Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold (Fairy Tale Novels), Page 2Regina Doman
Probably Fish was at the church too. There was the usual faint flutter in her stomach regarding that personage. He had looked so—regal this morning in his tuxedo. She wondered to herself why she was still so fascinated with Bear’s younger brother after all this time.
How long had she known him now? Almost three years. Her family had come to know Bear first, back when the brothers were poor and living on the streets and the Foster’s living room couch. She had only met Fish, through various circumstances, a few months afterwards. “Then I rescued him,” she thought to herself, still with a touch of awe. He had been kidnapped, and she had stumbled into the criminal’s lair, and found him. One would think that rescuing someone from Certain Death would cause some romantic feelings—he had rescued her, too, before that unusual episode was over—but apparently, the only thing it had done was make Fish perennially concerned for her safety and not the least bit interested in anything beyond it.
She sighed heavily. While Blanche and Bear had soon discovered their mutual attraction, she and Fish had always remained careful friends, Rose’s daydreams not withstanding.
He seemed much older than she was, even though he was only twenty-one, and she was nineteen. He was extremely intelligent, and most of the time they had known each other, he had been at school, engrossed in catching up on his delayed education. He was also wealthy, but since his experience of prison and poverty had shaped his living habits, it was only rarely that Rose remembered that he actually had quite a lot of money.
Their conversations alternated between intellectual discussion and his tormenting her with his superior mind. Despite this, she’d had a fabulous crush on him. For a long time after she met him, she had written down almost everything he said to her in her diary. Every occasional letter he sent her she still filed carefully in a fabric-covered wish box under her bed. She had even printed out his emails. Usually she sent him six-page letters and he wrote her back a meager page, but at least he wrote. Once, he had been in a mood, and had drawn a fish at the bottom of his letter instead of signing his name.
She had cut out the fish and taped it on her bulletin board over her desk. Once she had toyed with the idea of putting it in her locket, but that seemed a bit ridiculous, even to Rose.
Trying hard not to anticipate seeing him today—and what would he think of how she looked in her bridesmaid’s dress? —she rose to her feet, dusting off the barest fragments of dust from that lovely skirt.
“Blanche?” she called. “It really, really is time to go.”
The Brier’s parish was a simple country church that had gone through far too many renovations to make it more modern, with painful results. The abstract art banners around the altar were appalling, even though their colors were no doubt liturgically correct. Fish speculated what the church had looked like a hundred years ago when it was first built, and wondered why the artistic choices of those ancestors hadn’t been respected, or at least investigated.
He tried to ignore the surroundings as he sat in the pew next to his older brother, waiting, along with the congregation of friends and family—mostly Brier friends and family—for the celebration to begin. He had glanced over his shoulder at that brightly dressed throng once or twice. There were senior citizens from Blanche’s New York parish and waitresses from the banquet hall where Blanche had worked. The home schooling crowd of Warwick, New Jersey, was also present in numbers. It was true in this case, Fish thought wryly, that the congregation was more artistically appealing than the church building.
Eventually there were soft chords of organ music, announcing that the bridal party was arriving. Fish looked at Bear, but his older brother had already risen and was moving to the front of the church where he would meet his bride. Fish and the other groomsmen followed him.
Fish was amazed at how many people were in the wedding party. The procession of priests and altar servers at the beginning was lengthy—Blanche was friends with an order of friars and they had all come to the wedding. He counted at least seven men in religious garb in addition to other priests, mostly fairly old or fairly young. There were four altar servers of various sizes, all Vietnamese. And then the bridal party began with a flock of little girls and boys in white, carrying flowers and candles. The older ones walked with a slow practiced pace, while the little ones bounced along behind them, trying hard to resist the urge to push and shove the slow ones in front.
Then came bridesmaids, all young girls dressed in pink gowns. The last of them must have been Rose, but Fish didn’t recognize her at first. She had undergone a complete transformation from the wild-haired girl of this morning. Her hair was up in the front and fell in a cascade of curls down the back. She moved so slowly and regally that she seemed like a different person, serene and composed. Then she caught Fish’s eye with an eager grin. He raised an eyebrow at her.
It was her sister, following in a cloud of silk veiling, who exuded an air of true tranquility and poise. Blanche, he admitted to himself, was gorgeous, and on this day she shone with a real radiance. Her black hair and fair skin contrasted with each other in harmonious balance, and there was barely a trace of timidity about her as she came down the aisle, unescorted and alone.
Mr. Brier had died several years ago, and Fish and Bear’s father, whom Blanche had become close to in a short period of time, had just died. Her mother Jean had considered walking up with her, but in the wake of Mr. Denniston’s recent death, Blanche decided to honor the memories of these two fathers by walking with them in spirit. It was significant, and painful, that as a bride she walked alone.
But now Bear was coming forward to take her arm—a bit early, but it seemed fitting—and led her up to the altar, where a gray-bearded Franciscan priest with a gruff face stood blinking and smiling despite himself. Bear lifted Blanche’s veil and embraced her. Rose burst into tears, and some in the congregation applauded.
Fish looked at the embracing couple, and noted, on some level, how detached he felt from the whole scene. He knew that logically, he should be joining in the sentimental swell of emotion, or even feeling the sadness of missing those who were not physically present, like his parents, and Father Raymond—instead, he felt nothing. Shouldn’t he be feeling something at his brother’s wedding? Why did he sense only a dull blunted emptiness?
You know why. Because this will never be you.
Quietly he picked up a missal and pushed the thoughts away.
…there lived a king and queen who were made glad by the birth of a daughter…
“Oh! You look so much like your father, dear!” Sister Maria gasped, clasping Rose’s hand when she came to her in the receiving line.
“Do I?” Rose asked, bending over to speak to the little nun, her godmother and second cousin who had traveled from Pennsylvania for the wedding.
“It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating your christening,” Sister Maria said fondly. “It was in a Knights of Columbus Hall, just like this one.” A sudden shadow came over her face. “Well, well, it doesn’t do to brood on the past,” she patted Rose’s hand faintly. “You don’t know what it means to me to see you looking so well.”
“Thank you,” Rose said, giving her a kiss, and tearing up inadvertently. She guessed that remembering her father’s absence was hard for all of the relatives, especially on a day like today. “I’m so glad you could come.”
“Your mother told me that we’ll be seeing you this fall,” Sister Maria said, changing the subject.
“Yes, of course you will! I can’t wait to visit you!” Rose squeezed her elderly cousin’s hand as she ushered the nun into the hall.
She couldn’t help glancing proudly around the room. The Knights of Columbus building of Warwick had been the site of many First Communion parties, plays, anniversaries, and graduations for the homeschool community throughout the years. It had a pronounced masculine air of beer and bingo. To Rose, it resembled a mead hall, with its heavy wood beams an
d high ceiling. With the combined genius of herself, her family and their friends, they had attempted the challenge of balancing the atmosphere by introducing a festive feminine element into this hoary male hall.
It was Rose who had suggested using a host of artificial Christmas trees decorated with white lights to create a forest-like feeling. That had worked better than their usual frothy solutions of crepe paper and pastel tablecloths. They had covered the ancient metal folding chairs of the wedding party with beige canvas and found tablecloths whose floral pattern had a lot of dark green foliage. The centerpieces for the tables were potted violets swathed in Spanish moss, contributing to the woodland atmosphere.
Friends had brought in plants and even small decorated trees to group in the corners, and there were ivy leaves strewn on the dozens of tables. Rose thought it was the perfect setting for a play—a masque, a drama of allegorical proportions, where archetypes and portents would appear disguised as humble peasants or ethereal fairies. She gave a faint shiver of anticipation. It was going to be a wonderful celebration.
Fish had endured lavish New York weddings ever since his childhood, and was well used to sumptuous receptions on the Long Island Sound with ice sculptures and caviar tables. He had expected Bear to do something completely different. The reception that the Briers had put together at the rather rustic Knights of Columbus Hall next to an old golf course fit the bill.
The wedding banquet was picnic food, and the atmosphere was largely dictated by the crowds of children who raced around and jumped off the stage. But Blanche and Bear were the true attraction, and as Blanche walked around on Bear’s arm, talking with elderly guests and kissing sticky-fingered children, Fish thought she had chosen to celebrate this day in the best manner possible.
There were cupcakes and hot dogs for the children, appetizers and wedding cake for the adults, and a lot of dancing. Fish didn’t care for it as much as his older brother did, but due to his upbringing, he was well-schooled in a variety of ballroom dances. Of course, he had to dance with Rose for the second song, when the wedding party joined the bridal couple on the floor.
As he had taken her arm to lead her out of church after the wedding ceremony, he had told her that she looked very nice, because she did. Rose had put her hand over his in a way that made him aware of emanations of joy radiating from her. That joy made him uneasy. Was being close to him really making her so happy? Or was it just that she was at her sister’s wedding? Or both?
As they danced, she closed her eyes, and half-smiled, as though she were drinking it all in. He watched her enjoy herself, and felt more worried than flattered. She was making him feel self-conscious, and he was apprehensive that those around them might get the wrong impression. He remembered that when Blanche and Bear had gotten engaged, Rose had begun to look at him with an expectant air that exasperated Fish. So he had made himself scarce, and she seemed to take the hint. But apparently, she had forgotten again. Fish began to be slightly annoyed with her.
Rose pondered once again the strange roller coaster of the heart of a girl as she ate her dinner during the reception. She had been in the heights of joy during the Mass, seeing the world of real things, as she called it, and the physical world in an unexpected convergence in the wedding ceremony. Bear and Blanche were almost more than themselves—they were Love and Beloved made manifest, something bigger, something beyond the world, and everyone present in the church could see it. It was as though the wedding Mass had been a metaphysical magnifying glass, where even the words were real words, communicating what was really going on, instead of a babble of syllables.
She had been in a rapture of contemplation, weeping openly and unselfconsciously. She was the sister of the bride. She could do that.
And after this transcendent experience, she had switched planes abruptly when she took Fish’s arm to leave the church. She had been so far above the earth that she hadn’t even noticed him, relatively speaking. “You look very nice,” he observed as he held out his arm.
And there she was, back on earth and bounding towards the sky again. A more familiar kind of rapture. And Fish in typical fashion was now starting to ignore her. He must have sensed her pleasure, and pulled back hastily. She was trying hard not to let it bother her.
She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she nibbled on the little quiches and puff pastries, leftover appetizers she was eating instead of dinner. Fish was sitting on the edge of the stage, allowing himself to be teased by some of the flower girls, the younger Kovachs.
Why did she like him? It was so irrational. She counted on her fingers the things she particularly liked about him again, trying to analyze that curious feeling. The way he moved—he walked smoothly, like a lean jaguar. And his thin frame hid his muscles, which were strong. She had once been foolish enough to arm-wrestle him, which had been barely a contest. She had known she would lose as soon as she touched his hand. And the fact that he was just an inch above her height—as though they were a matched set. His profile was striking, sharper than Bear’s. And his eyes, light brown, almost bronze. Unusually good eyes, but she had never had the opportunity to study them closely, of course. Fish seemed to know whenever someone was looking at him, and shied away. He probably knew she was watching him now.
She wondered if he would ask her to dance again, and tried to convince herself that it wouldn’t matter if he wouldn’t.
“You okay, Rose?” The bride had returned to the head table to sit down for a rare break, smoothing her skirts as she slid into her seat. Blanche had been out talking to the guests for most of the dinner.
“Yes, everything’s wonderful,” Rose said, speaking the general truth. But her eyes lingered on Fish.
Her sister knew everything. “Is he avoiding you again?”
“Yes,” Rose sighed. “I wish, I wish, I wish I could pretend I don’t care the smallest whit for him. Then he wouldn’t be so edgy around me. But I can’t seem to help myself.”
Blanche shook her head, with a small smile. “You do seem to make your own trouble, Rose.”
“I bet he’s not going to dance with me again,” Rose said. “I just feel it. I’ve driven him away. He’s going to complain about silly girls and wish aloud for a rational intelligent female to converse with.”
They were both silent. Rose knew that Fish had been friends with a girl at NYU who seemed to match that description, a foreign girl who had been a top scholar. She and Blanche didn’t know if he was pursuing her or not.
“Well, you’re going to college this fall with Kateri Kovach,” Blanche said, indicating Rose’s best friend from her younger years. “Maybe you’ll be able to get over him.”
“We must be optimistic,” Rose said, trying a smile. A new song had started. “Come on, we can’t be grim at your own wedding! Remember this song from our sleepovers when we were kids? Let’s go dance to it.”
She seized Blanche’s hand and tumbled out onto the dance floor to the beat of a sighing singer.
But mama said
you can't hurry love
no, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take
Rose threw back her head, put a hand on her heart, and sang woefully as Blanche laughed at her.
How long must I wait,
how much more can I take
until loneliness will cause my heart,
heart to break?
The other Kovach girls, comrades from younger years, danced over to join them and the girls broke out into the crazy fifties-style dancing they had developed during nights of sleepovers on the living room floor. Tracy Kovach, now married and six months pregnant, grooved out onto the floor to dance with her younger sisters and their friends. Kateri Kovach, in her long bridesmaid’s gown, linked arms with her younger sister Monica and flipped the younger girl over her back to the shouts and shrieks of the other girls.
No, I can’t bear
ive my life alone
I’m so impatient for a love
to call my own
And when I feel that I, I can’t go on
these precious words
keep me hanging on,
I remember Mama said
Not wanting to miss a cue, Bear leaped over and swept his bride into his arms as Blanche laughed and blushed, her full skirt billowing around her like a cloud. Blanche, Rose remembered, had always been the one who didn’t want to dance at the sleepover parties. But here she was, dancing at her own wedding with her handsome prince.
Rose thought the two of them would go into one of Bear’s famous ballroom dance routines that he had wowed the sisters with before. But instead he put out a hand to Rose, smiling. He remembers, Rose thought, when it was just the three of us, him and Blanche and me. When we were all waiting.
Grinning, Rose took his hand and her sister’s hand and the three of them danced together in the center of the party.
You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy
It’s a game of give and take
The song was so wonderful that Rose’s spirits flew once more. As the song ended and everyone clapped, Rose was so blissful that she deliberately didn’t look over at Fish to see what his reaction was.
Bear and Blanche hadn’t left the reception openly. They slipped away, as planned. Blanche’s natural shyness had re-asserted itself, and after their last dance together, Bear had kissed her, taken her hand, and escorted her out of the hall, without any fanfare. Fish wasn’t sure how many people even noticed. He saw the couple walk down the hall and slip out the door. Bear had told Steven to park their car on the other side of the woods behind the hall, and the last Fish saw of them was the two walking, hand in hand, Blanche holding the train of her gown in one arm, heading through the tall grass of the back lot towards the trees beyond, as the sun glowed red off to their right.