Let Us Then Be Joined Together, Part II

Note: For Part I of this story, please click here!

Through Cari’s Eyes:

At the other end of the chapel, in a classroom not far from the entrance, a bride sat on a small wooden chair, her magnificent white Breton-style gown spread all around her. Her mother and other older women flitted this way and that, fussing and fretting, making sure everything was perfect for her short march up the aisle. The bride, Teri Ayalu, seemed perfectly serene in comparison.

Next to her sat her Maiden Attendant, her niece Cari, who would hold the train of her gown and present the wedding rings to the priestess. On a chair next to a window sat her Talking Vilja doll, a gift from Mama for her Sacred Seventh three years before. Cari was not serene. Like any ten-year-old, she was self-conscious and a little nervous, afraid of tripping, of not looking right, of making a mistake and embarrassing herself and her aunt. The night before, Papa suggested taking the doll with her, saying it wouldn’t hurt for his daughter to have something familiar to hold onto while she and her aunt prepared. Cari didn’t argue, but was careful not to press the button on the doll’s back, because once started, Talking Vilja was nearly impossible to stop.

Aunt Teri noticed Cari’s unease, and tried to reassure her. “All ready, Baby?” she asked. “You look so pretty in that dress!”

Nobody else, not even Papa, was allowed to call her “Baby.” That was reserved for her favorite Aunt. Papa’s younger sister was about 18 years old when Cari was born, and she’d been part of Cari’s life every day since. She was a constant presence in the Ayalu household, helping Cari’s mother, watching Cari when her parents had to go out, and sometimes coming over just to play with her little niece. All this she did while training to be a driver with the City Tram service, but her energy never seemed to flag. Cari remembered Mama and Papa asking her how she managed it all, but Aunt Teri just laughed. As an only child, Cari adored her aunt’s attention.

Cari forced a smile. “And you’re so beautiful,” she said. “I hope I look like you when I’m grown up.”

“You’re upstaging me now, I think,” said Aunt Teri. Cari blushed, then turned away. “What’s wrong, Baby?”

“Aunt Teri, will things be like before?”

Cari faced her aunt as tears began forming. “Careful, your makeup!” said Aunt Teri, as she carefully blotted her niece’s eyes with a tissue. Cari had stayed the night with her aunt so they could be ready for the hairdresser and the makeup artist, who, to Cari’s delight, put a little color in her cheeks and did up her eyes.

“I’m worried,” said Cari quietly. “Once you’re married, will we – can we, you know, be like before? Where we get to see each other a lot, I mean.”

After one terrible day when Cari was eight years old, Aunt Teri’s presence in Cari’s life was more important than ever. Papa did his best after Cari’s mother died, but he couldn’t be everywhere, and it was impossible for him to know how it felt to be a young girl. But Aunt Teri did know, and made sure Cari understood she would always be there for her. The two of them spent more time together than ever, even if Cari had to share her aunt’s attention with that man named Adrian who worked in the city center. When Aunt Teri asked Cari to be her Maiden Attendant, she made it clear that she never considered anyone else for the honor.

“Of course we will,” said Aunt Teri. “Just like I’ve always said, it’s you and me, no matter what. Right?”

“But Uncle Adrian –“

“Cari, it’s you and me, no matter what. Just like always!”

“Uncle Adrian adores you,” said Aunt Teri. “He thinks you’re wonderful. He told me so himself. In fact, when you, Farmor, and I went dress shopping together, he was disappointed he couldn’t come along.”

Cari giggled. “What business did he have coming along? He’d have been useless!”

Aunt Teri laughed as well. “That’s what I told him!” Aunt Teri looked up as her mother and the other women made their way to the chapel. Presently, another woman followed, carrying a folder. “That’s the organist,” she said. “It’s almost time. Do you have everything?”

“The rings are right here,” Cari said, pointing to the little pouch on her dress.

“And you remember what to do?”

“Yes, Aunt Teri. Pick up your train, follow you to the altar, smooth you out, and give the rings to the priestess. Then Max and I light the lantern.”

“And I know you know the reception dance,” said Aunt Teri. Internally, Cari cringed. She was not looking forward to the moment she’d actually have to dance with the smart-mouthed boy! They’d met a few weeks before, during a preliminary rehearsal at the Lady Chapel, where roles and duties of all involved were spelled out in detail. Cari had brought a book to read while the grownups talked and planned. It was a thick book on Elspeth Sigeweald, Cari’s heroine, and a subject she couldn’t get enough of. With no manners whatsoever, Max had marched up and broken her train of thought: “Whatcha readin’?”

Annoyed, Cari glared at him over the pages. “Elspeth Sigeweald, if you even know who that is.”

“Of course I do,” said Max.

“Then who is she?”

“She’s, um, the one who –“ Max stammered. “Aviator, right? No? Footballer?” Cari gave him a freezing look. “Okay, I don’t know,” Max protested. “I was just trying to make a little joke.”

“You’re not funny,” said Cari with finality. It got worse after that. The two of them had to meet several times in the days leading up to the wedding to practice the reception dance, which would be performed just prior to Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian making their entrance. Max continued with his joking, but Cari refused to laugh, even when he was funny. Worse, Max managed the dance steps gracefully, leaving Cari feeling awkward and clumsy. And then, just last night at the final rehearsal, that Terrible Thing He Said — what an insult! She couldn’t even bring herself to tell Aunt Teri. On top of all that, he wasn’t even cute! Well, maybe he was, just a little, but he was still a pest, and Cari had to suppress the temptation to trip him.

“Let’s make our way to the chapel,” said Aunt Teri, standing. Carefully, Cari picked up the train of Aunt Teri’s gown and they walked slowly to the gateway at the back of the chapel, next to the Lady Chapel manager, who was present whenever the chapel was in use. Cari looked in awe at the towering organ pipes behind the altar.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” remarked the manager quietly. “And did you know there are pipes at this end of the chapel as well?”

Cari did not know that.

Ba-DAAAAAAAAAA! Ba-DAAAAAAAAAA-DAAAAH!

Remarkably, both Cari and her aunt kept their composure, and began sailing slowly up the aisle.

“Cari, can you grab the train of my gown?”
Back to Part IOn to Part III

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