“Papa,” whispered Tilly. “Papa, I want us to sit near the front so we can see everything that's happening. Can we do that, Papa? Can we do that?”
Tilly’s shiny new shoes squeaked on the stone floor, sending echoes up to the rafters. It felt like everyone was looking. Instinctively, she reached up and held on tightly to Papa’s hand, hiding her face in his trousers. Giving her hand three gentle squeezes, Papa made his way to the front of the church. Tilly smiled.
"I love you too, Papa."
“Tilly, we are V.I.P Guests. I’ve had them reserve a special place just for us. So we can see everything. Here it is, right at the front.”
Papa slid into the pew and pulled Tilly onto his lap. She squealed with delight.
“I'm so excited, Papa,” said Tilly. Amazed by its detail, she traced her finger over the intricately carved wooden pew. “I can’t believe my big sister is getting married. And to such a handsome man.”
Tilly put her hand up and cupped her mouth.
“He is definitely handsome, isn't he, Papa?" she whispered. Her eyes, twinkling.
Papa chuckled, squeezing her.
"You know he is Tilly. He's like a handsome prince. And today, your sister is the beautiful princess.”
The congregation murmured in anticipation as a guitarist, sitting on a stool, began teasing out beautiful notes. Tilly shuffled impatiently.
“What’s happening? Can you see Papa? Is she there? Is it her?”
Papa turned, peering over the tops of the fancy hats sitting in the pews behind them.
“It’s the handsome prince and his best man.” He said. Tilly played thoughtfully with the flower in her hair.
“Can you see them? What are they wearing, Papa? What colour suits have they got on? Do they look handsome? Tell me as though it were a story, Papa. Like a bedtime story, like you do when I sleep at your house. Would you do that, Papa? Would you do that?"
Papa kissed Tilly’s forehead.
“Of course, Just like a bedtime story.”
Papa watched. The best man fiddled nervously with the grooms tie as the groom repeatedly checked his watch.
“Once upon a time, a handsome Prince—”
“Huh-Hum!” Tilly giggled. Papa raised his eyebrows.
“Ok, Ok. Once upon a time, the most handsome prince in the whole wide world.” Papa waited for Tilly’s approval before continuing. A grin spread across her face. “Was to be married to the most beautiful princess in the whole wide world. There was only one other princess that was as pretty, that was her younger sister, Tilly. Have I told you how pretty you look today?”
“Papa! Only a hundred times!” Tilly beamed as she hung her arms around his neck and lay her head on his shoulder. He smelt of freshly washed linen and soap. She nuzzled into him. "Carry on, Papa."
“The angel princess will arrive in a solid gold carriage drawn by a thousand unicorns.”
"Oh, Papa." Tilly interrupted. "Unicorns aren't real, silly."
"Her carriage to be drawn by a thousand white stallions." Tilly nodded. "They will be married in a church covered in a trillion diamonds. People say it sparkles so brightly you can see it from the moon. Its windows are encrusted with rainbow-coloured jewels from exotic far-away lands, and when she walks down the aisle, her feet won’t touch the floor. You know why Tilly?”
"Can she fly, Papa?” Tilly’s eyes widened.
“No, Tilly, she can’t fly. Not without her unicorns.” Tilly smiled. “The floor will be completely covered in white rose petals. And there will be huge bunches of pure white roses at the front of the church. It will be the most amazing wedding there has ever been in the history of weddings. And once they are married, they will live happily ever after in a huge castle. And have lots of babies."
"Yuk!" Tilly screwed her face up.
The guitarist stood and began to play the most beautiful music.
"Papa, what is that song? I’ve never heard it before. It’s wonderful.”
Papa closed his eyes and allowed his ears to absorb the sound. The notes poured into him. He steadied his voice before replying.
“It’s called A Prelude in C Major . . . It’s the same piece of music your Nana and I had at our wedding.”
Tilly put her hand up to Papa's face wiping a tear from his cheek.
"Don't cry, Papa." She lay her head back down. "I'm sure Nana's here with us today. I think she’s with us all the time. Sometimes, I can smell her perfume. I know you miss her. I miss her too.”
"Every day, Tilly. Every day."
The atmosphere in the church changed abruptly, like electricity in the air. The shuffling and whispering increased. Tilly sat up straight.
“Can you see her yet, Papa? Is it her? Is she coming?” She shuffled around impatiently.
Papa cleared his throat again.
“Yes, Tilly, it's her. She looks, she looks like an angel from heaven. An angel princess."
His voice broke again. "It's just like looking at your Nana."
He felt Tilly slide from his lap. She sat cross-legged on the cold pew with her face resting on her hands. Her curly hair, hanging over her face.
"I wish I could see Papa. I wish I could see the angel princess." Tilly said quietly. She ran her fingers along the lacey hem of her dress, feeling all the fine details. "Papa." Tilly paused. She thought for a moment. “You said that God made me blind for a reason. That I was extra special because he had chosen me. Well, I think I know what that reason was, Papa. I think God wanted me to see the world through your eyes instead.” Papa let out a tiny whimper, Tilly hesitated. "You know what, Papa? I don't think the world could look any better than it does right now. Thank you, Papa."
Papa reached for his handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes. Pulling Tilly back onto his lap, he hugged her tightly. Without hesitation, he took her hand and squeezed it gently three times before he quietly replied.
“Tilly . . . Have I told you yet how beautiful you are today?”