Look for this title, Three Weeks in May by Cherese A. Vines on Smashwords.com on
February 12, 2012
It was a foggy day in the City. The cloudy air rolled quickly off the lake. Gwendolyn Elani Tolliver felt cold to the bone. She wore a brown crochet hat pulled down low, but it barely covered her short black curls or even her now completely frozen ears. A scarf would have been nice. Her summery bronze color had faded to her normal honey brown, but now, in the freezing cold, her skin was almost downright pale. In hindsight, she should have dressed less “cute.” Still, cute was cute. Her quarter-length pea coat matched the hat and showed off her beige suede skirt with the dangerously high slit up the back. Gwen cursed the slit just now, and held fast to her fiancé’s warm, gloved hand.
I should’ve worn gloves too. Gwen shivered involuntarily. Elliot Polis Rosser smiled down at her. She smiled back up at him. A few inches shorter than Elliot at five-six, the four inch high-heeled boots she wore brought her up to within an inch of looking eye-to-eye with the love of her life.
Elliot looked cute too, she thought. She had chosen the chocolate-colored, full-length wool coat and plaid newsboy cap he wore. His hairless face was a mask of patience as he stood beside her. Gwen enjoyed looking at his profile with its smooth brow, large jaw and pointy chin. His violet-hued eyes, like other Monacurians, stood out against the gray, snow-covered day. He looked the stylish yet humble and considerate gentleman she had met two years before. Now they were going to be married. She was happy to be standing by his side. But it was taking this woman forever to make it down the line of excited couples, she thought. Gwen leaned forward quickly to glance at the Matchmaker. She guessed that they all had to be deeply in love to suffer through this mid-February ceremony.
It was the Ceremony of Moons. The Monacurians used the ceremony to give couples official blessings to get married. Elliot was Monacurian, so he was accustomed to the ceremonies, but this was all new to Gwen. She was Human. The whole ceremony was exciting and romantic at the same time. It had some history to it–a history that Gwen longed for. It seemed as if she could not find any history in the City. The great museums and libraries seemed oddly devoid of anything more than fifty years ago. When she asked, the curator or librarian always said something like: “There was a fire,” or “Everything was stolen during the wars. The Monacurians helped us rebuild.”
Gwen heard someone stifle a cry which brought her mind back to the ceremony.
“What happened?” She whispered, glancing down the line again.
“Shh.” Elliot warned gently and gave her a wink.
The Matchmaker continued down the line, stopped at another couple and grasped their clasped hands. She announced something in Monacurian and the couple smiled. This happened three times and all the couples kissed both cheeks of the Matchmaker and stepped back. Gwen was about to lean back when the Matchmaker announced something different to the fourth couple. They immediately bowed their heads to the Matchmaker and stepped back.
Gwen’s forehead wrinkled. She did not speak Monacurian, but she knew a few words and could tell that the Matchmaker had said something different to the fourth couple. Elliot was teaching her the language too slowly for her taste. She waited and watched the fifth couple, straining her ears to hear and try to translate the Matchmaker’s words. The Matchmaker made her announcement and the couple kissed her cheeks.
“Hmm,” Gwen said and straightened up. “What did she tell that other couple–the one that touched their heads to her hands?”
“In a minute,” Elliot said, shaking her hand slightly to quiet her. She frowned up at him.
The chill of the morning air disappeared as Gwen listened to the Matchmaker as she moved closer. Her nervousness made her suddenly warm all over. Finally, the Matchmaker stood before Elliot and Gwen. The woman was not that much older than Gwen’s twenty-six years. She had dark, violet eyes and bronze skin. Her black hair was pulled into a rather large, tight bun on the top of her head. She wore robes of satiny purple that reached down to the floor and reflected in her eyes.
Elliot removed his glove and raised his hand with Gwen’s chilled fingers intertwined in his. She immediately felt his nervousness, and squeezed his hand gently. The Matchmaker placed both of her palms around their hands, pressing them together. Gwen smiled at her. But the woman did not look at them directly, but over their heads. Gwen wondered about this because she could have sworn that the Matchmaker looked at the other couples.
The Matchmaker said something in Monacurian. Elliot sighed and immediately touched his head to the Matchmaker’s hands. Gwen gave him a confused look. He indicated with his head that she should do the same as he did. She felt that the Matchmaker had just given them some bad news, but she complied slowly and then let Elliot lead her backward, out of the line.
“Wait a minute,” Gwen said as they joined the crowd standing behind the other couples. “What just happened?”
“This is not the time,” Elliot said in a hurried whisper.
There were several other couples for the Matchmaker to speak to. Gwen bounced up and down on the balls of her feet. She hated waiting. She wanted to know what was going on. Finally, the ceremony finished and the Matchmaker made a short speech seemingly of congratulations and then the crowd in front of her cheered and clapped. People moved forward to congratulate the couples who had remained in the line.
“OK. What just happened?” Gwen demanded, turning to Elliot. He pulled her back through the crowd and started walking toward the parking lot.
“She said no,” Elliot said unconcerned.
“No to what?” Gwen asked, pulling him to a stop.
“She didn’t approve our marriage,” he answered. “Come on, it’s cold. Let’s get to the car.”
“No, wait. She said no. So what? I thought this was just something you all do to help people celebrate. So what if she said no.” Gwen waved her hands around erratically.
“It means that we are not ready. We can not officially get married without the Matchmaker’s blessing.”
She thought the ceremony was in name only. How did this woman know if they were ready for marriage? She opened her mouth to tell Elliot this, but he stopped her with a look.
“We can stand before the Matchmaker in three months,” he told her and started walking again.
“You can’t be serious? What about our plans–the wedding date? We picked everything out, and I almost have everything booked already.” She crunched after him across the muddy snow. Elliot stopped and turned to her. The solemn look in his dark, violet eyes made Gwen stop short.
“This is the way it’s done. Gwen, you will have to accept my customs if we’re going to be married.” Elliot frowned and turned back toward the parking lot. She just stared at him. It was ridiculous, but he was right. If she was going to be a part of the Monacurian culture, she had to respect their customs.
Dammit, she thought and trudged after him.
Cheers greeted Gwen and Elliot as they entered the restaurant momentarily drowning out the loud jazz music. All of their friends and family raised their glasses as the couple made their way hand-in-hand to the bar area. The restaurant’s usually dim lights were all the way up and the tables were arranged around the outer walls and tall windows that faced the snowy evening. A live band that consisted of a lead saxophonist, a keyboard player and drummer played from a corner that faced the entire room.
People mingled and danced in the small dance floor made in the center of the room. The bar was just as crowded as others waited for glasses of the several hundred wines stocked by the restaurant. Gwen was glad that she and Elliot had convinced his parents that they only should pay for the food. But apparently it did not matter to many of there friends and co-workers who were lined up at the bar. She almost chuckled, but her mood would not let her. What would Elliot’s parents say when they found out? Would they think it was her fault that the Matchmaker had denied them? She did not like the position she was in, and Elliot seemed not to care.
Gwen smiled her sweetest smile and tried to suppress the urge to try to break the fingers clasping hers. Elliot glanced back at her briefly, his brow furrowed. She continued to smile, ignoring his look. He knew she wasn’t happy. That was enough. They had decided in the car that they would not tell anyone but their parents and closest friends that the Matchmaker had denied them her blessing.
“Congratulations!” Savannah Little yelled, pushing other well-wishers aside as she made her way to the couple, and gave Gwen a bear hug. Savannah was her friend and co-worker at the Coalition, and she was anything but “little” at five-nine, made taller by her crown of auburn-tipped coils.
“Thanks.” Gwen was smiling so hard, she felt like her face was going to crack. Savannah stood back and stared at her, and then rolled her green eyes.
“Come on,” she whispered. “Let’s fix your face before Mama Irene sees it.” She pushed her way through the crowd, dragging Gwen toward the bathroom. “Out of the way unless you want to get peed on.”
“Savannah.” Gwen almost laughed despite her mood.
“You see they’re getting out of the way. Come on.”
Gwen accepted several more congratulations before she and Savannah made it to the bathroom. The overpowering scent of potpourri made her cough as her friend checked the stalls for company. Finally Savannah turned and faced her.
It almost occurred to Gwen to lie, but when calling her mom was not an option, Savannah was always there.
“The Matchmaker didn’t give us her blessing,” she answered in a neutral tone. She did not want her friend to know that it actually bothered her.
“What?” Savannah crossed her arms, making her already revealing top more nonexistent. Gwen absently wondered if her friend knew it was February.
“Why should some crazy person decide whether you can get married or not? So what senile reason did she give you?”
“I didn’t ask,” Gwen said, smiling at Savannah’s mocking tirade. But she sighed. “Elliot said to let it go. We can go back before the Matchmaker in three months. And we’re only telling family and close friends. OK?”
“OK,” she said dismissively, rolling her eyes again. “But that doesn’t make a bit of sense. Are they going to dictate how many kids you can have too? Or where you’re going live? That’s just crazy.”
Gwen did not answer. What Savannah had just said got her thinking. She would have to go see the Matchmaker and find out exactly why she denied them.