"Mama, hurry up! We will be late!" Maria's voice was anxious as she rushed down the hall and into our mother's bedroom, where I was helping Mama dress for the wedding.
"Child, 'tis only eight o' clock! The wedding does not begin until ten! Why are you so anxious?" Mama turned from her dressing table to look at her daughter's face, her countenance puzzled.
Maria did not answer, for was standing before the mirror fixing her curls for the tenth time.
"She is eager to be on time because a certain someone may be at the wedding..." I said teasingly, my voice low.
Maria's cheeks heightened in color, but she tossed her head as if she did not know of what I was talking and retied one of her pink ribbons.
"Such nonsense," she said lightly. "I am to be an old maid, remember?"
I didn't reply, but I doubted very much that she would remain alone all of her days.
"Besides," Maria continued, still preening in front of the glass, "it is our own Aunt Georgie's wedding--why, we should be there at least an hour early! We are family, after all. Do I have to have an ulterior motive just to see my own aunt?"
"Maria, she is the Darcys' aunt, not ours'. We have met her but two or three times... we certainly are not as close as Liza and Lizzy are," I admonished practically. "We shall arrive with the rest of the wedding guests--no one will need us before then."
My sister turned back to her hair with a petulant frown. "Mama?"
"Evelyn is correct, Maria," Mama said sternly. "Now go and see if breakfast is ready, dear."
Maria flounced out of the room, a bit of her former prissiness returned.
"Do you know why Maria is so adamant about arriving early?" my mother questioned me when we were alone. I was surprised that she had even taken notice of Maria's strange behavior. Mama normally concerned herself only with our gowns, ribbons and prospective beaus; anything beyond that was of little matter to her.
"Oh Mama," I said kindly. "You know as well as I that Maria loves to prepare for a formal event. It is in her nature. Naturally, she does not want to be late. That is all."
Mama satisfied herself with that as she finished her dressing. I put on the charming lavender silk I had been saving for this occasion, and sighed as I withdrew my new bonnet from its wrappings. I wondered if Edmond would like it on me, then blushed to be thinking of such things. Silly girl, I scolded myself. This is to be Aunt Georgie's day, and all eyes are to be focused on her--not you. Now fix that ribbon and go downstairs like a good girl... and not one more thought about Mr. Kingsley, mind you! I smiled at myself in the mirror, knowing full well that not thinking about Edmond was easier said than done.
~ ~ ~
Pulling my bonnet from my head, I stepped into the pretty country church where the wedding was to take place. It fit Aunt Georgie just perfectly. I began searching among the crowd for a familiar face, but my searching seemed to be in vain.
"Hello, Miss Evelyn."
I jumped as someone behind me spoke, then relaxed when I realized it was Edmond Kingsley. I extended my hand and he bent to kiss my gloved fingers lightly.
"It's good to see you," I said, smiling up at him. "But why are you here? I did not know you knew Aunt Georgie."
"Oh no, I have not had the pleasure of meeting your aunt yet--"
"My cousins' aunt," I corrected.
"My apologies," Edmond said. "You refer to her so often as "Aunt Georgie," so I assumed you were related. But, enough about that. I have been a good friend of Matthew Clock's for some time, and I came here today because he would not allow otherwise." He grinned. "How could I refuse?"
"Well, I am glad you did," I said softly, blushing slightly. But Edmond noticed my somewhat-anxious eyes, and he questioned me about them.
"Is something wrong, Eva?"
"I'm looking for Pierre DeJohns," I replied. "My sister Maria will be heartbroken if he is not here."
"Isn't she the sister who--"
"Fainted at the Darcys' ball? Yes," I finished for him. "But she is much changed now. She no longer harbors any affection for Mr. Smith, other than that of a friend. Her heart lies elsewhere."
"She is not acting too quickly again, I hope?"
"Not at all. Pierre and she are good friends."
"Very good friends," Edmond said, nudging me. I turned and spotted Maria already sitting in one of the pews, speaking with Mr. DeJohns. Her face was alight with happiness, and they seemed to be having a most interesting conversation."
"If you will excuse me, Edmond, I think I'd best go get my sister so that we may sit down. Mama and Papa will be wondering where we are."
"Of course, Eva." He tipped his hat, then went to sit down himself. I managed to get Maria to come sit down with the rest of us, although not without some difficulty.
A hush came over the church as Aunt Georgie made her way down the aisle on the arm of her brother, since their father had passed away many years before. Her dress was absolutely breathtaking, and her happiness made her radiant beyond comparison. Mr. Clock had eyes for no one but his beautiful bride as he watched her walking slowly toward him.
The wedding ceremony was beautiful. I noticed not just one sniff coming from the audience as both Aunt Georgie and Mr. Clock said their vows. How beautiful, I thought as Mr. Clock kissed Aunt Georgie sweetly on the cheek. The way they looked at each other was just precious--I could see so much love shining through the two pairs of eyes.
After the ceremony, and many hugs and kisses to family and friends alike, the newlyweds climbed into their carriage. Big white satin bows, flowers, and many ribbon streamers hung from the vehicle, and all of this festive decoration fluttered in the wind as the carriage made its way down the country road, 'round the bend, and were gone.