“Nice dress,” said Cathy Tea, passing Kitten Nell as she walked down the stairs.
“Thanks,” said Kitten. “Part of my entertainer gig, you know. It’s kind of hard to walk down the stairs in. Not to mention the breathing part.”
“Oh, well,” Cathy replied, “I’m sure you could change into something more comfortable. It’s the music, not the dress, that we care about.”
A few minutes later, they passed each other on the stairs again. Kitten had changed into a cotton t-shirt dress.
“How’s that?” Cathy asked.
“Much better!” replied Kitten Nell. “I think I can actually breathe and move, simultaneously!”
While all the other guests made their way inside to the bar on the gallery floor or upstairs to the supper spread in the Crow’s Nest, Sugar waited outside for Kitten Nell’s concert. She’d heard about her interpretations of Liszt’s transcriptions of Bach’s preludes and fugues, and she expected to learn something new.
Upstairs, Floyd joined Cathy for a snack.
“No plus one?” Floyd asked.
“Ah, no,” said Cathy Tea. “I forgot to invite him.”
Floyd chuckled. “Flying solo!”
“I guess so!” she said. “Anyway, everyone I want to see is here!”
“What a day,” said Wade, wrapping Jaclyn in a big hug.
“You make a fantastic best man,” she replied.
onezero stood in the middle of the room and closed her eyes. She could hear everyone’s thoughts, all the conversations, and the wedding songs of the 1,000, and every voice, spoken or unspoken, sang of happiness.
Jaclyn recounted elf weddings that lasted days and days.
“And we had to sleep in the treetops,” she said, “those of us who could sleep! Matter of fact, my mother tells me I owe my very existence to an elvish wedding celebration!”
“Conceived in a tree-top?” Rae asked.
“More like a hobbit hole!” Jaclyn laughed. “My father’s folks aren’t tree-climbers much.”
Wade looked dashing–everybody thought so.
“What will it be, Wade,” Jaclyn teased, “ever the best man and never the groom?”
“I’m a happy bachelor,” he replied.
“That I can understand,” said Jaclyn. “I’m in no hurry myself. Something about being part of a couple makes me feel like running away by myself to the mountains sometimes, even if getting together with Davion was my idea!”
“And how does Davion feel?” Wade asked.
“Pretty much like me!” said Jaclyn, and everyone chuckled.
Sempervirens listened carefully to a conversation that Floyd and Sabreene were having. She caught the word “tree,” her attention was rapt.
“I love this line,” Sabreene said. “‘God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!”‘
“Who said that?” asked Floyd.
“Ah, of course! And do you agree?”
“With the feeling, yes,” said Sabreene.
“And many things can generate that feeling?” asked Floyd.
“That’s right,” said Sabreene.
And Sempervirens began to think that maybe that meant that God was in many things, not just trees and pollywogs.
Jeffrey noticed midway through the reception that the caterer hadn’t arrived yet and they had no cake! It was getting late, and the guests might start leaving soon. He thought about which recipe could be baked most quickly: carob cake! As soon as he pulled it from the oven and added the decoration, the caterer arrived.
“Sorry,” Meggs said. “There was a screw-up at the catering office! I just now got the text. Got here as fast as I could.”
No matter! The guests were still there, the cake was baked, and Meggs was just in time to join the fun!
Sempervirens knew that every cake deserves a song, so while J. P. cut the first slice she sang loud and clear:
An aunt takes an aunt
And an uncle with an uncle!
‘Come with me to the pond
beneath the hidden tree,’
said the grasshopper to the frog.
‘We will be happy, happy as can be!’
“I’ve got an idea!” said Rae. “Let’s play musical chairs, and when you’re out, you grab your piece of cake!”
So Sempervirens sang, and the adults marched around the table, and when Sempervirens stopped, the one left standing grabbed the cake.
“What’s the incentive to find a chair, again?” eXo asked Floyd.
“To play the game?” he replied. “To be the last to get a piece of cake? Oh, never mind! Just, quick! The music has stopped!”
It was almost–but not quite–too much joy for onezero. All those games, all those friends, all that family, and the songs from beyond that never did quit, not once.
Soon the game ended, and all the slices of cake had been eaten, and more guests arrived from downstairs. No more cake? No bother! Redbud whipped up a fresh one, white this time, with sprinkles.
“Oh, well done!” said Meggles. “Now that’s a cake that any caterer would be proud to serve!”
Knox got to wondering where his wife had gotten to. The wedding joy was stirring up romantic feelings in him, reminding him of how lucky he felt to be married to the most beautiful member of this family.
“Have you seen Cypress?” Knox asked Davion and eXo down at the bar.
“She did grace her form troo this way den funf minuten,” Davion said.
“She said she was looking for you,” said eXo.
Cypress had headed outside–that’s where she always went she couldn’t find Knox.
But this time, she didn’t see him there. She took a moment to take in the big sky and look up at Orion’s belt. She took a moment to listen to Kitten Nell’s performance on the piano. And then she headed back in.
They found each other at the bar.
Upstairs, Nathanael painted a wedding gift for the couple. He’d been married to a woman strong as a mountain, burning like lava within–it had been bliss. With this gift, he hoped to pass on that magic to J. P. and Floyd.
The sky took on the gray of early dawn.
“Hey, Squid,” said Knox. “You’ve been up all night! Maybe it’s time for us to head home.”
“I’m not tired, Dad,” said Sempervirens.
“I am,” said J. P.
The party was winding down as Joel arrived. He’d been in the middle of drafting a chapter of his novel when J. P. had texted that the wedding was on. He finished the chapter shortly before the sun rose, but he still wanted to congratulate the couple, even if he had missed most of the celebration.
Kitten Nell played on, and Sugar discovered that she had, indeed, learned something from her performance.
Kitten Nell had played with passion and grace, restraint and courage, abandon and care, and it felt, to Sugar, a little like living, and a lot like love.