Standing in the church, all attention on me, I gaze into the penetrating eyes of my beloved and reply, “I do,” which would normally be received with warm smiles instead of the “gasp” that reverberated throughout the sanctuary, probably because I was responding to the part about if anyone has a reason these two should not be married, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.
“Raven, please…I just want to talk to you for a few minutes,” I say with a trembling yet determined voice.
As everyone awkwardly awaits her response, I am distracted by her stunning natural beauty. The memories of the bond we shared stirs my emotions, reminding me how she made me feel at ease and accepted, bringing out a latent strength and passion—subduing the inadequacy I sometimes experienced.
It seems like yesterday we were talking about marriage, but now here she is…about to marry Henry, an older multi-millionaire. Raven and I had numerous arguments in the past about Henry because of their ongoing contact, but she kept assuring me that he was just a platonic friend. She would also remind me that she didn’t have many friends; so he was important to her.
Raven whispers something to Henry and then motions for me to approach. She exits out a side door, and I follow her into an empty room. She turns and pulls out a stick of her favorite gum that she frequently chews, especially in stressful situations.
“Want a piece?” she offers, as she holds one out in her hand.”
“Sure.” I reply. “Just like old times.”
She closes the door and asks, “Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the same man who loves you.”
She looks flustered. “Somehow I knew you were going to do this, Brad. I told you never to contact me again.”
“Well, we’ve both said that to each other before haven’t we?”
She says nothing; I reach out and gently hold her hand, but she pulls away.
“Brad, I’m going to marry Henry. I need somebody who is more stable.”
I feel a pain in my gut and respond, “I believed you Raven when you said Henry was just your friend; I also believed you when you asked me to marry you. Was that a lie?”
“No it wasn’t a lie, but I realized it would never work with us. I’m nothing without Henry.”
“What? That is such bullshit! You are everything without him. He has brainwashed you. Come on. Let’s get out of here. I love you! I know I can never give you the kind of life Henry offers, but I think together we can give each other something more valuable and lasting, especially if Henry is gone. Do you believe that?”
She hesitates for a moment and responds in a shaky voice, “Yes.”
I am sweating and my head is pounding.
“Brad.” She grabs my arm. “I’m sorry. I’m just not strong enough. I need Henry and…”
“And what?” I ask, having trouble focusing.
“I can’t move on with Henry, in peace, while you are still out there—I can’t stop thinking about you.”
“Then don’t,” I plead.
I drop down in a folding chair defeated. My heart is racing, and I’m breathing fast…The room seems like it is tilting. The slanted door opens and Henry enters.
“Ah! Hey there Old Sport.”
“So you think you’re Gatsby, huh?” I mumble.
My eyes lock with Raven’s, stopping time, until she takes a step towards me and says, “Brad, I…” but then buries her face into her hands, crying, and escapes out of the room.
“Pay no attention to the water works kid. She’s like a cute little puppy—She just needs something new to chew on once in awhile to keep her busy, and a secure fenced back yard—and she’s good.”
I fall to the floor…dizzy—everything out of control.
“The gum in your mouth is laced with a fast acting poison Old Sport, cherry flavored! We put several announcements about the wedding on the internet, hoping you would show up. The fact is we were legally married about a month ago but kept it a secret.
As my eyes close and darkness takes over, he leans down and whispers, “We want…I mean, she wants you dead because you know too much about her private life and mine…not because she loves you and can’t live without you—her biggest mistake.”
“Sorry Old Sport. I give her what she really wants…”
Chad Haskins lives in Georgia. His writing has appeared in a few places, including Yellow Mama, The 5-2, Spinetingler Magazine, Golden Sparrow Literary Review and The Flash Fiction Offensive.