Thursday, August 2, 2007


Reverend Bickle prefaced the ceremony with so many homilies on love that by the time Will was allowed to kiss his bride, it was late in the afternoon and Diana was sullen with impatience. She forced a smile as the guests came up to congratulate her. So many strangers hugged her, kissed her and squeezed her hand that she was grateful when they allowed her to finally sit down and rest.

By now some of the villagers had set a table with food, and while Will fixed her a plate, someone pressed a glass of local wine into her hand. She sucked it down greedily, hoping it would steady her nerves.

As the sun set, lamps were lit and furniture moved out of the way. A man brought out a guitar and strummed a few opening bars. By now Diana was tipsy, but she dutifully got to her feet for a first dance with Will. “They’re determined to make this just like a real wedding, aren’t they?”

“Isn’t it a real wedding? Don’t tell me you’re just playing along.”

“You know what I mean. At least no one made you give me a ring. I hate jewelry.”

“I bet if there was a gold or silver ring left in this town, they would’ve tried to give it to us. They must have melted them down during the resource wars. With everything else they’ve done for us though, I’d have thought someone would’ve rushed home to whittle one out of wood.”

Diana smiled at the absurd notion. “I do like you, Will.”

“You’re my wife. You’re supposed to love me.”

“I love you, then.”

“That doesn’t sound convincing."

“I’m tired and I’ve had too much to drink. Do you think they’ll let us rest soon? Where are we staying?”

“Mayor’s house, I think.”

“Are we that important?”

“First wedding in nearly a decade.”

While Diana pondered this, the song ended and the guitarist started another. Linnie placed a basket on the floor and a man tossed in a silver coin. He motioned Will aside and took Diana in his arms. "I believe this is my dance."

As the evening wore on, all the men, even the preacher, tossed coins in the basket and claimed a dance with the bride. By the time the music ended and a buggy arrived, they had a nice collection of silver, in addition to two baskets of impromptu wedding gifts. Diana hardly knew what to make of it all, but tolerated Will's insistence on carrying her over the threshold of the mayor's house and into the room that had been prepared for them. He deposited her on the bed where she watched the village women bring in her gifts and what was left of the cake and wine. “To keep your strength up tonight,” one of them teased. Diana looked away in consternation.

When they were finally alone, they stared at each other. Will looked away first, took off his jacket and hung it in the closet. "This isn’t what I expected when we came into town this morning."

Diana took the wilting flower from her hair, examined it and set it aside. “Me, either. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. My whole life isn’t what I expected, and the strangest thing is that I keep expecting anything at all.”

“Did you hear what some of these people were saying? There’s a lot of places where no one lives any more. They’ll give us a house and land if we want it. They like us and they need young people. So after we kill Strecker, if you want—”

“I’ll think about it.”

“We’d be independent.”

“I said I’d think about it.”

“Okay, then.” He stood and closed the drapes.

When he turned around, Diana was struggling to undo the metal hooks down the back of her dress. He came over to help, but only managed two before putting his arms around her and pulling her close. “I love you so much. I wish—”

At the touch of his hand on her breast, Diana stiffened and pulled away. She tried to push her sleeve back onto her shoulder, but it slipped again and she gave up. She finished unhooking the dress herself.

“I’m sorry. I meant what I said before. I know you're probably not ready yet, and that's okay.”

“No, I've been thinking. I want to do right by you, so if you want. . . ”

“Not if you don’t want it. I can wait.” He took off his shirt and draped it across the back of a chair, then sat on the edge of the bed to pull off his boots.

Diana let the dress fall to the floor in a puddle and lay down in her shift. “You've been good to me, Will. I want to make you happy.”

"You’ve already made me happy." He leaned across the bed and kissed her. "Go to sleep." He turned off the lamp and lay beside her, but after a few minutes he moved away and sat up.

"What's the matter?"

"I don't know who I'm kidding. I can't sleep with you like this."

"You have before."

"I know, but it's different now. I'll sleep on the floor or something."

"Don't be ridiculous. I didn't marry you to make you sleep on the floor. You're still my best friend."

"You don't make love to your best friend."

"Married people can't be friends? Then why did we bother?"

"You know what I mean." Will lay down again and closed his eyes.

Diana stared into the darkness, wrestling with the temptation to take him at his word and go to sleep. But she had already steeled herself for this moment. If she couldn’t convince him to make love to her tonight, she would dread tomorrow and each night after, seizing on any excuse to keep him as a brother and not a husband. No good could come of that, now that she had gone this far.

She hardly knew where to begin. If only she felt for Will what she felt for Robert! At a loss, she rested her head on his chest and was surprised to hear his heart racing. What could he be so afraid of? She gathered her courage and sought his lips in the darkness.

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

Excellent display of the cracks already in their relationship. A nice, subtle hand with it.