"The Uninvited Guest" part 4
(a DA 3x03 rewrite)

"One more!" the photographer announced, holding the camera steady as he focused on the three sisters. 

"I hope so," Mary muttered through her teeth, her smile still radiate despite her discomfort.

"Is your jaw hurting from smiling so much?" Sybil teased.

Mary gave her sister a look from the corner of her eye.  “Don’t be cheeky, Mrs. Branson.”

Sybil giggled.  “Oh, clearly I struck a nerve; you only call me that when I’m on your bad side.”

"Now ladies," Edith sighed, giggling herself because she was in the "odd place" of being the referee.  The three sisters turned and faced the camera with lovely smiles that would rival the sun, and with a puff of smoke, the picture was taken.

"Oh finally," Mary sighed, straightening the skirt of her dress.  It was a rather windy day and she was surprised her hat hadn’t been blown from her head.  "Well, come on, best we go in before Papa has a panic attack."  Indeed, Robert Crawley was standing by the church doors, looking extremely agitated and glancing at his pocket watch, before lifting his eyes to the heavens and groaning. 

"Oh I know; as Granny would say, ‘a Crawley is never late’," Edith giggled.  She couldn’t stop smiling.  Even if she tried, she couldn’t stop!  This was her wedding day!  Now she understood the excitement, the nerves, the stress, and the bliss her sisters had felt when they had gone through their weddings.  No longer the one standing off to the side and watching; she was now the bride, standing in her own gown, feeling as lovely as a princess from a fairytale, and she couldn’t wait to see her future husband, standing there at the end of the aisle, ready to take his arm and make vows unto themselves, God, and the world, that they would love each other for the rest of their lives as husband and wife.  Oh indeed, she could not stop beaming!

"Edith…" she turned to Mary and looked up at her sister, a little surprised by her tone.  It sounded…urgent.  "I know that the two of us haven’t always…" she paused, as if trying to think of the right word that was both appropriate and polite.  "Well," Mary blushed, a sheepish smile gracing her pretty face.  "What I’m trying to say is that…despite what you might think…I do love you, and I am very proud and happy for you, and I wish you the very best."

Edith blushed and felt tears well up in her eyes at her sister’s words.  “Oh Mary, I—”

"Girls!?" their father groaned, stuffing his pocketwatch back into his morning coat.

The sisters sighed and gave a smile to their father.  “Coming, Papa,” they said together.

However they had not gone but two steps when the doors to the church opened, nearly hitting the Earl of Grantham in the face.

"Tom?" Sybil murmured, frowning in confusion and recognizing the worried expression on his face, despite the false smile he put on it at the sight of the three of them.

"Oh I know we’re late," Edith sighed, thinking that her brother-in-law had come out to find them.  "But I couldn’t help it, I wanted a moment with my sisters just before—"

"No, no, that’s alright," Tom reassured.  "Um…in fact…the three of us, that is, we brothers-in-law," he tried to explain with what he hoped sounded like good humor, "need a moment as well."

Sybil’s frown deepened.  While Mary and Edith looked confused, she felt an odd sense of dread, and moved as quickly as her pregnant body would allow to her husband’s side.  “Is everything alright?” she whispered, her eyes staring into his, trying to read the truth in their depths.

Tom sighed and glanced over his shoulder at the church, before turning back to his wife and whispering, “It will be; just give us a little time…”

To Be Continued…

(click here to read part one, part two, part three)