The second part of this is not quite done, so here's what I have so far. More to come soon...
The gathering of white doves fluttered into the air, released at the conclusion of the wedding vows, and applause quickly followed. A happy light was in Isabella’s eyes as she looked at Owen.
“I have not been to a gathering in a very long time,” she said. “I forgot what a joy they can be.”
Owen smiled. “It pleases me to hear it.” As they moved towards a table laden with wine and fruit, her smile faded slightly.
“Gilbert was not fond of romantic occasions. But he was quite fond of celebrations, although I was not his preferred company. He much rather preferred the company of his fellows.”
“Let us not speak of such a fool as he,” said Owen. “Let us enjoy ourselves.”
She could not argue with the suggestion. On such a happy occasion, when the day was so fair and the mood so bright, she was glad to think of more pleasant topics than her husband.
With the conclusion of the ceremony, there was more to delight in than the sumptuous feast. It was an outdoor wedding, complete with games and competitions of all sorts. Sebastian had remained still and obedient during the ceremony, but now, he was restless with anticipation. Isabella could feel it in him as he walked by her side. She could see it in the way he looked from one place to the next, his eyes wide with curiosity. But as young as he was, he knew his place. He was waiting for permission to be granted, and knowing how excited he was, Isabella gently gave him a little push of encouragement.
“Allez,” she said. "Tu a permis. mais ne promenez pas trop loin."
“Go. You are permitted. But do not wander too far away.”
He dashed away, his words trailing off behind him. "Merci, Mère! "
“Thank you, mother!”
Watching him go, Isabella and Owen both smiled, and Owen remarked, “He’s a fine boy.”
Isabella’s face lit with pride. “That he is. I am so very proud of him. His intelligent mind and obedient nature will serve him well in the years to come.”
“And his boldness will add to his qualities as a knight. I have seen him in action. His aggressiveness is impressive for one so young. And he is quite an able rider.”
It felt so wonderful to hear such praise for her son. But she knew that the warm words were not meant for Sebastian alone.
“You flatter him, my lord. And so in turn, you flatter me.” Daring to look at him, despite a sudden feeling of shyness that had come over her, she saw a crinkle of amusement in the corner of his mouth.
“My plan is a success, then.”
He was doing so much to convince her of his sincerity. And how could she doubt him, after the lengths he had gone to? For a few moments they walked along, saying nothing. Then, he plucked a golden flower from a bush, offering it to her.
“I am very fond of him,” he softly said. “I am fond of you.”
Taking the flower, she lowered her eyes, feeling the warmth of a blush on her cheeks.
“When you say such things, I find myself on unsure footing.”
He sighed, but his words were gentle. “I am aware that you are unused to such kindness. But I will not cease. One day soon, you will learn to trust again.”
There was such a tender gleam in his eyes. It moved her deeply, causing her heart to quicken.
Is he moving closer to me? She wondered. Is his face really so near mine as I think it is?
For a moment, the world around them seemed to disappear. A kiss was but a moment away, and heaven help her, she longed for it.
But the sound of Sebastian’s voice interrupted them. He came running, his words rushing with excitement.
"Mon seigneur, mon seigneur! Vous devez venir! Ils ont besoin d'hommes forts! "
“My lord, my lord! You must come! They are in need of strong men!”
"Qui besoin de? " Owen asked.
“Who is in need?”
"Les villageois, à jouer au tir à la corde! "
“The villagers, to play at tug of war!”
Isabella smiled at Owen. “Go and play, my lord. You have been summoned.”
Sebastian did not wait for an answer. He clutched Owen’s arm, pulling him along, and with a grin, Owen followed. Isabella fell in step behind them, thinking what a sweet pair they made together. For a moment, she allowed herself the foolish thought of imagining them as father and son. But just as quickly as the thought came, she pushed it away, even if it was a most pleasant scenario. It was never to be. And she knew it was best not to indulge in such fantasies. It was enough that she was allowing herself to enjoy such a lovely day as this, and for the moment, she would not allow more than that.
The game, as it turned out, involved a most stunning element – men and women, divided into two teams. Isabella was standing nearby with Sebastian, watching, when a woman suddenly approached her.
"Viens, viens!" she said "Nous besoin un autre!"
“Come, come! We are in need of one more!”
Isabella’s mouth fell slightly open in surprise. Smiling, she shook her head.
“No, I could not.”
Sebastian begged her to reconsider, and it was tempting, to be sure. The mood of the day was so very merry. Still, she hesitated. “I should not indulge in such silliness.”
Tugging at her arm, the woman dismissed Isabella’s reluctance. She asked again, and Isabella looked over at Owen, who was grinning at her. With a sigh, she consented.
“I suppose there is but one life to live.”
The woman pulled her along, a grin on her face.
"C’est l’esprit, ma dame."
“That is the spirit, my lady.”
The teams had aligned themselves on either side of a mud pit, and Isabella felt herself considering the idea of backing out. But it was too late then, as she was sandwiched in between two villagers, and there was nowhere to go. Before she could prepare herself for it, the tussle back and forth began. Her hold on the rope was light, as her strength was not great, but it was the force of the crowd that moved her forward, and then back, and then forward again. Suddenly, she felt her feet losing traction. The rope gave as the players all tumbled forward, and before she could catch herself, she was falling with the crowd…right into the filthy pit.
The crowd was roaring with cheers and laughter, and looking down at herself, she was stunned by the sight of most of her dress covered in mud. It was in her hair, even, and she could feel it on her face and neck. She knew she must have been a ridiculous sight. And she began to a laugh. It was impossible not to, when everyone around her was laughing too, sharing the same filthy state of presence but having too much fun to care. At first, she hardly noticed when Sebastian and Owen came to stand nearby, she was laughing so. Sebastian was thrilled by what he saw.
“Mère!" he said, "Tu est un vision horrible!"
“Mother! You are a horrendous sight!”
Feeling very bold, freed by the moment, she reached out and snatched him by the arm, flinging him down into the mud. He squealed with delight, and she threw her arms around him, happier than she had ever been before.