Disclaimer: I don't own any characters except Irbis and several innocent short-lived bystanders; everything else is Marvel's only.

Chapter 6

The Wedding

There's a baby yellin' its lungs out behind me, and a gang o' women's cooin' the lil' critter inta yellin' higher. Ta my left, three kids are wrestlin' 'round a table fer ten people, havin' already toppled the two wine glasses on it, while tryin' ta catch one another. In front o' me, there's two fat old women, their faces red from too much wine, hoppin' 'round with one another like two pigs, pretendin' ta be dancin' to a stupid foreign popular song. Behind them, there's tens o' people hoppin' 'round just in the same way.

There's a bump in my chair and my hand shots out, claws already bared, to the gigglin' piggy tailed brat who spent two hours yappin' 'bout the big-bad-giant-sittin'-at-the-table. Unfortunately for me, somebody lifted her up just in time and I didn't get ta snap her neck.

What am I doing here?

This is all Irbis fault. I'm gonna snap HER neck the moment I gets my hands on her. That's what I gonna do. And where is she anyways? The baby behind me is startin' ta yell again. I didn't even notice it stoppin', and it's already squealin' like crazy. I'm getting' a headache and I'm gonna kill them all fer it.

Why did I come ta Newark? Why?

There's a lil' voice in my head sayin' it's my fault, that I wanted her ta feel free and pleased so she wouldn't get suicidal again, but I throttle it: I know full well it's Irbis's fault. She's the one who tricked me inta comin' here. Yeah, that's what happened. She tricked me inta goin' 'round the country ta see the blasted sights and Falls and what not, an' she tricked me inta comin' here. I knew I shoulda gone straight ta Wausau from New York, I knew it! But the girl just had ta come ta Newark an' get some crappy Portuguese smoked meat and some shitty Portuguese wine. I don't even like this crap they call wine. Hell, I don't even like wine. I like beer! That's what I like: beer. And that does it. I gulp down the rest o' the red stuff in my glass and call fer the waiter. He don't take long: good fer him.

"Another bottle of wine?"

"Wine? Ya call this crap wine? It tastes like shit and I wanna proper BEER. Got it? Now get movin'"

He frowns and I almost wish he starts yappin' so I can have an excuse ta end this hellish party once an' fer all. But he holds his breath, grabs the two empty wine bottles and leaves.

Everythin' was goin' so well and smoothly. I got ta New York, delivered the hard disk, got paid… nice and smooth. And then Newark. After all, how bad could it be? Serves me right ta let the girl run the show. And is she gonna pay fer it! I got her ta Newark, I found her the Portuguese community... and how does she pay me back? She double-crosses me an' gets me ta bring her ta this blasted wedding! Oh, but is she gonna pay.

"Your beer, sir."

"'S about time."

I grab the two beers he brought and start drinkin'. The waiter disappears ta where he came from: goin' 'bout the room pesterin' people fer more orders, fillin' up empty glasses. Everybody's so cheerful and happy, it makes me wanna puke. At least there was no church ceremony! Well, there was, but Irbis didn't wanna attend. She was busy talkin' ta the musicians who was gonna play during the reception. And that's why I'm here. 'Cause I'm stupid! This guy she talked to 'bout buyin' some wine, he was havin' his daughter married the day after and offered ta sell off at a lower price any bottles that might survive the reception unscathed. I didn't wanna wait, but then the guy says I could come ta the two-day party without payin' fer nothin' and the girl just kept praisin' the wine like it was made o' gold.

Things were going so nice and smooth. And then I agreed. Free rooms fer two nights, free meals, a party from mornin' ta night, and cheaper wine, cheese and smoked meats of excellent quality. And I know they're o' quality 'cause I had plenty of it since mornin' till now. And that's somethin' else. I mean, I been to a few high profile wedding receptions: they're costly as hell, take all afternoon and night with live music, and give ya plenty o' pricey food. But that's fer the assholes who got their pockets full o' greenies, not fer the bums at the bottom o' the line. And that's what these folks are: I heard enough guys goin' 'bout talkin' o' the crisis and of how bad the businesses are, and how they're tight on payments fer this and that, and so on… and yet they go an' throw this!

First off, half the guests are foreigners who can't say a word in English. Who's the millionaire payin' fer their travellin' expenses? An' then they filled three tables o' light snacks and cakes fer breakfast, 'fore headin' out fer the church. People dressed up in the nicest dresses kept stuffin' their mouths while takin' turns goin' upstairs where the groom and bride were getting' ready fer photos: they lost two hours with that alone. Then the church. Irbis says they takes lil' kids in ta the church, and I don't even wanna think what it must've sounded like with all the babies these women sport 'round like trophies.

And then they took two more hours with more photos! You'd say they had had enough time fer that in the mornin'. But no! Good thing they had set a couple o' tables with hors-d'ouvres and drinks, otherwise there'd be people starvin'. And finally we got to the lunch: entries, soup, fish dish, meat dish, dessert, coffee an' drinks. These people eat like pigs, that's what it is; they probably starve all year long and only take their revenge at weddings, fillin' their plates like there's no tomorrow. And they had live music! First, it was just a CD playin' these cheeky love songs in a low volume. 'Course ya didn't listen to all that music, 'cause these so called civilized people kept bangin' the tables fer the just-married couple ta get up an' kiss! An' they did it over and over again. When they got tired of aimin' at the darned couple, they turned to their parents, then their best men and their ladies of honour, and their god-parents, and their great-parents, and their uncles, and random engaged couples, and random recently married couples, random old-timers… if the meal had taken a bit longer, they'd have started a darned orgy!

I was already havin' a major headache when the house band arrived. And I was just startin' dessert. I saw them people wolf down their ice-creams and attack their coffees an' drinks, and then flock ta the dancin' floor without even glancin' at the bride. Older couples and kids were the first, an' the younger ones came little by little. By the time I was finished, they was all bangin' 'bout like crazy – women draggin' men to dance, or dancin' with other women, kids hoppin' among them an' climbin' ta jump up and down next ta the band… They only stopped fer the couple's first dance. It was a waltz – everybody made a big circle and left the couple dancin' in the middle, alone at first. Then their parents joined in an' the music gained speed; and everybody else joined in too. Waiters cleaned the tables and lined a whole bunch o' them next to a wall, while the others were pulled back so that the dancin' floor became much bigger.

And all the while Irbis swung in her seat to the rhythm o' the music. I got to admit, though, I've never seen the kid so smiley. She's been positively shinin' with happiness, chattin' in Portuguese with anyone at her side, cooin' the babies and their yellin'… A lil' while after the waltz, they stopped the normal songs, both the cheeky Brian Adams and what not, and the bearable Rod Stewarts and Joe Cockers and similar. Then this bunch o' guests started dancin' some folk dances with this really bad music; I mean, it might have been rhythmic and full o' movement, but… was it bad! And the kid, Irbis, she just up an' goes to the round, flarin' the skirt an' snappin' her fingers 'bove her head. Bad taste. Very bad taste.

Next, a couple old timer guy got some type o' traditional guitars, which are round almost like banjos, 'though not quite, and with the double number o' strings o' normal guitars. Then the bride's mother got up an' started singin'. Ya know how there's that cartoon twerp called Asterix who says "these Romans are nuts"? Yeah, well, he should say "Portuguese are nuts", instead. I mean, they's at a weddin', they've been playin' some traditional stuff which was horrifyin' but which at least was cheerful; and then they stop it all an' start playin' sad tunes! Just how nuts can ya get? And all 'round, people was just quiet like mice, and hushin' they're kids, an' smillin' like dummies with tear-filled eyes, an' some even cryin'. If that ain't nuts, I don't know what is. It's a weddin', fer cryin' out loud! And they goes 'bout singin' o' death, and unhappiness, an' loss, an' pain…

At least, Irbis finally showed sense enough ta be upset at the whole stupidity and left the room the moment the music started. I lost track o' her after that. They been playin' Portuguese folk music fer a while now, and I can't see her nowhere. And boy, have I got a headache!

"Wouldn't you like to dance Mr. Creed?"

I growl. My headache's so bad I didn't sniff her comin'. If looks could kill she'd be screamin' in agony on the floor 'bout now, an' she knows it. She stifles her broad smile, bites her lip and sits down next ta me.

"I suppose you're not enjoying de party."

"Oh, ya can tell, can ya?"

I can feel the growling accompanying the words. She squirms uncomfortably on the chair, blushes slightly and manages to ask:

"Don't you know how to dance?"

"What?? Do I look like some asshole who can't move 'bout? 'Course I can dance! What kind o' stupid moron CAN'T dance?"

She squirms some more and glances about, her cheeks as red as they can get. Oh, I am so gonna snap her neck. Can't dance!

"Den…" She hesitates as I shoot her a vicious glare. "I… I thought… since you CAN dance… would you like to come and dance?"

I feel my claws just shoot out o' their own accord. It's a miracle I haven't started killin' nobody yet.

"I can get you some more drinks, if you prefer," she speaks very fast in a vain attempt to sooth me, "or I can go dance wid you, if you're tired of sitting down… Or we can leave, if you really can't have fun here…"

Her eyes are beggin' fer stayin' a bit longer. And they are almost the last straw that makes me get up and walk away. But I hold myself down. First, I'm gonna teach this brat just who can't dance. There's still a Portuguese tune playin', fast paced and playful. It's a very easy rhythm ta dance, even if it ain't very common this side o' the Atlantic. I clench her slender wrist in my hand and pull her close ta me.

"We gonna dance."


I glance at my watch and check the time. It's 8.42. The tables lined up near one wall are still bein' attacked by the guests; they've been under attack ever since the band stopped 'round 8. I watch 'em. They hold a plate an' go hoppin' from table ta table, takin' a bit from here, a bit from there… How much money must this cost? After all the food at breakfast, and all the hors-d'ouevres, and all the food at lunch, they still keep bringin' more food. They've got a table finely decorated with shrimp and crab, two tables with several types o' meat, one table with artistic baskets an' plates o' sliced fruits, two tables with cakes, an' puddings, and all sorts o' sweets… Not ta mention the waiters goin' 'bout talkin' people inta tryin' some soup.

Irbis's in their middle. She seems ta have fun with this. She planned her attack while sittin' with me – first some soup, then all the meats she could pile in a plate plus shrimps on a second plate. After that, fruits, cakes, more fruits, and a bit of every sweet in the place. Just ta check 'em out, she assured me. Later at night she'll have some more fruit and only those cakes and sweets she's noted down as the best. I asked how could she eat so much an' she looked at me like I had just said the most outrageous thing on earth and stated what apparently was obvious: ya have ta eat enough ta keep ya dancin' all night long. Right.

Well, but at least she fetched meat and shrimp piles fer me too. And now she's fetchin' herself some fruit an' sweets, since I'm already eatin' mine, which she got me first.

The band's returnin'. Irbis's actually a good dancer: particularly with the Latin American Salsas, Mangos, Tangos and what not. Dances 'em like a pro. She quickly got in rhythm with me and we danced fer a couple of hours, till the band stopped. Well, maybe not all the time; we skipped all the slow songs, which weren't that many, anyways. She says she can't dance slow songs. As if! Am I supposed ta believe that somebody who dances as well as she does can't dance a slow? You don't even have ta know how ta dance ta dance a slow. Ah, who cares? It ain't like I'm a slow fan, either. But I've drunk, and eaten, an' danced enough fer one day. 'Course these people think differently, 'cause they're still wolfin' down food and are once more flockin' up ta the dance floor as if they haven't danced yet. It probably helps that they've switched from their nice shoes ta trainers and slippers. Even the bride and groom: the moment the photos were done, they got off their shoes and on they got trainers, white fer her, black fer him. Yet, the bride didn't go change inta comfortable clothes, and's gettin' her white an' blue dress all dirty. She keeps dancin' an' steppin' on the ball-sized skirt, an' the other dancers trippin' an' steppin' on it too. Why don't she just gets changed?

Oh, great, they're playin' the train song again! It gives me goose bumps ta hear this thing: it almost has the rhythm of children songs, and people hold each others' hands and go hoppin' through the room, grabbin' random people next ta them and draggin' 'em inta the dance. I almost had ta kill somebody last time they played this: an old white haired woman who didn't speak English was determined ta drag me in. Good thing Irbis got to her first and took her away with the train o' dancin' people, or there would've been blood spilt.

I'm startin' ta understand their babblin', too. It ain't really that hard if they don't speak too fast; it's actually very close ta Spanish. I decided not ta let Irbis notice it, though; that way I can check on what she's lettin' out while talkin' ta her pals. An' speak o' the devil, here she comes, her feet movin' ta the sound o' the train song. How a nice girl like her can have such a bad taste fer music, is just somethin' I can't understand.

She eats like all the rest, in a hurry. Once she's done, there's old rock'n'roll songs playin' an' she looks at me with an eager look.

"Shall we dance some more?"

I turn her down and enjoy the pout that shows up the moment her smile vanishes. Then she gets ta sighing, while movin' her body to the 'rock around the clock's playful rhythm. After a while she gets up.

"Well, I'll go dance alone, den."

"These ain't no disco songs ya can dance on yer own. Ya need a partner."

She stifled a giggle and insisted she didn't; then she took off. And she doesn't, really, not the way she moves ta the sound o' La Bamba. Her slender waist's made smaller by the red sash, and her hips seem rounder as the white dress alternately flares and clings ta her body. The dress is reminiscent o' the fifties: a very light white fabric, with a bright red sash and several under skirts o' the same fabric but in red, which come down ta her knees and fly 'round with every shake and turn o' her hips. The top's very tight, makin' her boobs look bigger than they are, and it's white, except fer the bright red straps that wrap her upper arms while showing off her bare shoulders. Her hair's done up in a bun with a silver net, showin' off her perfect neck which sports just a diminutive red silk bow.

She puts a hand on her belly as if on a guy's back, raises her other hand as if holdin' her invisible guy's hand, and moves perfectly in time ta the beat. Damnit, she looks good! I got to admit: she dances perfectly. Even if she does look silly dancin' on her… What the hell! Who does she think she's dancin' with? Where did that bastard come from? I get up and reach 'em in a split second.

"Hey, dickhead! The lady's with me, so get off!"

Irbis's frownin' and the guy gingerly steps away. There's people starin' an' frownin', even if they don't stop their dancin'. I put my hand round Irbis' waist ta start dancin', but she don't move.

"Why did you do dat? You said you didn't want to dance, so I discovered somebody else to dance. You have no business stopping us."

I'm growlin' again. We standin' in the middle o' the dancin' floor an' everybody's twirlin' 'round us listenin' in. An' she's tryin' ta give me lip!

"Ya're here with ME, girl. Ya don't dance with nobody else but ME! Are we clear?"

She sets her jaw and trembles lightly. There's a sudden shimmerin' in her eyes. She breathes in, holds her breath fer a sec and blurts out in a pissed whisper.

"Den I dance alone." She continues when I start growlin'. "If you didn't want to dance wid me before, I'm sure you don't want to dance now. And if I… forced you to get up and do dis sacrifice because I accepted to dance wid dat boy, den I'll dance alone and you won't have to boder dancing against your will."

Her lips are tremblin', but her eyes are burnin' with indignation. I can't keep myself from grinnin' with satisfaction: I knew she'd be good sport the moment she got the hang o' havin' fun again.

"Ya're dancin' with me."

'Fore she can say somethin' else, I put my arm round her an' lift her up. Then I start dancin'. After yet another song, I let her down. She's still sulkin', though, an' marches straight up ta the table. I join her and immediately repent it.

"You have no right." I roll my eyes at the sound o' her voice. "I'm not your date, here. And even if I were! Even if we were married! You don't want to dance, I'm free to discover some guy to dance wid me. You had no right to do dis."

"Put a lid on already! Ya pestered my head ta bring ya here, ya pestered my head ta stay here, then ya pestered my head ta dance with ya, and now ya pesterin' me 'cause I did go an' dance? Ya should be thankin' me fer savin' ya from that twerp. He can't dance ta save his life!"

"You said you didn't want to dance!"

"I changed my mind."

She storms out o' the chair and I lose her in the middle o' the dancin' folks. She better not try ta piss me off no more. Such a nice party, an' there she has ta go an' ruin it all!


It's 9.35 and everybody's laughin' and yappin' 'round the cake table. The couple's been cuttin' it fer a while now, and waiters go 'bout offerin' champagne. I took a bottle and a glass from one o' the geeks. When Irbis finally gets back from her hidin' hole, she can go fetch her own glass and her own bottle, fer all I care. Gone off an' left me here with nobody ta dance with! I should go after her an' give her good reason fer sulkin', that's what I should do, but she ain't even worth the trouble.

The bottle's nearly finished, anyways. Where is she? People are startin' ta move back ta the dance floor. When the hell is this reception supposed ta end? Oh, how sweet! The groom's gonna dedicate a music fer his lil' darlin'… I'm gonna be sick. But then I sees her. At the other end o' the room, near the door. She looks real down, leanin' on the wall an' lookin' at the dancin' people. I get up. I got this idea ta rub some salt on whatever wound's hurtin' her. Teach her ta dump me in the middle of a dance.

She sees me but ignores my presence. I keep a straight face.

"So, ready ta leave?"

She sighs with a dejected expression.

"It's too early. It'll look bad if we leave. As if we're not enjoying."

"Well, ya sure look like ya ain't enjoyin' it no more."

She sighs an' her lip trembles; all of a sudden, her eyes get all shiny and watery. This is just great! Now she's gonna start cryin'. Why's she insistin' on ruinin' my night? Now I can't even put her down without her breakin' down an' makin' a spectacle in front of everybody. Ain't she supposed ta have gotten a bit o' spirit back inta her? I look away; give her some time ta pull herself together. The guy's stopped talkin' an' the band starts playin' Tom Waits's 'Tom Traubert's Blues'. I suppose that the fact the chorus is 'Waltzin' Matilda', they're seein' it as some kind o' tribute to the bride, who's name's Matilda. 'Course, on the other hand, they're just plainly ignorin' the fact that the song's about a drunkard and that 'waltzin' Matilda' is Aussie fer goin' off ta the outback with yer blanket. Matilda bein' the blanket. Some tribute ta the woman! But, hey, it's their weddin'. They can call themselves whatever they want.

"I love dis music."

"Huh?" She still looks down, but she don't seems as close ta tears.

"I… I forgot."

"What?" She seems a bit more composed now, not leanin' anymore.

"I forgot. For a moment… it was like I was… I was home… But I'm not. I'm not."

"waltzing Matilda… waltzing Matilda…"

I don't say nothin' and listen ta the music. The guy who's singin' actually seems ta sound a bit like Rod Stewart, who made Tom Waits's song famous all 'round. Not much, just a little. The bride an' groom are dancin' in the middle o' the dancin' floor and a whole bunch o' couples are dancin' 'round 'em, in a circle.

"I'm an innocent victim

of a blinded alley "

I notice her movement, but when I look she's already dancin' at the edge o' the dancin' floor. Her eyes are closed, but she's too far away from people to worry 'bout bumpin' inta somebody. She keeps a hand on her belly and an arm in the air as if she were leanin' on an invisible lover an' slowly rocks to an' fro. I'm amazed that somebody who dances salsa an' mango so expertly can dance a slow like she's got lead feet. What's she doin'?

"And my strength is soaking away

To go…"

A guy comes up to her, no doubt ta dance with her, and I move in to the kill. Fortunately fer him, though, she sends him away and goes on dancin' with her eyes closed. She don't notices me even though I'm standin' right next ta her. I almost pull back from the dance floor, but I'm already under everybody's eye so I holds my ground. Even if I hate slow music, I really don't got much of a choice right now. Slowly, I reach an arm 'round Irbis's waist an' feel her shudder in surprise. She opens her eyes as I take her raised hand in my own.

"I begged you to stab me"

"I thought ya didn't know how ta dance a slow?"

"You tore my shirt open"

Her lip trembles and her voice comes very low, her eyes locked on mine.

"I can't." As if I hadn't noticed. "I thought you didn't like to dance slows."

"And I'm down on my knees tonight"

"There's worse things ta do."

"You buried the dagger
Your silhouette window light"

I feel her shudder again an' she looks away. Now I'm sure she ain't gettin' no wrong ideas 'bout me dancin' this.

"No I don't want your sympathy"

Why am I here? She starts cryin' on me and I'll kick her butt, I swear. I can smell a slight scent o' fear comin' from her, which pisses me off, but then I feel her whole body relax in my arms. Yet I can still smell her fear. Why's she so relaxed if she's 'fraid? And what's she scared of?

"Go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda

You'll go waltzing Matilda with me"

She leans on my chest, the top o' her head brushing 'gainst my chin, an' the scent o' fear hits me harder. I ain't sure o' what ta do: what's she scared of if it ain't me? I can't think o' nothin', yet… it can't be me she's 'fraid of… not the way she keeps leanin' on… can it?

"And a wound that would never heal"

She's completely relaxed, her whole frame restin' on me. I look 'round, but no one's seein' us as they's all watchin' the bride and groom suckin' face. Her hand is holdin' on t'my arm… she ain't clingin' on ta me, and still it feels as if she is. It feels as if she'd break inta a million pieces if I were ta stop supportin' her. I can feel her warm breath through my shirt when she exhales hard and it's like there's an electric current goin' through me. But then her body shakes lightly fer a moment, and I feel myself freezin'. Is she cryin' on me?

The thick scent o' her fear becomes stronger and all the while she leans harder on me. What's she afraid of? Her whole frame is shudderin' as if she were cold... or very scared. I look down at her. If I didn't know better, I'd say it looks like she's holdin' on ta me fer safety. My arms hold her tighter o' their own accord, and I can't figure her out. The only thin' could be frightenin' her is me. Me. Why is she…

"And it's goodnight to the street-sweepers,

The night watchmen flame-keepers"

As I holds her tight, her warm breath keeps stingin' my skin through the shirt and the scent o' her fear an' tears keeps intoxicatin' me. Then she looks up at me as the song comes ta its end.

"And it's goodnight to the street-sweepers,

The night watchmen flame-keepers"

Her eyes are shinin' with tears, but deadly serious and eerily trustin' as she looks directly at me. No shudderin', no tremblin', no fear. Not in her posture or expression, at least, 'cause her fear still clings ta the air 'round her like an exotic perfume. But it's only a moment an' she promptly returns ta my protective embrace. But protective from what?

"And goodnight Matilda too"

"Goodnight Matilda too"


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