Who: Benjamin Macnair, Tristan Macnair
Where: Ceridwen’s Grove, Helga’s Hill
When: 23 March 2002, afternoon
It was a strange sort of date. For a start, it was platonic, even though he didn’t want it to be. Then also their surroundings — a beautiful clearing in the woods — were kind of surreal, especially with so many people there. In addition, it was a wedding, which was bound to make a bloke feel pressured somehow. Furthermore, Tristan was a bridesmaid, and he was not. She had a job to do, whereas his consisted mainly in hanging around in his dress robes and occasionally handing out handkerchiefs to crying women. He presumed they were crying at how beautiful the ceremony was rather than because Terence was now off the market, but it was never a sentiment he could understand, all the same.
Benjamin had been sneaking looks at Tristan all through the ceremony. Yes, he did want to be there to witness Gwen getting married, but his eyes were drawn to Tristan. She looked so pretty in her bridesmaid dress. At one point his mind wandered and he found himself imagining what she would look like in the wedding dress, but even he knew that was kind of premature at this point. You should at least be dating somebody before you thought about that — proper dating, not platonic protecting her from being badgered to take someone. Once the ceremony was finished, and he judged that she had done the initial sister-hugging, he went straight over. He would have liked to have been able to buy her flowers to hint at the date-like nature of the date, but bringing extra flowers to a wedding was definitely a no-no, so he arrived virtually empty-handed.
“Handkerchief?” he offered. Not quite empty handed. “I brought a stash.”
“Thank you,” Tristan said with a smile. She took the handkerchief and dabbed at the happy tears that were threatening to escape her eyes. “Wasn’t it lovely?”
Gwen looked so gorgeous and so happy. The setting was beyond anything Tristan had imagined even in all the conversations they’d had about it. Even Terence looked wonderful — happy and proud and not at all likely to bolt. He looked like a man; like a grown-up, and it surprised her a little.
Looking back at Ben, she realized he was looking very grown-up as well. She supposed they were all growing into themselves. And Ben had always been handsome.
“You look nice,” she said, ducking her head and bumping her shoulder against his in a manner that was playful if a bit awkward. “Thanks again for saving me from Issy’s plans to auction me off to the highest bidder.”
Benjamin agreed that it was lovely, and then smiled at Tristan, thinking about how lovely she was. He was so wrapped up in this thought that when Tristan complimented him he was momentarily flummoxed, rather stupidly thinking that she must have heard his thoughts, or he must have something out loud without realising it, and so she was responding. By the time he realised this wasn’t the case, she had carried on.
“Oh, it’s my pleasure,” he replied honestly. “I’d only be playing gooseberry to my sister and her boyfriend otherwise. I’d much rather be with you.”
That didn’t sound all that complimentary, now he came to think about it.
Benjamin cleared his throat and said, “You look beautiful.”
Tristan blushed. It wasn’t as if people hadn’t been telling her all day that she looked beautiful, that was the sort of thing that one was expected to say to bridesmaids, but it was different, somehow, coming from Ben.
“Thank you,” she said, smoothing the skirt of her dress rather compulsively. “Gwen chose the dresses well, I think. It’s always nice when someone takes the worry out of picking what to wear to something like this.”
And therefore prevented Issy from trying to stuff her into something the required charms to keep it from falling off.
“She always did have good taste,” Ben agreed. “Except when it comes to men, of course.” He nodded back at the main wedding crowd with a cheeky grin. In truth, Benjamin didn’t actually dislike Terence. He could be annoying, sure, but at least he was good to Gwen. Since Tristan had dated Tom, as well, Ben had begun to have more of an idea of just how bad the choices could be.
“In any case, you always seem to know the right thing to wear. I like your clothes.”