(the short story)

        Victorian Era lovers make a run for love and marriage against the wishes of all around them.


Gretna Green, Scotland, UK; 1846

        His mother hates me, fears that I’ll take him from her, or, well actually, neither he nor I know for certain what she holds against me. But he understands this hindrance; that she wishes to post the banns for his marriage to … that other person.

        So we ran, he and I, with my aunt’s tacit approval, including giving me a gift before our late night journey began northward, to Scotland’s nearest border and the famous Blacksmiths of Gretna Green, who forge both metal and legal marriage.

        We were soaked from the rain’s downpour, literally steaming in the hot work shelter, leaving me unable to wear my aunt’s fair gift, as the smith was hot of foot to close and splash through cold puddles and slick mud to dry home and warm supper, and so we’d married without our rings, too deeply buried in my love’s valise for safekeeping, as the smith impatiently waited to legally bind us.

        And we runaways were forged together, man to woman, husband to wife, with full intent to double secure our matrimonial with a visit to a somewhat distant, but well-respected, ordained minister—in insurance against my new mother-in-law’s contrary wishes and any possible suit of that other’s frail love and family, in desiring to forever bind him in law, and with child.

        We’d been hard pressed by possible pursuit and by our own leaping hearts to be forged together as one, over the tongs of Scotland’s generous law. Now, it was done.

* * * *

        We’d arrived at this lovely, gabled inn, a room was provided, warm meal and warm blankets, too, and our clothes had gone to be cleared of travel mud and dried.

        All we wore were scratchy, woolen blankets.

        We ate in mute happiness with nervousness underlying our delicate, new bond. Words of power had been spoken in that forge’s rainproof shelter, the smith’s apprentice a witness to acknowledge our new status in sacred mutual agreement; and the minister’s extra weight of rank and piety would hold till floods ceased.

        Our meal was eaten, with only bodily consummation the next surety to our bond of runaway love as yet left undone. We put aside food and wine for later, in case we hungered and thirsted in the night, during our first night alon .

        I ran, with nerves too heightened, to the window and stared out, and stated, “The rain slows.” He came and stood behind me, he in his blanket and I in mine.

        “We’ll be able to see the minister, in the morrow, then; if the floods are well receded.”

        He stepped closer to me and we leaned together, and his arms embraced tightly around me, which meant there was only my blanket between us!

        No many layers of cinching waist stays of whalebone, no many layers of cotton petticoats and linen dress, no layers of tight waistcoat and long frock coat, nor binding, hard, and restrictive collar stock—only my one scratchy blanket on naked flesh between “my husband” and me.

        I turned and gazed up at his excellent face. I daren’t look even remotely downward.

        “Wait here,” I breathlessly said, “And close your eyes.”

        He did so, without delay or question, which is a pleasant trait in a fine-looking and intelligent man, who now belonged to me.

        “Open your eyes, darling.”

        His wide-eyed gaze fell upon me, as I knelt on our bed, covered in nothing but the extensive, virgin white lace veil my aunt had given me. He dropped his blanket, and I exclaimed, “Oh, my!” I’d never seen a grown man full naked before; and now THIS man was wholly mine. Or nearly so.

        “Come to b-bed, husband.”

        He smiled broadly at that and then gently knelt on the bed before me, just outside the circumference of the fragile material shielding his bridal prize.

        He slowly stroked my veil-draped body from temple downward, along the edges of me, with nothing but sheer covering betwixt us, absolutely nothing, save nervous restraint and pounding hearts. Nothing between my oversensitive, nude flesh and his delicately investigating fingertips.

        Only the most sheer lace, as sheer and delicate as my desire.

        I swallowed hard, as he paused and I reached for him and touched him, touched his warm, bare flesh for the first time; as well as a lace-covered hand can feel the strength and hardness of firmest flesh, hard bone, and manly hair.

        We leaned together and kissed through the veil, which forestalled his questing tongue, until, with his gaze hot, he grabbed up the delicate edge of my veil, and then—.

        He paused, and put it down, and breathlessly said, “Close your eyes, sweet girl.”

        I did, immediately, and then felt the bed shift, in my closed eye darkness, as he left and then came back, and seemed to squirm or such, before resettling into place. I heard him sigh, and then he spoke his heart.

        “Bold, gentle wife, open your eyes. I’d meant, after today’s sprint, to save these for the ceremony with the minister, but now is more fitting, before we enjoy our first night together.”

        I blushed and he held a ring of brightest gold betwixt his fingers. He slipped it on me, then handed me another, larger and of gold, but just as pure and bright with promise. I slipped it on his trembling finger.

        Then my husband removed my veil.


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--Neale Sourna

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