by Amy L. Hull amilyn at comcast dot net
Written for ShannonC in the Yuletide 2009 Challenge
"We found it today," Meg said happily.
"Oh, good, darling," her mother's voice came through the handset distantly. "What's it like?"
"It's a converted attic in an old Victorian-style house. There is a set of back stairs so we have our own entrance, and it has two burners."
"Not Bunsen, I take it?"
"No. But I think they'll do."
"Your father and I are thrilled for you, darling. We're sending something to your current address and we'll see you in a couple of weeks for the wedding."
"All right, Mother. Give my love to Charles and Father."
She hung up the phone, warmth suffusing her chest as it always did after talking to her family. Even if she hadn't always known she was lucky, knowing Calvin and his family-her family soon, too, she shuddered to herself-would have been a stark reminder of how fortunate she was to have supportive people who understood and loved her. She gathered her textbooks and notebooks and joined Calvin on his couch. They could study together for another hour or so before she'd have to get home.
"They're sending us something for the new place," she said.
"Looking forward to it," he replied absently and returned to muttering over equations. She leaned against his arm and began working on her own proofs.
When the package came the next week, a thrill went through her, but she didn't open it. It only took her ten minutes to get to Calvin's and she held it up, grinning broadly and shaking it. "Look! It came! And it rattles!"
"Are you sure it's not broken?" Calvin teased, kissing her lightly.
She swatted his arm. "Come on...do you have a knife? I want to see what it is!"
He shook his head. "You're as bad as a six-year-old." But he pulled out his pocketknife and slit the string and paper open.
When she pried open the flaps, beads appeared. She frowned, pulling at a handful. The entire pile pulled with that one handful and suddenly she knew.
"Calvin! It's the bead curtain from the door at home!"
His smile was clearly a bit strained. "But...what is it for?"
"It's for a doorway in our new place, for when we get married. I don't know if I ever told you, but I always felt like tesseracts were rather like going through these beads. They look solid but you can move right through them if you do it right."
Calvin's smile relaxed. "That was very sweet of your folks. Do they know what it means? That it's part of the thing that brought us together?"
"I told Father, not long after he came back. I think he must have remembered." Meg leaned toward the handful of beads, breathing in the dusty scent of home.
"Well, then, once we're able to move in, and before we go up for the wedding, we'll have to hang them so they'll be ready when we come back." His hand came up behind her neck and he kissed her, thumb stroking her hairline.
"I love you, Calvin."
"I love you too, my Megaparsec."
It was a cloudy night on the stargazing rock, so being there was more about familiarity than observing the skies. The rock was still warm from the day's bright sunshine, but it had cooled considerably since they'd first sat down over half an hour before.
Nervous energy coursed through Meg, even in this soothing place, and she turned her head slightly away from him. "Calvin, you know you can still back out."
His arms tightened around her, pressing her back firmly against his chest. "Whyever would I even think about that?"
"I'm never going to fulfill my potential, you know." She could hear the whininess and self-pity in her own tone, but continued. "I'll never be as smart as Charles Wallace and Father or as successful or beautiful as Mother. I'll never be normal or-"
"Shh." He placed a finger on Meg's lips and his legs tightened around where she was nestled between them. "If I wanted normal I wouldn't be marrying into your family. I'm marrying you-"
"And my family, of course." Meg grinned.
"Yes. All of you. And I'm doing it tomorrow. And we're going to have all of our lives together, for better and worse."
"And I don't care if you never finish a dissertation or publish a paper. And you'll never look less beautiful to me than you do now." He shifted his body and touched her lips gently with his.
"All right, so you're deluded. I suppose that does mean you're in love. But how in love are you going to stay when you're starving because I can't cook?"
"You cook just fine. And, even if you didn't, I've had years of experience cooking my own meals, so maybe I'll be cooking for you."
She shifted so that they were chest to chest and peered into his eyes. "How did I ever get so lucky?"
"It was all-"
"Charles Wallace," they finished together, leaning together and holding each other.
Meg looked at where Calvin sat, shoulders slumped. She walked toward him as quietly as she could with layers of crinoline under taffeta. She sat next to him, silent and waiting, giving him space to talk in his own time.
"I'm sorry about my family," he finally said.
"Calvin, it's not your fault. You can't change them. And I'm glad you decided that we should have a dry wedding."
"Yeah," he said bitterly. "Can you imagine if we'd provided alcohol in addition to the stuff they brought themselves?"
Meg leaned her forehead to his, stroking his hair and breathing with him.
After a long silence, he spoke. "They've ruined so many events for me that I'm used to it. I learned not to invite them or not to go. I couldn't not invite them to my wedding, even if it matters more to me than them but...what I hate is that now they can ruin things for you, too. Your family and you...you all deserved a perfect day."
"Calvin." She put a hand under his chin, forced him to look up at her. "I have had a perfect day. I'm married to the man I love. And I'm so sorry I couldn't give you the perfect day. Sandy and Dennys were on O'Keefe wrangling but, well, there are just so many of you!"
That got a small chuckle out of him.
"And, Calvin, didn't you feel it?"
"Our ladies, or something like them. There was a point when it clouded over and the wind whipped up..."
"You mean when my mother was grousing to everyone that she'd told us that outdoor weddings always end up with rain and everyone's clothes being ruined? And my brother-in-law told her she shouldn't care since her dress was so ugly and my brother was about to punch him out?"
Meg kissed him gently. "Yes, then," she said, holding him. "Then the sun came out and there was a rainbow and even your mother almost smiled?"
"She smiled? I didn't see that."
"I could have sworn I heard our ladies' voices on the wind before they died down. There were no words, just joy and love and goodness. And they took the wind and the clouds with them and everyone was quiet for those few minutes." She felt tears well in her eyes. "I think that was their gift to us."
Calvin was silent, then pulled her into a tight hug, leaning back only to kiss her.
She reached between them and tugged at his bow tie. "Now, if you're feeling less melancholy, would you mind if we head out so I can unwrap my last and best present of the day?"
Calvin leaned back and stared at her, his whole being relaxing and softening for the first time in a week. He reached up and tugged at one of the pins holding Meg's carefully arranged auburn curls so that a spiral spilled down into her face. "Only if I can unwrap mine," he said.
"Deal." Meg leaned into his touch and sent up a silent prayer of gratitude to all their heavenly guardians.