Chapter 25, The End of Amber Marigold
[BY AMBER MARIGOLD JILTEN]
The kiss sets me on fire. It’s not a burn your hand on the stove kind of fire, or the smothering heat of a raging forest fire. It’s the fire of a candle. Comforting and warm. It slowly melts you. Reminds you of something nostalgic. But stay too long and you will burn.
Xavier’s hands are still wrapped around me and I feel like melting wax in his embrace. I go weak all over, but I’d rather burn than let go and face what’s waiting for me. I hear the crowd cheer and clap. Our friends run up and are congratulating us, yet they feel so far away. I wrap my hands around Xavier’s neck and I don’t want to ever let go.
Any moment now, and tragedy will strike.
Against my will, Xavier pulls back with a wide grin. When he sees my expression, he stops smiling. “What’s wrong Marigold?” he asks.
“We’re all going to die. Any moment now...” I whisper with fear taking over my entire soul. I feel myself shake and my heart is beating out of control. Where are they? They’re here somewhere. They’re waiting for the right moment.
Xavier smiles sadly before he let’s his one hand slide to my side and his other caress my cheek. “Marigold... nobody is dying today... Our plan worked. We’re safe,” he whispers back.
“They’re going to attack when we have our guard down. It’s happening any moment,” I say in panic - frantically looking around. The crowd is still cheering and my friends already have alcohol somehow but my eyes are fixed beyond the trees. Why are the guards just looking at us? They have to keep their eyes on the wall. They have to watch out... I can’t let my guard down. I have to be ready to protect Xavier in a moment’s notice...
“Hey, Marigold, it’s okay,” Xavier insists - taking my face into his hands and forcing me to look at him. Those eyes are so reassuring. I don’t want to see the life leave them... not ever...
I can’t stop the tears and bury my face in his chest. “I don’t want to see you get hurt. Please do something... They’re here... They’re going to kill us any moment now,” I cry.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Xavier whispers over and over into my ear - his hands gently rubbing my back. “I know things go wrong more than they do right, but it’s not impossible to have victories, Marigold. Today is a victory...”
I shut my eyes tighter and wait for the gunshots.
It always comes...
Nothing ever goes right...
I slowly pull back - expecting to see dead emerald eyes in front of me.
Xavier smiles sadly, but... he’s... still alive. I look down at my dress. Pure as snow... No blood... In disbelief, I scan the crowd and everyone is still smiling and cheering. My friends are clapping and Pollock is barking and jumping up and down. Everything is fine.
Nothing is happening...
I look back at Xavier in shock and can’t help but to slowly have my hand covering my mouth. “Can this really be?” I ask, trembling. It’s too good too be true. They’ll attack the moment I let my guard down. As soon as I think everything is fine, bullets will rip through everyone and... and... I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose Xavier...
Xavier holds me tightly. “It’s true, Marigold. I know this is a hard reality to accept, but we did it. We’re married and we’re still alive.”
Married? That’s right. We’re married. Xavier is my husband. We’re not dead. Not yet.
I can’t help crying all over again. “Am I really allowed to have this? Am I really allowed to be happy? To win?” I sob into his chest.
“Marigold, you’ve paid the price tenfold for this day.”
“No,” I cry - shaking my head. “Calvin... Matt... Lynch... Jack... My parents, Uncle Anton and hell, even Owen has paid... They’re the ones paying for this day...”
“Marigold,” Xavier whispers - embracing me to the point where it feels like I’m sinking into him. He’s real... He’s so warm... Alive... I don’t want him to ever pay for my sake... I don’t deserve it. I wish everyone could just stop throwing away their lives for the sake of me. I’m not good... I’m not golden... I wish more people would see that... They’re following a girl that can’t live up to their expectations. A girl not worth their sacrifices.
“Xavier, please don’t ever leave me... Don’t be a hero... Don’t sacrifice yourself so I can live. Let’s rather be villains,” I whisper and look up at him once more. “Let’s change this world or die trying. Together.”
“Together,” Xavier promises and kisses me once more.
We finally let go and turn to the crowd. I take my bouquet from Nessa and raise it into the air - signalling victory. The crowd cheers even louder. We did it. We really did it. As hard as it is for me to believe. And as unexpected as it sounds, nobody is dying today. I had the winning hand this time...
But at what cost?
“Ladies and gentlemen, Please make your way to the hall,” the officiant announces.
I keep on waving as the crowd leaves. Xavier’s arm is slipped around my middle and I feel unbelievably comforted by the little act. He’s unknowingly keeping me together right now.
“Okay, ye beetroots, time for photos!” Nessa says - clapping her hands together.
“I suggest we have the newly weds and their two witnesses sign the contract first,” the officiant says.
“Got it,” Nessa replies before turning to Owen that has already come closer to see what’s going on, “Man Candy, go get the twins! We’ll do photos right after this bloomin’ contract is signed.” Owen nods as he rides off to go get Ryan and Bryan who are filming and taking photos of the guests. I turn to the officiant and Xavier’s hand slides down my side to hold my hand.
“Where do we sign?” Xavier asks.
It doesn’t take us too long to sign the contracts. Nessa and Daniel are our witnesses and add their signatures as well to make things official. By the time we have the official things over, Xavier turns to me with a wide grin.
“Ah, the end of Amber Marigold,” he smirks, “Hello, Missus Jilten.”
“Hey, we agreed it’s Missus Marigold Jilten,” I correct playfully. “Though I do like the ring of that. Missus Jilten.”
“You’ll always be Marigold to me,” Xavier smiles before leaning down to give me a kiss. I melt at the touch of our lips.
“Aye, ye’ll have plenty of time to do all that at yer honeymoon! We got to take the pictures and go to the hall. We don’t want Amberry and Dipshite going to their honeymoon when it’s dark. With Xav’s stamina, they need the whole night to-”
“OKAY, NESSA,” I interrupt.
Nessa sends me a wink and I sigh in defeat. I’ve been too stressed about the wedding to really think about the honeymoon... I mean, we barely stood a chance of getting out of this alive. I was sure I’d die a virgin. But...
While we all get ready for the photos, Jessy walks over to me with a giddy smile. “I can’t believe you’re actually married!” she squeals.
“Well, I still can’t believe you’re pregnant!” I reply.
“Hey, it wasn’t planned. You planned it and you’re only nineteen!” Jessy chuckles.
“Yeah, but it’s more complicated than that,” I sigh and look to the ground, “Besides, I’m turning twenty in just a few months.”
“Hey,” Jessy says - bumping me with her hip, “I really missed you, Amber. I’m happy I could be here today.”
I feel my heart melt at my cousin, no, my sister’s warm expression. Those brown eyes are inviting me in. How many hours did we spend calling each other to talk about things we couldn’t share with our friends in our separate schools? How many days did we Skype to talk about problems that bothered us... And when my parents died... How many nights did Jessy spend climbing into my bed to hold me through a nightmare?
“Thank you, Jessy,” I smile, “For everything.”
Jessy and I hug, but it gets interrupted by Nessa who, in a raging fit, scolds me for not wearing shoes. Jessy proceeded to defend me from my fiery second in command. It was a battle to remember. Alas, Nessa didn’t feel good going up against a pregnant lady and decided to forfeit. A wise decision indeed. Nessa was fire, but Jessy could freeze over a country if she so chooses.
We make sure to take a ton of pictures. Nessa has Xavier and I pose for at least a hundred photo’s together in varies places in the garden and under the arch. When the couple photos are finally done, Jessy, Nessa and I take a few together, followed by Jessy, Aunt Tessa and me as well. Of course Pollock makes an appearance in almost everyone. I thought it would be awkward to take a picture with Owen, but he didn’t make me feel guilty for a moment. We posed together and he even took a photo with Nessa alone. But as much as I love all the pictures, the way the twins ruffled my hair to Nessa’s dismay and Miss Sauvage made me blush with crude comments, my favorite is when we all pose together. Miss Sauvage, Aunt Tessa, Jessy, Liam, Socks, Ryan, Bryan, Daniel, Paul, Nessa, Owen, Pollock, Xavier and I. This is it... These are the people I have to protect... I wish I could have more of my friends here... those that paid for me to have this day...
I’m going to hell for what I did to Blake Bowmen.
“Well, let’s head to the hall! The tables are set and ready. Everyone has a specific seat,” Nessa hurries us. We all head to Isabella’s - my eyes still scanning the woods. Before I can start to panic again, Xavier pulls me away from the group for a moment. I have to hold the train of my dress in order not to step on it.
“Hey, you really don’t have to worry,” Xavier says.
“You can never be sure...” I whisper.
“Marigold... I was the North’s hacker before I became it’s leader. This last week I’ve been working tirelessly, but I managed to hack into Southern Sterling. It helped that I could trace them through the email that they used to hack into my account,” Xavier says as he takes his phone from his back pocket and shows it to me. There’s a map with a blinking red dot. I look closer at the GPS. Our location is pinpointed and... according to the device, that blinking red dot is kilometres away from us.
I look up at Xavier in question. “This is Southern Sterling?” I ask - pointing to the red dot.
“Do you really think I would marry you without being one hundred percent sure you’d be okay? If Jane or Kyle even got five kilometres close to us, I would’ve snatched you up and ran away, Marigold.”
I feel a heavy burden leave my shoulders for the first time and without meaning to, my legs give in as I sink to my knees. “Oh, God... We really are okay... ” I whisper. We’re all fine, I say in my head over and over. We’re all fine...
“Well... I doubt that can be applied to all of us,” Xavier sighs.
“What do you mean?” I ask and look up in panic.
Xavier has a wicked grin as he pulls me back to my feet and leans in to whisper, “I’ve been waiting a long, long time to have you, Marigold... You’re going to pay for testing my patience.” His breath tickles my ear and I’m not sure if it’s that tender sensation or his words that make me shiver and heat rush through my lower body. Xavier pulls away and the feral look in his eyes tell me this is going to be a very long honeymoon for me.
I unintentionally swallow nervously.
“Come, let’s go dance and eat. The real feast begins when we leave,” Xavier says - pulling me along with him as we follow the others to Isabella.
I’ve survived my wedding... But I still have a honeymoon coming...
Damn... I really am fucked.