Tuesday, September 25, 2012

M&R: Wiving Goes by Destiny

The footfall resounded upon the solid floor of the grand entry way.  It was neither the soft step on the heel of city-folk followed by the slap of the toe nor the tap of the toe followed by the cluck of a reassured heel, typical of country folk.  Both kinds of people awaited on the other side of the double doors.  This naked hairy foot produced a solid thud heard by those on the other.  It was the step of someone about to take the stuff of destiny and twist it to his liking.  But before the next step, just before the ushers swung open the doors, a quiet voice spoke.

“Grand-daddy?  Am I beautiful?” asked the petite vision of beauty on John Sienna’s right arm. 

His granddaughter wore a traditional white wedding dress.  In lieu of a traditional veil she wore a chunni in the tradition of her new family.  It was sheer and brilliant, hemmed in gold lace.  In fact, it emphasized more than hid the excellent figure she inherited from Grandma Roxanne and Grandmother Maeve’s flawless skin and flashing black hair. A heavy golden belt snitched her gown and gold laced its bodice. Upon her head sat the crown of the Lords of Piccolomini, the closest claim to nobility Aglaia Sienna’s family could come up with.  In a family famous as rowdy extroverts she was the sole introvert.

With his usual smile, John reassured the quiet young woman, kissed the backs of her ivory hands and told her that she was indeed as lovely as Helen of Troy. 

The girl blushed proudly and while still beaming asked “Then why do my cousins keep saying I’m veiled like Freya?” 

“Because, Freya too wore an elegant veil?  Do you know who she was?”

Aglaia seemed to still ponder the comparison to Helen of Troy when her grand-daddy explained that Freya was the goddess of beauty. You can imagine the look on the shy young woman’s face.  He failed to mention that in actuality Thor hid beneath the heavy veil and that most of gigantic wedding guests didn’t survive the reception.  It seemed like a bad thing to mention when escorting a granddaughter down the aisle. 

On the other side of the door was the “sacred fire” which John and his sister-in-law Roxanne lead everyone in referring to as the “Burning Bush”; a priest and a Lutheran pastor.  In opposition to western weddings, the crowd divided into men on the left and women on the right. The wedding party and most of the local guests arrived early.  The groom and his four brothers stood on one side of the Burning Bush dressed in white, on the right stood Aglaia’s sole sister and her husband’s three sisters dressed in bright pastel gowns.  The best man arrived drunk, much to the embarrassment of the groom and disgust of his sisters.  The oldest sister actually crossed the aisle and slapped him across the face. That seemed to somber  him up for a moment.  To all this their mother Mrs. DK was a passive observer who silently acquiesced to whatever he eldest son wanted. 

Across the aisle sat Mrs. DK’s Babaa, who’s title the Siennans mistook for “Bubba”.   At the reception the night before, they collectively settled on calling the elder, “Ali Baba” much to his delight.  Babaa had been a big man once.  Now age and a series of strokes left him a shell of himself.  He could do nothing but stare blankly at the disrespectful grandson who was now the head of the family.  Or mutter bitterly about his physical impotency.  However, today a friend sat with him.  During the reception the night before, Stan Scamander and the elderly man recognized kindred souls in one another.  Maybe it was the company or the evening, but the old man seemed less afflicted in the presence of the dark-haired wide-shouldered Stan.  Stan became the old man’s escort for this joyous day. 

Maeve and Roxanne lead the Siennan women in a little latter.  Their arrival was like a spring storm, with the earthy smells of; opening earth,  fresh rain,  the perfume of first flowers and the billowing clouds of green pollen from the distant forest. Their appearance was as bright as the first blush of spring, dressed as they were bright reds, radiant blues, and deep green. They squeezed into pews on the women’s side of the hall, pulled their daughters into their laps, sometimes their grown daughters.  They packed around the other guests.  DJ’s female guests, that’s what the groom’s family called him “DJ”, DJ’s female guests were ladies of leisure married to “doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs” who didn’t approve of these foreigners nor DJ “wiving” among them.  Especially, a military family with the pretentions of merchants.  If truth be told, the Siennans weren’t too thrilled about Aglaia marrying a foreigner, particularly marrying into this family.

Meanwhile, Roxanne and Maeve, hand and hand strolled towards the front pew where Mrs. DK sat with her newest daughter-in-law.  Mrs. DK stroked the girl’s arm like she would a small furry pet.  The young girl sat nervously next to her mother-in-law shivering like the bunny being kept in the rabbit hutch until big enough for the stew pot.

“Oh, you must be DK Junior’s new wife!” exclaimed Roxanne, the tall red head.  “Let us look at you!” 

It proved to be invitation for the girl and Mrs. DK to stand in greeting.  Roxanne managed to whirl the girl to the side, so Maeve could sit down with the groom’s mother.  Seeing no bruises, Roxanne assumed the honeymoon wasn’t over yet.  Roxanne sat down on the edge of the pew setting upright and tall so her green eyes could  look excitedly around.  She patted the seat next to her for the gir.  Roxanne Scamander asked all the normal questions about the girl’s family, relatives and village. Then answered similar questions on her own behalf.  They discussed how many children she hoped to have and how many Roxanne had.  The girl admitted that she hoped to teach someday, but that DK Junior wouldn’t allow it as long as he lived.  

“Dearie, I’ve been married five times, let me tell you-“ here her warm deep voice acquired a witty ring indicating she was quoting her brother-in-laws favorite book “Widows happen, every day.“

The girl went white at first and then carefully let out her suppressed giggle.  She saw her mother-in-law engaged in conversation with Maeve and confided that Mrs. DK didn’t approve of the gifts the Siennans had presented the night before to the groom and then the bride.    

“Well there seems to be a lot of kitchen fires in the DK household, we thought the fire extinguisher was appropriate.”

The girl shivered at the thought of the “accidents” befalling the three previous Mrs. DK Junior, when their families couldn’t come up with additional dowry funds.

“Mr. DK Junior says no woman would be brave enough to use the handgun you gave the bride.”

“Dearie, he hasn’t met a Siennan woman before. “  Roxanne assured her with a pat on thigh and a wink that somehow promised Aglaia would be her protector from now on.

Meanwhile, Maeve lounging in the pew between the groom’s mother and her sister asked Mrs. DK to point out all of her sons.

“Well, you know DJ.  And the head of our family Daitya Kaaliya Junior.” she added proudly and then sighed. 

DK Junior heard his name mentioned and turned to look.  If his eldest sister’s slap hadn’t sobered him up Maeve’s gaze certainly did.  On the most joyous occasions her eyes might be thought to twinkle but at moments like this her black eyes held a cold dead stare. 

“You have such a cross to bear.” Maeve commented with a gleeful, gentle pat on the thigh.

Not being Christian, so not understanding the expression, Mrs. DK continued. “Daitya Gagandeep, who we call DG…”

“DG?” Roxanne asked leaning across Maeve‘s lap.  When she was reassured as to DG’s name Roxanne reminded herself to share a private joke with her brother-in-law from back in the day when they both wore serge uniforms.

“DG,  Daitya Satvamohan; DS, and Daitya Prithish; DP”

This time it was Maeve who asked the woman to repeat the names of her sons.  Maeve nudged her best friend at the reciting of the letters G,S, P, just like her three sons Gnome, Shepherd and Puck.

 The music began and the guests stood.  It was the bride who gasped.  Thinking to get a lot of wedding presents, Aglaia’s mother-in-law told her to invite as many people as she could.  The logic was that Aglaia wasn’t very popular and most of her relatives could not afford to attend anyway.  As a consequence; all the Siennans came.  On the women’s side stood all her womenfolk dressed in the most opulent gowns they could borrow or make. They wore fantastic hats and embroidered slippers.  The Siennans weren’t much for jewelry, but Roxanne was, as were several Maeve’s friends.  Most of the women wore diamonds, gold and precious stones from their collections.  The bride burst into tears at the turn out.

Mrs. DK gazed upon the beaming bride trimmed in gold and crowned in pearls and the richly adorned guests.  She jokingly suggested that her family should ask for more dowry.  Maeve jokingly retorted, while admiring her approaching granddaughter and husband, that she’d kill Mrs. DK and her eldest son if there was any talk like that.  

The men’s side of the church was more sparsely occupied.  Behind Aglaia the ushers opened the exterior door to the hall.  An explosion rather than a sound   erupted behind them. The men of the Sienna family stormed the hall, hooting and hollering.  They looked dashing in their dress uniforms.  There’d been talk about them wearing blue turbans, but it was agreed they could keep to their regimental caps and berets.  Rather than “kirpans” they wore their dress swords and side arms. Boots however stayed behind in accordance with local protocols and Sienna family tradition.  The men followed John Sienna and Aglaia into the church and then spread out along the side of the hall rather than mixing with the men from DJ’s side.  (That was for the best.)

John Sienna appeared the calm at in the eye of the storm.  Smiling, he nodded slightly to all, but tried not to take away Aglaia’s moment in the spotlight.  He noticed the color draining from Mrs. DK’s face and the smuggle smile on his wife’s.  Always a bad sign he thought.  Across the aisle stood “Ali Baba” apparently on his own two feet, but Stan kept a shielding arm behind the elderly gentleman, just in case.  The old man seemed even healthier than last night and Stan seemed…Earlier when reassuring the shy bride John thought he could see something of her grandfather Stan in the girl’s face, but it never occurred to him until this moment that what he saw was good-looks.  Stan was John’s best friend!  It had been how many years and he’d never noticed until this moment that Stan was a handsome man.  Stan nodded at the seat he’d saved for his “yaar” in the pew.  John handed Aglaia over to the officials and took his seat.  He waved over her father and brother, but out of respect they chose to stand with the rest of the Siennan troops. 

Faster than John could imagine it was time for the “Kanyadaan”.  With a word from Babaa whose arm lay familiarly across Stan’s broad right shoulder and an encouraging pat on the back from Stan, he rose and drew Aglaia to her groom.  Standing almost between the love birds, John took a simple gold band from his hairy hand, put it on the boy’s left ring finger and grasped his hand

The young man said, “Sir, I promise I will be good to your granddaughter.” Turning to Aglaia’s father standing at the end of the pew he repeated his oath.  When he turned his head back, John’s smiling blue eyes gazed deeply into his.  The older man’s handclasp seemed suddenly unworldly. 

In a loud voice that sounded neither hoping nor commanding, but simply staying an inevitable fact the patriarch of the Sienna clan pronounced “We welcome you to our family.  You will make a great husband, Jahan.”

DK Junior leaned into the conversation, presumably on behalf of Jahan’s family to offer their blessing, and hissed. “His name is DJ, you ass.”  

John Sienna perceived two motions at once, his grand-daughter reacting and his best friend rocketing out of the pew fist first.  He kept the boy’s hand with this right.  He stepped between Aglaia and her brother-in-law, later he would discover that her reaction was to reach for the kirpan beneath her veil.  He stopped Stan’s sledge like fist with his left hand.   What John didn’t see was Mrs. DK’s father carried to his feet by the rush of Stan rising frame.  He didn’t anticipate the old man grabbing, twisting and pulling  DK’s ceremonial jacket with his left hand while the kirpan in his right rose the length of the younger man’s legs to the point of destiny.  Maybe a little beyond destiny. 

“His name is Jahan.  He was named in my honor.  Apologize to your brother’s in-laws.” The hoary old man’s hoarse voice whispered. 

Later Babaa Jahan would explain that as head of the family it was his job to bless the union and that he’d asked his “yaar” Stan to help him up.    Mrs. DK Senior’s passive acceptance of his announcement set the stage for some changes in their household that were to almost everyone’s liking.  

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