The White Wedding
“Every revolution begins with a spark.” - Suzanne Collins
When I was five years old, my mother and I would dress up in our finest dresses and have tea parties while my father was away. He’d leave us at home for the weekend while he was away on business, and since our servants never approved of the way he treated us, they never told him. So every weekend, when we were done playing tea party, Elena would wash the dresses and hang them back in our closets without a word.
When I was seven, my father came home early one weekend, only this time, my little sister, Sophie, was with us. He locked us all in my bedroom to beat my mother and made Sophie and me watch. I remember not knowing what was going on, except that he was hurting my mom and she wasn’t fighting him. I remember that when my sister started crying, he went to hit her, but my mother blocked his path and took the blow instead. That’s when he yelled at her: “Stop teaching them this playing nonsense! Pretending to be better than you are is worthless!”
That evening, my dresses and fake tiaras were disposed of. I never cried about it, knowing that my mother couldn’t save me from every blow he delivered for tears, and I tried not to miss them because I knew he would find out. After a few years, the memories of tea parties became distant in my mind. But the day of my wedding, they came forward once more, reminding me of how much I missed my mother.
Sitting at the bureau, I pick up one of the sapphire earrings my mother left for me and hold it to my ear. “How does this look?” I ask my lady in waiting, Elena.
“Very nice, Lady Victoria,” she says politely. I hooked them through my ears as she walks toward me, plucking a stray thread from my shoulder. She smiles. “You know, I believe there was an old saying for weddings. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It was supposed to be good luck to have one of each at your wedding.”
I laugh a little. “Well, I suppose the earrings are old and blue, the veil could be new, and the tiara is borrowed from the queen.”
Sophie speaks up from behind the changing screen, where I can see her silhouette struggling with the zipper of her dress. Elena rushes over to help. “Marrying a prince calls for one of each, though,” Sophie insists. “So we need to find you something old or blue.”
I quirk an eyebrow at my reflection, reviewing my person for something that fit the description. The dress wasn’t old - the seamstress only finished it two days ago. Then, my eyes lock with that of the woman in the mirror.
“My eyes?” I ask, hooking the other earring through my ear. “Something blue.”
Elena comes back and stares my reflection in the eye. “I suppose that could work. They’re certainly blue enough.”
I smile, staring down at my lap. “It’s probably all the excitement, making them brighter.” My eyes focus on the beading and stitching of the corset top. It’s pure white, only a few shades lighter than my skin, making it hard to see where my chest ends and my dress begins. The same for my hands, with the long sleeves nearly covering the backs of my hands, an intentional design on the seamstress’s part. Even though I’ve been spending nearly every day in the palace gardens, I’m paler than most of the women in the country, something visitors ask about, wondering how they can get snow white skin too.
“Like you said,” I continue, “marrying a prince and all.”
Elena’s eyebrows furrow a little. “You never really talk about Prince Jefferson, my lady,” she says. “Has he been kind to you?”
I turn carefully in my seat to look at her, smiling at the beautiful light blue dress on her, contrasting against the dark brown of her skin. “He’s been chivalrous,” I say. “He’s somewhat stiff around me still, but not in a rude way. But he’s very different from his father. He’s never raised a hand to me, never forced me to be quiet or to cover my hair.In fact, I think he likes looking at it.” I shrug, standing to find my shoes. “I think he’s still warming up to me.”
“And you to him?” Elena asks. “You’ve been engaged for four years. You’d think he’d be comfortable around you by now, m’lady.”
Sophie snorts, coming out from behind the screen while wrapping a faded golden scarf around her hair. “You haven’t seen them together? They act like they’ll electrocute one another if they touch.”
I roll my eyes at my sister’s comparison, slide my heels on, and walk over to the window, wanting to see the gardens one last time. I see over one hundred chairs set up, a long, rose petal covered aisle down the middle, a gazebo at the foot of the aisle, where my fiance would be waiting for me in just a few short minutes. I see him walking around, shaking hands with the American king and his wife. Their daughter runs around in a dress at least two sizes too small until her mother grabs her arm as she runs past. The prince laughs and excuses himself from them, walking to another American woman.
My eyes roam around until I find the queen, Queen Selena Jefferson. She's quiet and regal, someone women of the country admire. Her hair, light, streaked with grey, and just past her shoulders, was rumored to be a wig. As the queen, she typically chose to forgo the typical head scarf in favor of a crown with a veil attached to it. She is beginning to get wrinkles around her eyes, her age and illness beginning to show; the words about her hair may have just been rumors, but Queen Selena's health was completely true. She didn't actually discuss it much, choosing to keep her medical issues more private than public, but it had come up several times in public speeches. It was something known as cancer- an illness I had learned about in my studies but had not seen many cases of it for several decades. The only treatment available for her illness could cause her hair to fall out (this is where the rumors about the wig come from).
“M’lady?” Elena joins me at the window, following my eyes to the gardens. I look at her when my eyes land on King Jefferson II, not wanting to stare at the vile man who runs the country.
“It’s possible I could grow to be affectionate towards him,” I say as plainly as I can.
I look away again when I see the question forming in her eyes, the question I was hoping she wouldn’t ask.
My head snaps back to her so quickly that my veil hits her arm. “Do not bring him up now,” I snap. Taking a deep breath, I force myself to lower my voice. “He knows why I have to do this. He understands completely.” It feels like an excuse to my own ears. “He’d rather see me married to another man than dead by my father’s hand.”
“Do you want to see him one more time?” she asks, gesturing toward the servant’s door to my room. “I can go get him if you’d like to-”
“No,” I say. My voice has a hard edge to it, I know, and she stops there. “If I see him again, I may not be able to go through with this wedding. Besides, we said goodbye last night.”
Sophie is silent behind me. She knows that there is a servant boy in the palace who owns my heart, a man who is not the prince, but she does not know the extent of it, nor the details. I’d prefer to keep it that way.
“You love him.” It is not a question.
I stare down at the crowd a while longer. Jefferson looks up a few moments later and sees me standing at the window. He waves, smiling widely. I manage to smile and wave back. People around him look around, trying to find who he’s waving at, and at least three people are flailing their arms in some manner before I turn away. I walk back to the bureau and pick through the stacks of bracelets to find the simple diamond bangle Jefferson had gotten me for my seventeenth birthday, and slip it on my wrist over the fabric of my wedding gown.
"How many guests are there?" Elena asks, smoothing the veil over my hair for the tenth time in a few hours. A bridal perk in the New American Colonies: brides did not have to completely cover their hair, even though my near floor-length hair was pulled up in an intricate hairstyle Elena had created so that it was only to the middle of my back, the veil was thin and sheer. It allowed the beautiful style to be seen, along with the dark of my hair.
I gulp subtly. "Over one hundred. More wanted to come, and there are some reporters that will be standing in the back with cameras to record so everyone at home can watch the ceremony live."
Elena gives me a small smile, resting her hands lightly on my shoulder. "Everyone wants to see the wedding of their future king and queen."
Sophie comes over and stands beside us. She is in a dress similar to Elena's, though made of satin and velvet as opposed to something known as polyester. She is young and beautiful and looks exactly like our mother, with her brown hair and eyes. Her skin is as pale as mine, though littered with much fewer scars and all of them easily concealed by her sleeveless dress.
"Are you ready?" she asked, smiling down at me.
I shrug one shoulder. "As I'll ever be, I suppose."
Elena moves away, heading toward the door. "There should be a guard waiting to escort you both downstairs, my ladies."
"Thank you, Elena," I say. "You have been such a blessing to have around today."
Her next smile looks forced, but then she giggles over it. "So long as your hair holds, Lady Victoria."
She leaves, heading into the hall to find where the guard is waiting for us. Sophie turns to me as she walks out, whispering to me, "Tell the truth, Tori. Are you ready for this?"
I stand and look at her. My little sister, exactly three inches shorter than me in our matching heels, who has seen me being beaten by our father more times than I would care to admit, who was there the night our mother died, though she saw nothing. She may have been stronger than I gave her credit for, but I did not want to burden her with the truth of my feelings.
"I'm ready," I assure her. "Don't you worry about me, Sophie. I know what I'm doing."
She gives me a look that I know means she doesn't believe me, but lets it go.
Before she could say anything else, Elena returns with a guard in his bright blue uniform. He stands at attention when he enters the room.
"Lady Victoria, I am here to escort you downstairs to the wedding ceremony."
I still didn't understand why my father insisted on having a guard escort me to my own wedding, or why he didn't just come retrieve me himself. It could have been because he didn't want me to try to run, but the guard dogs in the palace could get my scent and track me down before I could get past the wall surrounding the palace.
Still, though, I could not just ignore the guard. I incline my head at him, not knowing how he may react to me speaking, and walk over to him and take his outstretched arm. Elena trails behind me, carrying the train of my dress. Sophie walks slowly behind her as we begin to navigate the winding halls of the NAC palace. I have to clutch the unnamed guard's arm as we walk down the staircase; I could feel him stiffen as I did so, but I didn't want to risk injury just walking down a flight of stairs.
My father is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, pacing back and forth. He is in his nicest suit, the same one he wore to my mother's funeral. It is black with a light blue tie, and a white rose pinned to his lapel. On a small table near him are the two bouquets and a basket of white rose petals (the American princess, Kimberly, was made my flower girl; she is waiting by the doors leading outside).
I take deep breaths when I see him and force myself not to dig my nails into the guard's arm. My father turns as he hears us approach; I watch as he plasters a fake grin on his face and holds out an arm for me to take as I step off the stairs.
"Victoria," he said in the faux-affectionate voice he used around strangers so they wouldn't think he beat his daughter every week to within an inch of her life. "How are you today, my dear? Are you ready?"
Asking me a direct question was giving me permission to speak. "Anticipating the ceremony," I lie through my teeth. "But completely ready to be married to his highness, Prince Jefferson."
He laughs loudly, turning to the guard. "You hear that, Martin? My daughter is finally ready to give me a grandson."
I stand there, silent once more. Elena and Sophie begin to arrange themselves, dragging the American princess to her place in the procession. The prince, his best man, and his family are already outside, along with all of the guests. As I watch this, the feeling that I am about to be married to the son of the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of women begins to sink in and all I want to do is run from the ceremony.
I do not want to get married.
But my father has a death grip on my arm, as if he can sense that I am preparing to run. He glances at me out of the corner of his eye as he converses lightly with the guard called Martin. Elena comes over with my large bouquet of blue hydrangeas and white roses and I take it with my free hand, clutching at the stems like it is my lifeline.
Music begins to play loudly. "We'd better get ready," my father tells the guard. "Congratulations on the promotion. You've earned it."
The guard leaves through a side door while my father leads me, stubbornly, over to the procession.
"Do not make a fool out of me," he hisses in my ear as Sophie begins walking through the double doors that have opened up for her.
I nod once, keeping my mouth shut no matter how badly I wanted to say something.
Elena comes behind us and lifts the train of my dress. I glance back at her and see her glancing around the room, not sticking to one place for more than a second.
I force myself to turn back; Elena had been acting weird for weeks, and I was pretty sure I knew why. With my marriage to the prince, I would have to go on a honeymoon with him and could not take her with me. There would be no one left at the palace to protect the middle-aged black lady in waiting. I completely understand her fears, fears that I hoped to address while changing after the reception.
The wedding march begins. Kimberly begins walking forward. My father and I hang back for a few seconds, waiting for the music to swell.
And then we are in the bright sunlight.
My eyes adjust quickly to the brightness as we walk. I force my feet to move forward, putting one foot in front of the other. The aisle is longer than it felt last night at the rehearsal, and I stare at the back of Kimberly's head until we turn the corner to walk down the last stretch of greenery.
The guests rise; I can immediately tell who is from the New American Colonies and who is from America.
Finally, I cannot stare at Kimberly any longer and I must look up at the man I am meant to marry.
Prince Jefferson is definitely handsome, with his military cut blonde hair, brown eyes, and tanned skin. He is muscular, having been trained for the military with the soldiers who fought New Russia, and tall, too, the top of his head several inches above mine even when I am wearing heels.
We lock eyes and he gives me a wide smile, which comforts me slightly. I breathe deeply through my nose, and think, Maybe I can marry this man.
And then all hell breaks loose.
The music cuts off with a screech and we all turn to the organ player. Though he is not the only one there - behind him is a woman in a white mask with a shock of scarlet hair in skimpy black clothing. She is holding a long, deadly looking knife to his throat.
My eyes widen and I hear loud gasps from the audience as realization crosses the minds of the guests who knew exactly who this woman was.
She's a Revolutionary.
"One move and the musician dies!" she screams. She presses the knife harder against his throat and, even from a distance, I can see a drop of blood appear at the tip of the blade, his blood the same shade as the woman's hair.
There are more screams and I hear footsteps behind me. I turn just in time to be shove back around, but I caught a glimpse of the people behind me, they are not palace guards. Instead, there are at least a down women, dressed the same as the redhead but with varying hair lengths. More of these deadly women coming to crash the wedding.
And I am almost thankful.
A few of the woman swarm around me. One of them rips the veil out of my hair, making me cry out as hairs are ripped out with it. They grasp my wrists, making me drop my bouquet, and draw them behind my back, tying them together with the veil.
And as soon as my hand are tied, I see a knife come in front of me just before I feel it against my throat.
"One move and your future queen dies!" the woman holding the knife yells to the audience, no one is moving, choosing instead to heed the advice of the knife-wielding woman and staying stock still.
I suddenly wonder why the guards are not stopping them, but get distracted when my fiancée speaks.
"Do not hurt her!" he calls down the aisle, holding a hand out. We are only a few yards away, though he cannot reach me without risking my death. "Please, I'll give you anything you want, but leave her alone."
My potential killer clucked her tongue. "But you see, Jefferson," she said sweetly, "we came here for her."
As if it was a cue, my legs are hoisted into the air by two of the other women and I am being carried back down the aisle.
I scream as loud as I can, twisting, turning, kicking, anything I can to get them to drop me, to get them to fumble a knife or something so I can get away. But they do not. These women are strong and have apparently been building their strength in the he are they have been in hiding,
"Help me!" I scream over and over again, but no one comes to my aid. My father had dropped my arm as soon as the women surrounded us, my sister had been frozen at the front of the chairs, Kimberly crawled into her mother's lap in seconds, and Elena...
Was nowhere to be found.
I am carried out of sight from the guests after a few moments, the women holding me moving quickly. I stop screaming, realizing that it is not helping, and look around, panting from fright. Most of the women are turning back to see if we are being followed; we are not.
"What did you do with my maid?" I ask loudly, still trying to tug my arms from their confinement.
"We should have gagged," one of them says, and another laughs.
"What did you do with Elena?" I yell, jerking out of the grasp of the women who carry me. I fall to the ground with a loud and painful thud. My shoulder and hip zing with the impact, and I try to unfold myself, try to get to my feet quickly, but then they are at me again. This time, one of the masked women - a dark skinned older woman with ear-length hair - rips a section off my train off and ties my legs together, even as I kick out at her.
"Stop fighting," she growls at me. Her and the other two women lift me once more, something that made me wish I weighed more, and beginning running with me. The red headed woman only paused at the front of the pack for a few moments to allow the women carrying me to catch up before she took off again.
I see our destination a few moments later: two black vans hidden between trees. There are two women at the back of each van and they pull the doors open as they see us approach. Their feet are bouncing as they wait for all of us to load into the backs of these windowless vehicles. The three women carrying me take me to the closest van, the same one the redhead climbed into, and nearly throw me to the floor, climbing in after me.
As soon as the last woman is in, the doors slam shut, casting us into darkness.
A small yellow light flickers on just as I feel th van start up. It swivels around the van and I quickly try to count how many rebellious women are around me; there are at least seven, including the woman holding the light.
"Can we take our masks off, Lauren?" one woman complains.
"Yeah," another says. "It's hot in here."
I see the light flick over to the redhead, whose name I now know to be Lauren, as she says, "Why not? The lady there won't be leaving our facilities any time soon."
There are a few cheers and I watch as women drop their masks. Some of them run their hands through their short hair, others wipe sweat off their brow.
These women look normal, which surprises me. I expected them all to have scars or disfigurements, something that made them look different and easily discernible in a crowd.
But they had their reasons for the masks.
I'm breathing heavily from stress as I look around. They never answered my question of what they had done with Elena.
And then I realize why.
My eyes linger on the form of the dark skinned woman. She has also removed her mask and I see her features in the dim light that is shining on the side of the van right beside her.
Then she speaks, and I know for sure."I'm sorry, Tori," Elena says, leaning forward. "But there really is no other way."