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Rated: E · Fiction · Drama · #385891
Crystal meets Pastor Markham
Chapter Nine - The Wedding Plans

         When Erick and Crystal got home after her last class that day, they found a message waiting. Erick pushed the ‘play’ button on the answering machine, then wheeled Crystal up to the kitchen table. As he scooped up their dinner from the slow cooker they’d turned on that morning, the message began:

         ”Hi, Erick, it’s Pastor Markham. I’ve got a meeting tonight till about 8:00. If that’s not too late for you, and you’re available, I’d like to stop by, meet Crystal, and we can talk about your plans for a short while. I got your address from the church record, and I can be there by about 8:30 or 8:45. Just leave me a voice mail on my office number. I’ll check after the meeting, and we’ll go from there. Either way for now, I want to congratulate you and Crystal on your engagement and tell you we’d love to take care of your wedding plans for you. Talk to you soon.”

         ”I even like his voice,” Crystal said, smiling, as Erick put their plates on the table. “He’s not stuffy like some of them can be.”

         I couldn’t agree more, honey,” Erick smiled. “Okay with you if we take him up on tonight?” Erick picked up the cordless to place the call.

         ”Sure, honey. I’m eager to meet him,” she said as she carefully moved a spoonful of stew to her mouth. “God, Erick, it’s going to take ages to learn to eat cleanly with this hand,” she wailed as the stew fell from the spoon into her lap. She looked at him, frustration all over her face. Erick wiped off her skirt, then laid a paper towel over it to protect against future spills. He pushed his chair next to hers.

         ”Go on, honey. Try again. All you need is practice,” he said lovingly.

         ”Erick, would you consid…”

         He put his arm around her shoulders. “No, honey. I won’t feed you. That’s not the way to do it. Starting down that road would only make it harder for you later on.” He knew if was the frustration talking and not her true spirit.

         ”You’re right, sweetheart. God, you’re right. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. Could you at least stay this close to me while I work at it?”

         ”Just try and make me move away, beautiful!” he said firmly. “You know I use any chance I get to be as close to you as I can. This is just an unexpected pleasure for me, baby.” He smiled at her when he saw a wide grin of love slowly creep across her frightened face. “Now get going on that stew. I’ll call Pastor Markham,” he said, picking up the cordless again.

         ”Yes, dear,” she said mockingly. They smiled at each other, both seeing the love and humor in her response.

         After leaving the voicemail message, Erick turned his attention back to Crystal. The paper towel he’d put across her lap was spotted like a leopard skin, but the spots were small enough to indicate she’d eaten far more than she dropped. “Well, well,” he said enthusiastically. “I see we’re improving already, aren’t we?”

         ”That paper towel is awfully spotted, honey,” she said between bites.

         ”Yes, but the size of them tells me you’re eating far more than you’re dropping. These are too small to be a whole mouthful like that first one was. Look at them, dear.”

         ”Yeah, I guess that’s the proof, huh?” she said tentatively. “It felt like I was getting a mouthful lately. I guess I was at that.” She looked at him lovingly.

         ”Now see? It wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be, was it?” He grinned.

         ”OK, I get the hint, darling,” she laughed.

         ”Good. Finish your stew. I’ll get a clean skirt out for you to change into before Pastor Markham gets here.”

         ”Okay. Thanks, my love!”

         After getting Crystal’s skirt changed, they relaxed in the living room, watched the evening news, and did a little reading. At 8:43, the doorbell rang. Erick opened it.

         ”Good evening, Erick.”

         ”Good evening, Pastor Markham. Come in, please.”

         By the time Erick had closed the door and turned around, Pastor Markham was already at the couch. “You must be Crystal,” he said warmly, extending his hand. “Pastor Chris Markham.”

         ”It’s nice to meet you, Pastor,” she said, nervously shaking his hand.

         ”Relax, Crystal, please,” he said calmly.

         ”Sorry, Pastor. I’m… just a little… nervous about what you might be thinking about the age difference between Erick and I.”

         ”God doesn’t put an age limit on love, Crystal. We shouldn’t either. It doesn’t bother me in the least. The important thing is what you two feel for each other.”

         The three of them talked for over an hour, bringing Pastor Markham up to date on their relationship, and answering his questions along the way. “Okay, Erick, Crystal, let’s get down to the fun stuff,” He said, smiling. “Let’s make some wedding plans.” He and Erick both saw Crystal’s eyes immediately light up.

         ”GREAT!” she shouted. “Um… sorry, Pastor. It’s just that I’ve been looking forward to this for three long years now. And with the accident, I’m even more thrilled that it’s actually going to happen.” She looked at Erick, and he saw a love in her eyes deeper than ever before.

         ”I love you, Crystal,” Erick said warmly as he leaned over and kissed her.

         ”Thanks, honey. I guess it shows, huh?” she asked sheepishly.

         ”Yes, it does, Crystal,” Pastor Markham said softly. “And that’s the way it should be. Okay. Let’s get down to some details. Your family has to come from out of town, right, Crystal?”

         It was then that Erick realized he’d forgotten to tell Pastor Markham in his earlier message about wanting the wedding in Florida. “Um… Pastor Markham, I overlooked something when I left you that voicemail originally,” Erick began. “What we’d really like to do is arrange to have the wedding in a church of our denomination in or around Sarasota, Florida. Where Crystal’s family and friends are. So they could all be at the wedding.”

         ”But we’re hoping you can arrange to come down and perform the ceremony for us yourself,” Crystal quickly added, a little afraid that not saying so would imply otherwise.

         ”That shouldn’t be a problem,” Pastor Markham said. “Our churches have always worked together on these things. Let’s get some details down, and I’ll let you know if we need to revise anything. How’s that? And I’d love to officiate for you. I’d consider it an honor.”

         Pastor Markham checked his calendar. How about Saturday afternoon, three weeks from now? That would give time to finalize arrangements and avoid a scheduling conflict. I remember Erick saying your family would be more comfortable with the wedding being ASAP since you two are already having to be intimate out of necessity.”

         Crystal and Erick looked at each other and slowly smiled. “That should work for Sandra’s family too, shouldn’t it honey?”

         ”Yep. That’ll work just fine,” Erick said, turning to Pastor Markham.

         ”Okay,” he said, marking it down. “2:00 P.M. on Saturday, October 16th. Now. Will this be a 3-ring ceremony?”

         ”Definitely!” Crystal piped in. “I’m making sure all the girls know he’s mine!” she chuckled.

         ”Well I guess that’s settled,” Pastor Markham said as he and Erick laughed.

         ”Pastor Markham, that was settled from the moment I proposed to her and I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Erick smiled lovingly at Crystal.

         ”Thank you, sweetheart,” Crystal answered warmly. “Um… Pastor Markham, would you excuse us for a moment?” Turning to Erick she said, “Honey, I have to go to the bathroom.”

         ”We’ll be right back, Pastor Markham,” Erick said as he picked Crystal up and walked down the hall.

         While they were gone, Pastor Markham ran a few things through his mind in an effort to make sure he covered everything with them. In doing so, he realized two things he had to make sure he asked Crystal. And he had a very special reason for them. Erick and Crystal returned a few minutes later. Erick sat her gently on the couch again, and sat next to her.

         ”We’ll get back to the wedding plans in a minute, but first there are one or two things I’d like to ask you, Crystal, if you don’t mind,” Pastor Markham began.

         ”Um… not at all, Pastor,” she said, a little nervously.

         ”Thank you. I want to say first that my question is not being asked for the obvious reason. I have a very special reason for asking. Erick’s original message to me indicated that you are Catholic. Will you remain Catholic after your marriage?”

         ”Actually, I want to change and join your church, Pastor Markham. I’ve not really been attending church recently, even before the accident. I’ve gotten tired of dealing with a lot of the restrictions and requirements of Catholicism. I feel sometimes that they actually hold back the growth of my faith. They may still fit a lot of people, don’t get me wrong. But they just don’t fit me anymore. Besides, I have enough new obstacles to deal with in my life now. I need to simplify it where I can.”

         ”I appreciate your honesty, Crystal, and your position. Has Erick told you much about our church yet?”

         ”Yes, he has. We’ve talked quite a lot about it in the short time I’ve been here, right from the moment I told him I had to make a change. That’s why I was able to tell you just now that I’d like to do this.”

         ”Crystal, I’m glad to hear you say that, but not for the reason you might think. I said I have a special reason for asking you. One of my goals for our church is to be a church where those with any form of physical challenge, like you, can feel at home. Where they know they’re welcome to come and will be treated with respect. If, after things have settled down for you and Erick, you’d be interested, I’d like to have you assisting me in this effort at our church. You’d make a wonderful first contact for those in these situations, and a wonderful spokesperson for us, and you’d be paid for your work, of course. I know it’s strange to bring it up now, and I apologize for that. But I wanted to say it before I totally forgot.”

         Crystal and Erick looked at each other. Not one word passed between them. None had to. The look in both their eyes told the other that they were most definitely thinking the same thing. That very warm feeling they’d both gotten at McDonald’s when they were able to help Sandra overcome her fears, and help her family deal with her situation. As they looked at each other for that lingering moment, the decision was made. Crystal was getting excited, remembering Sandra, but she had to say it. “Pastor Markham, I would love to help you in that effort. I’m honored that you asked. Really.” Erick squeezed her one-handed.

         ”We had a recent experience eating out where we were able to help a young girl who’d just lost her leg to cancer overcome her fears,” Erick explained. “Crystal and I see this as an opportunity to continue giving that kind of help.”

         ”Thank you both, then,” Pastor Markham said warmly. “We’ll work out those details after things have settled down for you two. You just let me know when you’re ready, OK? Meanwhile, let’s get back to the high priority stuff,” he laughed.

         ”Sounds great to me!” Crystal chirped. Erick and Pastor Markham laughed again, Pastor Markham quickly noting that her sense of humor and laugh seemed to be contagious.

         ”Okay. How many will there be in the wedding party?”

         ”Just the basic four,” Crystal said. “We’re keeping it small because I think we’re going to have to pay for most of it ourselves. Erick’s parents are both in a nursing home and my parents are covering the medical bills left from my accident.”

         ”Okay, that’s no problem. Who’s going to give you away, Crystal?”

         ”My father.”

         ”Um… if you don’t mind my asking, how will you come down the aisle?”

         Crystal smiled. Widely. “I was hoping you’d ask that,” she grinned. “On my father’s arm of course,” she said proudly.

         ”But…” Pastor Markham looked intrigued by her answer.

         ”I’m going to hop, with dad holding my arm,” she explained. “I’ve still got one good leg, and I’m going to use it,” she said calmly but with a determined tone. “I’m not giving in to these limitations any more than I absolutely have to,” she said, smiling but firm. She and Erick looked at each other and smiled knowingly. Now he knew she’d not only listened to, but heard what he’d said to her at McDonald’s that day.

         ”Well, you’ll get no argument here, Crystal. I admire your determination. Will you want a chair to sit in at the altar?”

         ”No,” she said calmly. “I’ll lean on Erick with my arm. I’m going to take these vows the traditional way.” Erick and Pastor Markham both smiled again at her determination.

         ”Speaking of the vows, will you write your own, or should we use the more standard ones?”

         ”We’re writing our own,” Crystal beamed. “Because the love we share deserves something very special.” She looked at Erick. Her eyes were overflowing with love.

         ”Can you email me a copy of them a few days before the wedding? I need to make sure I have time to learn them so I can time the service and prompt either of you if needed.”

         ”I can give you a copy of them right now,” Erick said as he stood up. “Excuse me a minute, please.”

         ”We finished them yesterday,” Crystal explained.

         Soon, Erick returned and handed Pastor Markham a single printed sheet. “My vows are on the front, Crystal’s are on the back,” he said.

         Pastor Markham read them over quickly for reference. “Crystal, are you sure you want to say this?” he asked, a bit surprised.

         ”Yes, Pastor Markham. Very sure. I want to tell the whole world how very much I love and trust Erick. And I think that’s the best way to say it.”

         ”It’s okay with me, if you’re sure, Crystal. May I keep this?”

         ”Sure,” Erick said. Pastor Markham put the vows in his coat pocket.

         ”Okay, now. Have you decided about your reception?”

         ”No, we haven’t. We’re not sure we can afford one,” Crystal said, a little down about it.

         ”Why not have it in the church’s Fellowship Hall? No additional charge.”

         ”Are you really serious?” Crystal squealed. It was obvious to both Erick and Pastor Markham that he had just made her day.

         ”Yes, I am, Crystal. It’s yours for two to three hours if you want it.

         ”You bet I do!” she squealed again. “Thank you, Pastor. You don’t know how much of a relief that is to me.”

         ”Um… I think it’s obvious, darling,” Erick said, smiling lovingly.

         ”Oh, yeah, I… guess it is, isn’t it?” Crystal said, a bit embarrassed at realizing what Erick was referring to.

         ”That’s alright, Crystal, really,” Pastor Markham said. I’m encouraged by your enthusiasm. Honest.”

         ”Thank you, Pastor.”

         ”Okay. That means you two will need a place to change either before or after the reception, right?”

         ”Right,” Erick said.

         ”I’ll see to it that one of their offices is open for you two to use. Part of the seating for visitors is a small couch that might be handy to use in helping Crystal get changed.”

         ”Thank you, Pastor,” Crystal said. “I really appreciate that kind of consideration.”

         ”No problem, Crystal, especially for a future church employee,” he laughed. Crystal and Erick laughed at the comment. It had taken them a moment, in their eagerness, to remember that Crystal would later be working there with the disabled members and visitors. “That should cover all I need for now,” Pastor Markham said. “Can you be sure and get the marriage license to me as soon as you get it? I want to make sure I have it signed and everything before the ceremony so I can hand it to you afterward without delay. With Crystal’s enthusiasm, I think you’re going to end up framing it and hanging it on the wall in here.”

         All three of them laughed. Pastor Markham turned to Crystal, extending his hand. “We’ll see you in church on Sunday, I hope?” he asked. “I’d like to introduce you to the congregation. As a bride-to-be and future employee if that’s okay?”

         Crystal looked at Erick, her nervousness evident. He leaned a little closer, and said softly, “You have to face the rest of the world sometime, darling. There’s no reason not to start right now. Especially in His house, don’t you think? Just remember the help you’ll be giving all those others. And I’ll be right beside you all the way. Go for it. I love you!”

         Crystal looked at him with a flood of love, and tears in her eyes. Both of them there because she could never thank him enough for his support. But at the same time, she knew she didn’t have to. “I’ll… be there, Pastor Markham. And… thanks for the job offer. I know I’ll… enjoy it,” she sputtered as her emotions got the best of her again.

         ”You’re very welcome, Crystal. I sincerely look forward to working with you. Erick, will you two be at the 11:05 service as you’ve always done?”

         ”Yes, Pastor Markham. With the time Crystal and I need in the mornings right now I think that would be better than 9:30.”

         ”See you two then,” he said as he stood up to go.

         ”I’ll see you out,” said Erick.

         ”No need, Erick. You stay with Crystal. That’s definitely where you belong,” he said smiling.

         ”You’ve got that right!” Crystal and Erick smiled widely. Together.

         ”You two do make a wonderful pair, don’t you?” Pastor Markham asked, laughing. “See you Sunday,” he said as he closed the door behind him.

 Chapter 10: That Sunday  (18+)
Crystal meets her new congregation and gets a wonderfully warm reception.
#422755 by Incurable Romantic

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