Deranged Marriage

By: Faith Bleasdale

Prologue



At some stage in life, most people make a marriage pact. This arrangement is an undertaking to marry someone as long as you are both unattached by the time you reach a certain age.

There are certain guidelines to follow when you are entering such a pact:

You should be much younger than the deadline you set as the marriage-pact age. This gives both parties ample time to find their destined life partners before the agreement expiry date.

It has to be a verbal commitment. No lawyers need be involved in this type of contract.

Both parties should feel vulnerable and unloved before entering the agreement.

Both parties must be intoxicated.

If you adhere to these simple guidelines, then you have made a successful marriage pact. However, the rules do not end there. They carry on into the aftermath of the ‘deal’:

Once made, it must be forgotten. A distant memory, only recalled when you are both happily married to other people.

The main condition is that once made, you do not ever intend to carry out the pact. Because destiny will wash your true love up on to your shore. It’s a bit like panic-buying: when you hear there’s going to be a shortage of something, you buy because you have to, not because you want to.

Take a word from the wise, as my mother would say, because I am now wise. I was twenty when I made my marriage pact. Without knowing the rules, I failed to adhere to some of them. Yes, I was drunk, as was he. I was vulnerable, as was he. I wasn’t in love with him; he wasn’t in love with me. We had set a ten-year deadline—adequate time to find the true loves of our lives. However, we failed, by ignoring the simplest of the rules: we didn’t make a verbal agreement, we produced a written one.

We didn’t stop there, we rolled drunkenly to the local off-licence with it and asked the man behind the counter to witness the ‘document’. Looking back, I think we took the intoxication rule a tad too far. Afterwards, we left our wayward path, returned to the rules, and forgot about it.

Then, one fateful day, it all came back to haunt me in the most unimaginable way.





Chapter One



Two Men



‘What do you wear to court?’ I screamed in frustration at my wardrobe. I was staring at rows and rows of clothes as if they would tell me. Of course they wouldn’t, clothes had a habit of refusing to answer important questions. I had been awake for hours, I felt sick and tired, and more than a tiny bit hysterical. Joe came up behind me.

‘Try to stay calm,’ he said. Like a red rag to a bull.

‘I’d like to see you try to stay calm, if you were me.’

‘Sorry.’ Joe looked suitably contrite, although none of this was his fault.

‘What do you think I should wear?’ I asked, nicely, throwing in a smile for good measure.

‘A suit,’ Joe replied.

My resolution dissolved immediately. ‘Yeah thanks, mastermind. What colour?’ I felt awful for the way I was treating him but I had no control over my bitchiness.

‘Well, I’m wearing a grey suit so wouldn’t it make sense for us to match?’

‘Yes, maybe, but I don’t own a grey suit. It’s a pity you didn’t think of that earlier.’

‘Holly Miller, I’m not your enemy. I’m on your side. Let me have a look.’ He proceeded to flick through my clothes. He was trying so hard and didn’t deserve my wrath.

I sat on the bed in a sulk while Joe worked his way through my wardrobe. I could tell by the way his back was hunched that he was worried about making the right choice. I couldn’t see his face but I could picture the look on it. His brows would be furrowed the way they did when he was concentrating, and his lips would be pursed together tightly. He was so beautiful when he was engrossed. Just as I was about to kiss him and apologise for my earlier outburst, the buzzer interrupted. I answered the intercom to my boss Francesca, and my friend and work colleague, Freddie. I waited at the door for them to climb the stairs. Within seconds and like a slightly out-of-breath fanfare, they arrived.

‘You poor lamb,’ Francesca cried, hugging me. I experienced another blast of nausea as I inhaled her generous perfume. She was such a maternal boss; it was all I could do to stop myself from crying. I chastised myself, I’m not a big cry-baby and I hate tears.

‘We’ve come to help with the outfit,’ Freddie said, giving me a kiss on the cheek and one of his famous ladykiller smiles. I stood, frozen in my dressing gown, as they pushed passed me and made their way to my bedroom.

I watched Francesca, Freddie and Joe discuss what I should wear. I stood back, nervously chewing my bottom lip. I felt invisible. Finally they decided on a navy-blue shift dress and jacket; the most conservative items in my wardrobe. For some irrational reason, the outfit made me feel even more sick. I went to the bathroom and threw up, praying no one would notice. That would have involved fuss I wasn’t equipped to deal with. Now all I had to do was dress, leave my flat, and go to court. Then it would be over. I tried to be confident, after all it wasn’t even a proper court, but I was still worried. I was in the right, I knew that, but it didn’t help that there could be another outcome, however unlikely, and that outcome could ruin my life.