Doing What’s Expected

So, this story is going to serve as both on of my answers for a DreamWidth picture prompt and my genre stretch story for the month.  The chosen genre was “Fantasy of Manners.”  I’m not sure how well I did, but it was fun to try.


ee65e7c8763f2f4c7b1a1470fb48a339It was quiet and peaceful.  There were clouds, but most were the high clouds that came with fair weather and all of them were colored brilliantly with the pinkness of the rising sun.  There was a storm on the horizon, but it seemed far away.  Carrie wasn’t worried about it.

She continued to walk along the edge of the bay as the sky grew brighter.  The sky and clouds were reflected in the rippling water.  As she continued down the beach, she listened to the cries of the gulls that wheeled overhead.

She slowed her steps as she spotted William ahead of her.  He turned and raised his hand, waving a greeting.  As she waved back, he began walking towards her.

Carrie sighed softly and pushed her hair back from her face.  Was there anything more beautiful than being on the beach as the sun rose?  She didn’t think so.

As William joined her, she said, “How much longer to we have?”

He glanced out at the bay and shrugged.  “About an hour,” he said, catching her hand.  Turning to her with a smile, he said, “Let’s make the most of it, shall we?”

Carrie nodded.  Still holding his hand in hers, she let him draw her up the beach.  “Are you going to tell me what I should expect?” she asked, her voice soft.  She had to admit that she was a little nervous.

It was normal for a man to get permission from the bride’s family.  That was a traditional formality.  Very few fathers actually said no these days.  This was different.  If the Elders didn’t like her they might actually tell William that he wasn’t allowed to marry her.  However much he might assure her that everything would be fine, she couldn’t shake the nervous feeling from her mind.

William lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it gently.  “They’ll ask you a series of questions – mostly stuff about your religious beliefs and your future plans.”  He looked over at her and added, “Having kids is rather important.”

“Well, I definitely want children,” Carrie said, nodding determinedly.  She frowned and then sighed.  “Religion… well, growing up where I did, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m from a very religious background.”

Nodding, William said, “That’s why I told you that there’s nothing to worry about, Carrie.”  He kissed her hand again and smiled.  “You have everything they’re looking for and… I love you.  You love me, right?”

“Of course,” she said, smiling.  She bounced on her toes to press her lips to his own for just a moment.  Settling back, she sighed.  “That’s all there is to it, then?”

“Those are the big things,” William said, nodding.  He continued down the beach, drawing her along with him.  “There will be some classes, to sort of let you know what you’re getting yourself in for: mostly a more detailed version of what I’ve already told you.”

Carrie pushed her hair away from her face, tucking a lock behind one ear.  “I’ll admit,” she said, “some of that stuff was a bit scary.  I’ve been trying not to think too hard on it.”

William nodded.  “Any children we do have stand a chance of inheriting my gifts,” he said.  His brows furrowed.  “There are some who, faced with that, would rather not have children or who wouldn’t even want to get involved with me.”

Nodding understanding, Carrie said, “That’s why they have the classes and the interview and all that?  Just to be sure that I’m not expecting it all to be sunshine and roses.”  When he nodded, she chuckled softly.  “I wasn’t expecting that anyway.  No marriage is every perfect and happy all the time.”

Giving her a warm smile, William nodded.  “All marriages take work,” he agreed.  Heaving a sigh and set off down the beach once more.  “Some take different kinds of work and… they’ll probably want you to learn a bit of self-defense as well.  Will that be all right?”

“I’d want to learn that anyway,” Carrie said.  She could still remember the night that she’d learned the truth about William.  It had been the most terrifying experience she’d ever gone through.  If she at least knew how to protect herself, then it might not be quite as terrifying if something like that ever happened again.

“You’ll fit right in,” William assured her.  Then, he continued up the beach to the meeting hall where the members of the community had gathered.

Konrad Engel gave them a wry smile and nodded at her.  “Did he tell you what to expect?” he asked.  When she nodded, his smile grew.  “You’ll do fine and I’m sure that the elders will love you.”

“Unlike some people,” William said, his tone lightly teasing.  He glanced over his shoulder at Carrie and said, “The elders and Konrad are forever butting heads, because Konrad tends to ignore some of the old ways.”

Shrugging, Konrad looked at Carrie.  “I’m sure you’ll be fine,” he said, his voice soft.  “I get into trouble because my baby brother is our family cross and… the elders expect him to lead the family as a result.”  His brows furrowed.  “Leading the family means attending these meetings, representing our family and voting in the town committees.”

“That kind of makes sense,” Carrie said.

Konrad grimaced.  “Except that he’s only thirteen years old,” he said.  “Half the time, the meetings are held when he should already be in bed or when he’s supposed to be in school.”

“Like today,” Carrie said.  When Konrad nodded, she grimaced.  “I can see how that would be frustrating.”  Then, she gave him a sidelong glance and added, “And the more they push, the more you push back.  Is that right?”

Konrad shrugged and then nodded.  Giving a wry laugh, he said, “I’m nothing if not stubborn.  I hate it when people tell me what to do without giving me more reasons beyond: that’s how it’s always been done.”

“Most people just do what’s expected,” William said, squeezing Carrie’s hand.  Giving her a playful wink, he added, “At least when it comes to the elders.”


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