From the Sky - Part IX

"Do you love her?" Dad asked.

"Yes."

"Renata, do you love him?"

"Oh, yes, Daddy. Yes. I'm mad about him."

"Will you honor her each day of your life?" my father asked, pointing his fork toward Joe and stabbing the air with a flick of his wrist at every word. "Will you love her without bounds? Will you promise never to leave her? Will you promise to never shame her? Can you promise me all these things, Joe Byrne?"

"Yes, sir."

There was a long pause. I could hear the kitchen radio soft in the background. A baseball game was on and the Phillies were losing. The clothes dryer was running downstairs. Outside somewhere, a horn blew.

My aunts didn't seem to be breathing.

"Then you have my blessing," my father replied at last. "But know this, Joseph Byrne: I hold you to your word."

Joe pulled the small velvet box from his pocket, opened it, and took out the ring. He slipped it on my finger. Someone gasped, but my eyes were on Joe and Daddy.

"With the blessing of your father, Renata Tarentella, will you marry me?"

I shook my head, wrapped my arms around him and kissed his cheek. I glanced at Dad, and his eyes were welling up. It was a postcard-perfect moment. It couldn't possibly last, not at that table.

"No! No! No!"

I turned my head. Aunt Rae was standing; her face pale and her eyes wide open in shock. I thought they were going to pop out of their sockets, roll down her cheeks, and drop into her chocolate gelato.

"No, Paulie! The signs are all wrong. Don't let these children do this."

Joe's voice: "We're not children, ma'am."

I tugged his sleeve. He was walking into a minefield.

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