Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chapter 1, We've Only Just Begun

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

If I thought life would calm down after finishing my season on "The One," I was sadly mistaken. Laban and I were buffeted in a whirlwind of busyness. We wanted to get married right away, and when Laban's Mom, Contessa, and my besties, Lenora and Christie, found out, we were engulfed in wedding plans. We wanted to go all out and have the shindig of the millennium. I knew it was going to take a lot to put it all together, and with my future mother-in-law, Lenora, and Christie charging in, there wasn't a prayer of relaxation.

Laban and I loved the house we'd lived in on the show, so we decided to go into negotiations with the producers to buy it. We loved Sunlit Tides, so we decided to move there. We weren't fond of heavy winters, and with the mild climate, we could grow a garden year round. It was also the perfect place to continue my work as an artist, and the house was perfect to grow the family we wanted. At least, it would be once we did some remodeling.

The day of our wedding was a beautiful sunny day. It was a good thing because with all the tears Contessa, Lenora, and Christie were shedding, I was afraid we'd need an ark if the skies opened. Most of the guests were Laban's family since he had a huge one. Me, I didn't have any blood family left. My parents were both gone and I had no siblings. It makes me extra thankful to have Christie and Lenora and their families in my life. Christie and her husband, Doug, who Lenora and I both knew since we were in school together, have a grown son, Greg. She's still young and beautiful thanks to Lenora turning her and Doug into Genies with one of her elixirs. Christie felt like the odd one out since, being human, she aged at a much faster rate than I did. Plus, with Lenora and her husband, Tyrone, being immortal, Christie knew she'd be an old woman while Lenora and I enjoyed our youth. She asked Lenora if there was anything to be done. Since Christie had always loved the story of Aladin, she found it intriguing to become a Genie. "As long as I don't have to be trapped in a lamp and look at the same decor for hundreds of years, I'm game," she'd laughed to Lenora and me just before she and Doug drank their elixirs.

I was giddy by the time I got to the church. My heart pounded out a crazy tattoo as Lenora and Christie helped me get ready. I had to admire Lenora; she was my Matron of Honor and the baker of the wedding cake. I swear, the woman must never sleep.

"I hope you brought the smelling salts. My heart is beating so hard, I fear I might faint," I said, patting my chest with a shaking hand.

"Naw. It won't be you fainting. It'll be Laban who takes a swan dive when he gets a load of you," Christie laughed as she and Lenora straightened my veil.

"You're good for my ego," I grinned. "But seriously, do I really look all right?"

"For the last time, ye look magnificently beautiful. If ye ask again, we'll start telling ye the truth." Lenora's eyes danced while mine filled with tears. I reached out to hug her tight, then brought Christie in to make it a group hug.

"Oh no! Don't you start or you'll get me going," Christie choked out. "What is it about weddings that turn otherwise sensible, mature women into blubbering idiots?"

I gave a watery grin and shook my head. "Well, mature and sensible go out the window for sure when you're the bride."

"Amen to that," Lenora said. She looked at the clock, then, smiling through tears, turned back to me. "Time to get ye married. Your groom is waiting for ye."

Since my parents were no longer alive, I had nobody to give me away. I realized I could have just walked myself down the aisle, but Lenora and Tyrone wouldn't hear of it. Since getting reconnected with Lenora, I'd become close friends with Tyrone, too, and he very sweetly offered to do the honors of giving me away. "If your parents can't, who better to give you away than your closest friends?" he'd said. I certainly couldn't argue with that.

Tyrone put a protective arm around my waist and kissed my cheek. "You're the second most beautiful bride I've ever seen."

"Best watch it or I'll just have to ditch this whole thing and run off with you," I teased him.

"That's a tempting proposition, but Lenora and Laban would never let us get away with it," he quipped.

I grinned at him and linked my arm through his. I was so glad he was here to help ease the butterflies a bit. When the music for the wedding party's entrance began, I squeezed his arm. "Gulp," I squeaked.

"You'll be fine," he said, patting my hand.

First to enter was Laban's brother and sister, Marcus and Jubilee.

After that was another brother and sister of Laban's, Torrence and Sharon.

Next came Doug and Christie.

And finally, Lenora as Matron of Honor and Laban's brother, Hassan, as Best Man.

"We're up," Tyrone said as the Bridal Chorus began.

All nervousness left me when I saw my Laban waiting for me. His face lit up as he smiled, but as he got a good eyeful of me, his smile widened and tears stood out in his eyes. My own eyes were wet when we locked gazes, and we shared a long, loving look. When I was only a few steps away, close enough for him to take my hands when I'd be given over to him, he mouthed, "I love you." I smiled such a wide smile that I was sure I'd feel it in my cheeks later on.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of Calista; goddess of fairies and those present to join this man, Laban Ralston, and this woman, Ileah Jennifer Forrester, in marriage. Marriage is an honorable estate in which two consenting adults pledge their love and lives to one another. Today, Laban and Ileah will enter this union. If anyone should show just cause as to why this couple should not be married, let him speak now or forever hold his peace." The officiant was a wizened, elderly fairy whose voice sounded like that of a much younger man.

I held my breath, letting it out slowly when nobody objected. "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?" the officiant continued.

"Her sisters and I," Tyrone said, handing my hand over to Laban, who took it in his big, warm one.

"Laban and Ileah have written their own vows, which they will share now." The officiant looked at Laban, who took an unsteady breath. He blinked and I could see that more tears were standing in his eyes.

He ran his thumb over the back of my knuckles before speaking. "Ileah Jennifer, I fell in love with you the first time I saw you. I wasn't the first in my family to appear on 'The One' but I was the first to win the prize. Ileah, you are more than a prize. You are a beautiful woman inside and out. You have a gentle heart and compassionate nature. I saw it many times over and it made me love you more and more with each passing day. How amazingly lucky I am that I get to see it and love you every day of my life going forward." His voice caught and a tear rolled down each cheek. "Ileah Jennifer, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, to love, honor, and cherish in sickness and in health. I promise to rejoice with you in happiness and cry with you in sorrow. I promise to keep myself only unto you and treasure you all the days of my life."

Beside me, Lenora, Christie, Jubilee, and Sharon were crying. That, along with seeing the love and tenderness in Laban's eyes, got me going. A sob escaped me, and for a long moment, I couldn't speak. I moved my lips, but no sound came. I swallowed hard, cleared my throat, and tried again. "Laban, I never knew what love was until I met you. I thought I did, but I was so wrong. I never imagined anything coming from me appearing on 'The One,' but I'm so grateful I was wrong. We fell into an easy rhythm as if we'd known each other all our lives. You were there when I was feeling low and always made me feel a spark of joy. You came to me with such unbidden love that it took my breath away. I, Ileah Jennifer, take you, Laban, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, to love, honor, and cherish in sickness and in health. I promise to rejoice with you in happiness and cry with you in sorrow. I promise to keep myself only unto you and treasure you all the days of my life."

Laban and I decided we wanted to recite to each other the Druid Binding Vows, both of us knowing they were irrevocable afterward. Once said to each other, we would share a bond that would allow us to feel each other even across long distances. We would know when the other walked into a room and would have heightened awareness of the other, no matter what. I put my left hand over his heart, his right had was over mine, and we joined our other hands. “If aught must be lost, it will be my honor for yours. If one must be forsaken, it will be my soul for yours. Should death come anon, it will be my life for yours. I am Given.” We said the words in unison and I doubled over as a wave of emotion crashed over me. I felt Laban grab me and knew he was feeling the same thing. He didn't say a word but I knew, for I could feel it within him. We were two people who were now one.

"Laban and Ileah will now exchange rings. The ring is a circle, a symbol of eternity," the officiant said.

Tingles shot down my fingers and through my hand as Laban slid the gold band on my finger. "In token and pledge of our constant faith and abiding love. May my love surround you as this ring surrounds your finger."

Tears still slid down my cheeks as I slid the ring onto Laban's finger. "In token and pledge of our constant faith and abiding love. May my love surround you as this ring surrounds your finger."

"With the powers vested in me, I now pronounce Laban and Ileah husband and wife. May I introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. Laban Ralston. Laban, you may kiss your bride." The officiant's eyes twinkled at us, but it was all lost on me when Laban hauled me into his arms and kissed me longingly and passionately.

At long last, I became aware of applause, cheers, and whistles. While Laban was kissing me, he and I were the only ones present. But as awareness of the others seeped into my consciousness, I grinned dazedly up at Laban. "Gosh! I'm married."

"Yeah, fancy that." He grinned back at me and both of us burst into helpless fits of uncontrollable laughter. We held onto each other and staggered up the aisle, looking like a couple drunks who were on a heavy binge.

We were hugged by everyone, including a watery-eyed Contessa. "I must say, it was a beautiful wedding. I suppose the two of you are famous now since this ceremony was filmed for that show you were on. I always say, go big or go home."

I grinned like a fool and Laban rolled his eyes at Contessa. "Oh, Mother! Ileah was already famous for her artwork. Me, I could have cared less about having it filmed for the show, honestly. All I wanted was to marry Ileah and start our life together."

"Well, at least one of my children is married. Perhaps I'll be made a grandma soon," Contessa said.

"Geez, Mother. Ileah and I are barely married and you're talking about being a grandma. Aren't you tired of babies yet?" Laban chuckled.

"It's different being a grandma. I can spoil them rotten and then send them home to Mama and Papa later on." Contessa tossed her white blond hair and smiled. "I want a parcel of grandkids to spoil."

I grinned at my mother-in-law. "We'll do our best. It'll be nice to have a big family of my own."

"Oh, Ileah, dear!" Contessa folded me into her arms. "Such a shame your family is gone. Well, you're part of us now, so you'll have more family than you'll know what to do with."

I gave a little sigh. "I do miss them, but I'm fortunate to have Lenora and Christie. They were the sisters I never had. It'll be nice to have even more sisters and some brothers." I smiled at her. "It's a good thing I have a long life ahead of me because it'll take me that long to keep everyone straight."

Contessa burst out laughing. "Don't worry, dear. They all answer to just about anything except--"

"Late for dinner," we said together. We looked at each other and waves of hilarity hit us. I liked Contessa a lot and was glad I wouldn't be getting a mother-in-law from Hell.

Everyone was in high spirits at the reception. There were smiles as far as the eye could see when Laban and I took the dance floor for our first dance as husband and wife. We glided across the floor effortlessly, and I smiled into my Laban's eyes the entire time. I giggled when we finished it off with a big dip and a long kiss.

When it was time to throw my bouquet, I knew exactly who my target was. Studying all the single ladies behind me, I took careful aim and nearly danced with glee when the bouquet sailed right into Sharon's hands.

Lenora outdid herself on the wedding cake. It was so beautiful that I almost hated to cut it. "Can't let a good cake go to waste, love," Laban whispered in my ear.

"You'd just eat it all yourself if you could," I teased my new husband.

"Are you inferring I'm a hog?" he asked, a mock hurt expression on his face.

"No, I'm calling you one outright," I fired back.

He clamped a hand to his chest as if he'd just been shot. "Not married an hour and my wife already hates me."

"Such a drama queen," I teased him again. "Poor baby."

"Will you two get on with it?" Christie yelled. "We're starving."

Laban and I giggled and cut the cake. The party was in full swing as everyone ate, laughed, and chatted. Much dancing was happening on the dance floor, the moves becoming wild and crazy as more alcohol was consumed. I was happily buzzed on champagne when Laban whispered in my ear. "Want to show 'em how a proper keg stand it done?"

A great gust of laughter escaped me as I remembered our keg stand on the show. "Laban Ralston! You want me to do a keg my dress? You've got to be kidding!"

"We can manage it," he said, his eyes dancing with mischief. "Right after that, we'll take off. It'll be an exit they'll always remember."

I was still laughing. "Classy, Ralston. Very classy."

Grinning, he pulled me to my feet and over to the keg. Even with my voluminous dress, we managed to pull it off as smoothly as we'd done on the show. Laban totally hammed it up when everyone started egging us on. Well, one thing was for certain; not only would Laban and I share a lot of love but we'd have plenty of giggles, grins, and fun along the way.

By the time we got to our limousine, we were laughing so hard that we had to lean against it for support. We could still hear the cheers erupting from the reception hall. "You are a menace, Ralston," I said through bursts of mirth.

"Ah, but you love me that way," he quipped, then held my face in his hands.

"I suppose I do," I said, slipping into his arms for a kiss.

Like Lenora and Tyrone, Laban and I decided to go to Paris on our honeymoon. I'd been to Paris many times due to my work but never in the capacity of a newly married woman on her honeymoon. I was looking forward to seeing Paris while in such a romantic frame of mind. When boarding for our plane began, Laban put his arm around me and held me snugly against his firm body. "Well, Mrs. Ralston, looks like we're off to the races."

I grinned soppily at my husband. "Yep. Let's give 'em hell, Mr. Ralston. Shall we?"

"Hell and then some," Laban replied.

As we boarded the plane, I smiled lovingly at Laban. It was the beginning of the wonderful life we both wanted. I would be sharing the rest of my days and nights with this incredible man. Life was good and I would enjoy it to the fullest.

Bonus Pics

Ileah, the beautiful bride.

The happy bride and groom.

A couple more shots of Ileah.

These two are always being romantic when I leave them up to autonomy. :)

And here are some shots at a distance of some of the wedding party. I wanted to show the bridesmaids' dresses in their entirety. Sorry for the darkness in some of them. It was taking a lot of time, both in real and Sim time, to get all this together.

Author's Note - Thanks to Shafer249 for lending me the Ralston clan for this chapter. Laban and his siblings are her creations from a 100 baby challenge.

As stated in the "About This Story" section, I would recommend reading "Ileah's Bachelorette Challenge" first if you haven't already in order to familiarize yourself with the characters. To do so, click here.

As you can see, there are crossovers from my other story "Forever in Time," which features Lenora and Tyrone Landgraab in Generation 1. Laban's sister, Sharon, can also be seen in the story. She is also seen in Jonas Landgraab's Bachelor Challenge.

The beginning of this story takes place earlier than where "Forever in Time" is right now. Lenora and Tyrone's kids would be younger, so Sharon and Jonas are obviously not together yet. Time sometimes moves at a fast clip in stories, especially Sim stories since time is sort of wonky anyway, so Sharon and Jonas together will likely make a few appearances here soon enough. You will also be seeing more crossovers from "Forever in Time" since Lenora and Tyrone are close with Laban and Ileah.

Speaking of time, I had to rack my brain on what to do about Doug and Christie. Being regular humans, their lifespan was very limited compared to Ileah and Laban as fairies and Lenora and Tyrone as immortals. Althugh not mentioned outright in the story as of now, I figure Lenora would have given Doug and Christie Ambrosia (being a Natural Cook at Level 10 of the Cooking Skill, she knows how to make it) to make them young again and then gave them the Genie elixir. With as much time that's passed, Doug and Christie would be elders or even have died otherwise. It would be sad to see The Terrific Three (as they often refer to themselves) be broken apart, so I decided to have Doug and Christie remain young and a part of their friends' lives. I'm sure we'll be seeing quite a lot of Doug and Christie.