So I think you can probably guess what happened right about then. Yeah, it was only the biggest day of her life—it had been a big enough day already with the graduation, but then she’d added something else onto it, and boom, of course I go and screw it up.
It was the pressure, I swear. I really didn’t want to ruin anything for April.
It was funny. I’d been thinking of asking her to run off and elope after the ceremony, but when it actually came to that moment, I completely panicked.
And then my lack of coordination kicked in and well…
Larabee pushed him forward, and Clayton tripped over his own feet. He hit the floor with a wince. He hadn’t meant to do this to her—though a bit of warning would have been nice because he wouldn’t have been staring so dumbly if he’d known that this was coming. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to marry April. He did. He had just thought that when she insisted on waiting until after her graduation she meant at least a month after it or something. He hadn’t thought she’d want to do this right away. He hadn’t even thought anything of her telling him to dress nicely for the ceremony. He’d put on his best suit because she’d asked, and it didn’t—he didn’t understand why he’d missed it. Or why she’d kept it from him.
And not from Larabee.
How had Larabee talked her into that dress, anyway?
Not that the flames didn’t look nice. April looked good with those warm colors, and he would have thought she looked beautiful no matter what she wore, but she’d definitely surprised him by agreeing to wear that one. He did have a hard time believing that she had that on under her graduation robe, though.
“Sorry. Injured my pride a little. You know me and my lack of coordination.”
April shook her head. “That wasn’t what I was asking about.”
He frowned, and then he cursed loudly when he saw his hands. He’d thought that was just a part of the fall. “No! Why now? This is one of the worst possible times for this.”
“And here I thought it would be less stressful for you this way,” she muttered, moving over to his side. He took her hand and climbed back to his feet.
He shook his head as he looked around. “You deserve so much better than this.”
“It’s part of who you are, Clayton.”
“Yeah, but what bride has to deal with her future husband turning into a little kid? I mean, look at that guy up there. The judge is about two seconds away from a heart attack. How are we supposed to get married like this? We can’t. It’s—I guess there might actually be something to that whole bad luck to see the bride on the wedding day thing.”
“That’s crap, and you know it,” April insisted. She took a deep breath and looked at the judge. “Remember when we talked and I said something weird might happen during the wedding? Well, this is it. Clayton sometimes shifts ages randomly. He really is old enough to get married, though.”
“I am,” Clay agreed, wincing when he heard his voice. “And in twenty minutes, I’ll look like it again, too. And sound like it.”
The judge stared at him. And kept staring. It was one of those moments where Clayton wished the floor would open up and swallow him already. Just get it over with.
“We’ll pay you extra. Don’t go. Not yet.”
“Are you crazy? You are. Look at him.”
Clayton had to admit—his current position wrapped around the woman’s leg was kind of embarrassing—but he’d done the first thing he could think of when April’s friend said she was leaving and thrown himself at her feet, trying to keep her from going. “I’m not always five—though I seem to go back to this age a lot in random shifts; it’s a favorite in that sense—but I am actually in my mid-twenties. I went to college, and I have a degree, and I have a job. I just happen to be a genetic freak, and this happens sometimes. Remember, I showed off for your class?”
“That was a trick.”
“No, it’s actually something I can do, and if you stay twenty—well, more like seventeen more minutes, I can prove it to you. I’ll change back into my normal self. I’d change again afterward, but I need another twenty minutes for that. I know it’s weird, but it… Well, okay, it’s just weird. It’s the lamest superhero ability known to man, and it’s embarrassing as hell most of the time. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
“Well, you could add in the fact that we think you might be a part of some rogue project in genetic manipulation or something that has a whole conspiracy to go with it,” Larabee suggested, getting a glare from April and Clayton. He held up his hands. “Fine, be that way. I just thought maybe that might help her understand a bit more than you trying to bribe her or anything.”
“Oh, the world is ending. Larabee’s the voice of reason,” Clay muttered, letting go of the woman’s legs and standing up. “I’m sorry. It’s not—I didn’t mean to—I didn’t want to do this. I just wanted the wedding to go smoothly, no random shifts, just a good day for both of us for a change.”
April looked at him. “If it went smoothly, it wouldn’t be us. I thought this might help stop the random shift, but it clearly didn’t, so we’ll just have to deal with it. The judge is going to stay—I think—so if she wants to go, we’ll grab someone walking by after you’re back to yourself.”
Clay nodded. “Sounds good.”
“I could call a guy from the guild if you need me to,” Larabee offered. “They know Clayton. It should be fine.”
The teacher took a deep breath. “You’re sure this isn’t… I don’t even know what it could be other than this. I don’t want to know.”
“Look, it would be nice if I could just switch from one age to another to another to another to prove easily what I can do, but there’s a limit. I’ll knock myself out cold if I do it sooner than twenty minutes, and so I don’t. I really don’t want to go unconscious when we’ve got a wedding to finish. See? We should have eloped.”
“Ha. This is pretty close to it already. And it’s still a bit of a disaster.”
“Just a bit?”
April sighed. “I knew something was going to happen, but I’m trying to focus on the positive here. I love you, and you love me. I got my degree today. We’re going to get through this ceremony and have a good day—”
“Party at my house,” Larabee added. They gave him a look. “You have to at least come for the cake. I put gummy bears on it just like Clayton likes it.”
“For the cake, then,” Clay agreed, not really feeling like partying today. He’d ruined the wedding, and by ruining the wedding, he was kind of ruining the graduation, and so he didn’t feel like celebrating. “Has it been twenty minutes yet?”
“As simple as possible?”
“Yes, Judge. Just in case something else happens.”
“Very well. Do you?”
“And do you?”
“Congratulations. You’re married.”