Bound in Blood

Fire rushed down Vivian’s throat and pooled in her stomach, soothing her nerves. After tonight, she would be someone’s wife. She’d never been anyone’s wife before. The tight, gnawing sensation returned to the pit of her stomach. Just a nip never hurt anyone, her granny always said. She’d only had one nip. Over and over again. She took another sip from the bottle.

A scrape on the other side of the door had her hiding the bottle away and hurrying to the washroom to brush her teeth. She wanted to be minty fresh for their first kiss. For her first kiss.

“Vivian, darling?” Her future mother-in-law called from the other side of the door before it squealed open, setting Vivian’s teeth on edge. “You’re still in your robe? Darling, you’re expected in the chapel in minutes! Come here.”

Vivian shed the robe upon command and allowed herself to be wrestled into the overly elaborate gown. Her curls threatened to jostle free of the pins as the dress went over her head, but the matronly woman’s magic had her set to rights before leading her out of the room.

They paused outside of the chapel doors where her soon to be mother pressed a kiss to her cheek and sniffed. Vivian’s heart froze. It was just a nip. Surely her new mother could not smell it on her. The woman said nothing, only reached up to pull the veil over Vivian’s eyes so that it cascaded past her hands clasped in front of her.

She could smell the stale odor of cigarettes and hear the heavy off-cadence clomping of work boots long before her father rounded the corner, staggering to them.

Her new mother left them with a tight smile. It was only proper that her father be the one to hand her off, no matter how she would prefer that the stately woman have the honor.

There were no compliments about her appearance, but when had he ever praised her? He thrust his arm at her. “Let’s get this over with.” With a flick of his hand the door swung open.

Once she married, she too could perform that magic as easily as breathing. Until she married, she carried it tight in her chest. To use the magic without a bond was to let it drift loose into the world.

At the end of the aisle was Olivia, her intended, who looked radiant in her gown of ivory lace. Her father did not wish her luck or love and Vivian would not have believed him if he had. Instead he simply knelt, removing her shoes. She kept her head held high as he retreated with her footwear.

Olivia held out her hand and Vivian took it with a quivering smile hidden behind the veil. Together they ascended the steps, their bare feet slapping against the wood. At the top of the platform was a bare patch of earth and together they stepped down. Vivian wiggled her toes, letting the dirt creep between them. It was soft and loamy and the earthy smell comforted her and reminded her of home. She felt the tension slide from her shoulders.

The high priestess approached and they held out their clasped hands, allowing the priestess to wrap strands of vines about their arms, binding them together from knuckles to elbow. The vines trailed down to the ground, brushing against the earth.

As the priestess read the marriage vows, the vines began to twist and bloom. Red pooled on their arms where the vines dug in deep, the thorns piercing into their skin. Blood dripped to the earth and from the blood a vine grew, wrapping about Olivia’s ankles.

A vine did not grow around Vivian’s.

The vine about her wrist squeezed harder. The earth at her feet grabbed at her ankles, pulling her deeper. She could move no more than Olivia could. Fear hammered in her heart. But she could not cry out, could not ask what was happening.

Maybe this was normal.

Her arm throbbed.

She felt light headed.

The earth pulled at her and now she was buried to near her knees.

And still the priestess invoked, summoning the earth to bless their union. To drink deeply from them.

The earth bubbled and belched, releasing a noxious cloud into the air.

If this was marriage, she’d had a right to be nervous.

Vivian tried to work her legs free discreetly, but the more she struggled, the faster she sank. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Olivia who was completely wrapped in vines, her head thrown back in ecstasy.

Panic choked her.

How was it that Olivia with vines about her throat could breathe while she, whose throat was free of vines, could not breathe?

The ground clutching her legs grew hard and cracked. Even the blood that continued to seep into it could not fill it with moisture.

The incantation ended abruptly.

The vines fell from their arms, turning to ash as it touched the dirt and billowing in a cloud of smoke.

“This union is not blessed.” The priestess’s words were sharp and accusatory. “The magic is incomplete.”

And it was.

Olivia’s hands tightened on hers, tugging Vivian free of the scorched earth. “But the ceremony… we are wed?”

“You are wed, but not bound.”

Olivia cupped Vivian’s head with the back of her hand, leaning in and kissing her through their veils. “Magic or no, you are mine and I am yours.”

Vivian returned her kiss, because to do anything else would be to face the crowd who would surely know that it was her magic who failed.

As they kissed, she could feel her magic bubble in her core. Magic that was all hers. Magic that chased away the burn of alcohol.

Wed but not bound, her magic was free.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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