SIXTINE Book I / Chapter 7
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Everything that followed, passed in a blur.
All too soon, I ascended the church steps, holding onto Gigi’s fragile arm. The doors of the great Church of the Madeleine opened and the angelic voices of an invisible choir spilled out, taking my breath away. I took careful steps down the aisle, trying not to gape in wonder at the sight all around me. Millions of candles floated in mid-air, their glow soothed the blue, the gold and the marble of what looked less like a French church and more like an ancient Roman temple. Hundreds of pairs of eyes gazed at me; the crowd seemed to stretch beyond the gigantic columns, into the painted frescoes and ornate detail of the walls. Benevolent rays of light cascaded from the zenith of the domes above, as if coming from the heavens.
And at the end of the aisle, dwarfed under the monumental sculpted altar, was Seth, beaming.
My heart pounded beneath the ancient necklace; I barely noticed Gigi letting go of my arm. In an instant, I was beside Seth. His eyes sparkled with emotion. I hadn’t expected to see him so vulnerable.
The priest began his sermon but I struggled to concentrate. All I could think of was how magical everything was. Everything was bigger and more extraordinary than anything the little girl in me could have imagined. This moment was beyond fairy tales, beyond dreams. My chest was bursting with the need to talk to my mother, to find a way of telling her “Everything turned out alright, Mama.”
Tears filled my eyes and my throat. Then the priest turned to say Seth’s name.
I heard my prince say “I do”.
For a second, I thought I saw a shadow cross over the priest’s face; but it was only a candle that had gone out, leaving behind a ghostly helix of smoke that spiral-led upwards towards the heavens.
“Jessica Desroches,” the priest proclaimed, “do you take Seth Pryce to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”
As I was about to answer, I caught sight of Thaddeus. I hadn’t noticed him before, although he was right behind Seth. He looked straight at me, his face sombre, his eyes shining a fierce silvery light.
In a split second, my mind flooded with the images of the dead man in the Louvre, the double reflection of Thaddeus on its glass case, my head resting on Gigi’s lap, the meaning of true love, my mother washed away on a wintry beach. Love, life and death all crystallized in this one instant, when my voice was suspended in silence, the promise it hid illuminated by a million candles. As the milliseconds turned to dust, my gaze was pulled skyward by an invisible hand, to the figures towering above the altar.
Saint Mary Magdalene, eyes downcast, hands outstretched, was letting go of her mortal self. And, lifting her to the heavens beyond, five formidable angels, their dazzling white wings as tall as a man.
Then, in an instant, as if ascending from a great depth, the church around me, with all its splendor, luxury and gold, rushed back in. As everything coalesced into focus, words finally took form in my mouth.
Seth let out a silent breath, his trembling hand reaching for his stomach, then quickly falling by his side again. To shut down the murmurs and whispers creeping on the cold stone floor, the priest bellowed, “The ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible love that binds your two hearts together.”
It all became a blur again, the sermon reaching me by fragments. Soon, the ring was on my finger and the gold reflected the monumental shape of Mary Magdalene above.
“Jessica and Seth, you have pledged yourselves to each other by your solemn vows and by the giving of rings, before God and these witnesses.”
The word ‘witness’ made me glance in the direction of Thaddeus, bute had entirely disappeared from my line of sight. It felt like a relief.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. Those whom God hath joined together, let no man separate.”
Seth cupped my face with his hands; his fingers brushing the skin of my neck sent waves of warmth to my spine. When he kissed me, his lips tasted of joy and tenderness. My happiness was so complete it felt like I was taking flight.
Our kiss would be the last thing I would ever remember.
Carry on reading Chapter 8 here.
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