The Bridal Canopy was a symphony of chaotic joy.
Thirty four female members of Bokumb’s family were frantically putting together the finishing touches on the bride’s dress and the garments of her attendants. The most elderly women were sitting in comfy chairs along the sides, laughing while regaling about many disaster stories from their weddings of long ago. The middle age women were arguing over the method to pleat Bokumb’s silky sash that was truest to Havpoi tradition. There were several younger girls chasing each other amongst the throng, trying to sneak away with some the bridal makeup and apply it for themselves in a concealed corner of the Bridal Canopy. And sitting in the middle was Bokumb – frustrated with the fussiness of her mother yet trying to remain a calm and collected bride-to-be. Every now and then, she would look at the cacophony that was enclosed in this great Canopy and smiled.
Havpoi custom stipulates that the size of the Bridal Canopy be proportional to the number of aunts the bride has. When the builders learned that Bokumb in fact has twelve aunts, they shook their heads in disbelief and realized they would need more material. After four full days of labor, Bokumb’s canopy was complete. It spanned nearly 25 meters across, supported by several poles to hold up the delicate saffron colored fabric. By comparison, the default Canopy size for brides with no aunts is around five meters supported by a single pole. Additional fabric draped around the perimeter ensured complete privacy to the bride and her party. The two youngest aunts were chosen as the bride’s “Shadows” to guard both entrances on opposite sides of the Canopy. Their obvious task was to ensure no one caught of a glimpse of the bride. For this wedding, however, the Shadows’ primary goal was to keep out the sunlight so that the flower buds that were meticulously coaxed to grow from Bokumb’s Locks would not bloom before the ceremony commenced.
Bokumb technically has eleven aunts, but she asked Clara to take the role of the twelfth aunt in the wedding. Clara was awestruck at the honor this request carried, considering Bokumb had to get special permission from the Elders. Bokumb insisted it wasn’t difficult to justify the inclusion of Clara as part of her family. It was because of Clara that Bokumb finished her studies on time and allowed her to take over her fathers textile business. Hours of patient tutoring each day for nine years was the only way Clara could overcome Bokumb’s mild learning disability as well as her impetuous craze for Havpoi youth of the opposite gender. Bokumb’s tenacity, humility and perseverance through those years sparked a deeper connection between her and Clara. She was even entrusted with babysitting a newly born Layne while Clara and Nevin continued their work on other Worlds. In fact, Bokumb is one of a handful of Havpoi who have seen the wonders of the Laboratory and watched a Nexus to another World come to life.
Bokumb felt wave of relief come over her when Clara and Layne entered the Canopy two hours ago. “You will not believe how crazy my mother is. She rearranged my headpiece five times because it didn’t look right!”
“Kumi, it wasn’t perfect. It looks fine now…except for this fan-reed right here. Let me get it.”
Bokumb flinched. “No, mother! It’s fine. Beside, I don’t like it when you call me Kumi. I’m not a child any more.”
Layne put a hand on the bride’s lap and rolled her eyes. “My mom still calls me ‘Lulu’, which is what she called me when i was four! I’m going to be ten soon. So I need to be called ‘Layne’. OK, mom?”
Clara looked at Bokumbs mother and laughed. “They’ll always be our babies, right? Whether they like it or not!”
“This is true, Clara. But they won’t know until they have children of their own. Which hopefully will be not very long for my little Kumi, right?”
“Mom! Let me get past this wedding first before you drive me crazy.” Bokumb paused and looked at the entrance. Then she turned to Clara. “I think someone is calling your name.”
“Yeah, I hear that too. Is that Nevin? They should be seated at the ceremony.”
Before Clara could turn around, a flash of light pierced the Canopy as the flap of the door opened briefly. In burst forth an excited and sugar-filled Liam with willowberry jam covering his face. The Shadows ran in trying to chase the boy, but he ran two full circles around his mother and Bokumb before stopping, putting his hands on his hips and exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy! I ate four tweats real fast by myself and spin around fast like the toilet in the sky!” Liam grinned and squealed as Nevin rushed in to pick him up. While a toddler boy maybe excused for his intrusion, ladies of the canopy certainly gasped disapproval at the site of an adult male in the Bridal Canopy
“Nevin! You aren’t allowed in here!” Clara said sternly as she was pushing her boys out towards the entrance. “Why are you ruining Bokumb’s wedding? And, why are you out of breath?”
Gasping, Nevin took her by the wrist and gently pulled her outside. “Honey, you weren’t answering your Communicator, and this was the only way to get you out to see it. Put these on and look at the main sun.”
Outside the winds were starting to pick up briskly. Clara squinted as her eyes adjusted to the hot sun. “Why did it get so windy? And why put these on? Nevin, what in the worlds are you talking about?” Clara placed the sun shades on her and looked up. “I’m not sure what I’m- What’s that?”
“Exactly – that’s what I said. I sent you some readings to your Comm, but I don’t think you read them. It’s a atmospheric vortex. There’s a huge hole in the sky that’s sucking out the air about eight miles above us.”
At this point, the winds were picking up and Clara had to hold her sun shades to her face. She could see the other villagers remark about the wind while holding down their head scarves lest they fly away. Leaves were strewn from the decorations surrounding the Bridal Canopy and other areas of the ceremony grounds. Clara then noticed darker clouds far into the horizon. It was all coming together. Quickly, she looked down at the her Communicator to view the analysis Nevin sent to her earlier. “My God, Nevin, the vortex! The winds! They’ll tear this-”
Nevin stopped her. “Not so loud. I don’t want there to be widespread panic. We need to get back to the Laboratory to see how to fix this.”
“Fix what? We’ve never altered a stable World before. That goes against the Code, Nevin! You can’t interfere once a world is classified as stable.”
“I know the Code, Clara. But this is different. Something changed this. Nature doesn’t plop a vortex above you for no reason. We need to get to the cable cars and to the Lab now! And I need you there. I don’t know World Chemistry like you do.”
“Is everything OK?”
Clara and Niven turned around to see Bokumb without her head dress. “Well,” Clara hesitated as she glanced at Nevin. Her husband nodded. She continued calmly yet with a seriousness Bokumb had not seen before in her tutor. “There’s a problem with Havpoi. We’re not sure what it is, but we know it’s the reason for the winds here. I can’t explain everything now, but Nevin and I need to get to the Laboratory. Believe me we wouldn’t consider leaving your wedding unless if it was absolutely necessary.”
“Well, without all my aunts present, we can’t have a wedding. The Elders won’t allow it. But that is fine, I understand. In fact, I want to come with you.”
“With us? Why?”
“Because i want to help you save our home. And if I cannot do that, at least I can watch the children so that you can concentrate.”
Nevin looked at Clara desperately. “That’s fine. Bring Bokumb and the kids. Free babysitting is always a plus. Please hurry!” Before bride-to-be could thank them, a large section of saffron roof of the canopy tore itself away, a victim of the steadily increasing winds. Bokumb could hear the ladies inside shriek as they exited frantically. She saw her mother run out with a frightened Layne in her arms. Bokumb quickly explained why she was going with the family. Surprisingly, her mother did not mind that the bride was leaving her own wedding. When it came to Nevin and Clara, there was never an argument.
“Mommy, we need to go back to the Lab, right?” Layne looked at her mother with a tear in her eye.
Clara, always impressed with her daughter’s ability to analyze and reason beyond her years, nodded her head and took her daughter’s hand. “Yes dear, Bokumb is coming with us. Your father and I need to fix Havpoi.”
“I know you can do it, Mommy.”