But she had already gained back the ground from her last fall and had only a few yards left to scale. The chapel was mostly hidden by overhanging boulders, with just the tip of the steeple jutting out above them. Reaching the boulders and using what little strength she had left, she attempted to pull herself up. At last! The bride could see the full chapel only yards in front of her. Yet she could not seem to muster enough power to bring her body over the last hurdle for suddenly her feet slipped and were left dangling in the air. She held on for dear life, but her arms were too exhausted to maintain their grip and she felt them begin to give way.
“No,” she gasped frantically as tears streamed down her dirty cheeks, “Not when I’ve come this far… not when I’ve come this far!”
Her fingers slipped.
Yet instead of plummeting to her death, the bride felt her arm grasped by a warm, strong hand that gently pulled her exhausted form over the last obstacle. The owner of the strong arm slowly placed her on the few feet of grassy ground between the chapel and the cliff. The hair that covered the bride’s eyes was softly pulled away to reveal to her… the old usher. Stroking her hair with his fingers and gazing at her with tear-filled eyes he whispered, “Well done.”
The bride burst into tears, as all the emotion and strain from the journey finally hit her tired frame. But the usher merely took her into his arms and let her cry. After some time he said, “Come, they are waiting for you.”
“I can’t go in like this,” she said, more tears spilling over.
“Like this?” was his reply as he raised her to her feet. “What fault do you find in your appearance?”
The bride looked at him incredulously but then followed his gaze onto her wedding gown. What surprise awaited her there! No longer was her dress torn, her limbs dirty, or hands bloody. Where each rent in her gown had been now was a cluster of diamonds and roses, as though a mist of beauty had melted together to weld each tear. The dirt and sand merely cleansed and purified the skin both on her limbs and face, making them clear as cream and her cheeks soft and rosy. The wind had gently untangled and whisked her hair into a stunning design, leaving it sprayed delicately with tiny diamonds. The bride’s lips had been seared to perfection by the sun’s rays, presently having a natural shade of ruby red.
Looking deeply into her eyes the usher explained, “No longer are you the plain, simple beauty from before your journey. Along the path you were purified, refined, and enriched to a deeper level of beauty. Because you were willing to take that course, one that many scoff at and ridicule, and because you fought the battle against many obstacles including yourself, your dream to save the revealing of your beauty for your future husband can now come true. My child, it is the very glory of your purity and innocence that makes you stunning.”
Tears and a smile of infinite relief, happiness, and contentment passed over the face of the bride. The usher gently led her to the door where he then motioned for her to wait as he brought the father-of-the-bride. She waited but could not resist the urge to peek into the room to see her lover. She cracked the door ajar. There he was, standing at the altar; waiting for her. His back was towards her, but his tall form still sent a surge of joy to her heart.
“Turn around, my darling,” she whispered, “I want to see your face.”
As though answering her request, the groom turned around to face the aisle. But oh! His face was still covered by a stand of pure white flowers.
“Not yet,” the usher’s voice said as he reached the bride with her father following behind, “His face will be revealed to you soon.”
“Take my arm, honey,” said the father-of-the-bride.
With a smile of complete and utter happiness, the bride took her father’s arm and cast a look of infinite gratitude to the usher.
“See, my child” He nodded, while a tear glistened in his soft eyes, “It is worth it.”
Suddenly the doors swung open, everyone rose to their feet, and the sweet strains of violin music began to play as the bride took her first step down the aisle. And then…
I woke up.