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In anonymity, I thee wed

TAMPA — On Friday morning, some six hours after two people in England got married in a ceremony watched by millions, two other people in the Hillsborough County clerk's office got married in a ceremony watched by family.

He had on sand-colored boots and camo fatigues with a digital camera in a Velcro pocket.

She wore white. Her dress came from Ross, her heels came from JCPenney, and her silver butterfly necklace came from Walmart, 50 bucks total. She got up early to do her own hair.

Timothy "T.J." Sloan and Lilian Julieth Padilla approached Window 3 in fluorescent-lit Room 140 in the old downtown courthouse. The sign said PLEASE TAKE A NUMBER.

He's 20, she's 17, and they didn't want to wait. He's deploying in August to Afghanistan.

• • •

They met in middle school in the back of the bus. He kissed her on the cheek and asked her to be his girlfriend, and she blushed but said yes. He was her first.

His mother took them to Skateworld in Town 'N Country. Her mother took them to a Halloween carnival in Oldsmar. "From there," he said, "it went to 'I like you,' and then to 'I like you, too.' " They talked about getting married, even back then, which was just kid talk, because after six months they split.

But they got back together when he was a senior at Alonso High and she was a sophomore at Jefferson. A year after that, after lights out one night at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va., he used his slow-loading cell phone in his bunk in the barracks to buy her a ring off Overstock.com.

He proposed on a two-week leave on Christmas Eve morning in 2009. He gave her a card — Will you spend the rest of your life with me? — and got down on one knee. "I ran to him," she said, "and I said, 'Yes, of course.' "

She spent Thursday night in the home of her parents in the room she shares with her 11-year-old sister.

"Are you nervous?" her sister asked. "Yeah, a little bit," she answered.

It got late. She couldn't sleep. At 2 a.m. she turned on the TV. She likes TV. She watches Wedding Planner on Oxygen and Army Wives on Lifetime. The night before she was to be married, though, she watched the Disney Channel.

• • •

Lilian's mother drove her to the courthouse. T.J. drove on his own. They sat together at Window 3. The friendly clerk named Shannon had them fill out the necessary forms. Lilian's mom signed off on the marriage because of her age. Shannon asked them if everything was true and correct and to raise their right hands.

"Yes," he said.

"Yes," she said.

It all cost $104.50, $64,999,895.50 less than the wedding in England. T.J. paid in cash.

They went over to the corner of the room, where it was a little more private, and they stood under a trellis of plastic flowers and held hands.

Shannon read from a piece of paper: "Timothy, do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife …"

"I do," he said.

"Lilian, do you have this man to be your lawful wedded husband …"

"I do," she said.

Rings went on fingers and they kissed. They kissed again and they stayed like that and their families clapped. They walked out from the corner and under the EXIT sign, through some double doors and down the hall, and then out into the world. The sun made them squint. T.J. and Lilian drove away in his tan Mitsubishi Galant.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com.

In anonymity, I thee wed 04/29/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 7:54am]
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