‘One-Day Bride’ by Sunita Lama (India)

Short story selected for the 2011 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology

She walks down the aisle in her angelic beauty, hand in hand with the one she’s chosen to be her ‘man.’ She has hope; immense hope that life will be fairytale like reverberating the ‘happily ever after’ theme. Her dreams and aspirations are to radiate like the stars and light up all darkness. Her wish is for happiness to rain on her just like the showers of vibrant confetti that hail on them as they enter the recreation hall of a five star hotel.

In the fresh hours of the morn, Annie and Andrew were in the ‘House of God’ standing on the pulpit and taking their vows. Annie had deliberately requested for this early hour, as it was symbolic of a new life she was about to begin.  “And you Mr. Andrew, do you promise to be Annie’s faithful husband?” asked the priest and his prompt response had been, “I, Andrew D’Costa take you, Annie, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.”

Honorable guests had been witness to his eloquent assurance. Then there was the customary exchange of rings and the much-awaited permission from the man of God, “You may now kiss your wife.”  The hall echoed expressions of jubilation in the form of merry laughter, claps and the drooling “oooooohhhh.” How elated she was to finally be the wife of a man she had longed for these last four years.

Annie’s love story was etched in the sands of the Arabia, the land that lured people from different parts of the world with her promise of wealth and better life. Annie too, an aspiring talented youth in her early twenties set out to venture and discover what life had in store for her. She had found herself a suitable position in public relations in a reputed bank and was content. Living alone at the beginning had been challenging but with her warm nature she had easily found a group of companions to ‘hang out’ with in her spare time. She also made it a point to visit the House of God once in a while and thank the One above for his merciful ways.

Then, like in all love stories, she met her “knight in arms.” A common friend had set a common place as a weekend stress buster and it was there that she won his heart through her charismatic personality and nightingale voice. He was almost hypnotized, that’s what he had told her in their first solo dine-out. She, on the other hand, had taken time to make up her mind. Her verdict was given after a yearlong wait; she had deliberately taken that length of time to study her feelings and make a decision. It was a matter of commitment and she didn’t want any regrets later. In that sense, her moral values were intact.

In the four years of courtship, they had had trails and tribulations, anger, frustration, dislike and even doubt. There had been many of those flaring moments, walkouts, feelings of incompatibility and differences. However, such moments were momentary. After few days of breathing space they’d be back again clinging onto each other, more madly in love and realizing that they indeed couldn’t do without each other.

Meanwhile, seeing their daughter well settled and financially stable, Annie’s parents began to express their desire of witnessing their last wish fulfilled. That last wish was the ringing of nuptial bells and like all parents began to play with her emotions.

“Annie, we are aging, look at your papa, he’s been in and out of hospital these last few months. We are nearing our numbered days and with this failing health we could be gone any day. God has been good to us and we are happy. Yet, there’s one last wish and that is to see you in the arms of your man. Won’t you do that for us Annie dear?”

Well, did Annie have a choice? Surely she couldn’t hurt her parents, or could she?

They had given her life and knew what was right for her or? This Hamlet-like situation cost Annie many sleepless nights. Finally she approached Andrew with her parent’s ‘last’ wish and he seemed more than delighted. His parents too had been nagging him for a while. He was the eldest in the family and delay from his side could put his sister’s marriage in jeopardy. Their marriage hence was a solution to quite many anticipated problems.

Exhilaration was at its peak with marriage on the cards. After all, it was a union with her man. Both families had wanted it to be a ‘grand affair.’ What with their children working in the Gulf, wasn’t it a time to show how much they had accumulated all these years?

Annie had systematically taken all their wishes into consideration and meticulously planned the entire event. She had spent many nights getting things in place. The reception hall would be a five star hotel, drinks would flow like water and food would be elaborate. Florists would be flown all the way from Paris and the DJ would be none other than DJ Alan, the one for whom many hearts skipped countless beats. He was a rage and craze and would inadvertently keep the party alive. Where apparel was concerned, her gown would be designed by Ray Murphy, the wedding dress specialist, an off white off shoulder chiffon gown, laced and sequenced with pearls. Her jewelry was specially ordered for from the finest jewelry store in town. Andrew on the other hand would be wearing a designer suit with a matching necktie. Every detail was paid heed to and all along Andrew had patiently supported and been by her side. It was an event that saw the two work in harmony. Wedding cards were distributed to all near and far; there was elation in the air for a celebration to be worth witnessed. The moment that had everyone waiting had finally arrived.

Annie was a princess in her finery and the hall a palace with its décor. There was music and dance, food and drink and every soul present looked genuinely merry. Then to everyone’s dismay Andrew took the mike and announced in perfectly normal tone, “I call off this wedding Annie, for now I realize I no longer fancy you.”

No apology, no regret, he was at ease and well in his senses.

Illustration by Alan Van Every

About the Author:

Sunita Lama is an Indian writer and poet. She is a teacher by profession. She teaches ESL to young adults at a technical institute and also examines with the British Council – Dubai and Sharjah in U.A.E. Writing is her passion. She also likes to read, meditate and travel. Her published poems include: Loss – published by ‘The Nepalese Clay,’ a literary magazine run by a group of freelance writers from Nepal in 2011; and Man – published by the International Society of Poetry in 2005. She is married and has a young son. Visit her blog.

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