Chapter 14: Who Cares If It's Cold? I'm In Love
"If there is anyone, anyone at all who objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Adina and Tristan looked out into the audience, one expectant and the other hopeful. The room was pin-drop silent. Tristan's eyes scanned the crowd, willing someone, anyone, to say something. When he and Adina had chosen their vows, he had specifically requested that they leave that line in, claiming that a couple of his friends had asked him to, in order to crack a joke about wanting to have Adina to themselves. She had agreed to the request, giggling to herself like a little girl. Tristan had managed to at least keep that lie under wraps, so perhaps he hadn't completely lost his touch.
But nobody responded at all, not Tristan's friends, and unfortunately, not the person he'd wanted to object. Finally, the pair turned back to the minister and began the ceremony. Through the vow-taking, exchanging of the rings, and speech about God and holy unity under His eye, Tristan's ears were keenly trained on the door, and every time it opened, he jerked, startling Adina. But each time, when he looked toward the door, it was only a latecomer or someone wanting to use the washroom. And each time, he turned back to his fiancée, lips pursed in anger.
Adina was confused, he could see, but he was only anxious. He was waiting for the right time, and if she didn't show up, he was going to have to take drastic measures. It might cost him his reputation as a golden blueblood boy, but for her, he was willing to break off a marriage in the middle of the proceedings to go and find her. His eyes flicked to the first pew, where his mother was seated, prim and proper, watching him expectantly. The seat beside her, reserved for his father, was still empty. Figured.
"Tristan?" said the minister. His head twisted to look at the priest.
"Yes?" said Tristan.
Tristan blinked and looked at Adina, whose eyebrows were crinkled. He realized what was happening.
"I do," said Tristan.
"So, what's this about crashing a wedding?" chuckled Tristan's father. Evalette sighed.
"He's marrying a girl who isn't right for him," she explained. "Well, at least, in my opinion. And I wanted to let him know how I felt about him before he says I do."
"I see," said Mr. Aylesbury. He looked amused. "You wouldn't happen to be a commoner, would you?"
"Yes," said Evalette haughtily. Apparently, Tristan's father was one and the same compared with his mother. "Does that matter?"
"Not to me," replied Mr. Aylesbury. Evalette relaxed. Perhaps this was why Tristan's parents had separated. If they disagreed on something as fundamental as second-class relations, then their entire marriage would be torn at the seams.
"Good," she said finally.
"How do you plan on storming in there, if," he checked the time, "Tristan's already said 'I do?'"
"How do you know that?" demanded Eva.
"His mother works on the dot. In approximately two and a half minutes, Tristan and Adina will be signing the marriage documents."
Eva's heart raced at the sound of the words. "How far away from the church are we?"
"About two minutes," said Tristan's father. "Don't worry. I'll get us there on time."
"Wait – you're going to help me destroy Tristan's wedding?"
Mr. Aylesbury turned to look at her, a gentle smile on his face. "Sweetheart, if you care enough about Tristan to go through all this trouble to get there" – he gestured at her get-up – "then yes, I believe it's worth it."
Evalette blinked. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Now, would you tell me your name, so I won't be awkwardly introducing you to the guests?" said Mr. Aylesbury, a grin on his face identical to his son's.
"And now, the signing," said the minister, opening his hands. Tristan dropped Adina's hand and walked with her to the table. A piece of parchment sat at the centre, with an official-looking seal pasted next to the area the two of them were to sign.
"Ladies first," said Tristan, handing the pen to Adina. She smiled and took it from him. As she carefully wrote her name, Tristan looked up to the doors, anxious as ever. There was very little time remaining before he'd have to sign, and then when they would seal their marriage with a kiss. He decided he would do it right after Adina finished signing, if Evalette didn't show up. But just as this thought made its way into the decision-making part of his brain, the doors to the church opened once more, a loud bang reverberating throughout the entire hall. Every single person sitting inside turned to see who it was.
Evalette stood at the entrance, the cold breeze gently tangling with the curly locks of her hair. Her lips were parted, her arms bare as she held the doors open. She could see Tristan standing at the altar, his wavy blonde hair slicked back in an utterly debonair way. His black tuxedo suited him perfectly, molding to his body in a tailored fit. He looked absolutely spectacular, and this realization made Eva nervous all of a sudden.
A collective gasp went up in the hall, one that deepened when a second person materialized out of the snow drift.
"Dad?" said Tristan, his eyes wide. He'd been smiling a little when Evalette arrived, because it was so like her to show up almost an hour late, looking like she'd been through a hurricane or perhaps some particularly rough sex, and looking gorgeous all the time. But when he saw his father come up behind her, the immediate shock was replaced with the realization that no matter what, his father would support him through any decision he would make today, just as he'd said on the phone before.
"Charles?" barked Mrs. Aylesbury, glaring at him with revulsion and disgust.
"Elizabeth?" said Mr. Aylesbury, eyebrows raised in amusement.
"Tristan," said Evalette, her voice soft. After hearing the grating, angry tone she'd been using with him since they'd met, hearing that voice was nearly enough to melt Tristan into a puddle. She walked up the aisle, the dress swishing around the trainers she wore on her feet. Adina's hand was still poised over the paper, ink dripping all over the seal, but the auburn-haired bride was otherwise occupied. She looked at Evalette, utterly appalled. Tristan watched Eva gather her thoughts and waited patiently for her to speak. It seemed as if the entire cathedral was holding its breath, waiting for what this commoner had to say to Tristan Aylesbury, son of one of the most powerful blueblooded English couples.
"I know you're getting married," she said, wincing, "but before you sign that document, I wanted to tell you something."
He inclined his head, a little smirk beginning to materialize on his face. There was no doubt that this was the strangest, gutsiest, most impressive declaration of love any girl had ever given him. Mrs. Aylesbury looked scandalized, and was about to step in, before she was held back by her ex-husband. Mr. Aylesbury nodded at Eva to continue.
"I'm in love with you," said Evalette. "I'm not sure of when it happened, or even why, really, but it's happened. And it's alright if you don't feel the same way about me, or that I've embarrassed myself – and you – in front of five hundred people, or that I'm..." she looked down at her attire, "dressed oddly. I just wanted to let you know, before I regret it later." She looked around at the church, at the people who were gaping at her in their fancy church clothes, and decided that now would be an excellent time to leave. Tristan was watching her emotionlessly, but when she looked at him more clearly, she could see a smirk tugging at his lips.
Adina was staring at him as well, her red-lipsticked lips waiting for a response. She dropped the pen, splattering the rest of the ink all over the paper. Mrs. Aylesbury pushed aside Charles, going to stand beside her son, whispering angrily in his ear. "We are going to lose everything," she whispered harshly, "over what? This commoner?"
Evalette's nostrils flared when she heard, but she said nothing. She was afraid that if she breathed too hard, she would miss his answer.
Tristan's lips parted, his cheeks reddening for only the second time since Evalette had seen him, the first being when Babette called Eva his girlfriend. There was an enormous amount of pressure on him at the moment, mounting from all directions. He was torn between his heart and his duty, and after months of avoiding the issue, pretending nothing was wrong, pretending he didn't feel about Evalette the way she clearly did about him, everything came down to this.
He was about to speak when someone else did first.
There was a hand on Tristan's shoulder, but it wasn't intimidating. It was tiny and comforting. Adina.
"Tristan," she said quietly, sounding as if she was choking back tears. He turned to look at her. Before, he'd thought her pure and virtuous, intimidating him with her disposition. But now, it was obvious how tiny she was, how fragile. Guilt wracked his body, and he bit his lip so hard he almost tasted blood.
"Adina," he said, "I –"
"It's alright," she replied. "I – I love you, but you obviously love Evalette." She looked at the curly-haired brunette standing in front of them. The tears in Adina's eyes spilled over, and she wiped them away quickly. "I don't want to be the one who stands between you and your happiness." They were quite possibly the cheesiest lines ever spoken, but when Adina said them, they were honest and sincere, just as she always was.
"Are you sure?" he asked, his voice breathless. All the stress of the past few months was beginning to lift off of him, and Adina had undoubtedly put it on her own delicate little shoulders.
She smiled through her tears and said nothing more, only wrapping her arms around him. He returned it more for friendship than partnership, and when they separated, he turned to Evalette, who was watching Adina with respect. The words 'thank you' were on her lips, but she felt awkward speaking them.
Tristan let go of Adina's hand, and Adina herself stepped down from the altar, gathering the voluminous skirts of her wedding gown with her. Mrs. St. Oswald, Adina's mother, was there, hugging her daughter close and looking at Evalette and Tristan with disgust. Tristan's mother wore the same expression as she stepped away from the couple. The rest of the congregation was beginning to recover from the shock of Evalette's arrival and declaration, and quite a few actually began to leave, muttering about 'commoners,' and 'ruined reputations' under their breath. Tristan took the ring off of his finger and delicately placed it in Adina's hand. Her fingers closed around it and she nodded.
Tristan took Evalette's hands, gazing at her in rhapsody for the first time. Before he could stop himself, he'd leaned down to kiss her lips, frozen from the cold winter air. She kissed him back, smiling against his lips, wrapping her arms around his neck. They parted slowly, lazily exchanging smiles.
"Father," he said to the minister, "if it's possible, would you –"
"Oh, yes, my son, of course. Come, you two." The minister looked relieved.
Eva's eyes widened, and she opened her mouth soundlessly as Tristan led her up the rest of the aisle, grinning broadly. "Wait," she gasped, but he shushed her with another quick kiss. Being able to do it so freely was liberating, and the feel of her sweet-spicy tasting lips was simply divine.
By now, the hall had emptied, the beautiful grandeur of the church remaining, but seeming less impressive now that there was hardly anyone to admire it. Adina had retired to the dressing room with her parents, and only Evalette, Tristan, Max, the groomsmen, and Mr. Aylesbury were present with the minister. The men took their seats in the first pew, and Tristan and Evalette stepped up to the altar.
"Tristan," said Evalette, "I –"
"Do you love me?" asked Tristan first. She didn't hesitate before nodding.
"Then marry me," he said matter-of-factly.
"But it's so sudden – I mean, what if you –"
"There's no what ifs, Evalette," said Tristan, his mouth hitching up on one side. "Not with you."
"Aw, Tristan!" called Max. "Don't be cheesy!" Evalette laughed along with Tristan's father.
"I can't help it," Tristan grinned. "Sir?" he said to the minister.
And the old man smiled, opened his book, and began.
"Do you have any rings?" asked the minister later, looking worried.
"Yes," said Tristan. From a hidden pocket in his tuxedo, he pulled out a beautiful, antique ring. Evalette gasped upon seeing it – the way it looked perfectly matched the silver locket she'd worn her entire life. Tristan's eyes fell to her throat, where the locket still sat. "I found it at an antique shop. Do you like it?" he asked huskily.
She nodded. He grinned. Without waiting for a hint, Tristan slipped it on Eva's ring finger, and his groomsmen cat-called loudly. Evalette smiled when she looked at it, and then she remembered something. She reached down to her shoe – changed into the heels – and removed a silver band from a secret pocket of her own. Tristan watched her with a bewildered smile. One of the last possessions Evalette's father had given her before he died was this ring, nothing more than a band of silver. He'd told her to give it to the one she loved, who would accept her no matter what background she was from. The fact that Tristan was so willing to marry her made Eva believe that he was the real thing, and that was why she decided to give him the precious wedding band.
"Found it," she announced, before putting it on his finger. They clasped hands, grinning at each other unabashedly.
"You may now kiss the bride," said the minister, closing his book with a smile.
"Finally," Tristan muttered, and Eva knew he was talking about how long it had taken for them to reach this point. Though, the hour-long ceremony could've been shortened considerably, also.
Their lips met softly, their first kiss as husband and wife relatively chaste. The audience – all six of them – clapped loudly, Tristan's father the loudest. The marriage document was signed in a hurry, pens barely scratching the paper before Tristan deemed it legitimate, and seconds after handing it to the minister, he swept Evalette up into his arms, laughing at her yelp of surprise, and carried her over the threshold. While he was still holding her, the groomsmen exited the cathedral and smacked Tristan on the back as congratulations, kissing Evalette's cheek delicately afterwards. Then, with loud whoops and hollers, they made their way to their respective vehicles.
In front, waiting in the biting cold, was a stretch limo. Adina had left it behind. Tristan loved the girl, as he always had, but always as a friend. He hoped she would continue to be his. Eva didn't notice the limo; she was too busy with her new husband. When he finally put her down, he didn't let go of her hand, and she wondered what had made him so loving all of a sudden. Before, they had kept their distance, and he'd stayed so far away from her that they'd never so much as brushed against each other when they passed in the corridor. And now, he didn't seem to want to stop touching her. She loved it.
Mr. Aylesbury stepped out of the church and put his hands on his son and daughter-in-law's shoulders.
"Congratulations, you two," he said warmly, giving them both hugs. "Don't worry about your mother, Tristan."
"Thanks, Dad," said the younger Aylesbury, clapping his father on the back. "For everything."
He smiled and left. Tristan removed his tuxedo jacket and slipped Eva's arms into it.
"I can't believe I just got married," said Evalette, admiring the beautiful ring again. Tristan's hand slipped around her waist, and he raised his eyebrows. The beginnings of a smirk she'd seen when she first entered the church was now a full-fledged one, proud and smug and happy. It had been so long since she'd seen the Tristan Aylesbury smirk that for a moment, Evalette gazed at his lips, red and full. He noticed.
"Soon," said Tristan, walking with her down to the limo, his arm around her shoulders, "you'll be saying 'I can't believe I just had the most amazing sex of my life.'"
"Cocky," grinned Evalette, poking him.
"You bet," he winked, and she knew it was because of the innuendo. There was the old Tristan. Eva leaned against him, wrapping an arm of her own around his waist.
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