“Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?” The vicar’s deep, droning voice echoed around the large, high ceilinged church. A baby cried somewhere near the back. Heads turned in the direction from which it came and a couple of the guests tutted, letting the mother know they were not at all amused.
“I do”, he said, mesmerised by her, like a snake charmed from its basket. He admired her delicate beauty and stunning hazel eyes as she stood before him. He wondered, not for the first time, what he had done to deserve her.
“Then, by the power vested in me, I pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride”, the vicar gave a nod, as though to confirm what he had just said.
He lifted the veil away from her face and even though he knew exactly what she looked like, it didn’t stop the breath from leaving his body when he looked at her. With lips that didn’t feel like his own, he kissed her softly. The church erupted in applause; good natured whoops and cheers bouncing off the stain glass windows, as though the disciples depicted on them were playing a game of catch. Even the baby seemed pleased for them, giving them a loud, bubble-filled gurgle instead of the crying they had all been made to endure throughout most of the ceremony.
The reception, at a fancy hotel in the country, was decked out to the nines. There was too much food and the alcohol flowed freely, much to the delight of the already tipsy guests. Each one was in high spirits and they all gazed in awe, as the happy couple took to the floor and danced to ‘their’ song - At Last by Etta James. Even the baby couldn’t take her eyes off them. Which was odd, thought her tired mother, she was only ever content when staring at a nipple, yet here she was, hypnotised, following their route around the dance floor with her eyes. At Last; a bit of a cliche for a wedding song, they both knew it, but it had been playing through the speakers at the cafe where she had worked as a waitress, when he had finally plucked up the courage to ask her out on a date. He had bought an expensive latte, that he hadn’t even wanted, from that cafe every day for 4 weeks just so that he could talk to her. It’s a wonder they could afford a wedding at all.
Their married life had started perfectly and it continued in the same way, for the next two years they were blissfully happy. They both worked long shifts at their respective jobs during the week. He was a stockbroker at a firm in the city, which was an hours commute away and, with her waitressing days far behind her, she worked as
a receptionist at the doctors surgery around the corner from their small, but beautifully decorated bungalow. Their jobs meant that they never got to wake up together on weekdays; he was always up and out of the house before she was even awake. Because of this, they took extra care to ensure their Saturday morning’s were always spent together. They would wake up at 9am and she would make them toast and coffee, while he put At Last on their little red record player. It had been getting stuck a fair bit lately, both of them saying they needed to buy a new one, but neither of them making the move. They were reluctant to give up this one that had faithfully seen them through the last 6 years together. Nostalgia was powerful, making you hold to things, no matter how broken. As Etta James’ soulful, honey kissed tones filled their little bedroom over and over, they ate their toast and drank their coffee, chatting amicably between each mouthful and sip.
There was an Oriental market just down the road from their house every Saturday and she adored going there. The perfume filled air and vibrant, dazzling colours were a beautiful attack on her senses, she would tell him when he asked what she found so appealing there. He wasn’t keen, preferring to spend the time at home after a hectic week at work. So, at around 11am every Saturday they parted ways for a few hours and that Saturday was no different. He relaxed in a hot shower, while she dressed and headed off to the market.
“I’ve left some of that milkshake that you like in the fridge, sweetie”, she shouted through the half open bathroom door, as she put her coat on.
“Okay, babe. I’ll have some when I get out of the shower. Love you”, came his reply, which she strained to hear over the heavy spray of their power shower. He absolutely loved that thing, she thought, as she made her way to the front door. He spent most of the time she was gone in it, she was sure.
She usually returned 3 hours later, with some exotic purchase or other to show off with enthusiasm. But, today she returned after only an hour and 45 minutes, a small vase clutched to her chest. She turned her key in the lock, pushed open their heavy front door and stepped into the hallway. The first thing she noticed was that the record player was still on, the song that had been the soundtrack to their love story was stuck again. Etta James, on a loop, singing the line ‘a thrill I’ve never known’ over and over. She made her way down the narrow corridor towards the closed door of their bedroom. She opened it now and stepped through with a smile on her face. What she saw inside, however, soon put paid to that smile. She lifted her hands to her face to cover her eyes, dropping the vase in the process, where it shattered into thousands of tiny pieces.
He was in bed with another woman, an empty pint glass lying on the quilt between them; the milkshake she had so lovingly left him smeared the inside of the glass brown and some had soaked into her favourite peach bedding. Their arms were thrown around each other in what she thought of as a loving embrace. They were both dead, their faces contorted in surprise and pain. There was dried vomit on both of their chins. She hadn’t expected this at all. She had carefully poisoned the milkshake, so that she could be free of him and their dull life. She wanted that freedom, so she could run away with the man she truly loved, the man whose arms she had just left. She had never suspected he was having an affair, least of all with her sister. This could not have gone more wrong.