— Don’t move !
Dana was stomping on the spot, both impatient and terrified. Faith stuck a last hairpin in her bun and clapped her hands, satisfied.
— There you go ! Look, you’re beautiful.
The bride-to-be approached the large mirror to contemplate her reflection. Image that was offered to her blew her away. The sumptuous white dress lent by Jerome suited her perfectly. The very fitted lace and satin top drastically contrasted with the voluminous layers of tulle forming the bottom. Luckily Faith thought of the pumps. Without high heels, I couldn’t take a step without catching my feet in this dress !
She turned her head to examine the perfect bun the Siren had spent endless minutes putting together. Mascara enhancing her long eyelashes and a touch of soft pink lipstick gave her a femininity she could hardly realize.
— I can’t breathe !
— You’re just nervous. It’ll pass.
— No, I’m really struggling to breathe.
— Dana, a dress like this can only be worn with a corset. Don’t worry, you can change after the ceremony. I’ll help you take it off. Come on, we must go now, you’re expected !
Deputy took as deep a breath as her lungs, compressed by the corset, would allow to give her courage. She moved towards the front door with a determined step, followed by Faith who made sure that the dress length didn’t get caught in any obstacle, lifting it occasionally.
Once in front of the Hyde barn door, which had been converted into a reception room for the occasion, she again felt overwhelmed by the events. She motioned for the Siren to enter first to give herself a few seconds to think. What are you doing, girl ? What have you gotten yourself into ? It’s not too late to give up !
Someone put their arm around her, pulling her out of her thoughts.
— You look gorgeous. Even more beautiful than at our own wedding. And believe me, it costs me to tell you that !
She raised her eyes to meet those of her ex-husband. He was smiling with all his teeth, obviously happy for her. She threw a worried glance behind him.
— Are you alone ?
— Who do you want me to be with ?
— I don’t know. Mary May ?
— I don’t think her presence would be a good idea. She’s made it clear she doesn’t want to be at this wedding anyway. And I don’t think your man would have approved either. What are you looking at ?
— Is that your car ?
He turned to look at the old station wagon he had parked on the other side of the road.
— Yeah. You like it ?
— Let’s get out of here, quick.
— Are you out of your mind ? What are you talking about ?
— I… I can’t ! What’s wrong with me ? I’m a police officer, I can’t marry one of the defendants !
— Are you kidding me ?
Killian realized how terrified she was. Frozen in place, she began hyperventilating as her eyes progressively became wet. He placed his comforting hands on his former teammate and life partner’s bare shoulders.
— It’s okay, you’re going to make it. You didn’t do all this to give up now, did you ?
She was speechless and unresponsive. He continued.
— Dana, do you love John ?
She gave him a hard look.
— Of course I do, how dare you ask me that ?
— Well, you don’t seem to. After all the effort he’s put into this, it would be disappointing, to say the least, if he were to be left at the altar alone today, like an idiot, because you changed your mind last minute.
— Is that really your concern ? What about me ? What if I make the biggest mistake of my life, is that okay ?
— I didn’t say that. What I want to know is why you’re changing your mind now. If you’ve realized you don’t love him enough to live a lifetime with him, then you have my blessing on your escape. But if you just have doubts about the future, especially about your job, that’s not a valid reason to dump Seed now. We all have doubts, nobody knows what the future will be like.
With a finger, he removed the tear threatening to run down the corner of her eye.
— Don’t cry, it would be a shame to ruin such a beautiful makeup. Come on, let’s go. I’m here for you, whatever happens.
She sniffed and nodded.
Killian grabbed her arm and pushed open the barn’s double doors. All eyes were on them, and intense hubbub in the room before their entrance instantly fell silent.
Dana glanced around briefly. All her friends from the resistance – except for the Whitetails, Hudson and Mary May – were present. Sight was mind-boggling, to say the least. On mismatched chairs set up in rough rows on the dusty floor, peggies mingled with civilians and law enforcement officials.
Several mats had been placed end to end in the middle of the building, creating an aisle leading to a lectern behind which stood Virgil Minkler.
— Come on, let’s go.
Killian winked at her and walked toward the mayor, dragging Dana with him. Fear petrified her. She wanted to disappear. All those eyes on me ! She desperately tried to divert her mind from embarrassment by hanging her eyes on the smallest detail that could distract her from the audience.
Faith had taken her role as decorator to heart. The entire barn floor was strewn with pastel flower petals. Large bouquets were hung from beams and arranged throughout the room. Even the mayor’s desk was loaded with decorations. She lingered there for a moment Then she saw him.
Her heart leapt as if it wanted to burst out of her chest. John was standing next to Minkler and smiling at her. My God, he’s so handsome. Time seemed to stand still as she gazed at him. Her anguish instantly vanished as he smiled back at her.
He was dressed in a white satin shirt, topped with a shiny silver vest, and traded in his jeans for matching suit pants. A red rose burst from his buttonhole. Without even realizing it, Dana hurried to join him, now confident. She realized at that moment that a piece of music had accompanied her entrance and was still playing. The soft, instrumental version of Oh John, the one I love so much ! Killian quietly stepped aside and sat in the front row next to Jacob.
Seed held out two palms to her, which she grasped. He brought Dana’s back of his hand to his lips.
— You look fantastic.
— So do you.
* * *
Minkler intervened in a cheerful voice.
— Dear citizens of Hope County, dear friends. It is my pleasure to welcome you here to Holland Valley in circumstances I never thought would come to pass. Indeed, we are meeting today to celebrate an important union. A union that brings together citizens of this county, visitors and people who were once part of Eden’s Gate and who have decided to leave their past behind. It is an honor and a sincere joy for me to see all your smiling faces, which makes me confident about the future of our community. If this woman, a police officer, and this man, an ex-cult leader who abused our region, have chosen to put aside their grudges and come together for better or for worse, then anything is possible. As you may know, a religious ceremony has already been conducted by Father Jerome here. So I will not extend my time unnecessarily. It now remains for me to officially ratify the civil union. But before that, the bride and groom will exchange their vows. Deputy, would you like to begin ?
She nodded, both stressed and mesmerized by John’s gaze. Virgil handed her an envelope containing the text she had written. She grabbed it with a trembling hand and pulled out the neatly folded sheet of paper. She opened it awkwardly, swallowing hard to clear her throat of an invisible obstacle. With a hesitant voice, she addressed her future husband.
— My dear John. As you know, I am not religious. However, I must admit religion has had a profound influence on my destiny since I arrived here. Indeed, I met you for the first time in a church. Your brother’s, who was preaching there.
Our next confrontation was occasioned by a baptism you wanted to give me. At that moment, I hated you, from the bottom of my heart. You then wanted me to confess, which I did not do. Then you made an appointment for me to meet you in a new church, Fall’s End this time, to give me absolution. You were right. My mission was motivated by rage, hatred, wrath. I wanted your death more than anything.
She paused to clear her throat and continued in a more confident tone.
— Then I looked into your soul through your eyes, and I read a different story. The story of a lost man, tortured and imprisoned by the hatred he felt for himself and for his peers. The story of a child who had not been given a chance to exist, nor to be loved. Then, little by little, my rage turned into curiosity, then into amusement, into friendship. Into desire, into passion, and finally into love.
Despite your involvement with Eden’s Gate and some of the painful events we endured together, you were always there to support me. You made me smile when death and desolation surrounded me, when no one noticed my loneliness and distress. With you, I feel alive and wanted.
Today, I want to say yes to you with all my heart. Yes, I want to marry you. Yes, I want to be there for you. Yes, I want to spend the rest of my life with you, even if our union is an incredible roller coaster ride. I love you, John.
She slowly folded the paper, her eyes locked on Seed’s. A tear of emotion rolled down her cheek as he smiled at her, his eyes full of tenderness.
Minkler handed the Baptist another envelope.
He gently pushed the mayor away.
— No. I’m not going to read what I wrote. I’m very good at preaching and turning phrases, but this time I want to speak from the heart, hot off the press.
He coughed to clear his throat and addressed his fiancée, in a more confident voice than hers but not entirely devoid of emotion.
— My dear Dana, thank you for this beautiful message. You may not realize it, but your words have always been aimed right at my heart and have reached it every time. I try not to show it, but everything about you moves me. Your eyes, your presence, your words, your laughter, and your silences.
When you walked through the doors of the chapel that night, I immediately knew my life would never be the same. For a long time, I fiercely struggled with my feelings for you, which grew stronger every day. You said I was there for you, but you’re wrong. You were there for me. Without you, I would be dead. Dead inside, empty. That’s what I was before we met. Little by little, you gave me desire to live, to fight, and I discovered it was possible to enjoy the simplest moments in life. Like sharing green beans from a can, or falling asleep under a blanket, snuggled together.
At the mention of the canned beans, a few laughs rang out across the room. Dana also smiled at the memory. John continued.
— For all the horrible things I’ve done, to you and to others, you gave me a chance for forgiveness and redemption. You trusted me, not because you feared me or wanted anything from me, but out of simple kindness. You helped me up when I was down, when my own brother was beating me. I didn’t believe you could love me because I never loved myself. And yet you proved me wrong.
I can’t say that I am completely comfortable with who I am and what I’ve done. But I am sure of one thing : I’m on the right track, thanks to you. You’re the first person outside of my family to love me for who I am, despite my many faults, and not judge me. And you are the first person I love. I want you to be my wife, forever. I will do everything I can to make you happy, despite the bad start we’ve made. I love you, Dana. In a few moments, the yes I hope you’ll give me will be the most important of my life. I’ve never wanted someone to say yes to me as much as I do today.
There was absolute silence in the barn now. Dana and John stared at each other, unmoving. Minkler coughed to quietly introduce the next part and disperse the tension.
— Good. Thank you both for the beautiful vows. Dana, do you take John to be your husband, and to cherish him until death do you part ?
She didn’t take her eyes off Seed.
— Yes, I do.
— Do you, John, agree to marry Dana, to cherish her until death do you part ?
— I do.
— Very well. Then I shall invite you and your witnesses to approach me to sign civil register. But before that, you may proceed to exchange rings.
He made a discreet sign to Nick Rye, who was at the back of the room. The latter let go of Boomer and gave him a friendly pat on the back to indicate he should join the deputy.
Mutt happily ran over to the young wife to celebrate, standing up on his hind legs and leaning on her waist. Dana burst out laughing as he licked her arms. She grabbed the small box hanging from his collar, while Boomer turned to growl at John.
— Yeah, I know, you don’t like me. But you’ll have to get used to it buddy, now she’s sleeping with me.
Laughter erupted from the audience. Dana opened the box and took John’s ring to put it on his finger. He obediently let her do it. He took the smaller ring and slipped it onto his wife’s hand.
Emotionally exhausted but relieved of her stress, Dana threw herself into John’s arms and passionately kissed him. Room immediately erupted in applause. But she didn’t hear it. Only John mattered, nothing and no one could penetrate the bubble of serenity that was surrounding them at that moment. I didn’t even want to have a party. He looks so happy. How I love him. The Baptist held her tightly against him, as if he feared she might escape, pressing his lips and tongue against hers more than propriety dictated.
Their embrace was interrupted by Killian and Miranda, witnesses to the wife and husband respectively, who approached the lectern. The four briefly embraced before signing the open book the mayor presented to them.
As soon as that was done, Minkler spoke again.
— Now that Mrs. and Mr. Seed are officially married, you are all invited to celebrate the wedding properly. Buffet and dance floor will be set up in a few moments. In the meantime, please feel free to offer your congratulations to the newlyweds.
As soon as he finished his sentence, a group of peggies and resisters rose to clear chairs and lectern and prepare for the rest of the reception.
Killian approached Dana.
— Well, I just have to congratulate you. I wish you all the happiness in the world.
She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him.
— Thank you, Killian. Thank you for everything.
John’s eyes shot up at the FBI agent. He pulled himself out of his ex-wife’s embrace to address him.
— Congratulations, Seed. I’m not going to tell you I’m happy you turned Dana away from me. But I’m happy for her. I hope you treat her as well as she deserves. Don’t you dare hurt her, or I swear I’ll kill you.
He held out his hand to the Baptist. John hesitated for a few moments before vigorously grasping it and retorting.
— Thanks, FBI. Don’t worry about her, she can take care of herself.
He glanced at his wife, surrounded by her friends who were congratulating her in unison.
A short time later, the buffet prepared by Chad Wolanski and Casey Fixman was served. Many dishes lined the large reception tables. Dana approached to examine the food. Seed slid in behind her, putting a hand around her waist to hold her close.
— What would please my beautiful wife ?
— A glass of champagne ?
He whistled through his teeth.
— Tsssk. No, no alcohol for me. But do as you please, this is your day.
She turned to embrace him in turn and hugged him before placing a tender kiss on his lips.
— No, my darling. This is our day. I’ll have some juice to go with you.
He smiled between her lips and they walked together to the table where the drinks were set. Guests seemed to be enjoying the reception and the buffet as much as the newlyweds. Dana contemplatively looked around. I never thought I’d see all these people together. It didn’t start out well. A real miracle happened here.
The lectern had been moved to the back of the room, creating a perfect space for musical management of the event. Drubman Jr. and Boshaw naturally offered to be the DJs, which Minkler agreed to. An argument soon broke out between them, as Sharky insisted on playing disco while Hurk insisted that a wedding ball should start with a love song. Eventually, Boshaw won the argument but gave in to his cousin’s request, playing How deep is your love by the Bee Gees.
Dancing couples quickly formed, some consisting of a resistant and a peggie, others limited to two people from the same faction. John smiled at Dana, holding out an open palm. She grinned.
— I can’t dance.
— So what ? So neither can I. Come here. You only have to snuggle up to me. Can you do that ?
She giggled as she moved toward her husband’s wide-open arms. He wrapped one hand around her waist, while the other grabbed hers. She wedged her cheek against John’s shoulder, trying to match his steps. She quickly picked up the pace.
— See, it’s not so difficult.
She raised her head to contemplate his sparkling eyes. That ocean blue. I would do anything for him. Even more so when he looks at me like that.
— I’m more comfortable arresting suspects than I am on a dance floor.
John fondly smiled at her, dipping his eyes into hers.
— Who cares ? All that matters is you and me, here and now.
She smiled at him sincerely. They stayed eyes in eyes, as if time had frozen and the world had stopped turning around them.
* * *
The Bee Gees stopped singing, and a few moments of silence preceded an impetuous guitar riff. Suddenly, Dana’s heart rate drastically increased, as if her heart was fighting to get out of her chest.
Her body convulsed harder and harder as air began to run out of her lungs.
Time and her entire environment became distorted.
Her vision blurred as Seed’s and her friends’ voices faded into an indistinct din.
John immediately knew what was happening to her. He let go of Dana’s hand and waist to wrap his arms around her and pull her as tightly as he could, hoping to keep her as still as possible. Holy shit, she’s so superhumanly strong ! I’m not going to keep her down for long !
As wrath built up inside her, all she could hear was Tony Williams’ voice singing.
My story is now over. Big thanks if you have read it all. I hope you enjoyed it.
Would you like a sequel ? Feel free to send me your comments, feedbacks are precious and appreciated.