John and his friends met in the lobby of the hotel/casino at nine in the evening at the bar just off the lobby. The three men sit there and have another beer together to toast the upcoming nuptials, as Gwen goes off with a few twenties to try out the slot machines. They’re all dressed in clean jeans and clean shirts, and Gwen is in jeans, a nice white blouse, and her cowgirl boots.
The four of them walk down the street towards the wedding chapel after Gwen lost her money in the slot machines. Riley takes her hand in his, and she looks up at him with a smile in her eyes. John holds the door open for her and she stops and gives him a hug and a kiss on the check. “I can’t thank you enough for this trip, and for finding the way to make it happen for Riley and me. I’ve been trying to put a rope on that wild stallion for years, you and Jenny are my outriders I’ve been looking for.” John hugs her back, and speaks, “It’s our pleasure, and we are both so happy for the both of you.”
The ceremony takes less than half an hour, when the chapel reverend pronounces the couple husband and wife, John takes pictures before they return to the casino. They’re seated at a table in the hotel’s nicest steakhouse restaurant. The wedding meal is John’s treat, and he tells his friends to order anything they want. Riley asks the waitress for a pitcher of margaritas, a champagne cocktail for Gwen and a beer for John. The server comes back soon with the drinks and appetizers. Esteban raises a glass and offers a toast. “Here’s to our friends today, may you always love each other as you do today, may you find happiness on the good days and peaceful contentment on the hard days. May you two never say manana, except at the end of the day when you are in each other’s arms and looking forward to another day together. Salud and Buenas Suertes”
They enjoy a wonderful early dinner and each other’s company, and then after the table is cleared they finish their drinks in comfortable silence, and John orders a cup of coffee. Riley is the first to speak, “Well, where do we go next?” No one answers at first, and then John says, “If you’re all ready for it, let’s go home. Let’s stay up late tonight and celebrate, and get a late start home in the morning. Riles, how long do you figure it will take to get back to South Haven?” Riley answers, “What’s today, Wednesday? If we drive straight through, taking turns at the wheel, I think we be home Friday afternoon. That does sound good.” They all nod in agreement, and then John hands each one of his friends a hundred dollar bill for gambling and tells them he will find them after he talks to Jenny. He has more in his pocket for after they lose this money.
John manages to find a quiet spot and calls Jenny, who answers quickly. “Hello dear” She says, “How was the wedding and dinner? I saw the pictures, they look so happy together.” He laughs and replies, “They are happy, holding hands through dinner and smiling all the time. We’re going to start for home tomorrow, and be there Friday afternoon.” She says, “That’s good news and perfect timing. Our moms and Ellen want to have a party for them Saturday night at the farmhouse, and wanted to know if you all would be home by then. I’ll them and let them know the plan for Saturday is a go. I miss you and can’t wait until you’re home with me.” She listens to her husband tell her he misses her too, and she wants to tell him her news today but will wait until he is home for that talk. John sits for a while and thinks of Jenny. He has a sense that she is not telling him something, but decides that he will know what it is when they are together. He goes looking for his friends and finds them all together at the slot machines. Gwen has just won a thousand dollar jackpot, and Esteban announces he has been lucky at the blackjack table. John shares the news about the party plans, and Esteban wishes them a good night, explaining that he is going to give Ellen a call. As the ball coach walks away to the elevators, Riley raises an eyebrow and says to John, “What do you think? Is there another wedding in our future?” John nods yes and replies, “Jenny says yes, and I trust her instincts.”
Back in South Haven, there is an early winter storm approaching. Jenny sits at the desk in the front room and looks out the window watching the dark clouds approach. She is working on her journal project, reading some entries done nearly three years ago when they were in John’s senior year. The entries bring back warm memories, and when she comes across one written that spring, her eyes tear up and she sets the notebook open on the desk. She goes into the kitchen to make a hot drink, not coffee but instead an herbal tea with lemon. Her first prenatal appointment is next week, but she’s been doing some research and has already given up any caffeine. She has been wondering how John will take the news about them expecting a baby during his rookie season, with a new team, and them living in a nice place, but after reading this journal entry, she knows he will be just fine with it.
Journal entry – April 21
Tonight is prom night and after dinner with a group of friends at Jenny’s house, we will be going to our last high school dance. Graduation day for me is just a month away now, and then if Esteban is right I’ll be drafted by a major league club and assigned to a small town minors team. I will be leaving South Haven and my parent’s house for the first time in my life, and I’ll be separated from Jenny all summer. We’ve talked about it, and she tells me that I need to do this. Do it for me and my dream of being a ball player, and for her and our future. I’ve had some college scholarship offers, and could go that route and choose one close to home, but Esteban tells me I’m ready to learn in the minors and play the pro game. My Mom and Pops want me to go to college, but are letting me decide. I’m going wait and see and compare the offers if I do get drafted.
Tonight, I’m going to enjoy this evening with Jenny. The dance is semi-formal, and she has a new dress for it. Me however, when I tried on my suit I found out that I have out grown it since the last time it came out of the closet. My Mom wanted me to get a new one, but I convinced her that a new shirt and tie would be good enough. Tonight, I’m going to hold Jenny close when we dance together and think about our future. We haven’t talked about it much, because I think maybe we both assume that we will be together always – even if occasionally separated. In a couple of years, when the time is right I want to marry her, and then someday have children together and make a family. I don’t know when the time will be right, but I trust her and she will somehow know and give me signals.
After the dance.
We had a great time tonight at both the dinner and the dance. It was everything I hoped it would be, and years from now I think that Jenny and I will remember tonight. Some night when we are married and in a house of our own, we will play the same music and dance together on the front porch or in the kitchen. I’ll go to sleep happy tonight and wake up at the usual five in the morning. I’m going to hit balls tomorrow, there are just three regular season ball games left before the district playoffs start. We have a good team, and if we play well we can win the district title. I hope so.
Tonight after the dance, Jenny and I sat in the truck in front of house. She moved over close to me and put her head on my shoulder. She said, “There’s something on your mind, care to share it with me?” She reads me so well. I told her, “I am thinking about what you say when we talk about me choosing to leave you and home to play minor league ball, and thinking about our future. We’ve never really talked about it. I know what I’m thinking but want to know if you think the same.” She snuggled in even closer and laughed like she always does when I’ve done something she thinks is silly, but then she said, “John Erickson, for such a smart guy you can be clueless at times. When I think of our future, I see us together forever, together even when your baseball career takes you away from me. I see us happy, married for a very long time, and at home with our children. Now what are you thinking?” I just replied, “The same as you”, and then we kissed goodnight.
Jenny puts away the journal into the box with the rest of them, and then gets on the phone to let everyone know that Riley and Gwen’s party is on for Saturday night. It is starting to snow outside, and the afternoon has passed into evening. She goes into the kitchen for another cup of tea and makes a light supper for herself. She returns to the desk and works on the journal project until time for bed. As she falls to sleep, she says out loud to herself, “John Erickson, next time you take a road trip, I’m going to be there with you.”
The next morning John and his friends have a late breakfast and start driving east before noon. The early winter weather along Interstate 80 is mild and they make good time. They are a quiet group as they drive across the mountains and desert valleys of Northern Nevada, and along the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Riley and Gwen stayed up late on their wedding night and are asleep in the back seat, so John and Esteban take turns at the wheel for the first leg of the trip home. Mostly, they talk about the upcoming baseball season. Esteban will be leaving soon on his first scouting trip, watching winter ball games in Arizona and Mexico, looking for prospects. John has three months until reporting for Spring Training and will keep up with his off season conditioning program. They stop in Salt Lake City for a quick dinner and return to the highway with a change of drivers.
Riley steers the Ford through the mountains of Utah and Wyoming in the darkness of the evening. He and Gwen talk quietly so as not to wake up the sleepers in the back seat. Riley mostly tells her of road adventures he has had in these mountains, and Gwen shares stories about her years in the Arizona desert country. ”Riley,” She says, “Where are we going to live now that we’re married?” He waits a few moments before replying, “I guess I haven’t thought that through yet. We can stay with John and Jenny for a while until we decide where we want to go next. Let’s see what you think of a Midwest winter. You know me; I’ll go anywhere, especially with you.” She smiles at him, “Yes you will.”
They drive through the night with Gwen taking her turn until they reach the outskirts of Denver just an hour before dawn. Riley points the way to a truck stop he knows that serves a good breakfast and all of them go into the coffee shop after refueling the Fairlane. After they order food and coffee, John asks Riley, “How are we doing?” Riley looks up from his plate and smiles, “We running right on time. It’s a straight shot east on 70 to the Turnpike south and home. We should pull in to South Haven around 3 this afternoon.” John thinks about calling Jenny, but it is too early. He’ll talk to her later when they make another pit stop.
Riley was right about the coffee shop, it was a good breakfast, and now he and Gwen go to sleep after being awake all night. John is driving and Esteban says. “Mijo, I have something to talk to you about. Ellen and myself have been talking about my scouting trip. She wants to go with me on it.” John looks briefly away from the road and towards his coach, and says, “Esteban, it sounds like you and are Ellen are becoming more than housemates?” He replies, “Si Mijo, es verdad, we are a couple now. We are going to ask Riley and Gwen if they want to move into the farmhouse and take care of the place until Spring Training, maybe longer if they like it.” John nods, “I’m happy for you and Ellen, all of our lives are changing, and for the better.”
John calls Jenny from a stop just after Noon and a few miles from the turnoff for Interstate 35. She answers, “Hi honey, where are you?” He says, “Only about three hours from you. It has been an easy and smooth trip. I have some interesting news to share with you when I get home.” She wonders what his news is about, and then replies, “That’s funny, I have some news to share with you. We can sit on the porch and talk when you get home. I can hardly wait to see you. Drive safely and be home soon.” Jenny and John disconnect the call, and she sits at the desk, thinking how she is going to tell her husband that he is going to be a dad. Ellen was over for a visit earlier and told Jenny about her plans to travel with Esteban, and their offer to discuss with Riley. She is planning on being at Jenny and John’s house when the group gets into town, and then having Riley and Gwen over for dinner at the farmhouse. She invited Jenny and John, but Jenny declined by saying tonight she just wants to be alone with her husband.
Two hours later, Jenny is sitting on the porch watching the road leading to their house from the highway. She sits quietly with her thoughts for what seems like hours but is actually just thirty minutes, and then she spots the distinctive red car approaching. She leaps into John’s arms as he gets out of the car, and they share a long kiss, while their friends watch with smiles. She then gives each one a hug and congratulates the newlyweds. Ellen drives up and greets everyone, and meets Gwen. Ellen moves close to Esteban for a hug and a kiss. John watches his wife for her reaction, but she has just an easy and knowing smile. They then all go into the house where she has both hot coffee and cold beer waiting for them. John pulls his wife aside, and says, “Did you already know about Ellen and Esteban?” Jenny laughs, “Of course, was that your news?” He says, “Yes, what’s yours?” She leads them back to the others, and says, “I’ll tell you later.”