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"Choose," she says, her beauty breathtaking in the starlight. "Say that I shall be beautiful in the day, and all shall envy you for the loveliness of your wife, and a monster in the night. A monster--" her voice trembles--"that you may not even be able to touch. Or hear yourself mocked for wedding a monster in the daylight, and know your good fortune when the sun vanishes, and you see me in your bed, lit by candles and fire."
He has known many women. He gives her his deepest, most courteous bow. "I would let the lady choose."
Her lips tremble. "If only I could. Choose."
She is, he realizes, quite, quite innocent. The corners of his mouth twitch into a smile. "Daylight, of course."
He manages to hold the smile as her loveliness dissolves, as the starlight dances across her monstrous face.
He reaches out to grab her mottled hands, now tipped with long sharp claws. "Shall we wed?" he asks, and closing his eyes, manages to place the lightest of kisses on her hairy, bumpy forehead, before swiftly withdrawing from the taste and feel.
"Yes," she whispers.
"In the morning, then," he tells her, with another bow.
In fact, it is five mornings before everything can be arranged--she needs clothing, in two sizes, a ring, a hundred other small necessities. A priest must be found, family notified, guests invited.
But when all is ready, he stands beside her in the bright morning light, clasping her hands, kissing her deeply when the ceremony is done.
Neither of them touches the wedding feast, although the guests eat heartily, congratulating him for winning such a lovely bride. He bows again, and laughing, warns his family and friends that they may not see much of her. He plans to keep her quite, quite busy by day, and expects her to be too tired to see anyone--well, anyone other than him--at night. The guests laugh at this. She flushes and looks at the ground. The guests laugh more.
When the sun is high in the sky he gives a grand bow to the wedding guests, and drags her away, back to a small manor he has purchased for them.
"We should stay," she says. "We'll miss the dancing, and your friends--"
"Do not need me just now," he interrupts. "And we have only a few hours."
"It is not that far to the manor," she tells him. "You need not worry about your friends discovering the truth."
He turns and smiles at her. "Ah, but I meant that we had only a few hours."
She gives him a puzzled look. He laughs and pulls her close to him, kissing her deeply before hurrying on. "Barely time enough for me to show you all the things I can do to and with you in daylight. Well before we have any need for candles."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 14th, 2020
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