CHAPTER TWENTY ONE: THE WEDDING MORN
“I think it’d be best if you go and lie down for some time. Would you like me to show you the room?” he asked her. The nerves were at it again, this young woman, about whom he knew next to nothing was going to be his life partner forever.
“Come Jennifer” he told, leading her to the bedroom. The bed was made with white bed clothes; the effect was almost cinematic on Jennifer who was shocked beyond words at such a neat bedroom. The bed clothes weren’t even slightly crumpled, the bed was neatly made, and even the pillows took their geometric positions on the bed. She gulped to herself thinking whether the man she had married had OCD. On the other hand, he was as terrified as her about her behaviour and manner of living.
“These are your wardrobes. When your clothes and belongings come, you can keep them here, and do tell me if you don’t have enough space” he told her kindly but with each word, a dull pain hammered down Jennifer’s chest. She was used to a shabby life style and such meticulous planning, which she’d have made fun of in some other person, made her dread her own husband. He cast a look on her and smiled a sympathetic smile. He came near her and took her hands in his, “Listen, I know how sudden all this is. You needn’t look so terrified, you know, this is the choice that we have made, ‘for better or for worse’ and over time, we will know how to handle the betters and the worse too” he told her with a surprising wink.
“Do you like the house?” he asked her.
“I do. It’s really spacious” she said with a doubtful look in her eyes.
“Why, thank you, my dear. If you ever want a private room to sleep in sometimes, there is one right opposite the bed room. When you have woken up from your nap, we can take a look around the house” he told her, careful not to let her emotions get the better of her at any moment, for he knew that he would directly suffer from it now. She nodded with a smile.
“I will be in the hall; I am going for a short walk outside. When you wake up, you can find me in the drawing room or the hall” he told her, bowing his head down so that his eyes met his for as he was quite tall, he had to stoop to speak to her at eye level.
“You’re going for a walk?” she asked him with sudden desperation.
“Yes, yes, would you like to join me?” he asked hoping with even more terrific desperation that she would answer in the negative. He needed time without her, time alone to calm down his nerves and have a smoke if possible.
“No” she said looking down warily at her wedding dress thinking it would attract attention and make them seem conspicuous but even if she had been more modestly dressed, she would have found some reason or other to stay back. He suddenly intimidated her. Suddenly it dawned on her that it was her teacher whom she’d married, a person used to telling her what to do and judging her. She didn’t even know what his expectations of her might be, whenever he spoke to her, she felt a strange shudder that he should speak to her so intimately and should be so near her, this was a long time dream of hers but when it was finally realized, she wasn’t sure if she would have preferred the dream better. Had she done an irreparable error in marrying a person who was forty five years of age, was it in any way practical, what did he think of her as his wife, she was so troubled by all this. And a choking lump in her throat prevented her from saying anything whenever he spoke to her, it was now that she could distinguish between a lover and a teacher but now, it was too late. Did he truly love her or even like her? She threw her hands on her lap and remained sadly staring at the floor then tried to obliterate her cares with sleep, she was careful not to disturb the bed sheets too much. To prevent the strain of speaking to him when he would come, she decided to pretend to be asleep when he came.
A little way off, the perplexed and sore stressed bridegroom was walking at such a flamboyant, restless pace from his own house that people thought he was running away from it. He had his own doubts, was she regretting her decision to marry him, had he been too hasty in proposing to her. Perhaps the principal was true after all, had she only wanted his acceptance to achieve a sense of success or did she really love him. He tried to walk his worries off, fiddling in his pockets for the cigarettes and lighting one in a solitary place. He drew in the smoke as if it was soothing to him and closed his eyes, leaning on a tree beside him. He did not know what he could do to summon courage to go back to her. After rambling on for about 20 minutes, he finally returned home and softly opened the door, careful not to disturb her if she should be sleeping. But the moment he stepped in, a sudden resolve and kindness towards his poor child wife gushed within him. Even if she were regretting him, it was fully his fault that he’d not been more sensible. She was young and impressionable, and did not truly know what she wanted but shouldn’t he have known better. He went and slumped down on the sofa in the drawing room and turned on the television, making sure the volume was turned down. But unfortunately, the fitful bride could not sleep and had come to the drawing room at that very room for the same purpose.
He turned back with a reassuring smile.
“Didn’t you sleep?”
“No” she said with a nervous smile and hesitantly came and sat down near him, quickening his breath, he cursed his carelessness for returning home so soon. Did she not want him at the moment with her? It seemed so. She wouldn’t even look at him.
“Would you like to watch something?” he asked her, handing the remote control.
“Oh thank you” she said, her uneasiness and awkwardness increasing in her doubts as to how to address him.
She nervously and quickly kept browsing the channels for something, desperate to do something under his straining presence then she stopped it with relief at finding Star World in which ‘Two and a Half Men’ was showing’ but a very funny statement on it, rendered in vintage Charlie Harper’s obscene style incited a comment of disgust from him and desperate not to seem crude, she quickly changed the channel.
“Oh, I am sorry. It’s just that I don’t like the show very much, do feel free to watch it” he told her very formally and rigidly, so it seemed to her but he was just trying to be polite and disguising his misapprehensions and misgivings as best as he could.
“Oh no, no, I don’t like that show either” she blurted to gain his favour for the moment.
“What do you watch normally?” she asked him.
“Well, I watch BBC news, sometimes I watch Star Cricket”. She felt like flinging the flower vase at him, how incredibly boring could he be and bit her lips to stop the flooding of her eyes when she came to know this was her lot with him.
“There’s nothing on right now” she said, handing back the remote to him. After an awkward silence, he took it up again and switched on the TV to watch BBC news. She had to suppress a sob. She tried to stay still and unaffected under the monotonous, irritating, cold tones of the news reader which he was watching so very interestedly. She looked up in a surprised manner at him, how he could enjoy or tolerate his channel was beyond her.
“Jennifer” he told her almost condescendingly, “don’t stare like that at me. That’s why I gave you the remote. If you don’t like this, you should tell me, my dear” he told her with a light hearted smile. But within him, his fears and worries were being justified.
She laughed nervously and blurted out, “Could you watch anything else except that?”
“All right. How about sports? Do you like sports?” he asked and she swallowed with wide, disconsolate eyes.
“I like tennis” she lied. Tennis was one of the few sports that she could bring herself to bear for about 5 minutes.
“Is there any tennis match today?” he asked, trying to please her.
“Oh God, how would I know. I don’t organize the matches” she felt like retorting but then with a sudden sob, she broke down and buried her head on his chest. The very thing he’d so painfully tried to avoid had happened, was this his life, comforting an emotionally imbalanced, pampered woman whom he could never please, he thought to himself full of self pity.
He could not even bring himself to say anything but just let his arms hold her as she sobbed on him.
“I don’t even know what to call you” she wailed and he suddenly felt renewed fascination and love for his piquant child wife.