1635: THE CANNON LAW â€“ snippet 63:
But no sooner did they reach the front door to the embassy than their plans got scrambled. The big double doors were yawning wide before the servant who was preparing to open it for them got within ten feet.
Through it came Sharonâ€™s father, Melissa Mailey, and Tom and Rita Simpson. Behind them, Sharon could see a few members of the military escort that would have shepherded them to Rome.
â€œYou bums!â€ Sharon wailed. â€œYouâ€™re not supposed to be arriving for at least two more days!â€
Dr. Nichols smiled at her. If she looked really close and squinted, Sharon could possibly argue than it was an â€œapologeticâ€ smile. Itâ€™d be a stretch, though.
Rita grinned. â€œYou idiot. Donâ€™t you remember the time, roomie, when you and I sat up half the night in college and figured out the Three Laws of the Universe. The ultimate ones, not that silly thermodynamics business.â€
Sharon stared at her. Rita clucked her tongue.
â€œPoor girlâ€™s mind is going already. Repeat after me: The First Law is that you will always be late when itâ€™s critical to be on time. The Second Law is thatâ€”â€
Sharon laughed. â€œâ€”everyone else will always be early when you donâ€™t want them to be.â€
Then the hugs started.
Ritaâ€™s was the first, and wildly enthusiastic. Her fatherâ€™s was heartfelt and paternal. Tom Simpsonâ€™s was the genuine but slightly careful embrace a young man gives a young woman to whom he is neither married nor related and who possesses a very voluptuous figure.
Melissaâ€™s was complex. The sort of hug a woman gives who is, first, not temperamentally given to hugging; but, second, went through a prolonged period in her radical and semi-hippie youth where hugging was more-or-less a Social Mandate and thereby learned the art, however reluctantly; and, third, happened to genuinely like the young woman whom she sometimes described as her â€œcommon law daughter-in-law.â€
The last one done, and still holding Melissa by the shoulders, Sharon grinned at her and said: â€œSo. Are you and Dad still shacking up, or have you finally decided to make him an honest man?â€
â€œHeâ€™s starting to pestering me about it,â€ Melissa growled, â€œbut I got my principles.â€
Dr. Nichols snorted. â€œPrinciples! What she actually said was: â€˜if it ainâ€™t broke, donâ€™t fix it.â€™ And then addedâ€”unkindest cut of allâ€”that it wasnâ€™t as if I had any Social Security she could collect as my widow when I croaked, so why bother?â€
And now, it was time. Sharon had spent months wondering and worrying about how she would handle the situation. But, in the event, it all came quite easily and naturally.
She turned and placed a hand on Ruyâ€™s arm, to bring him forward and to her side. â€œIâ€™d like all of you to meet my fiancÃ©, Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz.â€
Ruy immediately bestowed a bow on the new arrivals. No courtier in Madrid could have done it better, even one whose pedigree was genuine. Actually, they couldnâ€™t have done it as well, because they wouldnâ€™t have known how to keep it from being too elaborate. Ruy had now been around Americans long enough to know that the more ornate flourishes of seventeenth century punctilio were not only wasted on them but would be viewed as slightly ridiculous in any event.
Sharon still didnâ€™t know Ruyâ€™s real last name. But sheâ€™d stopped nagging him about it after heâ€™d told her, in a tone of voice that was genuinely sad, that he would not impart the information until the time cameâ€”if the time cameâ€”that he could visit his motherâ€™s grave. Openly, and in broad daylight.
Her fatherâ€™s reaction would be the critical one, so Sharon eyed him a bit nervously. Leaving aside the normal tension that automatically existed whenever a man was introduced for the first time to his future son-in-law, there was the added factor of Ruyâ€™s age. Sharon was pretty sure that Ruy was a bit younger than her father, but â€œa bitâ€ was the operative term. A few years, no moreâ€”and he could conceivably even be as old as Dr. Nichols.
It was weird. Her father wasnâ€™t even looking at Ruyâ€™s face, after an initial glance. He was studying the costume, most of his attention on the sword.
Sharon herself hadnâ€™t even noticed that Ruy was armed. Or hadnâ€™t thought about it, at least. Being armed in public was such an ingrained part of Ruy Sanchezâ€”his persona, for lack of a better termâ€”that sheâ€™d long since stopped giving it any thought at all.
She couldnâ€™t help it. She burst out laughing, covering her mouth with her hand.
Her father cocked an inquisitive eye at her.
â€œSorry,â€ she half-choked. â€œI was just remembering the time I introduced Leroy to you for the first time. You gave him that very same scrutiny.â€
Dr. Nichols chuckled. â€œNo, not really. That time, I was trying to figure out where the bum might be hiding some drug paraphernalia.â€
Then he smiled at Ruy and extended his hand. â€œA pleasure to meet you, Senor Sanchez. I will say you donâ€™t quite match Sharonâ€™s depictions of you in her letters.â€
â€œHer very long and fulsome depictions,â€ Melissa added dryly.
â€œSure donâ€™t,â€ added Rita, who was back to grinning.
Now it was Ruy who was cocking an inquisitive eye at her.
â€œItâ€™s not fair,â€ Sharon whined. â€œYou werenâ€™t supposed to be here yet. Iâ€™m not ready for this.â€
â€œYup,â€ said Rita smugly. â€œAnd thereâ€™s the Third Law. â€˜No good deed shall go unwhined about.â€™â€