“What are they doing, Ama?” asked Sparkroot.
“Have a chat-chat-tickle-me!” laughed Rocket.
“They’re not having a tickle-fest,” said Cathy. “Though it does look like it,” she added as she glanced over to Jaclyn and Davion near the portico. “They’re getting married.”
After supper, while Jaclyn had helped Cathy wash the dishes, she’d leaned over and whispered, “Will you be my cynda?”
“Really?” Cathy had replied, louder than she’d intended. “Really?” she whispered. “You’re doing it? When?”
“Tonight!” Jaclyn had answered. “Now! Or at least, as soon as we’re done with the dishes.”
Cathy agreed to the honor. Jaclyn had been her own cynda when she and Brennan had married. The cynda is the most respected member of the traditional elvish wedding ceremony, especially when it is private or when the union has been expected for a long time. The term comes from “cynda-rutin,” or “bystander,” and the cynda is witness, midwife, and marriage counselor, all rolled into one.
Like a bystander, the cynda stands in approximation of the ceremony, close enough to watch, near enough to eavesdrop, and at the ready to coach, persuade, or nudge at the slightest hesitation.
From her spot on the patio, it didn’t look to Cathy that Jaclyn and Davion would need any nudging whatsoever. She’d never seen Jaclyn, in spite of her free and independent spirit, quite so happy.
Davion said the traditional Gnomish vows:
Spree taka longdy
Aska me de pardy.
Longa dech ne baydoo
Mekka snee par kardy.
Cathy didn’t know Gnomish, but she knew the voice of love.
“They look happy,” Sparkroot said.
Jaclyn replied with her own cross between a blessing and vow:
Sun in the west,
bird on the nest.
Feather on the wing,
You wear my ring.
It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, Cathy thought. And certainly it was. These were words of love. Sparkroot had grown silent, as he stood to watch and listen. Then why did this heaviness settle over her?
It wasn’t for Jaclyn and Davion, of that she was sure. She listened to Davi continue with his own vows as he left behind tradition and moved into the region of his own heart.
“Jaclyn, what brought me, brought you. What brought you, brought me. We were both pulled by rune into this nomdish land. What was it for, but to find me and you?”
Cathy had felt that, once, about Brennan, brought here by the rune of her own wish. She’d been happy when they’d married. She’d believed the words she’d said:
To stand with fate
Than to walk alone
Through heaven’s gate.
But that had been so long ago, before she’d felt imprisoned by his harshness. Still, it felt like standing with fate, to have brought into this world these three children. That was something.
But where was freedom? Where was warmth? Listening to Jaclyn and Davi, she couldn’t help but imagine what it would feel like to have kindness and fate.
She shook herself to dispel her wistfulness. This wasn’t a time to shade the moon.
There’s freedom in surrender, no matter how heavy the weight.
Jaclyn laughed again.
“Go on,” she said. “Put on the ring!”
“Once I do, it’s nae comin’ off!” replied Davion. “Are ye sure as can sure can be?”
“Oooh!” replied Jaclyn. “Maybe you can take it off on Sunday, every fifth Sunday, and I’ll be a fifth-free-dove!”
“That would nae do!” said Davion. “Just give me the ring and I shall put it on before we have to call the cynda to make us do so!”
And with that, he put on the ring that sparkled like a star’s wink.
“My bonny elvish bess,” he said.
“My sweet runish doan,” she replied.
“They’re married now,” Sparkroot explained to Florinda, “just like Ama and Ada.”
“Will they live in separate houses,” asked Florinda “like Ama and Ada?”
“Most likely so,” replied Sparkroot. “That’s how you stay a happy couple.”
“Will they have lots of kids?” asked Flor.
“Most likely yes,” replied Sparkroot. “That’s what comes from married people.”
“Then they’ll be very, very happy,” said Florinda. “Just like us!”
“More pasta, Ama!” yelled Rocket. “Tummy wants yummy! More yummy!”
Cathy had to laugh. Love is still love, even if no one is the perfect spouse. And even the sting of the harshest of words could fade inside the ring of happiness.
Freedom meant something more than having no cares: It meant tending to the cares entrusted to one with a carefree heart.