The International Writers Magazine
: Faux Marriage

And I Thee Wed  
Joseph Grant

The nervous minister glanced at the time again and waited on the barren hillside looking steadily for any signs of the impending and very late wedding party. Next to the minister stood the minister’s secretary, as the official witness had not even bothered to show. The waiting continued. 

A soft breeze caressed the knoll and kicked up a swirl of caramel colored dirt that dusted the tips of the cleric’s glossy black shoes. The cleric sighed and brushed at them for a few seconds. When the minister looked up, the first of the wedding party could be seen arriving around the narrow bend below.

A gleaming black car pulled to the side of the road and stopped. The breaks squealed. After a few anxious moments, the side door flung open, spilling forth an ostensible, red-eyed groom, glass in hand. The rest of the party piled out in a stumbling, hoarse-filled roar. The apparent groom guzzled the rest of his drink and handed it to one of his party who then handed it to the driver. By the way the driver snapped the glass from the young man’s hand, it was obvious to the minister that this party had been difficult. It was true in the way they stood and it was true in the way their drunken cries filled the echo of the dew-filled air. It was obvious that the bachelor party had not yet ended from the night before. The cleric’s head slowly shook from side to side.

A second car pulled up in front of the first and parked. The driver immediately stepped out and gallantly opened the door for the awaiting party. The bridesmaids, followed by the maid of honor, slipped out of the coach gracefully. Each were given assistance by the driver and each bowed daintily enough so as not to let their perfectly coifed hair touch the topside of the car door.

Unfortunately, each delicate egress was met by a disparaging remark from those first arrived. The commentary ranged from the randomly amusing to the drunkenly insidious to just plain rude. All of this shocked the minister, but what was even more shocking were the equally crude answers given by the elegantly dressed bridal party.

Any further remarks were better left unsaid as the bride-to-be breathlessly emerged from the vehicle. The minister looked at the wavering, still-drunk groom and the portrait perfect bride and began to voice her doubts to the secretary. The secretary smirked, shook his head and agreed.

As the smiling, lovely young woman inched her way up the hill, her groom held back. He thought of the waning moments as a bachelor and could almost physically see them growing smaller and more distant with each oncoming step. The sense of loss gathered slowly upon his shoulders until he could feel the touch of every girl he would never bed weigh him down to the girl now at his side.

The familiar words began their ritualistic chant and echoed in his head. He smirked drunkenly at how surreal it all seemed. How detached it all was from the truth. He knew all the players, all their foibles, all their lies and all their infidelities. How each of them stood upon that hilltop, smiling falsely in the sun, dressed far too ceremoniously and far above their means. The garish costuming of the bridesmaids, one of whom he had slept with. How his normally ill mannered friends were suddenly stifled by the austerity of it all. The rigidity and solemnity of the minister. It struck him as some sort of bizarre reality play in which he was taking part. His legs began to tremble. He grasped at Kim’s hand as he always did in moments of weakness but found to his surprise that her usually firm grip seemed lifeless and clay-like in his. The words of this ritual play turned to him.

“Julian, we are gathered here on this hill to witness the bond between you and Kim to become much more than a bond but a commitment.” The rent-a-God addressed him, invoking some sort of ancient deity off-stage. Julian had heard these lines a thousand times before at every wedding ceremony and every bad movie ever made but now they were directed at him. The words began to wake him from his current drunken torpor.

Julian’s eyes darted to his side and for a split second, he was not nervous. Then, the reality hit him like. By God, I’m marrying Kim! The words exploded in his still-fuzzy mind. As if on cue, his knees buckled.
His eyes fell onto the cleric. Christ, who the hell is this? He had nearly no recollection of how he got here, of walking up the hill, drunk as he was and still was. He studied the person who was marrying him, all her imperfections, moles and all; her polished make-up and gaudy dress and wondered what in the hell he had been thinking. For that matter, what they had both been thinking?

For the person who stood before them, reading some sort of god-awful Scripture was anything but holy. She reminded Julian of one of those sad, post-menopausal women that came to happy hour at the local bar and who stayed far too long and far past an hour that ceased to be anything but mirthless.
Rotund, jowly and indifferent, the minister’s dead monotone did nothing to allay the fears in Julian’s mind. He wished to be elsewhere.

He looked at Kim. She shot him an icy glance, nothing more. He knew she was pissed at him for going out last night and not stumbling in until 3 o’clock this morning. Her vague attempt at a smile was not one of adoration but one of smug satisfaction that told him she knew he felt like absolute hell this morning. She did not know of the Bloody Mary’s he had consumed on the drive over. Nor had she any idea of where had been or whom he had been with last night. It was a hell of a way to start a marriage.

His concentration fell upon the words that fell from the jagged-toothed gape of the minister. It was a mouth of lies, one he instantly disliked and instantly distrusted. Yet, she was the one who would bind them together for all eternity, however long that would take.

“Do you, Julian, take Kim, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, from this day forward..” Was all he heard until his mind began to roam. He gazed out at a boat sailing off out of the harbor for a while and thought of the night before and looked at her and then as she noticed his gaze,he looked quickly away.  A smile crept across his lips, but quickly faded as he heard nothing and noticed the witness staring at him. What the hell was the guy staring at? He didn’t like the look of the guy. Hell, he didn’t like the look of any of them. Paranoid from the drunken night, it seemed they were all staring at him, Kim included. In fact, she was boring a hole right through him. Her lips tightened and the minister cleared her throat. Kim yanked on his hand so hard that he thought she might have dislocated his wrist. Oh shit.
“I-I,!” Julian sputtered. Two words in the whole damned production and he nearly messed them up.
Kim nodded pleasantly at him and then at the minister and she in return. The woman continued.
“And Kimberly..” She droned on, reading Kimberly’s choice of vows. Julian had to hold back a laugh. Kimberly!

His mind fell back into the familiar pattern of loitering without much, if any intent and he thought of all the girls he once knew years before. Each and everyone came back to him, if only in memory, but they did return he drunkenly thought in the convoluted logic of the moment.

He thought of them as he stood in the last, final moments of his so-called freedom. Little did he know he was already dead and buried the minute he met Kim. He thought of the ones that mattered and the ones, whom, in the end, did not. He wandered through the many nights spent alone, of the endless games played and nights wasted.

He thought of the select few he once believed would have been standing with him at this very spot and of all the runners up, the near almosts, the should haves and the never to have been and how they had all been wrecked by something. Some character flaw, whether it was indecision, career-mindedness, immaturity, mental instability or how the idea of responsibility ruined their belief of meandering through life.
His mind then drifted to the close calls, the false pregnancies and the plain insanity of finding the right one. In many ways, it was a horserace where there were no winners. And now, thankfully all bets were off.
His mind darted to the ones who had come closest and had nearly made it. A bead of sweat ran from his forehead down his cheek and into his starchy, rented shirt. He could feel the heat rise from inside his jacket and the way his black jacket radiated the already warm morning sun. As he stood in the persistence of memory, breathing his last free breath as a single man, he inexplicably asserted a soft, but discernable “Fuck you.” to all the women whom, in some way, had either let him down or outright rejected him.
It felt good to finally let go, he smiled, eyes shut. They were all behind him now. Now, he was ready to get on with it. He opened his eyes. Everyone was staring at him, including Kim; she seemed to teeter on the edge of incredulity. Oh God, he thought to himself, I said it out loud.
“Excuse me??” The minister retorted slowly.
“Go on.” Julian croaked.
“I beg your pardon?” She asked in a voice dripping condescension.
“Finish it!” He commanded.
The minister stammered, looking for her place among the Scriptures. She stumbled through it and found her nervous erratic pace once again. All was right; all sins forgiven; Julian breathed a sigh of relief to himself.

But all was not right. It would take Kimberly many months to forgive him completely for saying that to her at the altar. In time, she would find out all about his bachelor night tryst, among others. She vowed that she would get even. He was not the only one with secrets.

© Joseph Grant Feb 2006

Letters from the Dead
Joseph Grant keeping the peace

Joseph Grant comes to us from New York City and his short stories have been published in over 30 literary reviews and ezines and has written articles for various newspaper, such as The Pasadena Star. He has published a work of verse, Indigo, with Alpha Beat Press and is working on his first novel. Joseph t resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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