Let Us Then Be Joined Together, the Conclusion

Note: Previous installations can be found as follows: Part I, Part II, and Part III

What could I possibly be missing?

The walk from the Lady Chapel to the reception hall was a short one; just a few minutes’ stroll through Solitude’s Historic District. The wedding party marched regally along, Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian in front, followed by Cari and Max, with Mother T’Adril bringing up the rear. The afternoon was slightly overcast, but still fairly warm, which meant that their procession was witnessed by dozens of tourists from all over the continent. Cari was flattered by their comments: “Oh, how lovely! A wedding!” “Such a stunning dress!” “Look at the adorable little girl!” “That little boy’s so dapper!” However, as they walked along, Cari was seized by a sense of uneasiness. Something wasn’t quite right. Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian looked fine – nothing wrong there. That skeever Max? Nothing ever seemed to bother him. Are my clothes right? My shoes?

They had just arrived at the reception hall when it suddenly hit her. Where was her doll? “Vilja!” she shouted. “Where’s Vilja?”

“Who’s Vilja?” said Max, as Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian turned to face her.

“Did you leave your doll?” said Aunt Teri. “Oh, no!”

“I’m sure she’ll be safe,” said Mother T’Adril. “I can call –“

“But,” stuttered Cari. “She’s…she’s…I don’t want to…“ The grownups made comforting noises while Cari tried to maintain her composure.

It’s just a toy, thought Max. She can always pick it up tomorrow. But when he saw Cari’s face, he realized he was missing something. That doll was awfully important to her, no matter what he thought. His opinion was unimportant, and even if he thought Cari was a snoot, he didn’t like seeing her upset. He gently gripped Cari’s arm. “Where did you leave her?” he asked.

“In the chapel,” whimpered Cari. “Where we were getting ready.”

Max knew about where that was. “I’ll find her,” he said. “Don’t worry. I’ll find her.”

“Max, there’s no time,” someone said. “Your dance is coming up!” But Max was off like a stone from a slingshot. Max was an athlete, and ran as fast as his rented suit and shoes would permit. He hoped the chapel manager was still there; if he was tidying the place after the wedding service, he should have been. Well, if I can’t get in through the door, he thought, I’ll just go in through a window. That’s what I’ll do.

I’ll find her no matter what!

Max ran on for several blocks, hardly stopping at crosswalks and barely registering the stares he received. A young boy running full sprint in formal wear wasn’t something one saw every day! Finally, quite winded, he arrived at the chapel, its imposing green doors shut tight. He tried to pull them open. Blast! They were locked. He hammered on the doors with his fist, yelling “Open up! Please!” but received no answer. Backing up, he looked for the nearest window. The ancient chapel stood on a street corner. If he went left, he would have to run all the way around the block with no guarantee of finding an open door on the other side of the chapel. To the right of the chapel proper was a more recent (but still very old) wing containing administrative offices. Four or five windows faced the street, but too high for him to reach, even if he jumped.

Max was stymied! He promised to find Cari’s doll, but he couldn’t deliver. Dejected, he decided to turn back. Now she’s going to think I’m a bigger idiot than ever, Max thought. I didn’t want her to love me for finding her doll, or even like me. All I wanted to do was show her I’m not completely useless. Sadly, he turned back to the street.

“Young man!” Who was that? Max turned back to the door. The chapel manager, leaning out the door! “Was that you hammering on the door? Whatever’s the matter?”

Max brightened. “The maiden attendant left her doll here somewhere. Have you seen it?”

“Don’t remember seeing one,” said the chapel manager, “but you’re welcome to look.”

Max didn’t need to be told twice. “Thank you sir!” he said as he dashed past the manager. Turning right, he headed to the office wing. Where did Aunt Teri get ready? One of these rooms. Oh yes, that one! Darting inside, he looked around. Nothing obvious stood out, just a few chairs and a folding table. In fact, the room looked like it had been cleaned out already. She has to be here somewhere, Max thought. The only thing that looked out of place was a sweater, the kind that older women wore, draped over a chair. Max had no idea whose it was, but thought he might bring it to the chapel manager for safekeeping. But when he grabbed the sweater, whatever was under it almost tumbled to the floor. Max caught it just in time: A blonde doll, somewhat longer than his forearm, wearing a dark green robe. Vilja! That had to be her! Forgetting all about the sweater, he dashed back out of the room, passing the chapel manager on the way to the main doors.

“Found her then?” the chapel manager asked.

“I sure did!” said Max. “Thanks for letting me in!”

“My pleasure,” said the manager. “Say, I found this bottle up in the vestry. Do you know anything about it?”

“Never saw it before!” said Max. “Gotta run. Thanks again!” As he ran out of the chapel, he was sure he heard the manager say, “Finders keepers! Today’s my lucky day!”

Strawberries? Who in Oblivion said that?

If anything, Max ran faster back to the reception hall than he had to the chapel. Gripping Talking Vilja tightly, he kept a sharp eye out for vehicles and pedestrians. He had covered the first block when he heard it: “Strawberries! I just love strawberries!”

Strawberries? Who in Oblivion said that? Max figured it must have come from a pedestrian when he heard it again: “Do you think I look fat in this outfit?” Where did that come from?

“Shoot him! I’ll smash his head!” What? Shoot who? Oh, Talking Vilja, thought Max. I must have set her off. There has to be an off switch somewhere. Without breaking stride, he searched fruitlessly for another button, anything that would make the doll stop. Talking Vilja was still jabbering away when Max arrived breathlessly at the entrance to the reception hall, and handed the doll to an overjoyed Cari.

“You must have pressed the button, silly,” Cari giggled. “There’s no stopping her now!”

“Let me take your doll inside,” suggested Mother T’Adril. “I’ll give her to your Farmor for safekeeping.” Reluctantly, Cari handed Talking Vilja over. As Mother T’Adril disappeared through the door, Max heard the doll say, “That’s an interesting outfit you’re wearing. Did you pick it out?”

“Good job finding Cari’s doll,” said Uncle Adrian, “but it’s time to usher your Auntie and me into the hall, isn’t it?”

Max nodded. “Ready, Cari?” he said. Cari gulped nervously. “You’ve done this dozens of times,” said Max. “Don’t worry.”

“I know how to do it!” hissed Cari. And she did. Side by side, they pushed through the door and into the reception hall. Once inside, the combo Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian hired started a minuet which was their cue to dance: Step. Step. Turn. Turn. Step-Turn. Step-turn. Make-an-arch and show-the-way! The minuet ended with a playful fanfare as Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian entered the hall to the applause of all the guests. The children took their seats to the left of the bride and groom at the head table.

Dinner was served and toasts were given. Speeches were made, though Cari and Max could hear Talking Vilja mumbling from the bottom of Cari’s grandmother’s tote bag. At some point, a magnificently-decorated cake was cut up and distributed, and the children each got a piece. After that came dancing. Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian had the first dance, then the rest of the guests joined in. Max noticed Uncle Adrian’s boss, despite his bulk, handling the liveliest dances with ease. Eventually, Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian beckoned the children to the dance floor. “Shouldn’t you two have a dance as well?” said Aunt Teri.

“With him?” said Cari. She looked indignant while Max seemed to be looking for an escape route.

“Now, Cari, don’t be like that,” said Aunt Teri, smiling. “Max is nice. He did go back for Talking Vilja after all, didn’t he?”

Cari considered. “Alright, I’ll give him that. But that still doesn’t excuse that Thing He Said!”

“What are you talking about, Cari?” asked Aunt Teri. “What did he say that was so awful?”

“Yes, Cari,” said Uncle Adrian. “What did Max say?” Uncle Adrian looked at Max with an expression that said, “Don’t you even think about running away.” Max stayed put.

Horrible as it was, Cari had no choice but to tell the truth. “It was at one of the rehearsals. Max said, ‘Your aunt’s really nice. What she sees in a fellow like Uncle Adrian I’ll never know!’”

“That was it?” said Uncle Adrian.

“Well, aren’t you horribly insulted?” said Cari.

“Oh, Baby, that’s just how boys talk. Max meant that as a compliment!”

Max looked relieved. He really had meant it as a compliment, backhanded though it was. The truth was, he’d heard the expression somewhere and, thinking it was funny, repeated it in front of Cari. He had no idea she’d be upset by it! “I didn’t mean to make you angry, Cari,” he said.

“And I don’t know what your Auntie sees in me, either,” said Uncle Adrian. “So that makes me a pretty lucky fellow, don’t you think?”

“Well, maybe,” said Cari.

“And as for Max,” said Uncle Adrian, “he knows I’ll get back at him eventually!” Max made a comical cringe as Uncle Adrian laughed.

“Aunt Teri, is that more boy talk?” asked Cari.

Aunt Teri rolled her eyes. “Yes. Yes it is.”

The next song was a folk dance which both Cari and Max had learned at school. Max held out his hands. After a moment’s hesitation, Cari took them gingerly. The dance itself was fairly complicated, but Cari remembered enough to keep up, and actually found herself having a good time. “Thanks for bringing Vilja back to me,” she said.

“My pleasure,” said Max. “I’m just glad I could find her.”

“You’re still a skeever,” said Cari, though Max noticed she was smiling a little.

“I get it,” said Max, smiling back. “And you’re still a snoot!”

But if anyone else calls you a skeever, there’s going to be big trouble, thought Cari.

But you’re my kind of snoot, thought Max.

The End

Back to Part III

A note about the illustrations: The pictures of Cari and the other characters are screenshots taken while playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  The shots were then manipulated using Paint.net, and occasionally grafted into photos from my personal collection. The following user mods were used for this story:

As noted previously, two stock photos were used in Part III of this story. They can be found at Pexels, which is an excellent site for stock photos. Credits are as follows: The lantern photo was created by Burak K, while the chair at the end of the story is based on a photo taken by Karolina Grabowska.

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