Author's Note: I… cannot decide how much of this is crack and how much should be taken seriously. But if you want to take it completely seriously, then this takes place something like six or so months before Extras. And might be part crack. Did I mention that?
For the historically-minded— there aren't any mentions of marriage or weddings in the Uglies series, which I assume to be because religion disappeared post-Crash, and marriages are mostly religiously-based. Hence, nobody but Andrew and the rest of his antiquated village know the tradition of having weddings and getting married.
Aaaand, on with the story. Please review!
"You have got to be kidding me."
Andrew watched me anxiously. "Why would I do that, Young Blood?"
"He's never going to call you Tally, is he?" Shay sighed, tapping her foot in a clear show of impatience. I raised my hand at her; David pulled it down.
"No," I said. "No way. Sorry, no."
Andrew frowned. "But—"
"What was that? The same question? Because if it was, then no."
"Way to consider the possibility, Tally-wa," Fausto said, and was promptly elbowed by Shay. I knew she was my best friend for a reason. "Ow. Was that necessary?"
"Hey," I snapped. "Both of you, shut up." I turned back to Andrew. "No."
"Tally," David sighed. He was using his I'm-very-disappointed-in-you voice, which I was sure I was going to become immune to. Eventually. Hopefully. "Be a little reasonable."
"I'm very reasonable. I'm full of reasoning. And…"
"Seasoning!" Shay interjected.
I nodded. "Yeah, and that. So, no. Oh, wow, look at the time."
I turned to leave, but Andrew reached out and pulled me back. See, if it had been anyone else, I could have just punched them, but Andrew wasn't really big on that, so I was forced to just tighten my hand into a fist. David rubbed my knuckles absently until they relaxed. "This is how things are done, Young Blood," Andrew told me. "It is a very sacred ceremony, but you are very close to me. Aren't you?"
"…Yes," I said grudgingly. "But what does that have to do with anything?"
"It would be an honor for you and your David to participate," he said. Shay rolled her eyes.
"What, she owns David now?" she muttered. Fausto shushed her.
I sort of felt like bashing my head into a wall. See, this is why it's not good to get close to people. Then they can make you feel all kinds of guilty. For no reason. And then you just can't help but agree with them…
"You know what? Fine. Fine, but if I end up slitting my wrists to get out of it, you have only yourself to blame."
Andrew laughed. David told me to stop being melodramatic. Fausto pointedly ignored us all. Shay asked if she could have my sneaksuit when I was dead.
"I look really, really stupid."
Lilly frowned, barely looking up at me. "Hush now."
Did I just get hushed by a twelve year old? "Look," I growled, smacking her hands away from me, "if you could please just—"
"Be nice, Tally-wa," Shay said vaguely, flicking through the newsfeeds from where she was lounging against the wall. "Don't scare the children."
Of course I wasn't allowed to have any fun. "Sorry," I spat at Lilly. She gave me an unimpressed look before tugging away the fabric I had managed to gather into my hands and getting back to carefully… doing whatever she was doing. I wasn't really sure.
"I look really, really stupid," I said again.
"Hey, they made a new school back in the city," Shay said brightly. "Icy."
"Ugh." The population boom that came with no more lesioned Pretties still surprised me sometimes. "We're not going to visit."
"Oookay," Shay muttered, then finally took a second to give me a once-over. "Wow, you look really stupid."
"Thanks for enlightening me."
I shoved a filmy piece of crap off my face for the tenth time in as many minutes. "Leave it," Lilly ordered from where she was kneeling in front of me, sounding much more authoritative than any barely-more-than-a-littlie had right to be. "That is how it stays."
"Over my dead body," I muttered, flipping the fabric all the way over my head. "Why do I have to wear so much? You aren't wearing nearly this much," I accused, pointing down at her. Lilly's clothes consisted of what every other girl in Andrew's village wore: cloth wrapped around the length of her body, tied at the shoulder and stopped at the knee. I glared contemptuously at the floor-length of the ridiculous dress she had me trapped in.
"Is tradition," Lilly said.
"Yeah, Tally-wa, is tradition," Shay mimicked. Easy for her to say; she wasn't the one being prodded and poked at by a twelve-year-old.
"Aren't you a little young for this?" I asked Lilly. It was suddenly a relevant question when she pulled out something with an undeniable sharp tip. Not that anything would be breaking my skin any time soon, but that didn't mean I was okay with some kid shoving needles all over me, no matter how much Andrew seemed to like her.
"I have good hands," was all of Lilly's explanation. She thrust the needle into the thick, heavy fabric of the dress she and a few older village women had ordered me into a couple of hours earlier, with no explanation whatsoever beyond shooing Andrew away from me because, "is only for the women!"
David had better be having a terrible time, too.
"I still don't get any of this," I said to Andrew, then grimaced as he pulled the stupid filmy crap back over my face. "Quit it!"
"It is tradition," he said. That was suddenly everyone's explanation for everything.
It'd been two weeks since the incessant jabs and nudges from Lilly in that weird heavy dress she and the other women had made me try on, part of rehearsing for whatever ceremony Andrew was so sure me and David needed to be a part of. Actually, I'd sort of been letting myself hope that the whole putting-on-the-dress thing was the ceremony, but that dream was shattered when Andrew showed up at me and David's sleeping bag this morning and told us it was time.
"Time for what?" I'd asked, both of us sitting up and struggling around each other for a second. We'd been having to share the one sleeping bag since mine got blown into the river and refused to dry. I didn't really care, but David was still convinced I would get sick or something. Right. Has he seen me?
Andrew'd sighed as he watched us. "Your ceremony. And it seems that you need it. Come."
As soon as we got here, he and some other men dragged David away, which irritated me a little more than it should have. I tended to get sort of irritated whenever David wasn't around to… I don't know, calm me down or whatever he did. His David-y things.
Andrew seemed to realized how annoyed I was getting at the moment, because he patted my hand, where my knuckles were turning white. "Just a few more moments, Young Blood. Then all will be well."
I sighed. "Right. Hey, where's Shay? I want to talk to her." She was better at interacting with all the village people; it figured, since I mostly just wanted to hit them. Often. Maybe she had some idea for what this was all about. But Andrew shook his head.
"She is out there," he said, tilting his head to a place through the trees that I was apparently supposed to walk into soon. "Where she belongs for the ceremony."
"Shay's in it, too?" Gee, thanks for letting me know.
Andrew opened his mouth, but the harsh sound of music from wooden instruments suddenly erupted through the trees. His mouth snapped closed and he readjusted the stupid thing over my face again. I slapped his hand away. It was bad enough I had to wear the long, annoying dress— now my whole vision was tinted white.
"What am I supposed to say out there?" I asked him. He slipped his arm through mine. I stared. "Um, okay."
"Lilly will help you," he promised, ignoring my confusion at the arm-linking. Right then, I noticed that his hair was pulled back neatly in a braid. Huh.
"Thank you," he answered. "Time to march."
"March?" I asked, right before he started pulling me along. Maybe this would be a good time to rethink the whole 'participating in some village ceremony I've never heard of' thing. But, unfortunately, short of killing everyone and then taking off, there wasn't really any other option than to go through with it.
Our arms still linked, Andrew gently tugged me through the trees, into the clearing where I vaguely remembered the whole village holding huge bonfires. Except now, there was no trace of ashes, or even wood; the place was cleared, and the villagers were standing expectantly in neat rows, watching as me and Andrew walked in time with the music. Which was way, way too slow, in my opinion.
David was there, too. I smiled, even though where else did I expect him to be? It was partly his ceremony to begin with. He looked more than a little nervous, since he was standing at the very front, but since all the villagers seemed pretty intent on me and Andrew's slow-walk I didn't see what his problem was.
Shay fluttered her fingers at me as I got closer to David. "Hi," she mouthed, giggling. Fausto, who I'd just noticed was on David's other side, raised a finger to his lips at her, which only made Shay-la roll her eyes. Lilly, cross-legged beside Shay's feet, stared at them with her lips thinned.
The filmy fabric that shrouded my face was suddenly pulled back, and I noticed that the music had stopped. I blinked as Andrew fixed the thing again, this time making sure it fell perfectly behind my head. Wasn't he just making sure it was in front of my head, like, five minutes ago?
I swear, there is no justice.
Then, I also noticed that some bare-chested man with a long, black feather tied to his braided hair (just like Andrew's style, actually) was standing just behind David. He said some stuff in their language to Andrew.
"Yes," Andrew answered the man succinctly, and pulled his arm out of mine. I raised my eyebrows at David; he shrugged.
Apparently I was supposed to stand beside David now. I did, and then got rambled at for about an hour by Feather Man. I think he was trying to put some of it into English for our benefit, but we mostly made faces at each other when he got distracted by talking to the audience of villagers. Shay snickered at a few parts, so I guess she must have been listening. Whatever.
There was suddenly a lull in Feather Man's speech. David looked at me pointedly. "Um," I said. This dress was giving me some kind of brain damage.
Lilly leant forward, tugging at my sleeve. "Say 'I do,'" she whispered.
"Okay," I answered, too nonplussed to go through the motions of anger that usually accompanied me not knowing what to do. "Uh, sure. I do?"
David, of course, caught on quickly when Feather Man turned to him. "I do," he said, looking just as confused as I was sure I did— I did not like looking confused. I scowled. This ceremony was all kinds of sane-missing.
Feather Man finally cracked a smile. He grinned at us, babbling excitedly in their language, then realized that, yes, we really don't speak it, and turned to Andrew, who had taken a place beside Fausto way back when he'd passed me off to David, for a translation.
Andrew smiled at us too. "Kiss," he instructed.
Shay burst out laughing.
"Excuse me?!" I snapped. David looked like he was trying very hard not to go the way Shay had.
Andrew sighed. "Kiss. It seals the ceremony."
"Um, how about not?" I glared at him. "You never mentioned this part."
Andrew gave me a look that plainly said, 'Are you stupid?' "Was it not implied?" he asked unsurely.
The audience was muttering behind us in worried whispers; even Feather Man looked a little put off by the violence of my reaction. But what else was I supposed to do?! I'd been dragged into this whole stupid ceremony just from guilt, I've had no idea what's even been going on the last few days, some guy with a feather in his hair just talked nonsense at me for an hour and wants me and David to kiss? Really?
I whirled around, dress twisting with me, and prepared to storm back to my sneaksuit and sleeping bag. Who cared if people were starting to call at me, for me? It was their crap ceremony. Let them deal with me leaving.
David grabbed my arm to stop me. "Tally," he sighed, which marked the return of the I'm-very-disappointed-in-you voice (which, for the record, I hated). Then he leaned down and kissed me on the forehead.
"Don't ruin it for them," he murmured in my ear. "They like this thing."
Oh. See, I knew he'd used guilt to try and make me stick around. But still, I couldn't exactly leave when Feather Man threw his arms into the air, yelling some more crap in their language. Everybody started cheering, and waving their hands around, and somehow Shay managed to stop laughing long enough to get the wooden-instrument person to start some playing some songs.
"Please don't kiss me like that again. It makes me feel like a littlie."
"I'll work on it," David said, hands firmly on my waist. "So, why have you been wearing a veil?"
"That's what it is?" Reflexively, one hand came up from his shoulder to adjustment the thing that was still waterfalling down my back. "I don't know, but it's really annoying."
"I'm sorry," he said.
"You say that every time something annoys me."
"Because I am."
"Hmm." My forehead still sort of… burned or something. Maybe his mouth was diseased. The music Shay had started slowed down slightly as we kept dancing. "Hey, guess what? Andrew— well, Feather Man, but Andrew since he speaks English —said that apparently we get to sleep in a special tent tonight."
"Why?" David asked, spinning me. I tried not to trip over any littlies running around. They liked to hide under my dress.
"Don't know. But it beats the ground."
We were quiet for a few minutes. The music kept getting slower and slower, which meant I somehow got closer and closer to David. How did that happen?
I paused. "Today was really weird."
He laughed. "Way to understate it."
"No," I protested, because we really were oddly close now, and I was pretty sure the music was starting to stop. "I just mean— I mean…"
"You mean…?" David prompted gently.
"Just, that…" Our faces were definitely closer. Was that just me? "That…" I took a deep breath. "Well— um, if I asked you to wear a feather in your hair, would you?"
He rolled his eyes, but couldn't answer because just then, Shay screamed in the background. We both turned around to see her clutching Fausto's arm so tightly I was half-sure even his Special skin would have bruises. She was glaring at us.
"You see," she snapped at Fausto, pointing accusingly towards me and David. "You see how stupid they are?"
"I see," he answered reassuringly, pulling her away. "I see."
David and I glanced at each other.
"I think she needs some champagne," I muttered.