Silver Shifters bonus epilogue
This story contains MAJOR spoilers for Silver Fox, Silver Dragon, and Silver Unicorn. Make sure you read those books first!
If you haven’t already read the Silver Shifters, click the cover below to find the books on Amazon. The whole series is free to read in Kindle Unlimited!
Last chance to avoid spoilers….!
Doris and Joey’s Wedding
by Zoe Chant
Godiva called for a summit conference of three of the Gang of Four. They met on the beach early one morning.
The three had to meet there because Doris, the fourth, often showed up at Bird’s house to visit, (where now Jen stayed when she was visiting), or came by Godiva’s house.
Jen glared out at the Pacific Ocean, looking like one of her Viking ancestors about to lay waste to an entire nest of pirates. “If you hadn’t called, I would have. What are we going to do?”
Bird Long looked from one to the other, and said wistfully, “I know it’s completely Doris and Joey’s call, but . . . no wedding presents? At all?”
“Joey and Doris both say it,” Jen replied. “If anybody sends or brings one, they will be thanked, but the present is going right back unopened.”
Bird sighed. “I guess I can see that. I mean, they are combing two households, and I know they don’t want people to feel they have to buy them more things. Especially Joey’s students, who have to make a dollar stretch.”
“I suspect it’s aimed mostly at Doris’s family, who find it difficult to take no for an answer when they are sure they are doing the right thing,” Jen commented.
Bird sighed again. “It’s just Doris and Joey are both so generous, and so kind, that everybody wants to do something for them.”
Godiva scowled. She was as small as Jen was large, but somehow her scowl was even more fierce than Jen’s Viking glare. “Doris did say that anyone who felt the ghost of Emily Post breathing down their neck could make a donation to their favorite charity in their name, and I’m happy to do that, but it just doesn’t feel the same.”
Jen crossed her powerful arms.
Bird’s big eyes looked even bigger as she said, “What can we do?”
“That’s why we’re here, standing in this cold wind.” Godiva cackled. “First. Bird, she’s probably told you what she plans to do for the wedding, since it’s being held in your garden.”
Bird said, “She said they don’t want to do anything special.”
Godiva held up a small hand. “I said ‘plans,’ not ‘wants.’ Big difference there.”
Bird and Godiva both looked at Jen, knowing that she had had the world’s plainest first wedding—not that she had been consulted. She’d been swept into it. But her second was going to make up for it, something she was enthusiastically looking forward to next month.
“Plans,” Bird said slowly. “Nothing about wishes. She said it’s so much easier and more practical to have just the two of them and the rabbi, and of course us and her family there as guests, but nothing more. She said they don’t have time for more—she’s in the middle of the semester, as is he, and . . .” Bird’s eyes widened, and she sent a startled look at Godiva, then colored up to her ears. “And he’s busy with other projects,” she finished hastily.
Godiva waved a hand. “I remember something about that collapsed cave, and archeological stuff.”
Bird looked at the sea, and Jen at the sky.
Godiva gave them a slightly puzzled glance, then went on, “I didn’t know he still had to deal with that since the landslide. Yeah, I guess that would keep him busy on top of teaching classes and counseling—though I don’t see how ancient artifacts would need to be dealt with right now. Seems to me, stuff that’s been lying around for thousands of years isn’t going to spoil if it waits a few months more. Maybe it’s a question of funding.”
She waited, but neither Jen nor Bird had anything to say about Joey Hu or archaeology, so Godiva waved a dismissive hand, and went on. “Here’s my idea. I bet anything Joey’s students would like as much as we would to do something for him. Doris’s friends at her synagogue, same thing. And we already mentioned her family!”
Bird said, “Right. Excellent people, but if Doris’s mom had her way, this would be a huge tuxedo-and-fancy-dress wedding with a sit-down dinner for hundreds, a full orchestra, and . . . and . . .”
“And a glass pumpkin to whisk them away after.” Godiva cackled. “I know. Elva Lebowitz is a force of nature.”
Bird and Jen eyed Godiva, both thinking that as far as forces of nature went, Mrs. Lebowitz might be a summer thunderstorm, but Godiva was a hurricane when it came to protecting those she’d decided needed protecting.
“So let’s harness all that energy,” Godiva went on. “Students, congregation, and Doris’s family.”
“You mean,” Bird said, “we take over planning the wedding?”
“We put together everything. All they have to do is wake up and dress on the day, go over to your house, get hitched. But first they find a splendid surprise. What say?”
“I love it!” Jen smacked her hand on her thigh. “Let’s do it. But what do we tell them?”
“Nothing. They’ll get a real wedding, without having to worry about a thing beforehand.”
Bird clasped her hands together, smiling happily. “Everyone can do what they do best! All we have to do is pass the word.”
Godiva raised her hand again. “Not quite.”
“No?” Bird asked.
“Why not?” Jen put in.
Godiva’s black eyes gleamed with sardonic humor as she said, “Back in the day, I was part of quite a number of hippie weddings, most of which were planned—if you could call it that—around ‘people should contribute as the spirit moves them.’ We ended up with some very . . . odd . . . combinations. Let me tell you, even the most laid-back flower child found it tough to mellow out after everybody opened their backpacks to reveal what the spirit had moved them to bring, and . . .”
“What happened?” Bird asked breathlessly.
“Come on, bring on the worst.” Jen chuckled.
Godiva held up her hand and folded down fingers. “Twelve vegan-no-sugar carrot cakes, fifty biodegradable paper plates and no silverware, a salad made entirely of uncooked broccoli, kale, and edible bark, four batches of brownies baked with Maui Wowee pot—the strongest available in those days—twenty-two extemporaneous poetry readings, and one mime promising an interpretive performance of the philosophy of her guru. Ah, the last two weren’t in backpacks. Those people didn’t want to ruin their commune with nature by dragging backpacks.”
Bird put her hands over her eyes.
Jen snorted. “Did you end up having to send out for pizza?”
“No pizza within fifty miles. The wedding site was a mountain top half a day’s hike from the tiny dirt road we all parked on,” Godiva said grimly.
Both Jen and Bird gazed at Godiva, riveted. Godiva so seldom talked about her past that Bird held her breath as Jen said, “How did that happen?”
Godiva looked away reminiscently. “You should first realize that the couple, both very sweet, were also firm believers in ‘you create your own reality’.”
“Oh, the seventies,” Bird said with roll of her eyes. “Go on, Godiva. What happened?”
“The weather report had warned of a possible storm, but they were sure it would be a perfect day because they had spent the entire previous week firmly creating their reality of a perfect day and a perfect wedding. But the weather front didn’t get the memo. By the time the last of us straggled to the peak, the thunderheads were building, and the couple didn’t get halfway through their five pages each of handwritten vows before the wind blowing us to kingdom come started spitting snow. Luckily there was a tiny fire watch cabin half a mile down the road, so we holed up there while the blizzard howled. For three days.”
Bird’s eyes were round. “I guess the poetry offerings kept you entertained . . .”
“We heard about six of them before everybody started flinching at any reference to snow, warmth, the sun, water, cold, heat, or the color white.”
Jen grinned “And the mime?”
“She did offer to perform, but when a room full of hairy eyeballs turned X-ray death glares on her, she decided to keep it short. Very short. Basically she did the invisible wall thing, and called it quits. Luckily I happened to have an old pack of cards in my backpack, so those not munching the brownies ended up playing Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold-em for three days, for pieces of bark from the salad. When the weather cleared, we hiked back down through the snow in two groups.”
“Why two?” Jen asked. “Wouldn’t it make sense to stick together?”
“Not if pretty much all you’ve eaten for a couple days is pot brownies. Someone among the pot-heads decided there was a more natural path than the fire road and they headed off into the woods.”
“What happened to them? Were they all right?” Bird asked.
“Well, they all turned up again. Hours after the rest of us, with what the free clinic later said were the most spectacular cases of poison ivy they’d ever seen.”
“Ugh!” Bird and Jen said together.
“As for me, I came out of it unable to ever look a carrot cake in the face again. And with a firm conviction that spontaneity can be awesome, but for weddings, you can’t have too much strategic and tactical planning.”
Jen said, “I agree,” but she was thinking that Godiva had managed to tell that entire story and yet the only thing she revealed about herself was that she had been carrying a pack of cards.
Bird slid a look Jen’s way, making it plain she was thinking the same. But she didn’t say a word.
Godiva went on, “So. I appoint myself general of this campaign. Even Doris’s mom won’t be able to run a flank attack—I will put her in charge of the cake.”
“Great idea,” Bird exclaimed. “Mrs. Lebowitz is a fabulous cook, and she won’t be satisfied with just a plain cake.”
“That’s what I’m thinking. It’ll look fantastic, and taste even better. Doris’s niece’s kids will be the ring bearer and flower girl, so that will keep the three of them busy. I’ll get Doris’s sister Sylvia to do the flowers—she has excellent taste. As for Joey’s gang, that Chinese study abroad student of his is a responsible guy. I can give him a wad of cash and put him in charge of the food. He’ll know whom to recruit among Joey’s regulars, and I’ll bet we’ll see a Chinese wedding feast fit for a prince.”
“That’s great,” Jen said. “But what about us?”
“It’s at Bird’s place, so she’s got to be there to oversee all the comings and goings.”
“Yes. I can do that,” Bird said.
Godiva turned to Jen. “As for you, is it possible you could take on the most important job, which is to keep those two away from Bird’s place until wedding time, so they don’t find out? That might mean stalking them for the two days before. If that’s too stressful, having to drive hither and yon at the drop of a hat, say the word, and I’ll try to find a team—”
Jen gave an evil chuckle. “I can do that,” she said. “Nothing easier.”
Godiva blinked in surprise. “Ohhhhh-kay,” she said, wondering if being pregnant was messing with Jen’s moods. She shot a questioning look at Bird to see if she found that tone odd, but Bird had turned to the side and was studying the waves.
Well, fine. Godiva clapped her hands. “We’ve got our master plan. Let’s hop to it.”
They parted, and Godiva returned home, thinking rapidly.
Godiva enthusiastically believed in lust at first sight, lust at second sight, the hots, mad attraction, grand pash, Mattress Olympics, whatever you want to call it. Halleluiah, get it while the getting’s good!
What she didn’t believe in is love.
As far as she was concerned, romantic love was right out there in Lala Land with the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. But she liked seeing her friends happy—even if she didn’t believe grand romances could last. She had even confronted Bird’s Mikhail once, to ask his intentions, because she knew what being dumped would do to gentle Bird, whose first marriage had been a disaster that had all but destroyed her self-confidence.
Godiva treasured a lot of people in this town, these three women the most.
And now they had all three paired off.
She didn’t let herself think past the wedding.
Doris’s family glommed onto Godiva’s plan like bees to flowers, resulting in a stream of cars the morning of the wedding. Elva Lebowitz, used to quarterbacking vast meals for various occasions in her congregation, had come up with huge tiered red velvet cake (Doris’s favorite) decorated simply with frosting-made spring buds. Having been told there were students expected, she made enough cake for an army.
Doris’s sister Sylvia turned up with her new husband, both carrying baskets of gorgeous bouquets, which Bird’s daughter-in-law helped her put up on the terrace outside Bird and Mikhail’s house, turning the terrace into a bower that smelled like heaven.
Doris’s niece Nicola breezed in with Pink and Lon, her small stepchildren. They were proudly dressed up in outfits they had picked themselves. Lon was handsome Ashitaka, from Princess Mononoke, in white and blue, and Pink was dressed in white and gold as She-Ra, Princess of Power.
When Xi Long, Joey’s Chinese exchange student, and his enthusiastic army of students began streaming in, some to the kitchen with prepared dishes, others with food to be cooked on the outdoor barbecue, Nicola and her husband Brad rehearsed the two children, keeping it very simple, Godiva noted with approval.
Godiva moved from place to place, overseeing everything, just in case—that Hippie Wedding From Hell was never far from her mind.
And everything seemed to be coming together beautifully, but . . . as the morning brightened toward noon and Zero Hour, some really . . . call it odd . . . things happened. Like, she ducked out of the way as students streamed back and forth from the kitchen to the outdoor barbecue. She ducked to one side of the terrace, behind one of the trellises decorated with flowers, and noted two large swifts sitting intently on the table where the meats were being set out as soon as they were cooked.
The swifts were so still at first she thought someone had brought stuffed birds for some reason, but then one of the swifts flapped, darted up—and snapped a fly from right over a plate. Then the other bird snatched a buzzing something from above another plate. Then both swifts returned to their stations.
How very strange, Godiva thought, then frowned. These scavengers might get rid of insects, but birds also pooped everywhere. So she raised her arms and advanced. “Shoo!”
Both swifts turned to look at her, their beady eyes somehow annoyed, but they flapped away in tandem. Godiva moved on, and forgot about them—until a little later, when she circled around again, and there were those same two swifts. Or maybe two different ones, but in the same place, almost as if they were stationed there.
She started toward them when Bird called her over. “Godiva, which table should we set aside for the kosher dishes?”
Godiva forgot the swifts as they figured out the food logistics.
A few minutes later, she wandered along the low wall of the terrace as students brought up bunches of mismatched chairs that Godiva recognized from Joey’s place and from the synagogue, and stopped near the gazebo, where the rabbi, Doris’s dad, Mikhail, and Nikos were busy setting up the wedding canopy. Suddenly the men stopped.
Godiva called, “Is something wrong? Can I help?”
Mikhail guided the rabbi and Doris’s dad over to one side to consult, as Nikos came to the steps of the gazebo. “One of the poles for the canopy has a giant crack, but we’re on it.”
Relieved, Godiva wandered off as Doris’s mother Elva began setting up the tiered cake. Godiva stopped to watch, mesmerized. It was gorgeous.
When the last tier was done, Godiva turned away, smiling. It was all coming together! She happened to be facing the rose garden beyond the terrace, bordered by trees in spring foliage. Her eye caught something dark beyond a group of trees, Wait, was that a horse? No, horses don’t have wings—
She blinked, and nothing was there, just roses nodding in the breeze, and drooping strings of pepper tree leaves, creating shifting shadows in the hazy sunlight. There was no horse—couldn’t be! Just shadows, tricking the eye.
She wandered up onto the terrace again, then glanced back. There was still nothing in the trees. Only Nikos, Jen’s fiancé, coming up through a side path through the rose garden. He was carrying a new pole to match the other three for the wedding canopy—he must have gone down to the street below to fetch something from someone’s truck or van.
Godiva shook her head as he rejoined the waiting men, and she wandered toward the house, skirting those working with food, flowers, chairs. When Bird came out of the kitchen, carrying a stack of napkins, Godiva said, “Does one of your neighbors own a horse?”
“A horse?” Bird blinked.
“Big black one,” Godiva said.
“I don’t think so,” Bird said quickly, moving away with her stack of napkins. But why was she blushing? Because time’s running out, Godiva realized. And she, with her crazy question about horses, was in the way.
Godiva firmly took herself to one of the stone benches below the terrace, where she wasn’t in anyone’s way, and sat down to wait as the finishing touches were finalized.
And just in time. It looked like a fairy-land, with the flower bowers, the handsome chuppah, or wedding canopy, and everyone gathered in nice clothes, beaming in happy expectation. Better than a fairyland, where the food was supposed to be nectar and suchlike—here, the air filled with the enticing aromas of Peking duck, lobster-and-chicken-in-spices, the roast brought for the kosher folk, and cake.
Even the weather was perfect.
Jen arrived first, a big grin on her face. “Here they come!”
Doris and Joey walked up the side path a few seconds later, then stopped still.
Doris’s jaw dropped. Joey blinked, then blushed like a boy.
As everyone cheered, Godiva overheard Joey saying to Jen, “I take it there was no incredibly nasty plumbing malfunction?”
Jen grinned. “I had to think on my feet to keep you guys away.”
Doris reached out to hug her. “I wondered why you kept flashing in every time we turned around.”
Flashing in? Godiva thought.
“I take it these sudden cravings for our company and visits to restaurants on the other side of town, were . . . for this?”
Jen held out a hand Godiva’s way. “The master planner is right there. I was just a foot-soldier.”
Doris’s eyes gleamed with tears, and Joey gave a soft laugh, his voice high and breathy as he said, “You are wonderful.” He opened his arms as if to give Godiva a hug.
Godiva chuckled as she waved him off. “Save that for Doris tonight. Right now, the rabbi is waiting, and the food is still hot, so let’s get you two married.”
A bearded man standing at the back lifted his violin and began a beautiful melody, the signal for everybody to take seats. Some sat on the terrace railing, as Lon and Pink walked across the terrace to the gazebo, and stood grinning proudly, clutching their cushions with the rings resting on them.
Joey and Doris followed, hand in hand.
The rabbi said, “Family and friends of Doris and Joey: Welcome to their wedding ceremony this beautiful spring day here overlooking the Pacific Ocean—the ocean of peace.”
Everyone under the flower-bedecked gazebo was still—except for little Pink, who crossed one foot over the other.
The rabbi said, “This the day that Doris and Joey marry the person they love the most in the world…the one they will laugh with, live for, and love for the rest of their lives. So it is fitting that you are here…the people closest to them.”
Pink began hopping from one foot to the other.
“Your presence at this wedding celebration reminds Doris and Joey how lucky they are to share this important day in their lives with people who are important to them. The chuppah under which Doris and Joey stand is the traditional structure used in a Jewish wedding ceremony, symbolizing the home—”.
“I gotta go potty.”
The rabbi, a longtime family friend, stopped. He smiled at Pink. “This emergency is an easy fix. My favorite kind.”
The gathering chuckled, as Doris whispered, “Go ahead, Pink. We can wait.”
Blushing, Nicola swooped down on Pink and carried her off.
Godiva let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. Somehow the moment had become human, rather than a disaster—the sort of smile-causing tiny bump in the smooth road that would become a family story in years after.
Nicola and Pink were soon back, Pink planting her feet and firmly clutching her cushion with the ring on it.
The rabbi picked up right where he had left off, and nothing more occurred to interrupt as the beautiful ceremony drew everyone in and made them a part of the ritual. In spite her private feelings about romance and the mirage of so-called true love, Godiva found her throat aching. Her eyes stung with tears as Joey and Doris gripped each other’s hands and whispered the age-old vows.
The gathering remained still and solemn until the traditional ending for a Jewish wedding: Joey crushed the wine goblet beneath his heel, and the Jewish members shouted “Mazel tov!” as everybody else cheered.
The bearded man with the violin stood up, and a tall, thin white-haired man picked up an accordion. An older woman brandished a clarinet, and several students produced a range of other instruments, including a guitar and a qin, a Chinese stringed instrument.
Somebody had obviously gotten them together because they began playing lively, melodic folk music ranging from all across the world, as some got up to dance, and others lined up at the buffet tables. Godiva backed up so that she could fill her memory bank with the sight of the bride and groom circling among the guests—Doris, glowing like a young bride, and Joey looking proudly at her as they held hands tightly.
Well, Godiva thought, at least love exists in this moment. And I will always treasure it—
Her thoughts were interrupted when Bird appeared at her side, carrying a cup of champagne. “Come, they’ve held a place in line for you, our commander in chief.” She nodded toward the long line gathered at the buffet.
Godiva laughed. “Let the sharp young appetites go first. I can wait. I’m having a good time just watching Doris and Joey. It all came off splendidly, didn’t it?”
Bird smiled as she sipped. “It did. Thanks to you.”
Godiva let out a sigh of pleasure. “It surely did. Though I guess on some level I was expecting the California equivalent of a blizzard. Maybe that’s why my eyes tricked me into thinking I saw a horse. Not just a horse, but a flying horse.” At Bird’s startled glance, Godiva laughed. “I promise I was not tippling the champagne ahead of time—or smoking the hard stuff. I guess I was expecting something funky, and so I was seeing it. Hah. Next thing you know, I’ll be seeing purple and pink dragons flying over Jen’s wedding.”
Bird choked, then sprayed champagne all over a flowery bouquet.
Godiva blinked. “Hey, slow down on that stuff. It’s early!”
“Bubbles up my nose,” Bird gasped. “I think I’d better get some water.” Her entire face had gone crimson.
Can’t hold her booze, Godiva thought, laughing to herself, and went over to join the fun.
Later—much later—the last dance finished, and it was time for cleanup. The musicians kept playing as the organized teams of willing workers gathered dishes, wrapped the (scant) remains of the food and cake, and folded and hauled away the extra chairs.
Joey and Doris stayed until the very end, personally thanking each guest.
About time for me to beat feet, Godiva was thinking, and began fishing in her purse for her phone so she could call up a Lyft. But suddenly she found Joey in front of her. “You were going to sneak away, weren’t you?” he asked.
“Isn’t it time for you two to get cracking on that honeymoon whoopie?” Godiva retorted.
“That,” he said with a smile shot toward Doris that seemed to light up the air, “will happen. But first things first. This was a generous deed on your part.”
“Naw. All I did was put in a word here and there. You’ve just gone round thanking those who really deserved it,” she said.
Joey’s patient, kindly gaze rested on her. All three of Doris’s treasured Gang of Four had somehow found themselves hotties from Planet Handsome Men, each different: austere Mikhail, who reminded Godiva of illustrations of knights, Jen’s Nikos, who was sex on the hoof with those smoldering dark eyes and that wild mane of hair like an ancient Greek god, but her secret favorite was short, slight Joey, he of the easy smile and tender gaze.
“It was good practice,” he said, low, that tender gaze suddenly very acute.
Godiva’s nerves chilled. No, thrilled. No . . . she couldn’t even put to words the feelings, it had been so long. “For?” she managed to croak.
“Your turn,” he said.
Godiva burst out laughing. But he only smiled.
Godiva was still laughing and shaking her head as Joey and Doris walked hand in hand down the path.