Epilogue

 

=== LATITUDE – Key West ===

The restaurant's spacious terrace was decorated with plywood arches from which pendants of flowers hung like a curtain, meeting with the bouquets on the floor. The roses and lilies spread their aroma over the small group of people gathered for this wedding ceremony: Becky from the Institute, Terry and Jordan – equipped with a new camera – and Judith and Nora, of course. Now and then, the soft breeze from the ocean blew a salty scent in between, reminding everyone that this fairytale arrangement was in Key West.

Claude barely took notice of the speech of the minister. His mind and heart were absorbed by his beloved Marybeth, who stood next to him for the vows. She wore a simple but elegant white dress with lace draped over her shoulders. The small dolphin-shaped earrings he had given her as an engagement present sparkled in the sun.

Claude had prepared his words very thoroughly, still, right now, it cost him some effort to speak. “… and because I am sure, we will brace every storm together. I will stand at your side, whatever may come, as your colleague and your husband.” He slid the ring onto her finger and was lost in her wonderful smile. “You are my dream come true, and I can't wait for the reality we will build together.”

“There is said, unheard melodies are the sweetest,” Marybeth continued, “but I am grateful and happy that our melodies did not stay unheard. And so I, Marybeth, take you, Claude, to be my husband…” Now she slid the ring onto his finger. “I will love you forever.” All the joy and love she had in her heart seemed to overflow at that moment.

When they kissed, a group of dolphins jumped in the sea behind them, their backs glinting in the sun, as if to give this union their blessing.

They had all just gathered inside the restaurant for dinner when Olavunde showed up at the door. Claude discovered him the next moment and stepped up to him. Olavunde held out a letter.

“Sir, you said I should notify you right away if anything arrives from the Smithsonian. I was not sure, but…”

“Thank you for coming over!” Claude took the envelope, felt suddenly very apprehensive, and hesitated. In the meantime, Marybeth had joined them.

“What is this?... Oh, from the Smithsonian!”

“Something that might ruin the day…,” he answered, turning the letter in his hands. It was, of course, silly to avoid anything that already was written there… 

“Nothing could ruin this day, Claude!”

“Of course not!” He laughed and the apprehension vanished by only looking at her. She was right! He opened the letter and held his breath for a second.

“So, what does it say?”

“It…” He could not believe it himself, even if he saw it with his own eyes. “We… we got the grant! We got it, Marybeth! We really did!!!” He turned to Marybeth, embraced and kissed her.

The others joined the cheering scientists, and the restaurant was buzzing with congratulations. Amidst them, sounded the happy barking of Zeus the dog.