~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Five~~
~One Summer Day~
‘All my life I’ve prayed for someone like you …
‘And I thank God that I – That I finally found you …
‘All my life I’ve prayed for someone like you …
‘And I hope that you feel the same way, too …
‘Yes, I pray that you do love me, too …’
-’All My Life‘ by K-ci and JoJo.
Pushing aside the antique lace curtain, Valerie surveyed the guests as a brigade of butterflies broke loose in her belly. The men hadn’t yet emerged from the mansion, and most of those in attendance were congregating in small groups on the lawn near the raised flower gardens. They hadn’t quite made it to the area where the ceremony was going to take place, and from her vantage point, she could see the gauzy white tents that were arranged further off to the side near the path that led to the beach where the tables had already been set up to accommodate the guests for the reception. After the ceremony, the chairs would be whisked away so that a dance floor could be put down before the small stage where a pristine white baby grand piano stood. When she had mentioned hiring a pianist to play while she walked down the aisle, Evan had grinned and proceeded to call his brother-in-law, Kichiro to ask him to do the honors.
He was the one who had taught Evan to play, so she’d assumed that he was good. What she hadn’t expected when she’d overheard him practicing on the piano in the Zeligs’ living room was the absolute skill with which he played. He was even better than Evan, which, in Valerie’s estimation, was saying a hell of a lot. Evan had said it, too, right after he’d informed her that he’d arranged to have the best pianist in the world play at the ceremony.
Valerie sighed softly, shaking her head as she watched Kichiro climb the stairs and onto the platform to warm up. He would play a few different pieces leading up to the wedding, but the one she’d chosen for her journey down the aisle . . . That Evan had already come up with about a thousand off-kilter jokes about the title of it—Bach’s Air on a G String—was not surprising in the least, either . . .
“Do you think people would be offended if I postponed the wedding until tomorrow?” Valerie asked, only half-joking as she narrowed her eyes at the picture that Madison took with her cell phone. His hair was cut in the same way that it usually was when he was attempting to hide out in the open, and it wasn’t the hair that bothered her nearly as much as it was the memories of the rather nasty run-ins she’d had with him in the past when he’d looked just like that before that made her feel edgy and even more nervous than she might have been otherwise. He felt like a completely different person, and that particular Evan was just not the one she wanted to meet at the end of her long walk.
Madison smoothed her dress and smiled just a little at Valerie’s question. “They might not, but Evan probably would,” she replied.
Heaving another sigh, Valerie shot Madison a droll glance. “I can’t believe he did that,” she muttered.
“Sit,” Madison commanded as she carefully retrieved the veil. Hooked over the edge of the rice paper changing screen, the wispy antique lace was caught in the breeze filtering through the opened balcony doors. Madison gave it a gentle shake as she waited for Valerie to sit down. “If it makes you feel any better, Gin insisted that I cut Cain and Bas’ hair, too.” She wrinkled her nose while Valerie slipped into the bench before the antique dressing table. “Well, she said ‘bald’, but . . .” Uttering a light giggle as she slowly shook her head, she grabbed a couple of hairpins. “I just could not bring myself to shave the tai-youkai and future tai-youkai . . .”
“That just doesn’t really comfort me any,” Valerie remarked dryly.
Madison shrugged though her smile widened as she met her friend’s gaze in the mirror. “Maybe not, but Sydnie damn near had a heart attack when she saw Bas.”
Valerie made a face. Yes, she supposed that Sydnie probably had, and, knowing her, she probably had a few choice things to say about it, too. “That bad?”
Madison grimaced. “Oh, let’s just say that I didn’t know that many curse words existed. I’m pretty sure she invented a few new ones, too.” Settling the veil in place, she sighed. “I’d hate to be him later on. I’m pretty sure she is taking this as a personal slight.”
“She’s not mad at Gin, is she?”
Madison laughed as she arranged Valerie’s curls around the platinum headband affixed to the yards of lace that matched the subtle underskirt of the gown. “Of course she isn’t. She blames Bas and Cain—exactly how it should be.”
“Maybe, but I still have a few choice things to say to Evan,” she promised grimly.
Madison laughed. “I’m sure you do.”
That earned her a longsuffering glance, but she sighed instead of saying anything else on the matter.
“There,” Madison announced after carefully pinning the headband in place. “You look wonderful—drop dead gorgeous.”
“Thanks, Maddy,” Valerie said, rising to her feet.
Valerie didn’t really look relieved, but she heaved a deep breath and worried at her lower lip as the door opened behind them. The chime of little girls’ laughter seemed to lift the slight foreboding that had fallen over the room, and she smiled, unable to help herself, as the three little girls ran over to her to show off their pretty new dresses.
She hadn’t been able to choose one of the girls to do the duty of the flower girl, so Evan had suggested that she ask them all, and Valerie figured that was the best idea he’d had so far, really. Tanny, Kurt and Samantha’s daughter, was the oldest, but Olivia and Takara were only a few months apart in age and pretty darned inseparable, so there was no real way that she could have chosen one of them other the other, anyway. Even at two years old, Olivia and Takara were fast on their way to becoming the best of friends since Takara’s arrival a few months ago when Kagome and InuYasha had arrived to be with Gin while she was pregnant. Now they stood, holding hands as they waited for Valerie’s approval
Kneeling down before the girls, Valerie smiled at each of them. So sweet in the barely-pink satin dresses that their collective mothers had chosen, they looked like perfect little angels. “Aren’t you all just beautiful?” she said.
“I’m a flower girl!” Olivia exclaimed happily.
“Me, too!” Takara added. It was startling, just how well she was latching onto the English language. It seemed like her friendship with Olivia was beneficial to both girls since they seemed to communicate in a strange mixture of Japanese and English as they taught each other as they played together.
“I like your dress,” Tanny ventured, reaching out to touch the silk covering Valerie’s knee.
“And yours is just gorgeous, too,” Valerie insisted, tucking a flyaway strand of the blackest hair behind the child’s ear. The younger girls’ dresses matched exactly, but Tanny’s was just slightly different since she was older, though the satin and lace were perfectly matched. “Do you like your dress?”
Tanny nodded, then laughed when Madison handed each girl a small roll of candy. Evan had told her before that Tanny’s infatuation with all things sweet was far worse when she’d first come into the family, but she hadn’t gotten over it completely. Valerie figured that it was a good thing that Tanny’s metabolism was apparently high enough to burn through the massive amounts of sugar.
“Okay, girls! Let’s go on downstairs to wait,” Samantha said, clapping her hands to gain the girls’ attention.
Three little girls tried to hug Valerie at once, and that resulted in a very loud gale of laughter, and, with a swirl of satin and lace, the sounds of the pale pink Mary Janes clicking on the floor, and they were gone. “You look wonderful,” Samantha said over her shoulder with a bright smile. Then she closed the door behind them as silence fell over the room once more.
A soft knock on the door drew both of their attention, and she smiled when her mother, with Kaci Lea in tow, slipped into the room. Rhonda stopped short as she stared at Valerie, a sheen of moisture surfacing in her eyes. “Oh, I can’t believe . . .” she said, trailing off with a loud sniffle. “You’re so beautiful.”
Kaci Lea gave her the critical once over, and she finally shot her a reluctant little grin, too. Maybe it wasn’t the most open expression, but it was genuine, and Valerie smiled back.
Rhonda crossed the floor and helped Madison bring the veil up and over Valerie’s face. It fell to her waist.
Staring at her reflection in the mirror, Valerie swallowed hard as another wave of butterflies broke free in the depths of her belly. The fitted dress accentuated her figure well, skin tight to the hips where the skirt gently started to flare, wider and wider until it flowed around her ankles. The silk stopped just a few inches above the underskirt of chiffon and vintage lace, trailing out behind her a couple of feet in a whisper. The sleeveless gown was free of embellishment except for the silver thread line of embroidery that ran around the top and again around the bottom hem: a delicate line of gently scrolling vines. All in all, she had to admit that she loved the dress, even if she had teasingly dubbed it the Sausage Casing from Hell.
“Oh!” Kaci Lea exclaimed softly, snatching the garter belt off the table. “You forgot this!”
Madison took it from the girl and pulled it open as she gestured at Valerie’s skirt. “Oh, no, can’t forget that,” she remarked with a grin as she knelt down so that Valerie could step into it.
Hiking up the skirts so she could lift her foot, Valerie laughed as Madison tugged it over her shoe and carefully slipped it up over the sheer stocking. Valerie took over and tugged it into place before letting the fabric drop once more as she shot Madison a nervous little glance as the sound of the piano far below wafted through the window. He changed songs, and it was the last one before he began Air on a G String. “How do I look?”
Madison said nothing as she broke into a gentle smile and simply nodded.
Rhonda smiled and carefully gave Valerie a hug as she tried not to wrinkle her. “Sounds like it’s time,” she said as she grasped the bouquet out of the opened floral box on the dressing table. Perfect white peonies arranged with cascades of soft white tea roses, sprays of fern, blushing tendrils of wisteria . . . The scent of the flowers was absolutely intoxicating, and Valerie took it with slightly trembling hands.
Sparing one last glance in the mirror, Valerie then followed the women from the room.
The mansion was oddly silent, a strangely empty feel radiating through the very walls, leaving behind a pensive quiet that was curiously comforting, like the calm before a storm. It served to settle Valerie’s nerves. Ahead of her, the women were chattering, laughing quietly. Valerie smiled when they glanced back at her, but she didn’t really hear what they were saying. It felt so normal, didn’t it? Her rational brain whispered to her that everything in her life was about to change, yet a part of her knew deep down that the things that were important to her were going to remain the same.
She stopped short as she stepped off the staircase, blinking in surprise as her mouth fell open, as she got a good look at Bas. Hair cut short in much the same way as Evan’s, bangs trimmed just short of falling into his eyes, he looked neat enough, Valerie supposed, despite the obvious irritation in his expression. It just looked weird, really. She had grown way too used to seeing all of Evan’s family members with that flowing hair.
“Okay, come on,” Sydnie prompted, sparing a moment to straighten Olivia and Takara’s pale pink satin skirts before she handed each a little white basket heaping over with white and pink rice paper confetti that would dissolve instantly the next time it rained. Then she slipped Tanny’s basket into her hands and handed the five year-old girl an unwrapped candy. “Make sure they stay on the runner, Tanny,” Sydnie murmured, nodding at the two two-year-old girls. Tanny nodded solemnly. Bailey shot his mother a longsuffering kind of look as he tugged on the bowtie around his neck before trudging off toward the steps that led down to the yard. She gave the girls a little shove, and they followed along just behind and flanking Bailey, who looked like he’d rather drop the ring bearer pillow and run than to walk down the aisle with his sister, cousin, and aunt. Sydnie spared a moment to pin Bas with a very dry glance before moving off after the children to take her place with the other guests.
Bas snorted indelicately, and Madison refused to look him in the eye while both Kurt and Gavin tried valiantly to look everywhere but directly at Bas, too, and both with varying degrees of success. Gavin finally turned, thus forcing his gaze away, but Kurt gave up the pretense of trying not to look as he stared at Bas rather blatantly, very curiously. “Remind me not to piss off Gin,” he muttered, slowly shaking his head despite the trace grin on his face.
Bas didn’t comment, but he did heave a sigh before shooting Kurt a very dark look as he bent his arm, offering his elbow to Madison. “Feel free to kill Evan on your honeymoon,” Bas muttered to Valerie. She bit her lip and tried not to smile as Madison drew a deep breath and hesitantly slipped her hand under his forearm. The two of them stepped out of the opened doors and down the steps toward the long white runner.
Glancing up into her father’s face, Valerie’s smile widened. “Are you all right, Daddy?”
He wrinkled his nose at her show of concern. “Mind your own business, little girl. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
“Good luck,” Kaci Lea whispered quickly before stepping out the door on Kurt’s arm.
“You look beautiful,” Rhonda said, brushing a chaste kiss in the air near Valerie’s cheek. She paused long enough to cast Valerie one last, long look before sniffling softly and stepping away to take Gavin’s arm. Gavin shot her a decidedly nervous little smile before the pair followed Kaci Lea and Kurt through the doorway. Maybe it wasn’t traditional to have her mother be one of her bridesmaids, but Valerie wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You ready?” Jack asked, his voice suddenly rasping, harsh. She glanced at him quickly, afraid that he really was overdoing it, but she gasped softly at the sheen of tears that brightened his gaze as he stubbornly stared straight ahead, cheeks taking on a decidedly ruddy hue.
“Daddy . . .” she breathed, eyes stinging as tears blurred her vision, as she reached up to press her hand to his cheek.
“Never thought . . . Never thought you’d ever want me to do this for you,” he admitted, clearing his throat, still refusing to meet her gaze.
Her smile trembled precariously as she blinked to dispel the moisture gathered in her eyes. “Of course I would,” she said softly. “I love you.”
He coughed, gaze dropping, and he quickly turned, pulled her against his chest, wrapping his arms around her in a tight hug, unmindful for the moment, whether he was wrinkling her dress or not. “I . . . I love you, too, little girl,” he rasped out, tightening his grip for a moment.
She hugged him back, unwilling to let go, wishing that minute could last for a lifetime, and maybe it did. Reaching back into the lonely place, into those memories of a childhood that was spent in solitude, and suddenly, it didn’t matter at all. She could feel it, couldn’t she? All those things that her father might not ever have been able to say, all those things that culminated in the somber sense of regret that was so palpable to her that it might as well have been a tactile thing . . . Closing her eyes, she willed him to know, to understand, that it was all okay. He might well be her daddy, but she didn’t expect him to be perfect, and what did it matter, in the end? And maybe . . .
Maybe all those things had led her to Evan, and that, in her estimation, was absolutely worth it.
“It’s time,” Jack whispered, giving Valerie a last little squeeze before reluctantly letting his arms fall away moments before offering her his elbow. He cleared his throat and sniffled loudly. “You, uh . . . You ready? I mean, it’s not too late to run away.”
She smiled, her laughter slightly ragged, as she gazed up at her father. He was teasing, and she knew it, and she shook her head. “I thought you like Evan,” she reminded him.
He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter if I like him or not,” he reasoned. “You’re the one marrying him—though I think you made a damn fine choice.” He shrugged as she slipped her hand under his elbow. Covering her hand with his, he started forward, leading Valerie toward the doors as the first notes of ‘Air on a G String‘ drifted to them. “Better than that damned Murwad, anyway.”
Stopping abruptly for just a moment, Valerie shot her father a suspect glance. “How do you know about—? Never mind. Evan told you, didn’t he?”
Jack neither confirmed nor denied Valerie’s question, and she heaved a sigh and then giggled softly. “He is a very nice man,” she maintained stubbornly, leaning toward Jack and dropping her voice to a whisper as they stepped off the porch stairs and onto the white runner. “I have very little doubt that whatever Evan’s told you is completely untrue.”
He chuckled then sighed. “Can’t believe you’re getting married,” he murmured.
Smiling as she met Evan’s gaze over the heads of the assembled guests, Valerie bit her lip. He seemed nervous—she could feel it. Bas leaned toward him and said something, and he shot his brother a droll glance before shifting his gaze back to meet hers once more.
“Aww,” Jack drawled, stopping just long enough for Valerie turn to face him. “Would you look at that? That boy actually seems kind of nervous.”
She laughed softly. “Daddy . . .”
Jack snorted quietly. “Tell me you ain’t above making him sweat it or was your mama lying about you being upset with him for hacking all his hair off?”
“Oh, well, when you put it that way,” Valerie mused. Then she laughed when her father resumed his slow gait once more.
Then Jack sighed. “He’s the one, huh?”
Glancing up into Jack’s face, she nodded. “He is.”
“All right,” he allowed at length. Less than ten steps separated Valerie from Evan, but even at that distance, she could feel the nerves that were rattling off Evan in waves of energy.
She’d seen him moments before taking the stage in front of hundreds—thousands—of fans, and she’d felt his energy at times like that, but it was always wrapped up in more excitement than anything. This was something else entirely. Nervous? Rather novel, wasn’t it . . .?
As she reached his side, Evan turned to take her hand from Jack, but he stopped the groom when he covered Valerie’s hand in one of his again, and when Jack’s gaze shifted to meet Evan’s, he was entirely serious. “I’ve made her cry enough to last a lifetime,” he said quietly, just loud enough for Evan to hear. “You make her laugh, son, got it?”
Evan blinked and nodded, his eyes suspiciously bright as he stared Jack in the eye. “Yes, sir,” he replied just as solemnly.
Jack eyed him for another long moment, then finally broke into the smallest of smiles. “I’ll hold you to that,” he promised, taking Valerie’s hand, gently placing it in Evan’s.
“So will I,” Evan vowed as his gaze finally shifted to meet Valerie’s. “So will I.”
Just a reminder: Purity 11 and 12 preliminary chapters are available to read in the Spoiler Room forum on the forum (Kind of redundant, isn’t it?
Also, I am trying out a new fanfiction archive since Mediaminer seems to be dying a slow and very painful death. I’m trying to catch up in uploading the Purity continuations there (currently working on uploading Justification there). Chronicles and Metamorphosis are already available there, AND you can load the whole story to download in your choice of formats, too, which is really nice. So please do feel free to check it out!
‘All My Life‘by K-ci and JoJo originally appeared on the 1997 release, Love Always. Copyrighted to Joel Hailey and Rory Bennett.
== == == == == == == == == ==
jrharry ——— OROsan0677 ——— cutechick18 ——— mariea ——— sutlesarcasm ——— diyuu24 ——— krislee ——— friskypixie ——— lianned88
Final Thought from Evan:
Let’s get this show on the road!
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.