Start at the beginning…
Part 1 – Air
“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” -J.D. Salinger
‘Tis better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all” -Lord Alfred Tennyson
“Is it?” -Talia Landon
Chapter 1 – Empire – TALLY
“Thirty miles. Forty minutes. Without traffic.” I list off the selling points of the church at Half Moon Bay. I really want this, and I have to hope Linc does too. We have six hours before he has to hit the field again for a late practice and it’s a forty-minute drive one way. I have a rare day off from San Francisco Ballet, so here we are traveling out to Half Moon Bay to check out a place to hold our wedding and reception. I’m anxious. I want him to love the little church I’ve fallen in love with. I’ve already called Pastor Dan Reeve twice but he won’t schedule a date or promise us one until he meets us. A strange enough request. Linc and I finding time together takes quite a bit of maneuvering these days.
“If we don’t hit it off with this minister, we lose out on this place,” I say.
Linc glances over at me. “I know you’re excited about this one but, Tally, we’re already booked at Hollins House for mid-October. It’ll hold everybody. My dad sent over a more complete list a few days ago. I think he’s just invited all the people who attended my mom’s funeral years ago and there are a lot of names to add to the guest list.”
“He’s really nice. I think you’ll like him. All he wants is to meet us first.”
“That’s pretty demanding though, right? He won’t even give you the open dates the place has until he meets us? I don’t like it. Hollins House is good to go and we really can’t spend any more time on this, babe.”
I let the babe comment slide. He knows I hate that endearment which is too similar to baby, which I really despise.
“I’m unclear as to why we have to invite four hundred and fifty people I do not know to our wedding. That limits our options.” I bite my lip from saying more about that.
Linc’s dad has become a major problem for us and every guest he adds skyrockets the cost and there’s no offer from him to cover those. My parents are rightfully freaking out. Linc remains somewhat oblivious to it all because really it’s the middle of baseball season, and that’s the only thing on his mind these days. We don’t really talk about money. We probably should.
I start again. “I mean, if we’re going to do this thing…”
Linc shoots me a stern look. He doesn’t like it when I refer to our wedding as a thing.
I start again. “If we’re going to do this lovely, fantastic, blissful event, then I would really like it to be in this amazing church that overlooks the Pacific and Half Moon Bay. I’m sorry; I just don’t want to get married at somebody’s restored house on a golf course. That’s not my idea of a wedding.” Now, I’m coasting on thin ice because he likes the Hollins House a lot and has told me this at least a thousand times since he booked it. The one thing Linc did for this wedding while I have handled everything else.
Word of advice don’t get engaged in the middle of summer and expect to be able to get married at an awesome venue three months later. Not going to happen. At least, not in San Francisco. Linc needs a place that will accommodate his four hundred plus guests from the must-be-invited list his father surreptitiously sent us three weeks ago. And now there are more names. I didn’t expect Davis Presley to have so many demands, but then again, I have been wrong about a number of things when it comes to Linc’s dad.
I sigh a little because I haven’t told the groom-to-be the other part—what I consider to be the best part—about the little church in Half Moon Bay, it can only accommodate about a hundred people. Of course, there’s the sanctuary nearby that can accommodate up to two hundred and fifty guests if you need that, but that’s not what I want, and it still won’t be enough for the four hundred plus people his dad has insisted we invite. So the guest list would have to be trimmed way down. I hesitate to tell Linc this part until after he’s seen the place.
“I mean if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right,” I say softly, feeling more anxious. “Look, we’re almost there.” I hold my breath as we get our first glimpse of Half Moon Bay.
“Right. Almost there.” Linc sighs from the driver’s seat. “Good ‘cause I’m tired. Those flights back from Detroit are killer.”
“I know you’re tired, but it’s the only time we could fit it in before you leave again. Just keep an open mind. That’s all I ask.”
“I will. I just don’t understand why we have to come all the way out here to get married, but…” He stops talking when the church comes into view and looks uneasy. “There’s no way over four hundred people are going to fit into that little church, Tally.”
“Just wait until you’ve seen the inside. Please?”
Yes, there’s been some of that. An unexpected and enormous guest list. Linc’s dad. Interference from all sides. Baseball. Ballet. Wedding plans that never seem to get done. A cake that still needs to be ordered along with the catered food. What about this? What about that? Try this. Eat that. Drink this. Color that. Dress in this or maybe that. His tuxedo has been ordered, but it still needs to be tailored—a fitting that the groom can never make. You’ve settled on the design of the invitations, but you can’t print them until you find the place and set the date—a date that doesn’t interfere with baseball or ballet’s fall season. However, you have to find a place to get married first. That’s my to-do list. Linc’s to-do list is comprised of one thing, and one thing only, baseball.
Sure, the end of July and beginning of August were fun for us. We’d just gotten engaged but by the time September rolled around I’ve begun to understand more of what baseball season really means and my perspective has shifted. Linc is out of town three and four days at a time. His days off are rare and he’s at practice when he’s not playing, He’s either dropping off dirty uniforms to be laundered or packing up his suitcase for the next series of games out of town. It’s been infrequent hellos and too many rushed good-byes at the airport for us. Those two scenes seem to have become the most memorable ones for the past several weeks. Since I’m left to juggle little Cara’s schedule as well as mine and hold the fort without him, there’s been some tension between us. Yes, we’ve been engaged for a few months and that part is fun. But this part? Planning a wedding without him and trying to accommodate his dad? Not so much.
“It’s great,” he says with a notable lack of enthusiasm as he gets out and looks over the roof of the car at me. He smirks a little, then turns and looks out at the Pacific that you can just glimpse from the front of the church steps. I hear him sigh deep. “It’s just great.” I watch him breathe in the faint hint of salty air and gaze wistfully out at the ocean, but he’s no longer smiling. “Great. Just great.”
It doesn’t sound great the way he’s said it. And can we talk about the rhetorical use of the word great in describing everything in the past two minutes?
“It’s more than just great. What’s wrong with you? Because this is about more than just being tired after a long plane ride.”
I’m cut off from saying anything more to him because Pastor Dan Reeve stands at the top of the church steps waiting to meet us.
Great. We’re fighting. That will go over big.
“Tally, you’re finally here and this must be Linc. It’s nice to meet you both.” Pastor Dan shakes hands with Linc without even mentioning he’s an avid fan of the Giants like he has to me every time we’ve talked on the phone. “Come in. Come in. I just made some lemonade because Tally called saying you’d both be making the trip. How wonderful to finally meet you two.” He lifts a quizzical brow at Linc. “I was beginning to wonder if you were a myth that Tally was just going on about, but here you are, Lincoln Presley, a living legend in person and everything.”
“I’m just like everybody else, sir.” Linc forces a smile and then attempts to catch my eye with some kind of subtle reprimand as if I told this man I was marrying a famous baseball player beforehand.
I smile sweetly at Linc and then turn to the minister. “We try to downplay the fame thing. Linc doesn’t want to make me feel bad since he makes a hundred times more money than I do, and I work twice as hard.”
I laugh and so does Pastor Dan. Linc makes an effort, but it’s forced. And I know it. We are off today, him and me.
“Just call me Dan, everyone else does. You’ve got quite a girl here in Tally. I’ve enjoyed hearing about the two of you from her, but really want to hear from you as well. That’s why I insist on meeting couples in person before we even begin to talk about wedding dates.” Dan winks at me and I get a little red in the face thinking if he only knew what I’ve put Linc through in the past few years. Linc sighs a little, sounding tired and impatient, two things he actually never seems to be, normally. I kind of glare his way, telepathically telling him to keep an open mind about the church and this man who would be marrying us. “So, we should talk about your wedding plans and your future and the two of you.”
Our future and the two of us.
Pastor Dan’s words take me by surprise. I’ve been too focused on setting the wedding date and finding a place to get married to look beyond that.
Our future? The two of us?
Wow. I’m about to marry Lincoln Presley.
That is surreal in so many ways and anyone who knows me would agree.
“So how did you two meet?”
We don’t even get to start with an easy question.
I hesitate so Linc answers for us. “I saved Tally from a car accident. Then, we met up at a party months later. It went from there.”
Epic answer. Let’s leave the rest out. I fidget with a thread showing on the edge of my blouse. I dressed up for the occasion forgoing my usual attire of black jeans and matching T-shirt in a concerted effort to impress the pastor and improve our chances at booking this place, but I already sense those odds slipping away.
“Is that how it went, Tally?” The pastor looks mildly curious.
“I was seventeen at the time. Linc was twenty-two. He’d just signed on with the Angels. Our age difference made it impossible to be together. You see I lied about my age. I was still in high school when we met so we broke it off. Linc went to LA to pitch for the Angels, and I moved to New York and attended the School of American Ballet.”
“That’s impressive. It’s hard to get in, let alone make it, which you obviously have.”
Linc’s looking a little irritated probably because Pastor Dan just glossed over his entire baseball career essentially ignoring all of his hard-won accomplishments.
“A career in ballet is mostly made in New York. That’s where you have to be,” I say quietly. Yet, the hairs on the back of my neck rise up at the way Linc is looking at me. He looks surprised and uneasy at the same time.
He knows this, doesn’t he?
“Tally?” Linc asks under his breath. I wave him off because the pastor is talking.
“But you’re with the San Francisco Ballet. Why the change?” The pastor asks.
I exhale slowly. Here we go. Let confession begin. “I moved from New York to San Fran to be near my family and try to work things out with Linc.”
“And I felt the same way,” Linc says impatiently. “Do we really need to go through all the whys and wherefores of our relationship, father?”
“Dan. Call me Dan; I’m not a priest.” He laughs and looks sympathetic for a moment, but then his features harden. “I always try to understand the dynamics of the couple’s relationship that I’m planning to marry. Relationships aren’t just ordered off the menu. There are dynamics. Baggage. Everybody has some. What are yours, Linc? You have this epic baseball career. You have a lucrative contract. But that’s just the public persona of you. What’s the real Lincoln Presley like? What does he want out of his life? How many children do you want? I understand you have a daughter. Cara? Tally told me she’s three. That’s wonderful but starting out with a family is its own unique challenge. And what about Tally? She gave up an illustrious dance career to come back home and be with you. What are you giving up, exactly?”
“I…I don’t know exactly what I’m giving up.” Linc runs his hands through his hair and sighs. “She probably can’t have any more kids, so I guess I’m giving up on the idea of ever having a son.” Linc won’t even look at me now after he’s dealt this surprising blow. “I mean…we have Cara so it’s all good, but I won’t ever have a son. That’s a bit of a sacrifice for me.”
I look down at the ground, instead of at Linc, feeling essentially lanced by what he’s just said. “We don’t know that for sure. I’m seeing a specialist,” I say to the pastor and then say in an aside to Linc. “I wasn’t even sure you wanted more kids or that a son was so important to you.”
“I’ve always wanted a big family,” Linc says sounding uncertain. “I thought you knew that, but Tally, I want you more,” he says, grabbing my left hand and putting it to his lips. I look at him intently, but still carry this wounded feeling. “I love you. You know that. That’s the most important thing.”
“Is it? You want a son, but I may not be able to give you one. That seems like a pretty important thing to discuss before we commit to each other and get married.”
“We are committed. Stop it. I see where you’re trying to take this. I love you. I’d give up anything for you, and maybe, I have. Yes, I want a son but I want to marry you more and be with you the rest of my life. We’re already a family. We have Cara. Maybe, Dr. Eldon will be able to help us out, but it doesn’t matter, not enough anyway.”
Pastor Dan is nodding and seems perfectly at ease with the intense discussion taking place between Linc and me. He smiles wide looking pleased with himself.
“See? This is what I’m trying to get at. Communication is so important. You won’t always agree. You won’t always want the same things. Marriage is a lifetime commitment, not these one-day affairs costing upwards to fifty grand where the world stops for a few hours, watches the two of you get photographed, and feed each other cake. Blissful, sure. Expensive, seems to be the norm these days. Epic. Maybe, on a grand proportion so out of scale, it becomes unseemly at times.” He gets this serious face. “But that’s not the true meaning of marriage. Not at all. It takes a half-hour to perform a wedding ceremony and actually only five people need to be in attendance to make a wedding work: me, the groom, the bride, and two witnesses. The rest is extraordinary but unnecessary. But after that? The marriage itself? That’s just made up of the two of you. Even your daughter is a separate entity from you. You two are going to be tested in all kinds of ways. And you really need to ask yourselves if you’re truly ready for all of that. A wedding takes place just one day in your life together, but it’s the three hundred and sixty-four other days afterward of that first year and the ones that follow that make a marriage. And it’s not easy.” He shakes his head. “May I be frank?”
“Well, I was hoping for that,” Linc says while I just sort of nod because I’m already reeling from the way this whole conversation has been going so far.
“You two are on the fame track. Tally is already a recognizable figure in the dance world.” The pastor turns to me. “I’ve read about you, Tally. You did well for yourself in New York already.” Then he focuses in on Linc. “Let’s face it; the Giants are looking good to make a real run this year and your stats are amazing.” He smiles but then it fades. “But fame can be a destructive monster. You two lead very complicated lives on the world’s stage already. Both of you will be tested in ways that a normal couple—sorry; I’m not sure how else to make my point—may never experience. I just feel it’s important to get this all out in the open. Marriage is not an easy road for anybody. I find it even harder for the most famous ones. I don’t want to discourage you, but I think you have some issues that need to be discussed. I’m not singling the two of you out by any means; I insist all the couples I marry be fully prepared, air things out before jumping into a lifetime commitment they aren’t ready for.”
He sweeps his arm around the room. “Yes, I spend an extraordinary amount of time upfront asking about a couple’s relationship, and their wants and desires and expectations. If it makes you uncomfortable, I might not be the right one to marry you. That’s why I insist on meeting couples together. I’ve got this fantastic venue. Every couple, famous or not, wants to commit to each other in this little church that looks out over the Pacific and say their vows to one another and start their lives together. Fulfilling those wishes are never the problem, but finding couples who are really ready for all that follows remains a challenge. I like to ensure the ones I take on are fully prepared for the marriage part, the day after the guests go home.”
Pastor Dan laughs a little, but neither one of us do.
Then he looks intently at Linc, who looks seriously pissed off while I am the complete opposite—barely holding myself together. The last thing I want to do is break down in front of these two.
“I’m not easy to love,” I say in an attempt to bridge the awkward silence and appeal to Linc’s happy side, but now he looks even more unhappy with me. “Tally,” he says.
“Why would you say that? Even think it?” Pastor Dan asks, incredulous at my simple confession.
“Because it’s true.” I turn to Linc. “I don’t know why you love me. I’m not sure that you should. I’ve always wondered that. Why do you love me? Why? It runs through my head all the time. And you want a son and I may not be able to give you one.”
“That’s crazy talk, Tal. I love you because you’re the most incredible person I’ve ever met.”
“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere,” the pastor says. “Linc, why is she so extraordinary? Incredible as you’ve said.”
Linc turns to Dan and audibly sighs. “We’ve shared the same exact fears—falling, failing, losing. We’ve had our fair share of bad luck in our relationship, with others. And still we persevere. Tally does. She has this amazing strength to overcome the biggest challenges and come out on top, flying high like she does in her performances. And I love that about her. And she’s an extraordinary mom. The way she handles Cara is amazing. She gives infinite amounts of love and kindness to everyone she cares about and I want to be a part of that—Tally’s brand of love. I can’t imagine my life without her. I really can’t, so I asked her to marry me and she said yes.”
Linc looks at me for a long moment, grabs my hands, and kisses them. Tears fill my eyes. His assurance takes away some of the heartbreak from his revelation minutes earlier. He breaks our gaze and he looks over at Dan.
“I agree with you about probably needing to vet couples to ensure their eyes are wide open as to what marriage is all about, but Tally and I already know that and you should know that we’ve been tested more than most on that front. On fame and otherwise. We’re ready to take the next step. So whether that’s here in your church or someplace else I don’t care, I just want to marry this girl. Make her my wife and ensure she’s a part of my life because she is without a doubt the best part of me.”
“I think you’ve just said your vows.” Pastor Dan looks elated while Linc looks pretty much spent and I am still somewhat shaken by the enormity of Linc’s words.
I withdraw my hand from Linc’s and wipe at my eyes with the back of my hand. Linc affectionately tucks a stray hair strand back behind my ear and tiredly smiles at me.
And the world seems right again for about fifteen seconds.
“I have a cancellation in the middle of July next year. Let me see, yes, Saturday, July 19th, is open. Other than that we’re booked solid through November of next year. Not as many requests in the winter months here after that other than at Christmastime. What works for you?” Dan asks easily. “I’d love to marry the two of you.”
“Next July? That won’t work for us,” Linc says without hesitation shaking his head. “I’m going to marry Tally a lot sooner than that.”
“It’s less than a year away,” Dan says. “Tally? You don’t want to wait until next July?” The pastor asks, looking surprised.
“Noooooooo,” I say. The disappointment at hearing Linc’s automatic no and essentially answering for both of us without even asking me first stings. How far out the date itself is manages to whoosh through all of me too. Damn.
“I think we’re done here, Dan. Thanks for the tour and the clarity.” Linc gets up and shakes the guy’s hand and starts for the door.
I slowly follow him in a daze.
What just happened?
July of next year.
That’s what just happened.
It’s the middle of baseball season. July doesn’t work, and Linc doesn’t want to wait. So why would I?
I wistfully glance back at the church. Pastor Dan waves at us from the top of the stairs like before, but looks a little bewildered as to why we are leaving him so soon.
“Too small. Too long of a wait. Next July? Come on, Tally. Please. It’ll be the middle of baseball season. That’s not going to work at all. Let’s go.” Linc shakes his head side-to-side as he retrieves the car keys from his pocket. “It’s a beautiful place, Tal. I’m glad we came, but it’s not going to work for us.”
“Yeah, it’s beautiful.” I look out the side mirror as we drive away from the epic view of the Pacific and Pastor Dan’s beautiful little church at Half Moon Bay. I should be elated by most of what Linc just said back there, but all I feel is this extraordinary sense of loss at the overriding thought that he wants a son and I can’t give him one. There’s that.
It’s just like they say. You’ve got your fingers in the dike preventing the dam from breaking, but it’s only a matter of time before it does. That’s how water works. That’s the strength of water. You can’t stop it.
“We could adopt.” The words leave my mouth before I can stop them.
“We could.” Rote words. He’s said them but doesn’t really mean them. The underlying anguish with his wish for a son is unmistakable, and he won’t quite meet my gaze when I look over at him even when he says, “let’s just see what Dr. Eldon says first; huh? Maybe it’s a non-issue.”
But it is an issue. I can tell by the way he’s looking at me.
“Maybe.” I turn away from him and look in the rearview mirror just in time to get the last glimpse of the amazing view of the Pacific just before it disappears.
Beautiful things are like that, extraordinary one minute, gone the next.
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