Chapter eighteen: The day
The day of the wedding is upon us.
Everybody is running around, apparently clear on what they’re supposed to be doing.
Normally I have a schedule to tell me what to do but things are different today. Lunch doesn’t take place at the usual time, people remain in their rooms to change and figure out their hair and accessories.
I keep bumping into people telling me to go away. ‘Not now Delaylah.’ ‘We’re good Delaylah’ ‘Just take a break for now.’
Exhausted, I slide down against the wall and sit down on the floor.
The silence is nice for a bit, that is until above my head a pair of heels rushes past.
I wonder where Melody is, maybe she could keep me company?
Except she’s probably working on something really important now and I’d only be in the way. I really wish I knew more about weddings before trying to participate in one.
I bet there are manuals, there are manuals for everything it’s-
“Delaylah, there you are I’ve been looking all over for you what are you doing in the larder?” Melody asks confoundedly as the light streams in from behind her.
“Staying out of everyone’s way?” I try.
She looks at me with puzzled eyes, then her expression changes “We need your help with the dress, come along.”
“What is it?”
“I think your brother may have pulled a prank on us. But I’m not sure.”
Entering the room I’m slapped in the face with a wall’s worth of tension.
The bride is sitting in her underclothes on the bed, head in her hands. Missus Viola is sitting next to her holding the pastel-coloured beast in her hands. Trying to tear the thing apart with the most delicate of touches.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“We can’t get it open…” Melody admits a bit flustered.
“This pin, this stupid pin your brother used to close up the dress.” Miss Viola huffs. “Just how does the damn thing work?”
“You push the ends with both fingers until it snaps open,” I explain.
“Look I’ll show you.” I reach out for the garment but the lady of the house pulls it back, setting her own fingers onto the sides of the pin and presses with all her might and it pops open just like that.
She looks at the garment, eyes wide. And then the eyes fill with tears and she quickly hands the dress off to Melody before pulling her handkerchief out of her pocket.
Harmony looks up at me “Did it work?”
I nod a bit awkwardly.
“Yes sweetie, it worked.” Missus Viola hugs her daughter.
“So was it a prank or…?” Melody asks and I shake my head while holding up my hands.
“Normal pins don’t agree with wooden fingers. One of my siblings invented these for us and we’ve been using them for years. I didn’t consider you would get stuck on them, and if Zjeliah didn’t explain how to open them I’m certain he didn’t either.”
“Now if the bride would just stand, I’d like to get this on you while Delaylah is still here. Just in case of more pins or odd surprises.” Melody explains.
“Yes!” Misses Viola concurs “You’re on the dress team now, so just tell them that if you get called off to do any other jobs okay?”
I nod happily.
It wasn’t like I was doing anything else anyway.
Harmony looks beautiful. Her golden hair sculpted into an intricate pattern interwoven with silk flowers and strings of pearls.
Her smile is radiant. The picture of bliss and anticipation.
It feels a bit strange to be attracted to someone who looks just like her.
Part of me wishes it was Melody wearing the big puffy dress.
But I don’t have much time to think on the subject as Missus Viola chases us out of the room and into a carriage that’s waiting outside.
“To the church, to the church, we don’t have much time.”
We barely fit in the seat, drowning in petticoats.
Melody’s body presses into me as we rush down the road. I can feel her heart beating rapidly.
I covertly look for her hand admit the mess of ruffles.
I touch it gingerly.
She grabs it and holds onto it tightly while a secret smile spreads on her face.
Our joined hands covertly hidden beneath a mess of pastel-coloured layers.
It feels rather romantic.
The church is massive on the inside.
It’s my first time visiting one.
I never really ‘got’ religion before.
Not that I do now… but at least I have an excuse to be here.
And I’m quite glad for it.
The windows, shaped like butterflies, filters the light into countless hues.
The floors are inlaid with meandering patterns and from the ceiling hang banners in all manner of colours.
Melody sets me down on one of the chairs before explaining “I have to go back to Harmony, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“And I stay here?” I verify.
“Yes, I’m sorry, this is family business.” There’s a bitter undertone to her voice. I can guess where it comes from.
I smile faintly and tell her “It’s okay. Do what you have to do.”
I watch her rush back to the end of the church and suddenly I feel very lonely.
A bit odd considering I’m surrounded by people.
I wish I could go with Melody to do whatever task she’s having to do now.
I guess I can be part of the dress team, but not the family.
I’m not even sure if Harmony knows her sister and I are together.
I never really asked and she never showed me that she knows.
If no one knows we’re together are we even together?
Wait that’s dumb, of course we are, I’m just being silly.
I try to distract myself by looking around some more.
There’s no way all of these people stay at the inn right?
Where did the others come from?
When does the whole wedding business start?
Will Melody come back before that?
Will I just have to sit here by myself surrounded by people I don’t know?
My shoulders jump as a violin tears through the tall halls. The sound reminds me of Memento’s lineup when Kregaya isn’t on the stage.
I don’t like it very much.
The piece of music plays to a rousing crescendo.
Then everyone gets up from their chairs as one entity and starts clapping their hands together.
I follow dutifully yet feel frustrated by my own tardiness.
Just as I’m wondering how long I’m supposed to keep this up for I see the family come down the aisle.
Harmony in the front, Melody in the back holding her train.
The proud parents following after them.
I try to wave covertly but they don’t look my way.
I guess they’re busy.
I get it.
The family makes it to the front of the room.
Everyone sits down all of a sudden.
I follow their example hoping no one notices that I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.
Melody could have helped me if she didn’t have to do other things.
It’ll be okay.
She said I’ll see her in a bit.
The music picks up again. A softer piece, a slower one and everybody rises again as if we weren’t standing just now.
Sitting or standing just pick one! This is ridiculous.
Mister Dovey enters the picture.
Why is he all by himself?
Oh right, I believe he didn’t get on with his family.
Does that mean no one came to see him get married?
Everyone sits down again.
This time I’m less caught off guard.
A man wearing a funny hat enters the room and starts talking in a very official-sounding cadence.
“We have gathered here today in the name of love, trust and family. Mister Poise Dovey has come to marry Harmony Viola. Miss Harmony Viola has come to marry Mister Poise Dovey. Marriage symbolises a bond that cannot be broken. A promise to your partner and a signal to the world that you have trust in the longevity of your love and devotion…”
I try to pay attention to the man’s words but my eyes keep trailing off to Melody standing there off to the side.
“You may sit down.” The man tells them after what seems like forever.
The family nods respectfully.
They sit down in the front of the room, apparently, a spot got held free for them.
It’s hard to see from way back here.
I want to be there, in the front with Melody holding her hand as we cheer on Harmony together.
Not set in the back like some…employee.
But I am just an employee.
At least to Mister and Missus Viola.
Of course, they wouldn’t let me sit with the family it wouldn’t make sense to pick a cleaning lady over blood relations.
I’m just not that important.
Stupid social rules.
Stupid me for being bothered by it.
I should stop obsessing over the details. I’m missing the entire ceremony.
Stop being petty.
“As husband and wife, it is your duty to respect one another. Confide in one another and support one another. You will be there for each other and raise your future children as a team…”
We could never have this ceremony.
It’s not made for us. We wouldn’t have any ‘future children’
I think back bitterly to that old bat’s words.
I don’t want Melody to be set up with some man she doesn’t like.
I want to keep her with me for as long as she’ll have me. It doesn’t have to be her whole life. Just until it stops being fun.
But she would have to act as if she were a spinster for it to work.
She would be a disappointment to her family. ‘A wasted child’.
Could she even get away with it?
Everybody gets up again but I barely register it.
“The happy couple would like to invite all guests to the hotel where lunch will be served.”
I get up quickly as I notice the couple coming down the aisle again. Followed by the family, and the other guests.
A whole procession of happy people.
I follow the throng of people wondering when I’ll get to see Melody again, or Harmony, or even Mister and Missus Viola for that matter.
Rows of tables are set up outside the inn.
Garland and ribbons decorate the street lights.
I’m set down on a chair with a plate in front of me.
I don’t even know the names of the people sitting beside me. One of them is a middle-aged man, the other one seems a little younger, he has a lady with him too, she looks lovely.
I don’t know what I’m doing here.
I should be doing something else now right?
Serve drinks or food.
I bet I’m occupying someone else’s spot.
I don’t fit in here.
I don’t even eat.
I spend the meal waiting for someone to request my seat or give me orders on where to go instead.
But no one does.
I guess I’m left to wait.
Around me I pick up snippets of conversation I don’t really know how to add to.
“The problem with electricity is that it could never travel far enough to be useful. Unless you want to have a generator in every home.”
“I mean we have indoor lavatories now, didn’t used to have those two decades back, I don’t see why a generator room would be such an unthinkable thing?”
“Space is precious dear and electricity is simply not worth the hassle.”
I look over longingly to the end of the table where the main family sits.
It sounds like they’re having fun.
Even Melody seems to be smiling.
I’m happy for her, I don’t want her to be sad on her sister’s wedding day.
I just wish we could be done with this part already and move on to a part where I’m allowed to go to her again.
The speeches are long and arduous.
I feel guilty for thinking so.
Mister Viola must have really put his heart and soul into these words.
I just can’t help but feel like he’s making it longer on the spot just to torment me.
I guess I just thought I’d be happier this day.
It feels disappointing that I’m not.
I think I might be acting like a brat.
My empty plate is taken away by people I don’t know.
The bride is swarmed by guests to give her their well wishes.
I get in line, I want to congratulate them too of course.
“Delaylah!” Harmony flings herself around me as I awkwardly hold out my hand in congratulations. “Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for us.”
“You’re welcome?” I’m not sure what else to say to that. I think I mostly just did my job, but nevertheless, I feel the dread in my head lift for a bit as I enjoy the compliment.
“Take good care of Melody for me.” She whispers the words into my ear before breaking up the hug.
I look at her and know she knows.
And she smiles, fully supporting it.
If I could cry I probably would.
Instead, I hug her again feeling seen for the first time all day.
Before getting shooed on down the line so the others can have a go at congratulating the bride.
I extend a hand at Mister Dovey.
He accepts it and shakes it enthusiastically.
“Congratulations mister Dovey. Or is it Mister Viola now?”
“Viola. I have no use for my old name really.”
I nod solemnly at this.
“It’s a good name. Take good care of it.”
“I will.” He smiles widely.
I move on to look for Melody.
A small band plays music and I guess this part would be the part where people dance.
Melody loves dancing, she should be around on the dance floor, right?
The people start clumping into groups to dance in an odd choreographed way.
I wonder if they have to practice before the wedding to make sure they’re in sync.
I circle the spectacle hoping to find my girlfriend somewhere but she’s not among the dancers.
Or among the people in line for congratulations.
A hand appears on my shoulder.
“Let’s ditch this place.”
“Melody?” I look back at my love and notice something is wrong. There are lines on her face not normally there.
Is she angry?
“You want to leave now?” I check. This is her sister’s wedding after all.
“Yeah, I did my job so let’s bounce.”
“I’ll go without you if want to stay.”
“Wouldn’t your sister mind?”
“She’s off to her honeymoon in an hour or so, she won’t even notice.”
I look to the party, then to Melody and can’t help but shake the feeling if I let her go like this something will go horribly wrong.
“All right. I’ll come with you, but I don’t approve of leaving your sister’s wedding early.”
She rolls her eyes and scoffs.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.
I follow her outside and to my surprise, the sun is already starting to set.
How long did I stand in line for? How long did I look for Melody?
I have no answers, I can only conclude time happens differently at weddings.
“Come on, let’s go to utopia.”
“Pardon?” She snaps the word at me.
“Are you angry?”
“Yes now come on.” Melody tugs on my arm but I don’t feel like going along with her until she tells me what’s got her in this state or upset.
“Are you angry at me?” I ask as she pulls with all her might but I’m not easy to budge when I don’t want to be.
She huffs and lets go of me “No.”
“Uncle Cheer, he said I need to ‘step it up’ finding a lover if I don’t want dad to do it for me. He even gave me ‘helpful tips’ on how to be more attractive to guys.” The hand that’s wrapped around mine grows tighter with each word she says “Have you tried smiling more?” she spits onto the street “Jackass.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Nothing!? It’s not really like I can go and defend myself against my own family. So I nodded and went to look for you so we could leave together.”
“I see. I wish I could have been there. Maybe I could have defended you.“
“And get fired for it?” Melody adds cynically. She shakes her head and crosses her arms “See, that’s why I needed to leave, I’m not going to ruin the party by being mad at one. Harmony deserves better than that.”
“I see.” I didn’t think of it that way yet.
“Utopia now?” she asks.
I nod “Utopia now.”
We enter Utopia and the first thing I notice is that it’s a lot calmer than usual.
I guess it’s still early, we normally arrive here somewhere past midnight when the ‘inebriations’ have done their work and set the tone for the night.
Melody walks straight to be bar and orders a drink called a calliper club.
The person behind the bar nods, puts about seven different bottles into a shaker with ice and tosses it about for a bit.
“There you go miss.”
“Thanks.” She pays the fee and then takes a big gulp of the drink.
“Maybe you should go a bit slower?” I offer.
She sets down an empty glass and heads towards our usual spot.
Unsure what else to do I follow dutifully.
Vervent is absent it seems.
But Sharp is in his usual spot barely hiding his business.
“Melody? Didn’t you have a wedding?” he asks confused.
“Yeah, but the after-party blows.” She explains while tearing open a little bag and tossing it backwards onto her tongue.
“Ah, well guess we’ll just make our own.” He nods, then lights a cigarette.
Melody chuckles “My thoughts exactly.”
He takes a drag of his cigarette. Then offers it to her.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Relax Delaylah, it’s fine.” He assures me. “Just something to lift the spirits.”
Melody takes a drag of the cigarette and then passes it back to Sharp.“Thanks.” She then turns her attention to me and pats the seat next to her. “Wanna have a seat?” she offers.
I sit down.
She leans into me sweetly. Then she sighs contentedly. “Thank you for coming with me.”
“I know but it’s still a thing you shouldn’t take for granted.”
She sounds calmer now, slightly lowering my anxiety about the situation.
“So you wanna talk about this wedding then?” Sharp asks.
“Absolutely not.” Melody exclaims, “I just wanna…” She stops talking, then smacks her lips as if trying to taste something. Dance! I wanna go dance, come with me Delaylah, let’s go dance” She jumps up from her seat and then pulls on my arm for me to come along.
I let myself be dragged to the dance floor where the music is chipper and fun. Together we start moving our bodies around on the dance floor.
Then she stops…looks at me for a bit.
“Are you okay?” I ask
“You dance so strangely.”
“Really?” I stop.
Her eyes light up “Yes! Can you teach me? It’s amazing.”
“Oh, uhm I can try.” I never really thought about what I was doing before. I just kind of move in whatever direction feels best at the moment.
I fumble and flail my way through the lesson. I don’t think the ideas are coming across really but Melody’s laughing and I’m happy she doesn’t look sad anymore.
We wave our arms and twirl around while I try to sound like I know what I’m doing.
Until Melody tells me “I’m going to get another drink.”
“Everyone at the wedding is getting hammered right now, are you going to lecture them as well?” She sounds argumentative. Like her mood could flip like a switch.
“I…uh.” I stammer.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Right…” should have been firmer there, I wonder.
But I don’t want to bring down the mood.
I just want her to be happy.
“Do you want to continue dancing?” I ask her when she returns.
“Nah, let’s sit down.”
Going back to our table I notice Sharp is gone. I mention it to Melody, she just shrugs.
“You don’t like him do you?” Melody asks as she drops down in her seat.
“I like him fine. I just don’t understand the things he sells which makes me feel wary.”
She shrugs “It’s the same stuff you find at any pharmacy. He just makes sure those people can do their job for the ones who need it while we can party like animals.”
“I see.” I don’t know how to feel about that and take a moment to look around for a change of subject. “How did you get here? Like initially, how did you find Utopia?”
Her gaze drifts up up at the ceiling as she speaks “I believe the place calls to those who need it. Like fate or destiny or something. But in practical terms, Hope’s the one who showed me all this. I don’t know how she knew I’m gay but she was spot on. She introduced me to the others, shown me what life can be like if people treat those who are different as fellow humans instead of animals. This place is a hate-free zone which is why I like it so much.”
“That does sound nice.”
“Yeah…” She sets the empty glass down on the table “I just wish the rest of the world would follow suit already.”
“Right,” I respond solemnly.
She gets up again “Now, let’s go dance some more.”
I don’t know how much time we spent in there. How often we jumped from our table to the dance floor and back again. How many drinks ended up passing the lips of my partner?
All I know is that the sky is pitch black.
And I’m exhausted,
We hold hands as we walk home again, part of me afraid she’ll drop to the street if I let go.
Her steps are unsteady, but at least she can still carry herself upright.
“Delaylaaaah. You’re walking too fast.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Melody.”
“I wanna cut through here.” She hangs on my limb pointed towards a side alley.
“Okay?” I’m not quite sure if the road is any shorter this way out but I allow myself to get dragged off. If not for the sake of expediency, curiosity will fit the bill.
Her eyes flutter about as we delve deeper into the city’s underbelly.
Then she stops, wraps her arms around my body and kisses me.
Her breath feels hot on the side of my face.
“Touch me.” She sighs in my ear and I’m not sure what to say.
“You mean here?” I ask looking around.
“I mean here?” she pulls up her skirt showing me all the bits I do not have.
I look at it, then at her face.
I shake my head. “No.”
“Delaylaaah” she whines.
“Melody you’re drunk.” I try to sound firm.
“We shouldn’t be doing this, especially not out here.”
“You’ll keep me safe won’t you?” She bats her eyelashes at me. I’m not sure if she’s joking or not.
But I know a very good way of keeping her safe.
“Yes, I’ll keep you safe.” And with that, I press down her skirts again, wrap my arm around her waist and lift her up into the air. “Home we go.”
Melody yelps in shock, then laughs as I take a couple of steps forward.
Then her voice cries out hurriedly “Down down dow-” Before spewing out a chunky mess from her mouth.
“What the-? Are you okay?” I set her down gently and wipe a lock of hair from her face. I’m pretty sure humans aren’t supposed to do this.
“Yeah, I’m uh…” She spits on the floor and her face pulls into a grimace.
And then her eyes start leaking and her breath becomes all messy and I’m not sure what to do “What’s wrong? Should I call for help?”
She shakes her head. She grabs my hand, and tugs at it for us to keep going as tears stain the ground.
I don’t understand.
Is she sick?
Is she in pain?
I put my hand on her shoulder. “Melody?”
“I’m sorry.” She sobs.
“I love you, so, so much.”
“I love you too.”
“But I hate having to keep it a secret.” She wipes her tears and bites her lip “I’m so sorry you had to sit in the back today. I barely got to see you and I told dad I wanted you near but he was all ‘That’s not appropriate’ and it’s so dumb! You’re more family to me than any of those prissy bitches and assholes!”
“Harmony is so happy marrying Mister Dovey and I want that! I want the dress and the flowers even the stupidly long lunch that goes on for fucking ever! But I want it with someone I love. I want to celebrate my wedding. Not endure it as if it’s a death knell to my life. I want to marry you and no one else!” she shouts the words at me, her face red from exertion. Her eyes are big and almost scared.
I reach out to her, wanting to comfort her. “Melody I-”
She slips through my finger crumpling down like a puppet with the string cut down.