The bride is smiling, a silver smile. Like rain, it falls and sighs and her face is awash with a veil; the gown all but sweeps. She is white, so white, and so pure, like snow. Beauty need not come in appearance, in skirts alight—that is why she hides. Perhaps, just perhaps, silver gilding—perhaps that is enough to hide the treacherous smile that mourns behind.
She has no love for the groom, who eyes her with eyes of something akin to love; she stares at him, dead, and he takes no notice, for she wears the silver veil, and it shines in his face so that he sees purity, like snow. Like virgin snow.
Today is Valentine's Day, a day that makes her want to scream. The date was chosen with little care, but arranged marriage is important, and she is a dutiful daughter, though of darker shade; she will marry, but she will not love—and that, that is what pains her the most. On her wedding day, she is to bind herself while the one she loves sits in the crowd, waiting to strike. A vengeful one, her lover, whose breath is constant in the smell of mint and chocolate. He likes dark chocolate. She likes milk chocolate. They are nothing alike, but are compatible all the same.
Because one is dark and wooden, and she—she is sweet, so sweet and deceptive, with a fickle, waxy air about her so that she melts away, back to her heavy solid wood, and she feels terrible about it, about how she is loved by all but leaves all the same; she does not return. As if bonded from birth, she belongs to him; perhaps they are from the same tree—some former life, because she is superstitious and religious and in between, while he smiles fondly at her dancing, sparkling dreams.
It is for this that she plans to tear herself away. Because he is worth more than all the love in the world; because he is the world in love. A wooden globe that throbs and radiates a thousand splendid suns.
It is at this that she is found—in contemplation, a realization that she knows not what to do despite her fantasies—run, or stay, and die in heart?—he is worth it, and yet she finds herself doubting; what to do, what to do—elope, and leave behind that dutiful man arranged for her wedlock?—or stay, and receive her family's smiles? It is only right that she stays, she thinks, because family is important. Because they need that money, because the man was painstakingly chosen from a swarm of suitors, as if they were lodged in times when love was useless, and practicality ruled supreme. And, in her life, she does believe that she has been cursed with it, a stray grain from the used-up hourglass.
They spent one last night together, and his heart—for he has one though it is hers—broke before her eyes; she finds it like glass, a breakable crystal beneath the wood. She wants to burst into tears, remembering the way he held her, the way she held him, and they said goodbye, and hoping for a happy ending, like a fairy tale from Grimm—but Snow White, and not Herr Korbes.
Valentine's Day. The day of sweethearts.
She marries today. And she smiles, because she is already thinking of him—his nimble, scarred hands, running through her hair, her brow—wherever he touched turns to gold, and she misses him already. She pays little mind to her groom, who stands faithfully—does he also love another?—is he also thinking of her?
She wants to die; that is why were wedding day is her death day. Her body lives, but her heart, she tears away and throws into the crowd with her blossoms, the church bells ringing her funeral song. And he is there when she flips away the veil and kisses the man she feels so sorry for, because she cannot love him, and when she cuts the cake she slices the plate, and the onlookers feel her venom. She cannot be contained, because there are cracks in the glass that holds her heart.
So she tries for innocence.
When he appears, her heart returns and aches ever more, because he is dressed so formally, and she wishes to cling to him like she always does, instead of the unsteady husband—husband, a foul word—beside her. She lunges for him, her wooden dark chocolate, and bites him whole—the crowd smiles nervously at their embrace, because they are known to be friends. Friends!—with a rapidly beating heart, the silver bride tosses the gilded veil away entirely, and accepts with tears the bottle of acacia honey. Acacia. He is so thoughtful, she thinks girlishly. She will be gripping it till the end, clenched tightly in a fist. It grows warmer by the second.
With grace, she kisses him on the mouth, and the crowd giggles nervously still, because they are friends; and she thinks, no, they are much more, and she feels almost murderous when magma bubbles in her heart, her blood glowing like so—she leans on his chest, feeling safe from the glares, ignoring the husband she does not love.
The wedding lasts three hours. She sits with her dark chocolate, and those watching look uneasy, whispering as she strokes his hair and wish for his lips; is it worth it? She lets a hand slide to his chest, the other still gripping acacia, and she imagines her fingers coming away wet, dark with blood; his glass heart, so broken in its cavity, beyond the deep and dark. The bride feels her eyes prickle, and she stares at his sad, sad eyes, hoping for one last chance—run away, before the wedlock takes hold. She shakes her head. He hangs his.
He hangs his strong, strong head. Strong like the rest of him, and she cannot bear it, and her plan formulates at last, when she turns her head—the sight is breaking—she sees a cart sliding smoothly down the aisle. Flighty girl, she reaches for a tray and almost tips the contents out, but her fingers find a grip and the thing skids, warming the tablecloth with its brown, sweet blood. The acacia falls to the floor, and there is a hush when the honey spills from broken glass; it sweetens the floor upon which they sit, like the platform of the toy soldier and his ballerina.
She feeds him chocolate from its pot, and then remembers the wedding theme is Valentine's Day; she whispers to him, slyly, as he looks up and smiles, as the crowd hears, gapes, and breaks free at last—Will you be my Valentine?