Despite his own happiness, Carl guessed something was up. He knew Juliet well enough by now to know that when she was worried about something she often bottled it up.
“Is everything okay?” He thought that she might be feeling overwhelmed by the idea of the wedding, now they had seen the venue. They had both been busy at school the past week but he had hardly seen her. He couldn’t phone her either.
In Latin that day she had seemed stressed and unhappy so he called her back at the end of class. As risky as it was, it was the only time he could really talk with her.
“It’s fine.” Juliet felt so guilty as she looked at him. She still hadn’t managed to find a way to tell the band and she felt like she was betraying Carl by not doing so.
He wasn’t satisfied. “Juliet, we’re a team now. You’re not on your own and you no longer have to carry your burdens alone. Whatever it is, you can tell me. Even if it’s about us.”
Juliet looked at the board behind him, the desks. The Latin posters on the walls. It was a hard enough subject to bring up, but here he was the authority figure. She still felt kind of in awe of him, in his teacher role.
Carl saw her hesitation. “Would you like to come around to mine tonight? For dinner?”
She would love that. Even if she couldn’t bring herself to say anything it would be an opportunity to be with him.
“Great. Want me to pick you up?”
“I’ll walk.” She could use the time to clear her head.
Wishing he could kiss her, and wishing she could kiss him without the enormous risk it would represent, Juliet left and went to find Margot and Fhemie for lunch.
"It’s pizza. I had so much marking that I ran out of time to cook.”
Juliet grinned. “So long as mine doesn’t have pineapple on it. You know I hate pineapple.”
“I’m doing my best to learn everything you like and don’t like. When you move in here, you can go through the entire place and throw out anything you don’t like.”
Move in with him? Juliet got a sudden jolt realising she would be doing exactly that once she was his wife. It was an exciting and scary thought.
“That’s if you want to live here,” he continued. “We can start in a new home together if you prefer.”
“I love this place,” Juliet said. “Besides it costs loads to move.” She was already worried that she wouldn’t be contributing equally to their marriage as she had no assets and no real earning potential yet.
Carl sat her down on the couch beside him. He took her hands. “Money really isn’t going to be an issue,” he said.
“But I don’t have any,” Juliet said.
“It doesn’t matter who brings what to this marriage. I’m not about to make you sign a pre-nup. When we become husband and wife, everything I have is yours.”
“I know, but…”
“Besides.” Carl hadn’t really wanted to raise this, as it was something he still felt conflicted about himself. But he needed to be completely transparent with her. “I had an inheritance from a great uncle a few years ago. It’s not something I live off as I prefer to make my own way. But it means that so long as we’re careful, we’ll basically never have to worry about money. So you can go to any college you want to. Then if you do decide you’re going to be a rich and successful executive and want me to be a house husband, that’s fine too.”
Juliet felt strange.
Carl was confused. “What’s wrong?”
“I just always imagined I would be doing everything alone,” she told him. “I don’t need you to provide for me.”
“I will provide for you, because you will be my wife and one day I hope the mother of my children,” Carl told her.
Juliet’s stomach flipped at the thought of this and at the firmness of his tone. “Want to get started on that?” she offered, teasing.
“You know the answer to that.” She could see from his eyes that it was both yes and no. Yes, he wanted her very much. No, he still wasn’t going to yield to temptation until she was legally his. “So was that what you were worrying about, the financial side of things?”
Juliet became serious again. “Not exactly.”
“What is it, then?”
How to tell him? Straight out, she supposed. “It’s just how to tell Drew and Jax and all of them.”
Carl frowned. “Tell them what?”
“About getting married. Pulling out of the tour and everything.”
Now he was really lost. “What tour?”
Juliet fiddled with the hem of her blouse. “They got this offer to tour in Europe this summer.”
Carl’s face lit up. “That’s amazing! Congratulations.”
“I know, but obviously they’ll have to find another singer.”
“Why on earth would they have to find another singer?” he asked.
“Because of me getting married. I can’t get married and then go all around Europe for months, can I?”
Carl was quiet for a moment. “Is this what’s been worrying you?”
“Did you honestly think I would want to stand in the way of you taking an opportunity like this?” he said.
Fear gripped Juliet. She looked up at him, her eyes pleading. “Most of all I want us to get married. I truly want that, more than the tour. Honestly.” Please don’t end it, she prayed.
Now Carl was laughing. “Did you not even consider you could do both? I’ll happily wait for you, married or not. And if having a husband over there wouldn’t get in the way, I could easily use some research time in Europe for my thesis. I was going to have to go back to Oxford and a couple of places in Germany anyway.”
“You mean you would come with me?”
“If you’ d like me to. I don’t want to stand guard over you, but if you would like me to travel with you for some of it and it fits with the band’s plans, I’d be happy to.”
Juliet was enraptured. “I want you there for all of it. At least one of the guys is taking his girlfriend for the whole time.” The bass player’s girlfriend was on the payroll to help with logistics and wardrobe and other tasks. Juliet was very glad there was going to be another female coming along with them.
“Then let me know the dates and I’ll book my flights.”
She threw her arms around him. “I can’t believe this. Having everything, I mean. I’ve been so stressed about how to let them all down and now I don’t have to.”
“I’m more amazed that you would consider giving something like this up for me,” Carl said.
“Because I want you even more. You’re more important to me than anything,” Juliet told him.
This time he kissed her, deeply, tenderly, passionately. “I will never know how I got so lucky to be with you.”
"I’ve got two things I need to tell you, Aunt Mary.”
Her aunt lowered the spectacles that she used for knitting. She could knit blindfolded but there were some intricate details that needed close attention.
“From your tone I imagine you don’t expect me to be pleased with either,” she said.
Juliet swallowed. She summoned her courage. She tried to remember that she was a responsible, legal adult and someone’s fiancée. Not a child.
“The first is that the band I was singing with has been offered a recording contract and asked to tour in Europe this summer.”
She waited for a reaction. There was none forthcoming. Aunty Mary’s mouth remained set in a firm, hard line. She had expected something like this, Juliet thought.
“The second is that I’m getting married.”
At this her aunt’s mouth fell open and her knitting dropped from her hands into her lap. “Married?” An expression suddenly crossed her face. “You’re not..?”
“No, I’m not.” Juliet interrupted her. She refrained from saying: “but thank you for thinking the worst.” She supposed it was likely a lot of people would think that, given she was marrying at a relatively young age, and if they knew of her background. Give a dog a bad name and hang him. It would hardly be the first time people had made assumptions about her.
“Who is he then?”
Juliet took a deep breath. “His name is Carl. He’s a member of the Baptist church I’ve been attending. I think - I hope - you’ll like him. I’d like to invite him around for dinner next week so you can meet him.”
Aunt Mary didn’t yet consent to or refuse this request. “What does he do, this young man?”
Juliet had deliberately decided not to tell her aunt that Carl taught at her school. Most likely she wouldn’t connect “Carl” with “Mr Spencer”, if she even remembered the name of Juliet’s Latin teacher. There would be time enough to tell her in future, after such time that it would all seem very long ago and no longer a reason for outrage.
“He’s an academic.” After all, he sort of was. He was quitting his job to return to study. “He’s doing a doctorate in medieval studies.” Once again she avoided the word “Latin” just in case.
Surprisingly, her aunt’s expression softened. “You don’t have to do this, Juliet. I know I said what I said, but you’ll always have a home here. You don’t need to rush into marriage if that’s what this is about.”
It gave Juliet a lump in her throat. She saw for the first time sadness and regret in Aunt Mary’s eyes. “It’s not, truly. I know it’s early but it’s the right thing for me, and we don’t want to wait.”
“Can he provide for you, this man? If he’s still a student?”
“He teaches as well.” Let Aunt Mary think she meant at university. “Besides, he won’t need to, because I fully intend to have a career.”
The disapproval was back. Her aunt sniffed. “I hardly see how that’s possible, if you’re gallivanting overseas with a musical band. What does your future husband think of all that?” A thought came to her. “He’s not one of its members, is he?”
Juliet laughed. “No. But he doesn’t disapprove. We’ll be touring in over the summer, when he’s on vacation anyway. So we’ll travel together.”
“I suppose it may help keep you out of trouble. All the drugs and drinking that I read about with young people today.”
“As you know, I’ve been there, done that.” Juliet saw her aunt flinch as she said this but kept going. “So I’m long over that. I simply want to travel, sing, see the world. Be married to a good man whom I love, and see what the future has in store.”
The hands had picked up the knitting again and were working along the rows. “It all sounds very ideal.”
Compared to her childhood, anything would be ideal. “I hope it will be. And I hope you’ll come to my wedding and give me away.” She looked Aunt Mary directly in the eye. “Because you’re all I have. There isn’t anyone else, and I’d like you to do that if you will.”
“I’ll meet him first, and then we’ll see,” Aunt Mary said.
Juliet had an impulse to hug her aunt but didn’t dare. Maybe becoming a great aunt one day would soften Aunt Mary. She liked children after all, she frequently seemed to be knitting for other people’s babies or grandchildren.
Other than Carl, Aunt Mary really was all she had. And she suspected that her aunt, though she wouldn’t have admitted it in a million years, had come to think the same.