It was raining when Drew woke up – just a light rain, almost a mist, really, but enough that everything was soft and faintly glowing. Molly had spent the night at her brother’s house with her part of the wedding party, although Schrodinger had opted to stay with Drew.
I’m standing with you, he’d told Drew, when asked. And all the other guys are with you here, so that’s where I should be.
Now, Drew turned his head to the side, where Molly normally slept. Schrodinger had claimed her portion of the bed, and he was curled up with her pillow between his paws, his nose buried in the fabric, still asleep. Drew chuckled softly and slipped out of bed, padding down to the kitchen to start a pot of tea brewing.
To his surprise, Pavel was down there, and there was a pot of tea on the stove, steam coming from the spout. “You’re up early,” Drew said, getting a mug out of the cupboard and pouring himself hot water. “And you made tea. You’re almost domesticated, Pavel. We’ll have to find you a wife soon.”
Pavel shuddered. “Perish the thought. I’ll leave that to you, my friend.” He watched Drew make a cup of tea, and then pull out a loaf of freshly baked bread. “You are better this morning.”
“Yes.” Drew started slicing thick pieces of toast. “I told Molly about Phoebe yesterday.”
“Is that what’s been bothering you?” Pavel asked. “Phoebe?”
“She’s coming to the wedding today,” Drew said. “And I never told Molly about my ancestry.”
“And you thought Molly might leave you, because you are part faery?” Pavel guessed, and snorted when Drew shrugged. “You, my friend, are a moron. Of all of us, Molly would not care.”
“Molly is the one who’s going to have to raise a part faery child, and she might not have realized yet what that means,” Drew said.
She still won’t care, said Schrodinger sleepily, coming into the kitchen. That’s just Molly.
“Even Molly has her limits,” Drew said. “And it wasn’t fair not to tell her before.”
“Would you have told her if Phoebe wasn’t coming?” Pavel asked.
“I would hope so,” Drew said. “But I don’t know.”
“My grandmother,” Drew said. “My faery grandmother.”
Schrodinger considered that as he sat in his chair opposite Pavel. You will have interesting children, then, he said finally. I’m glad I’ll be able to help. Between her genes and yours, who knows what you’ll get.
“A faery kitchen witch,” Pavel said. “The best of both worlds.”
By the time the carriage showed up to collect them all, the rain had subsided to a silvery-grey mist that softened the edges of the world. Drew could smell the sea and the aromas of flowers twining together in the gentle breeze that touched his cheek, so different from the smells of corn fields and farms that he had grown up with. Sometimes he missed those other smells – the dry dustiness of the wind over the fields in late summer, for example – but he couldn’t imagine not smelling the sea anymore.
“I can’t wait to see how this looks in the summer,” Luke said, as they clambered into Pavel’s carriage.
“Probably very similar to winter,” Tom said. “After all, it’s still the Snow Queen’s ball room.”
“I think you’re in for a surprise, if you think that,” Jack said, but refused to say more.
The ride to the clearing where the Snow Queen’s ball was held every December was full of good-natured ribbing and laughter. Drew had given out his groomsmen gifts the night before – hand-tooled flasks with his and Molly’s initials on them, and full of a smooth whiskey that Pavel would only tell them was something to be sipped and enjoyed. Drew had reminded them that if they showed up to the wedding with hangovers, Molly had threatened to have Jack howl the entire way into the wedding, just for them. It had been enough to keep the drinking to a minimum.
Once the carriage came to a stop, Pavel pulled out a different flask and passed it to Drew. “This is your last drink as a single man, my friend,” he said. “In my hometown, it was the duty of the best man to make sure that the groom was well-hydrated before he walked into the ceremony. So here’s to you, Drew.”
Drew accepted the flask and sipped. The liquid exploded on his tongue, dancing in fiery drops of ice and heat down his throat, spreading warmth edged with a sharp chill through his body. He shuddered and handed the flask back to Pavel. “What was that?” he wheezed.
“Mom’s homebrew,” Pavel told him. “Is mild, no? She sends her regards.”
“If that’s what your mother considers mild, remind me never to try anything she thinks is robust.” Drew’s eyes were watering. “I might need help getting down.”
“No worries,” Jack said, taking his arm. “Let’s get you inside.”
Drew was fine by the time they stepped into the main room. The Snow Queen’s ballroom had some small rooms off on the sides, something Drew had never really realized. The smaller room held chairs and a small table, just enough for them to straighten their tuxedos and make sure they were all together. Jack joined them after a few minutes, which told Drew that Molly and her attendants had arrived.
“Now, you two, these are for you,” he said, kneeling down in front of Jack and Schrodinger. Both had bow ties that matched the groomsmen – sapphire, of course. He held out baskets for each of them. In the center of each basket was a sapphire pillow, with a silver ring tied onto it: Molly’s a delicate filigreed circle and his more substantial but still interlaced, both having tiny sapphires on them. They’d commissioned the rings specially. The two ringbearers accepted their charges with gravity.
We won’t lose them, Jack assured Drew.
Not at all! Schrodinger agreed.
“I know you won’t. You two will escort Lily and Zoey down – just like we practiced yesterday.” Drew stood back up and squared his shoulders. “Everyone ready?”
“I’m supposed to ask that,” Father Christopher said, chuckling, as he stuck his head in the door. “We’re ready for you.”
When they entered the main ballroom, they all stopped short in awe. The ballroom was normally all in white, with icy white flowers and vines twining up the pillars, and the ceiling was full of stars. But today, the vines held sapphire flowers, the white ice floors had transformed into a grassy lawn, and the sky above was silvery-grey. Birds sang from hidden alcoves, and there were chairs set out.
Father Christopher waited for them at a small dais that normally held the Snow Queen’s throne. Today, it held a small table, covered in a white tablecloth sprinkled with sapphire snowflakes, on top of which was the unity candle that Molly and Drew had picked out. In the center of the dais was a large crystal vase.
Drew took his place next to Father Christopher, and Pavel stood behind him. Jack and Schrodinger had gone off with their baskets to the room where Molly was, and the groomsmen were escorting guests to their chairs. It was happening. Finally.
And then he saw her. She glided into the room, one hand lightly on Jack’s arm (probably a good thing, since Jack would be immune to her touch), laughing at something he said. His grandmother was dressed in a long, flowing dress of warm gold, as if she were sheathed in sunshine, and Drew could smell her perfume reaching out to envelop him. He looked at Father Christopher, who nodded, then hurried over to her.
“Drew, darling boy,” Phoebe said, letting go of Jack and enfolding Drew in a warm hug. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, Grandmother,” he said, returning her hug. For a moment, he was a child again, looking for her comfort in the dark night. She had been his sun for so long, and it felt right to step back into her light.
“Are you happy here, Drew?” she asked him, stepping back and looking at him. “Truly happy?”
“I am, Phoebe,” he said, and knew it was true. “This is where I need to be.”
“Even though it’s far from your roots?” she pressed. “Far from me?”
“Yes,” Drew said. “It’s not that far, via the Roads. And it’s time for me to put down new roots, Grandmother. Marionville isn’t home anymore.” He looked around the room, at all the people filling in, and felt his heart overflow. “This is my home now. With Molly. With the Cove.”
Phoebe searched his face, her golden eyes intent, and then she smiled and hugged him again. “Yes, I see that. I’m so happy for you, Drew. May you and Molly have the same kind of love that your mother and father shared.”
“Thank you, Grandmother.” He kissed her cheek and then went back to stand behind Pavel.
The instant the last guests were seated and the groomsmen joined Drew and Pavel, the birds stopped singing. Then, a single flute began at the back of the room, and the large doors opened. As the music continued to grow, Lai and Noemi stepped through the doors, wearing sapphire blue dresses that left one shoulder bare and carrying a single white rose in their hands. They walked slowly up to the dais, put their roses in the vase, and stepped to their places opposite Drew and his attendants.
Once they were in place, Corrine and Jade came down and placed their roses as well. As they passed by him, Drew realized the dresses had silver snowflakes all over them, and he grinned. Jade winked at him.
The music changed, and Sue came down the aisle, carrying a single white rose as well. Luke sighed as she walked past him, and Drew wondered how much longer it would be before there was another wedding.
Then a chorus of “aawwww” filled the room. Lily and Zoey, each wearing sapphire dresses and the coronets that Molly had given them, carrying baskets full of white rose petals, flanked Jack and Schrodinger, who were carrying their own baskets. Rose petals floated down through the air as they danced down to the dais, where Schrodinger and Jack set their baskets down in front of the vase, and went to flank Drew.
The music changed one last time, and Molly appeared on her father’s arm. Drew nearly forgot to breathe as he watched her come down the aisle.
Her gown was white, a pale silvery white like moonlight, and it too left one shoulder bare. The other one held a waterfall of crystal snowflake beads that fell from her shoulder across the front of the dress to her opposite hip and continued down to the train that swept out behind her. Her coronet was silvery snowflakes and held her veil in place across her face, resting on top of her hair, which was pulled up in an intricate braid. In her left hand, Molly held a single white rose, just like her attendants.
Mr. Barrett escorted her to the dais, and then lifted her veil. He turned to Drew and said, “Welcome to the family, son.” Then he stepped back and sat down next to Mrs. Barrett, who was already crying.
Molly put her flower in the vase, and looked up at Drew, smiling. “Are you ready?” she asked quietly.
“I’ve been ready for this forever,” he said, taking her hand. They turned to Father Christopher, who smiled down at them.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”