Brian and Jordan have their Binding ceremony. Claude also says he will do the ceremony for anyone who wants to participate. Part of the ceremony is a kiss. A little shyly, Brian kisses Jordan.
Their kiss lasted longer than either of them had intended. The clapping and cheering of their friends finally penetrated their cloud and they stepped apart, smiling. Their parents hugged them and they were pounded on the back by so many hands, they felt slightly bruised.
The other couples all wanted the Binding ceremony, so Jackie and Claude split the group and each took half. Jackie stayed at the altar and Claude led his couples to the meditation circle on the other side of the property. Brian and Jordan wandered to the treehouse and climbed up.
“I feel like I actually said wedding vows,” Jordan said.
“Yeah, me too. I know this all came at us kind of fast, but if I’d known about this ceremony, I would have done it ages ago. I love you with all my heart. So much, sometimes, it aches.”
“Right down to your balls?” she teased.
“I’m being serious here.”
“I know. Believe me, I feel the same way. Even more than my parents, you’re the center of my world.”
They leaned toward each other to kiss, but someone called from below.
“Dude, we’re about to do our thing. I want you by my side, brother.” It was Chase.
“On our way down,” Jordan called.
They hurried down the tree and were greeted by Marissa and Chase. The four of them walked over to Jackie’s group and waited until it was their turn. Jordan stood up with Marissa and Brian stood behind Chase. Nervously, the young couple stood together and recited the vows Jackie read to them. Holding hands, they exchanged their senior class rings. Marissa had to put Chase’s on her thumb and he put hers on his pinky, but all that mattered was the exchange. When it came time for them to kiss, she didn’t hesitate. Stepping close, she took his face in her hands and kissed him.
The women sighed, the men cheered loudly and they all clapped excitedly as the troubled pair sealed their Binding. Afterward, Chase held her waist and Marissa cupped his cheeks as they gazed into one another’s eyes. The other couples disperesed quietly.
“I wish we’d done this a year ago,” Chase whispered. “I knew I loved you then. I’ve loved you my whole life, it feels like. You’re a part of me like no other. I’m sorry I’ve been such a complete tool about all this.”
Marissa put her finger on his lips, following it with a kiss. “I love you, too. And I’m sorry I’ve been so difficult. Let’s put all that aside now.”
They kissed again and hugged, content with one another for the first time in years. Brian and Jordan watched from a short distance, spying unrepentently on their friends. They were so happy to see them together, they didn’t care if it was rude or not.
“Y’all want a picture?” Chase asked, barely turning his head.
“Yes, I do,” Jordan said. “Of all four of us. This is a big occasion!” She lined them up and had Brian take pictures with each of their phones.
“Why do I always get that duty?” he teasingly complained.
“You’re the tallest and have arms like a selfie stick,” Chase said with a sneer.
“Oh, well….” Brian chuckled, rubbing his nails on his shirt. “If that’s the case, I’ll just grow a few more inches. I always wanted to be six foot eight.”
“You won’t!” Jordan squeaked, smacking him. “I won’t have you be a foot and four inches taller than me!”
“True. Six foot ten,” Brian said. “Then it’s a foot and a half.”
“You’re impossible,” Jordan said. “Such a putz.”
“But I’m your putz,” he said, nibbling her earlobe. “So be nice to me.”
Chase put his arm around Marissa, pulling her close. He chanced a kiss on her throat and she didn’t stiffen up and pull away. Instead, she tilted her head so he could do it again.
“Thank you,” he whispered. “It’s the little things….” He didn’t finish the remark, merely kissed her again.
Brian and Jordan kept walking, but Chase and Marissa stopped.
“You never made a committment before,” she murmured. “You said you loved me, but everything you did made it a lie. I still can’t give you—everything, Chase. I’m not wired like that. But now I know that it’s true. Thank you.” She sniffled, tears brimming in her eyes.
Chase wiped them gently away, kissing the tip of her nose. “I’ve been a selfish fool and I’m sorry. I’ll wait as long as you want. Even if it means I give myself carpel tunnel.”
Marissa burst out laughing, shoving against his chest. “You’re such a goof!”
“But I’m your goof—body and soul.”
Behind them, to the left, from the edge of the woods, Chase sensed movement. Before he could call out or react, something flew at them. He was able to register a small projectile, but not what it was or from where. Turning so his back was to it, he pushed Marissa to the ground. Too late, he realized whatever it was had struck him. The last thing he heard was Marissa screaming his name.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes