August 15, 1988 12:00 PM

I will love you no matter what,” promises the bride, radiant in her ivory gown. “You are the light of my life, and we will grow old together,” vows the groom. Now 23-year-old Matthew takes the ring and slips it onto the metal hook that serves as Mary Vincent’s left hand. Mary uses the hook that is her right hand to place a ring delicately on Matt’s finger. Then Mary, 25, sheds a few tears—and for once in her life, these are tears of joy.

Ten years ago, Vincent was the victim of a monstrous crime. While hitchhiking in Berkeley, Calif., she was picked up by a middle-age merchant seaman named Larry Singleton. Guzzling whiskey, he drove her into the desert and raped and sodomized her. Then he chopped off her arms with an ax, stuffed her into a concrete pipe in a ditch and left her to die. Miraculously, Mary survived—but not without deep emotional scars (PEOPLE, April 25). Haunted by her ordeal, she became suicidally depressed, and her associations with men were difficult at best. As she once said, “I don’t think too highly of them [men] anymore.” About the only bright spot in her life was her son, Luke, now 2. (She and Luke’s father had a brief relationship and never married.)

But a couple of years ago, Mary met Matthew, a landscaper, through mutual acquaintances. (She is still so fearful that she insists his last name be withheld to protect their privacy.) “The first time I saw her, I admired her,” recalls Matt. They became good friends, then best friends, then one night they went dancing and realized there was more to their relationship than friendship. “He patched up my wounded heart,” says Mary. “He made it all better.”

Vincent, who has worked recently as an elderly woman’s companion, is looking forward to being a housewife. “I want to forget the past,” she says. Still, she plans to sue Singleton—now living near Tampa after serving only eight years in prison—for the injury he did her. “If there’s no money, I can live with that,” she says. “But he did a wrong—I don’t think he’s paid for it.”

Today, her wedding day, all such thoughts are banished. “It’s the beginning of a new life, a better one,” says Mary, who’s expecting a baby. After the ceremony at a friend’s home, the 50 guests circle round as Mary and Matt raise their champagne glasses in a toast. “To us,” she says. “To us forever,” responds Matt. They link arms and drink to the future.

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