I entered the church to see all eyes turn to me. Including his. He was standing out by the priest, dressed all in pale blue with a rose held delicately in his buttonhole. As the entrance music began, he rose and bowed his head to me a little. I held his eye contact and curtsied lightly to him with a slight smile just before I began to walk. It was an odd feeling to be stared at by so many people at once. Of course, most ladies in Virginia would have only had some many pairs of hungry eyes fixed on them if they had performed some vague transgression upon society’s colossal and uncodified rule book. This was the only time in a lady’s life in this place when she would have all eyes fixed upon her lovingly. Well, not lovingly but as lovingly as these God-awful people were capable of behaving. These people preferred to flit from disaster to disaster, perpetually seeking more and more tragedy, unendingly sapping away at all the misery there is in the world, most of which was caused by them. Or that war they seem so fond of. Anyway, the horrors that society holds is no thought to be having on one’s wedding day.
The aisle is a long thing; at least twenty yards of wooden flooring with white crinoline draped over the top of it to hide the scratches. The ends of the pews where ladies and gentlemen processing of full gentility reached out to me, wishing me their support were decorated with vines of white flowers and waxy leafed ivy. And as I stepped past the final row of pews, the incantation was complete; Theodosia Ceasebury had taken her first step towards being consigned to oblivion, and the canal between the pews had acted as almost a womb to give life to Marchioness Theodosia Ravenswood.
Yes, with each step, I was closer to her.
And we the priest began to speak, and our hands were fastened with a garland of blue, white and red with waxy leafed ivy binding them together, I felt Theodosia Ceasebury breathe her last. And - silently – Marchioness Theodosia Ravenwood was born. I couldn’t tell if any of the wedding guests had a momentary insight into my heart and could view the secret transformation of my soul from girl to lady. I didn’t suppose they could, for I had attended many weddings, and I could never interact with the whispers of the soul of the bride or the groom.
And then something strange happened; we kissed. Our first state-sanctioned kiss. It was a different kind of feeling. Still joyous and intimate, but somehow more ethereal and less passionate. Well, not, to say less passionate isn’t quite true, I suppose it was just a far more sophisticated affair than a secret kiss (the kind that children have) in the Summer House or pulled through a bed-chamber window. This was the real world. And it felt natural to me.
It was strange to me to so suddenly and instantaneously be someone else. Signing the documents, I wondered if the whole institution of marriage was the basis for Leviathan; not that marriage (or Valentine) were sea monsters, but the concept that separate entities could become one body and one could relinquish some of their rights in order to live under the other’s protection. But Valentine didn’t need me to relinquish any of my rights. And he gave his protection freely.
It was then that something rather odd caught my eye. One of the narrow windows on the East side of the church had been opened. A mess of dirty blond hair stuck through into the chapel, and green eyes blinked as they watched the ceremony unfold. It was Gabriella. But what was she doing here? I knew she had wanted to come to the wedding, but even she must know that to actually come with her current status as a social outcast who had run away from a loving family at Ceasebury, that was such an unwise thing to do. She would be caught. How could she not be?
She was watching with a smile, and luckily, no one had seen her because all the eyes were fixed on the new Marchioness (me). Yes, if she left now, she may get to escape undetected. But she was Gabriella, and very little that she did got forgiven by the antithetical Gods that govern tragedy. Whatever minute liberties Gabriella LeBolt took, these unfeeling Gods always had a punishment in store. And this time was no different.
She hoisted herself a little further through the open window so that her whole torso was inside the building. And then she was seen. My mother caught sight of her.
“There!” she shouted, interrupting the ceremony.
“Go!” I shouted to the open window. The whole congregation began to an uproar. No one knew what was happening. Gabriella hurriedly pushed herself back out of the window and into Williamsburg. The people stood up and started to question each other and my mother on what on earth had happened.
“Gabriella Kingston, she’s back!” she shouted with faked gentility. People hurried to the window and stared down at the street. It was then that my mother attempted to flit attention back to the wedding. It was in vain. While people stared at us now and again, the attention was fixed like a sunray through a magnifying glass onto a moth. People began to pile out f the church and into the street in order to catch her, like some kind of medieval witch hunt. Valentine whispered to me that we had to go because if they found out our involvement in this great conspiracy, they would ostracise us too and then we would be of no use to Gabriella. I knew he was right, but a huge part of me wanted to stay here and fight for her in whatever vague way I could. But no, we would be far more helpful to her in Ravens’ Wood, where we could at least arrange things.
We departed the church hand in hand beneath a vast canopy created by the upheld arms of Red Coats. I assumed my mother had organised them. The ladies and gentlemen who had been in attendance in the chapel threw white waxy petals over us as Valentine helped me into the carriage and cheered as he sat down beside me, the door shut by a footman quietly behind us. And then there was silence. It was just Valentine and me alone in the jubilant warmth of each other’s company. Married. At last.