6th April 1795
The vicar indicates that we are to pray, and for the last time before she is my wife, I take Isabella's gloved hand in mine and help her lower herself to her knees. She does not look at me, but bows her head, mumbling her response to the puffed up little man in his ridiculous collar lording it over the congregation and us.
A strand of her untameable hair has worked itself loose from her bonnet. I long to pick it up and smooth it back into place. It obscures the porcelain cheek, for once free of its customary blush, that my fingers itch to stroke. Soon.
A long prayer and then a longer moment of silence to contemplate our sins. In this church we follow this fool's rules. I know the extent of his designs on Isabella. He is a friend to her father, but not rich enough for him. Thank God. His bitterness causes him to punish us with prolonged prayer in the icy air before the Lord's altar.
Isabella's head remains bowed. I wonder what she prays for.
My own prayer is one of gratitude. Thank you, Father, for delivering this beautiful woman to me. Grant me the wisdom to be the husband she requires. Amen.
My knees ache as the cold stone pushes into them. Finally, we are bid to rise, and Isabella's elbow presses into my hand as she does so. Her grace astonishes me, as always. Growing up in a household with no mother or sisters, attending school, reading law at Cambridge, running my estate – nothing has prepared me for the world of women. Though I've befriended a few – and some intimately - they remain exotic creations to me – dolls, delicate dolls who may smash against the hardness of life at any moment.
A bolt of fear twists in my gut as I speak my vows."I, Edward Anthony Masen, take thee, Isabella Marie Swan, to my lawful wedded Wife. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."
My voice catches a little on 'til death do us part' which embarrasses me, but other than that I think I sound firm and confident. I have heard these vows recited countless times, but it wasn't until I learned them for this day that I thought about their significance.
I pray once more, 'Dear Lord, make me worthy to be the husband of this woman.' I glance again at my bitter rival and know in my bones that if nothing else, I am more worthy than he.
He looks at my bride, hope still licking around his eyes and mouth, even now. He disgusts me."I, Isabella Marie Swan, take thee, Edward Anthony Masen, to my lawful wedded Husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth."
Isabella's vows ring out, quiet but as clear as a cowbell at dawn. She still hasn't made eye contact with me. Is she afraid?
Her sister rises to remove her glove, and my brother offers me her ring. My voice is thick as I take her cool fingers and reverently place the gold band there."With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
I have made her mine.
Suddenly, I feel triumphant.
She looks at me at last. Her eyes shine with held back tears, but she looks at me adoringly. I feel the intensity of the unnamed pull between us that has been there since the first time I took her hand in mine and kissed it. My lips smile their adoration back at her. My sweet, sweet china doll.
Outside the church, family and friends gather to throw rice and wave us on our way. The coach looks resplendent, I must remember to thank Jacob. He has done me proud.
My wife curtseys to her father. Ignorant man – he least deserves her respect. He pats her on the head and I notice the tiny flinch she makes as his meaty hand approaches her.
I watch her place her hand in her mother's, who pats her gently, absent-mindedly even. Something inside Wren is broken; she is not fully present in her mind. Before I can stop myself, I hope it is not something that runs in the family.
Sir Charles shakes my hand, slaps me on the back. He makes some trifling comment, and I respond in kind. I bow to Wren and watch my Isabella cry a few tears in her sister's arms. I momentarily feel guilt for insisting we leave before the breakfast; but as I look around me at the pinched faces of Isabella's family, I know I was right.
Jasper watches from the lee of the church. He nods at me and smiles wryly as the vicar accosts him. It won't be the first time he has been used as a sounding post by the pompous would-be mentor. I am grateful for my brother's gentle nature as he leads the fool away from me.
I stagger on my feet as Rose's husband comes forward to slap me on the back too. I can't help my grin as Em and I embrace. It is a physical business, this getting married.
I want to be away. I want my wife to myself, and we have a long journey ahead of us. Our first night as man and wife will be at an inn. I won't consummate our marriage there, but to have this exquisite creature all to myself in a room of our own excites me beyond measure. I have to get away.
I cock my eyebrow at my wife – are you ready? She understands me and obediently pulls away from arms and hands and walks to my side. We wave and pull and trip our way to the coach.
As I help her in, the wind picks up, and a squall of April rain descends. The ladies and gentlemen disperse, seeking shelter in the church and their coaches, but the village children remain. I reach into my pocket and bring out a bag of coins specially prepared for the occasion. The joy and avarice on their faces as they scramble in the dirt - in truth - is reflected in my heart.
My joy at being married is great, and my avarice for the promised delights of the state tightens my trousers around my girth.
I climb into the coach laughing, and my beauty laughs with me. I reach up and slap the roof, and we are off.
So our adventure begins.
).().().().().().().().().().().().(End note: I hope to become a better writer by hearing what you think. Please will you press review and tell me? Any message, long or short, is very welcome. Thank you! I will post the first chapter in a week, and after that I aim to post one chapter a fortnight. Catch you then.