Maddie heard Max before she saw him. A long, white stretch SUV pulled to a stop in front of the Bellagio, where Sid and Maddie stood on the sidewalk. Max’s head was out the sunroof again, and he was howling.
“Are we going to In-N-Out again?” Maddie asked, climbing in.
“Hell no!” Deanne yelled, as the SUV took off.
“Let’s see it,” Kris said, holding out his hand. Maddie put her right hand in his. Everyone leaned in and “ooooh”ed appreciatively. Max slapped Sidney on the back.
“Well done, captain,” he cheered.
Maddie laughed. They were breaking every possible rule of the road. Cynthia had her legs over Kris’ lap. Max was holding Erin on his knee. Deanne was on the floor between Jordan’s feet. Joe and Geno were kneeling, leaning over everyone to see.
“Damn,” Joe said. “I should have joined this party days ago.”
The SUV pulled off the road and Jordan jumped out. Holding the door open ceremoniously, everyone piled past Sid and Maddie to get out first. Once they unloaded, Sidney climbed out. He held his hand into the car for Maddie. She took it, stepped down…
… and looked up at the Little White Wedding Chapel.
“Woohoo!” Everyone shouted.
The door to the small building swung open and an older woman in a matronly dress stepped out. “Mr. Crosby and Ms. Cartwright? We are ready for you.”
Everyone filed in, leaving Maddie and Sid standing in the parking lot.
“Are you crazy?!”
“Next time I’ll take you to the joust to really get married,” he said, taking her hand.
Deanne told them to wait five minutes in the vestibule. It was actually a gift shop. All the wedding accoutrements were available – from rental dresses and DVDs of the ceremony to mugs and teddy bears with photos of the bride and groom on their little shirts.
Sidney held up a china plate with a photo of ‘Bob & Bobbi’ on it. “What do you think? For Mario?”
Maddie was busy picking out a bouquet from the cooler. She chose a small bunch of daisies wrapped in a white ribbon. The door opened and the matronly lady returned.
“I am Mrs. Harrison. It’s so nice to have you here. I understand your ceremony is a little unusual, but I think we have everything set for you. Mr. Crosby, if you’ll take your spot.”
Sid raised his eyebrows at Maddie, and slid her ring off her finger. She rolled her eyes and smiled, waving him away. Then she gasped. “Wait?! Who is not giving me away?”
“That would be me.” Kris came through the gift shop doors from inside the building. He was wearing a t-shirt with the front of a tuxedo printed on it. “I gave you away once already, and look what happened!”
Sidney shook Kris’ hand and hurried into the chapel. Kris offered Maddie his arm.
“Could have been me,” Kris shook his head at her and smiled. “You were the prettiest sweaty girl I had ever seen.”
Maddie squeezed against his side. “I’ll always be your biggest fan.”
Mrs. Harrison swung the chapel doors open dramatically. A stereo played ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ Deanne, Erin and Cynthia were lined up on one side. Geno and Joe stood next to Sidney. In front of the altar, at the top of the aisle, was Max. He was grinning like a fool.
Kris walked Maddie slowly down the aisle. He kissed her cheek, put her hand in Sidney’s and took his place among the guys.
Maddie’s heart was racing. She knew this was in good fun, but it still felt very surreal to be standing in a 24-hour wedding chapel holding Sidney’s hand and waiting to wear his ring.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” Max began. Maddie’s jaw dropped. He leaned in close. “I got ordained on the internet after lunch,” he whispered and winked at her.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the joining of two people who didn’t know each other last week. In the proud tradition of Las Vegas, they are now standing in a wedding chapel. But today, we celebrate something different. We celebrate the beginning of love. The spark of something new, something strong and wonderful. We celebrate the beginning of Sidney and Madeline.”
Maddie had tears in her eyes. Max was actually taking this as seriously as the situation would allow. Sidney’s eyes were also wet.
“Sidney Crosby, do you take Madeline Cartwright to be your girlfriend? To learn about and learn from, to cherish and protect, to fight with and lay awake at night thinking about? Do you promise to honor her, at all times, even on road trips, in the same hotel as three guys who can totally kick your ass?”
“Do you promise to do the best you can to care for her always and never lose her?”
“I do,” Sidney said.
“Madeline Cartwright, do you take Sidney Crosby to be your boyfriend? To put up with and visit as often as possible? To take calls from in the middle of the night, to abide by game day superstitions and to console after tough losses? To keep him humble, be strong through the pressure and honest in the dark? Do you promise to do the best you can to care for him and never lose him?”
“I do,” Maddie said.
“You have promised before your friends and co-conspirators to be honest, faithful and do your best to fall in love with each other. We all know the road will be rough. Do you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, promise to support Sidney and Madeline as they embark on their journey?”
“We do,” everyone said.
“I invite you all back to church sometime in the future for a real wedding, at which I promise to preside as an actual official. For today, by the power vested in me by some website that we found on Google, I pronounce you, completely and happily, not married.”
Sidney lifted Maddie’s hand and slipped the ring back on her right hand. Again, he pressed a kiss to the spot where it met her skin.
“You may kiss the girlfriend,” Max said.
Sidney slid his arms around Maddie’s waist. She ran her hands up to the back of his head. They leaned in and touched their lips gently together. Maddie pressed and Sidney responded, opening his mouth and really kissing her. The crowd went wild.
Maddie lay in bed, holding her hand up and looking at her ring. Sidney sidled up next to her and looked at the same thing.
“Do you like it?”
“I love it,” she said, turning toward him. “How is this possible? In five days?”
He shook his head. “Maddie, I don’t care. If it’s one in a billion, I’m just glad it happened to me.”
She sighed. Sidney pulled his hand from beneath the blanket and handed her an envelope. “One more thing?” he asked.
“Is it amazing?”
Inside the envelope was a plane ticket: Washington, DC to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Dated the following Friday evening.
“You’d be at my house in time to sleep next to me. Less than a week.”
Maddie rolled to face him. She traced a finger along his cheek, down over his jaw and onto his neck. She put her face close to him and closed her eyes.
“Amazing,” she whispered. He kissed her forehead.
“My parents are dying to meet you,” he said. “They’ve been calling non-stop since the awards.” Maddie tensed. “Don’t worry, it’ll go a lot better now that you’re actually my girlfriend. I never called them back because I didn’t want to tell them you were a girl I met at the pool the day before. I was hoping you’d be more than that.”
“I was hoping too.”
Sid turned onto his side and guided her shoulder down to the mattress, laying her on her back. He moved his body over hers. She felt a shiver of anticipation to have him so close. As he settled his weight on top of her, and leaned down to kiss her lips, he said:
“I love you, Madeline.”
“I love you, Sidney.”
4 years ago