Shine, oh shine, oh shine my way
‘Cause for the first time in my life I’m gonna be okay
Although times make me cry
To this heavy load I say goodbye
There’s nothing else ahead but the blue sky
Shine My Way – Sheppard
“All right, so we keep Mum happy-”
Ainslie raised one perfectly sculpted auburn eyebrow at me in what I figured was an attempt to be stern – an effect ruined somewhat by the riot of freckles dusted across her face, not to mention that even at the age of twenty-five she basically looked like a pixie. “You know how Mum gets about tradition, Mee,” she reminded me.
“Yeah, well, tradition can go fuck a cactus,” I grumbled.
“Right. Who is it that hasn’t seen her fiancée since the rehearsal dinner on Thursday night?”
“Because it’s bad luck…” Here I trailed off. “Oh.”
This time, Ainslie smirked at me. “So what was that about telling tradition to go fuck itself, then?” she asked, and I gave her the finger. “Charming. Now come on, something old?”
I reached around to the back of my head and tapped the neat plait that Ainslie had wound into a bun at the nape of my neck. My usual flyaways had been smoothed down with a whispered charm and a wave of Ainslie’s wand before she had plaited my hair. The bun had been pinned into place with two long silver hairpins that were each topped with a jewelled butterfly. “Mum said Nan wore these when she and Pop got married,” I said.
Ainslie nodded, and I figured she was ticking things off on a mental checklist. “Something new is your robes, yeah?” she asked, and I nodded. My bridal robes were sewn from ivory silk, and had tiny silver stars and crescent moons embroidered on the cuffs, the high collar and the hem. “Something borrowed?”
I gathered the skirt of my robes in my hands and lifted the hem so that Ainslie could see my shoes. I wore gladiator sandals with a low heel, in the same ivory silk as my robes and with the same silver stars and crescent moons lining the laces that wound their way up my legs. “Borrowed them from one of Tay’s sisters,” I said, releasing my hold on my robes as I spoke. The hem swirled around my ankles a few times before settling. “She charmed them to match my robes.”
“And something blue?”
“Earrings,” I replied, indicating the small sapphire studs I wore in my ears. “And I also have a Sickle in one of my shoes,” I added, the hard edges of the silver coin in my right sandal reminding me of its presence.
“Good,” Ainslie said with a nod that I took as approving. She studied me for a while, long enough that I soon started to feel like an insect beneath a magnifying glass. “How are you feeling?” she asked at last.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I am!” I protested when Ainslie yet again raised an eyebrow at me.
“You’re not fine, and you damn well know it,” Ainslie retorted. “I can read you like a book, remember?” She put her hands on my shoulders. “Mia, it’s all right to be nervous. You wouldn’t be the first witch who was nervous on her wedding day.”
“I’m not nervous!” I insisted. My voice cracked a little, betraying just how nervous I really was, and Ainslie gave me a knowing smile. “Okay, maybe I am a little nervous,” I admitted.
“Don’t push it.”
Ainslie held up her hands in seeming self-defence. “Okay, okay.” She steered me across to the settee under the window. I sat down carefully so that I didn’t crease my robes, and Ainslie took my hands into hers once she was sitting next to me. “You and Taylor are probably both as nervous as one another,” she continued. “I reckon she’s wearing a track in the carpet right now. You know how she gets when she’s anxious.” I smiled a little at this. “You love her, yeah?”
“With everything that I am,” I replied.
“Good.” Ainslie gave my hands a squeeze. “You two will be all right, Mee. Just remember that after this afternoon, she’s yours forever.”
A knock at the door of my dressing room made both Ainslie and I look up. The door swung open noiselessly a second or two later, and our father poked his head in. “Almost time for the ceremony, girls,” he said.
“Just a couple more minutes,” Ainslie said, and Dad nodded before withdrawing into the corridor. The door closed behind him, leaving my sister and I alone once more. Neither of us said anything for a little while. “D’you want a Cheering Charm?” she asked. “Just to take the edge off a bit?”
“Just a small one,” I replied.
I watched as Ainslie drew her wand from the depths of her clutch purse, a silver one that matched her bridesmaid robes, and pointed it at me. “Exhilaro,” she incanted softly. Almost immediately I felt the anxiety I’d been feeling since that morning fade away, and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. “Better?” Ainslie asked as she set her wand aside, and I nodded. “Good,” she said, giving me a smile that I echoed right away, and rose to her feet. I stood up just as Ainslie picked up the wreath of honeysuckle flowers and myrtle leaves that I’d woven that morning. She settled it on my head and gave it a firm tap with her wand. “Come on, sis. They’re probably starting to wonder where we’ve got to.”
Dad was waiting on a wooden bench outside the visitors’ centre when Ainslie and I walked outside. The sound of birdsong filled my ears, intermingled with a low hum of voices coming from the direction of the lookout and the faint sound of the waters of Broken Bay in the distance. I stopped walking a few feet in front of him and clasped my hands in front of me, and he looked up from contemplating his wedding ring. “There you are,” he said, and he stood up. “You look beautiful, Mia.”
“Thanks Dad,” I said. “Well then, shall we?”
Dad held out his right arm, crooked at the elbow, and I looped my own left arm through it. Almost right away the processional music started playing – an instrumental version of Hoppípolla by Sigur Rós that Taylor and I both loved – and I took a deep breath. It was time.
Ainslie went first, carrying a bouquet of honeysuckle and myrtle to match my wreath. Her steps were measured as she walked down the flight of stone steps that led down to the path to the lookout. As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs Dad and I followed her, the light breeze coming from the east rippling the hem of my robes as I walked. Every step I took brought me closer to the lookout, where I knew Taylor and the witch who would be conducting the ceremony waited for me. In my mind’s eye I could see her as clear as day – smudges of charcoal across her cheeks, a paintbrush or her wand stuck behind an ear, long blonde hair in a messy plait down her back, a cheerful smile on her face, and the brilliant blue eyes I’d fallen in love with from almost the first moment I’d set eyes on her shining out at me.
She was standing with the officiant in the middle of a loose circle of our friends and family at the lookout, next to a cairn that had been draped with a white cloth and had a white candle and six ribbons on top. A broomstick was propped against the cairn. She wore red robes that had gold embroidery on the collar, cuffs and hem, and a wreath of red roses and ivy had been placed atop her head. Instead of her usual plait complete with flyaways, her hair flowed down her back in loose, golden waves. “You’re beautiful,” I whispered once I was within her earshot.
That was all it took for Taylor to go bright red.
“You’re even more beautiful,” she replied once she had found her voice. I took my arm away from Dad’s and slipped my right hand into Taylor’s left, finding the silver ring with its little teardrop-shaped aquamarine – Taylor’s birthstone – that I’d given to her when I’d proposed. I squeezed her fingers gently before turning to face the officiant. The processional music faded out as she began to speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today…”