Death of a Merriman
They were married a little past ten in the morning, with the sunlight bathing the parlor in a buttery glow, making the space seem soft and warm. Felicity wanted the ceremony to take place in the guest chamber so Ben could give his vows in bed, but he would have none of it. He insisted upon standing for his wedding, no matter the pain or risk, and though Lissie accepted it with a shrug of the shoulders and said she was content so long as he fulfilled his promise, he knew that she worried for him.
Felicity's gown was a deep blue silk, trimmed with lace and with elegant ruffled sleeves. The material was purchased for Nan and meant to be made into a ball gown for her, but she happily offered it for the sake of her sister's wedding. Their mother had worked tirelessly to finish it in time. Felicity had never owned anything worth so much by means of those who labored over it.
Her mother fussed over every detail of her raiment, bemoaning the fact that there was not more time to prepare. As she adjusted the pearl around Felicity's neck for the fifth time, she murmured, "Today is the day you forsake the name of Merriman, my sweet girl." She could not utter the sentence without shedding a tear. Felicity understood it must be difficult for her to feel she was losing her daughter so soon after regaining her.
Lissie didn't say what she was thinking; that she had lost that name long ago; that the moment Ben had rescued her from Indian captivity she was as much a Davidson as she could ever hope to be, except for the official taking of his name. Felicity Merriman had died eight years ago. Even in returning to her lost family, she did not feel like a Merriman. Her home, her kin, her family was wherever Ben was. At last that truth would be confirmed.
Nan was dressed in a paler blue, rosy-cheeked and eager-eyed, looking every fulfillment of her parents' expectations. Felicity was amused by their contrast. At eleven, she was gangly, active, and trying. Nan was anything but.
Twas only the family and the minister in attendance. Ben and Lissie stood before him at the great window, the lace curtains overshadowed by Lissie's fine gown. Ben leaned on his crutch only twice during the ceremony, and Lissie pretended not to notice.
She was radiant and poised, and forcing Ben to marry her under duress, he thought wickedly. How his life had taken a turn from only twelve days prior. He was reestablished in the household as a respectable business partner, shown gratitude by a family he had fled from, and given their blessing upon marriage to his own, sweet Lissie. All because he had taken in a feisty six year old and fallen in love with the woman she became. Providence had been abundantly kind to him.
Felicity Davidson removed her veil, folding and draping it over an empty chair. She gave a little sigh and clasped her hands together, bringing her shoulders up and smiling.
She stole to Ben's bedside and settled in her chair to keep watch as he slept. He'd lasted for as long as Felicity deemed him able to before she escorted him upstairs and demanded he get back in bed.
She should change out of her wedding gown, but she didn't feel like doing so just yet. She liked the way it rustled. She felt a fine lady, and was proud to look her best beside her handsome husband as the family gave quiet congratulations.
She hesitated to emerge from behind the screen in her shift. 'Twas not as if it was improper, now they were married, but a small part of her clung to the modesty of her girlhood.
She still would not wear a nightcap.
Late into the night, Ben woke with a start.
"I'm here." She took his hand and brought it to her cheek. "Tis Lissie; I'm here."
She slipped under the covers and he pulled her to him. "I had a sudden feeling that tonight may be my last on this earth."
"Ben, no." she tried to remain steady and defiant, but her voice broke.
"There are far more honorable ways to die than by misfire from a fellow patriot, but I daresay no man can die happier than with the girl he loves in his arms."
She was crying now, curse him. "But you won't die. Not now. I won't sleep at all. I'll pray all night. God will be kind to us."
He kissed the bridge of her nose. "Lissie."
"I cannot think how I should live without you."
"You'll do just fine. You'll be strong for your mother and father, you'll help the children, and someday you'll meet and marry a man more worthy than I."
"You are foolish, Benjamin Davidson," she exclaimed, trying to wriggle out of his grasp. He only pulled her closer and tightened his hold.
"Very well, I am foolish. But don't leave me, Lissie girl."
The last thing he heard before succumbing to the darkness was a whispered "I love you" from his dear Lissie.
Rose had quite a shock when she came to bring a tray of food for Master Ben. Instead of a sleeping man, she found two sleeping bodies in the bed, clinging tightly to one another. The color had returned to his face, and his breathing was steady and calm. She could swear a smile was playing on his lips, even in sleep.
The clatter from her shaking the tea service startled Ben awake and he shushed her impudently so that Lissie might sleep longer.
"I'm awake already," she murmured, but did not open her eyes. "Is it morning?"
Ben tapped a finger over her closed eyelid. "What if it is not?"
"I cannot open my eyes 'til morning. I… I couldn't stay awake and I fell asleep praying. But if morning has come and you're…" she whispered, "Ben, tell me 'tis morning."
"Tis morning, Lissie girl."
She opened her eyes to receive a kiss from her husband. "I told you that you were being foolish."
"I merely thought twice of letting you marry another fool and decided to rally. I am more jealous than I suspected." He kissed her again, making her wriggle happily in his arms.
Rose made a hasty exit and shut the door to the sound of Miss Felicity's giggling.
When Mr. Merriman was told, he laughed outright. "Well, Rose, what do you expect from a newlywed couple? Let them be. I'm sure breakfast won't be on their minds for some time. Unless it's breakfast of another sort."
"My dear!" his wife scolded, pretending to be appalled, but she hid a smile behind her demure façade.
"Do you not worry for them?" she questioned, "For Felicity being so young?"
"No," he said decidedly. "I daresay he'll take better care of her than I could ever hope to. Do not fret, my dear. All is well."