My fingers curled around the bunch of flowers as one of the servants pulled at your veil. Out of instinct I let my head go with the pull of my curly brown hair, but another one of the servants cupped my cheeks pulling my face forward so I was looking forward. I didn’t understand the need for five women to be prodding me and making me look ‘perfect’.
One of the women pulled at my skirt, before letting the veil flow down my back and allowing the end to lie on the floor.
Every few moments one of them would comment on my beauty and how they thought you were the perfect image of the bride. Politely I’d thank them before going back to grimacing.
I didn’t want to be here. I was happy. I was happy away from here. I may have been born in Laketown but I didn’t feel at home here.
For years I had lived away from my said ‘home’ but my parents called me back demanding I marry a local man they had organised my arranged marriage for. Even though I had never met the man, I had no choice but to go along with the whole thing.
I had been in Laketown for three days and now I was here, getting ready for my wedding to a stranger.
Soon enough the servants finished poking and prodding me before my Father joined me in the small room smiling at me.
“You look beautiful my darling,” he smiled.
I simply smiled at him as he laced our arms together leading me out of the little room towards the two large doors that lead into the main hall where the actual wedding was being held.
He smiled down at me as my face paled. Was this really happening? Was I really about to be married to a complete stranger. I didn’t even know his name, but I guessed I’d figure that out soon enough.
Before I had a chance to object the doors were opened and everyone in the hall could see my Father and I. Music started.
Each step was small and hesitant, but as we walked down the aisle, I could finally see my soon to be husband.
He was quite tall. His hair was dark brown, almost black, and reached his shoulders in gentle waves. His expression was uneasy, like my own, he seemed scared and nervous, and I couldn’t blame him. I couldn’t deny he was attractive, but I certainly didn’t want to have to marry a stranger, attractive or not.
His eyes raised to look at me and his expression softened. It was clear he was as thrilled to be here as I was, but if his parents were anything like mine were, neither of us had a chance to get out of this.
The walk down the aisle seemed to take longer than expected. Each second of the walk, seemed like hours, and it was painful to know that within minutes I would be married to this man.
Finally we reached the end. My Father took my hand and held it out the man. He hesitated before wrapping his hand around mine, and then took my other hand in his also.
His hands were calloused. I presumed he must have a job involving manual labour, which had resulted in the pads of his fingers to be rough.
I looked up at him, letting our eyes connect. The fear melted instantly from my features as I gave him a reassuring smile. A small smile twitched on his lips, but it was obvious we were both uncertain of this arrangement.
My eyes flickered from his looking over at the people that were here. On my side sat my parents. My Mother’s expression was stern and disapproving as her expression was most of them time. Although I didn’t know why she seemed to disapprove with the arrangement, it was her idea after all. Next to her my Father now sat, his expression was soft but unreadable, I couldn’t tell what he felt or thought but at least it was a warmer expression than that of my Mothers.
Along with them there were many people I recognised as distant relatives and friends of my parents, but really I did not know any of them to the extent I would have actually invited them here myself.
On the other side it was barren. Only a couple sat at the front. I presumed they were his parents. They had soft smiles on their faces and the man had an arm wrapped around the woman. They seemed to love each other, and although they didn’t seem overjoyed, they seemed happy, which was more than I could say about my parents.
The wedding continued until my husband to be recited his name, allowing me to learn his name was Bard. It continued to our ‘I do’s’. Both of us hesitated before saying them but we said them nevertheless.
“You may now kiss the bride.”
We both looked at each other raising our eyebrows. I gripped the fabric at my side, biting down on my lip, unsure of this. We had met merely minutes ago, and they expected us to show intimacy?
He gave me an apologetic smile. His hand rested on my cheek as he leaned in and pressed his lips to mine for a moment, pulling away nearly as quickly as he had leaned in. Like his hands his lips were rough but not unpleasant, just I wasn’t one that enjoyed kissing strangers even if they were now my husband.
Bard stood frozen for a second before gently reaching his hand out to take mine again. I didn’t fight against it, as he held my hand, allowing us both to walk back up the aisle.
Even though nearly everyone in the room was a stranger to us both, they cheered for us as we exited the hall walking out to the carriage my parents had arranged.
Bard opened the door for me, and let me get in first before he slid in next to me closing the door of the carriage.
The carriage began to move leaving us both in silence. It wasn’t a pleasant silent either.
“I’m Ailish, you can call me Aila,” I stated, but quickly realised how stupid it was to introduce myself, “But you know that already. I’m sorry, I really don’t know what I’m supposed to say in this situation.”
He smiled softly.
“It’s okay. I’m Bard. I don’t really know what to say either, it’s not really something I have experienced before, an arranged marriage never seemed to be on my agenda,” he shrugged.
I smiled back.
“Well at least we’re on the same page for this. Why did you agree? Or did your parents not give you a choice?” I asked.
“They wanted me to marry someone of some sort of higher class, and we needed the money. The money your parents gave them, meant they could afford to buy us a home, and they still had enough money to survive with,” he explained.
“My parents paid you?” I questioned, slightly hurt, “Actually that explains a lot of things.”
“You didn’t know money was exchanged?”
“No. I didn’t know I was getting married until two days ago. My Mother called for me to come home, and from her urgency I presumed someone had died.”
Small talk continued until we reached the ballroom, where there would just be more strangers, we had never spoken to before.
My Mother was a distant relative of the Master of Laketown, and was able to get one of the ballrooms owned by him to be used today.
When the carriage arrived Bard exited first before reaching out his hand for me to take. He helped me out of the carriage, before together we walked into the large room that was already bustling with people, none of which I recognised.
Together we walked around awkwardly thanking people for their congratulations.
The woman that had been sat on Bard’s side of the hall, ran over to Bard. She cupped his face, pressing her lips to his cheek, before pulling him into a hug whilst squealing.
“Oh my baby. I can’t believe you are married, you are so grown up,” she grinned, “and your wife, is so beautiful. You two will find great happiness together.”
She smiled at me before throwing her arms around me pulling me into a hug.
“I’m Eibhlin, Bard’s Mother, well now I’m your Mother too. Darling you look so lovely in that dress. I can’t wait to get to know you better, I’ve always wanted a daughter,” she squealed.
“Thank you,” I said, unsure what I could really say to that.
I had never met this woman before, but she seemed nice, overly nice. My arms were constricted in the hug until the woman was pried from me.
“Ma, I think you are overwhelming Aila,” Bard sighed.
“I’m so sorry love,” Eibhlin smiled softly.
The man from the hall joined us, resting a hand on Eibhlin’s shoulder.
“Congratulations son,” he smiled, “I’m Bran, Bard’s Father.”
“Nice to meet you,” I responded.
Together we spoke with his parents for a while. They seemed nice, a bit too friendly and happy, but they clearly loved their son dearly.
Bard was swept away by his parents to go and speak to someone, whilst my parents came and joined me.
“Congrats sweet,” My Father smiled hugging me softly.
My Mother’s expression was still stern.
“Ailish,” she hissed, “you will not mess this up for our family. He is the rightful king of Dale, you do not deserve to marry him, but it will make our family look good. Do not ruin it.”
I frowned at her. Sometimes I wondered what I had done to make her despise me so much, but there would probably never be an answer to that question.
Simply I nodded, before Eibhlin and Bran arrived again telling me about one of their friends I should speak to.
Hours of awkward conversations passed before it was time for us to leave. Bard and I said goodbye before we left. He explained that our home was close by so we were going to walk there. The walk wasn’t too long until we reached a small house.
He opened the door and it revealed an equally small interior. He showed me around although there wasn’t much to see. The entrance level of the house was a dining room with a kitchen on one side of the room also. Then there was a lower level that was the bathroom as well as leading out to the water, with a small boat on it that Bard explained to be his. On the top level was a double bed and not much more, but it lead out onto a balcony.
Once he had shown me around it came to a discussion over sleeping arrangements. I had already kissed this man, and if need be I would have shared a bed with Bard, but really I didn’t want to.
“You can have the bed,” he stated.
“Are you sure? This seems to be more your home than mine, I am fine with sleeping one of the benches at the table,” I smiled softly.
“No it is fine Aila. You can have the bed as long as I can have one of the blankets and one of the pillows.”
I walked over to the bed and grabbed one of the pillows and one of the blankets handing them to him.
“There you go. Thank you Bard,” I said softly.
“Thanks. Goodnight Aila, sleep well,” he said.
He gave me a soft smile, before leaving the room and going back down stairs to where I could only presume he was going to sleep on one of the benches at the table.
I didn’t think it would be comfortable but currently I didn’t particularly want to have to share a bed with him seen as he was still pretty much a stranger, just a stranger I now had to call my husband.
After a moment of thought, I changed out of my white gown and slipped on my night dress. I pulled back the blanket, lied down and let myself fall into a blissful slumber.