Here I am in Italy; home of the hot Italian guy, and I haven't had time to flirt with even one of them in the week we've been here. Not even a little batting my eyelashes over our morning espresso, because our morning espresso has been on the go, thanks to Elena. I knew that blood oath to do whatever she wanted in relation to Stefan Salvatore all those years ago would come back to bite me at least one more time.
I get the slave driver routine, though. It's not easy to plan a wedding in a foreign country. It took a few days for Elena to find the perfect spot, and even then it was by accident. If we'd been walking up the stairs to the small sanctuary fifteen minutes later, she wouldn't have seen that balcony bathed in the light of the setting sun. The spot was so heartbreakingly perfect that not finding it would have been a tragedy.
Maybe not as much of a tragedy as my lack of hot Italian guy action, but, hey… Blood oath, remember?
Three days of pounding the pavement, or cobblestones, or whatever, to find the spot, a day to find somebody to do some last-minute alterations on Meredith's dress, a day to find a florist willing to work on such short notice… It all takes longer than it seems like it should.
But, here we are in the bridal room of this ancient church, helping Elena get ready for her wedding. Trying to make her more beautiful at this point is absolutely futile, but Meredith and I can't stop touching her, trying to make her even more perfect.
It's no surprise that we were taking getting Elena ready so seriously; weddings are always a big deal. I mean, swearing to spend the rest of your life with somebody is huge, but when the people involved are immortal, forever takes on a whole new meaning.
I asked Elena one time why she was so certain of her immortality. She just shook her head, kind of sadly, and said, "I chose to leave. They aren't too anxious to have me back."
I guess I can understand her point. What kind of reward does Heaven seem like if somebody chooses to go back for a boy? Even if the boy you're going back to is Stefan. I know, it's not exactly like that, but that's how it might seem to somebody who wasn't here for the whole show.
Elena sits in a velvet upholstered chair, looking like a queen on the throne while Meredith and take care of all the little details of making her perfect for this day.
I've already done her finger- and toe-nails, and am taking a break from her makeup while Meredith rolls her long hair into a smooth chignon. We discuss leaving a few golden tendrils out curl around her face, and have almost decided to do it before Elena chimes in on the conversation.
"Leave it all up." She says firmly, "Like Grace Kelly."
She's right, of course, she always is.
"How can you be so calm?" I ask her. I firmly intend to be a gibbering mess on my own wedding day. Assuming I have one. Even Meredith lost her cool just a little before she married Alaric.
"I decided on what I wanted the rest of my life to be a long time ago." She says, catching my eyes in the huge guilt mirror. "I've fought too hard to be here today to be afraid."
"And yet I can feel you tremble just a little." Meredith says in her wry way.
"I'm excited." Elena defends herself.
"Ok," she admits under the pressure of Meredith's raised eyebrow, "I might be a little nervous. I mean, something is always trying to keep us apart, and even though he's been on his best behavior Damon's a force of nature. There's no way of knowing if he might try to carry me over the balcony, or something."
I laugh, even though she's telling the truth. Then, I shiver, because she's telling the truth.
"I think today," Meredith says seriously, "You can depend on things going to plan."
"Yeah," I chime in enthusiastically, "Nobody would be crazy enough to cross you today. Not even Damon."
"But would Damon really be crossing her? Not that he's going to do anything." Meredith backpedaled. I wonder, sometimes, if being really observant is a curse.
Elena didn't waste time pretending that Meredith was wrong. We've been friends since we were little kids, and we've seen this Elena-Stefan-Damon thing since it started.
"You know how in high school, I dated all those guys, but I was always looking for… something?" She asks us. Of course we do. Elena's been through practically every decent guy we ever knew, but she didn't find what she was looking for in any of them.
"The way I feel about Damon… It's what I was trying to find. If I'd met Damon, the real Damon, first, maybe things would be different, but it was Stefan I fell in love with. It's always been Stefan. The way I feel for Damon doesn't make me want to change my mind, it just makes me sad for what might have been."
"Look up." I advise her, back at work on her eyes, giving the room a chance to breathe after that revelation, and she does so obediently. I sweep pale shimmery bronze across her lids, and add just the barest smudge of liner to frame her blue eyes. I finish with a touch of pale rose lipstick, and bite back a touch of jealousy. I practically have to wear a truckload of makeup to keep from disappearing under bright lights, but Elena's pale beauty is flawless, as always.
"It's almost time to go." Meredith announces as she steps forward, holding Elena's gown so that she can step into it.
Wordlessly, but with a more noticeable tremor- maybe it really was just excitement- Elena lets her apricot-colored silk robe drift to the ground, and steps into the mass of silk. While I do up the long row of buttons on the back, Meredith fixes the short veil to Elena's head, and then, we're ready.
After a few minutes of hugging, giggling, and finding our bouquets, I opened the heavy doors and we began to descend the stairs to the balcony.
I thought I was prepared for what I'd see when we arrived; after all, I'd already been here to make sure the florists positioned everything exactly correctly. I knew exactly where every spray of lilies and each candle protected from the breeze by a glass chimney was placed.
What I hadn't counted on was the expression on Damon's face when he saw Elena. The look that passed between them was so powerful that I could see their auras pulling towards one another without even trying. The idea of Damon carrying her away seemed very real.
Then, Stefan turned to see what had taken Damon's breath away, and if the power of the attraction between Damon and Elena shocked me, I was in awe of what passed between her and Stefan. It was huge. It was amazing. It was, for something without actual form, surprisingly palpable. I could actually feel that something bigger bound the two together.
I don't know why I've never been able to see it before. It's like one of those illusion pictures that take forever to see the first time. After you've seen it once, it's so obvious that you wonder how you could have not seen it.
Just when I think that there cannot possibly be more surprises left for the day, I see the understanding and acceptance settle on Damon's face. He holds his arm out to Elena, and escorts her to his brother, placing her hand in his.
While I watch my best friend pledge her incredibly long life to Stefan, I think about all the things that brought us to this day. All the things we'd faced together… Surviving had been nearly impossible, and victory was, literally, a miracle. Seeing an actual happy ending was, I don't know, a blessing, or something. Even with all we'd done, none of us deserved to be here. It wasn't a reward, it was a gift.
Damon's words broke my reverie, and before I could try to figure out what he was talking about, the church's bells begin to toll, and then the sound sweeps across the city. Some of the bells sound beautiful in their pealing, and some of them have a coarse, primitive clang to them, but all of them are ringing. I'm a little slower than the others, sometimes, so I didn't figure out that Damon had set the whole thing up until it was nearly over.
But, Damon seems genuinely happy for his brother as he asks for permission to kiss his new sister.
I like the way Damon looks, now that he isn't mooning over Elena. Hey, he is a hot Italian guy, and I've already admitted my weakness.
"Easy tiger," Meredith whispers as she takes my arm, "Give him a little time to recover before you go in for the kill."
I roll my eyes at her, as we quietly make our way back inside, giving the new family some time to themselves.
Well, I intended to have this chapter up ten days ago, but after I lost the original version of it I wrote, I just was never satisfied with the rewrites. Well, until this one. I still don't think it is quite as good, but that might just be because I'm disgruntled at having lost it.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this. By the way, if there are any enterprising young beta readers out there who'd be interested, I'd love to have somebody to read for me before I publish. It's erratic work at best; I don't publish regularly, but it does need to be done.
Review are longed for. Please, please, please take the time to leave one.
Up next: Meredith.