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With the help of some medicine to fight nausea, Michelle was finally keeping foods down. The captain had agreed to perform an adoption ceremony even though he had no legal powers when it came to adoption or even marriage. He explained, when Jared had asked, that captains had that right decades ago but that now in most cases to have a marriage on a ship the ship must be docked. In addition, captains can only legally perform the ceremony, depending on the state, if they are justices of the peace, notary publics, or judges. While the captain was not sure, he suspected the same was true with adoptions. In fact, adoption ceremonies were generally done in courts and performed by judges.
The tables in the galley were all removed. A few rows of chairs and couches were set up. The Hunt family was all seated as well as some of the members of the crew who had got to know the colonists. Everybody was dressed semiformally. The captain was wearing what seemed to be a ten-year-old suit. It fitted him poorly and looked like it had been stored in a drawer for years.
Michelle and Jared stood together on the
left side of the captain. Jared was
wearing a black suit that fit him even worse then the captain’s suit fit the
captain. The suit was a copy of one of
Aaron’s suits that Jared had made before they left the
Carmen was not in the room when the captain said, “Jared and Michelle Miller have you something to ask of our seafaring community?”
Jared replied, “We ask that you let us take a daughter.”
The captain said, “Who is the person you wish to have as a daughter?”
“Carmen Lefèvre,” replied Michelle.
The captain said loudly, “Will Carmen Lefèvre please step forward?”
Carmen stepped into the room from the rear door where she had been waiting. She was wearing sandals and a red robe. She walked towards the captain, stopping on his right side opposite Michelle and Jared.
The captain turned to Carmen, “Are you Carmen Lefèvre?”
“Yes,” she replied.
The captain said, “Have you no family?”
“I have lost my family,” she replied.
“Jared and Michelle Miller have asked for you to be their daughter. As you have no family I ask you, would you be their daughter?”
The captain continued, “To finalize this adoption, Michelle and Jared must take an oath. Please repeat after me.” As the captain spoke, Michelle and Jared repeated his words. “I promise to take care of this child and put her needs before my own. To be honest with her- To accept other points of view in times of trouble- To protect and honor her as well as each other. I promise to show my feelings to her in a caring manner; and finally to remain open to change and to be accepting.” He then turned to Carmen and said, “Carmen, to accept the Millers as your family please repeat this oath.” As he spoke, Carmen repeated his words. “I promise to listen to my new parents, even if I disagree with them. I promise to accept their wisdom and experience. Finally, I promise to love them, even as they age.” At this point, the captain looked out to the small crowd and said, “If anybody objects to this adoption, speak now or forever hold your peace.” After a moment the captain said, “Carmen, please take your place as Michelle and Jared’s daughter.” Carmen removed the robe she was wearing and left it on the floor where she had stood through the ceremony. Underneath the robe, Carmen was wearing a white dress. When Carmen arrived, the three hugged. Then the captain triumphantly shouted, “I now pronounce you – family.”
Everybody in the crowd stood up and cheered. When the cheering and then applause dwindled into silence Jared announced, “Party here in an hour.”
To this, the crowd applauded again, especially the younger attendees. Most of the people from the crowd went up individually to congratulate the new family. After they were all gone and only the captain remained with the new family, Jared said, “Thank you so much for doing this.”
“It be nothing. Just a bit of memorizing and it ain’t no trouble t’all.”
Carmen said, “You spoke beautifully.”
“Thank you, Lass. I can talk right when I need to. ‘Course a script helped me through it.”
Michelle said, “You did great. Thank you so much.”
In reply, the captain made a little bow. “Well, I must be getting back to me bridge. This ship doesn’t run herself.”
After they all thanked him again, he headed to the bridge. When he was gone, they put back the tables and chairs as close as they could to the way they remembered them being. They then got out a bundt cake, which Aaron had baked, and ice cream. After the hour had passed, members of the crew and the Hunt family started arriving. They helped themselves to cake and ice cream. The cake was gone before anybody had a chance for seconds. When Keith arrived, he tried to get to where Carmen was sitting, but she was surrounded. Keith sat with his sister instead.
“Hey, Keith,” she said.
“Blah,” he replied lethargically.
She teased, “Aww, does somebody miss his little girlfriend?”
“Nah, I just hate having to sit with you.”
“Well, Dummy, go sit somewhere else. I'm trying to become a hermit. In fact, I think I'll be the colonial hermit.”
“Oh, stop, you'll be friends with all the people we haven't met. You're the one that’s good at that kind of thing. Me, I'll be lucky if I know any of them!”
She laughed, “Yeah, I guess that’s right. It’s good you have Carmen.”
“So good you tease me about it?”
“That’s what big sisters are for! You should be glad I didn’t beat people up for you. Now that’s humiliating!”
“I see you’ve put some thought into it.”
She laughed. “Well, that’s my job.”
“And you’re sooo good at it.”
“Thank you!” As the crowd started to thin again, Keith got up to see Carmen. “Going so soon? I thought I was good company!”
“Right,” he replied sarcastically.
He cleaned up after the cake and ice cream he had eaten then walked to where Carmen was still sitting. He was able to sit to the left of her. She said, “Hey, Stranger.”
He asked, “Stranger?”
“Yes, you’ve been hiding over there with your sister.”
He laughed, “I would have come over, but you had a thick crowd of people around you. I’m not very good at crowd control!”
“You should’ve come over. I missed you.”
“Really . . . you really missed me?”
“Keith, of course I missed you. Didn’t you miss me?”
“Well, yeah . . . but I’m not the one getting adopted.”
“That’s because you’re lucky.” He lifted his eyebrows, unsure of her meaning. “You’re lucky you have a family already . . . a family that loves you.”
“I don’t know about loves me.”
“Keith, they love you. Even your sister loves you. If you two would stop fighting for,” she paused to think then finished by saying, “ten minutes you’d be able to see that. It’s probably because you love each other that you fight so much. You wouldn’t waste that kind of time on just anybody.”
Keith said, “They might love me, but they love Kara more. She’s the achiever.”
Carmen said, “Come with me!”
He asked, “Where?”
“For a walk, right now,” she said.
He surrendered, “OK.”
As soon as they were away from the rest of the people and walking, she returned to the subject, “Your parents love you as much as they love Kara. They’re your parents. They might play favorites from time to time, but they love you both. As for this rubbish about her being the achiever, she may be a great . . . social butterfly, but that’s about it. Yes, she did well in school but her motives were social. The work you did to help decide what would be needed for the colony, that’s important. Honestly, I’m not even sure how your parents got her to go. She doesn’t seem resentful . . . yet. I’m worried that when she realizes how real . . . and final this is, she’ll try to get out of it.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he said. At the same time though, he was thinking that having a family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He would never say that, not to her. Whatever he had to put up with from his parents was far better than what she had gone through. Maybe she was right. If nothing else, they cared for him. After some more thought, he said, “So, how does it feel to have a family . . . again.”
“Great. It’s like I suddenly have a blanket of security and love around me. Before I was alone and naked to the world, so very . . . exposed. I know it’s just a ceremony . . . and it’s not even legally binding . . . but it had so much meaning to me. I’m so glad the captain did that.”
“He was amazing! I couldn’t believe he could talk so eloquently. I don’t understand why he would talk the way he does if he can talk like that.”
“Well, he’s probably not comfortable talking that way. But he can when he needs to, like an actor doing an impression or accent. He did a really good job. He probably knows how to speak from television but he uses the accent and contractions because that’s how most of the crew talks. It’s funny, some of them have Irish accents. Some of them speak almost like pirates; others seem to have southern accents. He seems to mix them all. It’s kind of like how we talk differently to different people. Like you and I speak differently to each other than, say, we do with adults.”
“Adults, you’re seventeen! You may as well be an adult!”
She laughed, “I don’t feel like an adult.”
“You act like an adult!”
She glared at him.
“I mean, you act mature. You’re not like the other teens at school. I guess it’s because of all that happened to you. You had to grow up.”
She shrugged, “Yes, I did. It took me a long time to get over losing my parents.” She started to look sullen, so he wrapped his arm around her waist as they continued to walk. “Anyway, it’s good to have a family again. It’s also good to have . . . a boyfriend.”
They had never really used the word boyfriend or girlfriend before. At this point it had just been just the one date, “You have a boyfriend. Who is he? I’ll beat him up.”
“He’s pretty strong; I don’t think you’re much of a match.”
He waved his hand, “Bah, I’ll beat him.”
Then she said, “No, don’t beat yourself up over me.”
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford