The Bridesmaid's Dillemma
By Ekai Ungson
Disclaimer: Card Captor Sakura copyright CLAMP Kodansha. Characters used without permission.
Second in a two-part miniseries.
"Kinomoto I'd be really honored if you'd come to my wedding."
"Sure, Li-kun. I'd be glad to."
The wedding had been a smashing success. The garden that had been rented out was crawling with people from all parts of the world. Some of them Sakura knew personally. She took a sip of champagne, disgusted at the tameness of the alcohol.
Tomoyo-chan had come, too, along with Eriol-kun. Actually, only Tomoyo-chan had received an invitation but Eriol-kun tagged along anyway, and the Li family seemed to be too afraid of him to boot him out so they could do nothing about his presence. She rather liked the fact that Eriol intimidated them, and Eriol was here with her. It prevented a few people from asking unwanted questions.
She had agreed to this duty because she felt that she owed it to Li-kun, and because she was his friend and friends were important. When Li-kun had asked her to come to the event, he looked so nervous he looked about ready to faint. It was only her duty, of course, that she go, if not for the fact of their friendship then as Card Mistress.
She watched as the newly married Syaoran and Hanano made their rounds of the tables. She watched as the bride smiled and blushed as Syaoran kissed her on the cheek. Happiness, that was what this was. True happiness.
She looked up and saw that the couple had made their way to her table. Syaoran nodded to Eriol-kun, Tomoyo-chan, Yamazaki-kun, Chiharu-san, and Naoko-san, seated beside her around the table.
"How do you like the food so far?" Hanano asked.
Sakura smiled. "The whole thing's impeccable, Hanano-san. Thank you for inviting us."
"It was no trouble at all," replied Syaoran. "Well, we must get a move on—we'll talk to you later. Thanks for coming, everyone."
The table chorused their agreement and the couple moved on.
Sakura watched as the couple made their obligatory rounds, followed by photographers and cameramen, a spotlight trained on them at all times. The newlyweds smiled and preened with various people for the camera, laughed and smiled and was generally happy. This event was a happy one, it signaled the union of two hearts that could not be severed.
"Are you all right, Sakura-chan?" asked Tomoyo. Tomoyo, the ever-perceptive best friend. If this were her wedding and her day to be had, Tomoyo would've done the arrangements to make sure that everything went perfect (and you have never seen perfect until you see it the Daidouji way). Tomoyo would've made her dress, would've followed her wherever she went to chronicle her special day.
But this was not her special day and this was not her time.
"I'm fine, Tomoyo-chan," she replied.
On the far side of the lawn, the Li family sat in a table surveying the surroundings. The Li matron, Yelan, was flanked by her four daughters, all dressed in various shades of light blue, as was the motif of the wedding. Hanano-san's favorite color was light blue, and so the whole place looked like a piece of the sky, light blue curtains, flowers, dresses, tablecloths, people.
Then Yelan-sama looked at her. Really looked at her. She stared back at the penetrating glance, almost afraid to look directly, though not willing to look away.
"Your eyes tell no lies, Ying Fa."
"Your every emotion makes itself known in your eyes. You are sometimes, too honest for your own good."
Then Yelan gestured to the butler, Wei-san. Sakura watched as the elderly man nodded and then walked away from his mistress. Then Yelan herself walked away. Sakura all thought this very strange.
She jumped when a hand tapped on her shoulder. It was Wei.
How did he do that? Sakura thought in shock. "Wei-san?"
"The lady wants to see you, young mistress," said the butler. Sakura's eyes narrowed. What would Yelan want of her? She let Wei lead her away. Lead her to the back, the secret place where the family studied the ancient arts. The gazebo, the place overlooking the rest of the city.
"Young mistress? This way," said the butler in a solemn voice. Sakura followed the path that the man indicated.
At the end of the path was a roofed enclosure, where the Li matron stood.
She bowed in reverence and felt the familiar slender hand of the woman under her chin, raising her face to look into her eyes.
"Li-sama," she whispered solemnly.
"Sakura, you've no need for honorifics with me. That you know well," said Yelan. "Long ago, I have told you to call me Mother."
"That title is not fit for me to use now," Sakura said, looking away. "That name you gave for me to use when Syaoran and I engaged. As you can see, it is not that way now." She sighed. "Your son has married another. And a good woman she is."
"Yes, of that I'm much aware," said the lady. "Hanano is wonderful; she is respectful and she makes my son smile. Not," she paused here, "of course, in the way that you have, the way that you do, but he is happy, even if that happiness is done with only half a heart to carry it."
Sakura breathed in sharply, and then she turned to look back up at the blue, blue sky. How vividly blue it was, on the most perfect day of the life of the girl that wasn't her. "I am happy for them," she said instead.
"Yes, you are, even if you are exactly like my Xiao Lang—happy with only half a heart behind it." Yelan smiled. "Your eyes betray you, Ying Fa, as they have always done." The matron touched her shoulder, and Sakura felt as if she were eleven again, and she remembered those secret words given her by the mother of a boy she loved some time ago as she kissed her cheek—
Great things may be expected from you, Card Keeper, she had said, and your destiny forever intertwined with my son's.
It was that prophecy she had held to her heart at times when she thought it would break. It was that prophecy unfulfilled that she had often questioned.
"I know not of the circumstances that have led you to this path, Ying Fa," said Yelan. "And I know not of the events that led my son to deviate from the path you shared. Yet I somehow understand that it must have been something large, and infinite, and unforgivable."
Sakura shook her head violently. "Not unforgivable, not that, Mother," she said. She barely noticed that she had called the woman Mother'. "I forgive him, as he has forgiven me," she whispered. "It is forgetting that I cannot do"
Yelan nodded, as if she understood, and maybe the lady did. "Sometimes to forget is harder. Memory cannot be erased, only clouded."
Sakura then turned to the woman who could've been her mother and asked, "I have always believed—and never questioned—that Syaoran and I were meant for each other, were bound with ties older than the world itself. Yet, this, here, exists, this here has happened. Syaoran and I are not bound to each other any longer. And I wonder—is destiny false?" She felt as if she were eleven again, without a clue in the world, without a semblance of the knowledge of pain or sorrow or suffering.
Yelan sighed. "Destiny is never false, Sakura. But it can be changed. Every—"
"—decision we make changes the future. Every move we decide on rearranges fate. I know that, Mother. I know that. But if Syaoran and I really were meant to be together, then no matter what choices we made, no matter what path I took, it would still lead me to where he was. Yet" the girl trailed off. "Yet today he has promised himself bound to a girl—a girl that isn't me."
Yelan put an arm around her, silent.
"I'm happy for them, Mother," Sakura whispered. "I really am, and I don't understand it myself—How can I feel so much happiness at this, Mother? Is it because I have been so blind to hate or anger that I have no knowledge of using them? Is it because I am so terribly forgiving?"
"That, Daughter, I will not know. Only you have the answers to your questions." Yelan turned the girl's face towards hers and was surprised to see that no tears shone at their edges.
"Mistresses," came the voice of the elder butler. "The throwing of the bouquet is about to commence. All single young ladies are requested to be there."
Yelan opened her mouth to tell Wei no', but Sakura stood up and went to the old man. She took two steps away before turning back.
"They will worry if I am not there," she said simply. And she walked away.
Yelan stared after the girl who could have been her daughter for a long, long time.
Xiao Lang and her are twin stars, borne of the same light, thought the lady. They shine with the same radiance. Yet, ancestors, I must ask why you chose not to unite these two pinpricks of light, when they are so very meant for each other?
The ancestors did not reply.
Outside the enclosure, the women milled around as the bride took her perch in the house balcony. She threw them all a radiant smile.
One bridesmaid could not find the heart to smile back.
Loud cheers and hoots could be heard from all corners. The bride turned around and hoisted her bouquet of white roses high above her head. The women squealed and screamed.
With great force the bride threw the bouquet down to the scrambling women.
And one of them stood up, triumphant.
Next, the groom, amid much catcalls, took the garter from his wife's thigh and hoisted it high above his head. The bridesmaid could see that he was slightly intoxicated from all the liquor he had consumed.
The groom took his place on the balcony. The men yelled and jeered.
The groom threw the garter behind him.
And the bridesmaid felt one thin sliver of magic, one small sliver of power, and recognized it at once as one of her friends' own. She strained to look—
And sure enough, the victor was Eriol.
It was then that the bridesmaid understood that though fate was truth, though destiny was truth, human beings had to understand—
People make their own destinies.
Knowing this, the bridesmaid went to the table she had shared with her friends and picked up her purse. She turned to look back at her best friend and the man she was purportedly getting married to some time in the future and smiled.
Then she turned her gaze towards the newlyweds, laughing as they looked on.
And she understood.
People chose where they wanted to be, and where they wanted Life to take them.
She walked out of the garden, out of the estate, out to her car. She got in and drove away.
All was clear now.
And it was truly, blessedly, over.
She looked up at the sky and realized then how very light it was.
A/N: I would like to thank the fans for actually going out and finishing this little arc, and for having the patience (and the gumption) to get themselves through this angst ride. For my Oneesama, for input, and the imouto-tachi, for support, and for the Pantheon as well. These pieces were written with you all in mind.
Again, from my heart, thank you.