MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF
A Love Story by
Diane Stark (McConnell) Sanfilippo
Chapter 7 – Our Honeymoon
© 2003 Diane Sanfilippo
Chapter 7 – Our Honeymoon
When I awoke the next morning, I am not sure if I expected to see changes in the reflection of the young woman who glanced back at me from the mirror. If so, I would have been disappointed.
Yes, she looked happy, yes; her complexion glowed with the excitement of being a newlywed, or was that the effects of the hormones that were rapidly changing as my body prepared a nest for the still finger-sized fetus? The disappointment would have been that marriage had not changed the reflection at all. I was still the same, but perhaps this was for the best since we had decided to try and keep our secret so I could finish the year living in the dorm, if I did not begin to ‘show’ too soon. We were not even going to tell our families until the end of the school year, so all I could do was pray the ‘news’ would not spread through campus, and I vowed to tell no one, not even Lucia.
We wanted to have our own home, and to be able to assure our families we could handle ‘grown-up’ responsibilities, especially Gene, Billy’s father, who did not have the confidence in his first-born son that I had. Then again, he could not possibly know what Billy could do when he was ‘on his own’.
The very first order of business, just before the term was finished, was for me to find a job in Gainesville since I knew both of us could not go to school, and one had to work so the other could graduate. It made absolutely no sense for Billy not to continue since he was two years ahead of me. He also had summer camp, which was six weeks during which not only could he not work, but also we would be apart. The last reason was the reality of the draft if he did not continue his education, and better an officer than having to start all over again.
That diploma might have been secondary, but was essential for him to be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. It was not even reasonable to think about him dropping out. We both knew the commission was his ultimate goal, and I promised myself I would be the perfect Army officer’s wife. However, we both felt strongly about proving our ability to support ourselves, and did not need, nor would we accept, any sustenance from his father, and mine certainly would not offer.
Next, we would have to find an apartment, and Billy was not excited about living in the small wooden WWII trailers in ‘Fertile Valley’, the hollow below campus. Rather he wanted to find something larger and better. Frankly, I did not care where we lived as long as we were together.
The absolute first order of business though was for Billy to secure a National Defense Student Teachers loan to pay for his tuition for the next year since we would not have to begin repayment until three years following graduation IF he remained in the service, and of course, that is what he planned. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Just as soon as classes were finished on Saturday morning, with both of us signing out to ‘home’, Billy drove to Atlanta hoping we could find a reasonable room at a motel and spend an entire weekend together, in bed! This, we knew would be the only honeymoon we would have for the time being, but the excitement of spending the night in his arms was almost more than my heart could bear. I had never been with him for an entire night, nor even made love in a bed, except for the one time in Griffin, and that night I was too nervous to enjoy it. The last thing on either of our minds was ‘home’, we were going to have a honeymoon, regardless how brief, regardless how expensive. Just one entire night, and a day and half to be in each other’s arms. The chances of our parents trying to get in touch with us at the college was almost unrealistic since I never went home, and Billy’s parents had now accepted he would not be home either. With this in mind, we felt safe in our first adventure as man and wife.
Billy drove along Northside Drive until he found a small, clean motel not far from downtown Atlanta, with the ‘vacancy’ sign shining bright red even in the midday sun. He parked near the front office and went inside to check in, marriage license and certificate neatly folded in his billfold. When he came back out to the car, looking a bit sheepish, he told me he had been so nervous he signed the register ‘Billy McConnell and wife’ rather than ‘Mr. And Mrs. William E. McConnell’! Now I knew I was not the only one affected this way, and I was practically quivering in my shoes, as if I still could not believe we really were married!
Always the romantic, Billy had even thought to bring his stereo and some Johnny Mathis long-play albums; all very romantic ‘mood’ music that included what was to become one of our songs, ‘The Twelfth of Never’. Parking in front of the room, excitedly I clutched my small overnight case and wished I had a lovely peignoir, filmy and see-through, but when I mentioned it to Billy, he assured me I would not have it on long enough to make any difference - that all I needed to bring was my ‘birthday suit’. He had brought only a change of civilian clothes and clean underwear, so carrying only the stereo he unlocked the door to our ‘honeymoon suite’.
As soon as we entered the tiny room, which was immaculately clean, he shut the heavy door behind us and immediately pulled the heavy drapes closed. We were instantly in each other’s arms, kissing and rubbing against each other, as cats are prone to do. Finally Billy set up the stereo and with Johnny Mathis crooning in the background he slowly began to undress me, which he said he had been wanting to do since he first laid eyes on me, and which he assured me he had done in his mind more times than he could count.
Brashly I began to loosen his tie and unbutton his stiff khaki shirt, only having seen this done in the movies. We had never seen each other completely naked since during our trysts at the Copper Mine we always prepared for instant retreat if necessary, and I did not know quite what to expect. I was surprised when I found his chest almost bare of hair, I think I counted four or five hairs, and I had always thought all men had hairy chests. Later this physical state became a joke with us, and Billy would sometimes tell me he thought he had grown a new hair, and I would dutifully count those that were there, only to assure him he had miscounted, again. In my mind that made up for my lack of breasts, although he was kind and never said a word about my rosebuds, but then again this was not a surprise to him, although I always knew that he still wished for more.
When he loosened his belt buckle and I unzipped his pants, thinking how clever I was, and they fell to the floor, I was stunned to see two huge vertical scars on his abdomen. Now these were not small scars but about twelve inches long or more, gnarled and thick, and one looked more recent than the other did. He must have read the look in my eyes; he always said he could, and he told me this awful story about how by a jealous boyfriend had slashed him with a knife. Then, as my eyes grew even wider and wider, he finally roared with laughter. He measured my shock and paused in his ‘story’, but he loved to tease and joke with me, and I was so gullible I bought into everything he said and did. However, this time he could see I was becoming upset. Who could have done something so mean to my darling Billy? I was horrified at the thought anyone would harm him. Finally, as the tears began rolling down my cheeks, he held me his arms, told me the real story of how he got the scars from an injury as a child, and how he had emergency exploratory surgery.
When he was about six years old, he had been riding in a pony cart in front of his grandmother’s house when a car full of teenagers drove by, honked the horn, startling the pony who then bolted, cart and all, and Billy was thrown out onto the pavement. There had been tense hours at Crawford Long Hospital while surgeons could not diagnose why they seemed to be losing him, obviously to internal bleeding. Fearing a kidney or a liver tear, they opened him up, thus the two long scars, and finally found his spleen had ruptured, and they removed it. As children so often do, by the next day, still a very sick little boy, he wanted to go home, although he had to stay there until the surgeon removed his stitches. Later, his mother told me more of the story and how everyone they knew had been praying he would live, and how close they came to losing him, and that made him even more special to me. She also told me he bounced back rapidly and had become quite the handful by the time of his discharge, thoroughly spoiled by family and nurses alike.
Surely, God had saved him just for me, and I thought he was beautiful, chest hair or no chest hair; scars or no scars, I loved every inch of him. He was a bit on the thin side, and I had learned some of his strange eating habits, but I knew once we found an apartment, I could take care of that problem rather quickly; at least I hoped I could. First, I would learn how to prepare his favorite dessert, lemon meringue pie with sweetened condensed milk and fresh lemons. I had several times seen him eat almost an entire pie in one evening! Surely too I would teach him how to enjoy fresh vegetables, but little did I know I was biting off more than I could chew on that subject.
After the scar incident and explanation, I then took a longer look at my handsome husband and thought to myself that he had an extremely large penis. Then again, I had never really ‘seen’ his before, or that of any grown man, only the ‘dolollies’ of my younger brothers. Little did I know that according to the ‘norm’, he was large, or commonly called ‘hung’, which would make for many pleasurable hours both under and on top of the sheets. I must have stared at it a bit too long and he laughed as he asked if I had not ever seen a nude man, but all I could do was shake my head, much to his delight. Yes, he had definitely married an immature, naïve, completely innocent ‘babe in the woods’, and he liked me that way. Now he could be my ‘teacher’, mold me in the way he wanted, and I had a feeling that lesson #2 was about to begin!
Completely naked we now pulled down the bedspread and cuddling between the sheets, we explored each other’s bodies as never before using both hands and lips. I learned each freckle and mole, each scar, each hair, and he did the same. Finally fully aroused, we spent the next three hours making love, slowly at first, while Johnny Mathis continued to croon in the background. As we made love over, and over again, and continued to explore, our love became more passionate and more desperate as if we could not get enough of each other. I knew I could never have enough of, or tire of making love to my new husband, my darling Billy.
Still fascinated by his scars, and the fact one looked so recent, when I asked, he told me he had had surgery twice more on the thicker scar on his right side. The second time had been when on a trip out West with his paternal grandparents, his appendix ruptured, and instead of taking him to a local hospital they drove him back to Griffin. By then he had peritonitis and again had almost died. Finally, at the beginning of the second quarter of his freshman year at North Georgia, he began having severe abdominal pain, and the college nurse thought his problem was simple impaction from all the heavy food, and had given him an enema. The pain increased, intolerably, and she finally called his mother. The enema turned out to be the worst treatment possible since he had adhesions, which meant more surgery after his mother drove up to the college and took him back home. He had to miss the 2nd quarter, which was one reason he was taking more than the usual hours of classes, but still with all the classes he had dropped failing and those he had failed, he had not made up much ground and was almost a full quarter behind the class of 1962. Again he had almost died, and again I just knew he had been saved for me, and now I knew too why he was so very special. He should not even be here, and yet he was and I was in his arms, and I was his wife!
I had not known he was behind the rest of his class, but we both would learn more and more about each other as we continued to explore and to talk. I felt as if God had saved him three times, saved him just for me, and I loved him even more for his scars and his surgeries.
As I slowly ran my finger down each one, tears began to roll down my cheeks as I thought about how close he had come to dying. From that day on whenever he was hurt or had any kind of pain, my heart would break and the inevitable tears would follow. Billy, moved and astounded that I cried over his old injuries, said no one had ever loved him enough to cry, although I was not so sure about that. All I knew was that I never wanted to live life without him, I loved him ‘more than life itself’ and I always would.
Surely, with all of his bad luck, he was due for something good, and I wanted to be that something, or at least I hoped he would think so. I knew I would do anything in my power to take care of him and keep him from harm, and if necessary, I would lay down my own life for him. He then assured me he would do the same for me as I told him some more about the insanity in the house where I grew up. He promised me no one would ever hurt me again, not as long as he had a breath in his body. Oh, such promises from two such youngsters, but for the first time in my life, I felt really safe – safe and loved. Although not clad in shining armor or riding a white horse, but wearing the uniform of a North Georgia College cadet, and driving an old Ford, my knight had finally rescued me.
That evening, our lust momentarily satisfied, and our bodies exhausted, we splurged on a steak dinner with money Billy had received from his father, and then we went to Lowe’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta to see a special ‘anniversary’ release of ‘Gone with the Wind’.
The movie had premiered at Lowe’s with Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Olivia DeHavilland, Margaret Mitchell, the author, and the other stars attending, and for one night, the ‘glitz’ of Hollywood visited Atlanta. At that time, it was still a small sleepy Southern town and not the metropolis of the south that it is today. The first ‘grown-up’ book I ever read was ‘Gone with the Wind’.
By 1961, I had read the book at least six times, and with each reading, I discovered something new. I actually felt a kinship with Scarlett now since I was desperately in love, but unlike Scarlett, I had married my passion; now all I had to do was keep him! In the darkened theatre, Billy kept his arm possessively around my shoulders while I rested my head on his. He wiped my tears when I cried, even kissed them off my face. He then surprised me when he kissed me a few times not caring what anyone nearby may think, but knowing that afterwards we had ‘our’ room and could spend the rest of the night once again making love with Johnny Mathis singing just for us.
"You ask how much I need you, must I explain?
I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain.
You ask how long I’ll love you; I’ll tell you true;
Until the Twelfth of Never, I’ll still be loving you.
How perfectly the words of the song explained my feelings for my Billy, my husband, my darling, and I wished I had the ability to put into words how much I loved him. I certainly could not sing since that talent extended only to the male members of my family, so in the meantime Johnny Mathis would have to sing for me, his voice soothing, almost a whisper, and far finer than my own.
Never had I felt so completely safe and so completely loved, and I knew I would never again awaken to the chaos of alcohol-induced quarrels as so often happened in that house of horror where my parents reigned supreme. I now not only felt loved, truly loved, but worthy of that love and I knew that never again would there be even one moment I would not love Billy McConnell. He assured me he felt the same and promised he would always take care of me; we would have a safe and happy home where our children would always know they were respected and adored.
This was a large part of the magic. We both wanted what neither of us had while growing up, the security that two loving parents offer without the intrusion of alcohol and infidelity. I discovered he needed to love me, and for me to love him just as much as I did, and we promised each other our home would be as perfect as possible. A home where our children could bring their friends, where I would bake cookies, prepare perfect meals, keep a spotless and carefree shelter for us all, and he would work hard towards a successful career in the Army.
The idea of moving all the time was not a problem for me since I had done so when my father was in the Navy, far more than usually required. We could do this, we knew we could, but first we needed just a little more time, and we would have to sacrifice being together for the moment so eventually everything could be perfect.
We fell asleep in each other’s arms that night for the first time, since we had always had to part by curfew, but now I was exactly where I had longed to be from that fateful day we found the copper mine. I look back and wish I could have stopped time, right at that moment, in that small plain room, and slept in his arms forever.
Sated with lovemaking, and exhausted, we fell asleep and neither of us lost a moment of rest worrying about our future. We had it all worked out, and tonight was all that mattered, at least for now.
Sunday morning I slowly awoke to Billy’s tender kisses as his hands softly teased my breasts arousing in me the desired effect. Once again, unhurried and passionately we made love over, and over. Our grand adventure this weekend had been the beginning of my discovery of the wonders of orgasm without fear of discovery, while Billy took me soaring into the sky with him, higher than I had ever been, and then he brought me back down again with love, and a longing for more.
Never did I look at him in the same way again, but I always remembered how I had felt as he took me to the moon and back. With this one ability he had proven he had a power over me that would never let go, and I was mesmerized, hypnotized and ever so deeply in love. He knew all of the words I longed to hear, and others I had not known I longed to hear, and as he whispered sweet promises into my ear, he gently caressed and suckled my breasts, all the while bringing me to the height of ecstasy. He taught me about oral sex which at first disgusted and appalled me, but when he took me to even greater heights, beyond the moon into the vast universe I had a change of mind. I just could not bring myself to reciprocate. Years later, I would deeply regret I could not return his ardor in this manner, but I could not get past the sticky and nauseatingly musky odor of semen.
By now, I knew that women did not produce it as I had thought the very first time, but knew this was the very essence necessary to produce life, and men ejaculated each time they made love. I just could not get beyond it, as much as I loved him, I just never could, and I never did. Of course, that did not stop Billy and he continued to assure me it was not as bad as I imagined, and he kept trying to entice me to try just once, but I could not. That weekend I came close, but it was not to happen, not then, not ever. Now that I am older, wiser, and far more mature, at least I hope so, I believe I would do anything to please him, if I could spend just one more moment in his arms, this man I loved more than life itself.
Chapter 6 – We Get Married
As if those 24 hours had never happened, our routine picked up where we left off and never missed a beat. Once again we were playing cards in the canteen, making out in the stacks, and spending long afternoons at the copper mine.
Billy decided he wanted us to be married before we confronted our parents so they could not interfere, so obviously, we had to make plans, and we had to make them quickly. Billy contacted a friend of his who had eloped the year before and asked him what we had to do, where we had to go, what we needed to take with us, and any other details necessary to become man and wife. Relieved and satisfied we would be able to get married without our parents or the college finding out, we finalized our plans.
Every girl has dreamed of her wedding day, and even though I knew, in reality, my parents could never afford it; I have to admit, that I had always imagined myself walking down the aisle in a billowing white silk gown. Plump white crinolines shaping the skirt like an upturned champagne glass, and my husband-to-be would be able to put his hands completely around my small waist, encircled by silk ribbons of lavender and pink. Garlanded with my much-loved gardenias and pink roses, with sprays of lavender, in the same pastel hues as the ribbons around my waist, the church would be filled by friends and family, and the front altar would look like a garden overflowing with the same flowers. Stained glass windows would be aglow like the crown jewels creating a kaleidoscope of color that danced off the walls of the sanctuary and the white silk of my gown. I could clearly envision my handsome groom waiting for me at the altar, his eyes misted over by tears of love and awe when I began my slow walk down the aisle. All of our guests would gasp when they first saw me on the arm of my father. My dark blonde hair streaked with gold and piled high on my head with a sparkling tiara adorned with rhinestones and pearls dancing amid the soft curls that softened and highlighted my sparkling green eyes. The long white veil, so fine that a needle could not pierce the netting, would stream behind me as I floated down the aisle in white silk slippers, while white silk gloves, fastened with delicate pearl buttons, covered my hands and rippled to my elbow. I would be carrying a magnificent bouquet of the same gardenias, pink roses, and lavender that adorned the sanctuary while silk ribbons the same colors cascaded from the lush and fragrant flowers almost to the floor.
My bridesmaids some dressed in pink and some in lavender, each holding her own identical, but smaller bouquet would precede me. My little sister and my even younger cousin would be my flower girls all dressed in white organdy with a lavender sash tied high above their waists. A circlet of the romantic flowers woven into a halo rested on my sister’s blond curls and my cousin’s dark ones. As they slowly walked down the aisle, carrying small white woven baskets tied with ribbon, they would cover the carpet in front of me with flower petals so fragrant that when I stepped on them their perfume would fill the church. An organist would play our special songs of love, and after the ceremony, we would entertain all our guests, family and friends at a lavish reception.
Of course, we would honeymoon in the islands, following a long romantic sea cruise with the sun sparkling on the azure blue of the ocean, and we would make love by the light of the moon streaming in the window of our deluxe cabin.
Oh yes, this had always been my dream, just as so many other young women in love have dreamed, but in actuality, my groom had a face more handsome than I ever imagined, and our wedding would be far different. In spite of our haste and the lack of ceremony, I knew I would remember every moment, and would be just as married without the silk gown and long veil.
Monday, the 21st day of March in the year 1961, once again I skipped my afternoon Spanish class and Billy and I began our wedding week by driving to Atlanta to City Hall. After we had our blood tests, we were finished with phase one in a matter of minutes, and they would be ready for us to pick up by Thursday afternoon. From there, we drove to Buchanan, Georgia, in Haralson County near the Alabama border, where we applied for our marriage license at the home office of the local Justice of the Peace, Ordinary Rufus F. Brown.
Some years later, accused in the Atlanta Journal of running a marriage mill, Ordinary Brown said, “Well, if I don’t marry them, they will just go on over to Alabama, and Georgia needs the money as much as they do.”
Billy and I personally sent three couples to Ordinary Brown to get married, and they sent more, so no one knows just how many North Georgia College students he married over the years.
Since I was ‘of age’, 18 for girls, but Billy was not, 21 for boys, since he had just turned 20 in November, our banns would be posted in the Haralson County Journal and if no one objected we could be married. Of course, we knew that no one who knew our parents or us would read the Journal, and the timing coincided with the date our blood tests would be ready.
After securing our future, we drove back to the college, not without an amorous stop along the way, and we both went back to our dorms as if nothing extraordinary was happening in our lives. I don’t know about Billy but my heart was beating so wildly and my tummy filled with butterflies at the thought I would be Mrs. William Eugene McConnell in just a matter of days. Surely, would not be able to eat a bite until this week was over.
My pregnancy was also playing a large part in my lack of appetite since all fried foods made me retch. With the largest portion of our meals comprising of fried food, I was eating far less than usual and, amazingly, I was losing weight, not gaining it. I was also keeping up the rigorous exercise as far as climbing the three flights of stairs to our room, and even playing softball, as if I had a choice.
Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to drag on forever while Billy and I continued our rendezvous in the library stacks. Our kisses grew even more frantic in anticipation of our soon-to-be legal status of ‘man and wife’. We did not change a facet in our normal schedules for fear someone may become suspicious, and finally Thursday, the 24th day of March in the year 1961, arrived.
Once again, I skipped my afternoon class, and for the first time I traded library duties with another student. Once again, Billy drove to Atlanta and City Hall where we picked up our blood tests with no more difficulty than picking up the mail.
Realizing this would be the only wedding day I would ever have, I used my first paycheck from the library to buy a new skirt, blouse, and vest. My wedding ‘outfit’ was a pale aqua wool pleated skirt with a vest in a pastel plaid that emulated the same color as the skirt, with the addition of lavender, white and pale pink. At least if I could not have my ‘dream wedding’, I would come as close as possible and wear my favorite colors. The entire outfit to include the white blouse with aqua piping around the Peter Pan collar was made by a popular manufacturer of girl’s clothing during the early ‘60’s, ‘Bobby Brooks’, and more expensive than most of my other clothing, but this was a special day. Even Billy liked my choice, and particularly the colors. Although I had worn bobby socks and loafers to class as usual, I changed to stockings and my Sunday shoes when I got into the car, and I was ready for our wedding.
Billy stopped at a service station on our way to Atlanta and changed out of his uniform, just in case someone might recognize the patches of the college, and he now wore his only suit, a dark gray with a white shirt and plain tie. We looked like two college kids out for a night at the movies, not two parents-to-be on our way to make it legal!
Our next stop was Fort McPherson, where using my dependents ID card, which I could no longer legitimately use after I married, we bought plain gold wedding bands in the Post Exchange. I think mine cost about $9 and his about $16, and even that stretched our meager hoard of money.
Another hour on the road and finally we were back in Buchanan where we arrived at the home of Ordinary Brown just after suppertime.
When he answered our knock, the balding, rotund gentleman with kind eyes who had already asked the pertinent questions, like was I pregnant, and to which I had lied, said, “Well I didn’t think you two would make it back. You know only about 1/3 of the young couples I talk to ever come back, but come on in and let’s get on with the wedding.”
Without an organ, bridesmaids dressed in filmy pastel dresses, or a white silk gown, but with Mrs. Brown, wearing fluffy bedroom slippers and her hair in curlers, as our only witness, ‘Gunsmoke’ playing on the television in the background, I became Mrs. William Eugene McConnell. We looked into each other’s tear filled eyes as we repeated our vows, slipped the narrow gold bands onto each other’s fingers, and we both promised no one would ever come between us, and our vows to God. Like most young couples, we just did not realize how difficult some of the vows would be to keep, but if determination was a factor, we could not help but succeed. We were both very determined!
When the Ordinary finally said, “You may kiss your bride,” we kissed long and deep as if no one were watching, until Ordinary Brown cleared his throat several times and our lips finally parted.
Billy then leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I love you more than life itself Mrs. McConnell,” and I replied, “me too.”
Nowhere in the vows did it say ‘in lust’, although that was very much on both of our minds, but once more we were on the road, rushing back to Dahlonega to make curfew. We knew without stopping for a ‘quickie’, as Billy called our hasty couplings that we would barely make it, and we needed to stop for a quick bite to eat since having skipped lunch and now supper, Billy had to be starving. The only thing I wanted was to be in his arms, to be his wife, to bear his children and live happily ever afterwards ‘till death us do part’. On our wedding night, that part of our vows was the last thing on my mind; we were so young, and so in love absolutely nothing dreadful could ever happen to either of us!
Many years later the country singing duo of Johnny and June Cash made a hit record with a verse that went something like this…, “We got married in a fever, hotter than…” something or other, but when I first heard the song I laughed as that was exactly how Billy and I got married! Many years later at a club meeting as part of the February Valentines Day program, members shared stories about our wedding day and brought photos, and in my story, I used the words of the song, which got a good laugh out of the middle-aged ladies, most of us with grandchildren. It was fun to remember how in love we had been, but while others brought their photos wearing long white dresses, the only one I had was taken at the Sweetheart ball shortly after our wedding. Although the photo is in black and white, I am wearing the lavender dress I wore to a dance at G.M.A. with Alex when I was in high school. I have a lavender ribbon in my hair, long white gloves and pink sweetheart roses pinned at the top of the dress between my breasts. At least I got the colors almost right! Billy is dressed in his white dress uniform, and his shiny gold wedding band is obvious as he has his right arm around my waist and his left hand holding my left hand. Even in the black and white photo, there is a glow on my face that reflects the glow in my heart. Billy looks a bit frightened and in awe of it all, although he told me that he had never been any happier.
Even without the wedding finery, we were just as married, and probably more in love, than most other newlyweds and it shows on our faces.
We drove back to school in the dark, finally stopping in Dallas, Georgia at the A&W Root Beer stand since, as I thought, Billy was very hungry. When he said that he was starving more for food than for sex, I KNEW he was not kidding. I could barely swallow for the lump in my throat, and instead of glasses of champagne, I managed to drink a chocolate milkshake, although Billy made much of the fact, I was depriving his son.
We absolutely did not have time for even a short amorous interval as we were running really behind time and were worried about getting caught coming in so late. It was far more dangerous for Billy since he still had to turn in his car after he let me out. Instead, all the way back to the college, he kept his right arm either around me as I rested my head on his strong shoulder, or he held onto my hand, often kissing it, while I kissed his. The love I felt for my new husband was almost unbearable, my heart so full it filled my chest.
Married! I was a married woman at eighteen years, three months and eight days of age, and I knew we had mountains to climb, but with our love building the ladder, I also knew we would make it work. I never thought it would be easy, not much in life worth having comes too easily, but I knew with both of us as determined and stubborn as we were, and both of us not wanting to hear, from anyone “I told you so,” we would make it work. What’s more, we would love every second of it!
We arrived back at North Georgia very close to curfew and Billy quickly changed back into his uniform in the cemetery behind Lewis Hall. I had arranged with my roommate to unlock the back door to the dorm so that I could slip in unnoticed since I certainly had not signed out. Where would I have said I was going? To Buchanan to get married! Anyway, true to Lucia’s word, the door was unlocked and I was safely in my bed even before Billy parked the car and made his way to his dorm, also having his roommate unlock a basement door so he too could slip in just as taps sounded across the campus.
We spent our wedding night in separate dorms, but I was wearing his shirt with his aftershave sprinkled on my pillow, and my tiny gold band pushed securely into the wax that filled up his class ring so it fit on my finger. Billy’s wedding band was nestled between his military dog tags that hung around his neck, “as close to my heart as possible,” he said.
How long could we keep this a secret? How long before I began to show. What would happen when we finally had to tell our families? In addition, would once again my grandmother’s heart be broken by first a daughter who ran away to get married, and then a granddaughter? Those were the big questions, but we had no way of knowing we would find out the answers long before we were prepared. All I knew now I was no longer Diane Elaine Stark, rather my name was Mrs. William E. McConnell, Diane Stark McConnell – oh, what a nice ring it had, and how proud I was to be my handsome cadet’s wife! Perhaps not the way I had always dreamed, but just as married, and pregnant.