Chapter 27, Our First Dance
[BY XAVIER MARIGOLD JILTEN]
I hold on tight to Marigold’s hand as I lead her to Isabella’s. We walk through the gardens all the way to the french glass door entrance at the back. I keep glancing back at my wife because it breaks my heart seeing her like this.
Wife. Marigold is my wife. I still can’t believe that this wonderful woman is my lifelong partner. After a life of nothing, I get to be the husband of the most amazing woman in the world. Come what may, it is all worth it if only for today. I might die tomorrow or the day after, but it’ll all be worth it. I glance back and Marigold is still worried.
It’s understandable of course. After all the horrors we’ve been through, I get why Marigold finds a happy outcome hard to accept. But I would never have allowed this wedding to go wrong. At the very least she deserves one day where people she cares about don’t die. I know she made her own plans. And I know the cost must be eating at her, but... I’ll be here when she’s ready to talk.
I lead Marigold through the glass doors and waiters escort us to the ballroom that’s lined with grand tables. The guests are all heading to their seats, trying to find their nameplates, while Marigold and I walk over to the main table on the other side of the ballroom that’s positioned on top of the first half floor of stairs. The table on the left, below where Marigold and I will find our seats, is occupied by the North’s inner gang members like Nessa, Daniel, Owen, Ryan, Bryan, Paul, and Pollock, while the table on the right has important family members such as Jessica, Liam, Missus Marigold Brown, Miss Sauvage and two distant relatives of Miss Sauvage. The last of the true north.
I assend the stairs with Marigold and a waiter pulls out our seats for us kindly. I go to sit with Marigold on my right side. Excited, I sneak a quick glance at my wife and feel a bit of weight leave my shoulders when she’s not looking around panicked. Instead, she’s marveling at the decor. I smile and take in the decor myself. The tables are nothing short of grand with white table cloth spun with silver thread. The plates are worth more than I care to admit with gold adorning each of them. Elaborate gold candlesticks hold on to white and maroon candles while marigold and rose flowers crown each table. Through raw crystals decorating the tables, copper lights and ivy leaves twist around each other to snake across.
In front of me is the proper utensils for a five-course meal as planned. I have an eighteen-carat gold placemat in front of me to start with. On the left side of my placemat are a salad and dinner fork accompanied by a hand-stitched white, gold and maroon napkin, a bread plate, and a breadknife. On the right side, we have a dinner knife, teaspoon, and soup spoon, as well as three wine glasses for water, red wine, and white wine. And then finally above my placemat is a cake fork, dessert spoon and a name card with the name: Mr. Marigold Jilten. I look over at Marigold and smile when I read her nameplate. Mrs. Marigold Jilten.
I look up as the orchestra tones down the music and Nessa walks up to us with the mic in hand. Nessa announces that appetizers shall now be served and on cue, the waiters all bring out the hors d’oeuvres.
“Man, it’s been ages since I’ve done a five-course meal,” Marigold comments when the waiter places the small plate in front of her.
“If you think five is a lot, you should wait for the Internasional gathering. They always serve twelve-course meals there,” I chuckle.
“When did I say five was a lot?” Marigold asks sincerely.
I can’t help but to laugh at her expression. “Of course. I almost forgot that my wife is a glutton.”
“Hey! I’m not a glutton! I can just appreciate the joys of food is all,” Marigold defends herself.
I slide my hand over to hers - intertwining my fingers with hers before I bring her hand to my lips. “It’s okay. Eat up, Marigold,” I say and kiss her hand. “You’ll need the energy for tonight.”
I smirk at her cute horrified expression before I let go of her hand and start eating my appetizer. Still amused, I take a bite of the Prosciutto and Ricotta horse d’oeuvres and make a mental note to thank Daniel for the excellent choice. He’s not much of a cook, but he knows about five-course meals more than the rest of us - courtesy of his father’s family.
Appetizers come and go and as soup gets served, Nessa once again takes the mic to announce that speeches shall now commence while we eat. First up is Nessa, and I lean back to listen.
“So, I’ll be givin’ mah speech first. Dear Dipshit. I cannot believe ye won’t be a loner boner anymore. I’ve known ye for almost five years and I never would’ve guessed ye could manage to snag a catch like Amberry over ’ere. Now usually this be the part where I horribly insult, ye, but today I’ll make an exception,” Nessa says and for once, she wears a serious expression. “I sincerely hope ye get to keep this happiness, because if there’s anyone in the world that deserves it... It’s mah dipshit... Ye took me in six years ago and made me the person I am today. So no matter what, know that I’ll try mah hardest to help ye keep this joy.”
Nessa raises her glass and we all take a sip of our wine. I wink at my second in command and she returns the favor.
“I didn’t expect her to be so sincere,” Marigold comments next to me. I look over and she’s in the middle of slurping her soup.
“Nessa has her moments. Her rather flamboyant personality is just a cover for how broken she feels,” I explain.
Marigold nods slowly. “I figured it was something like that...”
“Uhem,” someone says over the mic. I look over and it’s Daniel clearing his throat. As always, his dark brunette hair is gelled back as if a cow licked him. He takes out a piece of paper and glances over at Marigold and me with those dark lashes of his. “So firstly, this speech is for Amber Marigold Jilten. I’d like to thank you, not only for being born but for putting up with my mess of a friend. For those of you that don’t know, Xavier has asked Amber to marry him for little more than a year. She refused every time. If I’m being honest, I felt pity for him. We’d go to a gathering and while I’d be swarming with women, Xav would just explain to the desperate ladies that he had a fiance - which he didn’t.”
“Stop lying. You could barely keep a lass yerself,” Nessa chirps in.
“Hey, not the time, Bagpipes!” Daniel dismisses. He gathers his words again and continues, “So imagine my surprise when Amber was the one to ask Xav to marry him. I couldn’t believe it. Who would willingly marry a sadistic bastard like my best friend? And, like the desperate loner Xav was, he said yes at the first try.”
The crowd chuckles and Daniel takes his glass before looking over at us again. “But,” he continues, “Bagpipes is right. If there has ever been a man and woman deserving of a happy ending, it’s the man and woman sitting by that table, ladies and gentlemen. Xav has... taken in more people than anyone I know. Whether it was a Scottish nightmare, a mute giant or a boy whose own family kicked him out. Xavier never saw any of us broken. And so, we will do our best to make sure he and Amber get their happy endings.” Daniel downs his glass while the rest of us take a sip.
Damn... I didn’t prepare myself for my friends being so sincere today...
“Aww, is someone getting emotional?” Marigold coos from my side.
“Yeah, tease me all you want. We’ll see who’s laughing tonight,” I jab at her. She blushes immediate before going back to her soup.
Our third course is a shrimp salad and the second wave of speeches gets thrown in as well. I smile and listen as Owen and Jessy both give speeches to Amber while the twins surprise me by making a speech for me. Miss Sauvage as always makes a witty speech that I’ll keep with me. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world I respect more than that women. She’s lived through this life longer than anyone else and there’s a damn good reason why.
By the time our entree arrives, I’m already full while Marigold on the other hand keeps asking me if there will be seconds. I continue to joke around with my wife and tease her about what’s in store. Seeing her go red as a tomato really does it for me. I can’t get enough of it.
When dessert is served, gold flaked sundaes, all the speeches are over and Nessa gets up from her seat once again. “With food out of the way, please allow me to have Mister and Missus Marigold Jilten open the floor!”
“Wait, already?” Marigold asks next to me.
“Yes, already,” I smile and get up from my seat. I offer up my hand and she takes it nervously.
“Aren’t we supposed to have cake?” she asks.
I shake my head with amusement, “Don’t worry, Marigold. You can have your fill of cake after the dancing,” I reassure her.
“Oh God, do we really have to dance in front f all these people?” Marigold asks.
“What’s the problem? We’ve danced in front of people before,” I comment.
“Yeah, but, don’t couples usually go for dancing lessons for their wedding? Everyone is going to stare at us. And I know you. You dance like a madman.”
We walk down the stairs and to the dance floor. I turn to Marigold with a reassuring smirk. “Don’t worry, Marigold. Just leave the dancing to me.” There’s a moment where she looks at me and remembers all the times we’ve danced together - how little freedom she has in them.
The orchestra starts playing the song for our first dance - a classic cover of something modern and I sweep Marigold to the middle of the floor. Before we start, however, I make sure to smoothly pick up the train of her dress and hook it’s tip through her finger - a reference to our dance at the masquerade last year.
“Ready, Missus Marigold Jilten?” I ask.
“Nope,” she says.
“Too bad,” I whisper into her ear before I start.
The song starts slow and, almost sad. The notes longing to be closer but separated by the sheets on which they’re inked. The music follows a story while the notes stay separated through the hand of their composer. Fate would not allow them to be closer. Not yet.
I waltz with Marigold - keeping her close to my chest. My chin could rest upon her head if I moved just a little bit closer. I wonder if she can feel my heart pounding in sync with hers... Ours... We dance in step with each other all around - passing the tables with guests while my hand on our back steers us. With her corset cut so low, our skin touches, and I feel on fire. Not the zap of electricity but the slow consumption of flame. I wonder how long we’ll burn until we turn to ash.
The music pics up with the notes on the sheet daring to move closer to each other - wondering if it’s okay. The violinists join in just as I steer Marigold closer to the middle again and twirl her out slowly - like a flower in bloom. Holding on to my hand - she looks over at me and our eyes lock before I pull at her arm and bring her in closer, this time holding on to her in a way where she has no choice but to look me straight in the eye. So close. We’re so close I’m tempted to kiss those soft lips of hers.
Then do it, Marigold dares with her eyes.
Not yet, I smirk.
Though the song is gaining speed, the notes close enough to meet, it’s still slower than all the other songs we had. I grab onto Marigold’s exposed leg - making her wrap it around me before I sway her in a dip - her back arching so low, her beautifully curled hair kisses the floor. When I bring her back up, I immediately step back into the waltz as the music cues.
We circle the ballroom again and I feel Marigold’s breath on my chest. I can’t blame her for losing her breath. I’m just as intoxicated. The first time we danced might have been at Jane’s party, but aside from those eighties dance moves, the first time we truly danced was here. In this ballroom nearly two years ago. I wasn’t supposed to be in love with her, but I’ll lie if I say I didn’t nearly forget about all the plans I made while dancing with her. I regret having to scare her like that.
With every instrument in the orchestra being used and the musicians playing the climax of the song, the notes are finally together - reveling in the closeness that their composer has allowed them.
With the climax, I pick Marigold up by her waist - turning her in the air while she has her hands on mine. I see the shock in her expression and though yes, she’s heavier with all that added muscles, she’s still a piece of cake to carry for me. I’ve had to carry Daniel out of clubs plenty of times as practice. I drop Marigold strategically - making her fall into my arms as I embrace her again and pull her strings to follow my lead. I can barely hear the music anymore. Her scent, her eyes, her soul. I’m drunk on all of it. Though it’s still day with golden light trickling through the large windows around the ballroom, I can’t see the guests anymore. It’s just us. Us against the world. This is how it’ll be from now on. And it’s so worth it.
The song steadily approaches its end. The notes rioting being separated again after finally having a taste of being together. Further and further the forbidden notes are pulled from each other until I’ve spun Marigold out and back in again. I hold onto my golden universe just as the song ends with two lonely notes - separated in eternity.
“Can we stay like this?” I ask marigold.
My wife’s still buried in my chest and I feel her grip on me tighten. “Forever,” she whispers.
Somewhere far off I hear the guests clap, but I ignore them. I don’t want the song to end. I don’t want to stop holding on to this woman. The world can stay a blur of guests, coppery lights, and ivy.
Heaven knows, nothing good can last forever.