BY Chris M

07/01 Direct Link

“And do you, Amanda Ruth Thompson, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? To love, honor and cherish him, forsaking all others giving yourself to him alone as long as you both shall live?” asked Reverend Joe.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Amanda replied.

“Honey, this was your idea,” Rick said.

“I know, but that was a few years ago,” Amanda answered.

“I thought it would be romantic to get married in a hot air balloon,” said Rick.

“It is, but now isn’t the right time.”

“Why not?” asked Rick.

“Why? Because I’m pregnant!” she replied.
07/02 Direct Link

“Pregnant? Honey, that’s wonderful!” said Rick. He tried to hug Amanda but found it difficult with everyone in the basket. Besides them and the preacher, there was Tony, the balloon pilot; Jason, Rick’s best friend; and Candace, Amanda’s best friend.

“Yes, it’s wonderful but we need to get down now!” said Amanda.

“Of course dear,” said Rick. “Then we have our honeymoon to go on next.”

“Honeymoon?” asked Amanda.

Rick nodded happily. “On Monday we leave for Colonial Williamsburg,” he said.

“Oh how romantic Rick,” said Amanda.

“I hate to interrupt,” said Reverend Joe, “but you haven’t answered the question.”
07/03 Direct Link

“What question?” asked Amanda.

“Do you want to marry Rick?” asked Candace.

“Of course I want to marry Rick!” she said. “Why else would I be one hundred feet over Richmond, Virginia about to lose both my lunch and breakfast?”

“Then you might want to tell him,” added Jason pointing to the preacher.

Amanda suddenly blushed and smiled politely.

“I’m very sorry Reverend Joe,” said Amanda, “Yes, I do.”

“Then by the power invested in me by the state of Virginia,” he announced. “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Rick kissed Amanda and everyone applauded.

07/04 Direct Link

As the balloon descended, Rick looked over at Amanda with much love. He hadn’t felt like this toward her since the birth of their daughter, Julia, just four years ago. Now he was going to be a father again and he felt a sense of immortality.

Amanda looked up at him and smiled. It was just ten years ago when she first met him in college. Now she was Mrs. Rick Bennett! She too felt a stronger attraction to him. Her smiled faded as a terrible thought came into her head.

“Rick, what are we going to tell our parents?”
07/05 Direct Link

“We won’t tell them anything,” said Rick. “We’ll go on the honeymoon and Monday and when we return we’ll continue the plans for the ceremony in June.”

“Are you sure they won’t find out?” asked Amanda.

“All of us here can keep a secret can’t we?” asked Rick.

“I certainly can,” said Reverend Joe.

“I always do,” said Candace.

“I never talk about clients,” replied Tony.

All eyes turned toward Jason who seemed too quiet.

“Jason?” asked Rick. “Can you keep this marriage a secret?

“Well about that,” Jason started.

Just then a car roared up.

07/06 Direct Link

“Your mother has this weird sixth sense,” explained Jason. “She seemed to know you were up to something.”

“And you just blabbed the whole thing?” demanded Amanda.

“She fed me a big breakfast this morning,” said Jason, “with a side of guilt trip.”

“At least I can keep a secret,” Candace smirked. “I didn’t tell Rick about Amanda’s pregnancy.”

“She told you first?!” shouted Rick.

“Way to keep a secret Mr. Bond,” said Amanda.

The doors to the car opened and five people got out. It was Amanda’s parents, Rick’s parents and—

“Oh no,” said Amanda, “they’ve brought Father Flannigan!”
07/07 Direct Link

The balloon finally landed on the ground and the five people from the car glared at them.

Jason glanced at his watch.
“Oh, I’ve got to be at that place to do that thing,” he said.

“That’s right,” added Candace, “We’re already late.” The pair vaulted from the basket and raced to Jason’s motorcycle parked nearby.

“I have a baptism at four,” said Reverend Joe. He quickly climbed out and hurried away.

“I have another flight scheduled in twenty minutes,” said Tony shrugging.

Rick got out first and then helped his new wife.

“Time to face the music,” she said.
07/08 Direct Link

They slowly walked toward them.

“If it gets too heated,” said Rick, “pretend to have morning sickness.”

“That’s not a good idea,” said Amanda.

“It’s perfect!” said Rick. “We’ll excuse ourselves and I’ll rush you home.”

“The problem is,” replied Amanda, “they don’t know I’m pregnant again. And you know how they reacted the first time.”

Rick nodded in remembrance.

“Your mom called me a gigolo and you a whore,” he said.

“Exactly,” said Amanda. “We don’t need to go down that road again. It’s bad enough we eloped.”

“But I made have an ‘Ace’ up my sleeve,” said Rick.
07/09 Direct Link

Rick whispered in Amanda’s ear. Her jaw dropped.

“I can’t say that,” she said.

“It’s them or us, Babe,” replied Rick.

Amanda’s mother was about to launch into a tirade when Father Flannigan thrust a hand up.

“How dare you?” he scolded. “How can a good Catholic Girl be married in the outdoors instead of inside the House of God? It’s bad enough you bring a child into your unwedded relationship but now this? You should be ashamed! I expect to see you in confession tomorrow morning before mass.”

“So should Mom since she had me out of wedlock too!”
07/10 Direct Link

The Priest blinked a moment, not sure he heard correctly. He turned to Mrs. Thompson who was very pale.

“Is this true?” he demanded.

“Uh, well that is, to say,” she stammered.

“I’ve heard enough!” Flannigan announced.

“We have to get going,” said Rick. His father tossed him some keys.

“Use this with my blessing,” he said with a wink. “Welcome to the family, Amanda.”

They were speechless but thanked him and took off.

“You come back here, you two bit hussy!” yelled her mom.

“YOU’RE one to talk,” said Flannigan. “I’ll deal with them later. But first, you two.”
07/11 Direct Link

They got into the car and drove away. Rick saw the priest berating Amanda’s parents.

“Haven’t I always been part of your family?” she asked.

“Of course,” replied Rick. “But my parents wanted it to be an official marriage. They didn’t care if we eloped.”

“But your parents paid a lot for this ceremony too,” she said.

“Yes and they know we will do the right thing,” he replied. “Now we have to go home and pack.”

“Pack? But our honeymoon isn’t until Monday,” she said.

“Actually it starts tonight,” he said holding up the keys. “Beach house in Hampton.”
07/12 Direct Link

Amanda smiled. “Your family’s full of surprises,” she said.

“Hopefully good ones,” said Rick. “That’s why I had Grandma Wendy watch Julia. No offense.”

“None taken,” said Amanda. “I know that my family can be a pain sometimes but they mean well.”

“Calling you a hussy and a whore means well?” asked Rick.

“Darling, let’s not talk about it anymore,” she said. “We’re married now and it’s time to celebrate.”

“I completely agree,” said Rick. They held hands as they entered the city limits and drove into the driveway.

“If we hurry we can be there before sundown,” said Amanda.
07/13 Direct Link

“We can have dinner at Captain Jack’s Seaside Shanty,” said Rick.

“Captain Jack’s?” inquired Amanda. “Sounds like a real dive.”

“Best seafood in town,” said Rick. “They have a special for newlyweds.”

“Oh? And you know this how?” she inquired.

“My parents went there for their first dinner together after being married,” he replied. He told her how they first met.

Amanda’s eye began to moisten as she heard the story.

“That is truly touching,” said Amanda. They embraced in a sensuous kiss. Her phone rang and she saw her mother’s name listed.

“It’s time to go Sweetie,” she announced.
07/14 Direct Link

They quickly lugged their suitcases out the door and into Rick’s car.

“You sure you don’t mind avoiding your parents?” he asked.

“No,” replied Amanda. “Since meeting you, I’ve learned to count on myself and others outside my own family.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Rick. “A few days away from everyone will help us cope with the next couple months.”

Ten minutes later they were on the highway headed for the Bay Area.

“By the way Rick, you aren’t the only one full of romantic surprises,” she purred.

“Do tell,” he replied.

“You’ll just have to wait lover,” she replied.
07/15 Direct Link

Rick could only imagine what Amanda had in mind. His thoughts drifted, as did the car.

“What are you doing?” she shouted.

“Oh sorry,” said Rick. “I was trying to guess what your little surprise was.”

“At the rate your going, you won’t be alive to find out,” replied Amanda.

Rick smiled again and popped in a Beach Boys cassette.

“Not the boys again,” moaned Amanda.

“It’s the only distraction I have to keep my mind on driving,” explained Rick. “If we’re going to get there in one piece, I need the boys!”

Amanda sighed and found herself singing along.
07/16 Direct Link

“Do you think Jason and Candace make a cute couple?” asked Amanda.

“Couple?!” cried Rick. “When did this happen? Where was I?”

“It hasn’t. I was just wondering if they would make a good couple.”

“Well there’s a difference between a cute couple and a good couple,” said Rick. “Besides what brought this on?”

“Oh it’s just the way they left the balloon scene this afternoon,” she replied. “It got me thinking.”

“Woman’s intuition?”

“Somewhat.” She paused. “Do you think he likes Candace?”

“Jason? He’s all about cars and bodybuilding.”

“Bodybuilding? Maybe I married the wrong guy.” She smiled sweetly.
07/17 Direct Link

“Very funny,” said Jason. “I’ll pull over and you can walk the rest of the way.”

Amanda laughed. “You could stand to lose a few pounds and do some exercising,” she said.

“I’ve been meaning to start but just haven’t found the motivation,” he replied.

“Use our marriage,” she suggested. “Plus the new baby.”

“Good idea!”

“But back to my question,” she said.

“Jason and Candace? I’m not sure.”

“I know that she likes him. Perhaps if you mention that to him, he might let you know.”

“Oh I don’t want to get in the middle of this,” Jason said.
07/18 Direct Link

“Why not?” asked Amanda. “Don’t you want them to be happy?”

“Jason is happy,” Rick replied.

“Is he gay? Is that it?”

“No! Jason is NOT gay. He was considering this girl who works at the gym where he works out.”

“He would leave Candace for this other girl?”

“Amanda Ruth Thompson Bennett!! They are NOT a couple and he is NOT leaving her for this other girl! I don’t want to become involved simply because if it doesn’t work out between them, we could both lose our best friends!”

Amanda was quite for a while. “It might work out.”
07/19 Direct Link

Twenty minutes later they arrived at the restaurant.

“For a cheesy name this place looks nice,” commented Amanda.

“Told you!” said Rick. They went inside and were seated.

“Welcome aboard,” said the waiter. He was dressed like an old sea captain.

Amanda put her hand over her eyes.

“I take back my last comment,” she said.

“This is Captain Jack himself,” explained Rick. “He’s the only one in costume. I called ahead for the Newlywed Special.”

“Arrr! That be true,” said Jack. “All is prepared to cast off into your evening of dining pleasure.”

“This better pay off,” said Amanda.
07/20 Direct Link

Captain Jack waved his hand and a violinist came over to play for them. Amanda started to tear up so Rick reached his hand across to hold hers.

“I told you to trust me,” he said with a gentle smile. They stared into each other’s eyes as they listened to the music. For them nothing else existed; nothing at all except for them.

“I love you so much,” said Rick finally.

“And I—,” began Amanda and then she went pale. “I need to find the bathroom!” She quickly got up and left.

“Jack, make it ‘To Go’!” called Rick.
07/21 Direct Link

Thirty minutes later they pulled into the property of the beach house. Amanda had a wet paper towel across her forehead while Rick was munching on some shrimp from supper.

“I’m so sorry I ruined our evening,” said Amanda.

“You didn’t ruin it,” said Rick. “Look, I admit it’s not what I had in mine but we’re still married and we’re still together. I didn’t anticipate your morning sickness.”

“At least Captain Jack was nice enough to add dessert for free,” she said.

“We’re here. You go in and lay down for a while and I’ll get us the luggage.”
07/22 Direct Link

“Tell me again why we didn’t marry sooner?” asked Amanda.

“I really don’t recall,” said Rick not looking at her.

“You’re lying,” she said.

“Yes I know,” he replied and then paused. “I guess I feared commitment and even though we had Julia, I still felt like I could just walk away from the relationship.”

“What changed your mind?” Amanda inquired.

“The simple fact that you were willing to stay with me or let me go,” he replied. “I didn’t feel trapped and you allowed me to make the decision myself.”

“You know you’re trapped now right?” she asked smiling.
07/23 Direct Link

“Happy to be trapped with you,” he said. He unlocked the door and flipped the switch. Amanda walked over to a couch and lay down.

Rick brought everything in from the car then checked the cupboards for supplies.

“My parents were here about a week ago getting this house stocked for the summer. They occasionally rent it to others on vacation.”

“How long have they owned this?” asked Amanda.

“This will be their third year,” he replied. “I’ve been wanting to bring you here before but couldn’t find the time to do it.”

“Now is the perfect time,” she commented.
07/24 Direct Link

“Speaking of my parents,” said Rick. “I should let them know we made it.”

“Could you do it outside the house?” asked Amanda. “You can use my cell phone.”

“Of course!” Rick replied. “You relax and I’ll walk down to the boat dock.”

“Don’t tell them about the baby yet,” she requested.

“No problem,” he said. “Dinner’s on the table if you’re hungry. Be back in a little bit.”

“Take your time,” said Amanda.

Rick went outside, took a deep breath and slowly walked down the sidewalk. The sun was beginning to set as he thought over the day’s events.
07/25 Direct Link

Thirty minutes later Rick returned to the house. He was first greeted by the sounds of music and the smell of incense. He saw a small fire going in the fireplace and some candles lit on the mantle.

In the dining room kitchen area, the table was set with the food from the restaurant plus two more candles in the center.

Amanda appeared wearing a white satin nightgown.

“Hello lover,” she said.

“You did all this?” Rick asked.

“Of course! You like?” replied Amanda.

“I thought you had morning sickness,” said Rick.

“I have a confession to make,” she replied.
07/26 Direct Link

“I pretended to be sick at the restaurant,” she continued. “This may sound selfish but I wanted you all to myself. I figured we’d get the dinner to go so it would be just us in this house.

“When we began planning this wedding I felt as if we haven’t had time to ourselves,” she said. “With the elopement and the honeymoon, I decided that this was the best time to be alone.”

“And alone we are,” said Rick. He picked up Amanda and carried her into the bedroom.

“You realize I’ve forgotten about supper,” he added closing the door.
07/27 Direct Link

The next morning Rick was up early and in the kitchen making breakfast. He slipped out to a local store and grabbed some items and using last night’s supper he prepared a seafood omelet.

As he set the table Amanda wandered out in a terry cloth bathrobe and slippers. Rick greeted her with a strong cup of coffee and a kiss on the cheek.

“Breakfast is almost ready,” he said. “The Sunday paper is at your place.”

She took a sip of coffee and looked at Rick.

“Who are you and what have you done with my husband?” she demanded.
07/28 Direct Link

Rick smiled at her. “Yes, I know I don’t do this type of thing very often but--.”

“You’re only doing this now while we’re on our honeymoon and when we get back to our lives things they will return to our daily habits,” Amanda concluded.

“You know me pretty well,” said Rick.

“Yes I do,” replied Amanda. “You know we don’t have to go back to our previous lives.”

“But what about Julia and our jobs?” asked Rick.

“I didn’t mean it like that, you dunderhead. I simply mean our relationship can be this good at home,” she said.
07/29 Direct Link

“Perhaps you’re right,” said Rick. “Since I’m going to exercise more and lose some weight, I suppose I can increase my usefulness like make meals on the weekend.”

“That would be a great start!” said Amanda. They sat and enjoyed their breakfast.

“So what’s on the agenda today?” she asked.

“I thought we could go to the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News this afternoon, have dinner in Virginia Beach and then take a walk along said beach to watch the sunset.”

Amanda smiled at this. “And why can’t you think of these things when we’re at home?” she asked.
07/30 Direct Link

“Too many real life distractions,” answered Rick. “I suppose we could move down here.”

“But you’d have to change jobs,” said Amanda.

“True. I don’t really want to do that,” replied Rick.

The rest of the morning was spent reading the paper and listing the things they wanted to see in Williamsburg. That afternoon the visited the museum followed by a leisurely drive to Virginia Beach. After dinner they watched the sunset.

“This is so romantic Rick,” said Amanda.

“More romantic than the balloon ride,” said Rick laughing. Amanda didn’t laugh. She decided that she had to make things right.
07/31 Direct Link

Monday morning arrived and Rick began to load up the car. Amanda was in the living room pacing back and forth. She appeared to be having an argument with herself.

Rick did a final check on everything and would call his father later to give him an update. He watched Amanda as she rehearsed her conversation. He knew it was important and he chose not to make any jokes.

“Are you ready Amanda?” he asked. She simply nodded and followed him out to the car.
She dialed the number and waited for the connection.

“Hi Mom it’s me,” she said.