He was deep in thought when he walked back onto the Terrace from the gardens. The impromptu stroll had done little to quell the raging tempest, words and thoughts a howling gale through which he desperately tried to navigate. There was so much on his mind–the Aposi, his holder’s directive, his new position as a pirate, his engagement to Kat, Shalee’s words. Everything seemed to blend together and then fall apart all at once, evading his usual method of listing issues for closer examination. But he found he could barely spend five seconds on his engagement without thinking of the directive, then only a moment before switching to the Aposi, then on to Shalee’s words, then back to his engagement.
As he stepped onto the now-familiar pavement of the Terrace, he caught a glimpse of Kat sipping a glass of wine. He should have been happy to see her as he cherished every moment of their rare meetings–her deployment to Catch as a Legionnaire limited their time with one another. But instead of relief, he felt anxiety.
You are at least the third man she had been deeply in love with this year alone.
The third. Briefly, he let his mind ruminate on the possibility–was he just a rebound? Or did she actually love him? If she didn’t, then why would she say ‘yes’ to the engagement? For social gain? But that’s not what she was like at all–she wouldn’t use him for something like that. Or would she?
He managed a wordless smile as he approached her, wanting to ask a thousand questions and give an equal number of explanations.
“Hey.” She smiled back.
“Good evening, Kat,” He found a seat, his eyes glancing from one side of the Terrace to another, “How are you?”
She frowned a reply, “I’m okay, you?”
“Not… not a fantastic day,” He said as he saw Shalee emerge from the pathway to the manor, “But… we can talk about it later.”
“Okay,” Kat nodded as she followed his gaze to Shalee. She stood up and gave her a big hug.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I want to tell you–” Shalee stopped at Kat’s warm embrace, returning it, “What’s this for?”
“Reginald told me, about ILAW. Let me know if I can do anything, okay?”
“There’s nothing much to be done, most everyone has left.”
“Well I meant if you want to go after them…” Kat said, referencing the Aposi–the culprits responsible for Karlee’s murder.
“Oh. That. Yes, I do. But that is a conversation for another time. I need to say something to you both now.”
He looked up at her. If not about the Aposi, then it had to be about the engagement. His heart sank–he wasn’t prepared to defend against her. His fingers curled involuntarily as he felt a pang of sharp anxiety run through his body, causing a shiver. Would there still be an engagement at the end of tonight?
“Earlier,” Shalee started, “I told Regi that he should wait a very long time before you two married, and just now, thinking about–I shouldn’t have given that advice.”
His heart skipped a beat.
“Your marriage is your own affair, no one else’s. And you will know when it is right. Don’t let any outsiders influence what is between the two of you, okay? Even me.”
Kat hugged Shalee again, smiling, “Even if you have our best interests at heart? Don’t worry though, I won’t.”
He felt the warmth in Kat’s words slowly melt away the isolating frost of his own bleak thoughts. She seemed so earnest, so honest. How could she not love him?
“I do have your best interests at heart. But your experiences and mine are vastly different. I have no right to give advice based on the things I’ve been through,” She paused, then continued, “That being said, I have something else to confide. I want you two to be the first to know.”
He hadn’t realized he had been smiling this whole time. It felt strange after who knew how long he had been frowning, his brows furrowed. It felt wonderful to smile genuinely. He waited patiently for Shalee to continue.
“I’m getting married.” Shalee declared.
“Really?” His eyes widened, breaking into a broad smile, “Congratulations!”
Katerina smiled, “Congratulations. To Tiger?”
Shalee nodded, “I’ve decided it is time. He doesn’t know it yet… will you help? I want to do it tonight. In the cathedral. You could be witnesses.”
“We’d love to.” Kat answered for the both of them. He didn’t mind at all–his silent penance for ever doubting her.
“If you two can go arrange the cathedral, I’ll find Tiger,” Shalee said.
As the two of them began walking towards the cathedral, an older gentleman approached from the guest house carrying many suitcases. Reginald looked at him curiously, though he was caught up in the moment, unable to–no, unwilling to even momentarily leave Kat’s presence to give him aid.
“Wait!” Shalee called out to the pair.
“What’s up?” Kat asked, turning to look at Shalee.
Shalee walked up to Kat, wearing a giddy grin, “Be impulsive with me. Why don’t you and Regi get married too? We can have a double elopement here.”
He stopped dead in his tracks, his heart racing, “Elopement?”
“Well, it sort of is an elopement. At the cathedral, anyhow.”
“Yea, lets.” Kat said, looking a bit shocked.
Months of planning. Invitations. Choosing decorations. None of it would be needed anymore. Not one second of it. He wouldn’t have to sit for hours staring at colors while he entertaining family members he didn’t even know existed. The thoughts were irresponsible. As a Holder, he shouldn’t have even thought them.
Reason broke through his excitement, “But… would it be… legal and accepted?”
Shalee responded simply, “Yes. And yes.”
“All right, then.” He couldn’t believe what he was saying. Generations upon generations of his ancestors were cursing him for even considering the notion. His extended family would be in an uproar. But none of that seemed to matter–one glance at Kat and it was enough to assuage all of his concerns. He loved her.
“Then we will meet you at the cathedral.” Shalee said, dragging Kat off towards the manor.
He watched them disappear, then realized that he had a very short amount of time to prepare. A new frenzied list formed in his mind–ring, formal dress–and then, out of nowhere seemingly–her parents. They would want to be here. He’d have to pull strings with L.
The older gentleman straightened up after tying a shoelace, “Eh, a cathedral? When did they build that?”
“Indeed, sir.” Reginald answered distractedly as he pulled out his neocom for frantic messaging, “It was completed a fortnight ago.” He smiled widely, “And I’ll be getting married there, tonight.”
“Mwaggiage! Good luck my good man!” He slapped Reginald on the back heartily, “I can tell I am looking at is kind of an old fashioned guy who believes in the sanctity of marriage!”
“Thank you! Thank you!” He wasn’t entirely sure what the man had said, but assumed it was a compliment, “Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I’d best go and get prepared.”
As Reginald darted off of the Terrace, he heard the man call after him, “God bless my good man!”
Now, what was it he had been thinking about? Oh, that’s right. Ring.