I spend several minutes thinking about his question before deciding to just tell him the truth about what I want to do. He’s going to find out sooner or later that I don’t want to be married, If he hasn’t figured it out already.
“I’m not sure,” I finally work up the courage to speak, “I haven’t even been able to look.”
“Oh, at the contract. I didn’t even get to read it yet.”
“You didn’t read the contract you signed?”
I shake my head as I swallow a sip of coffee, “I didn’t sign it.”
He waits in silence until I explain, “My parents did.”
Christopher stands up and paces the kitchen, running his hand through his hair, muttering to himself.
“So you-” he stops talking and runs both hands through his hair again. I slink back into my chair, feeling my skin run cold. Is he about to yell at me?
He turns to look at me and continues, “You didn’t want to get married to me. Your parents didn’t even tell you who I was. And now, you are legally married to me because of some stupid loophole in a law older than my grandparents?”
I nod as he crashes down into one of our kitchen chairs.
He slumps forward, holding his head in his hands.
“Yeah,” I respond, “that pretty much sums it up. I didn’t even have time to read the contract before they put me in a car and drove me over here to meet you.”
His face is still buried in his hands, so I can’t tell what he’s thinking or feeling.
“Well,” he brings his head up and looks into my eyes. “I think the first thing we need to do is take a look at that contract.”
“You haven’t read it either?” I’m a little shocked given how surprised he was that I hadn’t read it.
“I have,” he smiles, though his eyes betray a certain sadness. “But that was before we were looking for a way out.”
That’s not what I was expecting.
“A-?” I can’t even finish my sentence, the lump in my throat is so large it is threatening to escape into a mess of tears.
I steady my breathing, trying to figure out what to say. I can’t believe he is going to agree to let me find a way out of our marriage. He seems so happy to be here and to be married. I feel a little bit bad watching him swirl the orange juice around the bottom of his glass while he thinks.
“What do you mean, you weren’t looking for a way out?”
I finally find the courage to ask what I really want to know, “Are you looking for a way out now?”
But Christopher doesn’t respond. He just gets up and leaves the room. I am left staring at the space he used to occupy, listening to his feet carry him upstairs.
Maybe I pushed him too far.
I put away the leftover food and wipe the table before he returns and hands me his copy of the contract.
“Let’s figure this out, shall we?” he takes the cloth from my hand and replaces it with the contract. “I got this. You take a look at that.”
Christopher washes the dishes as I take the time to read the whole contract. There is a lot of legalese to wade through as I flip through its many pages. Who made this?
There are a lot of clauses in our contract. We are obligated to live with one another, and he is required to provide the house. We have five tasks to complete through Match Made that are mandatory according to our contract and designed in conjunction with our parents. We had already completed one of them last night, so I guess we have four more to look forward to.
Near the end of the contract, there is a small note about the match requiring us to complete the five tasks, but there is no indication of how or why that might help us. I fold the corner of the page and keep reading, hoping to find something about how to dissolve the marriage.
Unfortunately, it seems our parents had hired the best lawyers and given us virtually no way out. They know me too well.
After scouring the document for at least twenty minutes, I can only come up with one legal reason to end our marriage: one or both of us dying. That doesn’t sound like a good idea. I definitely don’t hate him that much.
How can we get out of this?
I call Christopher over to show him what I’ve found, and he reads the part of the contract that is about ending the marriage. Several minutes later, he speaks to me, “You’re right. The only provision it has is one of us dying. So we’re going to need to find another way to break the contract.”
He gets up to put away the dishes. “We’ll go to see my parents tomorrow. They’re having a party so we can stay after and talk to them about releasing you from the contract,” he puts the last glass away in the cupboard, “I’m sure they’ll be willing to help us, but it will probably take some time. They only want what’s best for me.”
He closes the cupboard and walks away. I guess he thinks the conversation is over, but I need to say more. I need to tell him how much this means to me.
“Thank-you,” I whisper as he reaches the doorway to our dining room, “I can’t believe you’re willing to help me.”
He stands in the doorway, shoulder slumping forward for a moment before turning back to face me. “Aubrey, I don’t want you to be married to me just because your parents made you or because you don’t have a choice. I wanted to find someone to share this with. Someone who would enjoy her life here. If that’s not you, I’ll help you leave.”
I try to say something, but my mouth just flaps around like a fish; no words come out. He turns and walks up the stairs. What did I do to get so lucky with him? And why did I still want to leave?