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DUO Part Four – Delivered Unto One

This is the continuing musical love story of Beth Northgate and Joel Young. This is instalment five in the series, counting a prequel.

If you’ve not yet read any previous chapter, I strongly suggest you back and them in this order: ‘Songstress’; ‘DUO’; ‘DUO – Part 2’; ‘DUO – Part 3’; ‘Sour Notes (the prequel).’

Once again, a huge thanks to tool1952 for his superb editing.

JOEL-

One month later:

The headaches were finally starting to subside from the concussion I received from my severe beating four weeks ago. Thankfully it was my first one (beating and concussion), so we didn’t have to worry about any cumulative affects. Still, I was warned, the headaches will happen randomly for a while yet; just how long they couldn’t say.

The shattered ribs and punctured lung were another matter. The chest tube had been taken out after a week, but the ribs were going to take considerably more time to heal. I was still in immense pain any time I turned over in sleep or attempted to move about. My repaired right orbital socket was finally losing its ugly swelling and purplish/black/green hue. It was why I was still here at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Centre. I was now out of ICU and in a private room. My main task now was to rest and heal.

My two sons, Geoffrey and Michael, and my daughter Gwen, had flown in to also be at my bedside during my coma, after Beth had called them. They flew back to Toronto to their jobs shortly after I awoke, and they were assured I was out of the woods. All three remarked privately that after meeting her, they were amazed at Beth’s utter devotion to me, seeing as it was such a short time that we’d been together. I could only smile and tell them it was mutual. They told they felt like they were leaving me in good hands. I was ecstatic and their unconditional acceptance of Beth.

The Mayor and City of Charlotte were paying all my medical bills, even though I had supplementary travel health insurance above my Ontario Health Insurance Plan. The city and the Mayor’s Office were both outraged and embarrassed by this senseless act of racial and ageist violence perpetrated by three local boys on a helpless older man.

I had received the finest care from a crack medical team here at Novant and the prognosis for a full recovery was very good indeed. Still, the doctors were amazed at my speed of recovery.

I was motivated, I wanted to get home to Beth, the woman I loved beyond all. She and I had so much of life and love to live, I couldn’t wait to start the next part of our journey. I was determined to defy the odds but had to walk the fine line between faster-than-expected recovery for a man in his sixties and overdoing it, which would set me back. Fortunately, I had a great physiotherapist, who expertly walked that line with me.

As for my lovely and dedicated lady, after I awoke from unconsciousness, she still wanted to stay by my side, but she was in a state of mental and physical exhaustion. I insisted she go home and get some sleep, and shower; a week without leaving me at all while I was unconscious and singing to me, she was pretty ripe, according to her best friend April (it was more like: “God, you stink Beth! Go home and make yourself human again.”). It took both April, and her father, Sam to get her to go home to clean up and rest after a week by my bedside without leaving me.

Now a month later, we had established a routine. Beth went home a couple of hours after official visiting hours were over. She came by in the morning at eight to bring me a decent coffee, and stayed faithfully the entire day, working with my physiotherapist during and after my sessions, making sure I did my post session workouts. She had been given a leave from her part time legal job to look after her fiancé.

I napped frequently, during which time she would sing me to sleep. Her low, sultry, ethereal voice was better than any warm blanket, or sleeping pill. Often, when Beth felt lonely, she would sleep beside me. I had paid extra for a spare hospital bed to placed next to my bed, and it was worth every penny.

I swear to this day, it was Beth’s singing and her very presence which had me healing faster than anyone expected. I know without a doubt, her irresistible voice brought me back out of my coma and saved me from death. I wanted so badly to sing with her, we were DUO after all, but I couldn’t take a deep breath in yet. I had to content myself with singing with her in my mind, while we gazed at each other with adoring eyes.

April dropped in every day for an hour or so. When we told her that the first words out of my mouth to Beth upon awakening were “Marry me”, April burst into tears as she exclaimed:

“It’s about goddamn time!!!”

Beth told April her reply, “At once and forever!”

“Sooo, ‘at once’ kinda means like now?” April said in a hopeful voice.

We both nodded our agreement.

“Really?” April asked, “Here, in the hospital?”

We both nodded again, grinning this time.

“Docs bonus veren siteler say I’m not ready to leave yet, but neither of us are willing to wait any longer!” I said with a wink of my left eye.

“Oh, you two are beyond belief! OK, we need to start making plans, toute suite. We need rings, cake, dresses…oh, and I bloody well better the maid of honour!”

Beth laughed, “Well, with you telling half the city you were, who else could it be?! Besides, you know I wouldn’t have anyone else in the world.”

“OK sweetie,” April turned to Beth, “You and I are going shopping…NOW!”

We both laughed at April’s sense of priorities, and take-charge attitude, although the latter was no surprise to either for us. So off they went, arm in arm, giggling and laughing, while I lay down for a much-needed nap. April was enough to tire anyone out, let alone someone trying to recover from massive injuries.

I had given Beth my credit card and asked her to choose the engagement and wedding rings of her dreams, regardless of cost. She insisted on my input, so on Facetime, we shopped together. Since I couldn’t surprise her with a formal proposal, Beth wanted to surprise me with my wedding band, to which I readily agreed.

April had a ball.

Now you may think that since we’ve only been together physically for just over a month, with a near death injury time out, we should give it more time. The thing is, when you know, you just know. Beth and I knew. April knew. Sam knew. Mandy, assistant manager at the cafe knew. My kids knew. By now, even the staff at the hospital knew. What more proof do you need?

And so, in a quiet ceremony, in the hospital chapel, we were married. Sam, a retired Presbyterian minister, officiated. April was Beth’s smiling, teary-eyed maid of honour. Beth had asked Mandy to be as a bridesmaid to her excited, squealing delight.

I’d flown my sons and daughter, for the wedding ceremony, with both my boys as my best men. They were ecstatic to see Dad so incredibly happy after the past couple of years in sadness and misery. The whole medical team that had worked on me were all invited, and all managed to get backups for themselves so they could attend. They swore they wouldn’t miss this day for anything.

Beth looked radiantly beautiful in a simple A-Line Crossed V Neck knee length white chiffon wedding dress. I wore a dark blue Indochina suit with open collar.

Our vows are burned in my memory, for they showed how attuned we are to each other. We wrote them down and gave them to each other to read aloud, sight unseen.

Beth, reading my vows:

“My dazzling and beautiful Elizabeth, from the moment I saw you singing online, I knew I had found someone extraordinarily special. I didn’t think I’d ever find love again, but you came along and obliterated that thought. Despite our rocky start, we finally came home to each other. You sparkle with an inner light; your singing touches my very soul. I’ve known love before, but never this deep. I’ve had musical partners before, but never a musical soulmate until you. You have brought such joy into my life, and literally saved me from death. You bring out everything in me that I can and should be. We will always be DUO – Destined Unto One – one singer with two voices. Now, we are Delivered Unto One.”

Beth gasped and started crying at this, looking at me with wide eyes. She could barely go on.

“…and I promise to be with you and love until my last breath…and beyond. I love you with all that I am, and all that I will be. I am the luckiest man on the planet to become your husband.”

Me, reading Beth’s vows:

“My precious Joel. I have never known such happiness in all my life. You make living a joy. You are the perfect man for me, that I never thought existed. I used to dream of such a man and then suddenly, there you were. You brighten my every day with your inner light, and your beautiful voice. I have never loved like this before. You are the other half of my soul, and it’s a perfect match. We are still DUO, but now Delivered Unto One.”

I laughed/cried at this; now I understood her reaction! In a broken voice I continued,

“…two singers with one voice. I will love to my last breath…and beyond. I am joyous beyond words to become your wife.”

As you might guess, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by this time. Beth and I hugged tenderly and cried into each other. My kids had their arms around each other bawling their eyes out. Our love was true love, a perfect blending of two souls and two hearts, regardless of age. And everyone there could feel it, sense it, believe it.

As we exchanged rings, Sam concluded the marriage rites, saying,

“I admit I had grave doubts at first about Joel’s intentions towards Beth, but everything I’ve witnessed over this past month has truly erased any such doubts. I have never seen a couple more made for each other, besides her mother and me. Therefore, it is with the utmost honour and pleasure, that by the power of God almighty and the state bedava bahis of North Carolina, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now, very carefully mind you, kiss each other!”

We kissed very tenderly in light of my injuries, but made it linger. Like our very first kiss, it was a kiss of deep affirmations; unfulfilled longings and desperate hopes finally come true. It also spoke of the promises of a lifetime of abiding love and fulfillment. The overture was finished. Now began the first movement of our symphony.

Beth sang ‘The Blessing’, and I joined in this time with the harmonies, in spite of my discomfort. Michael played piano, and once again, the tears flowed all around.

The reception was held in the cafeteria, complete with a Black Forest wedding cake. It was both our favourite, of course. In the receiving line, I insisted on getting out of my wheelchair, and sitting on a bar stool, so no one would have to bend down.

We played music, and Beth wheeled me around in a wheelchair for our first dance to ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive.’

No alcohol was permitted, but there was plenty of fake bubbly. The hospital cafeteria served up a surprisingly delicious roast beef dinner.

We ate, we laughed, we danced (well, I was wheeled). Then it happened. The siren of my dreams, now my wife, began to sing, and to my surprise April began to sing with her. To my utter shock, April had a gorgeous soprano voice! They harmonized and my heart got stuck in my throat.

April and Beth, for best friends, were polar opposites. Beth was quiet and reserved, while April was outgoing and gregarious. Beth was very petite with chestnut brown hair and killer blue eyes. April was tall and willowy with strawberry blonde hair and emerald-green eyes. Both were very beautiful women, and both had pretty much given up on love and marriage…until now.

And now there was April’s soprano to Beth’s alto. I have long felt that of all the voice combinations, two females singing in harmony is the prettiest of all. Don’t get me wrong, Beth and I were amazing together, but that was partially due to our incredibly deep connection. April and Beth were another matter.

They sang ‘When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt. It was stunning, and they were singing it to me. I sat there with my mouth open, completely mesmerized by the incredible blend of their voices. When they finished, I sat there in silence with my eyes brimming with tears yet again.

“April!” I exclaimed, “Where you been hiding that gorgeous voice? And why have I never heard you before?!”

Beth spoke for April this time, a true turnabout,

“I’ve been trying to convince her for the past two years to sing with me and post to our Facebook communities. She won’t do it. Although we sang in the same school choirs, she says she’s just too shy.”

“YOU, April Honeycutt, shy?” I looked at her in disbelief.

“Well, uh, actually, it’s more self conscious. In the choir, I was safely among other sopranos. With just Beth and me, I just don’t want to screw up, and I don’t like listening to my voice.”

I snorted, which caused me to grimace in pain,

“Ouch! Let me tell you, most singers don’t like the sound of their voices, because it sounds so different when you hear it played back. You’re hearing yourself through both direct transmission from your vocal chords to your inner ear and also via air conduction. The latter is how everyone else hears you. You just have to get used to it in recording. And listen to old guys like me.”

Beth shot me a dirty look. She had told me not to call myself ‘old’ as that’s not how she ever saw me.

“OK, OK!” I held my hands up in surrender, “I mean, listen to people with lots of experience, like me, who tell you, you have a beautiful voice!”

April blushed for the first time since I met her.

“April” I continued quietly, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel. You don’t do that in any other aspect of your life. Don’t do it with music. Trust others, like Beth and I, and please use your God given talent.”

Beth looked at April with a triumphant grin, “What he said!”

April didn’t respond to Beth; she was looking at me. I saw something in her eyes, and thought almost in panic:

‘Oh no, I’ve seen that look before. It’s the one Beth gives me all the time. Oh fuck, April’s falling for me.’

Beth was standing slightly behind April and couldn’t see the look.

April said to me softly, “OK Joel, I’ll trust you.”

Beth laughed, “Oh sure, trust him! What about me?! You saying you don’t trust me?”

April turned and threw a hug around Beth, “Of course I trust you stupid! I guess I just needed a second opinion. Who’s better than Joel’s?”

Awkward moment over, I resolved to mention this to Beth, the next time we were alone.

Sam and Mandy took the opportunity to say their goodbyes. Mandy was driving Sam home. After many hugs with all of us, well, fist bumps for me, she wheeled him out the door and down the corridor.

It was then that I noticed deneme bonus that Beth had slipped outside, and I saw her talking quietly with Dr. Westlake in the hallway, a look of concern on her face.

‘Oh no, what are they talking about? Is there something they haven’t told me?

A sense of dread started creeping over me…

BETH –

I was giddy with delight and happiness. I was married! To this amazing man, who gave his all to me. I had never known such a kind, gentle, loving and romantic man. And so musically gifted too. He cooks, he cleans, he picks up after himself. He adores me, always thinks of me first and shows that at every opportunity. And now I’m his wife! How did I get so lucky?

Joel bought me these gorgeous rings, and not once balked at the price. I would have gone much more inexpensive, but I fell in love with a rose gold engagement/ wedding pair which April heartily endorsed. I gave him cheaper alternatives, but he would have none of it. Even over Facetime he could tell which one was the pair I truly wanted. I had surprised Joel with my selection of a thin rose gold/black titanium wedding band, which he absolutely loved. When I looked over at him, I saw him staring at his wedding band with pride and admiration.

Our wedding vows were uncanny in how matching they were, without us consulting each other. Again, it was just proof of how we were made for each other, regardless of our age difference. I hadn’t shed so many tears of joy since Joel first woke up from his coma and asked me to marry him.

And now, I wanted to do something for this wonderful man, and admittedly for myself too, but I was concerned over the health of Joel after the ordeal he’d endured. Dr. Westlake was hanging out in the hallway enjoying the wedding cake with some of the medical team. I approached him with trepidation.

“Dr. Westlake? May I speak with you privately?” I asked quietly.

“Of course, Beth. Let’s move a bit further down the hall. Excuse me folks for a few minutes.”

When we had moved on, he turned to me,

“What’s up Mrs. Young?” he asked with a grin.

I couldn’t help but smile. What a thrill it was for me to hear that! So many young women these days eschew tradition and keep their maiden name. Not me, I stuck with tradition and proudly took Joel’s last name. I was Elizabeth Emily Young…forever.

I’d known Dr. Allan Westlake almost all my life, with him being a very good friend of my father, who had served over 30 years as the hospital chaplain. He was Uncle Allan to me. Now however, I was feeling awkward.

“Uncle Allan, um, it’s our wedding night, and um, I was wondering if it were possible, um, to, to, um, well you know…” I trailed off lamely and felt my face getting warm.

He chuckled, “Consummate the marriage?”

I nodded rapidly with my head down, blushing furiously now.

Uncle Allan replied, “That depends largely on Joel and whether or not he’s feeling up to it.”

I said, still blushing, “The way he’s been looking at me, I’d say he’s up to it.”

“Well then, I’d urge a bit of caution. He shouldn’t be on top, his body’s not ready…and you need to avoid any pressure on his chest.”

“But how do I do that?” I asked, perplexed.

Uncle Allan chuckled again, “There’s a few ways. Have you ever heard of ‘reverse cowboy’?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, it’s like this…”

I was ready, boy was I ready! With newfound resolve, and the way and means via Uncle Allan, Joel and I had gone back to his room after the party ended. April was sticking around down in the cafeteria but left after I texted her to get her butt out of there as my husband and I had unfinished business. She sent me a rude emoji, followed by ‘Have fun, wink, wink’.

Uncle Allan had arranged with the floor medical team not to disturb us until I came back out of the room. They teased me as I walked past the nursing station, about having to scramble to get Joel’s BP and meds done, so we could have our “wedding time.” I, of course, blushed, but thanked them for their thoughtfulness.

I closed the door and locked it behind me. Joel looked at me with a mixture of his usual adoration, but with grave concern. He said softly,

“Oh shit, is it that bad, you had to lock the door to deliver the news?”

“What news?” I asked, puzzled.

“I saw you talking out in the hall with Dr. Westlake, with a concerned look on your face before you both disappeared down the corridor. I figured, it’s gotta bad news. Just tell me Beth, please don’t hide anything from me, I’m begging you!”

It clicked immediately, and I laughed until the tears started streaming.

Joel, looking somewhat relieved, but confused, asked,

“Uh, you wanna let me in on this little joke, my dearest love?”

“Oh Joel,” I said in between gasps of breath, “we were talking about how to consummate our wedding without hurting you!”

Joel was stunned, “Oh…OH!”

He then broke out in a broad grin, “And what did he tell you?”

I smiled wickedly, “I think it would be so much better if I showed you.”

JOEL –

So, my little minx had been conspiring to get us laid? Who’s going to argue with that?! The very thought began some stirrings south of the border, where thankfully no damage had been done. I sat down on the bed.

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