My first shift out here set the tone for my time: the guys were all fantastic. The boss was great - I've had way worse over my time in the job. It was pretty easy. I was Firefighter level, so the grunt work - get to the jobs bowl out, hose and get into it, no management, simple firefighting. Well, that was for the first two shifts. Then a few of the officers noticed my skills and I was pushed into relieving shift, backfilling where there were staff shortages due to leave, illness, etc., even a few times already was in an acting Lieutenant role pretty similar to our leading firefighter job at home.
Over the past week the entire Spence family had flown in from Australia: mom and dad had been in the country for two weeks. Dad popped in to see me on on-shift at Tucson FD. Apparently, Tucson is on the way to GA - bit like flying from Melbourne to Sydney via Adelaide, not really on the way, but for good enough reason it can be, I guess. Anyway, it was nice to see them, spend a bit of quiet private time with the 'rents. The old man and the battalion chief hit it if off. The boss and his wife ended up going out to dinner with mom and dad before they flew out. I was completely fine - I had a few drinks with the guys. The next morning, I was off for sixteen days. Gotta say, though - I was lucky to be able to grab a pile of extra reliever shifts. Plus, the boss knew I was heading back for my cousin's wedding. I think in some ways they were going to be glad to see the back of Lucas and Hailey calling me so they all got a break too, haha.
And what an awesome break it was gonna be - get to hang out with Ben, plus the family was over. I was zooming with Jet and Daisy the other night - my god, how much those two have grown in a few months! I was so excited to see them, Step and Todd, Kate and Jake. A load of my friends were coming over too. Dad had been able to organize a group discount if they got more than 20 people on the booking. Once word got out at home, Gav, Dave, Ty, Sam, Julie, and Adam all jumped at it. Yes, Sam... Sam was coming too! Apparently, Ty and Sam were going to Canada afterward, via NYC. Yeah, I'm just gonna leave that one alone. When I told Ben, there was a moment's silence, then a strained 'Oh really. We'll have to show them around.' Yeah, as long as we don't show them anywhere near your mom or family, they'll be okay, I guess.
Mom and dad headed over to the airport about an hour before me. I wanted to call past the station house and thank the boss again for his help, the job, and time off.
When I finally found my parents, of course, Dad had 'come across' three passes to the American Airlines lounge. "Hey, thanks dad!" I lifted my JD and cola as we settled into our very comfy lounge chairs till our flights out. Mom and Dad were flying direct to Georgia. I was off to Texas, 'home' to Ben and our ever-increasing family and friends flying in.
"All good, son. Gotta say, Jamie - Brilliant timing for you and Ben to have your engagement party the week after Lucas' wedding while everyone is over here."
Mom wandered back with a small plate of food for us all to share. "Have you guys set a date yet?"
"Yeah... Mom, you and dad are coming to our engagement party." I shot mom a confused look.
Without even looking up, she placed the food down while waving her hand at dad and me to dig in. "I mean your wedding, Jamie."
I looked at dad for support. He just shrugged his shoulders. "We're thinking, fall over here next year, spring back home maybe."
"Did you hear that, Robert, next year?" Her face lit up like a 1000w floodlight.
"Mom, please, don't start planning yet... please! We're just thinking it through, ok."
"No worries, son ... fall next year."
"I'm getting another drink, Jamie? Kate?" Dad was making a break for it. "Thanks, Dad, please, a double for me." Mom shot me a 'I think not look'. Dad just smiled and walked off, pretending he didn't see anything.
The rest of our time in the lounge was taken up with general chit chat, hearing how the grandkids had a fantastic flight, and both my parents were excited to see them, although they'd only seen them a few weeks ago.
Finally, my flight was called about 20 minutes before theirs, so we did the whole goodbye and hugs in the lounge. Then, I legged it to the gate - just wanted to get on board. Every moment, a moment closer to Ben.
Ben was waiting for me in the terminal. It had been a warm day out obviously- he was wearing the Gymshark drop arm tank top I'd bought online with a pair of 5" green men's shorts, and white and blue Havaianas -- flipflops. Wow, my clothes looked so goon on him. There was a slight sheen to him - it must be warm outside. It made his buff body look even hotter if that was possible.
As I got closer, Ben hadn't seen me as yet. Someone was taking all of his attention on his cell. Hmm... those extra-large armholes flashed the side of his pec muscles and defined ribs, whoa. Slipping around behind him, I snaked my arm around his waist, pulling him back a little against me. "Hey you're super cute. Can we go somewhere and make out?"
I heard his cell go click. "Hmm you smell nice, stranger." He tipped his head back a little onto my collarbone. "We're gonna have to be quick - my fiancée is due to arrive any moment," he said with a quiet laugh.
"Oh, you're so hot looking. It's gonna be quick, you can be sure of that," I purred while laying a kiss under his earlobe.
"Missed you, Jamie."
"Missed you, Ben." I turned him around and kissed him. "So glad to be back. Let's go."
With that, we headed to the parking garage, and out. We were headed to III Forks for dinner. Some of our families were going to be there, and a few of my friends too.
"Lucas! Chill out mate, it's gonna be ok, Hailey will be here. Hey, you can't even see the part of your eyebrow that got shaved off." Lucas shot me and I' ma gonna kill you look. "ok, my bad but it was funny right? it's what 4days to your wedding, plenty of time for shit to grow back," laughing into my hand over my mouth.
A huge smile spread over his face. "Yeah, you idiot, it was funny. Just lucky for you that Hailey got her friend to shape both too. Look, ok, I like them being thinner like this." Lucas turning his face side to side admiring his recently reshaped brows.
"Lucky for you, mate, that my hair was a long with those beestings you were doing with the clippers. I have chunks of hair missing. Thought Ben was gonna kill you." At that, we both started to laugh. "Jamie, unless we want trouble when we've got kids we'd ..."
"Need to be smarter, or better at it?"
"No, I was thinking more adult."
"The hell you say - more adult? Jesus, Lucas, I was thinking we're gonna need to dig deep, go full-on." He just shook his head, then a sneaky grin. "You're on."
To say that Lucas' buck's night was fun, that's an understatement. Hailey had only made a few requests - no permanent damage, visible markings, or piercings of any type and no leaving a radius of 45miles - break any of these and she was gonna hand us over to a collection of moms. Brrrr... the thought just frightens me! That's why I only snipped a little of his right eyebrow off - he didn't need to wake me the next morning sitting on my chest saying here comes a hornet, zzz, zzz, and getting me with the hair clippers.
The wedding venue looked amazing. Lucas and Hailey had decided on this modern-looking barn at Saddle Creek Dripping Springs. Lucas was shitting himself, which is not a common thing for him or me really - it takes a lot to get either of us that worried. But he just wanted it to be perfect for Hailey, and it was. The big day was finally upon us.
As the family and friends filed in and sat down, we boys were greeting everyone. A few of the aunts laid a few bright red lipsticks smears on us all. Luckily, Stephanie stopped and gave me a huge hug. "Hey Jim Jam, you look all grown up! Shit - so does Lucas!" She grabbed my hand and put a Ziploc bag. "There are a few unscented makeup wipes in there. Y'all gonna need them."
At that moment, Jet and Daisy had burst into the place, grabbing both my legs, almost toppling over. "Hey guys," I said, rubbing their hair. They hung out with us until it was time for us to head down the front.
Standing down the front, waiting for Hailey, I whispered into Lucas' ear, "Hey buddy, you got this. She's an amazing girl for an amazing guy. Love you, Lucas."
My cousin, best friend, closer-than-a-brother, smiled, pulling me into the biggest bear hug of my life. "Jamie, you have no idea what that means to me. Love you back buddy, and then some." There were a few quiet 'aww's' from the crowd, then a few claps too.
I started to feel super exposed, self-conscious. So, I did what I normally do - caused a distraction by doing something I hadn't done in years: landed a standing backflip into a crouching position. That cause a few laughs - and I hope Ben has the name of a good muscular-skeletal guy - think I'm gonna need one.
When Hailey made her entrance, the place went silent. I quickly eyed Lucas' face just in case I'd missed any granny lipstick smudges_ nope, we're all good. She looked amazing, against her bridesmaids that were wearing off the shoulder full-length dresses, light blue reverse fading to dark blue at the bottom - looked amazing. We were wearing mid-range light blue, slim-fitting suits, white shirts and black bow ties. Lucas was wearing a dark blue bow tie that matched the bottom of the bridesmaids' dresses.
Everyone stood silent. Then, Adele's Make you feel my love started. It was just magic watching this beautiful woman just float on by everyone. The moment she took her first step, Lucas' and her eyes locked into this beautiful gaze, shyly smiling at each other. I looked at Ben for a moment, trying to message him with my eyes that I loved him, seeing my best buddy and cousin, the amazing woman that was going to be his life partner so happy, the emotion was palpable. I looked over at Lucas and saw a single tear slip down his face. That undid me. I looked over at Ben as he discreetly signed 'I-love-you J-a-m-i-e'. Tears welled in my eyes, like a dam waiting to burst. I was so happy for them, these two amazing people. Ben signing that message had almost completely undone me. Just as the beautiful bride arrived, thankfully, I regained composure. I leaned a little closer to Lucas saying 'wow' just loud enough for him and Hailey to hear. I winked at her at the same time as she smiled a heartwarming smile.
"Welcome, everyone. My name is Paige. I am honored to be here today to help celebrate the commitments these amazing people are about to make. Could I ask that y'all stand to show Lucas and Hailey how much they mean to us."
The place exploded: everyone stood and started clapping, cheering and whistling. After a few moments, everyone sat down and began to quiet down.
"Today, we gather to witness and celebrate the marriage of two very special people. This is not the end of one thing, but the next chapter in their stories, their and our combined story." Paige gestured almost like she was sweeping us all in, gathering us up. "Today we affirm the bond that joins two people both formally, publicly, and also very personally. This ceremony is so much more than just words, because of y'all here today, family, friends the loved ones that fill our lives with joy, the loved ones that now join our newest couple through life, its highs and lows, with love and support."
Paige turned to Lucas. "Do you Lucas, take Hailey to be your lawfully wedded partner, to share your life with, in both good and bad times, to commit yourself to the other above all others for as long as you both shall live?"
Okay, I did give a thumbs up when Lucas answered. A few laughed quietly. Lucas had said it so quietly I wasn't sure if they heard him.
Paige turned to Hailey. "Do you Hailey, take Lucas to be your lawfully wedded partner, to share your life with, in both good and bad times, to commit yourself to the other above all others for as long as you both shall live?"
This girl wasn't mucking around. Her voice was crystal clear: "I do."
It all went without a hitch. Not only did I not lose, forget or drop the rings, I even stayed silent when they asked THE question... you know the one -- okay, maybe not entirely silent. I might have let out a little cough. It all happened so fast in what seemed to be only moments.
"Lucas and Hailey, you have exchanged rings as a sign of your commitment to each other. You have pledged before friends and family gathered here to put each other above all others in good and bad times, in tears and joy. I now ask you to seal this ceremony with a kiss, which began with an accident, lives almost lost, to lives spent together. The rest is up to you, James and Benjamin." And at that, we were lip locked and everyone in the place went insane.
At some point, I can't help falling in love with you by Kina Grannis started playing. Ben and I turned around, holding hands facing our assembled families and friends. Lucas and Ben's brother, Daniel, pulled us into a four-way hug. We were joined quickly by Adam and Todd, Ben's brother-in-law, Trev, and workmate, Billy.
We finally got out of that, only to be greeted by Hailey and Stephanie (both clearly had been crying) followed by our parents. And so, it went on for ages. When we finally got to the end of the seating area, I looked around. The Arbour was covered in yellow and green wattle from Australia, mixed with the beautiful blossom and local wildflower that was perfectly backdropped by the river behind.
We'd found a location that was so us - Blissful Hill in Spicewood, Texas. The outdoor setting - down by the river. To hide what was going on, Ben came up with a simple and cool idea: a huge banner blocking it all out, with pictures all over it of our friends and family, us as kids, even a few pics of the accident, too - nothing too gory. It worked perfectly, hiding what was set up behind.
When the banner finally dropped, to say there were a lot of stunned faces is a total understatement. It dawned on them pretty quickly that the engagement party they thought they were turning up to a week after Lucas and Hailey's wedding was Ben's and mine.
Our groomsmen, Lucas, Daniel, Adam, Trev, Todd, and Billy quickly rounded up the guests and helped them with seating. Then, Ben and I walked on from each side. I let out a little wave, while Ben was just beaming. We were both wearing grey slim fit three-piece suits, my vest was a deep red with gold, Ben's was a beautiful pale blue and gold, and you'd better believe it - this was not our idea at all. Lucas and Hailey, the day after theirs, were like, 'you've gotta get married now while the family is all here.' They'd even found out that Blissful Hill was available by some fluke of magic -- okay, I did say it would be a cool place to get married, and then we could go for a ski afterward. Hailey was like a woman possessed, she rounded up that posse of bridesmaids and my big sister too, I found out, and bang it, was all done.
The warm air near sunset, that golden hour of light before night kicks in was upon us. The last time we'd had a gathering was our surprise wedding, except this time there weren't any last-minute surprises when Jamie's mom and some family members found out that Sam, yes Sam, was at our surprise wedding. Let's just say some quick talking from Aiden and Lucas and my dad saved the day, no bloodshed luckily. Well, at least tonight this is just a gathering before I head off to Tucson for another month.
I was sitting on one of the garden bench seats near the backdoor at Ben's place, stopping for a moment to take it all in for a moment, you know, kind of being grateful with what had happened over the past weeks, daunted with what was ahead of me - Ben, my family.
"Hey Jim Jam, how are you?"
I looked around to see my lovely big sister. "All good. How are you and your sexy husband going, sis?"
Sitting down with a glass of something in her hand, she teased, "You broke my husband's heart, getting married, you know. He still says that you two are going to run off together one day."
I laughed at that.
"I told him he's missed the boat twice now, marrying me and you finding Ben, but anyway enough joking about my little brother. I've gotta say, you look at peace, Jamie, something I haven't seen for a long time. Being married to Ben, it works for you - I can see that, hell anyone can."
"Thanks, Steph. I'm kinda unsure though - the next little bit's gonna be tough on us, you know. Back to Tucson for two ten-day rotations, then I get to come back here for six days, rinse and repeat for the next two months, then back again for ten days and off to Phoenix for the same, then followed by Boston, and shit, it's gonna be cold by the time I get there.
I can't complain - the chiefs at all three services had set me up with back to back rotations with six-day breaks between them. Ben said he'll come up or over so I don't have to fly every break."
"That's great, Jamie. It's a killer when you finally get to the end of a rotation and have to fly back and forth - don't get me wrong, it's worth it to see, be with your partner. It's also nice when they come to you."
We both sat quietly for a bit, just have a drink, watching the goings-on in the yard, till Steph broke the silence, "Well Jamie, you're gonna be a bit exhausted after all of this, but I think he's worth it, hey?"
"Not a doubt in my mind. I'll do whatever I have to, to make it work, plus, we consummated the marriage - he can't escape me either. So, he can't run out on me now, I hope."
We both stood, and walked toward the laughter and voices flowing around us. The smell of a southern cookup was well underway -- really, it's a lot like our own barbeques we do home, plus we use Grammy's bbq sauce too. Ben's family were minding the food. I was walking around chatting and making sure everyone had either food, drink, or more food.
The yard had festoon lights strung up, giving a gentle glow to the yard. Candles were burning all about to keep the bugs away, and I'd set up an LCD projector onto the back wall. At the moment, the kids had taken control of the Chromecast and were watching YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft and roadblocks, which I didn't get until someone under sixteen explained how it all worked ... with sass too, like I was some sort of idiot - I couldn't stop laughing.
Finally, after stuffing our faces like it was a second Thanksgiving, Ben took control of the screen which was lit up with YouTube videos this time, not gaming, but Maroon 5. OMG, I have such a crush on Adam Levine! Ben had the karaoke microphones and he and Lucas were upfront going first. Watching my husband and blood brother singing Sugar, tell you what - Ben singing like Adam Levine, that's going on the movie reel in my head for later, you'd better believe it.
Everyone was cheering. Man, they were good, I mean damn... good. The place went mad: everyone was cheering and singing along - it was awesome. The kids wanted a go, so we let them go. Aiden took control of the mics and the kids.
Ben came over and sat on my lap, putting his arm around my shoulder, with the other hand clenching a beer and pointing in conversation at his little niece and nephews. They were planning a singing challenge soon - the problem was kids: Ben had a voice, a beautiful voice too, and Lucas, the shit, wasn't bad at all either. I could hold a tune in a very narrow range, but these two were a delight to watch, but more so to hear.
"Hey Ben, you want anything? I'm out, need another beer. Lucas, Hailey - can I get y'all something?"
"Y'all, Jamie? Oh, you make me so proud!" Ben grabbed my chin, tilting it up toward him and dropping those soft, beautiful warm lips on me. "Y'all!"