by Moon Momma
* * * * * * * *
"No way!" Keiko exclaimed, holding Molly's left hand as she examined the ring.
"I told you we were engaged. We're getting married as soon as we can make the arrangements. So tell me, smarty, how can he be marrying me if he's already married?"
"He's leaving his wife for you."
"Honestly, Keiko, do you think I'm stupid enough to marry a man who's already proved that he's a cheater? Get real."
Keiko let Molly's hand drop, and got a serious look in her face. "I'm still kind of concerned about you. I thought you knew better than to sell yourself into sexual slavery like this. Don't you value your freedom?"
"Really, Keiko, that kind of talk is so old. I know what I'm doing, and I hope these weird ideas of yours won't keep you from being my bridesmaid."
Keiko thought for a moment. "Just don't make me dress like a big pink cupcake, ok?"
Molly astounded her friend by wrapping her in a big hug.
* * * * * * * *
Molly hurried to the cafe near the hospital, cursing Dr. Natsuki. Masato was already seated at a table, sipping at a glass of white wine. A second glass sat, waiting for her. Molly dropped her bookbag and sat down. "It's a good thing you have lots of money," she said.
Masato looked at her, a bit warily. "Why?"
"To pay for my criminal defense when I throttle Dr. Natsuki."
Masato smiled a little. "What's he done now?"
"I swear, one of these days I am going to take an Uzi to that man's computer. I get there to go over some sources with him, that he wanted to discuss with me before I started looking at them. And I'm starving because it's been a long morning, and we've got a lunch date, so I told him I've only got half an hour. 'Oh, first,' he says, 'I found a web site you might be interested in.' His office is always a mess and there's always a big stack of papers on his extra chair. Usually he moves them for me so I can sit down, because I'm afraid to touch them, but today he just goes right to the computer and starts trying to find this website. I don't even remember what it was supposed to be about, something that has nothing to do with my dissertation topic and that I couldn't care less about. It was something he found through a bunch of links, and of course he didn't bookmark it, so he's trying to find it through the links, but he can't remember which ones they were. So after forty-five minutes he still hadn't found the site, and I finally said, 'Look, I've got to go,' and he says, 'But we haven't even talked about those sources yet.' I just walked out." She sighed heavily. "So that's why I'm late."
"You wouldn't need a defense attorney," Masato said. "You'd probably get a medal of honor."
Molly dragged her fingers through her hair, which she was letting grow out a little. "If I get through this degree without killing him, they ought to make me a saint." She drank some wine. "Let's talk about something more pleasant. Have you found a place for us to get married?" Since Molly was so busy with school, Masato had taken over most of the wedding planning.
"As a matter of fact, I have." He smiled. "Do you know the Hikawa Shrine, at the top of Cherry Hill Street? The people who run the shrine--an old priest, his granddaughter, and her husband-- have a garden and cherry orchard that they rent out for weddings. They already have a caterer and a decorator that they work with, friends of the family. The decorator also does floral arrangements. I checked out their references and got glowing reports on them. Also, the husband gave me a referral list of bands. I'm going to listen to tapes and do some interviews tomorrow. Anyway, except for the band, everything's all arranged. I've booked everything for three weeks from Saturday. Now that the date's set, I'm going this afternoon to order announcements." He spread some samples on the table in front of her.
Molly stared at him. "You've done all that just since you've been home?"
He shrugged a little. "I don't believe in wasting time. So all that's left to do is you need to get a dress and I'll buy a new tie." He winked at her and picked up his menu.
"A new tie? I don't know, Masato," she said dryly, "I don't want you to go to too much trouble over this."
* * * * * * * *
Molly and Keiko went shopping together for their dresses. Molly didn't think a wedding dress should be an advertisement of what the groom was getting, but it was hard to find something modest that wasn't too frilly. Finally, she found the perfect dress, white satin, trimmed with seed pearls, mid-calf length with a boat neck and elbow-length sleeves. A lace-trimmed underskirt peeked from beneath the full skirt, with matching lace showing along the neckline and sleeves. It was elegantly simple, and absolutely perfect.
At one of the department stores they visited, Keiko lingered over a black silk dress in a design similar to the wedding dress. Molly knew how limited Keiko's resources were and paid for the dress out of her own money, telling Keiko that the bridesmaid's dress was part of the bride's half of the wedding expenses. "Just make sure it's something you'll like and wear again," she said. Molly had never seen in anything other than battered jeans, political t-shirts, and Birkenstocks. But Keiko's face lit up at that black dress, though she still hesitated a little. "Black for a wedding?"
"It's the latest thing," Molly assured her. "Very chic and sophisticated. You'll look fabulous."
* * * * * * * *
Mallory and Zeb returned from leading a kayaking trip in Alaska to find the invitation to Masato and Molly's wedding waiting at their house in Seattle. Since the wedding was less than a week away, they immediately re-packed and flew to Tokyo. Their first question to Masato was what they, as best men, should wear. He shrugged. "Whatever. I'm just wearing a suit."
"You aren't wearing a tuxedo?" Mallory asked.
"You know I hate the things."
"Wait a minute here," Zeb said. "You are marrying the most incredible girl in the world--I'd almost wish I were straight if I thought I'd have a chance with her--and you're going to wear a suit, like it's just another day at the office?"
"Hey, I'll wear a tie too. I'm going to buy a new one especially for the wedding."
"We must do something about this, Zeb," Mallory said.
"Oh, absolutely. We can't let Masato turn his own wedding into a fashion travesty. For your information, Masato, Mallory and I will be wearing tuxes, and you'd better wear one too if you don't want us to steal the show."
"Besides," Mallory added, "isn't Molly worth the sacrifice?"
"Oh, all right," Masato grumbled.
* * * * * * * *
Three days before the wedding, Molly went over to the Hikawa Shrine to finalize the arrangements. It was the first time she had been there; Masato had been handling everything, but he wanted her to check things out for herself. She found her way to the garden, and stared at the three women she saw there.
One of them was the blonde woman she had talked to at the cafe while Masato was in India. So of course Molly recognized her, but there was that same sense of familiarity, which only intensified when she saw the other two. One of them had large dark eyes and sleek black hair that fell all the way down her back. The other was tall and wore her thick brown hair in a French braid.
The black-haired woman came forward. "You must be Miss Baker. I'm Kumada Rei. My husband and grandfather and I run this shrine, I'm sure Mr. Sanjouin has told you. This is Chiba Usagi, who does the flowers and decorating."
"We've met before," Molly said. "I saw Mrs. Chiba about a month ago in a cafe and thought I recognized her, but I was wrong."
"Please, call me Usagi," the blonde woman said cheerfully. "And this time you do recognize me! This is so cool; I thought you were awfully nice, when we met that time, and now here I am doing the decorations for your wedding!"
Mrs. Kumada--Rei--indicated the third woman. "And this is Kino Makoto, caterer extraordinaire."
"Hi," Makoto said. She had a slightly husky but very friendly-sounding voice.
"We've all been friends for years and years, since junior high school," Rei said, "and we seem to work well together, at least most of the time." She raised an eyebrow at Usagi, who stuck her tongue out, and the three of them laughed. "We've been enjoying planning this wedding. Your fiance is just the most charming man, and we're so glad to meet you. Let's go sit down, and go over this stuff." She led the way to a white wrought-iron table and chairs, and the four women sat down.
Molly liked these women, with their easy friendliness--she was soon on a first-name basis with all three of them--and found herself envying their long-standing friendship. It was while she was in junior high school that something had happened to tear her and her mother away from their home and any friends she might have had. After they moved to San Antonio, Molly had felt too shy and fragile, and too different with her missing memories, to form any close, lasting friendships.
Usagi and Makoto handed Molly their lists of flowers, decorations, and food orders. Molly looked over Masato's arrangements and didn't find anything she wanted to change. Molly supposed that, on principle, she should object to his taking charge of everything, but she really couldn't. It made her feel safe, secure, grounded, to know that someone else wanted to take care of things for her and make her happy. "It all looks wonderful," she said.
"Are you sure?" Rei asked. "Because it isn't too late to change anything."
"I'm sure," Molly smiled. "Masato knew exactly what I wanted."
"Well, we'll all be there to personally make sure everything goes smoothly," Rei said. "If any problems do come up, at the wedding or beforehand, let us know and we'll take care of it. Would you like to walk around the garden while Usagi shows you what she has in mind?"
"Sure." Molly stood, and followed Usagi into the grove of cherry trees. She wished she could be friends with these women.
* * * * * * * *
The evening of the wedding, Molly and Keiko got ready at Molly's place and took a cab to the Hikawa Shrine. Molly and Masato had gone to the records office earlier that day to sign the actual marriage documents. But that bit of legal business was far outshone by the anticipation of the evening's festivities. Thankfully, Keiko had cut out the marriage-as-slavery talk, and also the teasing about Molly's mysterious boyfriend being married, and just seemed happy for her. From where the cab stopped, at the bottom of the steps in front of the shrine, they could see a few guests making their way back to the gardens, and the glow of white lanterns and tiny white lights hanging in the cherry trees.
Molly was paying the driver when Keiko tugged at her white satin sleeve. "What?"
Keiko was pointing, her eyes wide open, at a group of three men in tuxes at the top of the steps. "Molly, that's--that's--That's Sanjouin Masato! What's he doing here?"
"I told you, that's who I'm marrying. Is it my fault you wouldn't believe me?"
Keiko looked like her jaw was about to completely unhinge and fall to the ground. "I thought--oh, never mind. Who are those cute guys with him?"
"His best friends, Mallory and Zeb."
"You have to introduce me, ok?"
Molly smiled again, and opened the door of the cab. "Sure, but it won't do you any good. They're already taken. By each other."
Keiko sighed. "Figures."
The two women got out of the cab, and Molly hurried up the steps towards Masato. He saw her and walked quickly towards her. He and the other two men were dressed in the height of formalwear, white tie, high wing collar, white vest, tails on the black coats, white rosebud boutonnieres. When she reached Masato, Molly kissed him, then tugged at the lapels of the coat. "What's with this?"
"Mallory and Zeb talked me into it. They threatened to write me out of their wills if I didn't wear a tux."
"Actually," Zeb said, "we told him this was what we were wearing, and he didn't want us to outshine him. People might think it was me and Mallory getting married."
"Well," Molly said to Masato, "you look gorgeous."
"Oh." He smiled. He never would have admitted it, but Molly knew that he was more than a little bit vain. He liked being told that he looked good. "And you look incredible," he said softly. "Absolutely perfect."
They introduced Keiko to Mallory and Zeb, then Kumada Rei approached, followed by Chiba Usagi. Rei was wearing a gracefully-draped dress of pink silk, Usagi wore blue lace over a cream-colored slip dress and was carrying Molly's bouquet of white roses and Keiko's corsage. "It looks like everyone's here and we're ready to start," Rei said. Usagi handed Molly the bouquet and smiled. "You look lovely," she said.
Zeb pinned Keiko's corsage to her dress, then the three attendants went on ahead with Rei to take their places. Masato looked at Molly with shining cobalt eyes. "Come on," he said. "Let's go get married." She tucked her hand around his elbow and they walked towards the light-bedecked garden.
* * * * * * * *
Usagi, Rei, and Makoto, who was taking a break from supervising her catering staff, were watching the bride and groom dance. Usagi dabbed at her eyes with a blue-flowered handkerchief. "What a lovely wedding," she sniffed.
Makoto, in an emerald satin coatdress, smiled a little and rolled her eyes. "You say that every wedding we do."
"But I mean this one, especially. Just look at them. Don't they just seem so... perfect together?"
"I know," Rei said. "I feel really good about this one. Sometimes I can tell that it doesn't matter how nice the wedding is, it just isn't right. This one--this is solid. Meant to be."
"Did you find out anything about her?" Makoto asked.
"I asked the fire who she really is," Rei said. "It showed me an image of her, then it was like a veil was drawn across her. Her identity is being hidden on purpose, I think for her own protection. I got the feeling that something happened in her past that she isn't ready to remember, and her true identity is being hidden so that no one can remind her before she's ready to know. I'm still convinced we used to know her."
"What about him?" Usagi asked.
"Of course he seems familiar," Makoto said. "He's famous."
"The same thing," Rei said. "His true identity is veiled. Those friends of his, though... Maybe I can find out something about them."
Makoto nodded thoughtfully.
The three of them watched the dancing couple for another few minutes. "Well, whoever they are," Usagi finally said, "this sure beats fighting bad guys, doesn't it?"
"You know it's all going to start up again soon, Usagi," Rei said. "Rini's already one, and wasn't she only about six or seven when she came here from the future?"
Usagi nodded sadly. "I know, the time is coming when everything will change, but let's enjoy what we've got while we have it, ok?"
The others also nodded, and the three women put their arms around each other for a quick, comforting hug.
* * * * * * * *
Molly, dancing with her husband, felt as though time, space, everything in the world, had slipped away and there was only the two of them, dancing in eternity. The stars danced with them, around them, spinning ribbons of light about them, binding them together, and nothing could ever tear them apart again...
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 6
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury