Chapter 38: Gaia Help Us All
“We owe you big,” Allison told Kaitlyn and I on the morning of July 4th as we were helping to load the wedding things into the Gutierrez family’s small farm trailer, hitched to the four-wheeler they used for running around the farm in-season.
“Today,” I acknowledged, “you pay off one of your debts. Just remember, you agreed to do this exactly as Kaitlyn and I did it, point-for-point. Do we need to make you a list?”
“No!” she said in a tone she might’ve given to her little brother Vicente.
I felt rather honored by that. What more could I ask than for her to treat me like family?
She continued, “Kaitlyn ran it down for us last night at the bachelorette party, in rather extravagant detail. With pictures!”
To my complete lack of surprise, Joss didn’t invite me to his bachelor party; we hardly knew each other, and last night was not the time to become his best bud. Besides, he’d been avoiding me since April for some reason. Couldn’t think why, though.
Two tables, eight chairs, one trellised arch, and one portable stage later, Joss pulled up in his car, got out, kissed his fiancée on the cheek, and parted from her reluctantly, their hands pulling apart in the air long before their gazes broke. Then, clearly deciding to sublimate his nervousness and inability to be with Allison until they met again at high noon, he began helping us with the loading, packing smaller things into the trailer, filling up all of the corners and crevices.
“Hi, Joss,” I greeted him. “Been awhile.” As he shook my hand, not meeting my eyes, I asked in a near-whisper meant to be heard only by him, “Are you still mad at me about the shoulder?”
“Mad?” he asked incredulously. “No, I’m not mad.”
I’d held onto his hand, so I used it to pull him in a little tighter and whispered, “Scared, then?” placing a concerned look on my face. His eyes flicked up and down, then stayed down, looking off to his left, so I said in a near-whisper, “You don’t need to be scared of me.” In a carrying voice, I intoned, “Miguel Gutierrez, do you swear before those assembled to honor, love, and protect your sister from all foes, and to pound this boy flat if he mistreats her, so help you Gaia?”
“I do,” he replied in a matching voice, a broad grin stretching across his face.
“See there, Joss? Worry about him, not about me,” I advised in a confidential tone delivered as a stage whisper, giving him a hearty slap on his back, not managing to shift the startled look on his face a whit. Using my orator’s voice again, “By the power vested in me by Planet Earth, I pronounce you brother and brother-in-law; may Gaia help us all!”
That drew a round of laughter, Joss looking considerably less nervous by the time we settled.
“Please be nice to him, boys,” Allison requested. “He’s still new, and I haven’t gotten nearly enough use out of him yet. If you break my fiancé before we’re wed, I shall be very cross with y’all!”
“Oh, I don’t expect there’s even a day of wear left in him, Allison,” advised her big sister. “You’ll have him thoroughly worn out before tomorrow morning.”
“Good thing I know a few healers, then, isn’t it?” she replied sweetly.
Joss turned to me and pled, “Help?”
“After you say ‘I do,’ you’re on your own, Joss,” I replied with an amused smile.