SIX MONTHS LATER
"Thank you so much for coming to our bersanding ceremony."
Rick paused for a moment, and surveyed the throng assembled to celebrate the third and final phase of the marriage ritual.
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Meaghan was laughing with Tina, who was looking at the henna designs adorning the bride's arms.
As if she felt his gaze, she looked up at him, warm chocolate eyes meeting his, and he momentarily lost his speech. A few individuals sent knowing looks towards her, radiant in her white and gold gown. She walked over the dais where he was standing, and placed her hand on his. He turned back to the crowd of well-wishers.
"And so begins the final, and best part – the feast!" A cheer rose up from the good-natured crowd.
"So eat up and enjoy yourselves!" The partygoers began to line up behind the bride and groom to go down the buffet line.
As they picked up their plates and walked down the table, the groom laughed to the bride, "That is an interesting combination of food."
Alongside traditional Malaysian wedding fare, plates of sushi were strategically placed next to a large tureen of spaghetti. Meaghan smiled happily.
"I wanted to include some of your favorite foods. Besides, there are foreigners here as well."
The crowd included personnel from his companies, former coworkers from the BKN, the members of his task group, relatives, and neighbours. Since the incidents in June, most of the terrorism indicators dropped down, and the Harem was disbanded.
Rickie thought it was great to see Annie, Shilah, Maya, and the others from the think-tank. In the corner of the tent, Meaghan's boss Cynthia and Hillary were chatting. His father, along with JoAnne at his side, was at a table talking with several investors. Leaf and Sethe were over by the entertainment stage; Leaf was playing an impromptu tune on her seruling while the members of the music ensemble followed her lead. Sethe was trying her hand at playing the congas and laughing.
Rickie was amazed at everything that had happened since that fateful day at Miri in May. Now he was beginning a new phase of his life at the beginning of the calendar year. He turned to the woman who was now his whole world and kissed her cheek, careful not to spill anything on the lace and satin of her traditional gown. She smiled with eyes full of love, and carefully brushed a few hidden kernels of yellow rice out of his hair.
~ ~ ~
The makan beradab was winding down as the guests left the property with final wishes for the couple's happiness.
Rickie hugged his wife, sharing a moment of peace after the hectic pace of the bersanding.
"Thank you, sayangku. Thank you for becoming my wife. I love you." He placed a hand where the neckline of lace was open, and rubbed his thumb against the curve of her collarbone, before swooping down to nibble at her lips.
After a moment, Meaghan broke away to take a breath, placing a finger against his mouth when he would try to steal another kiss.
"You'll love me even more, when I tell you a secret." She dropped her voice lower and stood on tiptoe to breathe into his ear.
"I have peppermint ice cream and cheesecake in the kitchen just for us later on."
With a whoop, Rickie picked her up and swung her around, her laughter pealing the sky. She looked into those cerulean eyes sparkling with laughter and love, and knew in her heart.
This impossible, wonderful man was hers forever.