awrence was glad that the feast started so soon after the presentation ceremony. He had found it hard to let Josephine's hands go as she left to dress for the feast. They had had some time to spend together after the first introduction, but neither had had any idea what to say to the other so they just stood and looked into each other's faces while her father smiled on them with joy.
Lawrence now fidgeted around the doorway to the feasting hall, which was in the older part of the castle that he would someday soon replace with the Castle of Sunshine. He had not changed his clothes, since he had been in his finest, crown and all, for the ceremony. He had laid the crown aside for the feast as it was heavy and uncomfortable and he felt like a child in dress-up with it on.
When he saw King Karl escorting his daughter down the corridor towards the Hall his face broke into a smile of delight. She was resplendent in powder blue, a color most becoming to her. The gown was tight across her breasts, with silver cords that crossed in an X between them. She wore her hair loose, like before, and it sailed lightly behind her down her back as she turned and saw him waiting. He darted forward and barely acknowledging her father, he took her hand and led her to the high table where he escorted her to the seat beside his own.
While courtiers smiled at them and winked at each other. The young people sat and gazed at each other between glances at their trenchers to choose something to eat. Lawrence almost laughed aloud with pleasure when at one point Josephine reached over to his food and picked up a red berry and popped it into his mouth. Then she stole one from in front of him and popped it in her own, perhaps the most adorable thing Lawrence had ever beheld in his life, or so he was thinking. He marveled at her crystalline laugh, a sound that would enchant him every time he heard it for the rest of his life.
They spoke little and seemed reluctant to be drawn into conversation by those who sat near them. They would be like this for every supper until the day of the wedding and the coronation. Josephine would glance about her as she walked with her father through the castle, hoping to catch a look at her intended, and likewise Lawrence found it difficult to focus on business he had to attend to as he constantly would dart to a window or the open door of a room to see if his beloved was passing where he could see her.
Karl was keeping them apart for now, not trusting the young lovers not to steal away by themselves. He could not watch her all the time, however, and three days before the wedding and coronation Josephine's heart leapt to find herself face to face with Lawrence after each turned a corner on the stairs.
The two stood, awkward and unsure of what to say or do, and cast their eyes about. Lawrence finally reached for her hand. "My lady, may I kiss thee?"
She blushed and stammered, "My lord, I want thee to, but it is not seemly."
He smiled and asked, in a jesting voice, "But as King, mayst I not command it?"
She looked up at him. "Aye, but as a true king thou wouldst not."
Her remark moved him. He bowed to her , still holding her hand. "But as a man, mayst I ask it from my beloved?"
Her eyes widened with tenderness and she nodded. He leaned and kissed her mouth gently and sweetly, the first kiss of many thousands.
Their wedding took place before the coronation so she would be crowned as Queen alongside her husband. The ceremony was bathed in the ancient ritual of the Church. Both were resplendent in new coronation garments, his shirt of white samite and his dark green tabard bearing his escutcheon in thread of gold. She was in white, satin and velvet with likewise gold embroidery. Both were bareheaded. At the moment they were pronounced to be married in the sacrament of the Church they felt as if they had been bound together with ethereal ribbons that seemed unbreakable and eternal.
The elaborate pomp and ceremony of the coronation itself was plenty to keep the young husband and wife occupied in spite of their combined excitement and nervousness about the night ahead of them. The ceremony involved blessings, long readings from Church liturgy, a mass with communion, and more long passages exhorting the King and Queen to do this or that noble and honorable thing for their people and nation. It culminated in the placing of crowns, Lawrence's own from his father, and Queen Eleanor's delicate circlet for Josephine. His was placed first, and his new wife looked at him with awe. He had a dignity that did not fit his youth. For his part, seeing the delicate filigree of the gold on her perfect forehead made his heart brim with love. The entire court watched the spectacle of the newly crowned royal couple as they walked arm in arm to what seemed to them like a never-ending wedding feast.
Josephine's ladies in waiting finally came up giggling to spirit her off to the royal bedchamber. Lawrence fidgeted in his seat, pale and anxious. He picked apart chunks of bread, one after the other, and seemed to have gone def to all words directed to him, until at last his own servant came to lead him away to be prepared for bed.
By tradition, King Karl and other officials of the court had to be in the chamber when the royal bridegroom was led in in his nightshirt over to the huge bed that dwarfed the small pale face of the new Queen. All bowed and left after Lawrence had been well and truly deposited in the bed next to her, the covers thrown over both and the candlelight doused. They were left alone.
Lawrence propped himself up on one elbow and gazed at his love. "Josephine, I … I.. " he stammered. "I've never really done it before. Just little fumblingsin haystacks with peasant girls, nothing much really."
Josephine reached up a small hand and stroked his cheek. "I have only even been kissed once, my dearest. I think we will know what to do."
He tentatively reached for her and kissed her long and deeply. He let a timid hand rest on her waist and felt her respond shyly. He took her breast in his palm through her nightdress. They sank into a sort of dreamy cloud of enchantment.
If anyone had looked in on them during the night, they would've smiled to see them lying naked and asleep in the bed, Lawrence turned towards his bride, his mouth slightly open and his face slack and restful, the golden head of Josephine tucked into the pillow between his chin and shoulder, a slight smile on her lips as she breathed deeply and evenly. They looked les like a man and woman in their marriage bed than two children who had stayed up to late and drifted off to sleep in each other's arms.
Next: New Stories: Being a King
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com