A/N: Since someone asked me to write more about Cirion and Katarina from Love your Enemies, here is a collection of stories from their married life :P You don't necessarily have to read LyE first to read this, though.
"Katty! Katty, get up! Don't you know what day it is?"
My eyes snap open, and for a few moments I can't move; I just stare straight up at the corrugated iron ceiling, a wave of mixed feelings washing over me. I don't know whether I'm immensely happy, terribly nervous or just horribly scared. Maybe I'm all of those – maybe none.
"Oy! You want to miss your own wedding?" My older sister Ophelia snatches away my blanket – not that it makes much difference; that blanket is so threadbare it lets all the cold through anyway.
"I don't think I'm ready for this," I groan as I sit up. Immediately I'm attacked from all directions by hands clutching bristly hairbrushes, ancient lipstick from before the elf invasion, dripping washcloths which they are trying to thrust into my face, as well as numerous other torture implements I don't even want to recognise.
"What do you mean, you're not ready?" Ophelia asks, brushing my hair so forcefully that I'm worried she'll yank it right out. "The two of you can't sit next to each other at the breakfast table without holding hands!"
"And if he changes his mind? What do I do?"
"Katty, if an elf can survive for one whole week living in this village, then I'm sure that's saying something about how much he likes you."
One of our neighbours suddenly pokes something into my eye. "Ow! What's that stuff?" I exclaim.
"Just eyeliner," she says calmly. "Now hold still!"
I feel trapped. I guess the entire village has come flocking into our tiny shack, just to have a small part in preparing for the first human wedding on earth in more than ten years. Not to mention, the first ever mixed marriage of a human and an elf. Elves usually hate humans, thinking they're dirty and worthless and lower than dogs. Humans usually think the elves are selfish rich snobs who came and stole the Earth from them and stuck them all into slums. But Cirion and I, we think differently. I just didn't know that would mean having to be half-murdered by a mob of excited women!
"Where is Cirion, anyway?" I ask.
"We sent him out, of course," Ophelia says. "What, you didn't want him here to watch you get dressed, did you?"
"No!" I exclaim, reddening. "No. Wait. Can't I go back to sleep? Can't we move the wedding date?" I wonder: am I starting to panic?
"Look, it'll all be fine," one of the other ladies assures me.
I have a feeling it all won't! "I'm sure I'll say all the wrong things and put the ring on the wrong finger and stumble over my dress or get scared and run right out before we're even half-way through," I groan.
At last, they're done with stage one of torturing me. I don't even want to know what I look like. "Here's the dress!" Sylvia, the toothless old lady we share the shack with, exclaims, bounding in excitedly and totally forgetting the backache and rheumatism she was complaining about just yesterday.
I stare at the thing, alarmed. "Isn't that our old curtains?" I ask.
"Grandmama worked on it all week!" Ophelia says, squealing with delight. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"Erm…" I guess no one wants to know my opinion, despite this being my wedding and not theirs.
"She altered one of the Elvish dresses you brought home and added some extra bits and pieces out of the curtain fabric. There's a veil, too, look!"
Before I can say anything more, the many hands are attacking me again, this time trying to force me into the dress like they're dressing up a doll. Somehow I'm glad that I'll only have to experience this once – and I'm glad it is worthwhile! I feel sorry once again for Cirion's sister Saaiwen, who got married off to a cruel tyrant little more than a week ago and had an Elvish marriage, which is definitely far worse than being pampered a bit too much by over-excited villagers. Luckily Cirion helped her escape that same day, and now she lives here in the village as well, though she doesn't feel all that comfortable about living among humans yet.
Stage two is done. I hear them all oohing and aahing, awe-struck expressions on their faces. Ophelia has tears in her eyes, she is so happy. I just feel like my heart is going to burst with nervousness next, or that I'll go mad with waiting to finally get married and be left in peace.
"Come here; show yourself!" The crowd parts so I can go over to Grandmama, who is sitting by the table, calmly drinking a cup of coffee. I can't believe anyone can still be so relaxed today of all days!
Grandmama looks at me from head to toe, then makes me turn around until I think I'll go dizzy. Then she nods and smiles up at me. "You look wonderful, Katarina. Your mother would have been very proud of you."
I swallow back tears. The last time I saw Mama was in a work camp of the elves, slaving away with all the men they had taken away from us, as well as others who, like her, had suddenly disappeared from our village. I still haven't told Grandmama that I know where she is.
"Sit down," Grandmama says sternly, interrupting my thoughts, "eat something."
"I'm not hungry," I mumble.
"I wasn't hungry on my wedding day either; now eat."
Protesting never works with my Grandmama, so I sit down and reach for a slice of stale bread. I eye it disgustedly for a while, then try to force it down as quickly as possible even though at the moment, it tastes like a dusty rug to me – even worse than it usually does.
"We still have half an hour," Grandmama says, smiling smugly. "Just enough time for me to teach you what we used to call sex ed in school."
I almost choke on my bread and break out in a fit of coughing. "But… you taught us that years ago already!"
"Exactly! By now I'm sure you've forgotten most of it!"
I feel my face go extremely red and determinedly stare at the rough surface of the old table. By the end of Grandmama's speech, all I want to do is go back to bed and hide my head under the pillow. Either that or throw up. Maybe both would be good too…
Before I have the chance to decide, though, Grandmama exclaims, "Oh, goodness, the time, the time!", grabs me by the shoulders and steers me out the door, where even more people are waiting for me. They all cheer as I appear. Someone rushes up to me just to tie my rather grubby sandals, while a little girl hands me a huge bunch of flowers – I have no idea where she got them from, since hardly anything grows in our village.
I stop in my tracks once I can see the humble little building serving as our chapel. My legs feel like they've disappeared. "Don't you think I'm too young for this?" I ask.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, girl, stop it!" Grandmama exclaims. "You're worse than I was when I got married!" And with an air of finality, she leads me those last few metres right up to the church door, the others hurrying ahead to catch their seats.
The church has never been this full. I glance in from the doorway and gulp as I notice that all the makeshift pews (made out of old boxes and advertisement boards, even some old car seats) are choc-a-bloc full, and that still more people are drifting in, squeezing into the little space left for standing.
"Pull yourself together, now," Grandmama says to me, adjusting the veil over my face. I notice that her old hands are trembling slightly – I guess I'm not the only one here to need some pulling together!
"When do we go in?" I ask.
"When Clara starts playing the harmonica," she replies, pulling a handkerchief out to dab at some lipstick smudges on my face, then wipe her eyes. The tears rising into my eyes, I quickly envelop her into a hug.
"I'm scared, Grandmama," I whisper.
"Don't be," she replies. "You have found yourself a very good husband. He'll take good care of you. And you love him."
I nod. "But don't you mind that he's… you know… an elf?"
Grandmama smiles through her tears. "Katty, you worry too much! You can't honestly think that I'd disagree with your choice just because his people oppress us!" She puts away her handkerchief. "Ah, hear it? Clara is playing. Well, we'll have to go in now." And she takes my arm and leads me into the chapel.
My new life is beginning…