One Gang and a Bronze Battle

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Chapter 23, This is It


“I vow to live and love,” I start and hope those words are true.

Feeling emotion choke me up, I have to grip Xavier’s hands tighter. He’s so handsome today... The black suit... The silver cuff-links... The blood stained shirt...


Maroon. It’s just a maroon shirt. That’s not blood.

I look back up at Xavier and continue my vows. “I vow to live and love because binding myself to you means I carry your life with me. I hold your heart and I vow to never let it stop beating. You’ve been my confidant, my enemy, my friend, my partner and the guardian that has watched over me when no one else could see. I vow to return the favor, to always be there when you need someone to talk to. I vow to be there when you don’t want to talk at all. I vow to be your friend when you are lonely, your lover when you need, your partner in our profession and your soulmate for the rest of my life. I vow to be by your side when you are sick and weak. I vow to stand by you when you feel like you’ve lost yourself. I vow to hold your hand during our defeats and our victories. I vow to protect you no matter what. I vow to make this world a place that deserves you. And I vow to never part. Not even in death,” I say.

I don’t know when, but tears have started to pool in my eyes and I choke on all the overwhelming emotions. “I vow to always see you. Even when you feel as though you can’t see yourself. I vow to never stop seeing you, Xavier Jilten.”

Finally done, it takes everything in me not to ruin my make up and face Nessa’s wrath. After all that we’ve been through... This day has finally come.

I feel a knot in my stomach warn me of something... Telling me I made a mistake... That there’s something crucial I missed. I’ve made an unbelievably risky gamble. A gamble where I’ve thrown away all logic and trusted in my instincts instead. Trusted that I knew a person. That I knew what they were really thinking... But instead of acting on that feeling of dread, I ignore it and tell myself it’s just wedding nerves.

Xavier smiles at me - erasing my fears once again.

“I vow to change my story,” Xavier starts, “My prologue was of a boy who had nothing and I thought my epilogue would mirror just that. But somehow along the way, I got the honor of meeting the golden universe with her silver stars. And through a miracle, I have her standing in front of me today. I vow to change my story because I don’t want an ending I’ll regret.

“I vow to have you as my equal. And in being my equal, I vow to be a man worthy of the honor. Before you, I never knew much about love, but I’ll tell you that I’ve dreamed about it more than I care to admit. I saw it from an outsider’s point of view and it’s not always rainbows and flowers. It’s arguing and fighting and struggling and hating. But at least it’s something. And I vow to be there through it all. I vow to be there when you paint and laugh, and I vow to be there when you switch it off. You are more than I ever could’ve dreamed of. I vow to follow you to the ends of the earth - come what may,” Xavier says. Just like me, he struggles to speak through his emotions and I give him a reaffirming squeeze with my hand.

“And I... If death comes for us, I vow to find you. I vow to find a new way of existing and master it with you, Marigold,” Xavier says and with his words, I unravel right there.

Tears are streaming down my face and Xavier goes to wipe them away. Through blurry vision, I realize Xavier has his own tear sliding down his cheek and I reach to wipe it away.

That warning inside me becomes louder.

I see you, Xavier, I smile with blurry eyes.

I see you, Xavier grins in return.

“May I have the rings, please?” the officiant asks.

Paul walks to the audience to fetch Pollock that was patiently waiting. Pollock is carrying a little basket in his mouth as Paul escorts him to us. I can’t help but chuckle at how cute my dog is. He looks so beautiful with his golden fur and bright happy eyes.

Something is wrong, my conscious warns me.

Pollock wags his tail all the way until he sits in front of Xavier and me. Even the officiant is smiling as the old man crouches down to take the rings in the basket lined with marigold flowers. He pats the dog before straightening back up and looking right at Xavier. Paul escorts Pollock back to his seat.

“Please repeat after me,” the officiant says and hands Xavier the first ring. “This ring is a token of my love.”

“This ring is a token of my love,” Xavier says - accepting the ring and gentle taking my hand. I feel myself burn at the touch.

“I offer you all that I have,” the officiant continues.

“I offer you all that I have,” Xavier repeats.

“All that I am...”

“All that I am.”

“And all that I will ever be...”

“And all that I will ever be.”

With that burning touch, Xavier slips the ring on my finger. I can’t help but to gasp! It’s the exact same ring Xavier first proposed to me nearly two years ago... The night we stormed Isabella’s thinking we’d defeat the North... I still remember thinking Xavier was crazy for asking me to marry him. And look where we are...

It’s a golden ring with a ruby so red, it looks like maroon, as it’s center. It’s not too big but instead the perfect size with twisting gold cupping the jewel in a delicate embrace. Small diamonds flank the ruby and I can’t help but feel out of breath... It feels like Xavier has given a part of himself to me... I’ll always have him with me.

Look around. Something is wrong... Something is coming...

I’m too lost in thought to realize the officiant is waiting for me to take the ring he offers. When I finally notice, I break into a goofy grin and take the ring he hands me. “Please repeat after me,” he says, “This ring is a token of my love...”

“This ring is a token of my love,” I say - looking right at Xavier. My hands are on fire where our skin touches. I can drown in the feeling.

“I offer you all that I have...”

“I offer you all that I have.”

“All that I am...”

“All that I am.”

“And all that I will ever be...”

“And all that I will ever be.”

And with those last words, I slip the gold ring on his finger. It’s as plain as can be, but I asked Nessa to engrave words for me on the inside.

Anima mea ad te pertinet.

With both of us wearing our rings, the officiant raises his hands. “By the power of your love and commitment, and the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife! You may kiss each other!”

Something is going to happen.

I stand on my tippy-toes to reach Xavier as he leans down. He wraps his arms around me in a burning embrace, but before we can kiss, he whispers: “This is it. This is my favorite day, Marigold.”

My heart can’t stop beating. Emotions and a knowing fear mix together but before I can voice my concerns, Xavier kisses me.

I wish the kiss would last forever. I wish we could’ve been frozen in that moment. But time stops for no man and the unexpected would be a difficult reality to accept.

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