. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "What the hell, maybe I will play along with your little game, but if I don't like what I see I can walk out, okay."
"Of course," he said. He radiated a warm glow as if a great weight had left him, and smiled as if he were human.
It was a hectic few hours. Eve and Anne laughed at the pure whiteness of the wedding dress. Anne put the veil on. "They like the full works, don't they? You know, Eve, I've always longed for a proper wedding. All my life, even when I was a young girl, I used to sit and daydream, imagining the thrill of walking down the aisle of an old church in a beautiful gown, special. You know what I mean?"
"Oh yes, I know what you mean." Eve gave a contented smile. “You wait till you see the honeymoon suite. You'll love it, Anne. It's the sort of place that would only be used by multimillionaires back home."
Anne smiled, but only briefly. "I'm so frightened, Eve. I hope I don't end up with another nasty, two-faced, bastard like that Craig. Why don't they let me get to know him first?"
"He won't be nasty, Anne, they wouldn't bring him here if he was." Eve looked up to the sky. "It'll be a big event for them as well you know."
"Yeah, like feeding the penguins, I suppose." Anne laughed, much to Eve's relief.
Anne was escorted by Roger as she walked out to the open-topped Bentley at five to two, not just nervous at being a bride, but extra nervous because she had no idea who she was about to marry. "This is some blind date," She said to Roger. She stopped just before they got into the car. "There's something I need to ask of you," She said.
* * * * *
The old man was waiting for them at the entrance to the church. Anne stopped and smiled at him. "You look beautiful," he said. Marvin would be proud.
"Marvin, there's that name again. Who is this Marvin?"
She dismissed the matter, She had other things on her mind. "I want you to do something for me. I want you to give me away. I want you to be my dad."
The old man looked at Roger and then back at her. "I do not know, it has not been done before, no one has ever asked that before."
"What about Roger? He was looking forward to…"
"I'm fine. I gave away my own daughter. This should be your day as well and I think it's a wonderful idea. You should be proud."
"I am more than proud, I am so joyous and I feel so honoured to do this. Thank you, thank you, Anne."
"Thank you," she said and linked arms with him. "Come on then, come and walk with me."
The bridal march was playing as they walked into the small roofless church. Anne glanced at the neighbours from her street, all of whom had become her friends, every one of them immaculately dressed and smiling at her.
She felt like a princess, it all seemed so dreamy as if she were moving in slow motion. Then she noticed the groom standing with his hands clasped behind his back. She stopped walking and stared at him. He stood just like Dennis and looked just like him from the back. Could it be him? She stood still, looking at him, wishing, hoping, praying, but not really believing.
She turned to look at the old man. "I don't think I can go through with this. Why did you bring someone who looks so much like him, why?"
The old man gave a laugh, and it puzzled her. Why did he do that?
"Sometimes, Anne, sometimes wishes do come true you know."
The music stopped and Anne stood in complete silence, the only sound she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. She looked over to the groom again and he turned around and smiled at her. She remembered her wish. It was true, her wish really was coming true?
The bouquet fell from her hands. Her mouth dropped open as she stared at him, hardly able to believe what she was seeing. Her heart was pounding, her hands were shaking as tears of intense emotion began to form in her eyes. She pulled off her veil and dashed to him, throwing her arms around him as she reached him.
He kissed her, giving her tingling sensations through her whole body as she responded to the lips that she had badly missed for such a long time. They lingered in their embrace for a few seconds before easing away and smiling at each other, both of them eager to continue with the ceremony, enjoying every second.
The congregation stood and clapped. The old man looked over at a special family, noticing their joy. They were Martha's descendants and they were looking forward to meeting Anne at the reception and welcoming her into the family. The old man smiled as he looked up at the sky, knowing his boss Jarlut, his friend Ekurb, and their companions Arnia and Axonia would be looking down at the ceremony, pleased with the show.
End of text.