Deep breath Danella, I think to myself as I close my eyes, trying to calm the ripples in my stomach. I stroke the tips of my fingers over the feeling, willing for the sensation to pass.
“Almost finished, Danny.” Aeris giggles in my ear as she begins to extract the heated curling irons from my hair, letting my now tamed and moulded ringlets fall like a curtain down my back. I watch her work in the vanity mirror that I sit in front of, heart beating in my ears. Stray wisps curl either side of my face as she gathers the top layer of hair, pinning the ends to the back of my head in a braided crown.
“And now the head piece,” she gushes, reaching into a box resting on the vanity in front of me, and pulling out a headband made of cream and white carnations. The tears prick my eyes as she places it atop my head and strokes down my arms to grasp my trembling hands. “Ah-ah, Danny – no crying – please we do not want to have to redo your makeup now that we are almost done.”
A blubbery laugh escapes me as I turn in my seat to kiss her cheek.
“Thank you, Aeris – so much.” I say, squeezing her hand and taking a moment to stop the tears, “I do not know what I would have done without you here with me today.”
“Oh, my little love,” she pets my cheek, holding my gaze, “I thank whomever or whatever it was that brought Sora to you that fateful night. I will be thankful to them till the end of my days – maybe even after that.” I see her eyes begin to swim, “Ah, now you have gotten me going!”
We giggle as we dab each other’s eyes.
“Now I have a one more thing I wish to give you,” Aeris says, clapping her hands together before she brings forth a palm sized jewellery box.
“Oh, Aeris,” I begin to protest, “you have already given and done so much for me, I cou-”
“Oh, hush now, it is nothing. Besides, this is your something borrowed, little love.”
She pops the lid and I look down to see a pair of teardrop blue topaz and diamond earrings. I finger my mother’s necklace that never leaves my neck. They match.
“They’re beautiful.” I whisper, almost too afraid to reach out and touch them.
“I, too, inherited them from my mother. They were a present from my father that she wore on their own wedding day.”
Aeris takes them and clips them into my ears, smiling at me in the mirror before coaxing me to stand up and face away from all the mirrors in my old room.
“Now let’s get you into your dress.” My husband-to-be’s mother’s wedding dress. One of the few clothes of his parents he held onto to. He himself will wear his father’s suit today. The idea that time is growing ever closer to moment I will meet him under the archway makes me flush and the ripples in my stomach return.
The cream and white lace mermaid dress is taken off its hanger and Aeris offers me her support as I step into it, slipping my arms through the delicate straps and onto my shoulders. Aeris begins to do up the fine white buttons down the back of dress, beginning from between my shoulder blades to between the swell of my hips. I look down, tracing my fingers along the lace decorating the bodice before settling my trembling hands upon my stomach. I close my eyes. One last deep calming breath.
“Now you can look, Danny.” Aeris gently turns me towards the full length mirror and I see my mouth drop slightly. I look so... I feel beautiful.
“Something old,” Aeris says as she finishes off the buttons, combing my hair down my back with her fingers, “something borrowed and blue,” she curls some of my hair behind my ear to reveal the earrings, then looks into my eyes knowingly, “and something new.”
A smile tugs at the corner of my lips.
I hear music play just outside the back door. Aeris offers her arm and I curl my own around it. This comforts me, having someone to make this walk down the aisle with me. How I wish it could have been my father that shared this moment with me – alas I am all the same glad Aeris is here to lead me. My sister. My family.
I glance out the window as we come to stop at the closed door. Flowers from the black cherry tree Sora had planted in the garden are caught in the breeze, dancing across the sky like snow. Aeris lets go of me for moment to push the door open, allowing the light of day to bleed through the room. Momentarily blinded, Aeris gathers my arm again and leads me down the steps and into the garden. The garden’s trees hide the aisle from me, and in doing so, me from Sora.
“A few more steps, Danny, and he’ll be within your sight.” Aeris comforts me, petting the hand gripping her arm as the music grows louder. A favourite piece of mine, a song my mother played for me to fall asleep to. Dearly Beloved by Yōko Shimomura.
I finally reach the start of the aisle and lift my gaze to see Sora standing at the end of a white carpet strip painted with red rose petals. A white pillar alter with a red ribbon curling around it stands over him with bouquets of flowers decorating the top. It is beautiful. A dream. I cannot take my eyes away to properly thank Aeris so I squeeze her arm in silence.
Sora. My Sora. My love. There he is, dressed in his father’s suit. A black jacket slung over his grey button-up waistcoat and shirt. A cerulean silk tie. Black dress pants and polished black shoes. He looks so different, but I can still see pieces of him in his messy brown hair that I am glad he did not tame, and the ocean blue eyes that shine as they dance over me, drinking me in as I am him.
Everything blurs around him. My mind, eyes and heart focus only on him. The garden bleeds out of sight, I no longer rely on Aeris’ arm as I walk towards my love. The music fades out. The green, the white and the red drain of life as I grow closer and closer to Sora.
I feel numb as I finally reach him and only become aware that Aeris leaves my side when I feel Sora’s hand replace her own. The warmth spreads through my bones. The ache for him in my chest finally lifts. I am where I am meant to be. Who I am meant to be with.
Under the watch and blessings of our family – of those we know watch over us when they have gone - we promise to share our lives with each other. To comfort in the bad times – and share our happiness in the good. To love and cherish one another. We take each other from this day forth till the end of time. And with these vows we share our first kiss as husband and wife.
Sora, my husband, lifts me onto the saddle of Julian as Donald and Aeris look on with tears pouring down their cheeks and smiles brightening their faces. They wave their goodbyes for now as Sora settles into the saddle behind me and turns Julian gently away into the forest. Away from our family home and to a special place of our own that Aeris and Donald wanted kept for our wedding day.
“My wife - my love,” I melt into him as he whispers in my ear, almost distracting me from what is emerging through the trees ahead. Almost. “A gift from Donald and Aeris.”
I gasp, clutching Sora’s hand on Julian’s reigns. A red brick cottage appears through the trees, across a river bridge. Smoke escapes from the chimney, a fireplace set up for our night together here.
“I can see why they made us stay away from here till now,” I nod my silent agreement, still taking in the little house that was built for us. “It is truly special. A place just for us to enjoy, my love.”
A place just for us. That pulls my attention from the cottage for a moment.
“Not just us, love.” Sora frowns, confused no doubt. I point towards the stables against the side of the cottage, there is a place for Julian as well.”
He laughs, squeezing his arms around me before hopping down to pet Julian’s side. “Of course. How silly of me to say otherwise.”
He helps me off Julian and cradles me in his arms as he pushes open the front door with his foot.
“Welcome home.” We both say to each other as we enter the cottage. I tickle the hair at the back of Sora’s neck and smile, pressing my lips to him as we stop in what I can only assume is the main living room.
Wooden ceilings and floor offset the cream painted walls, giving a modern twist to an otherwise old fashioned cottage. The place looks alive – lived in. A couch and set of chairs face the rich brown brick fireplace. A couple of small, dark bookcases hug the wall beside it, filled with my favourite books I brought back from my old home in the village – a collection Sora helped me add to over the past couple of years.
A few old photos decorate the top of the fireplace, and as we take a closer look, I see they are photos of both our parents. They seem like photos of private moments; lingering gazes and gentle caresses as they smile lovingly at each other – ignoring the camera altogether.
Another photo is set between them. One of Sora and I…the day he proposed. My heart leaps into my throat, remembering the day he first brought me to the garden, showing the black cherry tree he had had planted for me. There, he got down on one knee, and with Aeris crying through her clapping and Donald turning away to cry into his sleeve, Sora presented me with his mother’s ring. It took me a minute to compose myself enough to actually give him a comprehensible answer.
“Would you like to have a look around?” Sora asks as he holds me in the middle of the living room. I nod eagerly and he gently places me down, careful I do not catch my dress with my shoe. A kitchen and dining table is settled in the other corner of the room, all the necessities we need and a few extra dining table chairs for guests. No doubt this is Aeris and Donald’s way of saying they will be coming over for dinner every once and a while. We turn down the hallway, leading off to three different rooms.
I open one door to see our bedroom. Keeping the essence of the living room, brick covers the feature wall of the room. Pressed up against it is a white four posted queen bed with two lamped bedside tables set on either side of it. A taste of home in the form of a crystal chandelier hangs above the bed. A door to the side of the room leads to our ensuite, suited out with a bath big enough to host two people at the same time. I blush as Sora chuckles behind me as I quickly back away from the bathroom.
“Very presumptuous of them don’t you think, love?” I can hear the teasing grin in his voice as I move onto the next room.
The next door we open leads to a study. A place to relax, read, write or draw. There are journals, canvases and books littering the shelves. A lounge couch sits in the corner whilst a mahogany desk is set in the very centre of the room, lit up by the floor to ceiling French doors that open up onto a deck behind it.
Aeris knows me so well, I muse as I trace my fingers over the spines of the books she has placed here. I hum in content as Sora’s arms curls around me and cradle me in his warmth.
“I love it.” I feel Sora smile against my cheek as he places a kiss, “A home away from home. A place to call our own.”
“Come, love,” He says and grasps my hand, “we still have one more room to see.”
I giggle. So impatient. Though I admit I am curious as to what could possibly be left to have here.
We open the last door together and both gasp as a honey coloured baby room is revealed. A brass crib with white bedding is pressed against the right wall next to a white mirrored wardrobe with a small collection of toys placed on its shelf. A single off-white chair sits against the golden curtain window, with a foot rest placed in front of it. And a white chest of drawers has a few ornaments and baby books placed on top of its glass protector. A small chandelier hangs above our heads, simple but beautiful.
Oh, my Aeris, I will never be able to thank you enough…
“A baby room.” I stand frozen to the spot as Sora moves on to trace his fingers over the crib. “They thought of everything we could possibly need, my love.”
Words are stuck in my throat as the tears slip from my eyes, my imagination wandering as I watch his smile grow as he looks over the room.
“One day this room will be filled with hungry cries and light laughter. One day you will sit in this chair,” he places his hand against it, his eyes becoming unfocused, “cradling our baby in your arms as you sing them to sleep with your lullaby. They will love you, Danny.”
He finally turns back to look at me and rushes back to cradle my face as he sees my tears, kissing them dry, “Ah, my wife, they will love you.”
“As they will love you, my husband.” I say through my blubbering and kiss him. He hums and returns my kiss, petting my cheek and the stray curls around my ear.
“I cannot wait till the day finally comes when you tell me I will be a father. That you carry my child. Our child within you.”
I start to tremble just before he lifts me back into his arms and takes me back to the living room.
I feel the fire that roars in the fireplace, warming the room to a comfortable temperature.
He settles us on the plush rug placed before it, resting me across his lap and cradles the side of my face with his hand.
“You are beautiful, my love.” Sora says, eyes warm as he gazes upon me. I hold my tongue as I think sceptically over the fact I have been crying and must be red faced and blotchy by now, “You stole my breath when you appeared at the aisle. I almost could not hold myself in place as you walked down. Donald had to hold onto my belt.”
A laugh escapes me, “I did not even notice that. All I could see was your face once I had you in my sights.”
We settle, forehead to forehead, basking in our closeness, warmed by both the fire and each other. I watch his eyes settle on my necklace before he reaches up and traces it with a finger.
“Something blue.” He whispers.
My heart races, anticipating. I bring his hand up slowly to my ears and tell him; “Something borrowed.”
He blinks; he looks down and pulls our joined hands down to the lace of my wedding dress. “Something old.” He frowns looking over me for the last piece. He reaches up for the flower headband in my hair but I stop him and shake my head gently with a smile.
Confusion furrows his brow. “What is your something new then, love?”
I cannot hold it in anymore. His words in that room…
I tug his hand down from my head, to my lips for a kiss, past my neck, to rest his palm against my stomach. His hand twitches as I meet his gaze, watching as the confusion begins to fade from his eyes.
“This is our something new.” He gulps and looks… hopeful. He needs me to say it. Say it to make it real.
I smile and kiss him, nose to nose before declaring what I found out a fortnight before our wedding with Aeris standing at my side:
“I’m pregnant, my Sora. I carry our child.”