The week since my initial consultation with Roger and Maya had flown by. To give them a decently long honeymoon, the date of the big day had been set for a month’s time. It didn’t give me long to plan, but I was enjoying the challenge.
The phone calls and emails between us flew thick and fast. In the end, I’d found it easier to create a group on my favourite messaging service. My phone was constantly pinging.
We’d decided on a location, flowers and centerpieces, tentative menu, accommodation, guest list, bombinaries, photographer, colour scheme, and theme. Invitations had gone out, although I’d had to enlist some divine help on that front, and the honeymoon had been booked. We still had a few things left to decide on—entertainment, celebrant, and the selection of rings, but we’d accomplished an extraordinary amount of work in a very short amount of time.
I’d like to think a human couldn’t have done it. Maybe that was just my ego, though. My enthusiasm fueled me through the late nights and early mornings. It also helped that I only had the one set of clients. Word was getting out, though, and my inbox was quickly filling with appointment requests. At this rate, I was going to have to hire an army of nymphs and mortals.
The happy couple were due in my office within the hour, and I was finalising a playlist of entertainment offerings to go over with them when someone knocked on my door.
“Entre,” I called out, my eyes on the screen in front of me. I heard the door open, and someone take several steps into the room.
“Are you really Aphrodite?” A voice blurted out. I looked up. A woman with long dark hair stood in front of my desk. Her professional ensemble, suit pants and a blazer, looked out of place on her.
A bad feeling spread through my stomach. If I had hackles, I’m sure they’d rise.
“I am.” I leaned back in my chair and met her eyes.
“You’ve got to help me!” She dropped to her knees on the floor. I had to stand to see her again.
“With?” I really didn’t need to ask. I knew what was going to come out of her mouth. Mortals usually only came to me for three things, and desperation rolled off the woman in waves.
“The man I love is marrying someone else.” She started crying, and I took a deep breath, grabbed the tissue box from my desk, and moved to where she sat. I handed her the tissues and tried not to sigh audibly as I glanced at the clock. There was still some time before Roger and Maya were due in.
“Do you know how he feels about you?” I asked gently.
“Well,” she took a shuddering breath. “I’ve always been sure there’s this deep connection between us, but he’s refusing to see it.”
“It sounds to me like your love is unrequited.” I tried to be as gentle as I could, but to give her false hope, soothing platitudes like he might change his mind. Would do this woman no good. If the man was committed enough to marry another, I didn’t like her chances.
“Tell me what I have to do to win his heart.” She blinked tears from her reddening eyes. “Tell me how I can make him love me back.”
It had been a request I was expecting, but I still didn’t know how to word my response.
“What is your name, child?” I rested my hand on her shoulder.
“Emily.” She sniffed.
The name rang a bell. I wracked my brain, trying to remember where I’d heard it recently. I dismissed the thought, assuming one of the couples petitioning for my help shared her name.
“I understand why you’re asking. But I will not help you,” I said. She looked up, her face forming an expression as if she were going to argue with me. “Love forced turns to poison for everyone involved.”
“Surely there is something I can do? Something you can do?” She begged. Why do they always beg? My mind drifted back to Claudia and her similar plea a week or so ago.
“Trust me when I say, although it doesn’t seem like it now, this is the best gift I can give you.”
She sniffed again.
“Emily, if he doesn’t love you for you, then he is not right for you. You deserve to be loved as deeply as you love. When you find that connection with someone, I promise it will be worth the wait and the frogs that you kiss in the meantime.” I used a soothing tone, but the woman kept breathing heavily.
“I’ve got to go.” The woman stood up.
“I know it hurts, but please believe me. Something better is coming for you.” As much as I meant the words, I didn’t expect her to believe me. I’d been where she was. I wouldn’t have believed me back then either.
I watched her leave the room, wondering if there was something more I could have done. I glanced over at the clock again. My clients would be here in a few minutes. I decided to leave my office door open and returned to my place at the desk and finished the playlist I’d been working on. Roger and Maya arrived on time, entering the room with smiles on their faces.
“Afternoon,” I greeted them. They returned the sentiments and took a seat on one of the couches.
“I thought I’d start with some suggestions for a band. You did decide on having a band, didn’t you?” I scanned my notes, hoping I hadn’t misread a message.
“We definitely want a band.” Roger smiled. I let go of the breath I’d been holding. Of course, the musician wanted a live band. The lives of both the bride and groom were shaped by music.
“Let’s listen to some music then.” I smiled and pressed play on the software. Music began to play from the speakers on my desk.
As we listened to song after song, I sipped my latte and made notes. An hour later, we’d narrowed the possibilities down to three bands.
“So we’re left with Fire in the Forge, Choice Horizons, and Saxa Christie.” I glanced at the list of the bands I’d put on the playlist, black ink lines scratched through the dozen or so names Roger and Maya had vetoed. I glanced up at the couple, and they nodded.
“Next, we need to decide on a celebrant.” I handed them a folder of profiles to flip through.
They flipped through the dossier I’d prepared, then exchanged a glance. The couple whispered between themselves.
“Actually,” Roger began, seemingly the more outgoing of the two. “We had someone in mind.”
“Not a problem. Who is it? I’ll do everything I can to make this wedding perfect for you.” I took another sip of my latte.
The couple smiled at each.
“We were hoping you would do it,” Maya said, biting her bottom lip.
I dropped my coffee cup, my latte spilling across my catalogues and keyboard. I muttered a curse word in Greek and began sopping up the mess with tissues from the box on my desk.
“Me?” I suppose I should have expected some happy couple would make the suggestion, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.
They nodded enthusiastically.
“Wouldn’t the Goddess of Marriage be a better choice?” I asked, dumping a fist full of coffee-soaked tissues into my wastepaper basket. I bit back the thought that even the Goddess of the Hearth would make a better celebrant than me.
They exchanged a glance again, no doubt choosing their words carefully to avoid offending anyone.
“We would be honoured for the Queen of the Gods to bless our marriage, but we wouldn’t be getting married if it wasn’t for love,” Roger explained.
“Love is what will hold our marriage together. We understand it won’t always be smooth sailing, but if we love each other enough to stick together through the bad times, the hard times, we can make it work.” Maya smiled as she held Roger’s hand.
“Love is what will hold us together as we grow and learn. As we try to make our little corner of the world better,” the groom added.
I blinked back tears. It wasn’t often humans got it. I mean, actually got it. The power of love is so much more than romance, fervoured passion, and sleepless nights.
I went back to wiping my catalogues with tissues as the pages stuck together.
“Yes. I will marry you.” I took a deep breath and smiled. How could I say no?
Maya squealed and jumped up as if she were going to hug me. Still reeling at the question, I kept the desk between us.
“Well then, I guess I’ll write up a ceremony and send it to you by the end of the week. You can tell me what you think, if there’s anything you want me to remove or add, and I’ll take another look at it.”
“Thank you!” Maya had that look in her eye again, like she wanted to hug me. “You don’t know what this means to us.”
I nodded, not sure what to say.
“Maya don’t forget, Friday we have your dress fitting, and Roger, we’re ring shopping on Wednesday. The two of you should look at some of the jeweller’s websites I sent you in my last email. That way, Roger has a decent idea of what you’d like.” They’d indicated to me previously that Maya wanted to be surprised by Roger’s choice. I’d help him pick something elegant that she would love. Maya would not be disappointed when it was presented to her on the day.
They confirmed their appointments with me, and I watched them leave, still shocked that a pair of humans got what I’d been trying to teach mankind for centuries. Hope filled me that I might eventually make some headway. That I might one day get humans on the whole to understand that there were many kinds of love, and that love was more than what they saw it for.
I turned to my computer and stared at my sticky keyboard. I had thought to click open a blank document. If I was going to marry the couple, I was going to have to write a ceremony. Instead, I was going to have to do it the old way; with a pen and pencil. Writing a wedding ceremony wasn’t going to be easy. I had always been more a doer than a thinker, but the writers of the world had spent thousands of years writing odes to love, odes to me. Surely I could find inspiration in the words of those I’d inspired. Perhaps it was the best compliment I could give them.
I thought back to all the weddings I’d witnessed over the millennia. Perhaps I could draw inspiration from there, too? I grabbed my notebook and my favourite pen and began to make notes. I rubbed my forehead. I was going to need a new latte.