Jane looked around and saw that it was really true. The dress she had worn, the guests who had been there, even the music that had been playing, were all the same. Once again, it was her wedding day.
She looked over at George standing with his friends. His eyes met her own for a brief second, then returned to Mark, who was teasing him.
"This is a most unusual request," He had told them. "Over many eons I've only heard it a few times. Samson and Delilah, Constantine and Fausta, a handful of others. Are you sure this is what you really want?"
"We are," they had replied in unison.
"Well then, so might it be!"
Jane remembered the empty words they had exchanged the other time, the first time.
"Do you really love me, George?"
"Of course I do. I married you, didn't I?"
Now she listened to Mark's loud guffaws and the snide remarks of the other men. Why doesn't he just shut up and play the violin or something?
"I can't wait for tonight," George said. His words sent an icy chill down her spine. She looked into his eyes and saw nothing there but joyful anticipation. Instantly her fear left her and was replaced with longing.
She waited for him in their bed chambers that night, her heart pounding with trepidation. Would things really be different this time?
She heard him outside the door, then the door swung open and he appeared. His lips met hers, and they kissed passionately. He felt her stiffen automatically.
"Please don't be afraid, Jane," he whispered. "I promise, I won't hurt you."
Avoiding the table, he instead led her to the bed, where he slowly undressed her, showering her with kisses the whole time. She felt the evidence of his arousal and reached for the elastic of his hose.
"May I?" she whispered.
"Of course!" he whispered back.
She removed his hose and undergarments and took him into her hands, gently stroking, curiously exploring. When he was sure that she was ready, he entered her, and they began to make love. As it was once again her first time, there was slight pain and a little blood, but not nearly as much of either as there had been that other first time. When it was over, he held her close and stroked her hair lovingly.
"Are you really all right, Jane?" His voice was full of concern.
"I'm fine, George." Inside her were feelings that she had never felt before and didn't quite understand, but they were overwhelmingly positive.
"Are you all right?" she asked him, a bit shyly.
"Of course!" He laughed and hugged her tightly, then kissed her forehead.
"I love you, Jane," he said.
"I love you too, George."
Jane paced the floor, her emotions vacillating between anxiety and outrage. George should have been home hours ago.
When he finally arrived, she bit her tongue to prevent the angry words from spilling out. She was determined to give him a chance to explain first.
"I'm sorry, Jane." She saw how weary he looked and her heart softened just a little. "I've been about the King's business."
She didn't say anything, but the silence between them was palpable.
"Yes, I did go to see Mark, but it's not what you think," he finally added, reluctantly. "I went to tell him good-bye, that we can't continue to carry on as we have since I'm married now. The church teaches against it, and even more so, I know that it hurts you, and I don't ever want to do anything to hurt you, Jane."
"George, I...I don't know what to say." She went to him, and he gently embraced her.
"To be with you is heaven," he murmured. "I know. I've been there." They both laughed gently.
"I do ask, Jane, that you try to be understanding about my relationship with Anne. I swear to you, there's nothing sexual about it in any way, but Anne and I have always been very close, ever since we've been children. She has enemies at court, and she needs all the love and support I can give her."
"I never had any brothers or sisters, George." Jane's voice sounded slightly hurt.
"I know, and I'm sorry." His hand caressed her cheek gently.
"If I did have a brother, I would want him to be just like you, George."
"I'm so very glad I'm not your brother." He grinned cheekily, and she smiled back.
Neither of them suspected how quickly things were about to change for the worse...