Okay...I lied... This is actually attempt number seven. I went back to it after I almost posted attempt number eight. I heard back from a dear, dear friend of mine and she told me to fix the seventh, as it was better. (Don't worry. I think I may do something a bit longer with number eight.) So... After frantic fixing of number seven to fit the parameters and get it in on time, without further adieu...
Oh. Wait. I'm supposed to write a toast too... :D I'm sure you can be patient enough to wait through just a few more lines before you get to my story, right? No? Oh, do be patient. A Toast to the Bride and Groom: May you always remember to seek the other's best. Enjoy every moment of every stage of this life together. It's worth it!
And now...coming in at 715 words...for the beautiful couple...
“…Until death do us part, and forever after. I choose to be united with you in this great adventure.
My soul to yours as we pass through the forms,
‘til we reach perfection on those distant shores.”
That was going to ruffle some feathers, figuratively and literally. No one had spoken the words of soul-binding in a millennium.
Justin’s answering grin was all I could’ve hoped as he repeated the last line. We hadn’t told anyone of our soul-binding; they thought it was just a wedding. A marriage contract only lasted one life cycle. Soul-binding was forever.
Before anyone could stop us, we raised our hands, palms to palms, and spoke the Word of Binding together, “Abashai-oli.” We stood there, grinning stupidly, for a few precious moments before the cacophony started.
My mother was the loudest. The shriek she let out as she mantled her wings and raked a furrow in the perch could’ve shattered glass. Father tried to calm her and had his hand nearly snapped off for the effort. They didn’t get along now that she’d passed to her avian form.
Justin, bless his heart, turned to the minister and said oh-so-calmly with that smile still on his face, “Could you please present us, so that we may greet our guests?” Like the chaos below the dais wasn’t even there.
The minister, Justin’s Uncle Charlie, stared dumbfounded for a moment before clearing his throat. “I now present Mr. and Mrs. Justin White. You may kiss the bride?” He said it like it was a question. We leaned forward…
A hand clawed into my shoulder and yanked me backwards. “I’m certainly not going to let you seal that soul-binding with a kiss, you needle-brained half-wits!” Aunt Myrtle, mother’s sister, croaked into my ear. “Your mother is so mad she’s molting!”
“No!” I reached for Justin’s outstretched hand as he was pulled away. Our fingertips brushed momentarily. My vision filled with feathers and I was buffeted backward. I raised my arm to cover my eyes. Stupid bird-brained raptor instincts! I should’ve never invited Mother! Sometimes it takes a couple years to adjust to a regeneration. It hadn’t even been one since hers.
“Let go of me!” I heard Justin cry. Then some thumps. Then Mother gave an undignified squawk and shot into the sky. I dropped my arm. Justin was standing there with a fistful of tail feathers!
I giggled, somewhat hysterically, until Cousin Bart barreled into him, knocking him to the ground. “Hey! You are ruining my wedding!” I screamed and stomped my foot, slapping Aunt Myrtle’s hand from my shoulder. “That is enough! What is the meaning of this!? This is our decision!”
Mother was circling wildly above. Perhaps she overreacted because she was so young in this avian form? All the grandparents were sitting on their perches calmly. Even Janice, Justin’s niece who tragically regenerated two years ago, was still on her perch – although noticeably agitated. Grandpa Clarence, the only grandparent still human, was actually giggling – in a wheezing kind of way.
Father stood. “Sophie, you know the stories of heartbreak – two individuals bound together through human and avian forms for the rest of their lives. There is a reason it is…discouraged. When our bodies change, sometimes our hearts do as well. You clearly haven’t thought this through…”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Justin and I have been in the archives. Yes, many soul-bonded stumble about, causing havoc in the human timeline. None of us want another Trojan War! Pietre and Julianna even had that awful public display once – What did the humans call them? – Ah, yes, Romeo and Juliet. Stupid humans, dying for love ever since. Most soul-bonded survive the trials. They’re still together, nearing perfection in both forms. Odysseus and Penelope couldn’t have remained faithful for so long without a bond that ran deeper than mere affection. A soul-binding is a commitment to seek the other’s best in every stage of life. That may look different at different times, but it’s worth it.” I glanced at Justin, rising from the ground. “He’s worth it.”
He gave me his thousand-watt smile. No one stopped him as he reached his hand to my cheek, leaned down, and kissed me.
Mother shrieked from the sky and flew off. I smiled.