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By Clive Aaron Gill
Southern Rhodesia, Africa
“What’s the matter, my dear?” the black-haired bride said in the dressing room of the synagogue.
“Nothing, Miss Lorraine,” said the maid who had taken care of Lorraine since she was a baby.
Lorraine grasped her maid’s hands and looked into her large, brown eyes. “Tell me.”
“The feast is not permitted for us.”
“You mean the reception? You know I want you to be there. And I hate the law that separates us.”
“So, nothing we can do now.” She bit her lower lip. “Anyway, I am happy for the wedding.”
They hugged as tears ran down their cheeks.
“Now, let’s see one of your big smiles,” Lorraine said.
“You are so beautiful, Miss Lorraine. Like a queen. The eyes of everyone will be on you.”
Lorraine’s maid climbed the wooden stairs and sat with other African guests. She wore a yellow, floral dress and a white scarf covered her head. Her round face was typical of the Ndebele people.
“So many nice clothes,” she said, gazing at the white guests below.
“Look at those red and pink hats,” said the maid of the groom’s family.
Ken Hannon, Lorraine’s father, walked into the dressing room.
“I’m ready, Dad.” Lorraine kissed him on his cheek.
“Here, I’ll lower your veil.”
“My hands are clammy.”
“Nothing to worry about. Is everyone ready?” he said to the bridal party attendants.
Lorraine gripped her bouquet of pink roses, inhaled deeply and took the arm of her father.
The bride and her father reached the aisle, and the organist played Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. A warm, evening breeze flowed through the open windows.
Father and daughter walked towards Morris, the groom who stood under an embroidered, velvet canopy with fringes. The pageboy and flower girl followed Lorraine, holding the train of her white wedding dress. Lorraine’s three sisters, with floral bouquets and pink gowns, ended the procession.
The rabbi and cantor, in black robes, white prayer shawls and round, black, velvet hats, stood beside the groom. Lorraine arrived at Morris’s side and took his hand. Parents of the bride and groom stood at the sides of the canopy.
“Blessed be they that cometh in the name of the Lord,” the rabbi said. “Today, Lorraine and Morris, you stand under the huppah that symbolizes the home you’ll create.”
He continued the ceremony, and the cantor chanted Hebrew melodies in his deep, rich voice.
“To conclude,” the rabbi said, “the groom will break a glass. This tradition reminds us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, two thousand years ago, one of the most important events in the history of the Jewish people. And like you who foresee a new life together, we look forward to the rebuilding of the Temple in Israel.”
Morris stomped on a cloth-wrapped glass and man and wife kissed.
“Mazel tov! Mazel tov! Good luck!”
Christian McPherson, a heavily built man with black-gray hair and double chin, approached the bride’s father and shook his hand, giving it a strong squeeze. “Lovely wedding, Ken. I remember when Lorraine was a little girl.”
Guests walked into a courtyard and Ken Hannon whispered to his petite wife, “Lorraine is now well set with a good family.”
“She won’t have to struggle like we did.”
Morris and Lorraine left the synagogue to be photographed in a studio.
Guests drove cars through avenues lined with lavender-blooming jacaranda trees to the Grand Hotel.
The driver of the groom’s family business drove the African guests to the groom’s parents’ home.
“These shoes hurt my feet,” the gardener of the groom’s family said.
“Give them back,” Lorraine’s maid said.
“One day, everyone will eat together,” The gardener said.
“Yebo,” the driver said, meaning yes. “Whites say some Africans are trouble-makers.”
“You are a big trouble-maker!” the maid said. “You drink all your wages and no money goes to your wife and children.”
The driver steered into the driveway of the two-story, corrugated-tin-roof house.
In the servants’ rooms in back of the house, they crouched or sat on empty wooden crates around a black pot. Candlelight threw shadows on the walls. They scooped hot, cornmeal paste from the three-legged pot with their fingers, dipped it into beef gravy and ate.
In the Grand Hotel ballroom, African waiters in white shoes, white trousers and white jackets provided refreshments. “You want a drink, Baas? You want a snack, Madam?”
A band played light music until Lorraine and Morris appeared at the entrance.
“Here they are!” someone shouted.
Everyone stood as the music group played, “For They Are Jolly Good Fellows.” Guests sang along as the couple walked hand-in-hand to the head table.
Christian McPherson leaned towards his wife. “Three-course dinner and free drinks.”
“Five-piece band, huge wedding cake,” his wife said. “Expect a call from Ken soon.”
After dinner, the bride fed her husband wedding cake. Then she threw her bouquet to the single women, who shrieked as they grabbed for it. Some believed that catching the bouquet would bring romantic luck.
The following week, Ken sat in the reception-room of Christian’s office.
“Mr. McPherson is ready for you, sir,” the secretary said.
Ken walked into the mahogany-lined office, breathing thick cigar smoke.
“Good morning, Ken,” Christian said.
“Please bring a cup of tea for Mr. Hannon,” Christian said to his secretary.
“Sit down, Ken.” He pointed to a soft chair. “Cigar?”
“No, thank you.”
“We really enjoyed the wedding. Tell me, how are you?”
“To be honest, I’m having migraine headaches more often,” Ken said, rubbing his forehead.
Christian tapped his cigar on a large ashtray.
“About the wedding,” Ken said. “I’d like your help again.”
Christian rose from a high-backed, brown, leather chair and paced the office. “How much do you need?”
“A thousand pounds,” Ken said, in a quiet voice.
Christian raised his bushy eyebrows. “A thousand pounds?”
“It was a big affair,” said Ken.
“Well… for you, I can do it. We’ve been friends for… how many years? Eighteen, I believe.”
“I’ll let you have the same terms as last time.”
Christian gave his secretary instructions to prepare documents for Ken’s signature.
“I’m worried about the future,” Ken said. “The British colonial era is ending.”
“It’ll be a long time before that happens in Southern Rhodesia. A long, long time,” Christian said, although he knew that British colonies in Africa were being granted independence. “In any event, what countries are open to us? Where could we go, Ken?”
“I don’t know. I remember the day in 1938 when I arrived here from Czechoslovakia with my family. We brought the few things we were allowed to take. It would be difficult to uproot ourselves again.”
Christian coughed, put his cigar in the ashtray and leaned forward. “Listen, Ken. You’ve got a fine family. Your eldest is married; may your grandchildren be healthy. Stop worrying so much.”
They shook hands and Ken left with a signed, promissory note bulging in his jacket pocket.
Christian smiled and whispered to himself, “Three more daughters to marry.”