“You really should have had that second fitting done, honey. Closer to the day.”
“It doesn’t matter now, Mum,” said Corinne, shifting uneasily in her seat. Carefully sipping her water as if each mouthful might burst her seams, she lamented the fact her beautiful dress was already much fuller than its maker had intended.
“Are you feeling any better? Can you make it to the end?”
“I’ll last as long as I can but it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Susan was horrified and grabbed her daughter’s hand. “How can you say that?”
“Look at him,” said Corinne waving her hand dismissively in the direction of her new husband, Andrew. “He doesn’t care. He’s oblivious.”
“He’s a little drunk, and enjoying this special day.”
“Rubbish,” scoffed Corinne. “He’s almost legless and he’s drinking to take away the pain of the realization he’s married now.”
“Corinne,” said Susan, but that was all she could think to say under the circumstances. Gently patting her daughter’s thigh, she eventually added, “I’ll let Andrew know you aren’t well and I’m sure he’ll come to you.”
“Don’t bother mum. He doesn’t care. He just wants this day to be over.”
Susan smiled weakly and squeezed Corinne’s hand before standing and walking over to Andrew who was staggering about on the dance floor.
Watching as her mother tapped Andrew on the shoulder to get his attention and began to talk to him while gesturing in her direction, Corinne sipped her water again and winced at a sharp pain in her stomach. Has to be cramp she thought to herself, I need to try to get up and walk around a bit. Struggling to her feet, she listened hard for the sound of splitting seams but heard only the groan of the chair as she launched herself upright. Brushing a stray lock of blond hair from her watery red eyes she looked around the reception hall and noticed that everyone seemed to be having a great time, quite apart from her. Perhaps she was just a convenient excuse for a family and friends booze up. What a terrible mistake it all was.
Three mistakes compounding each other actually. The first, to get involved with Andrew romantically in the first place, and sleep with him. The second to fall pregnant, and finally to marry him when she knew it was only for respectability’s sake. What a quaint concept. Respectability.
Before Corinne could get far enough away, Susan returned with Andrew trailing behind her.
“Here he is,” said Susan hopefully.
“Are you sick?” asked Andrew.
Corinne was suddenly disgusted by him. “As if you care,” she said.
“So you’re all right then?”
“You see Mum? See what I mean?”
Again all could Susan could muster was a faint smile. “He’s here now honey. Why don’t you just tell him what’s wrong.”
Corinne looked at Andrew and saw he was looking over his shoulder back to the dance floor where a long-haired, long-legged vixen in a slinky red come-and-get-me-boys dress was smiling at him. Susan noticed this as well and quickly nudged Andrew in the ribs.
“You’re pathetic,” said Corinne spitting the words out.
“I came to see if you were all right,” said Andrew. “Your mum said you weren’t feeling well. Tell me what’s wrong?”
“I feel hot and faint and I have bad stomach cramps.”
“Period pain,” said Andrew flatly before laughing at his own joke.
“I’m pregnant you moron. With your child. Remember?”
“A joke, babe, that’s all. A joke.”
Corinne’s mouth dropped open as she squinted at Andrew and shook her head.
“That’s a great look babe, should I call the photographer?”
Susan had been searching for a way into the conversation so she could defuse the escalation in vitriol. She told Andrew that Corinne’s dress was too tight and that was why she felt faint and had cramps.
Andrew’s childish laughter caused Corinne’s hands to tremble, then clench into white knuckled fists. As she lifted her right hand to strike, Susan stepped forward and grabbed her daughter’s wrist. After a few moments of staring at each other, during which Andrew kept smiling and Corinne fought back tears, he walked away.
Corinne collapsed into her chair sobbing. “You see Mum? He doesn’t love me. Has any woman been treated like dirt by her husband on their wedding day, like this?”
Susan vainly continued with the lie. “He does love you, he married you didn’t he?”
“He married me because Dad threatened him. It’s obligation, mum, not love. This is a mistake.”
Catching the eye of Terry who was holding up the bar as usual, Susan motioned for him to come over. “Look Dad’s coming over and he’ll talk to you. He’ll tell you there were no threats made against Andrew. Andrew’s just a bit drunk at the moment. He’s happy. Celebrating.”
Corinne recovered her emotions and became angry. “Stop defending him Mum! Andrew has been lying and pretending to all of us for a long time now. He lied to get me in bed with him by telling me he loved me and he lied today in the church. Made promises to me before God, Mum, before God and all our loved ones. Promises he never intended to keep. I can’t marry him.”
“It’s too late for that honey.”
“Too late for what?” asked Terry arriving with warm kisses for his two favourite girls. Then noticing Corinne had been crying and Susan was wearing her this-is-the-end-of-the-world face, he said, “What’s going on, sweetheart?”
“Daddy, this is a mistake. Andrew doesn’t love me. He doesn’t even care about me.”
“Nonsense,” replied Terry firmly. “He married you didn’t he?”
Corinne could only shake her head.
Susan said, “Corinne thinks Andrew only married her today because you told him he had to.”
Half a dozen beers in quick succession had washed away Terry’s resolve, and he realized a lie would only hurt his little girl more. “It was the right thing for him to do. To take responsibility for his actions, to be a man. All I did was point that out to him, in case he didn’t know it.”
“We thought given time and the arrival of your baby that Andrew would settle down and mature into the role of husband and father,” added Susan.
Corinne felt sick. This fairy tale was never going to reach a happy ending. It would have to be terminated. She knew it would not work and she did not want to make it work. Well intentioned though they were, her parents had brought her to an intolerable situation. No, that wasn’t totally true; she really needed to accept responsibility for herself. It was about time she grew up.
“Please get the minister back in here. I want a divorce!”
Terry swore so loudly that he instantly caught everyone’s attention while Susan was too stunned to speak. They called Andrew over and argued amongst themselves for ten minutes, only stopping when the master of ceremonies approached to ask if they wanted to start the speeches now.
“There’s only going to be one speech,” said Corinne. She looked first at Susan, then Terry. “Please Daddy, just make one speech and then we can all go home.”
“Give us a few minutes mate,” said Terry. Pulling his mobile phone out of his pocket, he started to dial the minister’s number, but stopped and asked, “Are you sure, sweetheart?”
“I’m sorry to cause all this trouble but it will only get worse if we go on pretending. Yes, I’m sure, Daddy.”
Terry thought of what on earth he could say to all these people, then he thought of the embarrassment and the cost-what a waste of money, but he simple could not force his little princess to marry a man she plainly did not love. Holding Corinne’s cheek gently in his hand he dialed the number and smiled.
“Sorry to trouble you but we’ve got a bit of a problem. Can you come immediately?...well Corinne wants a divorce...I know, I know but that’s what she wants and she has our support...yes, okay I understand. Yes, thank you. Bye.”
Terry held both his daughter’s hands in his and said, “I’ll make the speech but you’ll have to stay married to him for a year before you can apply for a divorce. You can come back home.”
Corinne threw her arms around Terry. “Thanks Daddy.”
Terry finished the remains of his beer, took a deep breath and marched over to the microphone. After his short speech, shocked silence exploded in the reception room. This was followed by the quick and quiet departure of most of the wedding guests, leaving Andrew and his family and some close friends to grasp what had happened.
Corinne had never felt happier or more relieved.
D.A. Cairns is married with two teenagers and lives on the south coast of New South Wales where he works part time as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had 12 short stories published (but who’s counting right?) Devolution was his first novel and novel no.2 is currently seeking an agent or a publisher. Anyone interested?
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