Saturday, 26 April 2014

Chapter 2.7 - Raison D'être

  Keeping true to her promise, Chantia tried to be as vigilant as possible whenever she left the house, keeping a cautious eye out for the woman Sam had mentioned. She never saw even a hint of the woman, so after a while she allowed her vigilance to ease slightly. Even so, she tried to stay home as much as possible, especially once the day of her due date started to loom close.

  Soon enough, the anticipated day finally arrived and after a relatively easy and problem-free labour, Chantia was able to bring home a healthy little girl, who she and Sam had decided to name Arienne.
  Sam and Chantia weren’t the only ones who had been anticipating the arrival of little Arienne. The ghosts all made turns to visit the newcomer, but the one Chantia usually encountered at her child’s side was Charlotte. The long-dead girl could usually be found staring at Arienne with quiet awe in her eyes, just watching the child sleep. She never attempted to touch the baby, but Chantia was unsure if it was because Charlotte was afraid of hurting the girl or because she simply couldn’t interact with little Arienne. After all, Arienne hadn’t been born on Full Moon like Chantia had been.
   “Do you think she’ll be able to see you?” Chantia asked curiously after a while. Charlotte shot Chantia a surprised glance at the question, but she soon turned her attention back to the girl happily gurgling in the cot.
  “She can see me,” Charlotte confirmed and offered a finger to the baby to prove her point, and sure enough, little Arienne reached out for the translucent finger. Even so, Charlotte made sure to keep her finger out of reach the entire time. “Remember I told you that the magic of our sister world latched onto you at your birth?” At Chantia’s hesitant nod, Charlotte continued. “Well, it seems a little bit of that magic carried over to her. She’ll never be quite as proficient as you are, but she can see us.” Charlotte offered her finger to the child again, but this time she didn’t remove it away from the child’s grasp. To Chantia’s mild surprise though, Arienne’s tiny fingers failed to make contact with the ghostly finger, phasing directly through it instead. “She just won’t be able to ever touch us, and we will never be able to touch her.”
  “That’s…kind of sad,” Chantia admitted. “I never considered the two to be exclusive.”

  Charlotte inclined her head a bit in acknowledgement of Chantia’s statement. “You are the only living person able to touch us,” the ghost confessed. “Even Mia had never been able to touch us. Her potion doesn’t give that ability. Only people like you who were born just as the Full Moon rose will ever be able to touch us.” She shrugged slightly, clearly dismissing the matter.
  Her words reminded Chantia of other things the ghosts cannot do, and with that she remembered the fruit Mia had given her just after they had graduated university – the one the genius had been positive would enable the ghosts to taste it in food. Chantia had kind of forgotten about the fruit, to be honest.
  “That reminds me,” she informed her friend, “Mia gave me something, a fruit. She said that, theoretically, you guys will be able to taste it if I use it in a recipe. Maybe we should have a little get-together tonight and try it; just me, you guys, and Mia, if you want to see her again,” Chantia suggested. She was still friends with the ghosts, and even though they shared a house, Chantia felt like she never got chance to just spend time with her friends anymore. 
  “Sounds like a good idea,” Charlotte agreed and stepped away from the crib, finally tearing her attention away from the baby now sleeping peacefully. “It would be nice to see Mia again. It’s been a long time since we last saw her.” 

  After discussing the idea for several minutes longer, Charlotte left the room to inform the other ghosts and Chantia, after making sure her daughter is still happy, left for the kitchen, trying to decide what she was going to do with that flame fruit. 
  In the end, she decided on working the flame fruit into a Baked Angel Food Cake. The fruit was tricky to work with, stinging her fingers whenever she handled it too long and it took her most of the day to finish the desert, but even so she was quite happy with the end result, producing a cake of perfect quality. 

  She was just about to put the finishing touches on the curiously smoking cake when the baby monitor alerted her that Arienne was crying. She made her way up to the nursery, but when she arrived there, she noticed she hadn’t needed to bother.  
  Sam was so preoccupied with taking care of Arienne that he didn’t even notice Chantia’s arrival. There was a soft, contented smile on his face and Chantia couldn’t get it into her heart to disturb his peace, so she left without a word, content with the knowledge that she didn’t need to worry about Arienne. 

  Chantia had planned in having the get-together in the kitchen, where everything was close at hand and easily accessible, but the ghosts had other plans. 
  “It’s Full Moon, Chantia,” Charlotte protested when Chantia suggested they retreat to the kitchen. “The magic is at its strongest tonight. The bridge is right here, by the lake, and the bridge is open tonight. We never stay inside on Full Moon nights.”

  Chantia frowned slightly, not really eager to spend the evening outside in the cold and the snow when she knew she could spend it inside in the comfortable warmth of the kitchen. 
  “It’s really cold outside,” Chantia pointed out stubbornly. “It’s the middle of the winter.”

  Her argument did nothing to dissuade the ghost.
  “It’s Full Moon,” Charlotte reiterated emphatically. “You can’t properly experience Full Moon unless you’re outside.”
  Chantia was still really sceptical, but in the end she gave in to the ghosts, seeing as they remained quite adamant on the issue. A little cold won’t hurt her, and as long as she dressed warmly and made sure there was a steady supply of hot drinks for her and Mia, who had arrived several minutes earlier, she couldn’t really see a reason to refuse the ghosts.
  She couldn’t really understand their adamant request, but when the moon finally rose and transformed the area into a scene that looked and felt like something out of a fairy-tale, she finally understood. She could almost physically feel the magic in the air surrounding them. 
  “This is rather surreal,” Mia breathed in quiet amazement as she stared at the scene around them and Chantia had to quietly agree with her. Even from a non-magical point of view, it was rather surreal. Between the snow silently drifting down, the broken ice of the lake reflecting the moonlight and the misty spray from the nearby waterfall shining in the light, it looked like some otherworldly scene.

  Charlotte laughed exuberantly when she heard those words, causing her laughter to ring joyously between the mountains sheltering them from the rest of the world that suddenly seemed so far away.
  “Surreal, maybe,” she agreed with sparkling eyes, “but this is the reality of Full Moon. This is where the magic crosses over. This is where you can just give yourself over to the magic, and be connected to every single universe out there!” 
  The small party started fully at Charlotte’s declaration. The magic in the air brought about a side of the ghosts Chantia had never seen before. Usually, they were a bit…distant, and Chantia had always thought the name they called themselves by – The Lost – fitted perfectly. But this night, this one, magically beautiful night, they looked for the first time like they belonged, laughing freely and openly and talking openly without inhibition.

  It brought a rather humbling realisation to Chantia. If this was the way the ghosts were like during Full Moon, when the magic from other worlds – the World of the Dead amongst them – crossed over, what would they be like if they actually did live on the World of the Dead, where they really belonged? Would they always be this way?
  “Is that what it means to be a magical being living in a non-magical world?” she mused softly to herself, but one of the ghosts heard her nonetheless. 
  “If by ‘that’ you mean we can only be our true selves during Full Moon, then yes,” Angelica confirmed with a slight smile. “That is what makes it so difficult to linger here, but until our reasons are fulfilled, linger we will.”

  Chantia swallowed heavily, finally understanding just why Angelica had been so happy – and envious - when Clint had moved on.
  She shook her head slightly, trying to understand. “But why? I know it’s rude of me to ask, but I’m trying to understand. Why do you linger? What are these reasons of yours?” 
  The ghosts all exchanged glances with each other. It was several silent seconds later when Chantia finally received a reply, even if it was only a partial answer.

  “I’m waiting for my husband,” Angelica confessed quietly, folding her hands demurely in front of her. “He promised me he would return, and asked me to wait for him before he went to war, so wait I will.”
  Of all the answers Chantia could’ve received from the white ghost, that wasn’t one she had been expecting. The last known war that had occurred happened more than 150 years ago, so it was quite obvious the man Angelica was waiting for would never return. The fact that he hadn’t returned to Angelica when she had still been alive probably indicated that he had died in the war he fought in. 
  “I know he’s already gone,” Angelica confirmed with a sad smile before Chantia could find a way to point it out to her in a diplomatic matter, “but he promised he would return for me, and I promised I would wait for him, so I’ll wait, no matter how long it might take.”

  Her I’ll risk Damnation for him was left unsaid, but it didn’t need to be said. Everyone knew Angelica was thinking it.
  Charlotte’s answer was just a short, cryptic statement that explained absolutely nothing at all. 
  “I’m still trying to find Leneo,” was her soft, subdued murmur. Her eyes grew distant and she fell silent as she retreated into her thoughts and memories, and Chantia couldn’t get it into her heart to push the matter and open old and but unhealed wounds.

  She was starting to feel like she was always simply waiting for answers; the people closest to her having secrets they weren’t quite willing to share with her just yet. It made her feel strangely inadequate.
  Frederick didn’t even bother answering at all.
  Helen though, had another unexpected answer. 
  “I want my killer to face justice,” Helen declared with fire smouldering in her eyes, “for what he did. It is not right that he should walk free and remain a danger to people around him, when he should be locked away. Which he would’ve been, if he hadn’t killed me as well.”

  So she told them the entire story – how she witnessed the man, a well-known politician, kill another man in cold blood, and then killed her to keep his secret safe. For years she had to watch the man rise up on the ladder of success, while she had a secret that could bring about his complete ruin, and yet she was utterly unable to inform the world and bring the power-hungry politician to justice.
  It was something Chantia might finally be able to help with. She was taught in university how to handle cases like that. It wasn’t the first time in history something like that happened. 
  “I’ll help you,” she promised Helen sincerely. “I’m a registered medium; they’ll believe me if I tell them I have a testimony from a ghost. If you can provide evidence that it really did happen, then we can do this,” she assured the ghost.

  Helen’s eyes lit up with hope. “Really? You’d do this for me?” she asked with hope in her voice.
  Chantia nodded, hoping to reassure the ghost. “Of course,” she promised. “This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been trained to do, and you’re my friend.”
  The conversation after that turned to more mundane things. Helen was ecstatic that Chantia had volunteered to help her, but agreed to discuss the details at a later stage in private.
  The first topic of conversation, of course, was Mia’s change in marital status.
  “So how’s married life treating you, Mrs Crawford?” Chantia asked her sister teasingly. Mia had gotten married a month ago in a private wedding, much to Chantia and Evelyn’s delight. Ironically enough, Mia’s husband, was one of the guys that had always sent her love letters during high school. In the end, it seemed his persistence had paid off. 
  “I’m rather enjoying it,” Mia replied with a happy smile. “Carl and I…we understand each other,” she said fondly. “And I do love him,” she admitted.

  They kept talking until late in the night, long after Chantia saw the light of her and Sam’s room go out, indicating that he had went to sleep. Chantia shared the Baked Angel Food with the ghosts, and to Mia’s delight her theory was proven true as the ghosts managed to taste the cake after all.
  At their request, Chantia also played several songs on her violin. 
  The magic of the night guided her sure fingers on the strings, and for the first time in her life she managed to make others hear the beautiful song she always heard in the back of her mind. She had tried several times before to recreate the melody on her violin, but it was only now that she finally managed it.

  The ghosts didn’t need sleep, and the magic of the night invigorated the two Living among the ghosts, so when the Moon set behind the horizon and took the magic with it, Chantia was somewhat surprised to realise just how tired she was. Mia politely excused herself to go home, so Chantia took the opportunity to finally go to bed as well. 
  She tried to be as quiet as possible to prevent waking Sam, but when she finally slipped between the covers the movement woke him.

  “Chantia?” he murmured sleepily. Chantia smiled and gave him a soft kiss, reassuring him that everything was fine.
  “It’s me. Sorry for waking you,” she apologized. He made an acknowledging noise in the back of his throat without opening his eyes and threw his arm across Chantia’s waist, pulling her closer to him. Seconds later, he was asleep again, and Chantia allowed sleep to claim her as well.
I’m glad I moved Chantia into a bigger house, but this one is terrible for taking shots. The camera just doesn’t want to cooperate with me, and I have no idea why. -_- It’s especially horrendous in the smaller rooms, like the nursery.
With this chapter the dreaded A Party To Remember roll is completed. In case it wasn’t clear, I chose the Afternoon Tea Party, but instead of afternoon I made it a Midnight Tea Party. I completed the parameters though – Angel Food Cake of at least good/very nice quality (mine was perfect), 2 coffee rounds from the most expensive coffee machine and two songs played on the violin. Oh, and all guests were best friends with the host. The ghosts don’t actually live in the house, so they were legitimate guests.
Oh, and if someone doesn’t know, Raison d’être means “reason for living: something that gives meaning or purpose to somebody’s life, or the justification for something’s existence.” (Well, that is the definition according to my dictionary). I thought it was a rather fitting title. :)
And since the first child is born, I’ll reveal the marital status: Couple.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Chapter 2.6 - Halcyon Days

  The flight to Champs Les Sims was long and tiring, but to Chantia’s relief they managed to get some sleep on the plane. Of course, a plane wasn’t where Chantia wanted to spend her wedding night, but when they reached their destination, Chantia found she didn’t mind as much.
  The peaceful little town was still the same it had been when she had visited as a child. It was still the same buildings and the same sleepy peacefulness, but now that she had someone special visiting the town with her, she could see why it got called a place of romance. There was a kind of tangible excitement hanging in the air.
   “Champs Les Sims,” Chantia ‘introduced’ the town to Sam, “my father’s hometown. In a way, I guess I could’ve grown up here if my mother hadn’t been so afraid of losing her independence.” She shrugged and turned towards her husband before throwing her arms around his neck with a smile. “But that doesn’t matter; we’re here now. And I’d say it’s time we got properly started on our honeymoon,” she suggested with a slightly wicked smile.
  So they did just that. Their days were spent exploring the peaceful little town and visiting the places of interest, where they tried to experience everything the town had to offer, including the nectary where Chantia decided to try her hand at something outside her usual scope of activities, much to Sam’s approval.  
   “Oh, that’s disgusting,” Chantia complained laughingly, scrunching up her nose in disgust as she toed the little round fruit beneath her feet and felt them pop as she applied pressure on them, causing the fruit to squirt juice all over her toes. “That’s really, really disgusting.”

  “You wanted to try it out,” Sam reminded his wife as he looked at the spectacle in amusement. “Something to do with ‘experiencing the traditions of Champs Les Sims’,” he teased good-naturedly.
  “Only because you bet I wouldn’t actually do it,” Chantia shot back smugly before turning around and getting out of the tub, grimacing slightly at the sticky feeling left behind. “I did, so now I want my prize,” she declared sweetly.
  Sam had absolutely no problem with complying with his wife’s wishes, despite the fact that she was sticky with grape juice.
   Their nights were spent at the hotel, where, amongst other things, they talked until late in the night under the stars, enjoying the warm summer air and the peaceful chirping of insects, reminiscing about their past together and predicting their future forward.
   Of course, once they retreated inside following their conversations beneath the stars, they tended to spend a lot of time doing what newly-wed couples usually did on their honeymoon. 
   All too soon, the last day of their trip arrived, signalling the end of their honeymoon. Chantia was rather sad the trip had come to an end, but she had to admit, the trip ended on the highest note it could.

  It started with a simple, but still rather crazy suggestion.
  “Let’s go climb that tower,” Sam suggested late in the afternoon. He had noticed the tower standing forlornly on the hill earlier in the day and had considered climbing to the top ever since he saw it. He looked at Chantia, his face lit with boyish enthusiasm. “The view from the top must be amazing.”
  “I’m not sure if we’re permitted, though,” Chantia protested nervously. “That tower is on private ground,” she reminded her husband. 
  “Nobody lives there,” Sam pointed out distractedly. “The house beside it has been abandoned for years. Nobody will care if we go there.”

  It was a bad idea. It was a terrible idea, but Chantia couldn’t help but want to do it. Sam was right, the view from that high up had to be beautiful. What did it matter that the tower was on private ground? It wasn’t like they were planning on damaging anything, after all.
  “Fine,” she caved reluctantly and allowed her grinning husband to enthusiastically lead her there.
  Of course, once they arrived and saw the amount of stairs they had to climb to reach the top, Chantia was slightly less enthusiastic, causing her to pout when she noticed Sam was still as enthusiastic as ever.
   She was of half a mind to refuse going further, but the boyish look of excitement on Sam’s face caused her to swallow her protests and follow him up, and when they finally reached the top, she had to admit it was absolutely worth it. 
  “Wow,” she breathed in awe at the scene lying stretched out below them. It was breathtaking. The land stretched out below them, seemingly forever. Sunset Valley was a beautiful town, and Chantia had seen a lot of beautiful sunsets in her hometown, but the beauty of the scene before her was just somehow different.

  “Beautiful,” she murmured in awe, her eyes drinking up the sight.
  “Yeah,” Sam agreed slightly breathless, but his eyes weren’t fixed on the same scene as Chantia. Chantia turned around, curious to see what had Sam so fascinated and felt her breath leave in a whoosh at the sight.
  Sunset Valley and its sunsets had nothing on this. 
  Chantia stared at the sunset in awe, unable to form a coherent thought. She turned to Sam with a warm smile and pulled him closer, laying her head contently on his chest.

  “You were right,” she murmured contently. “This was absolutely worth it.” His answering smile was like a light, filling her up with warmth and love, and when it was finally time to return home, she left with a content and peaceful heart.
  Life continued around them as they settled into the easy routine of a married couple. When Chantia had bought the house, she honestly hadn’t thought about living there herself, but the ghosts insisted and didn’t stop bothering them until Chantia consented.
  Chantia had to admit though: living with ghosts was interesting. 
  Chantia cocked her head, staring bemusedly at the gem display floating in the air in front of her. She loved the ghosts, she really did, but sometimes she just couldn’t understand them.

  “What on earth are you doing, Frederick?” Chantia questioned the floating display bemusedly.
  The gem display stopped floating at Chantia’s question, but the teen ghost did not reveal himself. Chantia could feel the sense of embarrassment coming from the ghost hidden inside the display so instead of teasing him further, she laughed and left the ghost to continue his haunting. 
  Despite the occasional object haunting, Chantia had to admit she didn’t mind living with the ghosts, and neither did Sam. At first he had been hesitant, especially since Charlotte had acted a bit defensive toward him, but he soon got used to the ghosts. He actually became rather close to Angelica and it soon became a rather normal sight for Chantia to come home after work in the early morning hours and find her husband engrossed in conversation with the motherly ghost.  
  In the end, the conversations between them had a brilliant result, as it allowed Sam to complete the first step of his dream. Angelica had told him many tales of the things she had witnessed over her existence, and had given him the permission to retell the stories in written form. It wasn’t long after their first conversation that Sam submitted his draft to a publishing company and got the go-ahead. His first book wasn’t a massive success, but it did its job in getting Sam’s name out into the appropriate circles.

  However, as life was wont to do, the easy routine their life had settled into was soon disrupted. 
  "Chantia? Are you alright?" Sam asked in concern after Chantia fled the room for the third time. Chantia had tried to ignore the sense of nausea as much as she could, but it didn't seem to help much.

  "I feel horrible," she complained miserably. It wasn't just the nausea that was bothering her. In addition to the nausea, she was constantly tired and extremely irritable because of it. She had originally credited her tiredness to the late hours of her job, but she was starting to have her doubts.
  "You should go to a doctor," Sam suggested worriedly. Chantia grumbled slightly, not in the mood to sit in an appointment room for an entire morning, but she agreed nonetheless, even if her agreement was a bit half-hearted.
   The answer given by the doctor was somewhat unexpected, but if Chantia was honest, it wasn't really that much of a surprise. Still, it was a big enough surprise. Their lives were going to change rather drastically in a couple of months. 
  "I saw the doctor today," Chantia announced nonchalantly that evening. For a change she was not working that night, so she had some time to just relax with her husband.

  "And? What did he say?" Sam asked with a hint of apprehension in his voice. Chantia touched his face softly, trying to break the news as smoothly as possible.
  "It seems we're going to have a new addition to the family," Chantia announced warmly, a tender smile playing on her face. She was definitely apprehensive over the upcoming change in their daily routine, bit she had to admit that she had started to look forward to it once she had gotten used to the idea. 
  For a moment Sam’s face was blank while he tried to process the announcement, before his face lit up with understanding and he glanced down at Chantia’s stomach for confirmation.

  “You mean…”
  Chantia nodded excitedly, her smile broad on her face. “Yes,” she confirmed, “we’re going to be parents.”
  Sam stared uncomprehendingly at her for several seconds before he pulled her into a far tighter hug than she had anticipated, clearly just as excited as she was. 
  From then on Sam did everything he could to make sure they were prepared for the new arrival. He painted the walls of the nursery, read endless books on pregnancy and often accompanied Chantia on shopping trips to buy the essentials for their baby.
   “I was seven when my parents died,” he admitted quietly to Chantia during one of the shopping trips, instantly gaining her full attention. After all, it wasn’t often that he volunteered information on his past. “It was an accident – a dog ran in front of the car and my dad lost control when he tried to avoid the dog. Not long after that I was put in foster care, down in Bridgeport.”  He fell silent after that, but Chantia could see he was deep in thought. 
  Chantia squeezed his hand, wordlessly reminding him that he was in the now and not the past. He shook his head, trying to compose himself before he turned back to Chantia with a slight smile on his face.

  “I want to be the father to our child I never got the chance to have myself,” he declared earnestly. “I don’t remember my parents that well, but I do remember thinking the world of my dad.” He smiled and laid a gentle hand on Chantia’s swollen belly. “I hope this child will be able to think the same of me.” 
  “I’m sure he or she will,” Chantia promised with a warm smile, happy that Sam had finally started to open up a bit to her regarding his past. She still wanted to know more, especially after the hints Ethan had dropped at her wedding, but she was still willing to wait until Sam told her out of free will. There wasn’t a lot of progress, but Chantia considered every piece of information she got a bonus.

  But it seemed life itself wasn’t willing to wait. 
  “What the hell is she doing here?” Sam’s words were soft, nearly inaudible, but Chantia managed to hear them nonetheless. She half-turned, trying to see who Sam was talking about, but before she could get more than a glimpse of the woman in question, Sam placed a hand on her back and steered her into the opposite direction.

  “Let’s go home,” he suggested nonchalantly in a soft murmur, but he wasn’t fooling Chantia at all. She was hyper-aware of the tension in his body.
  “Sam?” she enquired confusedly, but he didn’t answer her, waiting until they were home before he even attempted to relax. The moment they reached their home Sam swept Chantia into his arms and held her tightly, obviously rattled. 
  “Sam?” Chantia tried to enquire again, confused and unsettled by his behaviour, and half-worried that he wouldn’t tell her what the problem was. His answer, when it came, was just as cryptic and un-answering as usual when something about his past was involved.

  “If you ever see that woman approach you,” he warned her, “please, just walk away. Please,” he begged, his tight hold around her shoulders emphasising his point.
  “What’s going on, Sam? Who is she?” Chantia asked confusedly, desperately trying to make sense of the situation. 
  “Her name is Valeri,” Sam replied after several seconds of silence. “She’s one of the worst people you could ever meet. She’s a psychopath, and she takes a lot of joy out of watching people suffer, and doing whatever she can to make sure they suffer as much as possible,” he explained tersely. Chantia’s eyes widened in shock at his confession, realising he was deadly serious.

  “Why on earth do you know someone like that?” she questioned frantically, warning bells ringing in her head. Normal people didn’t associate with psychopaths. Why did Sam know this woman?
  “We grew up together,” Sam admitted. “I told you, remember? I got placed in foster care after my parents died. I met Valeri during the time I lived there.” 
  “Oh.” Chantia released a sigh of relief, glad it wasn’t something more sinister, but even so, she was unsettled that Sam was acquainted with someone like that. After all, didn’t psychopaths usually start with people they knew personally? If Sam knew this ‘Valeri’ good enough that he instantly noticed her presence, didn’t that mean that she knew him just as well? Didn’t that mean that she would target him? “She won’t try to do anything to you, will she?”

  Sam looked down, shaking his head almost imperceptibly. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “If she’s anything like she used to be, then she won’t attempt anything directly.” He looked Chantia directly in the eye, trying to get the seriousness of the situation across. “Please,” he repeated again, “please, promise me you’ll stay as far away from her as possible.” 
  Chantia nodded almost imperceptibly. She had absolutely no desire to come close to that woman, especially if she was as dangerous as Sam said she was.

  “I promise,” she promised earnestly. “I’ll stay away from her as far as I possibly can.”
And a little bit more of Sam’s past is revealed. :) It’s just a little, I know, but the rest will be revealed later once Valeri’s role becomes a bit more active. And Valeri…yeah, she’s going to be an interesting character to write, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. :)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Chapter 2.5 - Searching For Truth

  Chantia remained upset for several days. Charlotte had had no right to say that. Yes, nobody was perfect, but she didn’t care. Sam was the man she loved, and it was every girl’s dream to marry the perfect man. Besides, even if he hadn’t been as wonderful as she knew he was, she would still have married him. She loved him.

  Needless to say, when Charlotte finally managed to track her down, Chantia wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk to the ghost.
  “Look, I’m sorry,” Charlotte apologized sincerely. “I shouldn’t have said that. You know him a lot better than I do, and if you believe you’ll be happy with him, then you probably will be happy. I just…I didn’t mean to offend you,” she explained. Chantia crossed her arms across her chest, still not forgiving the ghost just yet.

  “Well, you did,” she replied bitterly. “What I don’t understand though, is why you would say something like that.”
  Charlotte sighed heavily and turned her eyes away from Chantia, gazing out over the town lying below them instead.
  “I’ve lived for a long time, Chantia,” she answered with a small shrug. “Well, maybe not lived, but I’ve certainly existed a very long time. I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve seen a lot of things happen. It’s just been my experience that, usually, people that seem to be so perfect…usually are not entirely truthful.” She dropped her gaze and remained silent, waiting for Chantia’s response.

  “Sam is different though,” Chantia protested. “We’ve known each other for years. I know everything about him, and he knows everything about me.”
  Charlotte turned her eyes back to the woman she had seen grow up while she herself had remained unchanged.
  “Then I’m probably just wrong about him, but…” She dropped her gaze again, seemingly trying to find the correct words. She looked back up again, her colourless eyes holding a hint of unease. “Who is he, Chantia? Where did he come from? Where did he grow up? Why is he here? He kept dodging these questions when I asked him.”
  Chantia frowned, a little unsettled. “What does it matter? He’s an orphan – it’s only natural that there’ll be a couple of things he doesn’t want to talk about.”
  Charlotte sighed heavily, clearly in disagreement. “The point is – can you honestly say you know everything about him? These questions…can you answer it on his behalf?” Charlotte questioned pointedly.
  Chantia didn’t answer the ghost. She couldn’t. Like with Charlotte, Sam had always dodged those kinds of questions with her, by changing the subject or directing her attention to something else. She had just…never really realised he did that.
  Charlotte had succeeded in creating doubts in her heart, but nevertheless, Chantia didn’t call off the wedding. She might not know everything about him, but she still loved him. She still wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. So she pushed the doubts to the back of her mind and started making arrangements for the wedding. 
  “Let’s keep the wedding small,” she requested one afternoon while they were busy with ideas for the wedding. “Just family, and maybe our closest friends. Ten people, max.” She played absent-mindedly with the ring on her finger, slightly lost in her thoughts. She didn’t want a big wedding. Most brides wanted large weddings with tons of decorations and loads of guests, but she didn’t want that. She wanted something small and intimate; something where there wouldn’t be a lot of people witnessing the ceremony. She loved Sam and she knew it was the right thing to marry him, but…

  Sam smiled easily at her. “If that’s what you want, then sure,” he agreed good-naturedly. He always did that. He never really disagreed with her. Small things here or there, yes, but never on the major things. Why not? She wasn’t perfect. She made mistakes. She needed someone who would stop her from making unnecessary mistakes. She needed someone to argue with her, and point out where she could go wrong. So why did he never argue with her? It was as if he didn’t have any opinions of his own. 
  A hand placed over hers broke her out of her musings. “Is everything okay?” Sam asked with concern in his voice. Chantia looked at his face, studying him for any sign of falseness. She couldn’t see any. His expression held nothing else but concern. Nothing had changed about him.

  But she had changed.
  “It’s nothing,” she murmured demurely, dropping her gaze back to her hand resting on the table. She wasn’t being fair towards him. He had done nothing wrong, and yet she just couldn’t manage to get rid of the doubts.
  He didn’t let the matter drop like she wished.
  “Hey, don’t give me that,” he protested. “I can see something is bothering you. What is it?” 
  She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t tell him of her doubts. She was too afraid of doing it – afraid that confronting him would mean the shattering of the image she held of him; that confronting him would reveal some dark, dark secret that should’ve been better left untold. Why else would he dodge the questions?

  She couldn’t go on like this. She couldn’t stand not being able to trust him. She needed answers.
  “Why haven’t you ever told me anything about your childhood?” she questioned fearfully. “Why is it that I don’t know where you grew up? Why don’t I know anything of the life you had before high school?” She looked him squarely in the eye, pleading for answers. “Why have you never told me anything?”
  Her words caused a myriad of emotions to flicker across Sam’s face before he looked away, breaking eye contact with her. 
  “What does it matter?” he asked uncomfortably. “It’s not like it’s important.”

  “It is important!” Chantia argued vehemently, her heart tight in her chest. He did it again. He deflected the question again. Was Charlotte right, after all? Was Sam really not the person she had thought he was? “Don’t I deserve to know? You know everything about me, and now I find out that I don’t know nearly as much about you as I thought. Why won’t you tell me?”
  He didn’t answer her. He just kept silent, causing the silence to hang heavily around them. Chantia stood up and walked away, unable to take the silence. 
  “Everyone has some things they don’t want to talk about,” Sam finally murmured when the silence started to become too oppressive. He sighed, and gave a resigned half-shrug. “This is mine.” When he looked up again, his face had the most haunted expression Chantia had ever seen. His eyes looked dead, and he looked so, so tired. “I’m sorry if it upsets you, but I –” His voice caught in his chest and he swallowed heavily. He looked away again, but Chantia could see his eyes become distant as he got lost in his clearly unpleasant memories. “I don’t like remembering those times,” he confessed softly.

  Chantia felt like a heel. She knew what it was like to avoid a topic she didn’t like to discuss. She had had no right to force an unpleasant topic on Sam. She could clearly see just how much the topic upset him, and yet she just had to push it. She should’ve trusted him more. If it had really been important, Sam would’ve told her a long time ago. It was better to let the ghosts of the past be. 
  “I’m sorry,” she apologized guiltily. “I’m so, so sorry.”

  He touched her hand tenderly, wordlessly letting her know that all was forgiven.
  “It’s okay,” he comforted her softly and turned his face to her, giving her a broken smile that was a mere shade of his normal one. “I promise that I will tell you someday. Just…give me a little more time,” he requested pleadingly.
  She did the only thing she could. She nodded, agreeing to his request with tears in her eyes. She would wait for him to tell her whenever he was ready, even if it meant waiting until they were old and grey. She was willing to do that.
  With the doubts that had been hanging so heavily over her head resolved, Chantia could finally devote herself completely to planning the wedding. Even though they were only going to invite a handful of guests, the arrangements still turned out to be a lot more than Chantia had expected.
  There were venues to look at and dresses to try on and colour-schemes to decide on and flowers to choose that would fit with the décor and all kinds of things Chantia had never realised formed a part of the wedding planning process. She was extremely glad for her mother’s assistance, but she had to admit the woman was a bit too enthusiastic at times. 
  “Mom, we’ve already looked at five venues,” Chantia protested when Evelyn suggested another place to look at. “I’m happy with the second one we saw. We really don’t need to look at more venues.”

  “Oh, I don’t know,” Evelyn disagreed musingly. “That gazebo was awfully small.”
  “Mom, we don’t need a bigger gazebo,” Chantia insisted tiredly. “There’s only going to be a handful of people! The venue is fine.” It wasn’t just with venues that it had happened. Everything were questioned and double-checked and triple-checked until Chantia finally decided she had had enough and put an end to it.
  “Okay, that’s it,” she declared. “No more changes. The venue’s fine, the décor’s fine, the food is fine, my dress is fine, my shoes are fine. Everything is fine. This is my wedding Mom, and I’m happy with everything. So please, stop making me look at things.” To Chantia’s relief, the declaration finally curbed her mother’s interference. 
  All too soon, and not nearly soon enough, the big day arrived. Chantia was extremely nervous, but extremely excited as well. Everything was arranged and finalised and ready. All she had to do now was get married, and she was more than ready for it. She had never been more ready for anything in her life.

  “Ready to go?” Gustave asked her, presenting his arm to his daughter. Chantia took a deep breath, trying to soothe her nerves and took her father’s arm. She was ready for this. It was time for the wedding to start. 
  She was still full of nerves when she started walking towards the wedding arch, but she soon forgot completely about it when she looked up and saw Sam seeing her in full wedding attire for the first time. The expression on his face was simply amazing. Her heart skipped a beat and she couldn’t prevent the smile growing on her face.

  “Wow,” he breathed when she reached him. “You look…wow.”
  Chantia just smiled at him, her heart beating warmly in her chest and butterflies fluttering excitedly in her stomach.
  “Thanks,” she replied warmly and gave his hands a squeeze before nodding determinedly, signalling her readiness to begin. 
  Chantia stared at Sam, studying his face. He wasn’t perfect, she understood that now, but she didn’t care. He was all she wanted.

  Sam took a deep breath and delivered his vows, holding Chantia’s gaze the entire time. She could see the honest joy in his eyes and she knew her own eyes held that same joy. She had absolutely no doubt that his vows were sincere, and when she delivered her own vows, she herself had never been more sincere. Come hell or high water, she’ll be with this man until the end of her days. 
  The guests started to cheer and throw confetti as the married couple did the traditional kiss to seal their union, but Chantia was only distantly aware of them. The pure love and joy on her husband’s face drowned out all other thought. He was hers, and even though she couldn’t say she knew absolutely everything about him, she knew enough. She knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life by his side. 
  With the couple’s vows said and their marriage declared official, it was time for the reception to start. Most of the guests went inside where the festivities would happen, but Evelyn and Gustave pulled the freshly-married couple aside for a minute.

  “We wanted to give you your wedding gift before things got too hectic,” Evelyn explained warmly and handed Sam a large, heavy envelope. “We know things had been rather chaotic these last couple of months, with planning the wedding and buying that house, so we wanted to give you a chance to relax and recover.” She gestured at the envelope, wordlessly telling them to open it.
  Chantia felt her eyes widen in surprise when Sam opened the envelope and they saw what was inside.  It was a full-expenses-paid trip to Champs Les Sims. Chantia had wanted to show the town to Sam, since it was part of her heritage, but because money had been a bit tight after buying the house, they had decided to forego the honeymoon completely. With this gift, she could finally have the honeymoon she wanted. 
  “Thank you,” she thanked her mother sincerely. She might’ve had a few rough spots with her mother growing up, but she that only brought them closer together. Now, she wouldn’t exchange her mother for anything.

  The rest of the night passed in a blur to Chantia. All the guests made sure to congratulate the happy couple, but Chantia was only vaguely aware of them. She was too focused on the man by her side, dancing away the evening with him.
  There was one person whose words stayed with her, though. Ethan, Sam’s best friend, was still the same roguish guy he had been as a teenager, but he had grown up after deciding to join the military. Chantia had been a bit confused when she had originally heard about his career choice, but since Sam hadn’t seemed surprised in the least at the time, she had pushed it to the back of her mind.
  “’Grats,” Ethan told Chantia and gestured with his head in Sam’s direction, who was talking with Chantia’s mother. “I’m glad he ended up with you. You’ve been a good influence on him,” Ethan stated sincerely.
  “Thank you,” Chantia replied with a happy smile. “He’s been a good influence on me as well.” Ethan nodded distractedly at her words, causing Chantia to get the sense that he hadn’t exactly meant the same thing she had.
  “Yeah, probably,” Ethan agreed distractedly before he said something that utterly confused Chantia. “Just – keep him out of trouble, okay? Don’t let him do something stupid.”  
  “Wha-” Chantia frowned at him, but before she could finish her question Ethan melted back into the crowd, leaving Chantia to stare bewilderedly after him. Sam soon joined her side again, and she pushed Ethan’s cryptic request to the back of her mind, deciding to worry over it later.

  All too soon, the time arrived for the couple to depart. Their flight to Champs Les Sims was scheduled to depart in a couple of hours, and since neither of them had expected a honeymoon, they hadn’t packed for the trip. Amidst the cheers and farewells of the guests, they set off back home to get ready for their trip.
  It was already late in the night when they reached the house. Most of the residents of the neighbourhood had already gone to sleep, so the only light apart from the streetlamps was the light coming from the bright Full Moon shining above them. It made Chantia feel rather giddy, causing her to giggle happily. The Song that was always playing in the back of her mind was suddenly overwhelmingly loud, demanding to be listened to; to be acted on. So she did the only thing she could: she pulled Sam closer to her in an impromptu dance, her joyous laughter ringing in the air. 
  “Shh, you’ll wake the neighbourhood,” Sam admonished her teasingly, but the broad smile on his face showed that he didn’t mind in the least. Chantia’s only response was to pull him closer to her and give him a passionate kiss.

  Charlotte had once told her that the night of the Full Moon was a night of magic, where magic could pass freely from one world to another. For the first time since she heard that tale, Chantia believed it completely. She didn’t know if it was just the happiness talking, but the night air was almost electric with promise.
  “Have I told you recently how much I love you?” she breathed softly as she pulled him even closer to her. 
  Sam smiled at her words and folded his arms around her, enveloping her with the warmth of his body.

  “Not in so much words,” he confirmed and gave her a tender kiss before pulling away and leading her into the house where they quickly packed for their honeymoon amidst some playful banter and fooling around. Before they realised, they were packed completely and ready to go.  
  And so they departed, signalling the start of their honeymoon, and with it, the rest of their lives together.

I LOVED writing this chapter. There’s a lot of poses in it, but that just reminded me how much I love poses. It managed to make that confrontation scene in the first half of the chapter just so much more powerful. Especially that scene where Chantia is standing and Sam is sitting. You can almost feel the tension hanging around them. <3
I missed the moment of cutting the cake, so no cake. :( I actually didn’t realise it was a full moon night until the moon came up and cast that luminescent glow over everything. But in retrospect, I can actually see Chantia decide to hold her wedding on a Full Moon night. Makes it more magical. :)
Credit for the beautiful wedding venue goes to Buckley, from here on MTS.