Are you ready for The Mirror’s Image? Well, it’s almost ready for you, too!
Third chapter, for your enjoyment
Saturday July 4, 1992
There was something slightly ironic about getting married on Independence Day, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I decided it was the course of wisdom, however, not to mention the observation to my bride.
She had managed to get out of bed without waking me and was not in the house at all when I got up.
“She’s consigned herself to Amanda’s hands,” Molly informed me when I emerged from the bedroom. “Amanda insisted that Kristy obey the tradition of not being seen until the wedding.”
“I can’t wait to see who won the argument over the dress,” I said, with a wry smile. “Personally I think Kristy might have met her match; Amanda is going to make her look as much like a princess as she can possibly get away with.”
“The funny part is, the ceremony isn’t going to be anything like a human ceremony, but Amanda is throwing all the human traditions she’s ever heard of at it as hard as she can.”
“I think it’s a game for her,” Molly said. “She was very put out that you two wouldn’t just play ‘human ceremony’ for her.”
I grimaced, remembering. “Kristy can only take so much,” I said.
Instead of the traditional situation where I would be waiting at the alter and Kristy would approach me “down the aisle”, today she would await me in the clearing and I would go to her. Luckily by this time I’d had some practice getting up into the portal opening, so I wouldn’t be as graceless as I had been the first time.
The wedding would be early. Kristy refused to be kept in hiding from me all day long. I was to go through the portal with Tom and Molly at half past nine; Allyson was coming up to the City to ‘human’ the portal. She wasn’t planning on closing it behind us – she wanted to watch the wedding, as well as it could be seen from across the clearing – but someone had to stay on the human side of it.
When I walked into the kitchen I was astonished to see Bart. He waved a merry greeting at me with one hand, while flipping pancakes with another. Bart was almost as brown as Amaleen, but his skin had a weirdly green cast to it that was at once alien and yet looked perfectly natural on him somehow. He was a hobgoblin, so while he was related to Amaleen’s species, they were not the same. Amaleen always seemed annoyed to be compared to Bart, but he didn’t mind either the relationship or her scorn.
“Long time no see!” I said to him, though it had only been a couple of days. It seemed like much longer. “How did you end up on breakfast duty?”
“Amaleen is taking care of Kristy on the other side,” Bart said.
“Did it occur to any of you that we could feed ourselves?” I asked, somewhat exasperated.
Bart furrowed his brow in thought for just an instant and said, “No.” He went back to making breakfast and I gave up and poured myself some coffee. When I got to the table, I found Tom grinning at me.
“Have you guys always lived like this? I got the impression that having fairy company was an occasional thing in the past. Now we apparently aren’t to be trusted to take basic care of ourselves.” I was bemused.
Tom gave a short laugh. “No, your impression was correct.” He glanced up at Molly, who was arriving at the table. As she sat down, he lowered his voice and said “I think we’re being ‘supervised’.”
I rocked back in my chair. I could feel my face registering surprise, but my mind was ahead of it, and I said, “I think you’re right. Maybe they just want to make sure that Kristy and I really are going to do the job.”
“Could be,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure that Amaleen believes us. But there are people involved that we don’t know, and maybe they feel we need to prove ourselves. I can’t really say I blame them. It’s not like it would be easy to replace us.”
“That’s true!” Molly said. Her face grew thoughtful. “I wonder if any of the places those bequest letters came from are still operating portals. I’m sure the fairies would know, but I don’t think they would tell us unless we asked.” The information Molly had gotten when she inherited the house was decidedly incomplete.
“Apparently we can’t ask them anything. Everything I’ve asked lately gets deferred until I start learning from Angelina. Even Angelina doesn’t answer questions right now!” I was a little frustrated.
“Well, son, it’s probably better to think about -”
“Pancakes!” Bart interrupted.
Well, I could hardly argue with that.
The pancakes were delicious, and it was hard to keep from eating too many of them. I didn’t want to be groaning and over-full.
“Shower time!” I announced. I had to get clean and put on my rented tux. I had originally just planned to wear my one suit, but after listening to Amanda a bit, I decided I’d better look a bit more dressed up than that. Even if somehow Kristy reined her in, she was most likely going to be more than “suit” fancy. I don’t really know where that sort of line is drawn; I had decided to play it safe.
Clean and dressed, I loitered in the den, waiting for the appointed time. Tom joined me shortly.
“Are you nervous, son?” he asked me.
“Not really,” I answered honestly. “I’m a little worried I’ll face-plant on my way through the portal,” I laughed. “But the ceremony, no, I’m not worried about that.”
“Good,” said Tom. I know he was very curious; he didn’t know if I should be nervous. He didn’t know anything about the ceremony to come. As far as I was aware, only Leo, Amaleen, Kristy and I knew what was going to happen.
Amaleen had considered her own race’s marriage practices, and then interviewed several other species and considered what she knew of humans in general and Kristy and I in particular. She got Leo together with us and decided on a ceremony based strongly on the one used by elves, with a slight human flavor thrown in. Leo would perform the ceremony. He wasn’t a priest or a judge, but he was considered fairly learned in the ways of humans and was well respected. And we were reasonably comfortable with him already, as opposed to some stranger filling the office.
Tom looked very dapper in a well tailored suit. His hair might be entirely white, but he was very vigorous for a man in his early sixties. Molly came in the room then, wearing a sun dress that flattered her slightly plump figure. It was an emerald green that brought out the remaining red in her fading ginger hair. Her eyes were bright and she was smiling non-stop.
Allyson had arrived while I was getting ready. She entered the room with Bart just before I was due to go through to Daganu. She shyly offered me her congratulations, then mounted the couch and opened the portal, swinging it wide and standing aside for those of us who were going through.
I hopped up agilely – relieved not to have muffed it – and dimly heard sounds of the others following. But I wasn’t paying attention. All of my being was focused in front of me, toward the other end of the clearing.
In a straight line from the portal, the clearing ended at two redwood trees that had grown together. The combined width of their trunks was at least seven feet. In front of it stood Leo and Kristy, facing me. Around the edges of the clearing were other fairies, most of whom I didn’t know. I saw Angelina with Amanda and Ming, I saw Amaleen with some brownies I didn’t know. I thought I saw Becky in a small flock of Pixies, but I really couldn’t be bothered to look that closely.
Kristy. She did look like a princess, but not any specific princess, not a Disney princess, not princess Di. She looked as if she were born a princess.
Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled back from her face in small braids that twined in with the hair loosing curling down her back. She had a slim understated coronet holding it all in place. To my surprise, she was wearing make-up. Just a tiny bit; enough to make her eyebrows and eyelashes visible, and a pale pink on her lips, no more.
Her dress was stunning and exquisite in its craftsmanship, but was not ostentatious. The back was high, but the dress slid off the shoulders before getting to a friendly but not crass cut across the front. The bodice was fitted to her trim form in a way that made her look more feminine than usual. At the hips, the gown flared gently, and was suddenly crafted of layers and layers of offset panels. All the fabric was soft as a sigh, but it was in different colors, shades of the cream of the bodice, shades of gold, and sometimes patterns of gold on cream. Whenever she so much as shifted her weight, the dress changed. It was like a glamor made solid.
She was a vision.
I don’t remember crossing the clearing. I observed all of that and then I was next to her, taking her hand, treasuring that feeling of wholeness I always had when we touched.
When I looked up at Leo, his pearly gray eyes were on the rest of the clearing, sweeping around, making sure everyone was more or less done moving around. The pixies didn’t count; they moved like hummingbirds: zoom, hover, zoom, hover. But they were staying in one general area.
Leo looked down at us. “Ready?” he asked softly. His graphite colored hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He was formal and dignified dressed in a flowing robe that matched his hair.
“Yes,” I said, and Kristy nodded.
“Stand facing one another and hold hands, both hands,” he instructed us.
Then he raised his eyes to the small crowd and said, “We are gathered today to witness and celebrate the marriage of Joseph and Kristina.
“Marriage is a grace for those who enter it. A marriage makes two people into one. They will always face adversity together and they will always share each other’s joys. To be in a marriage is to never be alone or unloved.”
Leo put his hands over our hands. “Joseph, you have entered into marriage with Kristina and wish it to be celebrated this day?”
“I have and I do,” I answered. We didn’t have a script, but my answer seemed to suffice.
“Kristina,” Leo addressed my beloved, “do you confirm this state of marriage and wish it to be celebrated this day?”
“I do!” she said firmly.
Leo continued holding our hands but looked up at the crowd, “Let it be witnessed here and now and hereafter that Joseph and Kristina are in a state of marriage with each other.”
He looked back down to us, “And, according to your customs-” he paused and winked at his daughter Amanda and I got a worried feeling. He continued, “You may now kiss to seal your union.”
Feeling slightly faint with relief that I wasn’t going to be subjected to some strange medieval custom, I very happily acquiesced and kissed my bride softly and thoroughly. “I love you, princess,” I whispered.
She kicked me with a surprisingly pointy shoe and said, “Don’t you ‘princess’ me!” Then immediately softened and said, “I love you too. Wholly.”
I kissed her again. I might have liked to keep at that for a while, but we were rather in public.
But when I turned around I found that we were almost alone. Only Tom, Molly and Amaleen remained. I said, “Where -?”
Amaleen said, “Weddings are unusual enough. We don’t stand around congratulating each other. That’s just weird.”
Tom and Molly gave each other a look and Molly said, “Well fuck that,” and she turned to us and said, “Congratulations!” and hugged us both. Tom burst out laughing at Molly’s profanity, and he followed her lead.
Amaleen had been looking away. When she looked back, she said primly, “Some of the others will join us for lunch. Then you two can go off for a couple of days by yourselves.”
I smiled widely. Only a couple of days, but oh yeah, honeymoon sweet honeymoon. I couldn’t wait.