Chapter 17 — The Wedding (part I)

On Dalygaran
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe looks at his wife with surprise.
—What are you doing?
—I’m going to a wedding on an alien world; I need to be stylishly dressed.
—But we’re going to be in travel bodies and morphed as humans in ceremonial clothes. We don’t need any special outfits here. Nobody will see them.
We will see them.
—Should I wear something smart too then?
His wife answers with another question,
—Don’t you think that being dressed as if we were celebrating here would help us really be a part of it, not fake figures created by a sophisticated machine?
—Oh, I understand what you mean. It’s a way of being us on the day we can’t show ourselves as we really are.
—Yes, that’s it. But, do as you feel darling, though I can tell you, you’re terribly sexy in your ceremonial tunic.
—Am I?
—Indeed, she answers, purring as she walks to him for a tender kiss.

When they arrive at the Space Travel Center, the Supreme Commander is already there, and so are Very First Gold Ring Ray and Spring Wind Over Laurina Mountain.
The Supreme Commander seems to have shared their idea; he is very well dressed. Very First Gold Ring Ray looks at them all, one after the other. Everyone can feel her perplexity, but she does not say anything about their outfits.
—We’ve got to wait for the two Frigellyans. Now that everybody is here, I can push on this square button—she holds the revelator that’s usually on the male travel-body’s wrist—and they’ll be here soon.
Indeed, they appear almost immediately.
—Good afternoon, everybody, say Mira and Reymo, each in their turn.
A global and unsynchronized “good afternoon” answers their greeting.
—Well, everybody is going to take a travel pill. You, Madam, and you, Sir, says Very First Gold Ring Ray, pointing to Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain and Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, will enter those two travel-bodies there.
She shows the bodies usually used by Beth and the Major.
—Supreme Commander, your human body is just behind Mira and Reymo Indringthorar. As was decided, with the High Command’s approbation, you’ll be given a pill that allows you a 16-hour absence. The Supreme Commander’s body has an Earthly watch on its wrist, so he can know the time he has remaining at any moment. There will also be a clock on the wall in the party room. Morning numbers are blue, afternoons are red. The absolute limit will be Earthling number 6 blue. Will you remember? I showed you all those numbers in our last briefing, yesterday.
Everybody nods.
—You might not need 16 hours. Feel free to ask to come back whenever you want, adds Very First Gold Ring Ray, hinting especially at the civilian couple. Mira and Reymo will bring you back at your demand.
As I told you yesterday, Lieutenant Spring Wind Over Laurina Mountain and I will watch over your bodies while you’re gone. If we detect any problem, we will ask for your immediate return.
Taking advantage of the new Chief Commander’s silence, the Supreme Commander speaks to the couple,
—We’re all going to a wedding. I don’t want you to worry about time. As soon as we quit Dalygaran, you’re my responsibility. You know what this means to me. Enjoy your day, have all the fun you can. Anxiety is not welcome at my son’s wedding. My children, let’s have our pills. Major, please…
There are three couches this time in the Space Travel Center’s main room. The three wedding guests lie down after swallowing their pills. Each mind goes to the proper body. The Supreme Commander opens his eyes for the first time as a human. As his son had before, he immediately feels strong emotions. He enjoys it more than he had thought. He is now sure that he made the right decision.
— Has everybody got a seat? asks Reymo.
It is more an observation than a question.
—Let’s go to Earth, adds Mira.
And the transporter dematerializes.

On Frigellya
Abeena, you’re gorgeous, whispers Christopher as he sees her dressed for the wedding.
—Don’t you think it’s a little bit too… “royal”?
—You’re a Queen.
—Not on Earth.
—You’re a Queen wherever you are. But don’t worry. You won’t be the focus of people today. Beth will be Queen of the day. All eyes will turn on her and David.
Abeena just smiles and says after a moment of silence,
—Lucia calls me mom from time to time now, especially when we’re both alone. Do you have any idea who might have prompted her?
—You’re always with her father. The woman in love with a father is usually the mother, don’t you think?
—Oh, Christopher, I’d really love to be her mom.
—There’s only one way for this, you know: Abeena, would you marry me?
Abeena gives Christopher a long and tender kiss as an answer.
—Is that a yes?
—I think so.
—You’re not sure?
—Of course I am. This is an undoubted yes.
They both hug and laugh.
—Let’s join your parents and Nori. They are waiting for us to go to Earth.

On Earth
The two Smiths’ floor looks like a hive today. Beth’s parents arrived the evening before and were given the place usually dedicated to Beth and the Major when they take their travel pills. “No hotel this time,” Beth told them. “Our best friends, who live on the same floor, have room for you. You’ll see; they’re pretty nice and we usually all eat together.”
Breakfast and lunch are very joyful. Beth’s parents seem to appreciate the atmosphere of the floor. The evening of his arrival, Beth’s father and the Major had a long conversation. The father talked about how Beth was as a child. The Major asked lots of questions, laughed a lot with his future father-in-law, but spoke little about Beth and himself. When Beth’s father insisted, the Major concluded the conversation with an enigmatic, “Trust me, what we’ve lived through, Beth and I, is just unbelievable.” Then he took advantage of Beth’s calling him from across the room to leave him with a large smile as a temporary goodbye. Beth’s mother, meanwhile, since arriving was taken in charge by Nelly and Lucia, who noticed Beth’s apprehension about the arrival of her mother. She had almost no time to talk in private with her daughter. “Nelly is perfect in the role of the hostess,” thought Beth, as she saw her mother chatting joyfully with her after breakfast.
Two hours before noon, a woman came to do Beth’s hair. Nobody needed to know she came from Frigellya. Beth asked for something simple. But the woman had a clear idea of what she wanted to do. When they were alone, she showed Beth with a tablet what the result could be on her.
—You put makeup on me too, remarked Beth, looking at herself on the tablet.
—The Queen thinks it will suit you and I agree with her.
—This is a conspiracy then, answers Beth laughing.
—What do we do now, Miss?
—We’ve got a little more than two hours before lunch. Is it enough for all this?
—Yes, Miss.
—I’m tempted.
Someone knocked at the door.
—I’ve got the feeling you want to ask me a question, said the Major poking his head in the room.
—Show him the tablet, said Beth to the surprised woman.
The woman showed the Major the tablet without saying a word.
—Is this princess you? he asked.
—It could be, she answered.
—Didn’t you ask for something simpler?
—I did, but I’m tempted now.
—This is our wedding, Beth. It will happen only once…
—I know. Do you like it?
—Of course I do.
To the woman, Beth said,
—You win.
When the Major disappeared, the woman asked,
—How could he know?
—He can feel what I feel; this is Dalygaran. But with human emotions we can talk using a sort of silent code, because our feelings are decoupled.
—I see. I have to start now if we don’t want to run out of time. I’m alone this time.
When the hairdo and makeup are finished, Beth silently called the Major once more,
—I need Lucy, she told him.
He didn’t even ask a question and sent Lucia to her. The woman wanted to explain to Lucia how to finish the makeup after lunch with a gloss.
—Try it on me, she asked Lucia.
The woman gave her some advice, and ended with,
—This is perfect, Miss. I entrust you this finalizing. I’ll go now.

Lunch Time

Silver earrings with jewels on the black

The household today is going to have a light lunch. When Beth appears, everybody hardly recognizes her.
—How gorgeous you are, my daughter, says her father.
Beth’s mother, who was chatting with Nelly, opens her eyes wide and says nothing. She disappears for a moment, saying a quick,
—I’ll be right back.
She comes back with a jewellery box.
—My mother wore these earrings at her wedding and I wore them at mine. Please sweetheart, they are yours today.
Beth opens the box, and lets out an exclamation.
—Mom, they are splendid. David, look.
The Major smiles, and says,
—They’re like leaves on their stem, just upside down…
—Yes, they’re so cute, aren’t they?
—They’re perfect for you, he answers.
—Thank you, Mom. Thanks a lot. I’ll put them on at the same time as my dress. Let’s have our meal now.
The meal is light, just mixed salad, tomatoes and ham, nothing very special. Every mind is busy with the ceremony anyway, and nobody is that hungry. When they have finished, everybody goes to dress.
—Do you need a hand? asks Lucia.
—You’re kind, answers Beth. Go and get dressed. I’ll wait for you for the makeup, right?
As a very old custom says, the groom and bride can’t see their respective outfits until the official ceremony at the District. Beth goes to get dressed in Paul and Nelly’s room and the Major in Sylvester’s studio, where their clothes are stored.
When they are ready, different cars will come to pick them up.
The District, as it usually does, organizes the transport of the guests to the District Hall. In the 25th century on Earth, nobody drives anymore. Every car is automated with a navigation system to drive one wherever one wants.
The District’s cars are preprogramed, but in each one, there is a district agent to validate the path. Like a chauffeur in the very old times, the agent opens the door for the passengers and makes sure everybody is seated comfortably.
The bride’s car is the first to go, and the groom’s is the last. Each car can take up to 12 passengers in addition to the district agent, and does a tour through the town to pick up guests from where they are asked. As it is a wedding of about 40 persons, 4 cars are needed.

In Paul and Nelly’s room, Beth is staring at her wedding dress. “This dress is perfect,” she says to herself as she thinks back on how she got it. The former Queen asked her to send a picture of the dress she would love to have. Beth consulted many online catalogs, and sent three models among which she hesitated. The Queen invited her to Frigellya for fitting tests. Beth was surprised to see the different dresses on three real-size holographic models of her. She immediately fell in love with one of them. If she had a twin sister, this is the one she would have recommended for her.
—May I make some suggestions, Miss? asked the Palace dressmaker, whom the Queen had brought along for the fitting.
Without waiting for an answer and using a console, she started to place some add-ons, like embroideries, ribbons and pearls.
—Can I draw on the tablet to show you how I would prefer it, if there would be some modifications to do?
—Of course, Miss.
Beth took the tablet and the data pen, and drew what she would like to have as add-ons.
—Oh, I see, said the dressmaker.
She took back the tablet to complete the holographic model, so that Beth could see what it would look like on her.
—If I dared …, she finally said.
—Please, show me, encouraged Beth.
—If it doesn’t suit you, we’ll undo it anyway.
—Show me, repeated Beth, with another encouraging smile.
The dressmaker knew immediately she got it right, just by looking into Beth’s eyes.
—I think we have your dress in front of us, she said.
—Yes, confirmed Beth.
Beth is now looking at her wedding dress. The shape is similar to the dress she wore for the ceremony of the Earthly-Dalygaran Territory Transfer: long, sleeveless, with a small train, white this time, one ribbon around the waist, and discreet white embroidered flowers—from Earth of course—with pearls in their center.
“The earrings will be perfect with all this,” she says to herself. She dresses at full speed, the Frigellyan fabric adjusting around her body.
Waiting for Lucia, Beth lets her mind wander. She is there now, in Dalygaran, the day she met the Major and he slammed the door. And then she sees herself with him in the combat room. Her heart beats faster at the memory of her first dive at the Great Cascade, the day he taught her how to swim like a Dalygaran. She sees herself crying when she thought the Major betrayed her, and feels sorrow when she learned of his death some months later. She smiles at their reunion after having found the morning star, and puts a hand on her mouth at the memory of the slap she gave him that day. Then she smiles again at their first kiss, and puts her hand on her belly.
—Why don’t you answer my knocks?
Beth jumps with surprise. She did not see Lucia enter, nor hear her knock.
—Hey, what happened to you? says Lucia
—I was lost in my thoughts. I was sort of traveling in the past. Memories…
—I see: the day you met him, the day you first kissed…
—Yes, that sort of thing…
—Well, all great memories I suppose… Ready for the last hint of makeup?
—I’m damn ready, answers Beth, now impatient to go to the District Hall.

Unlike Beth, the Major, now alone in Sylvester’s studio, takes his time getting dressed. He chose an anthracite gray costume, with a bowtie of the same color on a white shirt. He asked Paul and Sylvester if it was appropriate, unsure as he was about 25th-century fashions for men.
Sylvester suggested Lucia for a woman’s opinion. When all three saw him in the suit, she couldn’t refrain a whistle.
—Wow, it’s too late to propose, isn’t it?
They all burst out laughing.
Putting on his costume, he wonders about Beth’s dress. He remembers the shock he had the day of the Earthly-Dalygaran Territory Transfer ceremony. He is absolutely sure he will feel the same, maybe even stronger. He is so impatient to see her again. Weddings on Earth are so different than on Dalygaran, he says to himself. And now, while waiting to go to the District Hall, he begins to feel quite nervous. This is something new for him, something extremely human. He tries to distract himself with memories: the door opening on Beth his first day on Earth, the slap, the kiss, their first meal, their first night together, their first purrs, their abduction and the meeting with their daughter, and now the spark of life he can feel growing inside Beth.
The Major smiles. Time flies, he thinks to himself, when someone knocks on the door.
—Ready, son? asks the Supreme Commander poking his head in the doorway.
The Major opens his eyes wide, literally stunned.
—Father, have you seen yourself?
—Not yet son, is there any problem with my outfit?
The Major walks to his father, takes him by the arm and leads him in front of a mirror.
—You see?
—Oh, I’m the spitting image of you. That’s amazing. Well, Earthly speaking, you’re supposed to be the spitting image of me. The Undergrounders told me they had no time to do another matrix. They just aged you. Well me. I admit, it’s confusing … and funny.
—Nobody here knows you looked like your mother.
—Nobody here knows I look like you so much… Haven’t you met anyone who’s told you this?
—Mira and Reymo said nothing—protocol discretion I suppose, and the others are all gone to the District Hall with the first car. Our arrival was scheduled to bring us here a few minutes before the last car comes to take you, remember?
—They can’t all be gone. Sylvester and Lucia, er Lucy, are coming in our car.
—Maybe they’re busy somewhere…
—Busy, yeah.
Other knocks are heard.
—Come in, says the Major.
—David, it’s almost time, says Sylvester, opening his eyes wide too, as he sees David’s father.
He points at him with a finger, saying,
—It’s, it’s…
—My father, yes. They just aged another me.
—Well, it’s surprising at first sight, but as far as I know, it happens in real life too, that a son is the spitting image of his dad.
—I hope so, says the Major, worried.
—Son, it’s your wedding day. It’s a time for happiness, not for concerns. I’m sure most of the people here will find this great.
—You may be right. They’re here to celebrate, not to nit-pick about our appearances.
—Ready to go? asks Sylvester.
—Ready, answer the Major.
Everybody meets in the living room. And everybody is shocked to see the father and son side by side.
After the greetings, Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain asks:
—Are human-beings a copy of their parents?
—It happens, answers Sylvester. The Supreme Commander is, in this shape, literally a copy of his son. But on Earth it happens sometimes that a father and son are like doubles. It can happen with granddads too, I think.
—Oh, I see.
Then noticing her husband gazing at Lucia, she adds,
—Hey, what happened to you, Raymond?
—This hairdo is incredible, he answers. There’s nothing like that on our planet. The way it’s braided… it’s just… art.
—Sylvester did it, Lucia answers proudly.
—I’ve been training since I knew we were coming to this wedding together. I love doing her hair, adds Sylvester no less proud.
—Well, everybody’s here, says Reymo. Let’s go downstairs.

At the District Hall
When the Major arrives at the District Hall entrance with all the last guests, he immediately feels Beth’s presence. He knew she would remain unseen, waiting in the bride’s room for the beginning of the ceremony. He can feel her emotions and her impatience. He lets his emotions go to her, and they both feel appeasement thereafter. The Major has just enough time to present his father to Beth’s parents, who are as taken aback as everybody by the likeness of the father and son. The Master of Ceremony announces:
—May the groom, the families and guests take their places, please.
Everybody knows what to do. The Major goes to the opposite end of the place where Beth is supposed to enter the huge welcome-hall. In the middle of the room there is a golden circle. The parents have to stand about five steps beyond the circle, and behind them stand the witnesses. The rest of the guests have to stay in the background and follow the wedding party’s lead. When everybody is in position, the Master of Ceremony goes on.
—May the bride enter.
When Beth appears, an excited murmur fills the hall. She and the Major smile at each other. They stay a moment motionless, taking time to feel their respective happiness.
—What are they doing? whispers Beth’s mother in her husband’s ear.
—They’re savoring the moment I think, he answers in a low voice.
When they eventually move, they don’t go to the golden circle as expected. They irresistibly feel like doing something else: Beth goes to face the Supreme Commander, and the Major does the same with Beth’s mother.
The Supreme Commander can feel the surprise of the gathering, and whispers to the attention of Beth’s mother,
—They are submitting to the parents’ consent. Old regional custom…
As he says these words, Beth bows in an elegant curtsey, head down in a sign of humility, and the Major puts a knee down, a fist on the heart, and head down too.
The Supreme Commander, even if he had never done or even seen this before, knows what he has to do. Something in his mind sort of tells him. He holds a hand toward Beth, to make her rise.
Abeena discreetly arrives at Beth’s mother’s back and whispers to her,
—When he finishes, it will be your turn. Just let your heart speak.
Face to face, holding both Beth’s hands, the Supreme Commander speaks,
—Young lady, I’m so happy you entered my son’s life. You soothed him from a long sorrow; you awoke his heart. I dare say, you saved him. I can’t thank you enough for this. My son is a lucky man. It is with pride I entrust him to you for life. Be happy my children and let your love shine.
And the Supreme Commander hugs Beth warmly, a personal addition to the usual Frigellyan protocol they just performed. Before they part, he adds in a whisper,
—I’m doubly happy today.
Beth understands he was speaking about the baby. Her turmoil is interrupted by people’s applause. When they stop, Beth’s mother takes her turn. She holds a hand to the Major to make him rise, then face to face, holding his two hands, she starts,
—Well, I’m not used to this custom. I would have never imagined you would kneel in front of me today. I am surprised, young man, and … touched. Since you’ve entered my daughter’s life, things have changed between her and me. Our relationship has greatly improved, and I’m sure you’re partially responsible for this. But more importantly, never have I seen her so happy before. You two seem so much made for each other. You’re both lucky. And it’s with pride I entrust her to you for life. Be happy my children, and let your love shine.
And Beth’s mother hugs the Major warmly, to applause.
The Master of Ceremony, who hushed until then, clears his throat before announcing,
—May the bride and groom enter the golden circle so we can begin…
Beth and the Major comply.
—Shall we go?
The Major and Beth begin to walk arm in arm, and climb the Honor Staircase, followed by their parents, the witnesses and the rest of the guests. The Master of Ceremony walks ahead, showing the way. He stops in front of a huge wooden door.
—The Ceremony Room. The District representatives are waiting for you. You shall enter now.

The Master of Ceremony steps aside and lets all the people enter before him. When they are all inside, he joins the two representatives who are the District’s witnesses, one for the bride, one for the groom. They are observers and will sign the wedding certificate, as will the two other witnesses, Sylvester and Rose. In the Ceremony Room, there is a table called the Signatures Table facing some rows of benches. Everybody sits on the benches, except the bride and groom who take their seats side by side behind the table so they face all of their guests. The two representatives are on a small bench to the side, and the Master of Ceremony stands near what it is called the Testimony Desk.
—Parents are welcome first, then the witnesses, and then whoever wants to say something, he announces.
Beth’s father stares at the Supreme Commander, who nods in return in a silent agreement to let him go first.
At the desk Beth’s fathers speaks,
—Today is a special day, and if you don’t mind I’d like to shake up the protocol a little bit. Rosemary, would you join me at this desk?
It’s the second time Beth’s mother is surprised today. As her husband smiles at her, she stands up and goes to him. He takes her hand.
—Thirty years ago, we did the same thing as you are doing today: we got married. We waited for you so much, Beth. You’re our only child, the one who lived.
Beth’s mother can’t refrain a tear at the memory of her previous miscarriages.
—We never expected to have another child, goes on the mother. You’re our little miracle.
—So, David, my wife and I entrust to you what we have that is most precious. But I’m not worried. When I see you two, I have the feeling there is something very special between you: a deep deep bond…
—As though you’ve got two hearts but just one mind.
At these words, Beth shivers imperceptibly. The Major puts his hands softly on hers and smiles.
—Just as my wife mentioned before, never have I seen my daughter so happy and, David, you clearly share this state of mind. May this happiness be on your side forever.
—Forever, repeats the mother.
Then they hush and people applaud. As they return to their seats, the Supreme Commander gets up to go to the desk.
—Beth. My son and I, we had our share of grief. I lost a wife, he lost a mother. But today, he is getting something very precious: love. Your love. Son, as I said before you’re really a lucky man. I wish your mother could be here today. She would have liked to see you in this dress, Beth.
Now he seems to hesitate. Taking a deep breath, he surprises his son by saying,
—Moon Crystal, that’s what she had always called you. She named you that way after a story. On a distant planet, one day a man gave to his future wife a crystal he brought from one of his missions on a moon. He knew she loved crystal and from that day forward, she wore it around her neck. Your mother was touched by the way he gave it to her, saying: “May the brightness of this crystal light up your heart forever.” I remember having heard her many times repeating this sentence while touching the … stone she wore around her own neck. The day you were born, holding you in her arms she whispered, “Here is the one that’ll light up my heart forever, my little moon crystal.” And she never stopped calling you that. It was the name her heart gave to you. It was indisputable, even if for everybody around us it was not a name.
The Supreme Commander pauses as he feels his voice is about to break. Never has he felt so much emotion. He closes his eyes a few moments before going on.
—Moon Crystal, David, you’re like two sons to me; one belonging to the past, and the other one building his future with the woman he loves. Beth, I entrust to you what I have most precious, my only child, my wife’s jewel. Today, in my name and hers, I want to thank you for having awoken his heart, and making him the happy man he is today. Whatever life may bring you, I’m sure your love will protect you, forever.
The Supreme Commander hushes, and starts to go to his seat. Applause begins.
Beth’s mother stands. She feels the need to hug the Supreme Commander and for once, she listens to her heart.
—You’re a wonderful father, she whispers in his ear.
When they part, the Supreme Commander nods a thank-you and takes his seat, shaken by all the emotion his human body receives.
Sylvester and Rose watch each other. As Rose does not seem to want to go now, Sylvester stands up and goes to the desk.
—I’m Sylvester, the groom’s witness. David, it’s an honor. Well, you know words are not my cup of tea. Usually I don’t speak, I draw. Maybe today I can try to draw with words. Here is my portrait of you: you’re under a starry sky and you’re gazing at something. You’re serene, lightly smiling. Above you, the stars are drawing a familiar face smiling back at you. It is what you’re gazing at. You’ve got one hand to the sky and a hand made of stars is coming down to yours. It belongs to the face above. Both your index fingers touch, and a spark of light glistens at the contact point. It’s how I see Beth and you. So different, distant in so many things, but your meeting, that spark, has now grown into a big sun of love. Beth took you out of the cold night you were stuck in. This portrait is your awakening. And this is my wedding gift to you.
Sylvester hushes, smiles at Beth and the Major, then saying, “I’m finished,” returns to his seat as applause fills the room. It’s the Major’s turn to shiver imperceptibly. As she always does when she senses him destabilized by something, Beth soothes him with positive feelings.
Rose who didn’t want to go after David’s father is still embarrassed. Sylvester says softly to her,
—Let your heart speak for you…
It is like he just broke a magic spell. Rose completely relaxes and stands up to go to the desk.
—I’m Rose, and I’m the bride’s witness. Beth, we’ve known each other since childhood. How many times did we play being aliens? You always wanted to be a distant planet’s queen. It had been ages since queens and princesses became just legend, or figures of a forgotten past, on Earth. But you wanted to be a Queen. Because a Queen had a King and beautiful dresses, you said. One day, my mom asked you, why you didn’t want to be a princess: a princess has a prince charming and beautiful dresses too, she pleaded. And you answered, “A princess is just a child. I’m already a child, I want to be a mother.” That’s how you always were, wanting to be another person, wanting to have another status, always running after this dream. And then you disappeared. For one year, we—your friends—had no news, except an occasional “Hi, everything’s ok.” And one day, you asked us to meet you in a café. You announced your wedding with David and presented him to us. That was such a surprise. Beth Smith getting married. Forgive me, David, but I thought that night that she’d finally found her alien King.
The Major raises his eyebrows at these words, and Beth puts a hand on her mouth.
—You’re someone so mysterious and so different from her. But what you’re able to do together, it’s incredible. Your mother’s right, Beth. It happens. You’re two hearts and just one mind.
After a short pause, Rose goes on,
—Beth you’re undoubtedly the Queen of the Day. Look at you. You’re gorgeous. If another queen were among us, you would certainly shadow her.
Beth places a hand on her mouth again and gazes at Abeena, who can’t refrain a large smile.
—And you, David, I’ve no doubt you’re her King, for life. Maybe one day, your kingdom will welcome a little…
Beth suddenly stands up, and announces:
—I want to say something.
She looks at the Major and whispers,
—I want to tell them now.
The Major does not give any answer. He stands up and takes her hand. He smiles at her, and waits for her to speak.
—This morning I learned something. I had no time to do an official test, but the one I did is, I think, reliable enough. I wanted to give you all a surprise at the party tonight, because, I won’t drink champagne or any other alcohol. We’re now three.
And she puts a hand on her belly.
The entire room buzzes with joy and surprise exclamations. The Master of Ceremony thinks this is the first wedding to get totally out of his control, but he can’t help feeling happy, like everybody else. Beth’s mother stands up and almost runs to hug her daughter.
When they part she says:
—Couldn’t you two wait a little bit?
—Relax, Beth. It was a joke. If you could see your face. Got you. I’m the happiest mother on Earth.
Then she hugs the Major.
The Supreme Commander and Beth’s father look at each other, then stand up at the same time, going together to congratulate their children. Beth’s father hugs his daughter first, and so does the Supreme Commander with his son. Then, they switch, and when it’s finished they go back to their seats.
Rose, who’s remained at her place during this parents’ moment, can’t stand staying quiet anymore and goes to hug Beth and the Major. Then, she gets back to the desk, and the bride and groom sit down again. Rose clears her voice noisily as a cue for the room to hush.
—Queen Beth, King David, your kingdom will soon welcome a little one, your little one. If I were the good fairy, I would give this child a passion: the passion for Music. No need to give beauty, or love, or anything this child will already get enough of from its parents. Music does miracles. It binds people, makes them share their feelings. Music can express almost everything. This is my choice for your child. Who knows? Maybe I’m really a good fairy.
She winks and leaves the desk to applause.

The Master of Ceremony wonders if there will be someone else who wants to speak. Most of the time, nobody dares speak after the parents and witnesses. Something tells him this wedding will be different.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe stands up. He whispers to his wife a “Don’t worry.” Very First Gold Ring Ray asked them to be very discreet. But his daughter’s heart-parents are about to get married, and he wants to say something. He thought about what he could say without giving any clue of who they really are, the Major, Beth, and himself.
—I’m Raymond. I come from the same place as David. We worked together before he nearly died. I’m happy to see him today so alive … and in love. Beth, from what I know about you, I’m sure my friend is in excellent hands. I know how he was without you. I can see how he is now with you. David is the kind of man who never gives up you know, and I’ve got the feeling you’re the same. I have no doubt whatever life may bring you two, you will face it together. But never forget you’ve got friends. We’ll be there for you, too. We’re not so far away. David, we miss you over there, even if we know you stay here for the best reason: love. To you, Beth and David, and the life to come, I wish all the best.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe bows his head and smiles to them, before coming back to his place, while people applaud.
The next person to stand up is Benedict.
—Well, I won’t be long, he says when he arrives at the desk. My name is Benedict. David, you’re my fencing master. What you teach is amazing. But I know we’re just beginners. One day, I was early to class and I saw you training with Beth. My jaw nearly dropped. When you’re fighting together, it’s a real pleasure for the eyes. You’re so fast, so supple, so excellent. It’s spectacular. Since that day, I’ve come earlier to class on purpose, to be able to see you two in your incredible exercises. I’m a fan. When you asked me to come to your wedding, well, I was honored, really. We’ve only known each other for three months. I’m so happy to be here with you. So I just want to say, thank you. And I wish you two every happiness.
And Benedict goes to his seat. Applause.
The Master of Ceremony waits a few moments before asking: anybody else? He is very pleased to hear nobody answer.
—It’s time for the groom and bride to take their vows now. Beth Smith, David Crystal, please stand up. You have the floor.
Beth and the Major smile at each other, saying nothing.
—Are they savoring the moment again? whispers Beth’s mother in her husband’s ear.
—I think so, he answers.
Throughout the room, people stare at them. Then the Major speaks, taking one of Beth’s hands,
David: Beth, our meeting was so unexpected. If I believe in one thing today, it’s without a doubt in Destiny.
Beth: David, when we first met, I was far from imagining­­­ the bond we share today. I didn’t believe in Destiny, but now I do.
David: You opened my heart.
Beth: You opened my eyes.
David: You were my healer.
Beth: You were my teacher.
Together: I can’t imagine my life without you.
David: I love that your smile is the first thing I see in the morning.
Beth: I love that your smile is the last thing I see before sleeping.
David: You’re my strength.
Beth: You’re my wisdom.
David: In happiness or sorrow.
Beth: In success or adversity.
Together: I will always stand by you.
Beth: Today I become your wife.
David: Today I become your husband.
Together: With all my heart, I make this pledge to you: my loyalty, my love, my life are yours … forever.
Beth and the Major hush, standing forehead against forehead. Applause fills the room.
—Well, it’s now time for the wedding declaration, says the Master of Ceremony when silence falls again.
—May the parents and the witnesses come to the Signatures Table. Each take place behind your name, please.
All around the table names appear. When everybody is positioned, seats rise from the ground, and everybody can sit down.
The Master of Ceremony is at the desk.
—Beth Smith, David Crystal, we’re here today to celebrate your wedding. You chose to do it officially in front of your friends and family and the District representatives. Being wife and husband is a commitment for life. Your only duty is moral, and you defined them yourself through your vows. Getting married is a promise. But only you know what you’re able to give to each other. The District just asks you one thing: never give up. Love is worth being lived forever.
He pauses before going on,
—Beth Smith, do you take this man, David Crystal, as your husband, till death do you part?
—I do.
David Crystal, do you take this woman, Beth Smith, as your wife, till death do you part?
—I do.
—I now pronounce you man and wife.
Beth and the Major hug and kiss to applause.
—Before letting you all return to the Entrance Hall, may the spouses and the witnesses sign the marriage certificate?
In front of Beth, David, each witness and the parents, a document appears on the table along with an electronic pen at the signatories’ disposal. Beth, David, Sylvester and Rose just have to sign, whereas the District witnesses have to fill a testimony frame. They have to rule on the wedding’s sincerity and strength, and say a few words on how it went. As the document displayed is the same for everyone, everybody at the Signatures Table can read what the District witnesses write in their respective testimonial frame.
“This wedding didn’t show much respect for protocol, but I have no doubt about the feelings of the bride.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen such a wedding, and I have seen many. This couple places love in a very high position, well above any rules. I have absolutely no doubt about the feelings of the groom.”
—Has everybody signed?
In light of the positive nod of each signatory, the Master of Ceremony concludes
—Madam, Sir, this document will be deposited in your respective life files, and in your new family directory. I would like you to accept my sincere congratulations.
—Thank you, answers Beth and the Major in chorus.
—You’ll very soon receive the Record of the Ceremony with the group photos we’re about to take.

During the ceremony a tiered platform had been installed in the Entrance Hall, so that everybody can be seen in the picture. Different arrangements among the guests are captured. That way, anyone could have a picture being near the newlyweds.
When it is finished, the Master of Ceremony announces
—The cars of the District are waiting to bring you to the wedding party. I wish you all a great day.

To be continued…


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