'You Ok Squonk?' Zee said as she sat beside me under the tree, our backs against the trunk.
'Mmm, yes I'm fine' I said looking across at her. Gone was the black hoodie and jeans and in its place was a plain white dress. Not all had changed though as on her feet were the usual pair of converse. Her blond hair hung down just over her shoulders, a slight curl in the way it fell. She looked a different person.
'You look beautiful' I said meaning every word, reaching over and hugging her.
'Thanks, Any second thoughts?'
'Well not really, maybe that we're doing it too quick and her families isn't here.'
'But do you really love Sinead?' Zee asked.
'Zee, she's the most extraordinary girl I've ever met. When I'm apart from her, I think of her all the time. She's intelligent, bright, so much fun to talk to. She takes my breath away every time I speak to her. I feel the need to hug her all the time. I pinch myself that she actually likes me as much as I like her. Yes, I love her with all my heart. I don't want to ever lose her. The other day, I saw her name appear on my wrist, she'd sent me a message, and I got goose bumps thinking about her. She makes me smile so much, I feel so happy knowing she's in my world' I said, a sparkle coming to my eye.
'Yep, I think you love her' Zee said, 'she's lucky Squonk, you are one in a million'
'I'm the lucky one Zee'
We sat together under the tree for a while, my arm around her, the mind wandered back to the hectic week we'd just had.
I remembered the journey back up from Barnsley on the train. We'd abandoned the car in the town centre and like fugitives clung to the shadows to reach the railway station. We bought tickets to Newcastle and settled down on the first train to York. My eyes scanned the platform anxiously looking for any GS members that may be looking for us. As the train pulled out of the station we'd all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
It had been dark when we arrives at Newcastle station. Jacqueline had been alerted to our predicament by Ahlaam and picked us up at the station, this time in a beaten up Transit Van. On arrival back at camp we'd collapsed into our tents and slept until the next morning.
Our films and accounts had been taken to the resistance headquarters. We were told that they were analysing them. We all found it difficult to come to terms with the violence that we'd witnessed at the camp, the distress and images flittered across my mind during those long nights. We heard through Jacqueline that people had started disappearing from the camps.
I think I was spurred on by this event and the thought that things were getting worse, rather than better, Sinead and I had brought forward our wedding. Originally we were to get married nearer home, but we'd been persuaded to get married at the Movellians camp. We could always, if things worked out have another wedding when we went home. Jacqueline had arranged for a local vicar, Geraldine to conduct the service. Geraldine looked really like Dawn French although she had a North Country accent that came strongly through.
Everyone had been excited about the wedding, it had lifted the spirits of our little camp so much, pushing all the events of the last few days into the background. Jacqueline had driven everyone off into Newcastle to buy some dresses and they'd come back with bags and giggles. It was really heart-warming to see them in such happy frames of mind. The week had been a nice break and the chance to catch up. We'd talked long into the night and got to know each other a lot better. I felt really at home with my new family. I never wanted anything to come between us.
The girls were all preparing to be bridesmaids when Sinead suddenly asked who was going to be my best man. I hadn't really ever had any strong male friends and those I did were nowhere near. In the past year my best friend had been Sinead. I didn't quite know who I could have or even if it was that important. I'd looked down at them, their faces smiling back at mine.
'Why don't you pick one of the girls?' Sinead had said
That was easier said than done. Who would I pick and would the others be offended if I didn't chose them? What I didn't want to do was offend any of them.
However in my heart I knew instantly who I'd choose. The one person out of my entire group of online family that I felt most at home with.
'Well if you guys are OK with it, I'd like Zee to be my best man' I'd said. From the look on Zee’s face I’d picked the right one.
So here we were, the day of the wedding. I have to admit to being nervous, really nervous. Zee sensed my tension building up and squeezed me.
'It'll be fine Squonk,' she reassured me, 'just think of the positives and focus on them.'
I smiled and we chatted for the next half an hour about nothing in particular, just passing the time, I could always talk to Zee.
Ahlaam appeared eventually from the direction of the mess tent, where they were all getting ready. She was dressed in a beautiful full length costume. A luxurious shade of purple with a bold gold design woven into it.
'You ready Squonk?' she asked.
I nodded and lifted myself to my feet, brushing the dust off my trousers. Zee straightened my tie for me.
'You'll do Squonk' she said kissing me lightly on the cheek, before tweaking my nose, typical Zee.
At one edge of the clearing a table had been made into a makeshift altar. A white tablecloth draped over the table gave a grander to the occasion. A large brass cross stood in the centre. Highly polished it reflected the suns rays around the clearing. Simple flowers adorned the table. Standing in front of the altar was the vicar. She looked even more like Dawn French with her cassock on than she did before. I smiled to myself at the irony of it.
I noticed quite a few people that I didn't know gathered around us. Some young, some old. I knew that Jacqueline had brought some members of the resistance to the wedding. Apparently it had been the talk of the resistance for the last week. We'd received many messages on our wristbands wishing us luck for the future. It was a beautiful day. The birds were singing away in the trees, music fit for this crazy wedding.
I stood beside Zee at the altar waiting for Sinead to appear. It seemed ages before I heard a bit of a commotion behind me and a lot of giggling as Prez and Ahlaam from the mess tent. Prez was Prez, obviously having being talked into a dress, she was determined to stamp her own mark on it. That mark was her trademark knife strapped over the white dress. She looked like a pint sized version of Xena, warrior princess. The flap opened again and out came Lily and EH. They were all wearing the same simple white dress, each giving it their own touches. Lily had simply placed a flower in her hair, a lily of course. EH looked a different person, so often I'd seen her in just jeans and a football top, now she looked stunning in the white dress, a red band adorning her hair, a huge smile on her tender face.
Finally the flap opened and Jacqueline appeared holding the tent open so Sinead could exit. She looked across at me, a huge smile on my face. Her beauty and radiance shone through. You could see how happy she was. I don't think I'd ever seen her looking so beautiful. She wore a long white dress with quite a bit of lace in the design. The dress clung to her figure before falling to the floor. She looked like a Disney princess. Someone had taken time to do her hair as it had added curls which fell and framed her facial features. In her hair she wore jasmine flowers which contrasted well with the darkness of her hair colour.
My heart skipped a beat as she approached me at the altar. I was so lucky. She actually loved me as much as I loved her. I still couldn't believe my luck. Sometimes in life, love is one sided, one will love the other without it ever being reciprocated. Lucky for me Sinead loved me as much as I loved her. I thought back to the days when we'd spent time apart, how my heart yearned for the day we'd be together, for the day I could take her into my arms and hug her. I knew she felt exactly the same from the text conversations we'd had during that period.
Eventually Sinead stood beside me at the altar. Zee patted me on the shoulder and stepped back. I hardly heard the vicars words as I gazed into Sinead's eyes. They say if you look deep enough and long enough into the eyes of a loved one you see their very soul and can see their most inner most thoughts. As I looked all I saw was love and happiness. I felt a tear escape my eyes. This was getting habit forming, too much emotion, what would people think of me?
'Squonk, it's your turn' I heard Zee say quietly.
I looked around at the faces around me. Obviously I'd been oblivious to what was going on.
I looked expectantly at the vicar.
'Your vows, I believe Sinead and yourself wrote some things that you want to say to each other?'
We'd both written our own vows, something that meant something special to the other. Neither of us knew what the other had put down, each wanting to keep it a secret from the other. I'd started with lyrics from an old song, that always reminded me of Sinead.
'Hold you in my arms, I just wanted to hold you in my arms. My life you electrify my life, let's conspire to ignite all the souls that would die just to feel alive. Sinead I promise that I will never ever stray from making your life fill with laughter and happiness. I can't promise you that I will lobe you all your life, but I will love you every day of my life. You are my rock, my purpose, my reason for living, will you accept me as your husband ' I said gazing into those gorgeous green eyes.
I saw tears in her eyes as well as she listened to my words. A smile as exquisite on her face before. At that moment in time I thought I was the luckiest person on this fair earth.
'Oh Tom,' she said, 'Yes. My turn and this is so funny'
I cocked my head and looked quizzically at her.
'Hold you in my arms, I just wanted to hold you in my arms. My life you electrify my life, let's conspire to ignite all the souls that would die just to feel alive'
She'd picked the exact same start as me, of all the songs, of all the words. We truly were meant to be.
As I listened I became distracted by a red light that seemed to be buzzing around us. It settled on Sinead's breast looking strange against the white fabric. I heard a distant thud, I think behind me and heard something whistle past my ear before I saw the red on Sinead start to grow. At first it looked like a flower slowly unfurling, I felt warm liquid splash into my face covering my cheeks. Then the bloom started to get much larger. Sinead had stopped talking. She looked down and suddenly her legs gave way and she fell to the floor. It all happened so quickly, I stumbled down beside her, still holding her hands, hands that had become cold and felt disconnected from the rest of her body. Like in the films, it was a though I was in a bubble, time slower for me than the outside world. A blur around me as I was so focussed on Sinead.
She lay on the ground. I could see the colour bleeding away from her face. Her lips quivered as she tried to comprehend exactly what had happened. All the time a pool of scarlet red blood poured from her body contrasting with the green floor. She tried to speak, her voice coming between rasping breaths. I stroked her hair, the jasmine flowers now lying in the blood on the floor, the whiteness looking out of place in the growing red carpet.
'It'll be alright, I promise,' I said maybe trying to convince myself. I don't think she heard me. a bright red froth appeared from her mouth. She coughed twice, her eyes which were looking into mine then becoming lifeless as I felt her existence ebb away.
'Sinead,' I yelled uselessly at her limp body, blood no longer flowing from her wounds as the floor had bled her dry. I kissed her lips, trying to lift her into my arms.
'Squonk, it's time to go' I heard a voice say, a hand on my shoulder. I looked around and saw hell was breaking lose in this makeshift chapel. People lay on the ground with various wounds. I shook the hand away. I was staying put with Sinead.
'Squonk, we need to get out of here now' this time I recognised Zee's voice. I looked up at her. Her white dress was splattered with blood, Sinead's blood, her blonde hair covered matted slightly.
'Christ Squonk, she's dead, there's no need to stay, she wouldn't want you to die as well' Zee tried again this time with more urgency.
I shook my head and continued to cradle Sinead's body.
'Squonk, now. We need you, she doesn't anymore. You promised to be there for her life' Zee said her voice now full of anger. She tugged my arm violently now, 'we'll all get killed if you don't move and I’m not leaving you, do you want me to die as well?'
I saw Lily, EH and Ahlaam waiting crouched down in the trees. Looking the other way I saw our wedding guests brandishing automatic weapons firing into the trees behind us. Many lay lifeless on the ground, their bodies being used as makeshift walls for those who were still fighting.
'Now Squonk, for me' Zee was pleading now, I saw the fear etched onto her face. I kissed Sinead for the last time tasting the blood on her lips.
'Love you angel' I said as I let go of her body for the final time. I took Zee's hand and half ran towards the others. Prez, had finally got her hands on a weapon and walked behind us spraying the treeline with a hail of bullets.
We sank further and further into the woods anxious to put as much distance as we could between us and whoever was attacking us. We eventually arrived at an old bread van. We were pushed inside and driven off. I looked around me in disbelief. Apart from Prez, who was cradling her new best friend in her arms, the rest of us were shocked. The look of total disbelief on the faces was evident. I was still holding Zee's hand, somehow it gave me comfort.
I was against violence, but now they'd taken away the person most dear to me in all the world. They had personalised the struggle now. All I had left were my e-sisters. I would strike the Govians where it hurt, we would not stop until they were gone, whatever it took.