The Girl, Part III
"What do you mean our special license has been denied?"
Elizabeth Mironova was already at her wit's end; less than a year of being widowed, she was already engaged to a man who was technically, legally her stepson. And she'd had no time to process it, for the next day, after agreeing to marry Adrik, a jeweler arrived to take specifications for her engagement ring. The day after that, Madame Delacroix showed up to take measurements and requests for her wedding gown. Worse still, Allegra and Clementine bombarded her with questions about cakes, decorations, and the number of people being invited.
And all the while, Iakov played piano in the background, stubbornly remaining above the madness.
Her heart had already been racing for days now as they scurried to throw a hasty wedding together. With each new question, her mind threaten to snap. And now Adrik dared to come home with no license.
"The Archbishop may have intimated this was not the first time," Adrik sighed, slumping into a chair near the fire while his new valet--a young Frenchman whose name Elizabeth could never remember--poured him a brandy. "Apparently, Her Majesty objects."
Elizabeth sank into the chair opposite him, eyes wide with anxiety on the cusp of insanity. Her voice was grating and brittle as she tried not to bellow, "What reason could the Queen possibly have for objecting our wedding?"
Iakov finally stopped playing and decided to be useful. "It sounds like the Hastings situation all over again," he shrugged.
The adults turned to him in, demanding in unison, "Hastings?"
"Mm," he nodded, before starting a new piece, playing softly. "You remember. When she demanded the Duke and Duchess declare their love before her?"
Adrik sighed loudly. "Why would the Queen care if we marry?"
Elizabeth was grim as her gathered her sleeves into a tight grip. "I suppose we have no choice but to ask her."
There was no tiny, cozy sitting room for them this time. No, this time, Queen Charlotte sat upon regally her throne, glaring down at her awkward guests while an amused Lady Danbury watched from the sidelines.
She let the silence hang between them for a while as she seemed to size them up, taking her sweet old time before stating, "I hear Cordelia Patridge has suddenly left Mayfair."
Adrik and Elizabeth exchanged confused looks, while the Queen grew impatient.
"Well? Speak!" she hissed.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Elizabeth began slowly, uncertainly. "We heard the same thing."
"Heard?" Charlotte raised an eyebrow. "It was my understanding you sent her away."
"I intended for her to visit a spa, Your Majesty," Adrik wearily replied. "But I understand she decided to go...somewhere else."
"And why would you be sending her to a spa, Lord Mironov?" the Queen batted her eyes, feigning ignorance.
"I had hoped to spare the girl any undue embarrassment, Your Majesty," he admitted, eyes down.
"So you raised that child's hopes and then dashed them all the moment you changed your mind?"
"I did not mean to 'raise' anything," Adrik pushed back, finally meeting the Queen's eyes. He shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not familiar with the ways of English courtship, Your Majesty. I merely want to be polite. Mine and the Dowager's situation is...unique."
Charlotte seemed to accept that with a slight nod. She flashed Lady Danbury a brief smirk.
"We are not young," Adrik continued, "but I love this woman more than my own life." His eyes suddenly burned with determination. "I have waited many, many years for this opportunity. WE do not want scandal, we do not even want attention. We just want to be married so we can finally live our lives out in peace."
"The two of you clearly love each other," the Queen said lowly, eyes unreadable all of a sudden. "It's obvious to anyone actually paying attention. And I can appreciate the complexity of your situation, and I admire your bravery for finally following through."
Adrik's ears pricked up. "So you will grant our special license?"
"On one condition," Charlotte nodded. "That I handle your wedding arrangements."
Adrik looked at Elizabeth, brow furrowed in confusion. "Why is this woman so obsessed with us?" he murmured in Russian.
Elizabeth sighed, shoulders slumping. "Her husband is mad, her marriage is over, and these love matches provide her solace," she explained, desperate for all this to be over.
Adrik's head rose and fell. "Ah." He turned back to the Queen. "Accepted, Your Majesty."
Well, well, dearest reader.
While Miss Patridge enjoys an impromptu excursion to parts unknown, the Dowager Countess Mironov and the new Count Mironov have announced their impending nuptials. Setting their legal familial status aside, is anyone truly surprised?
Her Majesty has taken a special interest in this most unusual Russian romance and is overseeing the wedding arrangements. Sound familiar? Surely, we all recall her disastrous attempt to wed the Viscount Bridgerton and Miss Edwina Sharma in admittedly grand display of royal splendor.
She's no doubt made clear to her latest favorites that they must follow through with this wedding...on pain of death.
Elizabeth looked up from the society pages. "The Queen tried this already?"
"I read that is was a most beautiful affair," Clementine nodded, as she oiled the Dowager's scalp and braided her hair. "Until Edwina ran crying from the altar, that is."
"Because that's when she found out her intended had feelings for her sister."
Dear God, Elizabeth cringed. That could have been us.
So far, things were moving at a good pace, and she was beginning to calm down. Her ring was complete; clear diamonds and white pearls set into gold. Her gown was mostly done, but her bridal kokoshnik was taking the most time. Apparently, Madame Delacroix had to hire help and buy out a jeweler's entire stock of pearls.
The Queen had invited only her favorite members of the ton; the wealthiest and most esteemed dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, and a sprinkling of viscountess and viscountesses. But that wasn't even the craziest part; she'd also hired a choir to sing some hymns in Russian.
Elizabeth should've been a nervous wreck, but she was calmer still; she was finally having the wedding she wanted, to the man she wanted, and in proper royal style.
I'm getting a fairy tale ending, she blinked in disbelief. Widowed, five years away from forty, and she was finally getting the dream wedding she'd wanted since girlhood. How had she gone from the unluckiest daughter in her family to the most blessed?
"You're in a good mood," Iakov smiled at his foster father, as they were fitted for their suits.
"And you haven't been," Adrik pointed out. "I wanted to give you time to speak with me about it, but at this rate, you'll take it to your grave."
Iakov paused before admitting, "Mary Anne Hallewell doesn't want to move to Russian someday. I think she was only willing to go if you married Cordelia."
Adrik sighed somberly. "To be honest, I'm not surprised." He paused, briefly looking his heir over. "You are all right?"
"I will be," Iakov nodded. "At least now I know getting married is not so bad. And next time, I can court a real Saka girl."
Adrik laughed at how quickly the young man was to move on.
"This trip to England was not so bad, I suppose," the younger man shrugged. "I didn't think I could learn anything of import down here, and yet I have."
Adrik laughed again. The sound of his own mirth was unfamiliar to him, as was this feeling of joyous calm and optimism.
"You and me both," he admitted with a nod. "You and me both."
They married in the early hours of the morning at the royal chapel, where the Queen had outdone herself transforming it into a winter-inspired wonderland. Almost everything was white, the pews adorned with white silk, the choir garbed in white robes, the Queen herself in a magnificent white gown diamonds, and a giant white wig to match.
Most of the attendees (whom the couple didn't even know) also wore white.
The bride herself wore a long white sarafan made of velvet. Her matching bridal kokoshnik had strings of pearls reaching all the way down to her waist--the longest she'd ever had them--and onlookers gasped and murmured as she walked down the aisle.
The choir sang "Voskreseniye Khristovo videvshe (Having Beheld the Resurrection of Christ)" as Elizabeth slowly approached the altar. It was a thunderous, thoroughly dramatic song, and not at all what she would've chosen for her wedding. But she was getting married on the royal coin and after what she'd heard about the Queen's track matchmaking record, she really wasn't in any position to argue.
Adrik beamed as Elizabeth came down the aisle. He stood in a resplendently tailored black suit that greatly flattered his build. And though Iakov stood as his best man, Elizabeth had no bridesmaids nor maid of honor, and she was fine with that. As far as she was concerned, most of these people were strangers and weren't even supposed to be here anyway.
The wedding passed as though in a dream, and once the couple was pronounced married, the the whole church breathed a sigh of relief.
Wow, Elizabeth blinked. That last wedding must have been a serious disaster.
Upon hearing she was now his wife, Adrik looked upon her lovingly, openly now. It was in stark contrast to the forbidden stares that had burned in his eyes all these years. Instead, he was now fond, looking forward to a quiet life together, as though a heavy weight had lifted from his shoulders.
She could feel it too, as though the past two decades melted away into a bad dream and all that was left was the bright future ahead. They shared a chaste, simple kiss, and that brief peck outdid all that came before it.
"Let's go home," Adrik murmured, and it was the most romantic thing she'd ever heard.
"After the reception," she teasingly reminded him. "The Queen will want to savor this triumph."
Next: The Girl Returns