We were hungover leaving the yacht broker’s house. I asked Betsy to drive and opened the car door, letting her in. Closing the door, I walked around to the passenger side, climbed in, and asked her to marry me in so many words, “Do you still want to do this whole thing? Have children and all the rest of it?”
“Sure,” she said. She looked surprised that I would ask.
“Do you want to get married?”
“Soon as we have time,” I had said.
She had not pressed me for a date. It was unnecessary. We both felt marriage was essential if we were going to conceive. We did not want to purposely create bastards.
We had agreed I would finish the boat first.
In Clear Lake, we had rented a furnished apartment while the boat was in the yard. Betsy helped as I needed her, but mainly spent time reading: books on pregnancy and motherhood, which I encouraged and found endearing. We planned to go ahead with conception as soon as the boat was ready.
Work in the yard dragged on for another month. In a boatyard delays were inevitable, part of the process. There was always another list of things to do. I was stalling. I knew it, she could feel it.
We spent close to a month in Lake Travis, giving me a chance to get the feel of her engine, the hull, and rudder in close quarters, around the marina, practicing maneuvers in calm water. We spent the next six months outfitting for deepwater. I did the manual labor myself, to pay for the change of name.
I had the name Mysterion painted green and gold on both sides of the stern. Then I had the mast unstepped and laid on saw horses and made a close inspection of the rig, replaced a turnbuckle and some of the wire. Had the boat bonded against lightning strike. Installed an air conditioner. Had a full array of electronic navigation, radio equipment, and radar mounted, and a hydraulic auto pilot that would steer a compass course truer than a human.
Then the money was running out— but I still owned a New York apartment. It had been on the market for a while, listed at a premium price. Now I put it out at fair market, and got an offer. Betsy and I flew to New York for the closing.
Coming back from New York, with money in the bank, Betsy pressed me for a marriage contract. In a taxi between the airport and the boatyard, Betsy said without preamble, “If we’re going to get married, let’s do it.”
“When? Now? We just got back to town.”
“No reason, really.”
“The court house is on the way,” she said. “Let’s do it, I dare you.”
“Suits me,” I shrugged, as though the contract had already been signed.
She had chosen the moment cleverly and issued a challenge I couldn’t refuse. Either I wanted to be a husband and a father, or I did not.
I told the driver to take us to the courthouse.
Betsy climbed the granite steps ahead of me. She had her hair braided in blonde pigtails that sashayed on the curve at the top of her butt. The bluejeans fitted her hips like a restraining order.
She led me into the clerk-of-court’s office. We sat down and answered questions for a marriage license.
Waiting outside the judge’s chambers, I felt like I was being shoe-horned into a new pair of golf shoes that were bound to give me blisters. But I figured I could stand it for eight holes.