Adam woke the next morning but did not open his eyes right away, trying to understand the bubble of excitement that welled up in his chest. He took the moments of confusion to stretch, allowing his mind to catch up with his heart and smiled broadly as he realized this was the day he would finally marry Belle. Though he should have immediately gotten up to get ready for the day, he lingered a moment or two, smiling bemusedly as he wondered what the day would bring. He tried to picture what Belle might look like in her mother's wedding dress she refused to show him, but his imagination failed him. With a frustrated sigh, he finally rose and dressed in an informal linen shirt and trousers. The wedding was still hours away and he did not relish the idea of being in his rather uncomfortable suit more than he had to.
Though he wanted nothing more than to go down to breakfast with Belle, he knew that it would bring bad luck to do so, so he simply summoned Cogsworth. The plump, flustered man came moments later with Adam's breakfast and news of his bride.
"She's eating breakfast with her father in the small dining room," he began.
"How did she look? Did she say anything?" Adam asked quickly, wondering if Belle felt as nervous as he did.
"She—" Cogsworth paused and for a moment Adam began to fear for the worst. "She seems to be so very happy, sire," he continued with a wide grin. "You have nothing to fear. As a matter of fact, she asked that I tell you 'good morning' and that she is very eager to see you."
Adam found more pleasure than perhaps he should have from a simple message, but he could not stop the grin that spread across his face. "Thank you, Cogsworth."
"Is there a reply?" he pressed.
"You're actually volunteering to send messages back and forth now?" Adam asked, astounded Cogsworth had offered such a thing.
"Oh, just this once, Master," Cogsworth replied and Adam inwardly smiled.
"Well, if you're sure, tell Belle. . .tell her. Tell her I'll see her soon," he finished lamely. There was so much he would've liked to say instead, but not through Cogsworth.
"Very well, Master," he agreed and left, though Adam did not miss the amused smirk on Cogsworth's face.
Belle wished her father would have stayed with her that morning, but directly after breakfast he returned to his workroom, saying he wanted to fix a few things before the hubbub of the day started. So she was left to pass the time until Estelle would inevitably bustle her off to get ready for her wedding. Her wedding! She elated at the knowledge that in a few hours she would be at her wedding, marrying Adam.
When she first moved to the village from Paris, she had almost hated her father for taking her away from her best chances to have an adventure. A small village didn't seem like any place to find the adventure she dreamed of, to live the exciting life she could then only experience through her books. But she was wrong, so very, gloriously wrong. She had found more wonders than she had ever imagined truly possible: an enchantment in a mysterious castle, a strange, heartsore creature, new friends who cared for her as she did them, and a powerful love she thought only existed in books.
It was certainly not the adventure she had anticipated; it had really become more than she imagined.
Coming out of her thoughts, Belle decided it would be best to revisit some of those old stories, the better to distract herself from the nervous bubble of excitement that had started to grow in her chest. So she curled herself up onto her favorite window seat with King Arthur and dove into its pages, every so often recalling fondly her Beast's reaction when she first read it to him.
"There you are!" Estelle's voice broke into King Arthur's world some time later and Belle smiled, knowing it was only a matter of time before she was found. "We've got to get going if you want to make it to your wedding on time!"
"I'm coming," she said, suppressing a giggle at Estelle's frantic attitude. As Estelle fairly dragged her back to her room to prepare, Belle couldn't help the bubble of excitement that grew inside her with every step she took, knowing that in a matter of hours she would be standing before Adam to become his wife.
Mrs. Potts was waiting for them in Belle's room, as Belle had anticipated. What she had not expected was to see Babette there as well.
"Bonjour, Mistress!" the young maid exclaimed when Belle entered. "Is this not exciting? You are to at last be married!" Belle agreed and embraced the excited woman. "I am so glad to be here with you all!" Babette continued. "I absolutely adore weddings! Thank you for allowing me to help you, Mistress!" Belle smiled at Babette's evident eagerness and set aside the fact that she could not actually remember asking for Babette's help.
Before she was ready to hand herself over to the three women, Belle turned to where her wedding gown now hung on the wardrobe's door, eager for a look at the finished product that had been delivered while she was in the library that morning. The castle's seamstresses had done a magnificent job bringing her mother's dress back to life. Folded in the trunk for years, it had become quite faded and very much out of fashion. Belle was convinced that some sort of magic had been worked into the gown to bring it to such beauty.
The white gown, which had once been a rather simple thing with little in the way of embellishments, had been altered to now befit a princess. The full skirt had been layered underneath with new fabric and fluffed back to life, just surpassing the girth of skirt of Belle's yellow gown. The skirt's hem, which Belle was glad to see was no grander than her yellow gown which would allow her to dance better, was lined with silver ribbon. The seam where the bodice met the skirt, coming to a point in the front, was also lined with a silver ribbon. A sheer, silver fabric was gathered below her shoulders in a similar style with the yellow gown, but the silver fabric continued to gather at the center of the bodice with a small cluster of pearls at their meeting point. A bolt of the sheer fabric also draped over the white skirt, tucked and inlaid with small diamonds at its hem, giving the illusion that her gown was sparkling silver. It was too lovely: a dress meant for a fairy or a princess rather than for a simple village girl.
"Come now, love," Mrs. Potts said, drawing Belle out of her thoughts as she felt the woman's hands on her shoulders. "You should have a bath, then we'll help dress your hair." Belle did as she was bid, turning away from the fairy dress to enter her washroom.
She lingered in the warm water that was waiting for her perhaps longer than she should have, making sure to scrub every speck of garden soil from under her fingernails. She would not give any of the nobles cause to say she was not fit to stand beside Adam, not this day of all days. For what seemed the hundredth time, she suppressed the awful thought that perhaps she should not be marrying Adam; she was only a village girl, after all. A mere peasant. What claim did she have on a Prince? Was all this only because she was the one to break the enchantment? She shook her head, suppressing those horrible thoughts once more, but they were getting harder to ignore.
When she was sufficiently scrubbed, her skin pink from her efforts, she dried herself off and took a deep breath, preparing herself for the chaos that was about to unfold with the combined efforts of Estelle, Babette, and Mrs. Potts to prepare Belle for the wedding.
Some time later, Belle had been primped and petted over more than she thought she could stand, but the result was rather astonishing. Estelle had done Belle's hair quite similar to how it had been dressed for Belle's first dance with the Beast, except now there was a silver band in her hair rather than one of gold and atop her head rested a delicate silver tiara. It was wondrously ornate item, the silver twisted and curved around itself, holding several diamonds and pearls in its embrace. Belle had tried to object to wearing it, saying that she was not yet a princess and did not deserve such a thing.
"It's customary that the bride of nobility does wear one, my dear," Mrs. Potts insisted. "And it does look gorgeous on you. The Master would be pleased if you wore it."
"We shouldn't keep spoiling him by giving him what he wants, you know," she protested amiably, but kept the tiara where it was.
A knock at the door paused Belle's preparations and Babette opened the door to reveal Louis, of all people.
"Louis!" Belle exclaimed, happily surprised at the sight of the old gardener.
"Bonjour, Belle," he greeted and Belle smiled, glad that he was one of the few who still called her by her name. "Lumiere put me in charge of your bouquet and, well here," Louis continued and held out a lovely bouquet of flowers.
"Oh, Louis they're beautiful!" Belle exclaimed and took the bouquet to examine it. It was made up primarily of a striking blue flower, morning glories perhaps, dotted with small white lilies that had barely begun to open. As Belle looked closer, however, she noticed at the center of the bouquet, hidden beneath the dominant layer of blue and white, was a deep red rose. "Oh, Louis," she breathed and caressed the hidden rose gently; it was a rose that had led Belle and Adam through their adventures together, both the enchanted one and the ones that grew in the garden where Adam proposed to her. It was fitting that she should carry one with her today.
Before Louis could stop her, Belle bent to embrace him. "Thank you so much," she said as she wrapped her arms around his stiff figure. He was clearly surprised by her reaction, but Belle felt his hand gently pat her back.
"Good luck today," he said as she finally released him. And without another word, Louis left again, closing the door behind him.
"I'll put this somewhere safe while you finish getting ready, Mistress," Babette offered and took the bouquet from Belle's hands.
"Thank you," she replied and watched after her little bundle of flowers for a moment before turning at last to put on her wedding gown, her heart beating furiously.
Adam's fingers fumbled nervously over the buttons of his coat: a handsome, silk garment of a blue so pale it seemed to be almost a white sort of silver.
"You'll be fine, Master," Cogsworth insisted as he smoothed out Adam's collar for him.
"Oui, Master. You have already earned Belle's love. Now all you must do now is claim it for the world to know!" Lumiere added grandly. Adam smiled at the words that were meant to embolden him, but he was far too nervous for them to do much good. This was a terror like nothing he had ever felt before; the only time he had come even close to feeling like this was the night he first danced with Belle in the ballroom, the night he finally decided to tell Belle how he truly felt about her. For all his excitement at the idea of sharing his first formal evening with Belle, he was twice as nervous at the thought of it. But now, at the brink of a new passage of his life, the excitement and fear now coiled up in his stomach until he hardly knew which way was up.
He wished he could talk to Belle before the ceremony, hear the kind, calming words she might speak to him. But of course that was impossible, so he simply had to trust that all would be well. After everything they had been through, it simply had to be. Adam glanced at the image of himself in the mirror one last time; he had gotten more or less used to seeing the man reflected back at him but it still took him a moment to remind himself that he was that man. He didn't know what image to expect instead, certainly not that of the Beast's, but somehow the image he saw was not quite his own.
"Are you ready, Master?" Cogsworth asked, provoking Adam into turning away from the mirror. "We should be nearly ready to start now."
"Y-yes," he replied uncertainly, trying and failing to find his bravery.
"Would it help if you used the mirror?" Lumiere suggested, motioning to the small hand mirror Adam had not touched since the enchantment was broken. He wasn't even sure if it still worked, but the idea of seeing Belle now was nearly irresistible.
"That's cheating, Lumiere," Adam said, wanting more than anything to catch a glimpse of her, to reassure himself that this was all quite real. Lumiere grinned sheepishly and said nothing further. "I wish I could talk to her though, just for a moment, just to. . . I don't know." Adam trailed off and told himself he was acting like a child. He would see Belle in a matter of minutes when they stood side by side to be married.
A sudden knock at the door sent his already nervous heart nearly flying through his chest.
"Who is it?" Cogsworth asked, his voice full with confusion as he walked towards the doors.
"It's me," Belle's voice called, muffled behind the thick wood. "Don't open the door but . . . could I talk to Adam for a moment?"
"We shall be downstairs, Master," Lumiere said and all but pushed Cogsworth out the door to make a hasty exit. Adam heard Lumiere exclaim 'Oh, la la!' as he undoubtedly caught sight of Belle, but the door shut before Adam could be tempted to peak.
"Adam?" Belle's voice called again and he quickly stepped up to the door, all but pressing himself into it as if he could slip through the solid wood to the girl on the other side.
"Belle, is everything all right?" he asked quickly, afraid of why she might be seeking him out now.
"Yes. I just—I just wanted to talk to you. I've missed you and. . .well I'm a little nervous," she confessed. Adam put his hand to the door, wishing he could embrace her.
"I am, too," he admitted. "But it's just you and me," he continued, finding that his confidence was somehow growing in the light of Belle's nervousness. She had always been the one to comfort him, to be calm and understanding when he was confused or worried. Now it was his turn to comfort her at last. "Belle, I love you. This whole thing is bigger than either of us wanted, I know. But all that matters, all that's important, is that we love each other. We'll belong to each other after this; I think we already do, but now everyone will know it. And then we can travel the world and you can have the adventures you've always dreamed of."
"I know I'm being silly," her voice said after a moment. "But you're not. . . not just marrying me because I'm the one who broke the enchantment?"
"No," Adam answered quickly, almost growing angry that Belle should have thought such a thing. "Belle, no. We fell in love with each other, and that's why the enchantment broke. It was not because of the curse that I fell in love with you. It had nothing to do with that. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I do. I'm sorry, I know this is ridiculous. . ."
"It's not ridiculous. Belle. . ." Frustrated with the door at last, Adam opened it, just a few inches, and extended his hand towards the woman who had been his strength for so long and now at last needed him. His heart leapt as he felt Belle's hand slip into his own, felt her lips kiss his palm. Carefully, he reached up blindly until he cupped Belle's cheek, so soft and warm beneath his fingers.
"I love you," he heard her say, her voice clearer through the gap in the door.
"I love you, too," he replied wholeheartedly. One more kiss to his fingers and she released his hand. He reluctantly pulled back, but did not close the door.
"I'll see you soon, then," she said and Adam was pleased to hear a more merry tone in her voice. "Don't peek, now."
"I won't," he promised and listened to the rustle of her skirts as she made her way back down the hall. When the sound had disappeared, he waited another five full minutes before daring to venture forwards at last.
Belle met her father in a small antechamber beside the chapel doors where they might have a few minutes alone while the rest of the guests filed into their seats. She stood nervously alone in the chamber, twisting her fingers together until her father came in at last.
"Oh my. Belle, you're. . .you're so beautiful," her father exclaimed as he entered. He had come in to the room far enough for Mrs. Potts to close the door behind him with a warm smile in Belle's direction, but seemed to be unable to move any further.
"You look very handsome, Papa," she commented, amused by her father's reaction and equally taken aback by it. Her observation was true, though; her father wore a rich, midnight blue suit that was unlike anything Belle had ever seen him in and he looked proud wearing it.
Her father still seemed to be unable to say anything else to her, but moved forward at last and took hold of her hands. Belle could hardly withstand the emotion in her father's eyes; he had always been a loving, adoring father, but what Belle saw now was beyond anything she was accustomed to. There were tears in his eyes as he gazed at her with what Belle could see was a mixture of pride, love, excitement, and a little bit of sorrow as well.
"Your mother would be so proud of you," he said at last, giving her hands a gentle squeeze.
"I wish Maman was here," she confessed, feeling tears begin to well in her own eyes. Just for today, Belle would want to know that her mother was happy with Belle's decision. Belle wanted her Maman to see her off on this important journey, this new chapter in her life.
"I know she would be so happy," Papa assured her, his voice thick with emotion. "She wanted you to find someone who loved your soul as we do. I know it would have pleased her that you found Adam."
"Thank you, Papa," she said and embraced him, feeling the warmth of his love radiate into her. It meant so much that he should approve of Adam, and meant just as much that Maman might approve of him as well.
"Now," Papa said, pushing her gently away and sniffing into a handkerchief. "I think it's about time to start. Shall we get ready?" Belle nodded, suddenly unsure of her own ability to speak, and followed her father out of the antechamber and towards the closed chapel doors.
Belle couldn't stop shaking as she stepped up to the rather intimidating doors of the chapel. It was the first time she could recall shaking in such pure excitement, and it was making it rather difficult to stand. Don't be silly. This is Adam; you've seen him nearly every day for months now. He is the one you love! she told herself. She tried to remember the conversation they had through the door of the West Wing just a few minutes ago. She could no longer keep at bay her worries that this all might be because of the enchantment and could do nothing but seek out Adam. She could tell he was nervous about this as well, as she thought he might be, but she was grateful for his words of encouragement. Still, her hands insisted on shaking, so she pictured herself sitting in the library with Adam, serenely reading a book to him as he listened. Picturing the two of them together like that calmed her and gave her the strength to step forward and place her hand in her father's arm.
His other hand came up to cover hers where it rested on his arm and Belle looked down to meet her father's eyes. She was unsurprised, yet shaken anew when she saw that there were tears in his eyes and a warm smile on his lips. She felt tears well in her own eyes and released her father's arm only to gently pull him into a tight embrace. "Oh, Papa," she started, but couldn't manage anything else through her emotion-filled throat. She held onto her father for an extra moment until she was able to banish her own tears. It wouldn't do for a bride to cry her way down the aisle, though they'd be tears of nothing less than pure joy. When she straightened up, she had full control of herself again and was eager to make her way down to Adam. Her father smiled and placed her hand back on his arm and together they faced the doors.
Two footmen Belle knew well stood before them, Jasper and Victor, and made ready to open the doors. Belle looked down at her bouquet, the sight of the rose in its center giving her a tiny bit of strength for her to hold on to. She took one last steadying breath, unconsciously tightening her grip on her father's arm as the doors that separated her from Adam finally began to open.