Appointment With Destiny Chapter 8
It couldn't have been a more perfect day for a wedding. The sky was cloudless and the sun was warm. The little village of Kalm was covered with gaily colored decorations. The President, Rufus, Heidegger Hojo and some of their employees were already seated, waiting for the ceremony to begin. The townspeople filled the rest of the chairs.
Elmyra looked vibrant in a soft lavender dress. She bustled around behind the scenes making sure everything was going according to schedule.
Aeris stood in the middle of her dressing room. Her dressmakers were checking to make sure everything fit just the way it should. Nothing was out of place. Aeris wondered which one of them was reporting her activities to Sephiroth. None of the women paid any more attention to her than the rest.
To Elmyra's surprise, Aeris had taken an active part in planning her wedding once she'd come back from Midgar. She'd even come to enjoy making some of the decisions regarding the color scheme, but now that the big day was here, reality settled in once more. She was marrying a stranger. As much as she wanted to complete her agreement with Sephiroth, Aeris was on the verge of running out of the church.
Elmyra came into the room and smiled at her.
"You're the most beautiful bride I've ever seen," she said. "Sephiroth is going to be overcome with the sight of you."
"Elmyra?" Aeris fought to keep a quaver out of her voice. "Can I talk to you alone?"
"Of course dear," Elmyra turned to the others. "Would you ladies mind letting me have Aeris to myself before she takes the biggest step in her life?"
They women nodded and left. Aeris wondered if the spy would run and tell Sephiroth something was wrong.
"What is it dear?" asked Elmyra.
"I'm scared," said Aeris in a little girls voice. "What I am doing here? Sephiroth is a stranger to me. I don't really know him at all!"
"Oh Aeris!" said Elmyra. "It's going to be all right!"
"This isn't how I pictured my wedding!" said Aeris. "I'm scared to death!"
Elmyra came forward. Aeris put her arms around her neck and rested her head on Elmyra shoulder. Elmyra hugged her.
"Are you going to change your mind?"
Aeris raised her head to look at Elmyra. Her eyes were dry but terrified. Elmyra had never told her what would happen if she didn't go through with the wedding, and Aeris never brought it up.
"I'll marry him," she said miserably. "But after that-"
"Sephiroth would have to be a fool not to know how you feel," said Elmyra. "Trust him."
Aeris nodded. "That's all I can do."
"I was probably just as scared as you on my wedding day," said Elmyra. "I wanted to lift my skirt and run as far away from Mardin Gainsborough as I could."
"But you picked each other!" said Aeris. "You dated for a while."
"Yes we did." There was a touch of sadness in Elmyra's face. "We were married for five years before he died. He was a SOLDIER for Shinra. We loved each other with all of our hearts. We didn't get to spend a lot of time together that first year because he was always having to go on one patrol or another. Whenever he was home we made up for lost time."
"Mardin was sent on a secret mission at a secret location. We didn't know how long he'd be gone and we weren't allowed to write to very often. Our letters had to through a lot of security checkpoints. That meant most of them were old by the time we got them. One such letter took two weeks to reach me. I went up on the balcony of our apartment to read it. Mardin said he missed me and swore his love to me forever. He said he was tired of being away from me so much and he was going to resign from SOLDIER when he got back. He promised to find another job that would allow us to be a real family."
"I was so happy I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote a letter back to my husband agreeing with his plan. I put a stamp on the envelope and put it aside to mail."
"Then I start going through the rest of the mail. Included with the bills was a letter from Mardin's commanding officer. It said Mardin had been killed the same day he wrote his letter to me. I was so upset, I fell down the stairs and lost the baby I was carrying. That was many years ago and I've never had any desire to marry again."
"You were in love with Mardin," said Aeris. "I don't love Sephiroth."
"What did you think of Sephiroth when you first saw him at the place of battle?" asked Elmyra.
Aeris blushed a little. "I thought he was kind of handsome."
Elmyra stared at her.
"Okay," said Aeris. "I thought he was incredibly handsome and I was thinking about asking for his phone number or delaying my flight to spend time getting to know him."
"Is he any less attractive now?" asked Elmyra.
Aeris shook her head.
"You haven't even given that part any thought at all, since you found out you had to marry him have you?"
Aeris blushed deeper. "A little."
"If you think he's physically attractive, then hold on to that," said Elmyra. "At least that's one thing you like about him. Isn't that better than not finding anything at all?"
Aeris didn't answer.
"It's a start Aeris." Elmyra touched her face. "Maybe in time, you'll find other things you'll like about him too."
"It's a start," she said.
Elmyra gave her another hug. "Now let me call the ladies back and get your veil on right. The ceremony is starting in a few minutes and we never rehearsed with the groom! We should be all right though, I sent the whole script to Sephiroth."
* * * * *
"You sure you don't want to trade places?" asked Zack. "I'll stand in for you if you're getting cold feet!"
Sephiroth smiled at his best friend and junior officer.
"Not on your life! I've waited a long time for this day."
"You're a lucky man Sephiroth," said Zack wistfully. "Too bad I wasn't one of Jerin's descendants.
"I'm glad you weren't either," Sephiroth said with a grin. "You've always been stiff competition!"
"And then some!" laughed Zack. "Come on, it's time to take our places."
* * * * *
Sephiroth entered the church dressed in his best black uniform. He walked slowly down an aisle lined on both sides with SOLDIERS in dress uniforms until he came to his place at the alter and turned around to wait for the others.
A parade of bridesmaid entered the church wearing pale lavender satin gowns Each maid carried a bouquet of pink and white roses and held the arm of a SOLDIER.
Zack was the first in line. He looked even more handsome than usual and there was a chorus of sighs and ahhhs as the single women in the church followed his progress to the alter. The maid of honor held his arm with a dreamy look on her face. She seemed reluctant to let go, when Zack took his place at Sephiroth's side.
The music changed and everyone turned to watch the entrance of the bride. Preceded by two flower girls, Aeris stepped up to the vestibule on the arm of a neighbor. Sephiroth's eyes filled with pride. Her dress flowed softly around her as she walked toward him.
Made of satin and lace, covered with hand-applied beadwork, Aeris dragged a long train behind her. Her hair was swept up into soft ringlets that dropped around her face and collar. Her veil hung down to her waist in front, but it was just as long as her dress in back. The white roses she carried were wrapped in pale lavender lace and white silk ribbons.
Sephiroth looked for signs Aeris had been crying but her eyes were bright and clear. The blush in her cheeks brought out the rose color tint of her lips. For the hundredth time Sephiroth thanked Jerin for making it possible for have such a beautiful wife.
Aeris kept smile on her face as she approached Sephiroth, but her heart was racing a mile a minute. She heard people whispering about how lovely she looked and how beautiful her dress was. Turn around and run away, said a voice in her head, but Aeris kept moving toward Sephiroth. He caught her eyes and held them. Aeris blushed. She wondered if anyone else could look in his eyes and see how much he wanted her. She finished her walk and stopped beside him, hoping he couldn't see the fear in her eyes.
The minister addressed the people in the pews.
"Should there be anyone here who has cause why this couple should not be united in marriage, they must speak now or forever hold their peace."
Aeris hoped against hope someone would say something, but there was only silence in the church.
"Who is it that brings this woman to this man?"
The neighbor stood proudly at Aeris' side. "I do."
He stepped away and Sephiroth took Aeris' hand in his.
"Don't be frightened," he whispered so only she could hear."
He gave her hand a little squeeze and she relaxed a little.
"Aeris and Sephiroth, Just as two very different threads woven in opposite directions can form a beautiful tapestry, so can your two lives merge together to form a very beautiful marriage. To make your marriage work, I would ask that you both remember to treat yourself and each other with respect. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your marriage deserves. When frustration and difficulty assail your marriage as they do to every relationship at one time or another, focus on what seems right between you and not only the part that seems wrong. That way, when clouds of trouble hide the sun in your lives, and you lose sight of it for a moment, you can remember that the sun is still there. And if each of you will take responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight."
"It will also take trust to know in your hearts you want the best for each other. It will take dedication to stay open to one another; to learn and grow together even when this is not always so easy to do. It will take faith to always be willing to go forward to tomorrow, never really knowing what tomorrow may bring. And it will take commitment to hold true to the journey you both now pledge to share together."
"Sephiroth, do you take Aeris for your wife?"
"I do," said Sephiroth.
"Do you promise to love honor, cherish and protect her, forsaking all others and holding only unto her?"
"I do," he said.
"Aeris, do you take Sephiroth to be your husband?"
A voice shouted inside her head. Say no!
"I do," she said.
"Do you promise to love honor, cherish and protect him, forsaking all others and holding only unto him?"
Say no, Aeris! Screamed the voice. Last chance! Say no!
"I do," she said.
"May we have the rings please?" said the minister.
A small boy stepped forward with a pillow, bearing two gold rings. Sephiroth removed one of the rings and placed it on the fourth finger of Aeris' left hand.
Now I'm branded for life, she thought.
"I Sephiroth, take thee Aeris to be my wife. To have and to hold in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer and I promise my love to you. With this ring, thee I wed."
Aeris took the last ring from the pillow and placed it on the fourth finger of Sephiroth's left hand.
His brand, she thought. And I'm the one doing the branding.
"I Aeris, take thee Sephiroth, to be my husband. To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer and I promise my love to you. With this ring, thee I wed."
Love, she thought. Will that ever be possible for us?"
Sephiroth took both her hands in his.
The minister raised his hands over them.
"Aeris and Sephiroth, in so much as the two of you have agreed to live together in matrimony, have promised your love for each other by these vows, I now declare you to be Husband and Wife. Congratulations, you may kiss the bride."
This was one of the moments Aeris had been dreading. She visualized herself suffering through another property kiss like the first. Sephiroth raised her veil. Aeris put her arms around his neck and raised her face ready to pretend she was enjoying this moment. When their lips met and Sephiroth pulled her close to him, there was no faking the electric current that ran through her soul.
Aeris lost track of time and space, never realizing she was kissing him back until he ended it. She felt an instant of betrayal, as though he'd given her a beautifully wrapped present then snatched it away before she could open it. Sephiroth saw her expression and gave her another kiss as the guestsstood and applauded. Her face was flushed when he released her.
The final wedding march started up. Sephiroth crooked his elbow. Aeris tucked her arm through it. They walked down the aisle side by side. The SOLDIERS drew their swords and crossed them overhead. They were sprinkled with rice as they made their way to the door.
Elmyra hugged them with tears in her eyes. Everyone expressed their congratulations. The wedding moved into the reception. Aeris danced with Sephiroth, the President, Heidegger, Rufus and Sephiroth again. A host of other men from Shinra and the village took turns dancing with the bride. Sephiroth rescued her several times during the festivities. They took so many pictures, Aeris thought she'd go blind from the flashbulbs. There was dinner and toasts and more congratulations. The dancing began. Aeris was dancing the last dance she'd promised when Hojo cut in and whirled her across the floor.
Aeris want to slap his hands away and run, but she fought to remain civil.
"It was a lovely wedding," said Hojo. "You're certainly a beautiful bride."
"Thank you." Aeris was wondering how long she should dance with him before she walked away.
"Have you given more thought to opening the portal?" he asked.
"I haven't given it any thought at all," she said.
"That's too bad," Hojo looked apologetic. "You should give it some more thought."
"There's no reason for me to give it any thought at all," said Aeris. "I have no intention of opening it, period."
"But think what we could learn from your world!" said Hojo. "The things that could change for the better!"
I wouldn't wish you on anyone at home, thought Aeris.
"Please give it some more thought Aeris," begged Hojo. "You would be performing a very valuable service."
"The subject is closed," said Aeris firmly. "I have other things on my mind."
Hojo grinned at her. "Sephiroth of course."
Aeris frowned at him.
"I wasn't trying to be personal," he said. "Are you afraid Sephiroth will find out you're trying to open the portal? Is that it? I assure you, I won't breathe a word to him."
Aeris stopped dancing and tried to pull away. Hojo tightened his grip.
"Let of me Hojo," she said.
"I'm sorry if I offended you." He didn't look the least bit sorry. "Don't go. I admit, sometimes I don't know when to quit. It's the scientist in me."
Aeris relaxed a little. "Is the subject closed?"
Aeris relaxed a little more. "Let's finish our dance."
Hojo nodded. He was a fairly accomplished dancer.
"Are you planning on having children right away?"asked Hojo.
Aeris stopped dancing. "What?"
"I asked if you're planning to have children right away," repeated Hojo.
"That's none of your business!" snapped Aeris, pulling out of his arms.
"It's such an innocent little question!" said Hojo reaching for her again.
Aeris backed away.
"Is there something going on here I should know about?" asked Sephiroth.
"Just a little misunderstanding." Hojo shifted nervously.
"He's asking nosey questions again," said Aeris. "He wants to know if we're going to have children right away."
Sephiroth's expression turned hostile.
"He also wants to know if I've given more thought to opening the portal," said Aeris. "He promises not to tell you if I'm willing to try."
Hojo's eyes widened then narrowed. "I apologized for that remark."
"Get away from my wife," said Sephiroth coldly.
"I meant no harm," whined the scientist.
"Get away from us now, or you'll wish you had!"
Hojo's expression turned surly. "Are you threatening me?"
"What does it sound like?" Sephiroth let his hand rest on the hilt of his sword.
Hojo glanced at his hand and backed away. He gave Aeris a hard look and walked into the crowd.
"I'm sorry you had to deal with him," said Sephiroth.
"I'm just glad you got here when you did," she replied.
"It's time to go now." His eyes searched her face. "You might want to throw your bouquet now."
Aeris let Sephiroth lead her to the balcony of the Kalm recreation center, where she tossed her bouquet to the crowd. A pretty girl with long dark hair caught it. The newlyweds walked back down to the lower floor. Heidegger found them and pulled his son aside to give him an uncharacteristic hug. The dark haired girl slipped up to Aeris and pressed a card in her hand.
"If you ever need to talk, or you need a friend, look me up," she whispered. She walked away before Aeris could reply.
Aeris glanced at the card. It read: "Seventh Heaven, sector 7, Midgar. Come in for a drink and a little peace of mind. Tifa Lockhart, owner."
Aeris looked around. The dark haired girl was nowhere in sight. Aeris wasn't sure why she didn't just take the card to the nearest trash receptacle and throw it away. She folded it and tucked it into her bodice when no one was watching. Heidegger gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek. Aeris didn't like the feel of his beard, but she didn't let her expression give her away.
Amid another shower of rice and cheers, the couple ran to a large helicopter that was waiting just outside the village. Once they were aboard, it rose into the sky and headed for the ice continent.
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