18 months later…
Marco had not expected their lavish Oudhian wedding could ever have been outdone, but he had to concede that the inaugural ceremony of Oudh’s newest monarch was indeed the most elaborate event he had ever witnessed. A delegation of dignitaries and the who’s who of the world were in attendance. And though the weather had been pleasant, he felt the heat bounce off the marble walls of the Great Hall in the palace grounds. He stood proudly beside his beautiful wife and even though he wilted in the traditional attire he had volunteered to don; he would never hope to be anywhere else but at her side in that moment.
She was a sight to behold. In her flowing robes of gold and red, he swelled with pride at her beauty and her intelligence. It was she who had made today possible. She who had changed Oudh to the thriving monarchy and she who had changed the laws so that Bismah would be crowned King. Although, she would never take the credit for it.
Yes, Bismah was indeed the true heir to the kingdom. And Leila had done everything in her power to realise this day which had come as a surprise to many. Including himself. Marco had to confess that he had never imagined Bismah as royal candidate. The bald bumbling man he had met at the auction was the last person he would have seen as king, yet here they were. And he could not imagine a better man for the job. Bismah had become a good friend and true brother of sorts.
The old Queen also stood beside Leila. In her great granmother’s arms was their one-year-old daughter, asleep. Little Aranya was the most precious angel. Marco had not thought it possible that he could love Leila more than when Leila had told him that they were going to be parents that fateful night almost 18 months ago. And he had not thought that he could fill his heart with love for another until he held his sweet Aranya in his arms for the first time. Life had become something of a delight and he had only one woman to thank for this. He would spend the rest of his life doing just that. Soon they would return to Almanacarre for the summer. They had divided their time between London, Oudh and Italy, but Almanacarre would always be their home.
“I declare you the new King of the empire known as Oudh.” The High Priest said with flourish and pomp. A crown was placed on the new king. It slid a little and was promptly repositioned. Bismah turned toward Leila and the old Queen, a look of triumph and humility on his round face.
“You have been so good for me,” Bismah told Leila after the ceremony. “For Oudh and for our dear Queen.” Bismah had yet to get used to calling the Queen, grandmother. “Thank you.”
“You have nothing to thank me for,” she said.
Later, during the equally lavish party, Marco pulled his wife out onto the path that led to the secluded garden, away from the long-drawn festivities.
Aranya had fussed a little and Mira had insisted she take the little one to their quarters earlier.
The moon was full and Marco was reminded of the night he knew he had fallen in love with Leila. Their second night on the yacht when they had dined under the stars and a fat moon.
“Do you remember…” he started as he pulled her toward him. Her laughter was like little butterflies fluttering around his heart.
She reached out and stroked his face. “Yes, I do,” she whispered, seeming to read his mind.
Both hands cupped his face and she kissed him. Her lips sweet and soft.
“You are a remarkable woman, you know that. A true leader. One that will continue to benefit this incredible country. I am so proud of you.”
She smiled. His heart swelled.
“And you are a remarkable man, husband and father. I love you.”