3:23 a.m. 24th December
The lights of Las Vegas were even brighter than usual with Christmas decorations and the reflections of those lights in her eyes made Shawn feel light-headed with joy.
He had changed into his tuxedo in the menís room of the airport, but she was still in the white blouse dress he had first seen her in, her hair loosely tumbling over her shoulders in delightful waves, and her cheeks cherub pink with pleasure. She looked beautiful to him, but he knew she deserved all the perfection he could give her when the wedding was to be such a small, quiet hurried affair, so he had taken her to the most expensive dress shop in the town to find her a wedding dress of which a princess could be proud.
He waited with the patience of a man used to being in dress shops for his beloved to emerge, and chatted quietly to the smiling shopkeeper, a young woman who had seen many couples buying wedding dresses from her, but had never seen two people more in love.
His bride to be smiled at him, her blue eyes dancing with delight, and twirled slowly in the long white dress that had a fitted bodice embroidered with lace and pearls and a flowing satin skirt that fell to the floor, but which she lifted to show shapely legs and a pale blue garter just above her knee. He had been wrong when he had thought a princess would be proud of the dress, it was good enough for an angel, and nothing less. She looked as if she had just descended from a cloud, and he almost wept with joy knowing that she was to be his, and that this creature who was so far above him had chosen him to be her husband. He would never deserve her, but he would try his hardest until the day he died to become worthy of her. He might falter in his course, but one look from her eyes told him that, whatever might befall them, he would never have need to doubt her love or her faith in him.
"I canít believe youíre mine," he whispered softly in her ear as he took her slim body in his warm, strong arms.
"Believe it," she answered, "because after tonight, youíre never going to be rid of me."
"You say that like itís a bad thing," Shawn confided, kissing her chastely on the lips while the shopkeeper looked on in wonder.
What the lovers did not realise was that their adoration of each other made them glow with an inner happiness so rarely seen that to behold it was to revel in its reflection, and feel a contentment of soul all too often destroyed by the world around one. They exuded joy in a way that made others feel happy for them rather than envy their pleasure, for to envy them would be similar to envying the sun for its life giving heat, ridiculous and impossible.
The kiss, delicate and sweet as it was, would have become heated except Shawnís cell phone rang and his Blue Eyes gently pulled away so he could answer it, much to his irritation.
She slipped away from him to change, but he shook his head. That was the only dress he wanted her in, and after the ceremony, he hoped she wouldnít stay in it for too long. His passion was not just for the beautiful, angelic girl who stood shyly before him, but also for the grinning woman who had so tempted him with her beauty from the moment he had first seen her.
"Hello?" His voice was low, and the grin that was so much part of his charm widened on his lips as he spoke, watching her twirl before him in that glorious gown with an even more lovely smile on her face.
"Shawn!" His motherís voice was sharp, sounding angrier than he had heard her since he had broken her favourite bowl by playing basketball in the house with Philip.
"Hi Mom," Shawnís smile wavered a little, but then his Blue Eyes put her arms around his waist and it cemented into place. "Whatís up?"
"Whatís up?" She sounded even madder than a moment before. "You donít call when youíre late home, you forget to come to Granís house for the tree decorating, damn near breaking her heart, and all you can say is Ďwhatís upí?"
"Aw, Mom," Shawn tried to calm her, but Hope, characteristically, was having none of it.
"Donít you ĎMomí me, Shawn Douglas," she had used his full name, that meant she was beyond mad and it was probably a good thing that they had several states between them or he would be ducking right about "Bradyís been looking for you for hours, and I canít imagine what your poor fiancťe is thinking" now.
"Mom," Shawn choked out at last while she paused for breath. "Iím sorry, but I canít talk now. Iíll call you back in the morning." ĎOr perhaps the afternoon,í he added mentally, staring into her lovely blue eyes that were holding him prisoner.
"Shawn, donít you da" was the last thing he heard as he hung up the phone before he finished the chaste kiss his motherís call had interrupted.
"Your mother?" Blue Eyes asked breathlessly as they broke apart once more and he paid for the dress, not noticing the stare of the assistant who had just come out from the back of the shop.
He rested his chin on the top of her head, loving the feel of fitting next to her so perfectly. "Yes. She wondered where I was."
"But you didnít tell her?" she pulled back just enough to look into his brown eyes with concern.
He kissed her nose and took the receipt from the girl with brown hair and bottomless brown eyes that watched them with longing. "No, Blue Eyes, I didnít tell her. I thought it could be a Christmas surprise. You like surprises, donít you?"
She giggled, almost shyly, "but itís almost Christmas already. You could have told her."
"I could have," he answered, his brown eyes suddenly telling her that he was a million miles away, "but she would have been so angry that I was about to married without her being there, she probably would have threatened to curse me never to enjoy another one of Granís doughnuts again."
"And what a dreadful fate that would be," she joked. He smiled, a little wanly, and she instinctively put her arms around him again. "It will be OK, you know."
"Will it?" He sounded lost, staring across the edge of the world and seeing something else stare back.
She didnít know what else to say, so squeezed him a little harder.
He came back to her then, his body warming to hers, and responding to her gentle touch with a greater ardour for her than he had dreamed possible. "Youíre with me. Everything will be alright." He said it half to himself, not really talking to her at all, but confessing something to his soul instead.
"Now you want to go get married?" He was laughing then, and they ran down the boulevard like school children on their way to the candy store, holding hands and smiling with the simple joy of living.
The chapel was not one devoted to Elvis, or anything else too strange, but a simple white building with a tall spire and a Mexican feel to it. Shawn knew that it was nothing to the church in Salem where he was supposed to get married in terms of grandness, but St Markís had always terrified him as a child because of its grand coldness, and he infinitely preferred the more intimate feel of this place.
"Are you Shawn Brady?" The minister was a small man, with thick glasses and thinning hair, a small button nose and a broad smiling mouth.
"Thatís me." Shawn shook him by the hand. The shake was firm, strong, and for some reason, Shawn found himself trusting this man more than he probably should for having just met him.
"And I presume this is the bride?" The ministerís voice was friendly, and he held out his hand to her with a gentle smile.
"Sheís my Blue Eyes." Shawn was proud of her, of her beauty inside and out, corny though it sounded, and of the love that burned like twin torches in her eyes, the cerulean orbs that had enchanted him from the beginning.
The ministerís smile widened almost imperceptibly before he put on his grave, church matters face. "Very well, shall we begin?"
He walked Shawn to the front of the sparse chapel, passing the Christmas roses and the bright decorations on the pews without a glance, and settled him into place as the wedding march started.
Shawn started suddenly as he realised they had no witnesses, turned to the minister, but saw the beaming grin on the manís face, and realised that even that was taken care of as three elderly ladies, all dressed in their finest, waited in the pews for the minister to take them home after Shawn and his Blue Eyes were married.
Then everything else vanished from the scene as Shawn laid eyes on the beautiful angel he was about to marry, a vision in her dress with her veil down over her face and walking slowly up the aisle on the arm of one of the ladies husband. He could have been her grandfather, and Shawn was suddenly pleased that she did not have to walk up the aisle alone.
She stopped by him, and he put out his hand for hers, unable to release himself from her powerful stare that bored into him and saw into his soul.
The minister started reading the wedding ceremony, and Shawn felt his heart lift from his chest onto another plane of existence, where love was the only emotion and he was alone with his Blue Eyes.
"Repeat after me, I, Shawn Douglas Brady, do take thee," the minister paused as he realised the words ĎBlue Eyesí were probably not appropriate or legally binding, then went on, "to be my lawfully wedded wife, forsaking all others, to love, honour and" again he stumbled as he did not know whether they had planned on Ďobeyingí one another and went on again, leaving a convenient gap, "for richer for poorer, for better for worse, and in sickness and in health, until death do us part."
Shawn repeated the words, adding in what the minister had left out. Then it was his girlís turn, and before he knew it, the minister was asking for the rings. Shawn searched his inside coat pocket and brought out the wedding ring that had resided there since he had first proposed to his Salem girlfriend. It was beautiful, the ring his mother and father had given him to give to the love of his life on his sixteenth birthday, and now he was doing just that.
"With this ring, I thee wed," he recited slowly, "with my body, I thee honour, and with my soul I thee swear to love faithfully forever more."
She too repeated the words, giving him one of her own hoop earrings as his wedding ring, and then together they finished their oaths, though it was more than the law or the minister required for them to say, it came from their heart, for now they were one heart, one soul, in two bodies and would stay that way forever.
"Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you, For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord do with me and more if anything but death parts you from me." It sounded like a reading from the Book of Ruth, and whether they had memorised the words long before or had spoken spontaneously the same, the words took on new meaning as they left their lips, and the old ladies began to cry softly.
"In as much as you have each pledged to the other your lifelong commitment, love and devotion, I now pronounce you husband and wife, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." The minister was smiling as if it was his birthday, New Yearís day, and Easter along with Christmas. "Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder. Shawn, you may now kiss the bride!"
He lifted her veil gently, staring at the knowledge of forever in her blue eyes, and did just that.
It is said that time is nothing but a human misapprehension, and that it does not in fact exist. If such is true, then the kiss of true love lasts for an eternity and exists only for the briefest instant. Such a kiss is never truly ending, and its mark lies upon those who experience it for the human interpretation of forever. Many experience love in its diluted forms, and it is enough. The passion that is so soul searing that it destroys any part of the heart not devoted to it is found once in a generation in two people strong enough to hold it between them and make it stronger still without being destroyed by it. What was witnessed that night in the chapel in Las Vegas was an example of such a passion, and though few would ever know it, such love is available to all, if they can only find it. Yet when it is found, the passion is so overwhelming that the rest of the world does not become grey in comparison, but finds new vigour and beauty, becoming more as the lover has become more through its power. Shawn knew as he kissed his bride that Christmas Eve morning he had finally come home, and that no matter what happened after, he had, for one brief instant at least, known true happiness.