DISCLAIMER: CSI New York and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement is intended. Eden Ashley is an original character. All mine.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To debrafitzakerley[at]yahoo.co.uk
Eden Ashley Chronicles
Stella is sitting, patiently waiting. The butterflies she is feeling in her stomach are not new to her, since Eden Ashley had stormed into her life, this nervousness in the pit of her stomach, has been a regular occurrence. Usually though, it was good nerves. In this instance however, it was pure terror. She is genuinely scared and panicky about what is about to take place.
She swallows hard and takes a deep breath as the cause of all her anxiety appears from a doorway and into the hall. She smiles nervously, and rises from her seat, as the aging man makes his way towards her, his huge smile and warm welcoming features, calm Stella a little, but then the reason she's here creeps back into her mind and the fear returns to her soul.
Gale Christos is an elderly gentleman, and it shows, he seems shorter than Stella remembers, and looks a lot more fragile, but she would recognise that smile anywhere. He was the pastor at the local Greek Catholic church Stella attended as she was growing up, and he was very much involved in the community, in her community, and was and still is really a big part of Stella's life, although she hasn't been around as much as she would like in the last few years, due to work and the such like. As the man grows closer and his smiles widens and the sparkle in his eyes grows more intense, Stella decides there and then, that she is definitely going to make more of an effort to spend more time here. That's if they still want her to be part of the community after, she's finished with what she's got to say. And once again, with that thought the anxiety returns, tenfold.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't little Stella Bonasera. Ah Kopela mou. Why has it been so long?"
The use of his nickname for her, makes her heart melt instantly, he pulls her in to a hug. When Stella pulls back and looks into his deep hazelnut eyes.
"Agapao mou, I'm sorry it's been so long." She smiles with a sadness in her eyes, it has been far too long.
"Don't fret my child, you're here now, and that's all that matters. Come come, I have made us tea." He ushers Stella into his parlour, and gestures for her to sit at the table, the tea is already set out. Stella's nervousness is radiating, and Gale can see there is clearly something wrong, he can tell Stella is here for a particular reason, and he decides to let her get to it in her own time.
Stella, knows that he knows she has something to say, she runs over her thoughts one last time in her head, it has always been her dream to get married in the church she had spent her childhood in, and in different circumstances she knew that Gale would accommodate her wishes no problem, but in these particular circumstances, well to put it mildly she's worried. She almost didn't come today, she doesn't really want to put herself through this, but nagging away in the back of her mind is the thought if she had never asked, she would never know. And in spite of his religious beliefs, Gale has been a big part of Stella's life; he deserves to know she is getting married, regardless of what his reaction may be.
He finishes stirring the tea and hands the cup to Stella. He still has the huge smile on his face.
"So Stella, how are you?"
"I'm good. In fact I'm really good. That's why I'm here actually, I have some news." Stella really can't bear the awkwardness she is feeling right now, she decides, as is usually the case with her, to get straight to the point. Gale is intrigued.
"Yeah, and I'm, going to tell you, but I would appreciate it, if you would let me finish before you react at all. Ok?"
Gale just nods, he is really intrigued now.
"I'm getting married." Stella doesn't make eye contact as she says this as she knows what coming next, she just swallows hard, her mouth increasingly dry and she starts mentally preparing her next sentence. She doesn't get the chance to vocalise it immediately.
"Oh, Stella that's wonderful news." Gale instantly forgets Stella's previous instructions; he can't contain his joy, that is until he sees the look on Stella's face, the 'I thought I told you to let me finish first' look. This calms his excitement, he decides against speaking anymore, and sits back in his chair, apparently his excitement had caused him to jump out of his chair! He hadn't even realised. He nods at Stella confirming he is now prepared to listen to the rest.
Stella swallows hard again. His reaction has made this ten times harder for her now. She is dreading looking into his eyes, once she has told him the full story, she will be devastated if that sparkle is no longer there.
"Well, erm. The thing is." Nerves definitely taking over, this really does have Gale concerned. "You can't always help who you fall in love with. To me the most important thing is that you're in love at all."
She looks up at Gale, she is aware she rambling, which is confirmed by the look of confusion on his face, she continues hoping her sentence will start to make sense at some point.
"I really am. In love I mean. Like really the most in love I've ever been, I didn't even know I was capable of love like this."
She looks up at Gale, she needs him to understand this, the fact that his smile has grown even wider, is confirmation that he has. Stella really is at a loss on how to continue here. Gale senses that she is struggling, he's a little scared to speak as he knows she is most definitely not finished, but he feels he needs to prompt her a little.
"That's wonderful Stella." He moves closer to her. "You know I can tell by the way your face lights up, when you talk about this love, that this man must be really special." He puts an arm around her and pulls her in close.
Stella's heart sinks at his words. "That's just it." It's barely a whisper as it comes out. "It's not a man, it's a woman."
Stella shuts her eyes tight, and waits for the reaction, she has about a million and one thoughts running through her head, but she doesn't know which one to grasp onto until she has a reaction. She is slightly comforted by the fact that his grip on her hasn't lessened.
Gale lets the information absorb, it certainly isn't what he was expecting, but his initial thought stands, this must be a very special person for Stella, to be this in love. He looks down at her in his arms, and realises the turmoil she must be going through, she still wanted to tell him, even though she couldn't be sure of his reaction. He is slightly hurt that she thinks he would be anything other than happy for her. He gently kisses her on the top of the head. This causes Stella to slowly look up and into his eyes, he can see tears starting to form in hers, which makes him sad, Stella is delighted that he hasn't lost the sparkle from his, although his smile does seem to faltering slightly.
He realises he hasn't said anything yet.
"This woman, she makes you this happy?" Stella just nods astounded that he hasn't reacted badly, he is a beautiful man and a decent human being, but he is very religious.
"Then how could I be anything but happy for you?" He tries to put her mind at rest. Now it's Stella's turn to be confused, she has to ask.
"But the church?" He chuckles.
"The church is a lot more understanding these days. And Stella you know me better than this, I am a man of the church, but first and foremost I am a man of my own heart, somewhere that you have a special place." He grabs her hands to reiterate what he is about to say, and looks deep into her eyes.
"I am happy for you. I can't wait to meet the lucky lady, to make sure she's good enough for you."
Stella just bursts into happy sporadic laughter, and throws her arms around his neck, and devours him in a hug, one which he gladly reciprocates. He is of course aware of Stella's childhood dream, to get married in the church; he pulls back from the hug.
"Unfortunately Stella, the church wouldn't be quite so understanding." For the first time today Stella see's genuine sadness in his face.
"I know it was your dream to get married in that church." Now it's his turn to look away. Stella immediately understands what he is saying, there is no way she would ever be allowed to marry in the church, and although this does make her sad, she is just so happy with Gale's reaction that the church issue is merely a minor blow.
"It doesn't matter. As long as you come to the wedding."
"Of course, I wouldn't miss it." The cogs in his mind are working overtime. He has, what he feels is a brilliant idea. The smile instantly springs back onto his face, Stella notices and starts to wonder what he's planning, she doesn't have to wait long to find out.
"The old hall." It's not a question as far as Stella can tell, just a statement. She instantly knows what he means, the old hall, is a hall affiliated with the church, it's just as old and as beautiful as the church itself. Stella used to have Sunday school and other activities in the hall. She is still none the wiser as to where Gale is going with this.
"The hall, although it's part of the church, it doesn't hold the same sacred ground as the church, and the same rules don't apply in there." He is so very excited. "You can get married in the old hall, its perfect."
The more Stella thinks about the more she realises that it would actually be perfect.
"Are you sure it would be okay?"
"Of course. Whatever I say goes. Father Ballas will marry you."
Stella is taken aback by the speed at which Gale's ideas are rolling out; she needs to calm him a little. "Are you sure? Shouldn't you ask him first?"
"No need, he's done gay marriage before, he's a young man, much more liberal and open minded than those elders in the church. He would be happy to marry you in the old hall."
He simply cannot contain his excitement. Stella's heart bursts, she has never seen the old man this animated, it really is a joyous thing to see.
"The best thing is there is no waiting list, you could get married whenever you like."
This is food for thought for Stella, she cannot believe how well this has gone, she manages to calm Gale down, and they spend the rest of the afternoon chatting happily and catching up. They called Father Ballas who told them he would be delighted to conduct the service, and in fact he was available two Saturdays from now. Two weeks, that is pretty soon, but it excites her that she could be married so quickly. Now just to get Eden on board.
Ashley is at the lab, doing not much at all. Well in terms of work, she's been doing plenty of worrying. She knows where Stella is, and she knows how crushed she will be if things don't go to plan. The thing is she's been gone for hours, and Ashley doesn't know if this is a good or a bad thing. She has heard absolutely nothing from her. She keeps trying to play all the different scenarios through in her head, but she still has no idea what could be happening. To the point that she's been looking at a piece of evidence for like an hour, and right now she really couldn't tell you even what it is, no concentration whatsoever. She exhales loudly, frustrated.
Little does she know that she's had a spectator for the last few minutes, as is usual when she gets the chance, Stella had been admiring Eden from the doorway. She was doing so quietly until she heard the exasperation from Eden.
"Hey what was that massive sigh for?" She says it playfully although she is genuinely concerned. She moves into the lab, closing the door behind her. Ashley initially startled by Stella's presence, immediately gets her CSI brain into gear, she assess Stella's face and decides that she hasn't been crying, and studies her demeanour which also seems fine.
Stella watches Eden's eyes dart all over her, she looks really worried, she needs to reassure her that everything's okay.
"Hey, are you listening to me Ashley?"
Ashley this time picks up on Stella's playful tone and relaxes instantly, smiling, she pulls Stella towards her by the wrist until she is standing right in front of her.
"I take it, it went well then?"
"I went better than that." Stella can't conceal her huge grin.
"Really do tell." Ashley slips her arms round Stella's waist as she waits for an explanation, and kisses her on the cheek.
"How would you feel about getting married two weeks from now?"
Ashley is clearly shocked. "Two weeks from today?" Stella laughs at her expression.
"Well two weeks this Saturday."
"I take it you got the venue sorted then?" Ashley is really shocked; it seems that Stella's visit went a lot better than anticipated.
"Oh yeah, venue is ours if we want it, it's not the church itself, but it's just as good. In fact I can take you down there this afternoon, to make sure you like it."
"I'm sure I'll love it. Two weeks huh? Will we have time to arrange everything?"
"I'm sure we can do it, if we really want too. Can I take it that the two week time scale hasn't scared you to death then?"
"Absolutely not, the sooner I get you tied down the better." Ashley wiggles her eyebrows, causing Stella to burst out laughing again.
"Right then, as long as you approve of the venue, we are getting married in two weeks."
The reality of it seems to hit them both as soon as Stella finishes her sentence. They just collapse into each other in a massive hug. Excited, nervous, and quite emotional. Ashley composes herself first, pulling back from the hug, kissing Stella on the cheek again, she takes a deep breath, and the realisation hits her.
"Wow I better call my Grandmother."
Stella laughs, as she watches Eden rush out of the lab to grab her cell phone. She still has to pinch herself when she thinks about how her life has changed recently, and how unbelievably happy she now is. And to think she nearly threw this all away.
"Alright, one more step."
Stella is currently behind Ashley with her hands over her eyes, trying to guide her to the front of the old hall. Ashley is slightly worried that Stella is going to lead her right down a manhole or something, but she is extremely excited to see the place.
"Okay, you ready." There's laughter in Stella's voice as she speaks, and it makes Ashley heart flutter to think that she's the reason it's there.
"Yes I'm ready."
Stella removes her hands from Eden's eyes, and immediately moves round so she is standing by her side, but rather than look at the building she looks at Eden's face as she takes in the sight before her.
Ashley thinks the building is beautiful, it takes her breath away. It's so old and ornate, and undeniably Greek. She can imagine Stella here as a child. It's perfect.
Stella can tell she loves it, from her expression; this has gotten her really excited.
"Come on, I wanna show you inside." She grabs Eden's hand and pulls her through the huge wooden door and into the hall.
Ashley's breath is taken away again. It really is the most amazing building, inside surpasses outside, the original features, are outstanding, Ashley just stands there in awe, looking up at the ceiling. Stella smiles, this is even better than she remembers.
She walks through the building, with Eden close being, and settles on a bench right in the centre of the cavernous room. She sits, and grabs Eden's hand, who stays standing still looking all around taking in the room.
"So, you doing anything two weeks Saturday?" Stella smiles, Ashley pulls her eyes from the amazing view, and looks at arguably an even more outstanding view, she smiles back at Stella.
"I'm getting married. You?" Ashley smirks.
Stella's heart explodes, she has no words, she just rises so she's level with Eden and pulls her into a kiss. They lose track of time as they stand there like this in their wedding venue.
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