Author's Note: And the last one. How many people do I still have? Raise your hands! Of course, I can't see you raise your hands, so you'll just have to review instead...
Anyway, I feel I should warn you that this chapter, more so than the others, makes reference to other stories I have previously written. The princesses are characters from Contractions and Split Infinitives, but that's about all you need to know about them. However, another one of my stories ("The Best Man") is about Eugene's story on his wedding day. I do make reference to what's going on there, so if you're wondering what that's about...yeah. It's not really that important, though, but I thought I should warn you anyway.
Rapunzel hadn't moved in 20 minutes. She was itching to stand up and take a few steps, but whenever she did as much as twitch, a cacophony of voices sounded.
"Do you want something? I'll get it for you!"
"Stay put. You'll muss up your gown."
"I'll get some water for you—hold on—"
The bridesmaids were taking their duties way too seriously. To the group of princesses assembled in her bed chamber, the merest movement meant a rip, a stain, or a wrinkle, any of which would be a big enough disaster to cancel, or at the very least postpone, the wedding. At this moment, Rapunzel envied Eugene for having the pub thugs as groomsmen. She was sure they wouldn't be taking their offices quite so seriously.
She really wanted to stand up. In fact, she wanted to move so much that she wasn't even thinking, "half an hour and I'll be married." No, she was thinking, "half an hour and I can walk."
"I'm really fine," Rapunzel insisted to anyone who would listen. "My dress isn't going to tear." She started to rise, but four sets of hands firmly pushed her back into her chair.
"Rapunzel, I don't mean to play rank, but this happens to be the fourth wedding ceremony I have been a part of. I think I know better than you the unnecessary risks you're taking in moving around."
When Emily told Catherine to be quiet and pointed out that in two of those weddings she'd just been a flower girl, for an instant Rapunzel thought she may have gained an ally, but her hopes were dashed when Emily turned to Rapunzel and said, "But she's right—for once. Don't press your luck by moving around."
"So I've only been a bridesmaid twice before—that's one more time than you've been a bridesmaid!" Catherine reminded her sister.
"May I remind you that I'm the Maid of Honor here?" Emily pointed out, her hands clutching the sides of her dress.
The bridesmaid dresses were so nice. Gauzy sleeves, lilac fabric, and they didn't have this ridiculous train like Rapunzel's dress did. True, before she'd been wearing the dress she'd loved the train. She'd thought the length of white satin was like a snowy, iced over stream tailing her, dazzling in its pure simplicity, but now that it was yet another obstacle between her and…moving, the train looked very ugly. She was amazed no one had commented on how it spoiled her dress.
Though, she had to admit, her dress was looking uglier and uglier by the moment. So much white—she was tempted to grab a paintbrush and use it as a canvas.
Okay, she wouldn't go that far. But in any case, she couldn't wait to get out of it.
"I know what'll get your mind off of staying still, Rapunzel!" Princess Adrienne suggested, stepping in front of the bickering sisters. She pulled out a letter. "Here's a letter from Renee. She writes all about her wedding tour. Would you like to hear it?" Without waiting for an answer, she began to read. "Today I sailed on the Mediterranean for the first time. Unfortunately the waters were rough and I spent most of the voyage in our cabin trying not to think about the sea, which was not easy since Deming was also below deck trying not to think about the water, only when he tries not to think about something he has a habit of mentioning it very often—"
"—don't read her that!" Maxine interjected, grabbing the offending letter. "You'll make her nervous. Rapunzel and Eugene are going on the Mediterranean during their wedding tour!"
"Please," Adrienne rolled her eyes and grabbed the letter back. "That's not for weeks and anyway, I think Rapunzel and Eugene can handle the water better than Renee and Deming. He gets seasick on a horse."
Catherine and Emily fighting on one side of her, Adrienne and Maxine fighting on the other. There was only one way Rapunzel knew to restore some peace to the room.
All arguments were forgotten in the parade of "stay still!," "sorry—forgot about the water. I'll get it now," and "is there something you need?"
"Would you," she asked no one in particular, "read to me from…" her eyes darted around the room and landed on the nearest novel, "The Princess of Cleves," she asked. "I left off at…" she hadn't actually left off anywhere. She'd finished it late last night when she'd at last given up on trying to fall asleep in all her excitement. She'd finally dozed off at around four in the morning. "Page 72," she said at random. "Start at page 72."
Emily, the first to reach the book in question, started to read. "Great efforts must be used, and you must do great violence to your heart to save yourself: reflect what you owe to your husband; reflect what you owe to yourself, and think that you are going to lose that reputation which you have gained—do you really want us to read this?" she broke off. "As I recall this entire book is about how unhappy marriage is."
Was it? Rapunzel obviously had not been paying too much attention to it the night before. A book about marriage had probably been a poor choice in view of why she was so excited in the first place. Every time marriage was mentioned, which was frequently, Rapunzel's mind would fly off into a dreamland and finally when she'd look back down at the candlelit pages, she'd realize she hadn't absorbed any of the words in at least ten pages.
"Not really," Rapunzel admitted. "But we have to do something! Otherwise I'll scream from not moving. I wish I could just go outside and…run. Really, really quickly."
"Eugene must have felt the same way," Adrienne commented absentmindedly as she looked out the window. "That's probably why I saw him charging away from the palace like there was no tomorrow on that horse an hour ago…"
Rapunzel blanched, Emily slapped her forehead, Maxine groaned, and Catherine murmured, "nice going, Adrienne."
Then Adrienne froze, her hand flew to her mouth, and she apologetically mumbled, "I'm really bad at this bridesmaid business, aren't I?"
There were no disagreements coming from the bridesmaids themselves, but Rapunzel grabbed her hand. The movement, miraculously, did not elicit more warnings to stay put and assurances that someone would get her a glass of water.
"Don't worry," Rapunzel assured her. "I'm not worried, after all. He's not running out on me. I know Eugene."
"If you are worried—or not worried—because you spotted Eugene riding away from the palace, there is really no need. I noticed him too, and I also noticed that the horse he was riding happened to be Maximus, so you see there is no cause for concern. Maximus would never allow him to escape." The last speech came from the Queen, who had just entered the chamber. She was carrying the veil, but nearly dropped it when she spotted her daughter. "Oh my dear," she whispered, "you look perfect."
"Doesn't she?" Emily agreed, surveying Rapunzel. "Personally I don't think Eugene deserves her. Maybe we should cancel the wedding."
"Some Maid of Honor you are," Rapunzel laughed. "According to tradition that would mean you, as my Maid of Honor, would have to marry Eugene instead!"
Emily shrugged. "I'm willing to fulfill that duty if need be. I don't think I'm too good for him."
Suddenly Rapunzel felt something cold around her neck. Her mother was leaning over her, adjusting a gold necklace.
"As promised," she explained, "something old. And it is also the something borrowed, because it is family tradition to give it to one's daughter on her wedding day. One day you will give it to your daughter."
It was a very simple chain. Well made, but there wasn't even a pendant. The Queen, after all, had not come from royalty. Rapunzel was relieved it was simple. All this finery—her dress, her shoes, her veil, all of which counted as her "something new"—was making her nervous. She felt as if at any moment a pirate would leap in the room and steal her away because her clothing was worth so much.
She sincerely thanked the Queen and looked at the clock.
"Only twenty minutes left," she commented. "Should we try on the veil?"
How strange wedding clothes were. Their chief goal seemed to be covering the bride as much as possible. What with this outfit, Rapunzel thought, Eugene would have no idea who that girl walking down the aisle was. With the veil on, all Rapunzel could see was…a snowstorm.
"How am I ever going to walk around with this thing over my face?" she asked.
"It's not so bad," Maxine murmured, helping Rapunzel remove it from her face for the time being. Across the room, Catherine was by the door being handed a load of bouquets by a servant. They were little bundles of heliotrope in varying shades of purple. Pascal, who had up until that moment been pacing in front of the mirror practicing different shades of blue, leapt on the bouquet Catherine handed to Maxine and turned the deep purple of the flowers.
Then Maxine finished helping Rapunzel with the veil and looked down at the bouquet she had unknowingly received from Catherine. At which point Pascal turned yellow, causing a startled Maxine to trip and fall to the floor, yanking the veil, which she still held in one hand, with her.
And that was why, five minutes before her wedding, a seamstress was hastily sewing together Rapunzel's veil. Fortunately Maxine's yank hadn't actually torn the fabric; it had just ripped the veil from the headpiece. Though the repair job was successful in securing the veil, the stitches were hard to miss. Hard to miss, that is, if you were staring at them from two inches away. Rapunzel thought it looked fine. But she was in the minority.
"I can practically see the stitches from across the room!" Catherine insisted.
And that was why, four minutes before her wedding, a seamstress was hastily sewing heliotrope blossoms onto the head piece to cover the stitches. It had been the Queen's suggestion and Rapunzel, when she looked at the finished veil, honestly said, "I think it looks better this way."
It did. It gave her the only thing she had been lacking: some color. White was nice…but she was starting to tire of it. A China Blue Pascal, who had been spending the last 15 minutes apologizing, the best he could, to Maxine, leapt on Rapunzel's shoulder. Then the veil was back over her face and all she could see was white and Pascal.
Then there were hands helping her up and she was standing—standing at last. It felt so good to stand. Hands pressed against her, leading her in the right direction—she felt her weight lighten. Someone must be carrying her train. She heard her mother's voice—"I am so happy for you, darling." They must have still been in the corridor. They hadn't been walking very long. But a corridor you walked several times every day seemed like an entirely different place when you were wearing a wedding dress. More steps, a warning that she was about to go down the stairs—was it really necessary to wear the veil this entire time? After all, no one could see them right now. Everyone was in Throne Hall waiting for the wedding to start—no one was still out in the hallways. Then she was at the bottom of the stairs and she heard murmurs of good luck from her bridesmaids. That's right. They were going in before her. A squeeze of her hand—her mother, she somehow knew. Then she was alone in her snowstorm. No one but her and Pascal.
She breathed in a few times. "Are you ready, Pascal?"
Pascal nodded. Why shouldn't he be ready? After all, all he had to do at the ceremony was…be blue. It wasn't as if he was getting married.
"Are you ready, Rapunzel?" That was her father's voice. He was taking her hand.
Was she ready? How strange—she hadn't really asked herself that question before.
Well, of course she was ready. She was so ready, in fact, that she hadn't even questioned her readiness. If that wasn't ready, what was?
She nodded, causing her veil's fabric to make a gentle shhhh noise.
"Good." There was a pause, then, "those flowers are new, right?"
"What kind are they?" he asked. She could hear music leaking from the Hall. Violins—there were definitely several violins.
"I never knew what my favorite flower was," her father said. "Now I know: heliotropes." He tested the word. "Heliotropes."
"Father?" Rapunzel asked.
"Shouldn't we be going in?"
"Anytime you wish. I await your lead."
Rapunzel stepped forward.