Catherine stood before him like an angel, dressed in white, her hair held back with a loose ribbon. Henry offered a small smile, unsure of how he should proceed, and was briefly pleased when she smiled back. She had different kinds of smiles, he discovered, and he was slowly learning them all. There was the one she wore when she was shy, and another one when she was trying to comprehend English, and a third when she thought no one was looking and she found something amusing. The last one, the very best one, was reserved for only the times when she was truly happy, like when she spent time with her father, or when she smelled grapes that reminded her of her home in France. He endeavored to be the next reason for that smile; he wanted to see her face light up at the mention of him, at the thought of them together.
Henry watched, mesmerized, as she walked slowly towards him, his breath trapped somewhere between shock and excitement. She looked so vulnerable and when she reached out for him, he immediately went to hold her hand. When Catherine came to just before him, she turned, and he shifted to help her doff her dressing gown. He could almost hear her heart hammering in her chest, like a hummingbird trapped in a glass cage, and he too felt his heart skip a beat when the luminescence of the room showed the faint outline of her body through her slip. He left her dressing gown on the edge of the bed, and very slowly, and gently, moved her hair to one side, leaving her nape exposed. Towering over her, Henry watched as the candlelight flicker off the gold of her hair and unable to help himself, he leaned down, pressing one light kiss on her bare flesh. She didn’t recoil from his touch and he was glad. He didn't know what her Nurse had warned her of their wedding night but he was determined to be tender and gentle, because she was the sort of lady who deserved such treatment. She was like the fragile glass rose Mother once placed in his hands, someone to be protected and cared for.
Henry quickly removed his own robe and with a hand on her upper back, he moved them towards the bed. Finally, he saw Catherine’s face again; that mixture of awe and beauty and innocence. She trembled in his arms but he didn’t know the words to soothe her. His French was dismal at best and her English broken, but he wanted to say, “don’t be afraid” and he wanted her to nod in response, blissful in the knowledge that her husband would sooner die than hurt her in any way. He wanted to tell her that from the moment he saw her, he thought her perfect and loved her, and when he saw that she was not perfect, he loved her even more. He kissed her on the lips, a soft, gentle but a little demanding kiss much like the first one he ever gave her. “We’re married now,” he wanted to say. “I’d like to kiss you more often,” he wanted to tease.
As she slowly leaned back into the pillows, and he moved to orient himself above her, he wanted to tell her so much more. Never had he desired to speak perfect French more than in this moment. He wanted to say that in this moment, he was not King, and she was not Queen consort. He was not a soldier and she was not part of the spoils of war. He was simply a man who loved his woman, and could only pray that one day he would be worthy of her.
When he entered her, he saw that a few tears had leaked from her eyes and he gently brushed them away with his thumb. He was sorry that he was hurting her and he wanted to apologize. He wanted to say that he pledged to keep their marriage vows sacred; that unlike some of his predecessors before him, he would forever stay faithful to her. Their marriage finally consummated, he kissed her forehead and yearning for her to understand him, he whispered into her ear, “I will take none but you. I will have no other.”