A short story in two parts . . .
The light of countless candles softly illuminated the interior of the great room. The air was heavy with the smell of melted wax. Smoke rose in a thousand columns to the high ceiling where it pooled and swirled in the gently drifting air, blurring and softening the sight of the carved beams that supported the ancient church’s roof.
A small crowd of men and women, plainly and practically dressed, were seated in the highly polished, simple wooden pews. A few bonneted heads drew close together as women chatted with quiet enthusiasm.
A largish, well-rounded woman was seated before the tiny pump organ near the front of the room, her well-corseted figure threatening to overflow the bench. Her feet, nearly hidden in the heavy folds of her long dress, manipulated the pedals with ease, and plump, practiced fingers touched the keys reverently, filling the air with soft music and providing the final, perfect touch.
A young man, dressed formally in an obviously new, dark wool suit, stood nervously at the front of the room, eyes darting between the elderly minister speaking in a low voice beside him, and the front of the chapel.
Suddenly, the great, front doors swung wide and the music swelled into the stains of the wedding processional. The entire crowd slid quickly to their feet and all heads turned to see a veiled figure, dressed in a simple white cotton gown, appear in the opening, clutching a modest bouquet of wildflowers.
Smiles broke out on every face as the bride proceeded into the room and stepped slowly and gracefully along the aisle between the rows of benches in perfect time to the music.
The young man at the front, his eyes locked on the vision that was slowly approaching, straightened his tie. Then his shoulders. Then he cleared his throat and stretched his neck in its uncomfortable stiff, white collar. Finally, he forced quivering lips into a semblance of a smile.
The young woman reached him and held out her hand.
He grasped it tightly and all traces of nervousness vanished as he raised it to his lips, then tucked it tenderly into the crook of his arm.
The two of them turned together to face the minister.
The elderly cleric nodded to the organist and the music drifted to a stop. Then he turned toward young couple, as the people in the congregation quietly resumed their seats. “Dearly beloved,” he said. “It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today, to join in holy matrimony, this man . . .” he nodded to the young man, “. . . and this woman.” Another nod.
The crowd watched him quietly and expectantly.
The couple had turned and were looking at each other. Through the heavy veil, the young woman’s mouth could be faintly seen, curving into a soft, glowing smile. The young man’s eyes glistened suddenly with unshed tears.
The minister went on. “It has taken them no small amount of time and many twists and turns in life’s road to bring them together. But here they stand before you at last.”
A soft sigh went through the crowd and white handkerchiefs appeared in more than a few hands and were pressed into service, fluttering gently.
The elderly man smiled. “Owing to the difficulties they were forced to overcome in order to be here together today, I will dispense with the mostly boring and certainly long winded and formal words of wisdom I had planned to share and offer them only this: Love each other. You deserve each other.”
He looked at the crowd, grey eyes twinkling beneath heavy, white brows. “I think that should suffice, don’t you?”
Murmurs of assent in the crowd.
He turned back to the couple. “Henry James Blakely, do you take this woman, Anna Mary Mildred Peavey, to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold, to love and to cherish?”
Henry tore his eyes away from the woman beside him and looked at the minister. “I do,” he said, his voice breaking over the two words. He cleared throat and tried again. “I do.”
A whisper of sound fluttered through the crowd.
The minister smiled and nodded. Then he turned to the young woman. “Anna Mary Mildred Peavey, do you take this man, Henry James Blakely, to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold, to love and to cherish?”
Anna turned to her companion, her shadowy lips once more curving into a sweet smile. “I do!” she said clearly.
Another sigh from those watching.
“Then, it is with great pleasure that I – finally – pronounce you man and wife,” the minister said. He smiled widely. “Congratulations, Henry. You may now kiss the bride.”
With trembling fingers, the young man caught the edge of the filmy veil and drew it up and back from his new wife’s face.
Warm blue eyes smiled, then drifted shut as Anna leaned toward him and pressed soft lips to his.
Henry’s arms went about her gently, as though fearing he would crush her slender body.
Then the two of them broke apart with a gasp and both faces coloured adorably. Henry once more tucked Anna’s arm through his and the two of them turned finally to face the crowd.
“Hurray!” someone said and several people laughed.
“Martin! Not in the church!”
“Dearly beloved,” the minister said, putting one hand on Henry’s shoulder and the other on Anna’s, “It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Blakely!”
This time, several people cheered and a couple applauded.
The organ swelled into the Wedding March and the newly-wedded couple led the way along the aisle to the front doors. The minister followed closely and the church emptied as everyone crowded in behind them, talking and laughing.
Finally, the last two people swung the heavy front doors shut with a whoosh and a boom.
Instantly, every light went out.