Maria Dahvana Headley’s first novel, Queen of Kings, combines magic, mythology, and a love that is powerful enough to transform the landscape around it, not necessarily for the better. Those are themes you’ll find in this Nebula-nominated story as well.
They are each with someone else, but the other two people in this four-person equation are not at this wedding. They know nothing.
In the shadow of a chestnut tree, confetti in her cleavage, party favors in his pockets, they find themselves falling madly, falling utterly, falling without the use of words, into one another’s arms.
Run. There is always a monster—
No one runs. She puts her hand over her mouth and mumbles three words into her palm. She bites said hand, hard.
“What did you say?” he asks.
“I didn’t,” she answers.
So, this is what is meant when people say love at first sight. So this is what everyone has been talking about for seven thousand years.
He looks at her. He shakes his head, his brow furrowed.
They touch fingertips in the dark. Her fingerprints to his. Ridge against furrow. They fit together as though they are two parts of the same tree. He moves his hand from hers, and touches her breastbone. Her heart beats against his fingers.
“What are you?” he asks.
“What are you?” she replies, and her heart pounds so hard that the Japanese lanterns jostle and the moths sucking light there complain and reshuffle their wings.
They lean into each other, his hands moving first on her shoulders, and then on her waist, and then, rumpling the blue dress, shifting the hem upward, onto her thighs. Her mouth opens onto his mouth, and—
Then it’s done. It doesn’t take any work to make it magic. It doesn’t even take any magic to make it magic.
Sometime soon after, he carries her to the bed in his hotel room. In the morning, though she does not notice it now, the hooks that fasten her bra will be bent over backward. The black lace of her underwear will be torn.
This is what falling in love looks like. It is birds and wings and voodoo dolls pricking their fingers as they sing of desire. It is blood bond and flooded street and champagne and O, holy night.
It is Happily Ever.
Give it a minute. Soon it will be After.