God knows, I tried to talk him out of it; but would he listen? Slade: my good buddy. Known him since we were toddlers, so you’d think he’d take my advice. He said my arguments “lacked credibility” because I was in love with Antoinette. Well, it’s true. Yes, I was in love with her. Still am! All she has to do is glance at me, and I practically melt. But Slade was hell-bent on marrying her. I told him she’d either wear him out, or she’d wear out her welcome. She’s a partier; and he’s always been a quiet man. Turns out, that’s what attracted her.

I told her, “You need excitement. It’s like oxygen for you.”

She said, “Maybe it’s time to close the damper, some. Slade calms me.”

And get a load of this, he wanted me to officiate. And I did! Had to take these special classes, get certified and ordained. Sometimes I felt more certifiable than certified. But I didn’t back out. I decided it if I couldn’t change his mind, I might as well be there for him. And I figured, “This won’t last six months.” That was nine years ago.

If it hadn’t been for Dolores, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me. She was only twenty when we started. I ran into her at the supermarket about three weeks after the wedding, asked her if I could walk her home, and she said, “Yes.” When we got to her place, she gave me this deep, long look and said, “I see your pain. I can take that away.” She called herself an empath. She scared me a little. We took it slow.

Dolores is Antoinette’s niece, but they couldn’t be more different. She keeps everything inside. It hurts her. You can’t see the cause; but you can see the hurt, sometimes, flickering like a dim bulb on a frayed wire. She reads a lot, I think to distract herself from herself. Weird stuff. Lovecraft; Bukowski; others I’ve never heard of. She’s into leather and black lipstick; has a Betty Page haircut. And she has this little riding crop. I didn’t see it often, but when she got that crop out, I knew I’d be in for quite a ride. (She has strange ideas about sex, but who am I to quibble over the kinks?) And she has this smoldering quality about her. Slade had seen that look on her. He called it “alluring.” It’s just one of the things they have in common, words like that.

But you couldn’t ask for a better person, really. She’s kind, considerate, sensitive, honest to a fault; yet so serious…and so silent – like sometimes I couldn’t be sure she was there even when she was standing right in front of me. That’s when being with her could feel more lonely than being alone. Not her fault. We’re just different. I have to get out and circulate, make some noise, cut the rug. She’d rather stay home, watch a movie, read a book.

Well, she saved my life, I think, that girl did. She was easy to love. Still is. But I never loved Dolores like I loved Antoinette…like it’s a hunger, like you know if you don’t have this woman, you’ll starve to death at the pig roast.

One night, Dolores and I where at home, as usual, and I said, “Great band at the Waterhole. You wanna go?”

I already knew the answer. “No. You go ahead. Have a good time.”

So I went; and, crowded as it was, I saw her immediately, Antoinette, alone.

“Where’s Slade?” I said.

“He’s home studying for some course he’s taking.”

Then she says, “We’re getting a divorce.”

When I asked her why, she says, “We both realized we’d to be happier with somebody else.”

Then she gave me this look. And I didn’t see smoldering. I saw a five-alarm fire.

So, here we are, now, Antoinette and me, exchanging rings, saying “I do.” Nine years? There were times when it seemed like ninety. Now? More like nine minutes.

Dolores and Slade are gonna tie the knot tomorrow. Can you believe he had the balls to ask me to officiate again?

I told him, “You bet I will. Can’t imagine anything less.”

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