He follows my attention down to the circle of pale purple blooms in his hands. “It’s an Irish tradition for brides to wear flowers in their hair—in my family, at least. I know we’re not . . . that this isn’t traditional in that sense. But Mam would be heartbroken if I didn’t at least ask.”
My brows go skyward. He’s going to tell his parents about this? My folks live in the same country and I’ve already concluded it will be easier to lie my face off than live with their inevitable disapproval and concern. His parents live on the other side of the world. A gesture like this feels like we’re doing Till Death Do Us Part, when really, it’s only Till the Fat Lady Sings. Why on earth would he tell them? My immediate reaction—and surely the most mature, here—is to want to press pause and talk about how we each see this going. In hindsight, we hardly talked about it at all, and telling our families makes this something much bulkier that we have to manage.
But he looks so earnest and uncharacteristically unsure, I decide to put him out of his misery quickly.
“Of course I’ll wear it. Thank you.”
It’s made of loosely braided lavender, and I take it from him, settling it carefully on top of my hair.
Lulu reaches out to adjust the silky purple spikes, tilting her head to inspect her handiwork. “There. Perfect.” She snaps a few photos. “Let’s get you two married.”
I’m overly aware of the way my palm fits against Calvin’s as he takes my hand and leads us through the crowd toward the clerks.
Sidestepping a woman in a jewel-toned sari, I smile at a passing man wearing a yarmulke. There are couples of every composition and age. Some wear traditional dresses and suits, others are in jeans and T-shirts.
“Busier than I expected,” I say softly.
Calvin exhales a little laugh. “Yeah. You’d be surprised how many wedding dresses I see at the station.”
The room is long and narrow, with a row of sleek green couches on one side and marble counters and swiveling stools on the other. The ceilings are white-paneled with gold filigree detail. A marquee suspended from two chains shows the number now being served and at what station, and a ticket machine sits on the counter below. There’s even a small gift shop that sells last-minute items like flowers and emergency bow ties.
Calvin pulls a number from the machine and shows me: C922. A flash goes off and we both startle.
“That’s going to be good,” Lulu says, looking down at the screen of her tiny camera. She catches my bewildered expression. “What? The candids are always the best ones. A wedding is something you want to remember.” She looks at me pointedly. “Any couple would want photos to commemorate that.”
“Right.” This needs to be official. I’ve put so little thought into the logistics of this. Man, when I try to be spontaneous, I steal a lighter and throw it blindly into a pool of gasoline. “Good thinking.”
Calvin and I sit on one of the narrow couches, waiting and trying to ignore the click of the camera every three seconds. We make polite small talk:
“Did you have a good morning?”
“Yeah, didn’t sleep, though.”
“It’s so cold outside.”
“I know. I nearly forgot my coat.”
Awkward laugh. “That would have been . . . bad.”
And on, and on, for a half hour, about what we ate last night and how we weren’t sure what to wear today. The only time either of us seems to relax and fall into easy conversation is when Calvin mentions he almost brought his guitar with him.
“It seemed oddly fitting,” he admits, “but then I worried it would be a hassle, or seem odd.”
“I wish you had.”
I really do. His music magically loosens that knotted ribbon inside me; I already miss hearing him play in the subway.
While we trip our way through the Holy Shit We Are About to Be Married awkward dance, Lulu and Mark chat unobtrusively to the side, having no apparent problem making entertaining conversation. Mark—like most people—seems completely charmed by Lulu, but every time Lulu snorts and loses it over one of his jokes, the more anxious I feel.
From this moment forward, no matter what happens after, I am combining my life with Calvin’s.
Finally, our number is called. We step up to the counter and I watch Calvin fill out the last bit of paperwork. Alongside our witnesses, we sign our names—mine is a lot less legible than everyone else’s, thanks to the cast—and after another small wait, it’s time. The New York City Marriage Bureau is very efficient.
We’re led into a small room with peach walls and pastel watercolors. Our officiant is a smiling woman with dark hair and rosy cheeks who greets us with a friendly welcome. There’s no music or fanfare, but she gently instructs us to stand opposite each other, while everyone else can stand or sit where they’d like. Calvin takes both my hands.
“Calvin and Holland,” she begins, “today you celebrate one of life’s greatest moments, and give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, as you join together in the vow of marriage.”
I look up at his face; his eyes are crinkled in amusement that is oddly masked as joy. I bite my lip, grinning back despite myself.
“Calvin,” she continues, “do you take Holland Lina Bakker to be your wife?”