Stunning. That was the only word to describe the scene. Every last detail was perfectly arranged and even I could find nothing to fault. The scent of roses drifted towards me as I slyly surveyed the chapel one last time.
The buzz in the hall racketed my pulse up another notch. Shakily I ducked behind the archway and out of sight. Why was I so nervous?!? Everything was going so smoothly, all the turmoil of the pervious days and months had melted away into utopian calm. Artfully arranged flowers accented the clean lines of aisle drawing the eye to the wedding arch. Towering tiers of cake awaited the assembly after a sumptuous feast. The groom was the picture of elegant masculinity in his tux and even through his nervousness could be said to be glowing. And of course the bride was the picture of radiance blushing prettily while she waited.
I pushed down my own apprehension and went to reassure my soon to be favourite sister-in-law. She wrung her hands as I grasped her shoulders and even through her obvious discomfort I couldn't help but beam at her.
"You ready?" I asked feeling my own excitement for the first time.
"Oh Mint I'm so nervous! What if I fall walking down the aisle?"
"Then Per will catch you."
"What if I forget my lines?"
"The only one that matters is I do."
"Nilla, you have been ready for this from practically the first moment you met Per. Forget about the church, forget about the people. The only thing that matters right now is you and him. Just focus on his face and your love and everything will work out." I longed to say more to her but at that moment the music started up and it was my queue. Giving her one last squeeze I turn and knelt down.
"Ok you three do you know what to do now?"
Rowan and River nodded solemnly, they took after their father so. Briar Rose on the other hand pipe up. "We is walk to unca Per and throw pretties."
Biting back a laugh I patted her on the head. "Very good. Off you go then."
It took almost no time at all it seemed for their tiny little legs to totter them down to their 'unca Per' and then it was our turn. Conscious of the higher than I would normally wear heels I moved forward with an attempt at grace. Choosing a spot above Per's head I studiously avoided looking around at Toffee even as I clutched at his arm in support. The feel of his strength even hidden as it was beneath his tuxedo sent flutters through me causing more nerves than anything so far today. With each step I became more aware of him until almost nothing else remained. Finally I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when I reached the end.
While I pretended at elegance Nilla had it naturally. She floated down the now rose covered carpet with dad practically bouncing at her side in his excitement. The clean simple lines of the dress accent the figure she normally tried so hard to conceal and pure white of it emphasised her skin in perfect contrast. Normally pale in comparison to Per she was now luminous. I suspected that no one who saw her today would ever think of her as vanilla again. Her eyes never wavered from Per's and when I snuck a glance at him I could see that his glistened as they stay locked on her.
As she reached the front dad pulled her into a hug before releasing her to Per with a rakish wink. I bit back a laugh trying to remember the solemnity of the moment and was nearly undone in my attempts when I saw Toffee trying to do the same. Nilla took the final step up and Per's hand reached out to grab her before he realised that part was yet to come.
"There is nothing in the world like the feeling of pure love that radiates from a couple on their wedding day. The people that are privileged enough to share that day with them cannot help but be affected and love with them. I have seen many couples and seen that joy flow from them but never in all my years have I seen two people that were so full of love as the two before me today."
"Perano Parfait and Nilla Wafer have chosen to declare their love for the world today and I would very much doubt that there is a single soul on earth that does not feel it." A chuckle went through the crowd and somehow we all seemed to float even more than we had impossible as it seemed. "To seal them as man and wife today they have written their own vows to pledge their love."
He nodded at Nilla and I was close enough to hear her shaky in take of breath but when she spoke it was with a clear calm voice that rang around the room.
"I hide my face from the world...."
"But I saw your beauty."
"I spoke in whispers of fear...."
"I stilled my heart from pain...."
"But I felt it beat."
"I was one against the world...."
"And now we are two."
"Yours forever, time without end, I will be by your side until your last breath." They spoke the last words together Per's deep voice the harmony to Nilla's joyful one. Without waiting for the minister to say it they Per's arms wrapped around her in a gentle embrace and we all hummed with happiness.
A gentle laugh from the minister brought us all back to the moment. "Without further ado I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Parfait." Cheers echoed off the walls as Per reached out and entwined his fingers in hers pulling her from the hall.
Dinner past in a riot of laughter, wine and good food and before I knew it they were clearing the floor for the first dance. Glancing around I saw that I had not only managed to loose my date but the bride and groom as well. At least the kids were easily spotted playing in a sand box on the side of the church. I shook my head at the sight of them, I should have expected that their nice clothes would not make it through the day unscathed.
"We seem to be missing a few key people." Mom sat down beside me heaving a sigh and stretching out her feet.
"Do you want me to go look for them?"
"Would you mind dear? I guess I am really getting to old for these heels." She kicked off the shoes in question and smiled at me.
Patting her on the arm I stood. "Be right back."
Knowing Per I had a feeling he had stolen Nilla away from the crowd for a quiet word or two. I followed the edge of the building around And sure enough, just out of sight of the guests they stood bathed in moonlight.
The beauty of the scene outshone the moon and stars and I could not bring myself to take it away from them. I started back to the light of the party but a low voice pulled me up short.
"The answer is still no. There is too much at stake for me to leave."
I blinked as I recognised Toffee's voice. This was oddly reminiscent of the night that set my life down the path it was now on. A nighttime scene, a conversation overheard, words out of context. Or at least that's what I hoped it was. Holding my breath I strained my ears to pick up any further clues. All I heard was a decisive thump as he slid his phone back into it's case with more force than was needed.
"Looking for something sis?"
I started but managed to cover my wildly beating pulse with a throw away laugh. "You two of course. I was just debating how much time I could give you before mom came after you herself." I grabbed them both and began moving them forward. "As much as I know you'd like to skip this part you have to have a dance." Nilla's step faltered but I kept moving pulling her forward. "Don't worry I promise you won't be alone up there long."
We rounded the corner to the expectant crowd with dad at it's head grinning from ear to ear. Seeing them he grabbed the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen once again I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Parfait." Not allowing them time to get away he picked up his guitar and began to sing.
I can’t have you be my haven, so can I have you be my wake?
I like being in your water
I like swimming in your lake
Per guided them around the dance floor with sure and steady movements drifting in time to the music. Sighs followed them in their slow circles of movement.
"How long were we supposed to leave it before we cut in?"
My stomach fluttered at the sound of his voice even as it twisted in knots at the idea of going on the dance floor. I never was much of a dancer, except the little bits I did in clubs which definitely did not count, and the idea of everyone watching me stumble over my feet was not something I was looking forward to. Feeling my body tense at his suggestion Toffee placed one hand on the small of my back and the other confidently griped me by the left elbow. "I won't let you fall," he whispered into my hair as he lead more forward.
For a wonder, he did not. His strong arms guided me around the floor in smooth and sure steps. The watching crowd melted away as I stared into his cool clear eyes. His mouth was quirked in a half smile as he watched me watching him and after a time I realised that I was smiling back at him. The fact he was hiding something from me I could not deny but I could not stop my heart racing at the sight of those lips. Abruptly we stopped and I stared around me in confusion.
The song had ended and the dance floor was full of couples cheering, both for my dad and for the couple that was the centre of this celebration. Reluctantly I made to let go of Toffee but before I could full untangle myself from his arms he swept me close to him pressing his mouth to mine.
The kiss left me breathless, shock at his boldness but tingling from head to foot with the thrill of his touch. Tightening his arms around me he pulled me into an undeniably loving embrace.
"Marry me," he rasped, voice husky with emotions, against my neck.
I let everything I had been feeling about him the past weeks and months wash over me. His kindness, his tenderness and his love. I could see it for love now and I was surprised to realise how strong my feeling were for him. As he pulled back ever so slightly to look into my eyes my heart surged. I could not stop myself biting my lower lip in nervousness as I took a deep breath.
"Maybe." It wasn't what he wanted, I knew that before I said it, but it was all I could give right now.