in which the bluebird of happiness takes a dive
Sunlight played over Rhema van Sever’s eyelids. She let it tug her awake without hesitation. Sleep did nothing for her. What could she find in dreams that she did not already have? She pulled the comforter higher over her bare chest and nestled her shoulder blades into the mattress so that she could share her warmth with her drowsing husband. A pleasant chill trickled over her every time she thought of him. Husband. A strange word for a strange man, one that she would have to get accustomed to using.
He slept facing her, the morning light making his hair glow in a whisping shade. She liked his hair better than feather down and couldn’t resist sinking her hand in and out of the softness. His every facet fascinated her, from the hair on the back of his arms, to the exquisite line of his back, to the mole on his shoulder, to the ring on his hand. The ring was like hers in color, though not in size. Hers bulged heavily, poking into her middle and pinky finger every time she closed her left hand -- a discomfort certainly, but one that she could handle. From the moment he'd first kissed her until the moment he'd slipped that ring on her in the presence of a thousand witnesses, she hadn't had time to process what was truly happening, what this would mean for her life. But now she knew one thing.
He was all hers. And all her pieces were also his.
He was all hers. And all her pieces were also his.
Bastion opened his eyes. With a contented smile he said, “Good morning, my love.”
Lying with Bastion in the first breath of the morning, Rhema finally understood what all those fairy tales meant by ‘happily ever after.’ In fact, if she were writing her own story, those three words would have been precisely what she would have written.
But Rhema was not writing her own story, and even if she were, the next word written would have been THWACK.
Accompanying the THWACK was a small blue blur careening into and bouncing off of the window behind Bastion’s head.
“What was that?” Rhema said.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter,” he said, kissing her head.
“But it was blue.”
“Then let it be blue.”
His lips grazed her hair, her cheek, her eyes, her lips.... and something blue was on the other side of the window.
“Maybe if I....” She sat up and suddenly realized that they were both naked. Strange how easy it was to forget that.
A week ago she had been terrified of the idea. Nobody had seen her fully unclothed since she was a small child. Raised to believe that it was vulgar to display so much as her calf, Rhema had to strain to envisage nudity without shame. She’d spent her wedding day in a wash of nervousness and excitement, so much so that she almost felt grateful that the state had planned her wedding for her. And after that – she blushed still to think of it – the awkward bridal bed of princes. Witnesses listened outside their bedchamber all night to ensure the marriage had been consummated. It was not precisely how she had imagined her first night with her prince. But in the darkness, they did, slowly, discover each other. Then on their honeymoon, when the witnesses were gone, they discovered more.
Nakedness became the most natural thing in the world. In fact, the notion of wearing clothes once again seemed cumbersome and annoying. She would have to put it off for as long as possible.
Out the window, pigeons fluttered between the buildings of the London skyline. Horse hooves clattered on the pavement below. Something blue fluttered on the ledge of the window.
“Oh!” Rhema said.
On the ledge lay a stunned bluebird. Its beak slacked open. Its wings hung limp at its sides.
“Oh dear. It’s the bluebird of happiness.” Bastion chuckled.
“I think it’s concussed,” said Rhema.
Bastion laughed harder. Rhema frowned. “Why should that be funny?”
“You are the one who is funny,” he said and kissed her on the nose.
The bluebird’s chest moved up and down. It sat on its feet as it tried to come to its senses. A few times it leaned to one side or the other but would always slack back to its original position. Rhema did not find this funny. Not at all.
“Is there something we can do to help it?” she said.
“It will be fine. This happens all the time. I am not taking care of some dirty bird on our honeymoon.”
“I’m not suggesting we take it in... it’s just... what if it dies?”
“Birds die every day.”
“Not outside my window.”
Bastion drew the curtain closed.
“There’s nothing we can do, love.” He pulled her onto the bed. His hand roamed. A rush of breath and warmth aroused her memories of the night before.
But there was still something on the other side of the curtain.
“I have to check.” Rhema rolled away from him and pulled the curtain back. The bird was gone.
“Where did he go?” she said.
“He probably came to his senses and flew away. I told you he would be fine.”
“Or else he rolled off the roof.”
“No. Look at me.” Bastion guided her face toward his. “He flew.”
“He flew,” Rhema repeated, her capacity for judgment swiftly dwindling.
“Are you ready to go see the city yet, Your Highness?” said Bastion.