" ... and so, Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in raising our glasses in a toast to the bride and groom, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Adler!" Jim lifted his champagne flute in the air and watched as Larry and Claire mirrored his gesture. He handed the microphone back to the singer in the band and returned to his seat, next to the groom.
Larry was smiling broadly as his brother sat back down. "Great speech, Jim!"
"Thanks! It's easy to write when the words come from the heart."
Claire dabbed her eyes and said, "That means a lot to me, Jim. It really does. I mean, I know how close you two are, and I, well, I don't, I guess I really don't want to come between you two in any way."
Jim was about to respond when he heard the familiar clinking noises. The high-pitched chime was the unmistakeable sound of a metal fork against a crystal goblet: someone wanted to see the couple kiss.
Larry whispered to Claire before they gave their audience what they wanted, "That's, like, the fourth time already!"
Claire giggled and said nothing. Before she could say or do anything, she could feel Larry's lips touching hers, his tongue gently separating them and gently making contact with her own tongue. She closed her eyes and imagined that it was just the two of them, just as she had at the altar, and just as she had done each of the other times someone started to tap their fork against their glass.
There was something to these kisses since the reception started, Claire mused. She couldn't help but analyze them. Before she got married, there was no shortage of electricity and chemistry. While it certainly wasn't the only reason why she wanted to be Larry's wife, she couldn't deny that if he hadn't been a good kisser, she probably wouldn't have wanted to keep going out with him. The kiss at the actual ceremony had a certain subtlety to it. She didn't want to chew his lips off in a church; he must've felt the same way since they both restrained themselves; she could feel it and she was sure he could, too. But at the reception. These weren't the marathon tongue wrestling sessions they engaged in, but they weren't as laid-back as the ceremony itself either. There was just something ... different, magical, now that it was, well, official that they were together.
Yes, being married was good.
Larry and Claire extricated themselves from the other's embrace and leaned back in their respective chairs. Claire straightened up her hair with her hand and looked up to see her grandmother standing next to her, smiling broadly.
"You remind me a little bit of me and your grandfather when we were your age."
"Thank you, nana! I just hope Larry and I are together as long as you and pop-pop! How long were you two married?"
"Fifty six years! And he would've loved to have seen your wedding!"
"I'd have loved it if he could've been here, too."
Claire's grandmother paused. Based upon the faint smile carved across her face, Claire got the impression that she was simultaneously sad and joyful, as though she was moving through thousands of happy memories, all of them tinged with the knowledge that all of those memories were remnants of a past that she could not re-live anywhere outside of her head.
"Oh, nana, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"
"There's nothing to be sorry about, dear. Actually, I'm glad you said that. May I have a word with you? I'd like to share something with you, something that made my marriage to your grandfather such a joy."
Claire's heart leapt at this statement. She had always told people how much she envied people like her grandparents, how hard it must be to stay with one person for that long a period of time and never get bored of them, never wanting to leave, never wondering if you were better off not getting married in the first place. If anyone could tell her the secret to a long, happy marriage, it was the woman hunched over her chair at this very moment.
"I have a little wedding gift for you." Her grandmother placed a small white box, about three inches on each side, topped with a pink ribbon, on the table in front of Claire. "This is the secret to a long, happy, healthy marriage. My grandmother gave it to me when I got married, and now I shall pass this on to you!"
Claire didn't know what to say or how to act. She was being handed a family heirloom, one she didn't even know existed a few moments before. She tentatively reached for the box that now stood before her. As soon as her hand came in contact with the ribbon, she immediately withdrew her hand and looked back up at her grandmother.
"Go on, dearie! Don't be shy. Open it!"
With a fair amount more confidence, but still deliberately slowly, Claire picked up the box, held it near her ear, and shook it. The low rattling sound coming from the box didn't offer any clues as to what mysterious object or objects it contained. She grabbed the ribbon with her thumb and forefinger. With a gentle tug, Claire untied the ribbon, which fell to the table around the package. The bright pink of the ribbon stood in stark contrast to both the white box and the pale yellow of the tablecloth.
Before she moved on to the gift box itself, Claire glanced over at Larry, whose eyes kept bouncing back and forth between her and her grandmother. She followed Larry's eyes over to her grandmother, who was smiling broadly, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet, clearly excited about what was about to be revealed.
Careful not to rip the gift box, Claire pulled open the top of the box and looked inside. Because of the shadows and the darkness of its contents, she wasn't immediately certain what it was she had just received. Reaching into the box, she pulled out ... another box.
This gift was a small wooden box, with a dark brown finish, and a few rough engravings on the top and sides. It's too small to be a jewelry box, Claire thought. She lifted the top and looked inside. Although she expected to see something inside, it wasn't even lined with velvet or any other material. She ran her fingers over the edges of the box, the engravings on the sides and scratched her head. Her grandmother started to laugh; the sound was a mix between a girlish giggle and the chuckle of a much wiser woman.
"Nana, I don't want to sound un--"
Before Claire could finish her sentence, her grandmother had reached forward and, with a pair of scissors she previously hadn't noticed, snipped off a small lock of her hair.
"What was that?" Her tone was a mix of shock and discomfort at what had just happened.
Her grandmother flipped open the wooden box and dropped Claire's recently removed locks of hair into the box. Smiling broadly, Claire's grandmother sidled closer to Larry and, reaching forward, told him, "I need some of your hair, too. You won't regret it."
"What's going on, Nana? What is this?" Claire demanded, her voice a mixture of confusion, anger, and uncertainty.
"I'll explain in a minute, dearie." Flashing in the light, the scissors snipped off a few strands of Larry's hair, which fell gently into her wrinkled palm. As she dropped the added strands into the box and closed the lid, she smiled warmly.
Helping herself to a drink of ice water, her grandmother inhaled deeply and recounted, "Claire, I think you need to know the secret of how your grandfather and I loved each other until the day he passed away. I still love him, and sometimes miss him terribly, but our love was always fresh, new, and exciting."
Claire wiped a tear out of her eye. With a sniffle, she apologized for interrupting her grandmother's story.
"That's all right, dear. Your grandfather and I always understood that love is not just gazing at one another, but also gazing outwards in the same direction. As long as you and your husband are on the same page, your love will be wonderful, almost magical. And that's where this box comes in."
Claire's grandmother looked around cautiously and then leaned forward, speaking in a hushed voice. Larry leaned in to hear her better. "This box now contains a piece of the two of you. The box has already started to get to know both of you; before you know it, you two will be in agreement about everything that's important to a complete, satisfying marriage. Just make sure you've both got some hair in the box. And you two will remain happily married -- just like you're feeling right now -- until death do you part. Then, and only then, should you remove the hair from the box and pass it on to a worthy descendant."
Without saying another word, and without allowing Claire or Larry the opportunity to ask any questions, her grandmother stood up and walked away from the newlyweds. They each gaped at her as she slowly found her way past the bridesmaids. Claire could've thought she saw her make some kind of gesture to the Maid of Honor. She started to point this gesture out to Larry, when the familiar clinking of fork against crystal goblet indicated that someone wanted them to kiss again. Claire was certain the Maid of Honor started this one.
Not wanting to deny their audience, Larry placed his hand behind Claire's head; she leaned back and closed her eyes, lips slightly parted. As his mouth approached hers, she felt a chill run down her spine and she shuddered. There was a certain amount of unexpected heat coming from this kiss. She suddenly found herself thinking of the time in a few hours when the two of them would be alone in the honeymoon suite at their hotel. If kissing Larry felt this much better now that they were married, imagine how much better it'll feel when they actually, ahem, consummate the marriage. She let out a low moan that only she and Larry could hear. For some reason, waiting a few hours seemed like an eternity.
.... There is more of this story ...