CHAPTER TWENTY: THE WEDDING
He ran his fingers over his jaw to see if it was smooth. He had dressed himself with immaculate care and had shaved his face that morning with pedantic concentration. He looked in the mirror and straightened his collar a last time and ran his brush through his hair and took a deep breath. This was his last day as a bachelor. He gazed around his lodgings as if he were leaving it forever, he knew this was the last time he could please himself as he wished to in the place. He gave the place a final check to see if things were neat enough to receive their mistress and straightened the paintings and cleared the few items on the tables, restoring them to their rightful places. He fastened the knot of his tie on his shirt, trying on three different ties before he finally decided on the right one. It amused him a little when he recollected the one day he had seen her hostel room, messier than anything he had ever seen before in his life, he knew it wouldn’t matter much to her if the place was tidy or not. And turning his face to the light, observed the placid restful surrounding outside with nervous regard.
The service was being held at 09:00 that day, a quite little ceremony. He had only invited those whom it was absolutely necessary to invite. He had asked Jennifer’s belongings to be delivered at his house by that evening, and went over all his plans again to see if they were done. He made himself a tea to calm the nervousness that he felt. He also felt a bit melancholic for he’d woken up that morning with a sense of bereavement for his late mother. With a look at the wall clock, he threw his suit over him and locked the house behind him.
There was a delay of over half an hour at the church for the bride. It was a very simple function, few of his colleagues were there with him congratulating him, some had come out of curiousity more than genuine interest in the ceremony. He tried to make conversation with them but was too distracted to continue it. At last, one of his friends informed that the bride had finally come. He apprehensively took his place at the altar. The church bell sounded, the piano started playing the familiar wedding tune and all arose to greet the bride. He looked very serious and determined and did not even cast a look in her direction till she took her place opposite him. He had expected her to be an emotional wreck but fortunately she was not. She had a sanguine, hopeful and tender expression on her face. The vows were exchanged, so were the rings and she looked up into his eyes with a trusting fondness that made him feel more anxious than he’d ever felt. Here was his childish love behaving like a lady to him, he was so surprised at this change. At last when all was said and done, the couple quietly removed themselves from the church after all the congratulations were repeated. He conveyed her to his car. His express preparations and their effect were not lost on her, she thought he looked more handsome than ever and momentarily forgot all her worries, the unutterable shock and reproach of her parents along with the contempt lavished on her by some of her peers were forgot as he opened the door for her to step in with his measured yet soft and charming smile. Though he’d not said so all morning, her appearance had affected him too. Never before having seen her in a sari, his breath was taken away as she stepped up next to him in her deep, rich blue sari with a golden border. Though he’d never cared much for a sari, seeing her in it changed his opinions on the costumes. With his young wife, he mused whimsically to himself, he started the car and started to drive back home.
“How are you feeling today?” he asked, seeing her quiet, contended manner.
“Fine” she said with a shy smile and turned away and he laughed.
“Are you feeling shy, my dear?” he asked her incredulously but she just smiled back. The reality was striking in more heavily each moment. He glanced at her, how beautiful had she seemed when she stood near him, he thought to himself. Her burnished black hair held back with a leaf shaped white stone studded clip that shone forth elegantly as she bowed her head for prayer. Such a different person she seemed, the very picture of modesty and love. Had he never noticed her eyes before, he thought to himself. They were crystal clear yet so surprisingly dark and they brilliantly shone forth as she looked at him. Such a tender, abashed expression she wore in them. Her lips were gently parted and whenever he looked without any show of doing otherwise at her, she flushed a bright red crimson, looking down. He didn’t know whether to be amused or not and had to desperately resist the temptation to laugh but the captivation, strange and novel, lasted till the end of the journey. He was used to thinking of her now as David Copperfield had once thought of his first wife, Dora, his child wife. The journey was silent and calm yet his admiration and fondness for her grew with each moment of unbroken stillness.
“Are you happy, Jennifer?” he asked her, suddenly struck by an unpleasant idea.
“How can you ask that?” she asked him in a hurt voice and he smiled an apologetic smile to her.
“It’s just that I’ve never seen you so silent” he remarked but she did not reply, only looked at him, nodding. Her eyes, though remarkably bright and beautiful, were not lively, they were lost in a sort of melodious dream and her vision seemed to idolize him with the most earnest affections, he felt the full weight of their commitment towards each other at times during the drive, and unconsciously swallowed. At last they neared the house and to rouse her from her reverie, he gently launched into the practical details regarding the house. They pulled into the drive way. Jennifer was surprised even in her dreamy state. It was a very large yet neat looking place and she laughed delightedly, the first symptom that she was awake to the real world and he was enthralled by her delight. He opened the door for her again and helped her get out. She took a breath as if she was going to speak something to him but then overcome with excessive shyness, she looked away. His child wife was still there, he mused to himself.
He took the key from his pocket and opened the door.
“Jennifer, the things you left at your friend’s will be here around this evening but if you want to be undisturbed as no doubt you must be feeling very emotional after such an important event, I can ask him to come tomorrow. Do you want your belongings immediately?” he asked her.
She looked at him with wide, almost terrified eyes. She could still not bring herself to believe that all this was happening and nodded dumbly and he patiently agreed, deciding he would have to look to the matter himself. She was never too useful at practical things, he knew that, he thought to himself.
“You can leave your footwear there” he said, indicative a precise shelf for the purpose in the corner and Jennifer complied obediently. Her silence was becoming quite exhaustive by now and he did not know how to proceed with her. His slight romantic sentiments having gently faded away, his initial nervousness and self doubt came back to him and his hands seized the knot on his throat, and he tried to focus on it instead of dealing with her.
“Let me” she said, speaking for the first time since the drive and tenderly grasped his hands away from his tie and loosened the knot, taking it off his neck and then readjusting his collar. Even after the deed had been done, she let her hands linger on his shoulders and for the first time, he understood his wife that morning and the reason behind her uneasiness in that one gesture and pulled her close to him in a soft embrace where they stood for almost a minute without moving, their hearts beating against each other.