They had a lazy afternoon, the last days of August were shorter in sunlight but none the less filled with warmth. They had grown impossibly close in the last few weeks. Candy felt overwhelmed by her feelings. Every possible minutes, seconds, were spent together. Sometimes without saying a word. Mostly they weren't needed.
Like this late afternoon spent by the lake. They laid in the grass, her back to his chest under that enormous oak tree. Sunrays would sometime peak through the leaves and tickle her face. He would laugh at the fairness of her skin that would turn red the minute the sun had touched it for too long while he glowed in its bronzy haze. She would get jealous for a second, and then he would get this amorous look and gently brush his thumbs on her cheeks, loving those freckles more and more.
For the last few days, her freckles had received less attention for some reason. He spent less time on her face but grew more attentive to her hair. Sometimes he would simply greet her with that smile she loved so much, they would go for long horse rides and he would take the ribbons out of her hair and be just fascinated by the way her hair moved while they rode. He would bury his nose in it and take deep breaths, pretending to speed up and reach for the reins. Some other times, he would speed up, and at first she would get scared and scoot closer to him. She was easy like that, and he didn't feel an once of regret. Sometimes she would hang on for no reasons at all. He knew that, and he loved her for it.
They had shared a light supper by the lake after their ride. Terry was quieter than usual. Maybe like her he thought about the upending return to London. She feared they would have less time together, more obstacles, more... She had tensed up in his arms and he felt it. He just pulled her closer to him with his left arm around her waist. She tried to move her head to look at him but instead felt warm lips and small breath on her cheek. He thought about getting back to London too. How everything would be different but at the same time, everything was good exactly because everything was different from when they had arrived at the end of June. They were different. They were together.
He reached out with his right hand and unfastened the two red ribbons from her hair. And something clicked in his head. He got up and offered her his left hand. She stood right in front of him, by the lake, below the enormous oak tree. The sun was slowly but surely setting when she peeked with the right corner of her eye at the horizon the perfect shape of the luminous moon.
Handfasting is the eternal joining of two people in love.
It is a sacred ceremony of commitment presided over by a High Priestess.
Best performed at time of sunrise and sunset where both the Sun and the Moon
are present in the joining of the two lovers.
Those words spoken by Terry seemed foreign. It seemed like he was reciting some poetry. He said something about people in love and joining, and a High Priestess? Candy looked over both her shoulders, waiting for someone to sneak up on them. Terry laughed.
We'll have to make do without the High Priestess Freckles.
She smiled. What in the world was he talking about? He took her left hand in his left hand, and tangled both red ribbons around them.
Surely if I had planned this thing correctly there would be somebody performing the ceremony, and witnesses, and all that... But I can't... I can’t wait,or think, or imagine not being with you... I sincerely can't promise you marriage or a future together… I have no idea what my life will be like. Or maybe I know what is expected of me and I know it wouldn't involve you and that is... unacceptable. I have faith in us, but not at the world and times we live in. This is all I can offer. If you wish to accept... We will be bound together, forever. In our minds, our hearts, and our souls. Where it matters. This is a promise that I'll love no other....
Candy nodded, warm tears filling her cheeks. His eyes were searching her soul. She hiccupped a small sob and a sweet yes.
He held her close to him, left hands still bonded, right hand on the back of her neck. He whispered words of love in her ear.
He accompanied her to her dormitory that evening. Before she left him to regain her room, they untied their hands. She took one of the ribbons and tied it around his left wrist. When he wished/tried to do the same, she gently pushed his hand away and lifted her skirt slightly. He looked at her a little worried and she asked him to tie the ribbon around her thigh. He got on one knee and tied the ribbon on her left thigh, just above her knee. Candy thought that Terry was surely deranged since he would have taken advantage of the situation in the past. She only felt his soft fingers on her skin but an instant yearning caught them both. Their first most intimate kiss. Sloppy, messy and way too short.
I am not a fool Terry, I am no stranger to tragedy, loss, and despair. Life has not been kind... But this is my promise, that ribbon around my thigh: one day, wherever and whenever, you'll be the only one to have access and claim it as you should for you are my beloved. Those ribbons are what unites us.
She turned around fast and entered her dorm.
The promise had been made.