Aria never had time to tell me what was going on; as she was opening her mouth to speak the Loan Sharks came again and we all rushed to Asha’s rescue. With me on one side and Aria on the other, the Loan Sharks escaped out the window just as Jay came running in. Something weird was going on – I could sense the tension, and it wasn’t just because of the impending wedding.
During the ceremony I stood next to Jay and across from Asha and Aria. I never thought I’d set foot in a wedding again after Clara, let alone be someone’s best man. Aria refused to meet my eye. The snow began to fall and all eyes were on the newlyweds – they were perfect. After the two were officially man and wife I asked Jay if it would be alright to say a few words; he didn’t care though, because he had just made Asha his wife, and I could tell nothing would make either of them happier than they were at that moment.
“I haven’t known Asha and Jay very long; in fact, there are a lot of you here who I’ve barely known at all. But the truth is, we’re all the same, and no matter where we are we can find company in each other. Some of us have secrets, and dark pasts, the rest of us are lost in ourselves. But ultimately we find what we’ve been looking for; love and acceptance. In this couple’s case,” I smiled over at Jay and Asha, “I couldn’t be happier for them. They are clearly meant for each other. I wish them all the joy in the world. Or at least an evening of peace!” There were short snatches of laughter as everyone dispersed around the room, eager to celebrate before we had to get back to business.
I watched Jay and Asha dance for a while, and then allowed myself to be absorbed in the music, and the good drink. I opened my eyes and realised Aria was sitting directly across the room from me, her bright eyes sparkling as she chatted to Cheshire. I clenched my teeth and stood abruptly. All I wanted to do was apologise, and ask her to dance; I didn’t mean to get so angry at her before. Of course I would never ask Cheshire – how could I when she waited for so long, and so patiently, to hear about my own past. And she accepted me when she found out. Ashamed again I turned and made my way up to the balcony in my room to look out over the garden. The air was peaceful and still.
I watched the night progress from my balcony; people ventured outside, the music was loud, I overheard many drunken conversations and occasionally laughed in spite of myself, but finally, everyone made their way into bed. When the sun finally rose and the sky was a strange mix of pink and blue I heard a small tap on the glass door behind me and turned groggily to see who had followed me outside.
Aria still had her makeup on from last night, but she had changed into some loose fitting pyjamas. We just stood there looking at each other for a while, she didn’t say anything. “Morning…” I ventured gruffly, and she smiled.
“Last night was great wasn't it?" I nodded. "But ya know... you missed YMCA.” She teased. “Best part of the evenin’…”
I heard others awakening and I came in off the balcony. “Do we dare go see how the new couple are doing?” I smiled warily back at Aria, trying my hardest to be polite and carefree. “I don’t want to disturb them, but from what I overheard yesterday there’s a lot of strange things going on; it wouldn't be safe for anyone to drop their guard.”
Aria paled and I hastened to reassure her it wasn’t anything to do with what had gone on between us the night before. “Those Loan Sharks were no coincidence. And I have a feeling the council is bearing down on us.”
She nodded and I followed her out of my bedroom. We met Imira in the hallway, yawning. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Aria and I emerging from my room, and smirked knowingly, apparently assuming she’d spent the night. We rushed on to Jay’s room, not wanting to give too many people the wrong impression.
Asha and Jay were already awake and we exchanged quick friendly greetings, and our congratulations. But soon a sense of seriousness washed over us all.
“So what happens now?” Aria said gravely.
“We know something’s up.” I added, “But you also know you can trust us. We’re ready to do anything.”