She had been named Douglas, for her father. She sometimes thought that was what affronted her family most, although they'd no personal desire to see the Starr name continued. That any person could surrender not only one but two family names, the surname that would become Miller, the Christian name that always should have been Emily, was unthinkable to the clan called Murray. To be scrupulously honest, Emily had some reservations on this point as well.
In the best moments, she knew that her father, if he'd lived, would have been the perfect companion in this that he'd been in all the little triumphs of her childhood, toddling steps, lisping words, the first scratched deskripshuns written on oily parcel paper that had occasioned the gift of the account-book. Father, Father for whom she'd been named, would not begrudge her the choice of her own name, now, in adulthood, now, when she was a woman grown and now, now that she had chosen a mate who would -- acknowledge -- but Emily, in long skirts, who wore her long black hair in a thick braid down her back, did not care to remember that particular portion of her history that involved being Douglas Junior. Like unsettling fever dreams, words that meant "boy" were simply unthought, forgotten.
Because she was stealthily not remembering, Emily became sour in mood, and picked a fight with Perry when they should have been enjoying the moonlight and weaving fantastic futures. Although it wasn't true, she said, "I think I'll keep on being Emily Starr after we're married." There were a thousand reasons for this, bylines and contracts but mostly, the only link that remained to a father she'd loved, and perhaps a refusal to relinquish this last thing he'd given her.
"Wives always take men's names," Perry said, spitting the words with perhaps more ferocity than warranted. He was a little afraid that Emily's acquiescence to his courtship could be stolen away as suddenly as it had been gifted, and that made him snappish.
"Not always," said Emily. "There was Jimmy Joe Belle."
"Stovepipe Town," Perry rejoined, with all the venom of an expatriate. Then, knowing he was treading dangerously, "Besides, she wore the trousers."
"You must learn not to be so literal. If it would make you feel better if your wife, Mrs. Starr, wore trousers sometimes, I'm sure I could borrow a pair of Ilse's; she wears the most ridiculous things. Besides, Jimmy Joe Belle was from Derry Pond, which was a step above Stovepipe Town. A very tall step."
"And New Moon finer than both, of course," Perry said. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, a childish habit he couldn't quite break. It had become something of a signature gesture in courtrooms, signifying that the defender was uncoiling a damaging argument, but now, Emily knew, Perry's hands were fists and he was struggling against rage. This wound was old.
"You wouldn't dare hit me.”
It was true. Since the first moment Emily had come to him, unsmiling and serious, to explain that she was Emily, he hadn't raised a hand to her -– and, in better moments, he even remembered to raise his hat when they passed in the streets of Blair Water or Shrewsbury. The times he didn't, Emily felt sure, were simply a matter of Perry forgetting, as ever, the manners that she and Ilse had struggled so hard to teach him. But the law proscribing violence against women wasn't manners, nor even one of the rough rules that passed for morality in Stovepipe Town. It was a deeply graven truth, and Perry would never violate it.
He was sorely tempted, though, for Emily could be maddening. She had a way of looking at a fellow that... well, that plumb undid him, truth be told, stripped away all the big words and long sentences, tall tales and rhetoric both, that served him in every other situation. She made him just Perry Miller of -– well, Perry Miller of New Moon; she gave him that dignity unless she was very angry -– but not Perry Miller Esquire.
He settled for kicking wildly at Cousin Jimmy's defenseless garden until he felt a little calmer. Then he tried again, "Your folks wouldn't attend the wedding regardless, Emily, and you know it. It'd be worse if you kept your name, because then it would be more obvious that -- well. It would be clear you're bucking convention." It was damnable, and ridiculous, and unfair, that he could argue anyone else into a corner but with Emily, well, with Emily there were rules, and primary among them was that he mustn't hurt her, even if it meant disgrace and ridicule and madness and taking a beating from some of the rougher boys (when they were younger) or from the entire clan Murray and the Canadian electorate (now that they were old enough to be really, thoroughly foolish).
"Then they are not my folks," said Emily Byrd Starr -- a Murray of New Moon denying her heritage! The blasphemy seemed to lose some of its appeal once she'd said it, because she bit her lip and sighed deeply. "But never mind. It will never come to that. Starr or Perry, I'm a Murray bred and born, and they would never refuse to come to my wedding, not after Mother – not after they longed for Mother's wedding, and she never had one."
"I thought they were more upset that your mum loped off than that they didn't get a fancy do..."
"So they said," Emily agreed, and paused. She seemed to reach beyond Perry into the twilit sky, plucking her words from between the stars. "But Laura and Elizabeth loved Juliet, and they dreamed of giving her away from the steps of New Moon. They played at it with her, when they were too old to play -- they played, Perry, and Elizabeth would play their father, and Laura would play the groom, and then they'd switch, but Juliet was always the bride, and they gave her away, again and again, and smiled..."
"I know you can't remember that fathers do the giving away and sisters mostly sit and weep at weddings, but I can't see your aunts getting that confused." Dangerous, dangerous, and not quite what he meant. "I mean, that they'd want to usurp the lineage and claim Juliet for themselves."
"But that would only hold if Grandfather Archibald had ever owned my mother. And he never could." If expressions are inherited as much as features, then the set of Emily’s chin was just as declarative as her words of the truth that no Murray, ever, had been owned. (Although Perry, foolish and in love, felt that something in her eyes dared him to try.)
"And the old – and her sisters did?"
"Of course," said Emily, who, after all, was owned – and would have been an utter and miserable slave to family convention if she hadn't had a first, prior master in the beauty of the world, and if this beauty didn't beckon and summon and lead her a merry chase through a world of ugly, broken wrongness to the place where she could say, with conviction, "and they own me too, and they'll give me away from New Moon, and then you shall own me."
Perry glowered. "I don't want to own you, Em."
Emily rolled her eyes; it sounded romantic to be owned, and she had written too many fair maidens trapped in dungeons by cruel but loving masters not to wish, in some dark midnight moments, that she was one. But beneath her disappointment, she rather appreciated Perry's cursed practical approach to marriage. If she'd thought it through, Emily would have been really very glad that she would never need to answer exclusively to Perry. There were so many voices clamoring for her attention (and those that no one else heard were, of course, the loudest and most demanding).
"If you want to honor my rights," she said with another eyeroll, "you can begin by not calling me 'Em.' I've told you at least a dozen times. It makes me think you don't respect the name I've chosen for myself."
"Oh, that's not it at all. It's just... Emily's so prunes-and-prisms-someone's-old-auntie. I couldn't kiss an Emily on the mouth."
The look in Emily's eyes was pure challenge now. "Couldn't you?"
"Well... it'll be awful difficult, is all. I'll need practice."
"And I will need to write. Good evening, Perry." She was still quite good at ending things suddenly when Perry grew too amorous, and it was only sometimes consolation to know that he'd won the larger war for her heart, that giving ground now would mean reaping Emily's gratitude later.
So he left, shaking his head. There were times when he thought he was almost inside, when Emily seemed sensible, when he knew every word of her... and then there were times when she became starkly invisible, when the haunts of her childhood hovered, opaque, between them.
We'll name the first boy Douglas, anyhow, he thought, and then with a chill realized that they wouldn't. He hadn't meant to think of a thing that would never be -- that was thoroughly Emily's sphere, and one he was quite glad to leave to her. When they were young there had been nothing he couldn't accomplish -- no ambitious dream that was ever daunted -- and so of course the same should be true for his friends. Ilse had wanted to go on stage, and so she had, world-famously. Teddy had wanted to escape his mother's apron-strings (he had, although he'd never have said it aloud), and so he had, to Europe and beyond. And Douglas had dreamed of being Emily, and so she had become Emily, entirely, thoroughly, forever, as thoroughly as Perry had left Stovepipe Town.
But there were those children -- a son named Douglas, and a half dozen girls for Aunt Ilse to dress in whatever was fashionable or absurd. A small thing (for in Perry's masculine world of achievement, seven children could be considered small!) yet -- he crushed a fist into his palm, considered, once again, what he could hit (Emily's aunts, were, alas, female and thus verboten, which had been quite fortunate for them at many moments during Perry's defense of Emily's growing up) or argue with (it had never occurred to him to argue with Emily. It would be as futile and ridiculous as arguing with the moon, and just as untempting) to make... to make it...
Emily, writing by the light of a New Moon candle in her mother's bedroom, was similarly searching for a word. Her pen was in her mouth, and her hands were shaking slightly, and she was trying to capture the feeling of watching the sun set and the moon rise while Perry and she planned a wedding, scripting parts that Aunt Laura and Aunt Elizabeth and even Aunt Tom would never recite, darting around uncomfortable history, trying to put words around the future in which they would -- in which they would be --