Author's Note: So, I really am haunted by the picture of Suze and Jesse getting married in an empty church. I wrote this story at the same time as I wrote "A Doc's Eye View" and then struggled with which to put up first. For those who are paying attention to these things, this is "Will I Ever See Thee Wed" from Suze's point of view.
Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose
Will I ever see thee wed?
I will marry at thy will, sire,
At thy will
Ding dong, ding dong,
Wedding bells on an April morn
Carve your name on a moss-covered stone, dear
A moss-covered stone
Rose Rose writer unknown
The church is nearly empty inside and outside, I can hear the bells of the mission ring out twelve times. Normal people, I can't help but think, would not get married at midnight. But then, I've never been normal, have I? If I was, I certainly wouldn't be doing this.
I'm walking down the aisle with my father next to me. Classic bride, right? Yeah, not so much. I love Dad, but he's been dead since I was kid. Despite that, there was no denying him this trip down the aisle. Sure, I love my step-dad, Andy, but Dad says this has been his day ever since that time he went and read Jesse the riot act for living in my room. Besides, it's not like Andy has ever met Jesse, or can even see him for that matter. So explaining why I wanted him to walk me down the aisle would take awhile. This is just easier, even if Dad is still in his jogging outfit from all those years ago.
My father is silent as he walks me down the aisle, and I know some of it at least is disapproval. This is so not the wedding he pictured for me. But he's gotten to know Jesse over the years, and I think Dad respects him at least. Okay, maybe they aren't going to be best friends, but I'm an adult and this is the man I want. Dad can cope. Dads do it every day.
The dress I got was cheap, a sale at David's Bridal, and already, I don't have a clue as to what I'll do with it after this night. I can't sell it, it's my wedding gown, but where can I possibly find in my tiny apartment to hide it? It's beautiful though, a soft sweep of white, scattered with pearls and a short train that swishes softly as I walk. No veil, and I was sad about it, but who knew they were so expensive? No, this was the best I could afford. I had apologized in advance to Jesse for the simplicity of my wedding clothes. Jesse, being Jesse and therefore the most perfect guy ever, told me that, no matter how I was dressed, he could imagine no sight more beautiful than me, walking towards him, ready to be married. Boy, was that the right answer. I almost went out to buy some sackcloth and ashes.
Speaking of perfection, Jesse is already standing by Father Dominic, who looks nervous and disapproving of this all. It had taken months to talk him in to this ceremony, and I still thought that it had been Jesse who had finally talked him into it, probably by explaining in no uncertain terms the consequences of not marrying us. The good priest did not want to think of us living in sin any more than Jesse did. Father Dom has reminded me, over and over, that this wedding is not legal according to California law, but all Jesse had cared about was the assurance of the church, and all I wanted was what he wanted. This church wedding meant the world to him. He is, he assures me, a proper gentleman and wants for me no less than I deserve. His name, his ring, his solemn promise before God.
David is standing beside Jesse, despite the fact he only has Father Dominic's and my assurances that Jesse is here at all. When Father Dominic had told us we would each need a witness to sign on the marriage certificate, Jesse had picked David without a thought, saying he had always liked the youngest of my stepbrothers the best. David looks scared but resolute, the same way he had looked three years ago, when he first offered to give up his room for me, because mine was haunted. I knew that when he signed the certificate after the marriage, his hand would shake from nerves.
Cee Cee is walking before me, careful, measured steps sounding with the music playing from the small CD player Father Dom had plugged in. No bridesmaid dress for her, she's simply wearing the same formal she wore to Senior Prom, back in May. She's a lot calmer and happier than David, but then, she's had longer to get used to the idea of Jesse and I being romantically involved. She's all caught up in the romance of this and could care less that my fiancé is dead. "You're getting married!" she had squealed happily when I told her the news and nothing had changed that first, heartfelt response. Cynical as she acts about love, Cee Cee is a romantic at heart, and this marriage pulls all her strings.
Jesse, of course, looks the same as he always does. It's not like he can change clothes and put on a tuxedo for the occasion. Doesn't matter to me, though, since the way he always looks is incredibly hot. I cannot believe a guy this good looking, not to mention kind and clever and wonderful, had fallen for me, wanted to marry me, boring Suze Simon. I mean, it's not like I can do anything exciting, just talk to the dead. And man, are they boring sometimes. Well, present company excluded.
When I reached the alter, I turned to face Jesse and Cee Cee bent to fix my small train, even though there was no one in the church to see it. No cameras either, not even video. What would they record? Me in a wedding gown, standing with my friend and my brother, being married by a Catholic priest to the thin air? No, I'll have to remember this day all on my own. The way Jesse stares at me in my dress, his first time seeing it because we were feeling old fashioned, and have not seen each other once this day before now. The way I shiver from happiness and expectation when he turns those dark eyes on me. Tonight, I will be his wife.
I'm sure it seems strange to Cee Cee and David, the silence after Father Dom asked us to repeat our vows, the way the ring, a plain, gold band I had brought myself, because not even in California do the jewelry stores sell things to dead guys, floated as if by magic to my ring finger. Tomorrow, I'll wear it on a chain around my neck, the better to avoid awkward questions the sudden appearance of a wedding ring would cause. I have no ring for Jesse. Not only did men not wear them when he was alive, I know from exorcising myself that it would be as heavy as a shackle on his hand and that's not exactly the symbol of love that I want. Oh, baby, be my love slave. Yeah, very much not me.
I hear Jesse just fine as he repeats his vows in a voice that shakes from emotion. I hear him say that he will love me in sickness and in health, that he will forsake all others for me, and it's all I can do not to cry. This is a happy day. I'm not crying, no matter how much waterproof mascara I've put on. Jesse is smiling the biggest smile I've ever seen and I know, looking at that grin, that if I live to 100, I could never be happier than I am right at this moment. David and Cee Cee, I know, are simply taking my word for it that Jesse is here, that he's real, that he is agreeing to be my husband. But they hear me just fine as I repeat my vows, and I've been practicing, whispering the words over and over to myself as I imagined this day, so my voice doesn't shake at all. And then Father Dom is saying how, what God has put together this day, let no man tear asunder, and I feel a shiver go down my spine at the power of those words. What God has put together, let no man tear asunder. I do believe our love was a gift from a higher power. Why else would Jesse have lingered so long outside of his final resting place? No, this is right, this is perfect. This is it. This is forever, with the man I was destined to love. I used to fight with fate, but those days are past.
When Father Dom tells Jesse he may now kiss his bride, I lean into my new husband's mouth, cool and tasteless, and if anything, I feel even more delighted. It's like little bubbles of joy are bursting in my bloodstream. This morning, l moved from my beautiful room with the window seat, the place where I first met Jesse three years ago, and tonight, he will move from the rectory he moved to when he finally realized he could no longer stay in my room any longer and not be tempted. I remember our first kiss, in that room, and how I thought I couldn't love him more than I did then. Wow, was I wrong. I love him more now than I ever believed was possible back when we first kissed. Every day I love him more. It's like a living thing, this love.
I sign the marriage certificate first, and step back to look at my new name, the only time I will call myself Susannah DeSilva, written confidentially on the paper, a name I have practiced a hundred, a thousand times. Jesse takes the pen and signs his name in the careful writing of his time, a perfect script, devoid of personality and yet somehow, so Jesse, because who else writes like that these days? Cee Cee goes next, giggling a little, and finally David, and I see I was right about his signature. It's all staggered and nervous looking, barely reaching the line. Father Dom signs last, with a deep sigh; you can almost read his frustration in the letters of his name. I don't care if he disapproves. Jesse is the only man I will ever love, making this the only marriage I will ever want.
We share just one dance at the church, something slow from Jesse's time that I had found after weeks of searching music stores both real and virtual. Even though I know from the looks on Cee Cee and David's face that I look strange, moving through the steps of this waltz by myself, I can feel Jesse's hand guiding my back, moving me carefully through the steps, his other hand held firmly in mine. I can feel the smooth skin at the back of his neck where my other hand rests, his crisp hair tickling the back of my hand. He's skin is cool to the touch, but it always has been and I've never minded. His eyes are intent on mine as we dance, and lit with a joy I've never seen before. David, Cee Cee, and Father Dom are sharing the small cake I brought. I don't throw my bouquet before I leave, because there's only Cee Cee to catch it. Nope, I just hold it out to her and she takes it, a nervous grin on her face and a giggle in her voice. She doesn't want to think about marriage yet; there's no Jesse in her life. Jesse and I had already decided to pass on the garter toss. Jesse is too much a gentleman to slide his hands up under my dress in front of witnesses. Not to mention, he had been waiting for this night for three years, and even I wondered if he had enough control to stop what would be started by that little action.
Hand in hand, Jesse and I step out into the cool and foggy night air. I had chosen today to move into the small apartment I would be living in for my two years of community college so that Jesse and I could have our wedding night there. My car, small and battered, stands outside the church, free of "Just Married" signs and trailing cans, just a regular car. I wouldn't have minded a sign, the honks I would've gotten from the cars we drove by, but how stupid would I look, driving by myself with that sign on the car? The night sky is almost as dark as Jesse's eyes, and when I look into them, I am so lost I forget all about empty churches and missing signs. Jesse is all I need. He is all I ever needed.
"What now?" I ask him, reaching into my clutch for keys. I think I might be shaking now, and not just because the night air is as cold as it ever is in Carmel.
"Why, querida," and Jesse's voice is, if anything, even softer and silkier than usual, "we go home," and there is a promise in his eyes that he's been waiting for years to keep. And the rest of the story... well, you'll just have to use your imagination.