Her heart palpitated.
Tia Biermann walked slowly down the sidewalk of the Imperial Palms apartments in Largo, to a pretty gazebo in the center, to the punk rocker who stood a quarter mile away.
Wrapped in a beaded vintage dress Jonny had picked out, she teetered in 6-inch platform stilettos. She carried a cascade of deep purple silk flowers.
The walk seemed to take years. The sun bore down on her back. She thought she might throw up.
She was more excited than nervous, because she had planned every second of the wedding for Jonny. She would wear anything for him, down to her gown and wedding band. She'd even walk down the aisle to a song he loved.
The Star Wars theme played.
• • •
Jonny Bailey used to watch Tia from across the street.
He worked at a Pinellas Park art shop. She worked at her family's heavy collision auto shop. She was petite and pretty and tattooed, and she tore cars apart from the inside out.
"I just became enthralled with the whole thing," said Jonny, 46. "She was very unusual. It took me a week or so to work up enough nerve to go over and introduce myself."
They had an odd connection. He was a punk rocker in the band Boney Fiend. She was a raspy, sexy tomboy. They loved the same things — science fiction and horror movies, punk music. They picked a song, Tunnel of Love by the Groovie Ghoulies.
The relationship was intense, but brief. Tia was working through the realities of her rough childhood, the addiction, the broken family, the losses. As she coped, she pulled away from Jonny.
"I had a lot of baggage," she said. "I was not in any position to give him the love that he deserved."
They didn't speak for eight years. Jonny became a graphic artist and a star on the local punk scene known as Jonny Fiend. Tia became a welder for airplane parts. She learned how to be happy.
They thought of each other sometimes.
When Tia's friend asked to borrow a Boney Fiend CD, Tia couldn't find her copy. She e-mailed one of the band members to get the disc, but Jonny was somewhere in the back of her mind. The band invited her to a party in the storage unit where they practiced.
Jonny said he would pick her up, and she threw on some jeans and a sweater. When he showed up dressed in a retro panel shirt and black Chuck Taylors, she breathed a sharp breath.
"I knew," said Tia, 41. "I knew when he opened the door."
That night in the unit, Jonny played Tunnel of Love.
"It was incredible," she said. "It was like my emotions and everything were just on edge the whole time."
After that, they spent most nights watching movies, going to punk shows or just hanging out on the couch. They acted silly together, which made Tia feel like a child, softer, more joyful. Jonny wrote a song called My Sexy Welder Girl.
They never expected to have a family, but they were thrilled when Tia got pregnant. Jonny was the last male in his family and now he could carry on his name. They thought seriously about getting married.
When they got home from the hospital that night, Jonny proposed.
• • •
On July 9, they exchanged tungsten steel rings printed with the Batman logo. They kissed.
At the Dunedin House of Beer, everyone ate pork roast, a cake and four dozen cupcakes made by Tia.
Their musician friends came, some reuniting with their old bands just to play at the reception — Devious Dynamo, Doll Parts, Skurvy the Clown, Lazaras, Circuitry, Hell-Bent, the Optimators.
They drank Newcastle Brown Ale, Jonny's favorite beer. Tia and Jonny stole looks at each other all night.
Jonny's band got up to play. He sang. Because while Tia wanted everything to be about him, he was thinking just the opposite.
Black clouds floating up above/ That haunted house was our tunnel of love.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.