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February 11, age 32
"You are my destiny/You share my reverie/You are my happiness/That's what you are."
-- Paul Anka
The tea is today. The theme: Daughters of the King, all about how we are adopted by God, and how we captivate his heart.
The church gym is made up to look like the banqueting hall of a castle. A paper crown and bag of Earl Grey serve as party favors. The centerpieces, to be given as door prizes, consist of rose and lily bouquets. Ribbons of streamers and pennants adorn the walls and chairs. It appears someone is fortunate enough to own a decorative suit of armor to lend to the Tea Time Ministry for the event.
My heart thrills within me. It is too bad the teas are ladies’ teas; Sebastian would enjoy this even more than I, but I have my camera with me to take promised pictures.
Sebastian’s mother, Helena, and her sister, Carolyn, are with me. I’d invited my mother, but the husband had just returned from a week-long trip in the woods with his friends, and she wanted to spend time with him. Out of “Christian charity” or insanity – can’t decide which, but the Christian charity sounds nicer, so let’s go with that – I invited Amelia, who constantly complains she has no friends and is stuck inside the house with Betsy and baby Trevor. After making a show of determining if she’d be too busy to attend, and being sure I remembered how she’s married and I’m not by “checking Cary’s schedule,” Amelia said she’d come. Which means spoiled Betsy is coming too, but I refuse to let the spoiled brat spoil my day. Besides, I have Helena and Carolyn here to buffer. And my dear friend Beth will be here too.
As usual, a Tea Time committee member gives an introductory speech describing the flow of the event, but this time teasing about a special surprise at the end – “You’ll really enjoy what’s been planned,” she promises – and then says a prayer over the food.
The tea, a special blend of bergamot and lavender, is divine. Served with the tea are lavender scones with cream, chicken salad sandwiches, a fruit tray and a vegetable tray. Is there anything more cheerful than a well thought out tea?
A devotion is given.
And finally, the special surprise.
A member of the tea committee stands at the makeshift podium. I sense Helena on my right shift something.
“Your camera,” she says. “I was afraid you’d knock it off the table.”
“And now,” the committee member says, “I’d like to announce a special guest.”
Two other committee members grandly open the double doors that lead to outside. A fanfare is played, and in the doorway appears a knight: his armor polished, at his hip a sword, and on his arm he brandishes a shield decorated with a vaguely familiar crest.
I turn to pick up my camera, but Helena holds onto it. “I’ve got it,” she says.
The knight in his dashing costume steps into the room, stands, and surveys the scene. The face of the helmet pauses in my direction. Oh, hello.
"Oh, Betsy, look," Amelia says to her daughter. "You should have worn your princess dress."
The tall knight takes off his helmet, and my body quivers, fairies dance in my belly and somewhere in the distance of my mind a song about destiny plays while rays of sunshine illuminate the knight's face.
The knight is my knight in shining armor. The crest on the shield is the Haepst Family crest, of course.
"It's just Seb'stin," Betsy says. "I want more apple juice."
"Okay, angel. Come on."
I refuse to be distracted from this sight.
My knight saunters toward me. My mouth is trapped between gaping, laughing and grinning.
Beth, seated to my left, scoots her chair creating a gap between us. I look at her with wide eyes. What? Is “Sir Sebastian” going to have me dance with him? In front of everyone? The rays of sunshine vanish.
The red splotches my chest before scaling up my neck. Heat fills my earlobes and proceeds to sting my cheeks. My palms sweat as my fingers go cold. A roaring sound rolls into my ears.
The entire room watches as Sebastian in his armor clangs toward me.
The terd. The jerk. Creep. What is he thinking?
Then Sebastian levels those blue eyes at me.
I refuse to breath, or maybe it is not my will refusing breath, but rather my diaphragm refusing to expand and contract, my lungs forming a union and going on strike, and my throat lowering the portcullis refusing the passage of oxygen in and the migration of carbon dioxide out.
Sebastian halts at my side and kneels.
I sit back, my chest now feeling cavernous, hollow. Forget about the heat in my face, my refusal to breathe, the roaring in my ears. I thought he was going to make me dance with him. Isn’t this all happening too soon? Too fast?
Sebastian removes the gauntlets. With his right hand he clasps my own clammy hand giving it a tender squeeze, rubbing his soft, slender thumb over my skin.
He won’t allow my gaze to shift from his steady one.
“Ginnie,” he whispers barely making a sound. “Just us. Just you and me.”
My face settles into a smile; he speaks audibly so everyone in the room can hear.
“Ginnie Wood, milady, all I want is to hold your hand.” He glances at our clasped hands. “I was wondering –“ he sucks in some courage – “if you would be willing to hold my hand? And not let go?”
"That's stupid," Betsy says. "No, Mommy. I don't like the biscuits."
"Then eat a grape. Shush."
The muscles in my face ache, and I can hardly see Sebastian through the slits of my eyes, I am smiling so big.
“Would you be my wife?”
The song that played distantly in my mind turns into a rousing rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” with a full choir and orchestra.
My arms sling around Sebastian’s shoulders, the hard metal armor slick under my sweat-covered palms. My face digs into the crevice at the base of my dear one’s reedy neck. I am comforted by the smell of my shy Sebastian’s own sweat.
After a moment, his hands tug gently at my arms.
“Hey,” he says, speaking in a volume that can only be heard by those nearest us. “Is that ‘yes’?”
His beautiful face becomes blurry. I nod my agreement, and he breathes a sigh of relief, beaming.
I should have said “no” just to spite him for proposing to me in front of all those people. Punk.
I splay the fingers of my left hand before him.
Sebastian looks askance. “Oh,” he says. “I didn’t get you a ring.”
“’A woman of your beauty has no need for such…decoration.’” The cheeky monkey leans in grinning, and I narrow my eyes at him.
He attempts to steal a kiss, but I again draw back putting my naked left hand to his steel-covered chest.
Yielding, he removes a burgundy box from one of the gauntlets, pops open the stiff lid, and, with fine, slender fingers, plucks from the box a ring made of gold and crowned by a ruby. He slides the ring on my finger, gently forcing it over the stubby knuckle.
“Kiss her,” his aunt, Carolyn, says.
The roar of my blood has subsided, the “Hallelujah Chorus” simmers down, and now the sound of applause and joyful hollers reach my ears.
The muscle in my jaw begins to spasm, threatening to spark to my lips, but my knight in shining armor reaches my lips first before the tremor. My hand is enveloped in the embrace of his.
And that’s that.
I’m going to marry Sebastian Haepst!
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