To serve others was all she’d ever known. Bred for a purpose, now she would become a housewarming gift for a lucky gentleman.
“Make sure you know what he likes to eat,” scolded her mother, “or else you’ll always have an irritable man.”
Other dictates were issued: never argue, always placate, match his affection levels, and be ready when he is.
All her life, she was prepped and pressed and readied for the day when she would become a wife – subservient, gracious, lovable, and finally beautiful. And, today was the day. She could finally say she was living with purpose.
What other purpose existed? Whenever she thought to question her fate, her mother’s words always drew her back in – this is what you were born to do. It doesn’t matter if you want it now. You will grow to want it, as you will grow to love.
She wondered, wasn’t it unnatural to have to learn to want something, to love it? Wasn’t that a betrayal of your true self?
“Now stand still while I put the final touches on this hem,” her mother’s hands forcibly twisted her hips straight, interrupting her train of thought.
Three giddy women gathered around her bouquet, whispering and then shushing each other about handsome boys and grown men – wondering who would make a good husband, who would have attractive children?
A goblet of wine was passed around, and the women took turns gently sipping the burgundy colored libation. When it came to the bride’s turn, she held the glass for a moment, letting her thoughts swirl with the deep dark liquid, and she saw the boy’s eyes. She let herself dream as her lips touched the glass for a sip.
Her mother noticed the wine and hastily grabbed for it, accidentally hitting the outstretched bouquet of tulips from another woman’s hands, knocking them to the floor.
The women went back to fluttering this way and that to tie this, fix that, steady this, place that. “Beautiful, just beautiful,” she heard someone say. All the while, she stood, holding her breath, trying to keep the feeling of panic from taking over.
“Mother,” she hesitantly asked, “what does he look like?”
“Hush, now. You know you aren’t supposed to meet him until the ceremony. Stop asking questions.”
Things continued moving too quickly. Someone went to fetch water so the women wouldn’t faint. Her mother promptly opened the window, and an immediate breeze rolled in, carrying with it musical accompaniment from the courtyard. A decadent array of greenery decorated the outside of the window, and a few leaves wandered in.
She took a step towards the fresh air, but her mother’s nails in her arm stopped her. “We aren’t done here,” she hissed, causing an embarrassed blushing from the bride. Just as she turned away, a few beams of sunlight caught her eye, and she reached out to touch the beautiful glow of his hair.
The bell rang for the audience to sit down, all formalities finally met, and the crowd in the room deflated until only an echo of diminishing chatter was left. As an unearthly stillness settled, she realized this was her prayer time, a chance to meditate and prepare for the Union of Flesh.
All this pomp and circumstance for the performance, and no one besides her mother had even spoken to her. No one had even given her a mirror so she could see her beautiful self.
She gathered up the long folds of the dress and heaved herself over to the mirror, timid and wary of meeting her own gaze. This was the moment of re-introduction, the moment to see the wife in herself and to make herself strong for the Forever, if that even existed at all.
Pale, small, and trembling, she was powdered an unadulterated white. But something had to be done about those red-rimmed eyes, imposed her mother’s voice.
She tried to hide her shaking hands, down low, under her shawl so that her new self wouldn’t see her fears. A sob escaped her lips, surprisingly forceful, and she arched forward, clinging to the edge of the mirror.
As a child, she’d played by the pond behind her house. The grass was high, never cut, perfect for hide and go seek, or building secret camps. It was then she had seen him – her first boy. Before that, she’d heard talk of boys and men, but more as mythical creatures in a far distant future. But here, amidst the calm and green of her natural paradise, he sat, head cocked, arms out, listening for some sound only he knew.
She began to step towards him, her family’s warning sounding in her head. But, as she stood still, watching him for a moment, observing the way the sun danced golden across his hair, there was no hint of malice or unkindness of any sort in this boy from another world.
Her footsteps rustled the leaves, and he looked up from his meditative task. No hello was issued, no formal greeting. He just regarded her, quizzically, then playfully, and his eyes, deep and dark, invited her over to join him at his special rock.
He had been collecting flowers of various kinds and had six or seven laying in a row. Daisies, tulips, roses, and a few she couldn’t name. He picked the tulip up and handed it to her, gently. “For you,” he said with a smile.
Her eyes widened as she heard the deeper tones of his voice. She raised her eyes to meet his for the very first time and noticed a peculiar half smile making its way across his lips. Unconsciously, she met his smile with one of her own.
But she wasn’t smiling now. The final bell rang signaling the end of the ceremonial introduction, and soon the Song of the Brides would start. A single tear marked a roadway down her powdered cheek.
Over the years, there had been times those same eyes would come to her in a dream, playfully inviting her to pick flowers, an outstretched hand re-affirming their connection. As time passed, she tried distracting herself from that afternoon, from the moments in time that ignited a curiosity in her heart. But, no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t shake the new feeling of freeness she felt that day, or the knowledge that she had given her heart to this boy. He was her true husband and had been since that afternoon.
She needed to go find him. She wouldn’t be held without a voice any longer. She would find him and tell him that his smile had made her believe her life could be different, her life could be happy. She would smile and hug him. She would give herself to him fully, let herself go completely, for him. No one else, just this boy from the pond who had made her believe in the possibility of forever.
She pulled herself high onto the windowsill as she heard the wedding song start. She took in a deep breath, felt her heart come alive in her chest, and counted one, two, three. She felt the sunlight on her face, whispering For you. And she jumped.