Let Us Then Be Joined Together, Part I

Through Max’s Eyes

“Let me fix your collar again,” said Max, approaching his Uncle Adrian. They were waiting in the tiny vestry in the Lady Chapel in Solitude’s Historic District. The vestry was at the head of the chapel, through a doorway on the left. It was a high-ceilinged room, Max noted, and above him he could see a series of pipes, some wide, some narrow, leading vertically to somewhere he couldn’t identify. Max didn’t worry about it much. His job was to get his Uncle Adrian out of the vestry and up to the altar with as much grace and dignity as could be managed, while his soon-to-be Aunt Teri and her Maiden Attendant, Cari, made their way up the aisle from the back of the chapel. There were only a few moments left before the wedding started, and Max could tell his uncle was nervous.

“What, again?” said Adrian.

“Language, Max,” corrected Adrian.

“The pin’s worked loose. If you wouldn’t stop fidgeting, it would stay in place,” said Max. “What in Oblivion are you so nervous about?”

“Language, Max,” corrected Adrian. “You’re in a chapel, for Divines’ sake. Also, you’re ten. You shouldn’t talk like that.”

“Sorry,” said Max. “But why are you so wound up? This is what you wanted, isn’t it?” Max went to work fixing his Uncle’s collar. Wedding suits were a challenge even if they were perfectly tailored, and rentals like theirs usually weren’t. But for some reason, Max didn’t seem to be having any trouble with his almost identical outfit.

“Of course it is,” said Adrian. “It’s tough to explain. You’ll understand when you’re –“

Max cut him off. “Older,” he said. “I get it. Or get that I won’t get it.”

Uncle Adrian started to apologize. “It’s alright,” said Max. “There, your collar’s fixed, if you can stop fidgeting.” He reached inside his jacket, producing a small bottle. “Or do you need a little ‘calm-me-down?’”

“Where the Oblivion did you get that?”

“Language, Uncle Adrian,” answered Max, smiling. “Morfar gave it to me. He said he thought you might need it.”

Uncle Adrian chuckled. “Papa thinks of everything,” he said quietly, “but I think I’ll survive.”

Good, he’s calming down, thought Max, like the Uncle Adrian I’ve known my whole life. Max’s parents both had brothers and sisters, which meant Max had a large extended family. Somehow, though, he most enjoyed visiting Uncle Adrian, his mother’s younger brother, even if he was a bachelor and lived alone. Maybe it was the quiet of his apartment in Drakebro, where he never had to battle a bevy of cousins for attention. Maybe it was the way Uncle Adrian would talk to him and listen as if he were another adult and not an annoying little kid. It certainly didn’t hurt that his apartment was filled with everything a young boy could want to play with, read, or watch. Uncle Adrian’s teleplayer was large, and he had a stock of interesting programs to watch, even ones meant for children. On a shelf in his sitting room were a parade of lead figurines, exquisitely painted: the majestic Dragonborn, regal Astrid Atwater, determined Jot and Miki. If Max tired of those, he could peruse Uncle Adrian’s bookshelves (Footballers’ Annual was his favorite), or play his board games.

Max understood that his uncle and Teri Ayalu fell for each other about a year previously during a company outing of some kind. Uncle Adrian’s boss, whom Max had met, had arranged for everyone in the company to make the trip down to Seyda Neen for the Nareverine Festival. Uncle Adrian had actually known Aunt Teri vaguely through her job as a city tram driver, but it was just coincidence that she was on the same train, the same ferry, and staying in the same hotel as Uncle Adrian and his colleagues. Max remembered everyone talking about how much Uncle Adrian had changed since that trip. His ten-year-old mind wasn’t really capable of understanding fully just how his uncle had changed, but Max knew that he had. Their relationship was the same as always, even if Max sometimes had to share his uncle with his soon-to-be aunt. But Uncle Adrian just seemed happier, and he knew this lady, Teri Ayalu, had a lot to do with it. For that reason, when Uncle Adrian asked Max to be his squire at the wedding, Max was happy to do it.

“Have you got everything?” Uncle Adrian asked for what was probably the fifth time.

Max tucked the bottle into a small cubbyhole in the vestry. “Yes, Uncle Adrian. I’ve got the Writings right here.” He held up a leather-bound folder, which contained the scriptures for the ceremony. He would present these to the priestess as he and his uncle arrived at the altar.

“What about the rings?”

“What about them?” answered Max. “Cari has them. You know that!” Aunt Teri’s niece, Cari Ayalu, was her aunt’s Maiden Attendant. The wedding rings were tucked into a little pouch stitched to the sash of her gown, as her hands would be full carrying the train of Aunt Teri’s wedding dress. Once her aunt was properly positioned at the altar, Cari would stand ready to offer the rings to the priestess as the couple spoke their vows.

“So you two know what to do, right?”

“We should, as much as we’ve practiced.” Max felt vaguely insulted at the question, but brushed it aside. Max and Cari knew by heart all the tasks they would perform in the chapel. They’d practiced endlessly the short dance they would perform at the reception. Max knew Uncle Adrian was aware of all that. Maybe what Uncle Adrian really wanted to know was: were Cari and Max getting along? That was a different question.

Max and Cari were about the same age, but lived in different parts of town. Whenever they had to meet, Max noted that Cari had a book with her, usually a thick, difficult-looking volume. He had no doubt she was really smart, but since Cari didn’t hesitate to remind him of that, Max couldn’t help feeling that Cari looked down on him. To compensate, he tried to be funny, but most of his attempts at wit fell flat. Cari made it clear that she didn’t appreciate his smart mouth, and Max considered her a terrible snoot. They hadn’t gotten off on the right foot, and Max knew that was partly his fault. That Thing He Said had made Cari very angry, and while Max felt guilty about it, he wasn’t quite sure why.

“All ready?” said Uncle Adrian. Max nodded; he knew the cue. During the wedding rehearsal, the priestess told them the music was their cue to walk slowly from the vestry to the altar. Since the organist was unable to attend the rehearsal, the priestess hummed a few notes for them while Max and his uncle marched. Of course, Max knew what an organ sounded like, but only at the last moment did he realize what those pipes above him actually were.

Ba-DAAAAAAAAAA!

The opening chord nearly knocked Max out of his shoes! Quickly, he turned to his uncle, who still seemed to be in one piece. “All right?” said Max.

“Here we go,” said Uncle Adrian, heading to the vestry door. Max held the Writings folder solemnly with both hands, and slowly followed Uncle Adrian to the altar.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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