Cameron Boyd had already packed up his office, but he’d left his quarters till last. He’d lived in quarters like these for most of his professional life. It felt strange to be leaving them for the last time. His uniform was hanging from the knob of the wardrobe. He would never again wear that garment which he had always put on with such pride.
Was he really doing the right thing? He had second guessed himself a dozen times since telling Bell of his decision. But each time he came to the same realisation – this was what he wanted to do. Still, he would miss military life, and he would miss the crew of this ship.
Taking one last look at his uniform, Boyd turned and walked out to door. There was a shuttle waiting for him.
* * *
It was a perfect day for a wedding on the beach. There was not a breath of wind and the sun felt warm but not too hot. It was about time that they all had a little bit of good luck. Neal Spearwood was dressed nicely, but not too formally. He hadn’t brought a suit with him from Earth, but he had a nice shirt and a reasonable pair of trousers.
They had set up a small maquis on the sand where they would exchange their vows. A few chairs had been set up for onlookers, but many were just standing. Neal was struck with the number of people who had come to witness the occasion. So many of them were unknown to him. It seemed that everybody wanted to celebrate Xinju’s first wedding. It didn’t feel like an intrusion to Neal. He was flattered that so many would take an interest.
Neal didn’t have many friends. He’d never been an overly social person, and several of the friends he did have had been left behind on Earth. He had asked Professor Toledo to be his best man. It seemed fitting. The short bald man was standing proudly by his side, wearing a full dinner suit. Why he’d chosen to bring such a garment to Xinju was beyond Neal – but the professor was a unique man.
“You almost look as nervous as the groom,” Toledo said to Captain Bell.
“Well, it may sound surprising but this is actually the first time I’ve conducted a wedding.”
“In all the years you’ve been a ship’s Captain? I’m surprised. I suppose that romance is dying.”
“Not today Professor.” Bell motioned toward Neal, who just smiled.
“I still can’t quite believe I’m doing this. It all seems too surreal. I guess it’ll feel more real later.”
“Don’t count on it Neal,” Toledo said. “I remember the day I married my late wife. If anything, the fairytale aspect of such a day only increases with time. Now after the honeymoon, that’s when the reality of marriage will settle in.”
“Well, getting married on an alien beach is about as exotic as it comes.”
Neal looked out to see if there was any sign of Laura yet. He couldn’t see anything.
“You know I think it was I that introduced the happy couple to each other,” Toledo said happily.
“Really?” Bell said.
“You know I’d forgotten that,” Neal turned his attention back to the other men. “I was a recent graduate. The professor here knew I was looking for work and thought I would make a good addition a research team being put together by a Doctoral student. That was Laura. It was the first time we ever worked together.”
“So were there any romantic flames back then?” Bell asked.
“You know I think even that far back I did have a little crush on her.”
“But nothing from her side until recently my young friend?”
Suddenly the silence was pierced by the sound of music. An officer from the Endeavour was playing the Wedding March on a violin.
Neal spun around to catch a glimpse of the wedding party moving toward them. He could see Aria Bekhit – Laura’s bride’s maid – emerging from the bushes near the mouth of the Tigris. It sounded a little silly to refer to such a commanding accomplished woman as a bride’s maid. Bekhit had run a company of some kind back on Earth, and she was becoming rather influential amongst the civilian population of Xinju.
Neal was straining to see behind Bekhit, hoping for a glimpse of Laura. The party neared the group of onlookers and began to separate so they could walk up the aisle. Neal was stunned to see that Laura was wearing a real formal wedding dress. Where had she found such a thing? Somebody must have brought one to Xinju. Neal had seen Laura covered in the mud and dust of a field trip on many occasion. He had also seen her displayed in full beauty when she was home from the field, but never before had he seen her in this light. Today, she was more stunning than she had ever been. In the past, Neal would have looked away from her beauty, embarrassed to be seen staring, but not today. Today, he took in her appearance for all it was worth.
She wore a huge grin on her face that seemed to say “Surprise!”
The music ended as Laura arrived at the maquis by his side. Captain Bell began to speak, but Neal heard very little of it. His mind was consumed with his bride.
At the appropriate time, Neal and Laura shared their vows. They had chosen personalised but still relatively traditional words.
Then came time for the ring. Chief Henderson had done a brilliant job of polishing it up for him. Someone had even attached a small stone to it. It was something a little like quartz.
Neal slide it on to Laura’s finger. It wasn’t a perfect fit but he got it on without too much difficulty.
Then Bell said the words Neal had been waiting for.
“You may now kiss your bride.”
And there – on a beach on this new planet, two long-time friends, now husband and wife, shared their first real kiss.
And further out to sea, curious eyes looked on – wondering who these alien beings were, who had invaded the shores of her world.
I am going to take a short break over December, but The Colonists Episode 3 will begin in January 2012.
Also, don’t miss The Colonists Christmas Special – Begins Christmas Eve and concludes on Boxing Day.