What do I know about love? What does anyone really know? Bella accepted her dismal fate and started into the church as the dreaded wedding processional began. She had given up caring about the details. Why did it matter how she got married if she didn’t really want to be married in the first place?
Before family and friends today, she would say her vows to a man whom she barely knew, and a man she assumed wanted to know little about her. Mortimer wasn’t even wearing his tuxedo, still dressed in his work attire. I’m marrying a man who came from work on a Sunday at the office and didn’t even bother wearing his formal tux and tails. That should say something about this marriage.
Mortimer wasn’t even facing her. He stood at the end of a long red carpeted aisle. The first two rugs were out of place as Bella stepped onto an exposed wooden board. The venue must have decorated in a hurry for she didn’t see any of the Christmas-red roses she requested on the wedding arch, merely a green vine trellis, and the aisle was crooked. She tried to muster a smile even as she felt like crying. This wasn’t how she envisioned her big day.
Mortimer finally turned to face her when she reached the end of the aisle. Her father beamed proudly, standing at the dip in the heart shaped rug, ready to marry the two “lovebirds.” Mortimer appeared stiff, but offered a slight smile, probably out of obligation. Bella averted her eyes. She glanced back at the audience gathering here on her day to witness their marriage.
Bella’s second bridesmaid, Mary-Sue Oldie took her rose bouquet and her maid-of-honor, Jennifer gave her a reassuring smile. Bella hoped the knots in her stomach would settle. She was having second thoughts about the bridesmaids gowns she had chosen – floor length, off-the-shoulder cranberry red gowns with lemon creme ribbon and matching gloves. Red and yellow reminded her of ketchup and mustard, and the thought of condiments turned her stomach.
Bella gulped, and looked past her bridesmaids. Her mother, Jocasta, stood in the second row behind the bridal party, picturesque and put-together as always. Her hair was braided into a beautiful bun and her red tea-length dress trimmed with snow-white ribbon made her appear elegant. Across the aisle, her future in-laws stood – Cornelia is a glorious sleeveless black evening gown, trimmed with diamonds, with a single shimmering strap and her hair piled atop her head like a beehive Her balding husband, Gunther Sr. stood in an appropriate wedding attire. Even the groomsmen, Mortimer’s friend, Nick Alto and his younger brother, Gunther Jr. wore tuxedos with tails. Bella tried not to feel disappointed.
Bella tried to concentrate as her father spoke some words. She stared into Mortimer’s eyes, pleading with him to change his mind. She wished her auras worked in that regard. The arrival of a certain Nina Caliente flustered her, and she turned aside to cough. The nerve of that woman! she thought angrily. She highly doubted the affair between Nina and Mortimer would stop just because they were about to be legally married. The thought depressed her even more.
Mortimer leaned forward, cleared his throat quietly, and handed her a handkerchief from his pocket in a gentlemanly way. She flushed and took the offering as her father continued speaking. Mortimer tried to smile, and if she wasn’t so miserable, she would’ve found his expression amusing. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, the same place where the handkerchief had been, and began reading his scripted vows. Something about how he looked forward to her face lighting up his mornings and his bed being warmed at night. Bella could hardly focus.
“I…uh…” Bella stuttered.
“With this ring…” her father prompted.
“Right… With this ring, I thee wed…” she slipped the wedding band onto Mortimer’s left hand.
Bella was saying the words as if on auto-pilot. She had practiced several times, but this time, she lacked passion. The paper fluttered to the floor, and Mortimer stooped to pick it up. He handed it back to her with a nervous smile.
“With this ring… I thee wed,” Mortimer repeated. “My lovely angel…” he added.
She blinked rapidly, surprised by the kindness of his tone. He seemed to smile genuinely, but she still wasn’t convinced, shoving her hand in the front pocket of her gown, grateful for the space. Her fingers had to grip something.
“…who will sing me to sleep… no more lonely nights,” he said, his words lacking malice, but Bella felt caught off guard.
She recalled the man whom she previously shared a bed, a man who helped sing her to sleep on the nights when she was struggling with insomnia. A man who wasn’t here today, but one whom she wished she was marrying instead. A man who was already married. And in a few moments, she would be married too.
Simis nudged Mortimer with a teasing grin.
“Uh…” he cleared his throat. “You can kiss your bride.”
His lips felt strange and wondrous against her own. Bella felt immediately calmer, and yet strangely still torn. Mortimer would be good to her. He would take good care of her. He already had proven that facet of his character. And yet, Bella felt her heart elsewhere… in the arms of a man whom she knew would do anything for her… even if it meant raising another man’s baby… even if it meant giving her up to save her life. But Bella wanted more than a marriage of convenience and a marriage in her best interest. She wanted Emit.
The guests clapped. Bella went through the motions, tossing her bouquet into the audience. Mary Sue caught the flowers, set it on the bench, and made a triumphant fist as she grinned at her fiance, Daniel. They looked so happy, fueling Bella’s envy and furthering her self-pity.
Gunther Sr., her father-in-law, tossed flower petals and cheered. He had mentioned at the rehearsal dinner how happy he was that Bella would be his family soon. He was the only one who had seemed genuinely pleased about the arrangement during the wedding preparations. Beside him, John Burb, Jennifer’s husband, formed a closed hand and fist bumped Mortimer as he walked past as a sign of masculine congratulations.
Pale, pretty Cornelia cried, soft, delicate sobs, and Bella knew they were not tears of joy. The woman wasn’t exactly Bella’s biggest fan. She worried about how much Mortimer’s parents knew about everything that happened, but she suspected Cornelia just didn’t like her. The lady was holding out for her son to change his mind, and when he didn’t, she made her displeasure known. She would’ve preferred to pick Mortimer’s bride herself, someone of higher class and wealth, two things Bella was not. Jennifer gravitated toward Jocasta, both women smiling slightly, as if the truth of the situation weighed heavily on their hearts as well. Her mother stifled a cry, sending pangs of guilt, regret, and fear to her heart simultaneously. Bella saw her friend squeezed Jocasta’s hand as if trying to reassure her that these things were for the best.
Bella nervously twisted back around as Mortimer tightened his grip on her arm as he escorted her out of the church to the photographers outside. She figured the press would be present also, something she hadn’t wanted, but due to the reputation of the Goth family, couldn’t avoid. As she stepped outside the chapel, she could see flashes of light already blinding her vision. Bella whirled her head to find a point of reference, something, anything to make her feel less overwhelmed. Mortimer had plastered a smile across his smug face, waving to the cameramen and women as if he had done this a thousand times already, which in reality, he had. Bella was still unaccustomed to the attention, and she knew this was the life she signed up for, even if it wasn’t the life she wanted. She had said her vows. It was official. She was Mrs. Mortimer Goth, soon-to-be mother of a child belonging to Malcolm Landgrabb the IV and heart-forever-belonging-to…
Suddenly, she was hit with an overwhelming sensation that the man she truly wanted was nearby. As she whipped her attention to the right, she could see him, a man with pale-as-ice skin and a shock of blue hair leaning against the stop sign on the curb across the road. The world was spinning and he seemed still. And when she saw the tears in his eyes, she fainted.
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