Cooper and Lise walked behind the King as he entered the Library, stopping just inside the doorway, as the King announced “I’ve just been informed that dinner is served, but before we adjourn to the dining room, I have some good news to announce. Commander Wilson has asked Major Philips to marry him, and she wisely and enthusiastically accepted. I hope that you will all join me in toasting to the happy couple this evening, and that you will all join with me in congratulating them.”
Most of the men and women assembled in the room pressed forward to offer handshakes and congratulations. Cooper tried to pay proper attention to the various words of encouragement, but felt swept up in the evening’s events, finally settling on the vain hope that he was not grinning like a fool in the onslaught of well-wishes. The dinner was magnificent. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, two or three salads, gravy, creamed peas, and corn that was impossibly good, given the latitude and current relations with the south. He sipped the wine at random intervals, but focused more on the water, sensing that the night was far from over. Several toasts were called, over a pear brandy that was too sweet for Cooper’s tastes. Lise was by his side, but frequently engaged in conversation by the Medical Corps Captain she had been speaking to earlier. In a moment when the captain was otherwise engaged in conversation, she fumbled under the table for Cooper’s hand, and upon finding it, squeezed hard to get his attention from the King, who was regaling the front off the table with a story about a long-past dinner with his late Mother. Cooper turned in her direction, just as she whispered in his ear “What did the two of you talk about? What is going on here?”
Cooper pursed his lips, then whispered back “I’ll tell you later…just to do it proper justice. But he was very adamant that any “lapse” in your judgment and integrity was his fault, and he couldn’t and wouldn’t punish either of us for it.”
Just then the King erupted with laughter, causing Cooper to turn his head back in the sovereign’s direction. Lise looked down at the table, struck dumb at the turn of events before it really dawned on her that she was going to get to stay with this man who had come to occupy so many of her thoughts. As she thought about how they spent the morning, she could feel her cheeks flush again, as she thought to herself “I hope he doesn’t think he’s sleeping alone tonight. Actually, I hope he doesn’t think he’s sleeping at all.” and let a small smile come to her face at the last. Under the table, she squeezed his hand again, more gently this time, and tried to send her intent through her eyes as he turned to her again and smiled, before adding a remark to the conversation taking place to his left.
As Cooper, Lise, and Rick were taking their leave for the evening, the King thanked them for coming, then said “Gentlemen, I need to speak to this young lady for just one moment. She will join you in the car presently.”
After Cooper and Rick left the room, the King looked at Lise and said “I know you’re worried about your career. You shouldn’t be. Yes, you violated rules and a professional code of conduct…and I let that happen. I asked Cooper to convey that message from you, but this night was as frantic for him as it was for you, and when I thought more about it, I realized that you should probably hear this from me.” He could see that she was searching for words, and decided not to give her a chance, opting instead to continue with his royal deference, and add to the joy of the evening.
“I am also withdrawing the electronic surveillance from Cooper’s bedroom and bathroom. I know all I need to know, and that is that the two of you belong to together. While the world around is chaos and tumult, I expect happiness for the two of you. You both deserve it, and frankly, we all could use more examples of this in our lives. But you should go now. They are waiting, and I suspect that neither you or Cooper will be sleeping much tonight.” He allowed himself a knowing smile as she said “Yes. Thank You, Your Highness.” and hurried to the waiting car.
As the car door shut, Rick Gearheart started to chuckle quietly. Cooper, sitting opposite him, suspected he knew the source of his friend’s amusement, but decided to bite anyway. “What’s so funny, Old Man?”
Rick shook his head. “You’re the only guy I know who gets invited to his own shotgun marriage in the same day he has sex with the bride to be.”
Cooper searched for a witty retort, but all he could come up with was “Hey, I’m just a guest here.”
Both of them smiled in the silence.
As they could Lise approach the car, Cooper said quietly “Besides, I think I’m actually getting a good deal here.”
Rick suppressed a laugh as Lise sat down next to Cooper, turned to him, and said “I’m ready to go home.” Her eyes said considerably more when they met Coopers’, however, and he realized that she was going to thoroughly interrogate him when the two were alone behind closed doors later.
As the car pulled away from the residence, the thought sprang into Cooper’s head “How am I going to tell Jake about this?”