Chapter 24

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THE big day had finally arrived. It was Flowerbloom, and Lily saw, first-hand, how there were so many more buds that before. The greenery was now speckled with dots of pinks and purples and reds, and she could feel the winter cold turning into warmth.

Arianna was still asleep—while she'd been exempted from soldier training because of the wedding, Bruto hadn't offered any such courtesy. So, she was walking back from the fields, rather slowly because her muscles were especially aching, when she saw how dirty her feet were.

They were covered in dried mud—it had rained during the night, so the ground was still moist. She lifted her foot to try and scratch the dirt off, and it fell to the soil in small flakes.

Lily exhaled sharply, taking a turn to the Matawa River. Arianna would have a fit if she walked in with dirty feet – the girl would likely be on edge all day, given how jittery she had been during the days leading up to her wedding. Lily was almost glad that Arlo would now have to deal with her standards of cleanliness.

She reached the stream, sitting down on a dry rock and taking her slippers off before dipping her feet into the rushing water. She sighed at its coolness, fresh and swift as it was, before reaching down and washing off the mud.

Having finished, she walked back home, knocking on the door softly to check if Arianna was up. When there was no reply, she fished out her key—having finally remembered to bring one—before unlocking it and stepping inside, shutting the door behind herself.

There was dead silence in the house. She decided to let Arianna sleep—she wouldn't look good with bags under her eyes on her wedding day—and started on breakfast, being as silent as she could.

She'd just set the food on the table when the door creaked open, and she turned to find Arianna walking out slowly. "Good morning," the girl said, yawning.

"Good morning. Are you excited?" Lily asked.

Arianna's eyebrows furrowed, "For what?"

Lily stared at her, blinking twice before replying, "Your wedding."

Arianna only stared at her, her eyes blank before they widened, and she gasped, "Oh, no. No—I'm getting married!"

"It's a happy occasion, generally," Lily added.

"It's today," Arianna said numbly.

"Yes, we've established that," Lily said, going behind the girl and pushing her into a chair, giving her the breakfast. "Eat up."

Arianna shoveled food into her mouth stiffly, as though her mind was somewhere else. Lily sighed.

"Arianna, you have until lunchtime to get ready."

At this, the girl started, and began eating much more quickly. Lily tried to stifle her smile as Arianna practically choked the food down and stood up.

"Done!"

Lily took a step closer, putting her hands on Arianna's shoulders. "Take a deep breath." Arianna did so.

"Another. Now, how are you feeling?"

"Excited. Nervous. I don't know," Arianna said, the words tumbling over each other.

"That's good. Now, listen to me. You are marrying Arlo Mascow. You have loved him for a very long time. Think about him."

The words seemed to do the job—Arianna's eyes stopped shifting, and her shoulders relaxed slightly. She smiled, "Thank you."

Lily nodded, "Now, let's get you ready. You're getting married!" Arianna's smile stretched into a wide, exuberant grin, and Lily gave her one in return.

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