Well, it's only been about 11 months? Thanks for all of you who reviewed when I was in hiding, it's the reason I've written this. It is the largest of my chapters so far, a treat for you. I hope to hear all the feedback from you, old readers and new, it's the only reason I get back into this. As usual I am too lazy to proofread thorough, because as usual I decide to write chapter at 1am, I don't do things by the book man, I'm so alternative and arty dude.
"I am ever so glad you decided to come today Henry." His mother sent across a tight smile.
"I must say however, you are looking ghastly tired."
Higgins did not reply. The rest of the journey was spent in silence as they rode to the ceremony. Once they arrived outside the church Henry noticed the beaming face of Stuart, dread slumped over him as they were waved over for a greeting.
"Good to see you old chap!" Stuart patted Henry on the bicep whilst shaking hands.
"This whole charade is a splendid excuse for consumption of brandy." Henry couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Are you feeling nervous?" Pickering inquired with a warm smile.
"Very. I have a lot to be anxious about. We had better be on inside, Eliza will arrive soon."
The group of men entered the chapel. Henry was filled with distaste as he looked around the interior, he hadn't been in a church in years, he felt the eyes of the saints on him, as if they saw his thrusting last night.
"No." He thought. "I can do this, I have to keep composed, don't smile."
"Over here Higgins!" Pickering was waving a hand to Henry, he was sat at a row near the front of the altar, Henry reluctantly made his way over, lowering himself down next to Pickering.
"Did you have to choose a seat so near the front?" Henry spoke in a hissed quiet tone, unable to hide his discomfort, this made Pickering frown.
"I say, it was what Eliza had requested, I don't see the harm in it, are you feeling quite alright?" He studied the face of Henry, not used to this sort of display.
The more that Henry began to realise he was not composed the less composed he became, he merely grunted in response to Pickering, adjusting the tight collar of his freshly pressed shirt, glancing left to right, he reached into his pocket, ruining the neatly folded handkerchief to wipe his brow. Soon the chapel began to fill up and Henry could sense it, he didn't like the voices of the various people, squinting at the mix of accents. His eyes drifted onto Stuart who was stood proudly at the front, the light through the church windows settled onto his brow - they were both sweating and nervous - but for the wrong reasons. Stuart was in anticipation, anticipation of consummation, whereas Henry was in anticipation in case of revelation for his own consummation. He shook these thoughts from his head as the church organ began to blare out through the echoed building.
The entire congregation stood up, their bodies twisting as the large, impressive doors of the church opened, wanting to eat up the first glimpse of the bride. Mr. Doolittle stood proudly beside his daughter, holding onto her arm, showing her off as his most prized asset. Eliza wore a slim gown, hugging her figure, the sleeves slunk down to her wrists, lace left enough to the imagination, she also wore a removed smile, as if she were somewhere else, her eyes avoided the guests, instead drifting upwards, towards the clouds, towards the heavens.
Henry felt a mist set inside his chest as he twisted his head to watch Eliza walking past, he couldn't resist taking all of her in with his eyes, of course she didn't look at him, he watched her pass by, joining hands with her now to be husband, her veil wafted like a hand waving goodbye.
The ceremony was torturous for Henry but he had managed to keep himself on form, much easier than earlier, he made it his business to count the number of tiles behind the altar, his brain as always needed to be constantly stimulated. Nobody else realised Henry's lack of attention, as they were fully immersed in the emotional and sentimental moment taking place before them, plucking joy from it in a way Henry would never allow himself to do. What he had not taken into account was that it was not over when the ceremony had ended, it wasn't over when he had to watch Stuart plant a kiss on her lips, no, there was a reception to look forward to.
By the time Henry, his mother and Pickering had reached the venue tables were already scarce. The reception was held in a large traditional wedding tent, decorated with great detail and clear expense, Henry wasn't interested in that, he had already spotted the location of a brandy bottle.
"How on earth does Eliza know all of these people?" He asked whilst sitting with the pair at their table.
"Stuart's family and friends, also Eliza invited her friends, you know?" Mrs. Higgins began to lay her napkin onto her lap.
"Yes, I know her friends, always round that house. At least we won't have that anymore, eh Pickering?" He looked to his male companion with a smile asking for verification.
"What a bore it will be without young ladies around the house!" Pickering returned with a small laugh.
The evening drifted fast, just as fast as the brandy disappeared from the bottle, the food was enjoyable, however the two sociable creatures either side of him had engaged in deep conversations with the people they were sat next to. Henry had tried not to watch Eliza the entire evening but it was hard to look anywhere else, she lit up the room, he examined as different guests flocked around her, he saw how Stuart kissed her hand, passing her subtle touches. He slowly blinked, as his eyes were closed the brandy had started to make his head spin, deciding it best to stop, he pushed the glass away, slouching into the chair. Henry turned to listen to Pickering talking to the insufferable Judy Hutton, who was eyeing him up past Pickering's shoulders, like a piece of meat. He was distracted by a sharp tap on his ear.
"What the devil?" Henry turned his head left, he saw white, saw some hips, moving his eyes up, it was Eliza.
"How many brandies have you had? Your eyes are in two different places!" She was being playful.
Henry hadn't attempted to speak since engulfing the alcohol, he cleared his throat, having his usual face of superiority. "You see, Eliza, I - have had just enough." He threw a smile towards her, but instead she laughed, he couldn't understand why.
"Perhaps you would like some water? I can get some." She twisted on her heels, proceeding towards the beverage table. Henry frowned, confused by her statement, he was fine, he is always fine. Patting Pickering on the shoulder he pushed out of his seat, the alcohol misted over his brain suddenly, everything was harder to see and locate.
"This damn grass is very uneven.." He muttered whilst following the duplicating figure of Eliza to the other side of the tent. Pickering glanced to Mrs. Higgins hoping she had not noticed the state of her son, thankfully she was engaged in thorough gossip and wine.
"I am fine, thank you Eliza.." Henry had come to a halt directly behind her, his breath dancing on the back of her neck, towards her nose, she squinted at the strength of it.
"Henry, really, I've never seen you have so much brandy." She was pouring out a glass, twisting around her body before handing the water to him, he clasped his hand around it, gulping it down, taking her advice, as always.
"I am sorry, I am just making it more bearable, it makes people less tedious.." His words were slightly slurred but still clear. Without warning from his brain he placed a hand onto her waist, she immediately pushed it away. It took Henry a few moments to process what had occurred, by then she wore a frown.
"Please go sit down Henry, before you embarrass us both." Eliza turned from him, he watched her walk back over towards Stuart, using the table for subtle support, he rested a hand there, gathering courage to move. Pickering had been watching, getting out of his seat he went to his friend's side.
"Higgins, the couple are leaving soon, so should we." Placing a hand on Henry's shoulder, he twisted the man's torso to view the departing couple.
"What? Already? I do not understand this whole charade, I do not." Henry was lead away by Pickering, watching for himself Eliza being lead away by her husband, husband, the thought boiled his brain.
Eliza blinked away tears as she looked out of the car window, Stuart, ever attentive, wiped them, eager for her to be in a durable mood for what was to come.
"It's ok darling, you'll see them all soon, it's about us now, enjoying our time together, tonight.." He tried not to linger on this thought "And forever."
Now she had to tackle the wedding night, now she had to consummate.