Manny had trouble waking up the next morning after staying up half the night texting back and forth with Aloise. As they’d planned, he picked her up in his Jeep at nine o’clock and took her to brunch at his favorite diner in town. The parking lot just happened to share space with the county building. When they left the restaurant, instead of making a beeline for his truck, he led her down the sidewalk.
“Oh look,” Manny said, turning around to grin at Aloise. “We’re at the county building. We should go inside and apply for a marriage license.”
“Ooh, can we?” Aloise probably thought he was teasing, but he led her up the stairs of the building. “That would teach my parents to try to deny me the right to get married until after my lazy sister gets her act together and finds a husband.”
“Way to show them who’s boss.” He opened the main doors and they held hands as they walked down the hall to the clerk’s office. Butterflies leapt in his stomach as he stepped up to the counter, wondering if she’d actually go through with this. He lifted his chin and spoke with false confidence. “We’d like to apply for a marriage license.”
“Are you over eighteen?” The lady at the counter raised her eyebrows.
“I know I have a baby face, but yes, I’m nineteen.” He knew why the clerk didn’t question Aloise. She looked like a woman. Did she ever.
“And you really want to get married at nineteen?” This time the lady looked over at Aloise.
“I’m twenty.” Aloise shrugged.
The lady glanced back and forth between the two of them with pursed lips. Manny envisioned his grandma looking down her nose through her spectacles, questioning whether he needed a chocolate chip cookie an hour before dinner. He felt like answering her that yes, he would very much like a chocolate chip cookie… before dinner if possible.
“Is there an application or something we need to fill out?” he asked.
Without saying another word, but without giving up her disapproving facial expression, she handed them a paper application. Manny hauled out his driver’s license and realized they may have a problem.
Manny turned to Aloise and spoke out of the side of his mouth, “Do you have a driver’s license?”
“Uh… from Mexico. Plus, my passport, does that count?”
“We need to see a certified copy of both of your birth certificates,” the lady said, almost with a satisfied smirk. Manny tucked his wallet back in his pocket, feeling all was lost.
“I’m pretty sure my parents have that in the safe on the yacht.” Aloise shrugged.
“Really?” Manny couldn’t help his jaw drop. “Your parents keep your birth certificate on your yacht?”
“Where else are they going to keep it?” she asked. “We pretty much live on the yacht.”
“Do you want to go get it out of the safe?” Manny asked. This was feeling real. Was she really willing to marry him, just like that?
“Sure,” Aloise said. “Do we need to go to your house to get yours too?”
“Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.” Manny turned to the lady at the counter. “We’ll be back in a few hours.” He grabbed the application in one hand and Aloise’s hand in his other and pulled her from the room.
“This is exciting,” she said, bouncing along beside him like a little girl at Christmas.
He stopped right there in the hallway in the county building and pulled her close, looking deeply into her eyes. “Are you really serious about this? Would you really marry me?”
“Yeah, I’m serious,” she said. “I want to be with you, and if this is the only way for us to be together, I’m willing to do whatever it takes. They can’t force me to leave with them if I’m legally married to you, right?”
“They can’t force you to leave even if you’re not married… right?” He raised his eyebrows.
“You don’t know my father,” she said, a panic filling her voice. “He would cut me off, tell me I was dead to him, leave me destitute without a job or any money.”
“I wouldn’t let that happen,” Manny said. “You could stay with me and my family. We would take care of you. You wouldn’t be alone.”
“Then marry me, Emanuel Cohen,” she said. “That would be torture to live with you and not be able to, you know, sleep together.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I’d want that either.” Manny slowly pressed his lips to hers and she wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him to her. They pulled away from each other and his hoarse whisper was barely audible. “Let’s go get our birth certificates.”