American QueenBy: Sierra Simone
The Wedding Day
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth.
It bears all things,
it believes all things,
it hopes all things,
it endures all things.
It endures all things.
I stare at the last line of the Bible verse as my cousin Abilene and her mother continue to fuss with the edges of my veil. The entire passage from I Corinthians is etched into a marble block in the church’s narthex, and any other bride standing here might have seen these words as a comfort and an encouragement. Perhaps I’m the only bride ever to stand in front of these massive sanctuary doors and wonder if God is trying to give me a warning.
But when I think of what awaits me at the end of the aisle, of who awaits me, I straighten my shoulders and blink away from the verses. From the moment I met Ash, I knew I was destined to love him. I knew I was destined to be his. There’s no place he can go that I won’t follow, no sacrifice he can demand of me that I won’t give, no part of myself that I won’t offer willingly and completely to him.
I will bear, believe in, hope for, and endure Ash’s love until the day I die, even if that means robbing my own soul.
And it will mean robbing my own soul.
My only comfort is that I won’t be alone in my suffering.
With a deep breath, I step in front of the doors just as they open, the airy notes of Pachelbel’s Canon in D drifting through the stone nave. My grandfather takes my arm to guide me down the aisle. The guests are standing, the candles are flickering, my veil is perfect.
And then I catch sight of Ash.
My pulses catches, races, trips over itself as it rushes to my lips and face and heart. He wears his tuxedo as if he were born wearing one, his wide shoulders and narrow hips filling out the tailored lines perfectly. Even if he didn’t stand at the top of the stairs leading up to the altar, he would still seem taller than everyone else around him, because that’s just Ash. He doesn’t have to exude power and strength, he simply is power and strength made manifest. And right now all of that power and strength is bent toward me as we lock eyes and, even across the distance of the nave, begin to breathe as one.
Shock seems to ripple through him as he fully sees me—the dress, the veil, the tremulous smile—and pleasure kindles and glows in my chest at this. He wanted to wait to see each other until the ceremony, he wanted this moment. And I have to admit that watching his handsome face struggle to contain his emotions, feeling my own blood heat at the sight of him in his tuxedo—it was worth it. No matter how outdated the tradition is, no matter how much it inconvenienced our guests, no matter how long those hours were this morning without him, it was worth it.
And then as my grandfather and I move closer, I see him.
Right next to Ash, dark-haired and slender, with ice-blue eyes and a mouth made for sin and apologies, sometimes even in that order. Embry Moore—Ash’s best friend, his best man, his running mate…
Because of course, I’m not just walking down the aisle to the man I’ve been in love with since I was sixteen, I’m walking down the aisle to marry the President of the United States.
The hundreds of guests fade away, the massive stands of flowers and candles vanish. And for a moment, it’s only the bride and the groom and the best man. It’s only me, Ash, and Embry. There’s no presidency or vice presidency or freshly painted First Lady’s office awaiting me after the honeymoon. There aren’t hordes of cameras inside and outside the cathedral, and the pews aren’t filled with ambassadors and senators and celebrities.
It’s the three of us. Ash stern and powerful, Embry haunted and pale, and me, with bite marks on the inside of my thighs and a hammering heart.
It’s when I’m almost to the front that I see the best man has a bite mark of his own peeping above the collar of his tuxedo, large and red and fresh.
It’s when I’m almost to the front that I see that the small white square in Ash’s tuxedo pocket isn’t a silk handkerchief, it’s undeniably the familiar lace of my panties. No one who hasn’t seen my panties before would know, but he’s so blatantly displaying them, like a trophy. The last time I saw them they were clutched in Embry’s strong fist…