Eric Baysman sat in the front row of the church, watching the rehearsal

on

The music changed, the bridesmaids emerged, their arms already filled, one
bridesmaid, two flower girls, and a ring bearer. He spotted the back of
Marissa’s head, her curly black ringlets, her hair swept up, and she was close
enough for him to smell her perfume—rose, not lavender—and something else:
lilacs. He recognized the fragrance of Lilac Baysman.

Marissa Baysman stepped out of the church, wearing a flowing gown of white.
She had dressed in it for the rehearsal, so he knew it was the wedding
outfit, but the bride’s hair was unbound, and the ring on her left hand, which
he thought a little too large, was covered with a veil that she wore over the
one on her right, which hid her beautiful green eyes.

He stepped forward, but Marissa took his arm and pulled him back, and he
recognized the strength and poise of her beauty.

“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “Especially about how nervous I am about
losing her mother here this afternoon.”

“I know. I’m the same way. If I know we can’t do anything to make it worse,
none of us can.”

The rehearsal lasted until almost eight o’clock. There was cake, champagne,
champagne. The bridesmaids danced, smiled, giggled. And the bride wore her
white gown and her hair loose, and she danced with Eric Baysman, who held her
hand. It would be his fault, he knew. She would be his first, his last, his
only. But he couldn’t have done anything but dance, and she liked to dance,
so he danced with her all night.

There was nothing Eric could say, nothing he could do. He knew the reason
Marissa had to see her mother this morning—their mother would have left a
wedding, leaving them behind, both of them alone, her mother, the only
mother she knew—and he wanted Marissa to have a good day, and he wanted
Marissa to have a good life. But when he reached for Marissa’s hand, he felt
a little of that old love that had come back when they were young, and a
little of the old fear that had always followed a wedding day.

“You did great, honey.”

Aunt Lilac, in a navy blue dress with a white collar, and a pearl necklace,
was holding Marissa, and walking her to the punch table. Marissa’s hand was
in his, and he thought nothing of it, except of how she looked in her dress.
Her mother had been wearing it for an hour.

“We’ll be late in ’bout fifteen minutes,” he said.

“I know. I looked.” She smiled, and he remembered the way she always smiled
for him. “You look gorgeous.”

“I am. But so thin.”

“You’ll be full of energy. You’re going to be the perfect bride.”

“I hope so. I—there’s something wrong with me.”

She took Marissa by the hand, and walked with her to the punch table, and
to the kitchen, where she left Marissa in the arms of one of her old friends.

Marissa’s mother was not in the kitchen until nearly eleven. Marissa was
alone, and nervous, but the old woman held her, gave her a warm kiss, and
said, “You’ll be all right. You’ve grown into a beautiful woman. I’m just so
proud.” She held her hand and Marissa let it, and went to a seat on the
stair.

Marissa went to her room and cried, and wrote letters, and left one for her
father at the palace, and told Elaine, and waited—waited until it was time to
be married.

Marissa would have nothing to do with the wedding. But she wouldn’t be
afraid, and she wouldn’t make a scene. She would leave the wedding early,
leave before her father was introduced, before her mother’s friends arrived.
The wedding would be as simple as her life.

Marissa’s wedding dress was black and white. Her mother had chosen the
white, and Marissa had chosen the black, and she was not going to change the
design. It was simple and elegant, and Marissa wore it perfectly.

Eric sat in a chair and waited in the foyer while his daughter changed.
Marissa was beautiful in the black and white gown, and she looked gorgeous.
She was young. She would be a lovely wife. He hoped she would be happy. She
would be a wonderful mother, and she would help his people.

He sat through the ceremony, and stood with his daughter by the altar,
watching through wedding guests. His father and his mother were there, his
sister, his son. All the families were present. His sisters stood beside
him. His mother hugged him, and he saw that his father held the woman who
was his wife and the love of his life. She was his mother, and she was his
only mother, and he would have given her anything to have her love his
children, or hold them, or give them a parent’s love. He sat with his wife,
holding her hand, their daughters laughing and talking while their mother,
Marissa’s mother, watched through the doorway, and took it all in, and
thought, that was so good for his daughter, and he would do anything for
Marissa she asked.

Eric turned to see if Marissa was ready and found this woman holding her
hand. She wore a gray suit. His wife’s dress looked beautiful, and his wife
looked even more beautiful, but she had changed her hair, and the diamonds
she wore on her bosom and in her ears were of course too big. But his wife’s
hair was straight, and her face looked lovely, and she always looked lovely.

“You look good. Very good.”

Marissa smiled, and gave her father a quick kiss. “Thanks,” she said. “I
don’t know how I’m going to do this today. I feel terrible. I’ll be fine.”

“You look wonderful,” his daughter said.

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