I couldn’t have planned a proposal better than the night I proposed to Emilee. I’d taken her to my family’s resort. We ate at the restaurant and then walked along the beach. The sea was calm and perfect, and the stars twinkled in the sky. I got down on one knee and produced the ring box I had secreted in my pocket. My hands didn’t even shake as I opened it.
“Emilee Hamada, will you be my wife?” I asked, grinning like a loon.
Her reaction was priceless. She squealed and said yes like fifty times. She was practically jumping up and down with excitement. I had a hard time getting the ring on her finger, but when it was finally on, she threw her arms around me and screeched, “We’re getting married!”
To save my ears any more damage (I didn’t think she wanted to marry a deaf man), I grabbed her around the waist and kissed her. She kissed me back enthusiastically.
“We should go call your sisters! I need to call Barbara, too!” Barbara was Emilee’s older sister.
“They can wait until morning,” I said. “I booked us a suite here. It will be like a pre-honeymoon.”
“Oh!” She squealed again and I was treated to another enthusiastic hug.
Of course once we told our families, the girls immediately started planning the wedding. At that point, my brothers-in law pulled me aside.
“Just let the females plan everything,” Omar said. “They don’t really want your help or input. Just nod whenever you are asked if you like something.” Phillip was nodding in agreement.
“Ok,” I laughed. “That’s good advice, I suppose.”
“Take it from us,” Phillip added. “You’ll just be in the way. Besides, we have something else to plan…”
“The bachelor party!” Omar and Phillip said together. The two of them bumped fists.
“First things first, strippers or no strippers?”
“I think no…” I said hesitantly. “I mean, dancers are ok, but no naked women. I think Emilee might not like that. And I know for a fact that your wives might object.”
“Boo,” hissed Omar, but he agreed. I knew that neither he nor Phillip would ever do something my sisters wouldn’t like.
Against my brother-in laws’ advice, I didn’t stay out of the wedding planning. I made it very clear that I wanted it to take place outside.
“We all had our weddings outside,” Rhea and Juno nodded. “I like the outdoors,” Emilee agreed.
“And I want to do it at the Fields Resort,” I said. “Mom and Dad and Aunt Anne would have liked that. And we just added the new wedding venue,” I reminded them.
“The resort would be perfect!” Juno said. “We should go check it out. See if we need to do anything to make it special just for you two.”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” I said, but I got roped into taking a tour of the resort facilities anyway.
You’d think that being the owner of the place, I wouldn’t have to check it out to see if it was suitable. Ha! When you are planning a wedding EVERYTHING has to be checked out and double checked!
I knew that the resort would be perfect, and I was right. We wed just after sunset. The moonlight reflected on the water and the stars twinkled like diamonds above us. As Emilee approached me, I was oblivious to everything but her beauty. She took one look at me and laughed.
“You cut your hair!”
I smiled. “I did. I figured this was the right occasion.”
“I like it,” she said, reaching out run her hand through my newly cropped hair.
“I’m glad,” I said, smiling even more. “Are you ready to do this?”
And so the ceremony started. I remember very little of what was said and how I responded. I was completely focused on Emilee, my best friend and soon to be my wife. I’m sure we said the words like we were supposed to:
“I Ares Fields take thee Emilee Hamada to love and protect in sickness and in health from this day forward.”
“I Emilee Hamada take thee Ares fields to love and protect in sickness and in health from this day forward.”
At the end of the ceremony, I barely heard the words: “You may kiss the bride.” I’m pretty sure I may have jumped the gun a bit because as soon as we exchanged the rings, I was already reaching for Emilee. She was my wife! I couldn’t believe it!
After the wedding, Homer went home with Juno and Phillip and his cousins. Emilee and I spent another week at the resort. It may not have been a fancy honeymoon, but we filled it with fun and laughter as we cavorted around the pool and played games on the beach.
I also took Emilee to one of my favorite coves. There we did a little fishing and we swam beneath the waterfall.
“I’m going to hate it when this is over,” I told Emilee. “It has been the most perfect week.”
“It has been beautiful,” Emilee agreed. “But I’m missing Homer. I’m missing Felix. I think I’m looking forward to going home.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” I said. “I didn’t want to say that. But I can’t wait to go home either! I miss Homer, too, and I wonder what mischief he’s gotten up to with his cousin. Is it bad that we just got married and now we just want to go back home to our regular life?”
“No. I think that just means that we have a good life to get back to. This is just an idyll. Our real life is back home with your son and our cat.”
“Fine. The cat that lives in our house…with us…and likes to sit on your lap and have you rub his belly!”
“I’ll get you for that!” I joked. I sent a splash of water at her and then dove down to grab at her legs. We thrashed around for a bit and then swam back to shore where we stretched out to let the sun dry us.
When we got home, I helped Emilee establish a garden next to my house. I had no idea that she liked gardening so much. It sort of reminded me of my mom, but Emilee did it more as a hobby than to use in her cooking.
“I’ll never be a cook like your mom was,” Emilee told me when I asked if she planned to use the garden for fresh produce. “I just like puttering around with plants. I know we’ll save some to eat, but most I’ll just sell or give away.”
“I never expected you to be a cook like Mom,” I told her. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like I did.”
“It’s ok Ares. I know you didn’t. I just like gardening. Ok?”
As we settled into married life, we sometimes had misunderstandings like the one about the garden.
Another one was about Emilee’s job. Emilee worked as a clerk at the grocery. It was a job she’d had since high school. I thought she might like to quit now that we were married.
“Don’t you think it’s weird that you are married to the owner?” I asked her.
“I know you own the grocery,” Emilee told me. “I don’t care. I like my job. I’m not the boss. I’m just the boss’ wife!”
“Whoa! I’m not the boss!” I insisted, throwing out my hands.
“Even more reason not to quit!”
Another reason we fought was because of Homer. I’d bought him a jet-ski to get around the islands on now that he was getting older. Emilee thought it was too dangerous a craft for a little boy to have.
“He’s 9!” I said, thinking that was all the reason I needed to give him the boat.
“Exactly!” she said. “He’s only 9. He’s too young to drive a car, so he’s definitely too young to drive a boat!”
“Emilee, Homer’s been sailing since he was a baby! He knows how to drive a boat. I’ve been teaching him.”
“But this is a motor boat, Ares!”
“So?! He understands water safety and swims better than most fish! He’ll be fine!”
“Ares! He’s too young. You can’t just let him ride a jet-ski by himself.”
“I can let him do whatever I want. I’m his dad!”
“Well what am I? Just because I’m not his mom, does that mean I get no say in his life?!”
After arguing about the boat (which it was too late to take back), Emilee and I had to agree on some fundamental parenting rules: Always talk to each other before making decisions regarding Homer. Always communicate about punishments and rewards if Homer deserved any. And always fight about Homer or talk about Homer in private.
Co-parenting Homer was difficult enough with Emilee. We had a lot of kinks to work out so that Homer didn’t get confused about it. But soon after we were married, Martina came back into our lives.
“I need to speak to you Ares,” she said. Emilee and I were in the garden. I was fixing the sprinkler and she was pruning some of the plants. Martina walked right up to where we were working.
Hearing her voice, I was immediately nervous. How was this little encounter going to go? How high on the crazy scale was Martina behaving today? I looked up and noted that she was dressed normally. Her eyes looked focused. Her expression was calm. I sighed in relief.
“Hello, Martina.” I said.
“I wanted to talk about Homer,” Martina said, pulling me aside. We stepped a bit away from the garden where Emilee continued working and acting like she couldn’t hear our conversation.
“I’d like to work out visitations or joint custody or something,” Martina said, shocking me almost speechless.
“You want custody of Homer?” I asked, not exactly believing what I was hearing. Martina had never expressed interest in seeing Homer more than on his birthdays. They talked on the phone sometimes, but she never offered to pick him up and take him out fishing or something like that. And for good reason too. Martina was not fit to do those sorts of things with Homer. “No. No way!” I said, shaking my head vigorously. “Custody is just not possible.”
“Don’t just discount it Ares! I’m Homer’s mother. I have rights!”
I shook my head again. “No. You don’t have any rights. You gave those away when you abandoned him.”
Martina started pleading with me. “I’m not asking for full custody. I just want to see him more. That’s all.” If I didn’t know Martina better, I would swear she was sincere. I’d think that maybe I was a big asshole for denying her the right to see her son. She looked the part of a contrite mother. But there was no way I was buying this act.
“You’ve got to be kidding. After all this time, now you want to see Homer more?”
Martina started to cry. I would have felt bad for her, but I knew that the tears weren’t those of a sane woman. “He’s my son!”
“Yes. He is. He’s your son. He’s speaks to you on the phone several times a year and you see him on his birthday. What makes you think he wants to see you more than that?”
Just as suddenly as they had come, Martina’s tears stopped. She started yelling. “This is her fault! My son doesn’t want to see me because of her!”
Now there was the Martina I expected. And now I knew exactly what had brought her over here making demands to see more of Homer. Playing it off, I said, “What the hell are you raving about?”
Martina pointed at Emilee with an accusing finger. “That woman! That slut that you married. She’s always hated me. She tried to steal you from me when we were kids. Now she’s trying to steal my Homer!” And then the tears came again.
“Jesus Martina! Get a grip. Emilee is my wife. She is Homer’s step-mother. She’s not trying to steal anything from you,” I said, trying to be somewhat reasonable.
“I want custody! I want visitations! I don’t want her to be his mother!”
Just then Homer came running up the hill from the dock. He’d been out fishing and must have heard Martina screaming.
“Mom!” he shouted.
“Oh Baby!” She amped up the waterworks and drew him into a sloppy hug. I motioned for Emilee to get the the phone. “Call Omar” I mouthed silently. She nodded, getting the picture.
“What are you doing here Mom?” Homer asked when he managed to pull away from Martina.
“I came here for you, Baby. I told your dad that it would be a good idea if I had more visitations or maybe even custody. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Would you like that?”
“Martina,” I warned. “We are not talking about this. You do not have custody, and you can only have supervised visitations.”
“Well that’s just not fair, is it? Homer is my sweet baby boy. I’m his mother. You can’t deny that.”
I took a deep breath. The last thing I wanted to do was argue or fight with Martina in front of Homer. I could already tell that he was getting agitated by her behavior.
“Look, Martina, why don’t you go home. I will call you and we can work something out.”
“No! I don’t want to go unless Homer comes with me. He’s my baby. A mother should be with her baby!”
“Mom. I’m not a baby. I don’t want to go with you,” Homer said in a scared, but determined tone.
“But you have to!” Martina reached out and grabbed Homer’s hand. I lunged to protect him, but Homer was already pulling away.
“No Mom! You need to leave. Go home or I won’t let you call me anymore! Just leave!”
“Homer, it’ll be ok,” I said, knowing that the boy was fighting back tears. I could see that his hands were trembling. “Martina, let’s get going.”
Martina recoiled away from both of us. She was crying again and starting to make a keening noise in the back of her throat. I knew that she was about to throw one of her fits.
“Homer,” I said, putting my arm around Martina to drag her to her car if I had to, “go inside. Emilee is calling Uncle Omar.”
Homer nodded and did as he was told.
“Now you listen to me,” I hissed at Martina. “I can tell that you are upset. Maybe you forgot to take your medicine today. Maybe you need to see your doctor again. But you cannot come here and act crazy like this in front of Homer!”
Just then Omar pulled up in his car. He put it in park but left the engine running.
“I’ll take her Ares,” he said. “Come on ‘Tina. I’ve called Dr. Sandoval.”
Martina was still crying hysterically, but at least she stopped making that horrible noise. Sounding like a little girl she said, “But I don’t want to see Dr. Sandoval. I don’t like getting shots.”
Omar took his sister’s hand. “Sorry Ares. Tell Homer that it will be ok. Phillip says that they may need to adjust Martina’s meds.”
“I’ll tell him.”
My talk with Homer went ok. Homer is a good kid. I asked him if he wanted to stop seeing Martina or talking to her, but he said no.
“She’s sick, Dad. That’s what you and Uncle Phillip told me.”
“That’s true,” I said. “Your Uncle Omar took her to see her doctor when he picked her up.”
“It wouldn’t be right if I just stopped talking to her when she’s sick. But I’ll just talk to her on the phone. Do you think that will be ok?”
“That will be fine, son. Just fine.”
Because she was pretty shaken up by the Martina incident, I took Emilee out on my sailboat later that afternoon.
“Do you think that she’ll try that again?” Emilee asked me.
“No.” I said. “She’s mostly harmless. She just has these fits, but I don’t think she’d really do anything.”
“That’s good. I had hoped she wasn’t dangerous.”
“She’s not. I promise.”
“Good,” Emilee said. “because I have something I need to tell you.”
“Remember when I got sick at the resort during our honeymoon?”
“It wasn’t food poisoning.”