A/N: This story was previously published in conjunction with another member under another account several years ago, titled "Split". Since I am no longer in touch with her and it seems unlikely she will ever continue, I have decided to re-post and continue the story on my own account, heavily revised. Enjoy -
Today, I have made my choice. I stand before the man I have chosen, and he smiles down upon me, his hand held out as I step the final step and face the priest before me.
Raoul stands in pale blue, a color I chose for him, a color that brings out the lighter blonde streaks in his hair and the creamy color of the ocean in his eyes. His hand is not nearly as sweaty as mine is, sheathed in white lace that covers my fingertips to my toes.
Everything is how I wanted it. It is just after midday, so that streams of spectacular light shine through the stained glass windows over the pews. The flowers I chose are pink and yellow, and the ribbons covering every decorative surface are a shiny hue of crystal white. With Raoul in his blue sailor's outfit, and I in the white dress, we are the perfect picture of cheeriness.
There is no darkness on my wedding day.
Everything is said appropriately. It is no less extravagant than the reading of line dictation before a performance. I smile at all the right words, hesitate with all the right emotions, look down when I must be the blushing bride. This has been a most anticipated role for quite some time now, and I am certain that I do not disappoint.
Afterwards, Raoul and I walk hand in hand down the aisle, while everyone claps and smiles. My audience consists almost completely of my husband's kin, who seem like foggy, far- away face whenever I approach them. We stay outside to celebrate, where a small tent has been put up for us. I dance, first with Raoul, and then with his father, and then with his niece, and then with his cousin… It seems that I dance with everyone in his family and every one of his friends, laughing and chatting all the while.
I bask in every minute of it, flushing when appropriate, telling all how happy and blessed I am, bubbling with romantic whims at every turn. Never once do I let my smile falter. For not even a second do I cease my exuberant energy.
When the sun starts to go down in the late afternoon, I seek out Raoul in the swarm of people, and he smiles at me gently. Together, we make our way down the path from the church while everyone cheers for us. At the edge of the path, where the burnished carriage is waiting for, he sweeps me off my feet and kisses me in front of everybody. He laughs, I laugh—everything is very gay and light. There is more cheering as he pushes me gently into the carriage. He darts in for another kiss and I giggle as appreciative whoops fill the air.
I know exactly where we are going. It is his cousin's guesthouse, slightly removed from the city limits of Paris. His cousin is in Germany for several months, and graciously offered us the place for as long as we would like it. In the carriage, I grow nervous. My silky dress makes my skin grow very warm. I watch Raoul's back and he continues to wave goodbye to the rest of his family, before hopping in beside me. The light romanticism of earlier is fading, and I do not want that. The sun is beginning to set. Shadows appear.
He turns to me at once, and he looks a little sheepish. "That was fun, was it not?"
I nod soundlessly.
He gives a brief chuckle before awkwardly clasping my hand in his own as the carriage starts to move. "You are truly a sight to behold, Christine. There was not a single soul present who could take his eyes off of you, and now you are mine to look at forever, as I am yours."
They are very pretty words, but I do not know how to respond to them. My eyes are frantically searching the horizon, desperate to catch the last rays of the sinking sun.
He follows me line of gaze and says, "The sky is very beautiful tonight."
I am growing more and more nervous with every passing moment. We are leaving the wedding, and I wish nothing more than to return and escape from the confines of this carriage.
"I will keep you safe in the darkness," Raoul murmurs, and he squeezes my fingers very lightly.
Again, I ignore him.
Perhaps Raoul really is just as nervous as I am, for he falls silent for the rest of the way, and my thoughts wander to everything I have heard about what is supposed to happen between a man and a woman. There are many things I have not considered about Raoul, and this seems like an incredibly grevious mistake to not have done before my wedding day. My valuable seconds tick away uselessly...
When we arrive, he holds the door open for me. We are, in every sense, the model of a young and anxious newlywed couple. Completely innocent in the ways of the flesh, we are only counting upon each other to take the final steps to consummate our marriage. These final thoughts as a young virgin bang around my head with every step I make.
This isn't how I wanted it. I wanted everything to stay deliriously light and domestic, and this is going down a path I am not thrilled to take.
I begin to babble mindlessly, trying to throw off this dreadful surge of nervousness. "What a pretty little area this is in! Did you know, I never, ever left the opera, not even when it was nice out? Sometimes the ballerinas would all go to the café together, but not I, I always stayed indoors and would read a book or practice my music! So there is so much of Paris that I have never even ventured to—like all these trees! Why, I've never seen so many trees before? Have you? Raoul? Raoul?"
He is approaching me carefully, his eyes serious. "I love you, Christine."
"I am nervous," I state blindly.
He only squeezes my shoulders in reply, leading me up the stairs, and I have no choice but to follow in fear. "Christine," he says in a very gentle voice. "I love you so much… My wife. This is not something to dread. "
I can barely smile at him, and although I am prepared for what is to happen next, I am not looking forward to it. Horrible stories that the opera girls have told me bounce around in my head. Is it going to hurt? Am I supposed to make noise? Will I have to touch it?
This is not how it should be.
He has been prepared as well, obviously… As he opens the door, the covers are pulled back. There is a faint scent of perfume lingering in the air. Dozens of soft pillows line the space between the bed and the wall. It is all very lovely, very comforting, and very unfamiliar.
My stomach turns over. I cannot decide if this is better or worse.
I wanted everything with Raoul to be blissfully sweet and light. This next, required step in our realtionship will go against everything I have hoped for us. This is something that adults do, and I do not want to be an adult with Raoul. I love him very much, and I am honored to be his wife... But I do not want this with him. My lack of sexuality was something I had always intended on keeping clean and pure - this terrible taint of darkness was what Raoul was supposed to be protecting me from. From the fiery affairs and passionate dramas of the stories I cling to so strongly on stage, to the quiet, innocent life that I had kept myself sheltered in... No! This could not be the next step. I am not ready for this!
I do not wish to recall the next few hours—the first few hours of my time as a married woman. All I can say is that it was very uncomfortable, and most certainly painful. We spoke often, interrupting each other, to request that the other stop, or move… We did not continue for very long, but eventually rested, both staring at opposite sides of the room.
It was not like any of stories I had heard at the Opera, whether very terrible or very passionate - it was simply very... dull. I did not one thing that the girls had often spoke of doing with their lovers. Raoul did not one thing that they had often spoke of their lovers doing to them. I did not feel anything that I had been expecting to feel. What was it, then, that we had done? I mourned the loss of my virginity.
I felt certain that what we had done was nothing more than the awkward bumbling of two children.
And it did not feel like love.