Anaria thought she’d never sleep the night before her wedding, but older heads conferred and had her busy enough in the days before that she fell straight into her bed in the lovely blue room and knew nothing more until the sun peeked in on her the next morning.
She lay for a minute, simply being, then remembered, it was that day. She breathed in, then out, then in again. It was just a day, it was just a dress. But oh goodness, what a dress it was.
She sat up and looked across the room to where it was displayed, carefully arrayed on a mannequin made to her exact measurements. Liam had been banned from this room for the past week and he had complained long and loudly.
But, tradition was tradition and while the dress was in here, he could not be.
Anaria slipped out of bed and padded across the floor, bare toes sinking into the soft warm pile of rugs scattered across the otherwise chilly stone. She circled the dress, taking in the simplicity of the top, relying on perfect fit, perfect cut and the subtle intrigue of forest green on forest green embroidery before sweeping down in a rich cascade of silk, to a border of yet more embroidery, but this in a rich array of colours, adorning the skirt with trees and soaring birds. She’d even managed to talk the seamstress into including a couple of bird’s nests in the branches, although these sweet, neat little cups bore very little resemblance to Liam’s beard.
Laid across the table next to it were the accessories, intricately embroidered silk slippers, a veil the colour of dawn light and almost as insubstantial, and an equally delicate wreath of pearls and gently pink-tinted shells arranged into flowers with leaves of green stone. No diamonds for a daytime bride, but there were plans for the midsummer ball and Anaria shuddered. She needed to get through this day first, and then she’d be Liam’s wife. Everything else faded before that one, blissful fact.
She wandered to the window and drew the curtains, opening the glass to a fresh, bright morning that seemed to whisper impossible possibilities around her. She smiled, and hugged the thought to herself; Liam’s wife, her husband.
A sound at the door had her turning, then smiling wider as Sarah let herself in.
“Ah, awake already? I was hoping to have the room all ready for you to wake up to.”
“It looks very ready to me, and what a beautiful morning.”
“That it is and everyone so shiny and excited I’m not sure anything is going to get done.”
Anaria giggled and crossed the room to give Sarah a hug. The woman returned it, warm and happy.
“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me, and for Liam. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay you.”
Sarah looked a little misty-eyed, “Oh get on with you, just seeing the two of you so happy is more than payment enough for me. Although I do miss my determined helper at home.”
“Well I suppose ‘determined’ is one way to look at it.”
Anaria let Sarah fuss her over to a small dining table as the door opened again to admit someone with a tray.
Anaria blinked in surprise as Martha set the tray on the table with a smile.
“Oh dear, have they dragged you away from the bakery to fetch and carry today.”
Martha snorted, “Hardly, Cook came down to Master Baker and requested my services for the day, nice as you please. Said I had a magic touch with baking that would show all the important guests that Clearwater knows how to do things.”
Anaria tipped her head to one side as she looked at the other girl, who looked back suspiciously, “What? Do I have flour on my nose?”
“No, but I’m thinking Cook might have it more correct than she realises.”She waved Martha to a chair, including Sarah in the invitation.
“I’ve been able to find your grandfather’s notebooks and I’m slowly going through them. The thing is, I’m not sure how many of his inventions we’ll be able to reproduce without a little help. You see he was part fae.”
Martha gasped, “He never!”
Anaria nodded, wide-eyed, “He preferred to make things the human way, he found it more satisfying, but every now and again, he’s made a note about adding a twist of magic for little things, like a blessing on a water pipe so it doesn’t get blocked.”
Martha sat back, “Well!”
“I’ve not mentioned it to anyone else, although I should probably tell Liam and his parents, but I wanted your family to know first.”
Martha smiled, “Thank you. Almost makes it worth the annoyance of getting up here early to be able to bring you breakfast as a repayment for the advice on the bakery.”
Anaria laughed and tucked into the contents of the tray, there was more than enough for a hearty breakfast for all three of them and Martha was able to return to the kitchens a short while later to reassure Cook that the bride was in joyous spirits and had made a good meal.
Within minutes of Martha leaving, another set of attendants were at the door, readying a bath for her.
Anaria looked at the bustling activity, “That was rather conveniently timed. Is there someone watching my door today?”
One of the group laughed, “Many someones My Lady, there’s a lot to be done after all.”
Anaria blanched slightly at the title, Sarah shook her head at her, “You’ll need to get used to it. As of today, it’s your official title and people will be uncomfortable using other forms of address.”
“You won’t will you? You and Maggie and John and the others will keep calling me Anaria?’
“Well, not all the time, but between us? Of course.”
Anaria smiled, relieved, then shed the nightdress and robe she’d worn to eat breakfast in and stepped into the large tub in front of the fire.
No sooner was she clean and dry, than the seamstresses where flooding through the door, including Sarah’s daughter, Gwen, who danced across the floor to her mother before unfurling a lovely, simple dress in Sarah’s favourite shade of rich, chocolate brown.
“Her Ladyship the Duchess said you should have a new dress of your own for the occasion, seeing as you’re near enough to being mother of the bride and I made sure it was a colour you’d like to wear.”
The head seamstress looked over at the two of them, “I have to admit, I had reservations on the shade until Gwen pulled out that bolt of fabric and it showed so well on her. It’s a lovely piece of work.”
Gwen blushed and pushed it towards her mother, “Mistress let me do most of the work on it.”
Sarah’s eyes were wide and suspiciously shiny. She hugged her daughter and tucked herself away in the unused maid’s room opening off the bedroom to change.
She emerged just as Anaria’s dress was being settled about her and, at Anaria’s urging, twirled for their inspection. Approval was sincere and universal. It was a beautifully made dress and the colour brought out the golden hue of Sarah’s skin and hair.