Over the next few days, people began to arrive in preparation for the wedding, including the twins’ parents and grandparents, Uncle Alex and Aunt Ellen, Becky’s parents, sisters, brothers, friends, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. They all stopped by the house, said hello, met Nicholas and Levi, along with Levi’s new bride, then headed off to check into hotel rooms.
Levi’s mom brought Tiani’s dress from the dressmaker and Becky was politely impressed, but also noticeably envious. Levi had been right; Tiani’s dress was going to upstage the bride. Oh well. Too late now.
Their mom had already spent an exorbitant amount of time with Tiani and focused her attention now on getting to know Becky. Although there was no language barrier, there was an obvious intelligence difference between the two.
It wasn’t Becky’s fault she was brilliant. Being surrounded by PhD’s all day at work and in her neighborhood, Becky didn’t have to try to dumb-down her conversations like she did with the twins’ mom.
The bond that had formed between their mom and Tiani was recognizably more intimate, more like kindred spirits rather than in-laws.
As the wedding date approached, several things happened. Levi and Nicholas grew anxious because they knew they’d be apart again and didn’t know for how long. Becky became a stressed-out bride and was overwhelmed with everything, and Tiani withdrew into her shell again.
Two days before the wedding, Levi decided it was time to take his bride and check themselves into their hotel room at the resort where the wedding would be held. He used the excuse that he wanted a little more privacy for late-night rendezvouses, but they all knew it was time to part ways.
Levi and Tiani did enjoy the in-room Jacuzzi tub and the additional level of privacy but there was still an underlying tension to everything surrounding the wedding.
Tiani seemed reluctantly ready to go home, yet Levi wondered which home she was ready to return to, her new home in Cambridge with all its amenities, or the jungle in Guatemala where her family waited. He assumed she was homesick for her family.
The rehearsal dinner brought an additional unexpected wrinkle. Levi was expected to be Nicholas’ best man, understandably, but he would be paired up with Becky’s best friend, Simone. Tiani didn’t understand what that meant and seemed genuinely confused when Levi held out his arm and Simone draped hers through his.
In Tiani’s culture, no man would dare touch a woman who was not his wife. This betrayal went beyond jealousy. Simone was violating Tiani’s husband.
Simone almost seemed smug about the pairing. Levi got the impression that she and the other bridesmaids were whispering behind Tiani’s back.
Levi dealt with the brunt of Tiani’s jealousy that evening in their hotel room complete with a few choice words, several hours of the silent treatment, and sleeping on opposite sides of the king-sized bed they’d enjoyed thoroughly the previous evening. He knew the wedding day wasn’t going to be any easier, but Levi hoped his doting on Tiani while introducing her to everyone would help.
Repeated introductions didn’t help. At all. Levi’s hasty departure from the wedding party immediately following pictures caused whispers. He’d been right that Becky’s parents would see Tiani’s dress as implying a double wedding. They didn’t like that. This was a day for their princess, not Levi’s. He didn’t care. No matter whose wedding day this was, he would stand beside his wife.
Most guests at the wedding were oblivious to the tension within the bridal party and graciously met the beautiful and mysterious Mayan princess.
Her royal purple Magdalena satin ball gown, dressed up with a semi-transparent silk shawl in a complimentary fuchsia was just elegant enough to pass as a bridal gown, had it been white.
They had carefully removed the feathers from Tiani’s crown and woven them into a braided crown styled by Levi’s mother that morning.
As the dinner ended and the dancing began, so did the excessive drinking. This, Levi predicted, was a disaster waiting to happen. Uncle Alex said goodnight very early in the evening, not willing to sit around and watch people indulge in the activity that put him in a coma for three days. His parents, the twins’ grandparents, also excused themselves. Although the accident had happened nearly forty years prior, the memory of their son lying in a hospital bed never really stopped haunting them.
Tensions finally came to a head when several very inebriated bridesmaids made fun of Tiani’s broken English right in front her, within earshot of several other people, including Levi and the bride and groom.
Tiani turned to Levi and asked in Yucatec what they said and why. When the girls laughed at the guttural sounding language of the Mayans, multiple people gasped.
“Excuse me, ladies, Her Highness was asking me to translate for her since she gave you the benefit of doubt assuming you would never speak to anyone in such a condescending way.”
“Her Highness?” one of the girls asked with a drunk giggle. “What is she? A queen?”
“I’m sorry, have I failed to introduce my wife?” Levi said through clenched teeth, attempting to maintain some level of civility. “May I present Princess Tiani Sayid, daughter of Chief Gabor Sayid, grand-daughter of Eadrich Sayid, great-granddaughter of Emir Sayid, and great-great-granddaughter to the Crown Prince, Marcos Sayid of Mada’in Saleh.”
“Huh?” the one girl asked, more confused than humbled.
Levi stepped a little closer. “I’ll tell you what, when you can speak three languages, have lived on two continents and are the daughter of a prince, feel free to criticize others for their broken English. Seeing as how the princess started learning English last week, she’s catching on pretty quickly. Until then, learn some respect.”
Levi turned to his wife and wrapped his arm around her shoulders to lead her from the room. Before leaving he turned to his twin and Becky’s family.
“Lovely party,” Levi said. “Thank you for inviting us but we’re a little tired.”
“Levi, wait”—Nicholas tried to stop him.
“Nicholas, please let go of my arm. I’ll see you in the morning, before we leave for Guatemala.”
Nicholas did as Levi requested but the hurt in his eyes was something Levi had never seen before. He was reminded of his thought from a few days prior when he realized he would choose—and had chosen—Tiani over his twin.
The full extent of that realization hit Levi in the gut like a punch and he felt nauseated. He couldn’t leave the ballroom fast enough.