Vic has been living what felt the longest week of his young life. All the time he spent searching for the treasure came back at him.
He needed to visit every house in the village and invite every family to his wedding. Hearing the elderly preaching how fast he grew up, how each one of them held him in their hands was more tiring than cutting all that firewood.
He needed to borrow or make with his own hands enough sitting places. For every family, there has to be a bench and a table. Though it shouldn't be solid furniture to last long it shouldn’t be too shoddy.
He needed to procure and prepare enough food. Whole chickens, lambs, and pigs, spices and salt, also wine and beer to toast for the newlyweds. As it was the easiest and most anticipated part he was dismissed as a form of punishment for misbehaving.
Vic spent lots of time arguing and negotiating until his and Grace's parents finally agreed for Grace to substitute him. It was far cry from what he wanted, still, it helped him elevate his image in the eyes of Grace. He thought that it was better than nothing.
"The walls in the city are huuuge! And there were so many people there, I've never seen so many people in one place. There were also some animals I've never seen, in the marketplace. You saw it too when you went to the city?"
When Grace returned she spent hours telling what she saw in the city and her experiences there. With blazing eyes, she told how their parents let her buy some sweets to eat, and how it was the most delicious thing she ever had. Although Vic was bitter inside that he was left out he still maintained his smile during their talk.
The day of the wedding was coming close and he still needed to prepare a ritual bonfire for the ceremony, prepare his wedding clothes, get cleaned up, and other minor stuff.
Finally, the day of the wedding came. Vic was currently standing near his family courtyard welcoming guests.
He was now dressed in a long dress like outfit with long sleeves and big cuffs. His usual sash was replaced with a red one that had some intricate embroidery of wild animals and his sandals were changed for expensive leather boots. And his hair was finely washed and gathered together by a little hairpin.
"Welcome uncle and auntie."
"You look nice, Vic. I bet your future wife will be satisfied."
"Welcome grandpa and granny."
"Oh Vic, you have grown into a fine young man. I remember you when you were a little kid."
"Welcome brother and sister in law."
"Welcome miss and mister"
As a groom, it was his responsibility to welcome every guest. He bowed to everyone as they were entering the courtyard. At the noon the last guest has finally entered.
Vic was now tasked with serving food for each guest while the bride was getting ready. Serving everyone small appetizers and then the main dish and drinks with the help of his family. Vic felt tired and impatient not seeing Grace around.
It was a part of this village tradition, the groom shouldn’t see the bride for a day before the wedding. As the pair was inseparable for most time Vic felt strange and nervous. He was anticipating how Grace would look, as a bride.
After finishing his last job as a groom, he took his seat at the head of the table. Though he could start eating and drinking with everyone he was so nervous while waiting for Grace that he couldn’t take a single bite.
He started tapping his foot and constantly watched after the position of the sun. The sun going down was the sign of the bride appearing and joining her future husband. So, he was left with no other option other than waiting.
Vic didn’t know how much time has actually passed since the feast started. After a while, he got tired of waiting. As he was about to drink a cup of wine he heard the bell ringing. It caught his attention instantly, the sound of the bell indicated that the bride was going.
Guests were still eating and drinking happily, it wasn’t their first wedding nor it was their last. They all knew what will happen so they were calm. Which couldn’t be applied to Vic, knowing that he will meet Grace he grew nervous once again.
"Vic, you should meet her at the gate." his mother whispered and nudged him with her elbow.
After collecting himself he went to take Grace from her parents. It basically meant that she won't be their daughter anymore but his wife. Standing at the entrance to the courtyard Vic was waiting for Grace to come. His hands were sweaty, the last time he was so tense was when he was reeling in an old northern pike.
The sun was slowly coming down and the feast was reaching its culmination. Vic finally saw Grace coming with her parents. Though it was hard for him to figure out what changed in her outfit because it was getting darker.
His heart was beating so hard that everyone near him could've heard it, luckily he was alone. While Grace was coming closer he finally saw why she was late.
Usually, Grace wore clothes that were similar to Vic's albeit with more decorations and sometimes she wore a necklace made of nacre colored seashells. But right now she was dressed completely differently. She had a white cotton dress decorated with red silk cloth and embroidery of seashells and fish. She had a small collar-like necklace made of pearls and she wore small leather boots that matched Vic's.
When she came closer he also noticed that her lips were even redder than after kissing. Instead of her usual plain braid, her hair was braided with some decorations and beautiful flowers, shining in the firelight.
Vic's breathing stopped the moment she came near him. Just a few seconds before his heart was beating loudly but now it laid still.
Just like Vic, Grace was looking at him so they just stood there gazing at each other. Seeing this her parents laughed.
"Vic, you should take Grace and burn your old toys."
Vic was handed a small sack by Grace's dad. He took his wife's hand and went into the courtyard where the feast was going strong. With one hand holding the sack and other holding Grace, they came to the center of the courtyard. There a large campfire was burning. The bustling stopped as everyone was looking at the newlyweds now, stopping whatever they were doing.
He looked around seeing different gazes. Younger ones were looking with expectations for the ceremony to end faster so they could continue eating and drinking. Elders of the village were happy as there would be a new family. And their parents and close relatives were looking at them with love.
Finally locking his eyes with Grace's he threw the sack into the fire.
"You are beautiful Grace," Vic whispered to her.
As part of the traditions, they were now silently watching how their old wooden toys were burning up. It symbolized the ending of their youth.
The raging fire quickly swallowed these small pieces of wood. Soon they were yet another piece of charcoal and dust.
After their toys burned up they went back to where Vic was sitting, still holding their hands. Vic took a bottle of wine and poured it into the bowl while Grace did the same.
"I, Vic, take Grace as my wife, in poverty and riches, sorrows and happiness I will stay loyal and will love her until death do us part."
"I, Grace, take Vic as my husband, in poverty and riches, sorrows and happiness I will stay loyal and will love him until death do us part."
After saying the vows of marriage they handed each other bowls filled with wine and drank it. Thus the ceremony ended, Vic and Grace were officially husband and wife.
The crowd burst into applause and congratulations for the young couple. Feast resumed, with people toasting and singing praises.
"So, what are you feeling right now?" Vic asked with a big smile on his face.
"I'm feeling, actually I'm feeling sick, burp."
Vic didn’t expect such an answer. It was the happiest day of his life. Even the day when they were kissing in the forest paled in comparison to this. And Grace just told him that she was feeling sick.
"Grace, are you unhappy or something?"
"I… I don’t know I'm just not feeling well."
Jim saw that something was off so he went to help his little brother out. After listening to what happened and asking a few questions he came to conclusion.
"I think Grace it was wine, our Vic poured you too much."
"But the tradition tells us…" before Vic could end his protest
"You pour wine to a girl who didn’t eat and didn’t drink even a drop in her life, why you should abide by some old rules. You could've poured her a little bit less." Jim scoffed
To this Vic couldn't retort so he shut his mouth.
"You should drink more water and then eat something Grace and you would be alright."
"Okay." Grace was red from the alcohol. The wine was sweet and easy to drink but due to her nervousness and the fact she was hungry, it almost instantly hit her in the dead.
Before leaving Jim came close to Vic and whispered "Brother I know that first night is very important so I convinced father and mother to sleep in my house today." after slapping him on the back he added, "Go wild tonight Vic."
And so Vic was left speechless. He wanted to thank his brother yet at the same time he wanted to curse him.
Drinking lots of water and eating some fresh vegetables proved to be the right way for recovery. When the wedding was coming to an end she even drank a bit more. While beer was too bitter for her she savored the wine that had a sweet mellow taste.
As the sun went down a long time ago and the fire was slowly going down the wedding also came to a conclusion. As part of the ceremony, parents should toast at the end. Then the newly founded pair would see of guests opposite to how Vic was greeting guests alone.
As Grace's parents toasted and wished for the kids to have a happy life Olin's and his wife were next in line. As the wedding went on he was getting louder in accordance with how much he drank. Unexpectedly when it was his turn to toast he went silent.
After a few breaths of time, he looked at his son and daughter in law eyes. Although he drank a lot and his eyes were now red and moist, his gaze was still gentle. In fact, it was maybe the most gentle gaze his father gave him thought Vic.
Olin drew a big breath before he started talking. "You are still kids to me." this gained attention and some dubious stares from the crowds. Someone even chuckled loudly.
Yet Olin didn’t show any signs that he will stop here. "You are kids, kids that I love dearly. Vic my son it is truly a blessing to me that you have such a wife. Grace I do feel that it is a miracle that you love and get to marry each other." Vic and Grace were listening to him intently while his wife started patting him on the back.
He placed his earthenware cup back at the table. "Yet I'm truly sorry that we as parents couldn’t give you a better life, life as good as the one people lead in the city." The eyes of newlyweds grew moist. Olin slumped over the table. While shaking barely visible to the eyes of the people he continued with a hoarse voice.
"I will always love you as my children." he suddenly stood up, lifting his cup high in the air "So let us drink, so that your children will live an even better life than us!" After shouting this he finished his cup in a few large gulps throwing his cup down and shattering it.
Everyone cheered seeing this and started drinking while shouting "Better lives, better lives, better lives!"
Vic was touched by this, it turns out his father cared for him so much.
This little speech indicated the end of the ceremony. Guests started slowly leaving the courtyard while Vic and Grace were saying their goodbyes. The last ones to leave were their parents and Vic's brother. When he was leaving, holding their father, he winked at Vic.
Finally, the long feast was over and Vic was left alone with his wife.