- Previously… Augustus congratulates Clarissa on how she handled the Emily situation. Readers voted that her wedding will go smoothly.
In later years, after her children were born, after Augustus and Victoria were gone, when all the events of her youth seemed like faded pages in a novel – a few things still stood out to Clarissa about her wedding day.
It wasn’t the beautiful flower arrangements or various members of the Harwood clan – wrinkled, perfumed, hair puffed up and cheeks dusted with powder, sparkling with heirloom jewels – standing in line to kiss her on the cheek. It wasn’t the magnificent church with high-vaulted stained-glass windows and stone statues of angels gazing down at them. It wasn’t even how handsome the groom looked, beaming at her in his impeccably cut tuxedo. She did recall in great detail how beautiful she herself had looked in her long white lace gown, hair swept up on top of her head, and the way Victoria had smiled at her with more than appraising approval, with real emotion. She vaguely recalled her mother crying as she walked down the aisle, and all those girls she’d gone to school with sitting in the back rows, more jealousy painted on their faces than makeup. She remembered dancing with Augustus and the sense of belonging she had felt, strengthened by the secret they shared. She was aware of many sets of eyes on them as they swept across the room – eyes that wondered, but would never know. She recalled a great tiered cake, and for some reason, she strongly recalled the taste of the buttercream frosting as her red lips laughingly licked it from her new husband’s hands.
But the feeling she would truly never forget was one of transcendence – she felt, throughout the whole day, as though she was being lifted up to a higher realm. She saw her family – Rose, her father, her siblings – waving from down below, and she saw all the people she had known in her life down there with them. Eloise Longstreth, Richard, they all floated away as she ascended that flower-adorned ladder to the top of the world.
Not once did she think about Emily, cradling her baby in that shabby, dark room at the local inn, waiting for the answer to her letter that would never come.