[b][center] Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May your days together be good and long upon the earth.
--Apache Wedding Benediction[/b][/center]
Inside the gallery the air is heavy and smoky, warmed by the heat of thirty-odd bodies and the gently flickering candelabras. I pace the third floor landing, just out of sight from our guests, desperately trying to quell the lightness in my stomach and the rat-pat-pat in my chest. My father and bridesmaids watch me, wordlessly. Even up here, I can hear the murmur of voices, the creak of floorboards, the hum of anticipation. I swear I can smell something burning.
Back and forth. I haven't gotten used to this gown yet, but I suspect its designer considered my comfort entirely irrelevant. I've never before worn something so heavy, so industrial, so white. My train keeps getting caught under my feet. I'm pretty sure my bridesmaids laced me up a size too small. That must be it. Back and forth. Back and forth.
All brides, I'm told, feel a swell of panic right before they "take the stage"; it's perfectly normal, completely natural. But that's small comfort right now, as I clutch my great-grandmother's handkerchief, squeezing the linen as if it were an orange.
I'm not even sure what I'm so nervous about. I've loved George for the better part of a decade. We'd talked about marriage for years. The idea of spending the rest of my life with him is calming, certain, sweet.
Yet here I am, pacing like a caged panther. Nearly ripping a hole in this 78-year-old linen. Wouldn't that be a great way to start a marriage: with a priceless family heirloom torn to shreds?
I barely notice my father place an hand on my shoulder. "Stop pacing," he says. "You're going to rip a hole in your train."
"I can't, Dad," I say, eyeing the stairway I have to walk down. "What if I trip?"
He laughs, but I can see he's already crying. "You're going to do fine."
Suddenly, the voices below hush. My dad smiles, kisses my cheek and takes my arm. There is stillness.
And then, the pianist plays the first notes of our processional: the Final Fantasy Prelude. Faint at first, hesitant. But growing stronger and sweeter as the wedding party walks in, blending into the familiar melody that has stirred the imaginations of millions.
I chose this song in part because I expected to be nervous, and hoped the old, familiar lullaby would give me strength. It always has before. But for some reason, my heart breaks. I bite my tongue to keep from crying. I don't think I've been so terrified in all my life.
The first of my bridesmaids steps down onto the stairway.
My dad leans over to me. "Lara," he whispers. Tears are fresh on his cheeks. "Lara, look at my jacket."
I look at his arm. There's a white splotch right across the elbow.
"I bumped into one of the candelabras coming up here," he says. "Got wax all over my arm. Your stepmother helped me get most of it off, but—well, I think I ruined this tux. So much for rentals."
I giggle, and feel my cheeks moisten. Thank god for waterproof mascara.
My maid of honor descends the stairs.
"So don't worry," he grins. "Nothing bad can happen today. If you get nervous, just think: 'Wax on the arm'."
I'm not even sure that makes sense. But it doesn't matter. I feel better already.
The music pauses. My father walks me over to the stairway.
"Hold on tight," he whispers. "I'll make sure you don't fall."
The next song begins. Aria di Mezzo Carattere: the "opera song" from Final Fantasy VI.
I smile at my dad, and together, we step down the stairs, gently, quietly, down to the ceremony below.
I see the back row of guests, or, rather, a mishmash of color and sparkle where my guests should be. I know there are people sitting here, but I can't make them out: My eyes have forgotten how to decipher light and shadow, and are speaking in visual tongues. A splash of clothing. Smiles without faces. Shoes. Water. Flowers. Flame.
"Wax on the arm," I mutter. "Wax on the arm. Wax on the arm. Wax on the arm."
Then I see him, waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Handsome. Regal. Magnificent. Beaming so widely I can barely see his eyes. Clutching his hands together so tightly, his knuckles have gone white.
Wax on the arm. And I feel at peace.
Later, during the reception, my father pulls me aside. He's had a few drinks, and I think he's lost his jacket. "That song," he asks, frowning slightly. "Where was it from?"
"Which song?" Please don't say the one playing as we walked down the aisle. After all, I know how he feels about video games.
"The one playing as we walked down the aisle."
"From—from an opera," I offer hesitantly.
He considers this for a second, and for a brief moment, it looks as if he's going to press further. But then his face cracks into a broad smile, and he sips some champagne. "It was lovely. Just lovely."
I smile. I didn't fool him in the slightest. But it doesn't matter. I didn't fall. Wax on the arm.