The dawn chorus sang loud and clear, a cacophony of welcome for the miniscule streak of orange that was just touching the horizon beyond the lake. The groom paced nervously, pausing each time he passed the wall mirror to adjust his tie or smooth back his hair. He knew that their time window was limited since the sky had begun to lighten in the distance but so far he hadn't heard more than a giggle from his bride this morning, and when he'd tried to sneak into the bedroom she was sharing with Mae, the older woman had quickly and forcefully removed him.
"Hold on to your britches!" Mae had told him laughingly. "You'll see her in front of the minister in just a little while. Now GO!" She ordered when she saw rebellion brewing in her future nephew-in-law's face.
As Perry turned to go he saw movement beneath the sheet and heard the muffled laugh coming from beneath it. His bride was enjoying his predicament he noted. Retribution would be forthcoming.
"The minister is here." Perry breathed a sigh of relief at Paul's pronouncement, issued as the best man came through the front door. "Let's get this show on the road!"
"Della's not what?" came her husky voice.
Perry whirled around to see his bride standing at the foot of the staircase, Mae perched on the step behind her. His breath caught in his chest, his heart pounding wildly as he stared, mouth agape, at his bride… the woman he had been waiting to fill that position for almost a decade.
Della wore a white tea length dress with cap sleeves, the silky fabric shot through with light silver threads. A shawl of matching material was draped around her shoulders and over her arms. White silk pumps with incredibly high heels encased her feet. But the most beautiful thing she wore was her smile.
His breath left his body slowly, relief flooding through him. He finally admitted to himself that he had been a little worried about Della changing her mind. But looking at her now, he knew with certainty that in just a very few moments they would be pledged to each other forever.
He moved toward Della as she headed to meet him halfway, hands held out. "You look… amazing, Baby."
If possible, Della's smile grew even brighter. "So do you, my love." She moved a step closer as she lifted her hands to straighten his tie. "Very handsome. As for this," she gestured at her garb, "Aunt Mae went out and did some shopping after we called her."
"Thank you, Mae," Perry acknowledged but his gaze never left Della's. "So, Miss Street… are you ready to become Mrs. Mason?"
"Sun's arisin', folks. Move it!" Paul Drake stood at the open door waving them out.
Perry held Della's elbow firmly, afraid that the uneven tread of the pier in combination with the impossibly high heels on her feet and the darkness surrounding them would upset her graceful stride. They were several steps onto the dock when both of them stopped, the light of several dozen candles lining the railing mingling with the first faint rays of sun on the horizon to guide their way catching their attention. Della turned her head to thank her fiancé for the surprise but instead found a look of delighted puzzlement on his face. Sensing her fascination he turned to gaze at her in the candlelight while giving her a short shake of his head.
They turned in sync to stare at the couple walking behind them, Paul providing Aunt Mae with the same gentlemanly guidance. The smiles on the faces of the best man and matron of honor answered the unspoken question. But when Della would have moved to hug her aunt, Mae flicked her hand forward.
The minister waited at the end of the pier as the happy couple moved toward him. Vows were repeated fervently, with love. Hands were only released to slide the golden bands they had picked out together the previous day onto the prescribed fingers. As Della's band slid home, Perry lifted her hand to his lips and kissed both the ring and the finger, eyes shining with unshed tears.
"Finally," he whispered so quietly that Della heard the word not with her ears but with her heart.
"Forever," she replied in the same manner.
Then the minister spoke those words, the pronouncement that joined their lives together officially… legally… Perry lifted his fingers to gently cradle Della's face and as he tenderly kissed his wife for the very first time, a brilliant yellow and orange sun broke free of the horizon, shedding its light over the couple as a new day dawned.
Chilled champagne, fruit and decadent pastries awaited the bridal party back on the cabin veranda. Paul offered one toast after another while Mae donned an apron and quickly whipped up omelets for everyone. The pastor smiled indulgently as he sipped his drink and ate pastry after pastry.
But the bride and groom? They only had eyes for each other. Paul's toasted registered dimly and they laughed in all the appropriate places but their gazes never left each other… their hands were locked together, Perry's thumb constantly rubbing over the wedding band on Della's finger.
Breakfast was enjoyed and the pastor thanked profusely and sent on his way as the sun continued to climb higher and higher.
"So where are you two headed now?" Paul asked as he emptied the second champagne bottle into Della's glass.
Perry smiled enigmatically and shook his head. "I'm not telling. We get a week with NO disturbances."
Paul turned to Della, a cajoling smile on his face. "Come on, beautiful. What if something really exciting comes up? The case to end all cases? "
"Sorry, Paul. He hasn't even told me." Della lifted her glass to her smirking lips, then grimaced in surprise. "MAE!"
"What's wrong baby?" Perry jumped up as Della slammed her glass to the table, her gaze finally deflected from her husband's to glare menacingly at her aunt. He watched inquiringly as Mae huffed then replaced Della's glass with the one she had just swapped. Della sipped cautiously then nodded approvingly.
"Umm…" Perry prompted, his free hand gesturing back and forth between the two women.
"She switched my champagne with ginger ale," Della rolled her eyes. "She doesn't quite believe that I'm not… that… that we didn't HAVE to get married."
Any reply that Perry or Mae might have made was lost as champagne came spurting out of Paul Drake's nose.
"So, husband… where are we headed?" Della questioned her husband as he expertly pulled away from the cabin. She smiled and waved at Mae and Paul one last time as they receded into the distance.
"Paradise, my love… paradise!" He beamed at his bride, his happiness bubbling over in his expression and his demeanor.
"Does paradise have a specific location?"
"It's a surprise."
"I don't like surprises."
"Who are you kidding, Baby? You love surprises."
"Some surprises... but not about my honeymoon. Who knows if I'm even packed appropriately?"
"Clothes are low on the list of things you will need on this honeymoon, Mrs. Mason. We are trying to make a baby, remember?"
Della didn't answer and when Perry turned to see why he saw that she was still smiling but that her smile was troubled. Even though they had barely been on the road for five minutes he whipped the car into a picnic area overlooking the lake and killed the motor.
"Are you having second thoughts, Della?"
"No... Absolutely not." Della's tone was emphatic
"Then what's wrong?"
"Mae told me that I wasn't a spring chicken any more. I know that our odds aren't as good as they once were. But... I guess it just finally hit me... What if I do get pregnant? I'll be in my fifties when our child graduates from high school. And if we have more than one... What about grandchildren, Perry? Will we be too old to enjoy them?"
Perry wanted to laugh but he knew that Della definitely would not appreciate his amusement in the situation. Instead he opened the car door and exited then moved to Della's side and pulled her out too. Taking her hand he tugged her after him, down to the edge of the crystal clear water.
When they reached the shore he turned her to him and wrapped her in his arms.
"Today is the happiest day of my life... not because of the possibility of a baby... but because the woman I have loved for over a decade finally became my wife. I don't think any day in the future could ever top that. What's lying out there at the bottom of that lake just represents the beginning of our possibilities, Della. You and me... we are fabulous together. Married, we are going to be even more fabulous. This is what I want. If a baby comes along then... that's just the whipped cream on top of the cake. But that cake is still delicious without the whipped cream.
"As for grandchildren... you are getting a little ahead of yourself. My granddad was in his forties when my father was born but he was still the best granddad a little boy could ever wish for. So stop over analyzing this and concentrate on you and me."
Della's eyes were shining at him. "You really mean that, don't you, Perry Mason?"
"With all my heart, Della Mason." He kissed her tenderly. "But if you keep denying me your bed as you did last night..."
"If I had spent last night with you there would be no chance for a baby and you know that. Aunt Mae would have... emasculated you at the mere suggestion that we share a room with her present in our unmarried state."
"So... if she arrived home tonight and found us making passionate love on her living room sofa she would be okay with that?"
"Perry Mason!" Della swatted her husband's chest. "We are NOT honeymooning in Bolero Beach!"
"No," he agreed. "But it would serve her right after she kept us apart last night. How does she expect us to make babies with no exposure?"
"She knows I've already been... exposed. If we do have a baby one day less than nine months from now your... little Perry... might still be in danger." Della punctuated her words with a cupped and caressing hand.
Perry's breath blew out hard. "Baby, unless you want to consummate our marriage right here by the main drag on the hood of the car, I suggest we get back on the road. Besides, we have a... transportation to catch."
Della agreed, smug in her conviction that Perry would spill his secret within five minutes once he was distracted by driving. But before she moved away from Perry she ran her arms up and around his neck, eyes glistening.
"We really did it... We got married."
"That we did, Mrs. Mason," Perry affirmed. "That we did. You are now Mrs. Perry Mason."
"Mrs. Perry Mason... I really like the sound of that." Della's eyes were beaming. "I don't know why I didn't say yes sooner."
"No regrets, Baby. Now is our time." Then Perry Mason kissed his wife over and over until roadside exposure was once again a very real possibility.
"GEEZ, YOU TWO!" A familiar drawl rang through the air and the couple broke apart just in time to see the back end of Paul's corvette roar away.
Laughter rumbled deep in Perry's chest as Della slid into the driver's side door. Once Perry had joined her she cuddled up to her husband's side, one hand resting casually on his thigh.
"It won't work." Perry knew his girl well.
Laughing, Della laid her head on her husband's shoulder. "Well... a girl has to try. We are trying to make a man child who looks like you, after all."
Perry joined in, finding her mirth contagious. "And we will be very happy, Della, just like the fortune said."
"Forever, my love."