Chapter 30, The Lonely Island
[BY AMBER MARIGOLD JILTEN]
After a fifteen-minute drive through the forest, the driver has us emerging from the forest and park in front of a bay. Through the tinted window, I spot a few steps leading to a small wooden dock on the water and a very expensive looking boat next to it. It’s not a large boat, but I can tell it’s worth a fortune.
“Have we arrived?” I ask Xavier.
“Almost,” My husband replies before getting out and opening the door for me on my side.
“How charming,” I smile as I take his hand and exit the car. I have to carry the train of my dress in one hand to prevent it from dragging across the dirt road.
Xavier goes up to the driver and thanks her. “No problem. Goodluck” the brunette woman replies before handing me a strange, almost knowing smile, “You’ll need it.” Before I follow Xavier down to the boat, I spot the name on her badge: Miss Shmit.
Xavier still holds on to my hand as we walk down the steps and towards the wooden dock. “It looks old,” I comment.
“Well, the Northern family has had a claim to these lands for hundreds of years. We were the original gang to settle here if you believe in our history,” Xavier explains as he helps me onto the boat. I make sure my dress doesn’t get caught on anything. The last thing I need right now is getting drowned as soon as the boat takes off.
“You sound proud while talking about the North,” I say and smile at my husband. It’s true. Xavier has this glow about him when he talks about the history of our gang. Xavier starts the boat and before I know it, has us speeding towards the small island not too far from here. The wind blows my hair back and I have to squint my eyes to see.
“Yes well, even though I’m an orphan, the Northern family raised me. I felt part of the Sauvage bloodline. And... after the fire that took the lives of almost every Northerner... When Missus Sauvage cut her hand open to gift me her blood... I decided to take the responsibility of the gang. I was eighteen when it happened. A little older than Blake and Owen when they became leaders, but still... I never felt like a child. I never felt like I had a childhood to begin with... And to be honest, I’m not sad about it. I’d happily trade my childhood if it meant meeting you, Marigold. I’d trade it a thousand times over,” Xavier says.
“That’s... sweet and also very sad,” I comment. A strand of hair gets stuck in my mouth and I awkwardly try to get it out.
Xavier pries his eyes away from the rippling water in front of us and leans over to help me remove the piece of hair caught in my mouth before giving me a kiss on my forehead. “I can’t be anything but grateful,” he says before pulling away and staring at the incoming island again.
I feel a warmth settle in my, no, our heart. I still can’t believe I’m allowed to have this day, but I’m not going to ruin it by feeling sorry for myself. A lot of people paid the ultimate price to buy me this day. I’m not wasting a moment of it.
When we’re finally right by the island on a dock that looks to be the twin of the first. Xavier docks us before extending his hand to help me off. I take his offer and step onto the old wooden planks.
“Welcome to the Lonely Island, Marigold,” Xavier says before scooping me up in his arms.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” I laugh.
“I’m carrying my wife bridal style to our honeymoon. What else?” Xavier asks. I look up and he has a smug little grin on his face. His dark auburn hair was swept back for the wedding, but with the wind from our short boat ride, it’s a little more tussled. I’m tempted to run my hands through his messy hair, but I know it’s better for me to keep my hands to myself right now. Yes... with that dangerous glint in his emerald eyes, I know I’ve had this day coming for a long time...
Xavier looks down and catches me staring at him. “What you looking at?” he asks with a knowing smirk.
“At my handsome husband. What else?” I reply with a smirk of my own.
Xavier lets out a breathy chuckle that sends tingles up and down my spine. He carries me through a spruce forest similar to the one surrounding Isabella’s. Only, this pathway has coppery lanterns and flowers decorating our way. The sun is starting to set - casting lanky shadows across our path and washing everything in golden-red light. The train of my dress is so long, it practically drags behind us as Xavier walks up a few steps to reveal the place we’d be staying at.
“Wow...” is all I manage to say.
Xavier stops in his tracks to allow me to marvel at what’s in front of me. Tucked in between five very large spruce trees is undoubtedly a treehouse. Then again... to call it a treehouse wouldn’t be right... It’s more like a tree-mansion. With a slick, modern style and enough wood and copper to still give it this vintage feel, this is by far the best treehouse I’ve ever seen... Large wall to wall windows covers one side of the treehouse - revealing a warmly lit interior. The pathway to this jaw-dropping mansion is a series of stairs and bridges starting where we are now before snaking around a few trees and spanning all the way to the front porch of the treehouse.
Xavier starts walking again, still carrying me as he climbs up the stairs to get to the suspended wooden bridge. More coppery lights and flower petals adorn our path and I think my jaw hangs open the whole time Xavier walks us over to the treehouse.
“This is my second favorite place in the world,” Xavier says when he’s just a few steps away from the modern glass front door of the treehouse.
“I remember you telling me something like that last year. Where’s your favorite?” I ask and look up at him curiously. From this angle, I notice the five O’ clock shadow on his jaw. Hmmm I wonder what Xavier would look like with a bit of a beard? He already looks mature for his age as is.
Xav looks down at me just as he opens the door - one of his dark locks of hair falling loosely across his forehead. “Next to you,” my husband answers and kisses me as he walks us in. I close my eyes and kiss him back because hopefully, it’ll hide my blush long enough for him not to notice.
I feel Xavier take a few steps forward before he slowly pulls away from the kiss and plops me down on a massive modern leather couch. “I’ll get us something to drink,” Xavier says before walking towards the open plan kitchen.
As treehouses go, this place is massive. I let my hands run across the fur blanket sprawled across the dark brown leather couch - my fingers taking in the soft grey texture. Still, in my wedding dress, I stand up to inspect my surroundings. In front of me is a large window showing off a beautiful spruce forest on the other side - washed in sunset streaks. Shadows from the tress stretch across the beautifully planked floor of the treehouse. As if the greenery outside wasn’t enough, various plants including ivy are set up in almost every corner. Making it feel like nature is both inside and outside of the treehouse. I take a few steps towards the artificial fireplace left of the couch. For a moment I think it’s the heat generated by the fire that makes the floor so warm, but after stepping around for a bit, I realise that it’s in fact heated flooring.
Curious about the rest of the place, I turn around and watch Xavier pour us wine in the kitchen. I step around the couch and go to the marble and wood themed kitchen with state of the art appliances. Coppery pots and pans hang above the counter of the kitchen and with the lights above, it looks more like a contemporary chandelier than kitchenware.
“Here you go, Missus Marigold Jilten,” Xavier says as he hands me my wine.
“Why thank you, Mister Marigold Jilten,” I smile right back.
We clink our glasses before taking a sip. “Do you want to see one of my favorite parts of this place?” Xavier asks as he takes my hand.
“Why not,” I reply and follow him to the other side of the treehouse. We pass large glass doors before the room opens up to an almost equally large space. To our left is a massive bed that makes a king-sized one look like a joke. Old wooden beams support the bed and is built into the roof with ivy growing down. Right above the bed are cristal lights hanging from the copper wiring snaking through the wooden beams and ivy. The bed itself looks comfortable as hell with a delicate maroon cover and dark fur bed throw laid across. There’s another artificial fireplace in the corner already lit - casting golden light across that maroon bed.
That maroon bed where...
“Over here,” Xavier says and pulls me along to the right side of the room where a massive window dominates the entire right wall of the large room. “Watch your step,” Xavier adds as we take two steps down and step onto the wood platform in front of the window. A giant jacuzzi is built into the floor. The jacuzzi is already filled with water and has dark red rose petals scattered over the surface. Maroon and cream coloured candles of various sizes frame the jacuzzi at random.
“That’s amazing!” I say
“It gets better,” Xavier smirks as he goes over to the wall in front of us. The entire wall is made of black marble and he presses a few times on a touchpad built into the wall before the massive window in front of me starts folding open. Quickly, open-air greats us, and the spell of spruce fills the room - mixing with the scent of rose that I already got used to. There’s no railing so when I walk over to the edge of the room, I’m careful. Fortunately. save for a small breeze, nothing threatens to throw me off the height of the room. However, standing here, I finally notice that the ocean isn’t far away at all. In fact, I have a clear view of the sunset across that dark ocean. I look down and the gold threads in my dress catch those violent lights perfectly, making me feel almost magical.
I take another sip of my wine before I look over at Xavier. “This is the most romantic place I’ve ever seen,” I admit.
Xavier slowly saunters over to me. “Though I don’t really plan on leaving this room too much this weekend, there’s a lovely swimming spot just down the path here. I’ll take you there tomorrow. We only have the weekend for our honeymoon before it’s back to business, but I want to make the most of it,” Xavier explains before sliding his arm around my waist and finishing his wine.
A little tipsy on the closeness of my husband, I finish my wine as well. Xavier takes my glass before he goes to refill it in the kitchen. Left alone again, I wander around the room. There’s carved out slots in the giant marble wall where books and items are kept. Curious, I walk over to check. It’s mostly filled with classics and expensive-looking weights scattered about. I notice a few picture frames as well. On top of the carved bookcase is an old black and white photo of a newlywed couple from the early 1900′s. There are about six other photo frames almost all with couples, but it’s the last and third last photo that grabs my attention. The third last photo frame doesn’t have a couple and instead is a picture of a woman wearing a wedding dress alone. She has a bottle of champagne in her hand and... do I know this woman?
“That’s Miss Sauvage when she turned thirty,” Xavier says next to me. He hands me my glass of wine before we both go back to staring at the picture.
“She looks drunk,” I comment with amusement.
“She was supposed to get married but then found out her fiance was only conducting a plot to steal the Northern Gang. She then proceeded to walk down the aisle and stab him before they said their ’I do’s,” Xavier explains.
“Whoa... Miss Sauvage was... Badass,” I say.
Xavier smiles as he puts his arm around my waist and squeezes me closer. “There’s a reason she’s still alive. That woman reigned as leader of the Northern Gang for thirty years before she gave the title to her son. It’s the longest any Northerner has ruled,” Xavier says with admiration in his voice.
“Hey, we can go for fifty,” I say and playfully shove him with my hip.
Xavier grins down at me. “We’ll be old and senile,” he says.
I nod at that. “I can see myself with like thirty cats as my personal guard. I’d take the enemy out with my mittens and you can hit them with your walking cane,” I suggest.
Xavier lets out a laugh and I join in. “Let’s do that, Marigold,” he says before raising his glass. “To ruling for fifty years.”
“Fifty years,” I chime and we keep eye contact as we clink our glasses.
Xavier and I take a sip of our wine before he lets go of my side and walks to the other side of the room as if he forgot something. “We need music,” he says and goes to that touchpad built-in on the wall.
I look back at the picture frames. The second last one is of a couple that also looks to be thirty. The woman has beautiful maroon lipstick and the man is tall and proud. The previous Northern leaders... which means... I look down at the last picture frame and it’s empty. Somehow it makes me proud knowing Xavier and I will have our photo here.
The music starts playing and it’s an eighties classic. “Berlin?” I ask when I look over at Xavier.
My husband walks over with a little rhythm in his step - following the slow beats of the song. “Take My Breath Away,” he says, “Dance with me will you?”
“No need to ask twice,” I say and place my wine down on the bookshelf before taking Xavier’s hand. He presses me against his chest and I take in his musky cologne as we start to sway from side to side. His left hand slides down to the small of my back while his right hand runs down my arm to intertwine his fingers with mine. He brings my hand to his lips before kissing it tenderly and keeping me close.
“I fell in love with you seven times before there was no going back,” Xavier says close to my ear. I rest my head against his chest and listen to him talk. “The first time was when we were kids. I was sixteen, you were probably twelve and it wasn’t a romantic kind of plummet, but rather... you inspired me and I fell in love with that. You were in the garden digging for earthworms while I talked with your mom. At the time, I had nothing and I was determined to make something more of myself. To climb the ranks. I was greedy, Marigold. And there you were. You had everything, but all you needed was some dirt and paints...
“The second time I fell in love with you was at Jane’s party when you were barely a week in Tygerwell. I watched you kick Owen’s ass in beer pong and beat him in your little drinking contest. You then went to the dancefloor and unlike everyone around you, you bust out eighties dance moves like the weirdo you were. Again, this wasn’t a romantic decent, but rather one of... how do I put it? A kindred kind of liking as we both seemed to be stuck in the same era.
“The third time I fell in love with you was when you kicked me in the balls-” Xavier says but I interrupt him by suddenly bursting with laughter. “Now hold on,” he laughs as well, “Let me explain. That night BD brought you to Isabella’s, I was unbelievably nervous. I never panicked so much in my life. I wasn’t expecting BD to win that drag race so I was unprepared in finally meeting you as an adult. But as cruel fate would have it... I couldn’t really meet you as me. I had to scare you. Daniel was the only one there at the time and helped psyche me up. So imagine my surprise when I’m trying to scare you and you just knee me in the groin?”
I can’t help but laugh at the whole scenario. “Good lord,” I cry out and I hear Xavier’s laugh deep in his chest.
“Yeah, yeah, make fun of me all you want. I fell in love in this... shocked kind of way. You surprise me every day, Marigold.” Xavier says and presses me a little tighter against his chest. “The fourth time I fell in love was at the Northern ball you attended in that golden dress I picked out. I was losing my mind all through the night. Nessa had to constantly remind me of the plan. You were... breathtaking... But it wasn’t my eyes that fell in love that night or my hands as they burned on your touch when we danced... It was my soul that fell into the depths of yours... There was a moment where our gazes locked and I could see a thousand oceans behind those eyes of yours... It was then that I realised I was sinking.”
I smile and close my eyes - thinking back to that night. Even back then, Xavier made me burn... I remember a moment where I stared into his eyes and got lost.
“The fifth time,” Xavier says as we continue to sway, “Was when... when you died... It wasn’t because you sacrificed yourself for Blake or because without even knowing what I was really doing it, I gave you my heart, but rather in the months that passed... Those three months, Marigold... I was so, so broken. I couldn’t imagine a world without you. I missed our conversations over the phone... How kind you were... your jokes... your fight... your spirit... I don’t ever want to feel that broken again, Marigold. Don’t you ever leave me.”
“Never,” I breathe into his chest.
“The sixth time I fell in love with you was at Vala Sapa, the hair spa. More specifically on the road from the spa. It wasn’t as grand as all the other moment’s but just talking to you. Sharing interests and telling stories... It was so normal and yet I felt myself falling so unbelievably hard. The way you talked about your mom... Your love for pancakes... Your favorite day... I loved hearing all of it. I still do. I could listen to it every moment of the day and never tire of it,” Xavier explains.
I think back to that day and remember Xavier being so lost when I asked him about his interest. It still breaks my heart that people don’t ask more about him. He seems like such a perfect, impossible person to reach, but he’s human like the rest of us. And as a human, he just wants to be loved and thought about.
“I’ve had many days where I felt myself falling in love with you, Marigold... When you showed me your scars... When you saved me from getting shot by Jason... When you tought me how to draw... All of these are moments I cherish. The seventh plummet was today, however. Hearing your vows and knowing you’re my wife... I’m hopelessly falling in eternity, Marigold... And I know that every day from now would be another day added to our collection. Today is the sixteenth of the fourth and every day from now on will be a day where I fall in love with you all over again. On the bad days and the good ones, Marigold.”
His words are so touching, I’m not even surprised when tears make their way to my eyes.
“Xavy...” I whisper and look up.
Xavier smiles down at me sadly before leaning in to kiss me.
I take his kiss just as the song ends and a new one begins. Still, in his arms, I take a few steps back as Xavier slowly leads me to the bed. His hands slide up my body and cups my face as he deepens the kiss. I part my lips and invite his tongue inside - wishing I could kiss him deeper, taste more of this man that I love.
I feel the bed behind me just as I take another step backward and fall down on my ass. With my hands propping me up, my fingers run through the dark fur bed throw. I want to plunge my fingers into Xavier’s tussled hair and bring him closer...
Xavier stays standing in front of me as he removes his jacket and loosens his maroon tie. The sun is finally at its limit, casting out red rays of light right behind Xavier - framing him in the colour of blood. The colour of lust.
I bite my lip in anticipation.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, Marigold,” Xavier says in a husky voice. His hands run up my legs until they stop... And he proceeds to rip my expensive wedding dress to shreds.
Fuck my life.