And so it was that they stumbled back to the house on Mycroft Avenue, after what should have been their wedding but wasn’t quite.
Charlie did not consider either himself or his beautiful would-be bride to be wedding people. As far as he knew, Mattie’s aspirations had always been to help people rather than be a bride, and his only other marriage had been a registry wedding, done last minute. Mattie had never seemed the sort to care about it until it was her wedding. Then she wanted the dress, and the Church and bridesmaids and well...All of it. Not that he was complaining, if she wanted a big fancy wedding than she’d get her big fancy wedding.
It was no skin off his nose, especially since he wasn’t the one paying for it. Maybe he should have expected it? Lucien told him that it’ll make a great story in fifteen years, and maybe he was right. Maybe Mattie’s Old Man would pay for them to have a second reception since they didn’t get to go to the one they had planned for today.
The caters had been pissed, when he rang to tell them that the reception was off until he told them it was because someone died at the ceremony. Then they were apologetic, which gave him a two-second burst of superiority before reality crushed back in, his wedding was still ruined, and his wife was still in tears.
He fell back onto the old couch in the Blake house that’s probably older than he was. He can feel the wooden frame on the back of his thighs where the padding had worn through. The thought crossed his mind that maybe for their next anniversary he could arrange some kind of group gift of a new lounge suit. Something modern, with wood paneling. Mattie fell next to him in a ruffle of lace and satin. She did look beautiful, but he’d thought that when she was ankle-deep in black sludge with her hair flattened to her face with blood once, so maybe he was biased.
“You didn’t carry me over the threshold,” she said. The hem of her dress is rimmed in pink, and it could maybe pass for a bold fashion statement, but Charlie knew it was blood. Not hers, thankfully. She’d had to give her shoes over as evidence, but Matthew let her keep the dress, even if that was against protocol. He’d seen them, in their little brown bag, he could only imagine how they’d have looked when they were wrapped with white satin instead of pink. He wondered if the little gems set on the front of the toe box were real or paste. Probably paste; the O’Briens weren’t that rich. Probably.
“I don’t think I could have.” He replied, “Maybe if you were naked. That dress weighs about three times as much as you do, it’d throw my back out.”
“Hm. Well, I don’t want to sit on a plane next to someone with a thrown out back.” She conceded, “ When we get back from the honeymoon.” Ah, right. The honeymoon. Their bags were packed and sitting in the kitchen ready for loading into the car to the airport. Jesus, how was he going to get out of bed at five-thirty to get to the airport? It was already two am, by the time they were released from the crime scene, and it was a fifteen-minute drive from Jean’s new church back to the house. New Zealand had seemed like a good idea when they were planning, and he did want to see snow…Were they considered suspects? Were they even allowed to leave the country? Behind his eyes, his brain gave an unhappy throb of pain.
Mattie lay her head on his shoulder, and then lifted it, put her hand down, and put her head back.
“Your shoulders are bony.”
“They are the bony shoulders you married.”
“Heh. Us, married, who would have thought?”
“Jean comes to mind, she did bully us into going on the first date.”
“That’s true,” Mattie said, her smile evident in her voice. “I think she was picking out dress swatches the second you mentioned you were thinking about proposing.”
“Maybe it was a mistake to tell her first, but I didn’t know we were going to be subjected to eight months of wedding ideas.”
“She just wants what’s best for us.”
“Hm, fat lot of good it did.”
“I don’t think even she could have foreseen someone getting stabbed during the ceremony.”
“I wish she had.”
The timing had been pretty amazing if you were looking with God’s eyes. His little niece, Janet, had brought them the rings on a little white lace pillow, her dark hair tied up into a braid lined with flowers. He had his groomsmen, led by Danny Parks. Mattie had her bridesmaids, with Jean as the Maid of Honour, all of them clad in pink lace. Their parents smiled at them from the pews, his mother was dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. Even Bernie was behaving.
Up until that moment, he hadn’t got it, hadn’t understood how your wedding could be the happiest day of your life. He’d already spent the morning dealing with a taxi they’d hired to take their out of town family members to the Church going to the wrong Church, then he’d had to make sure that the plate with no bread at the caters was actually a plate with no bread since Ray’s wife can’t have bread, then he was frantically describing the music he wanted the organist to play because apparently, they’d forgotten to do that before. He wanted everything to be perfect. Mattie deserved for everything to be perfect.
Charlie’d already had his first wedding, with Rose, in a registry office. He couldn't decide if it was a blessing or a shame that she hadn't been able to make it, the same way he couldn't decide if she was being truthful or if she was trying to spare his feelings. He knew she was remarried as well, to someone that none of them had ever met in the Northern Territory. But Mattie? This was her first, and hopefully her last and he wanted it to be exactly how she wanted it so when they were old and retired and living in a retirement home they could sit under a window and talk about how beautiful it was. That they'd have some nice pictures to show their hypothetical children. At the very least, a stomach full of fancy catered food. He might have preferred a no-frills wedding, that was just his nature. He didn't like parties much, even his own. When he'd been a boy he was so unsettled during his tenth birthday that he got up and left. But Mattie did, and the party she'd put together for them was beautiful.
So there they’d been. It wasn't a wedding in a big Catholic church, with huge stained glass windows and candles burning wax down the walls. But it was still a nice church, he could see what Jean saw in it. It also meant there was no need to keep the 'speak now' line in the speech. Which was good, in his opinion. He didn't know how often people actually did speak now, but the less chances that there were for the day to be spoiled, the better. And, frankly, he didn't want any of the fools who'd missed their chance with Mattie to realize that she really was the catch of a lifetime and burst in dramatically. Mattie is looking up at him, there is dark makeup lining her eyes and it makes them seem wider than before. He can see where her natural red eyelashes ended and the black mascara began. She was smiling. And he got it. He got it entirely. The preacher turned to him, and asked him ‘do you, Charles Norman Davis, take Matilda Elise O’Brien to be your lawfully wedded wife?’ He’d been about to open his mouth to say ‘yes, of course, I do, I love her so much that I can’t fathom any future without her in it’, but before he could the door burst open. A man staggered in, bleeding heavily. Wheels squealed on the wet asphalt outside.
Red blood pooled on the green carpet. The rain splattered into the foyer.
Charlie hadn’t been able to suppress his cop instincts. Perhaps he would never be able to suppress them. He sprinted out of the Church, jumping over the dying man as he did do, and out onto the pavement. Mattie had been only a couple of steps behind him, trying to stop the man from bleeding to death. He would have loved to see her try and run in those heels and that dress but he was already out the door, trying to find where he came from. No real luck aside from a blood trail leading to a set of tire tracks in the muddy Church lawn. He was fully prepared to engage in the investigation as well, before coming to his senses and figuring that he probably wouldn’t be allowed to on basis of conflict of interest and, more importantly, his wife needed him.
“At least we’re married now?” Matie offered up,
“Yeah.” Charlie said, sleepily, “We can start to do married couple things.”
“What do married people do?”
“Well…” He tried to think about something that his parents did, but his mind is beginning to become covered up by the thick fog of tiredness. “Hmmm. Well, you can tell me that the car’s leaking oil, and then I’ll say ‘I’ll fix it on the weekend’ and never do?” She chuckled, her breath is a warm puff on his shoulder.
“We don’t have a car.”
“We can buy one.”
“Well, you can do that, I’ll buy an ugly bed head, then complain about it for the next ten years. But when you ask why we don’t buy another one, I’ll tell you that you brought it.” This time it was his time to chuckle and watch under heavy eyelids as she put her stockinged feet up on Jean’s coffee table. They should probably change into comfortable clothes, he thought, but can’t push himself to move. Anyway, he’s almost asleep, like his mind is surfing, left and right and left and right...Calming.
His eyes were shut, and he was lost in his mind when Mattie spoke up again -
“Did you sign a wedding certificate?”
He opened his eyes and then sat forward, unintentionally pushing her off his shoulder. He didn’t sign anything today, didn’t even finish saying his vows.
“Did you?!” He asked, turning to look at her. Her eyes are as wide as his but her eyebrows are raised in amusement.
He couldn’t stop himself from groaning loudly, while Mattie did the only other thing that can be done: Laugh. At him, and the situation. All this work, for nothing! God. Then, he started to laugh as well, maybe it was because he was going crazy but suddenly the whole thing seemed very funny. Where else in the world would a man who you’d never seen before in your life crash your wedding and die in the Church?
Mattie wrapped her arms around his and kissed the side of his face. The faint traces of lipstick that remained after a day of worried lip biting are sticky and smell like vanilla. She laughed again, and it sounds like how rain on hot cement smelt. He turned his head to kiss her back, and she obliged before both of them fell back onto the couch again.
“Well, how am I going to kill you for your inheritance if we aren’t even married?” He asked as she used her thumb to scrape up some of the pink polish on her left thumb. She scoffed at him, and wrapped her arms around his neck, allowing her head to fall on his chest.
“And I thought you loved me for my sparkling personality.” She replied, and now the momentary rush of adrenaline has seemingly worn down he’s tired again, he reached around her, his arms finding his elbows on the other side of her waist.
“You didn’t answer him, by the way.”
“The preacher, when he asked if you take me to be your lawfully wedded wife.”
“For now. We’ll see if we still like each other after navigating the airport tomorrow.” She smiled against his chest, and this time when his eyes fall shut, he dreams about dancing.