Marriage by Law

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43

“We’ve landed.”

I groaned, opening my sleepy eyes. I threw my legs over the bed and rubbed my eyes, making sure my head felt right before standing up. I had enough of throwing up.

I accepted Darius’s hand to lift me up and grabbed my jumper, pulling it back over my singlet. “Finally.” This plane ride felt it took forever.

“Sleeping beast wakes,” Adrian announced when I came out. I smirked as Darius playfully hit the back of his head, saying “Behave.” I stuck my tongue out at him and walked fast to get out of this place.

“Simone!” I said as he came out of the door. Simone paused and gave me a nervous smile, which made me frown. “What?” I said, looking behind me.

“Nothing. Enjoyed your flight?”

“As much as one can,” I replied with a laugh, but he simply nodded at me and I frowned again.

He stepped aside for me to walk ahead.

“Bye, Simone,” I said, confused at his change of behaviour.

“Bye, Mademo - Madame.”

I waved, still confused, and walked down the stairs with Darius behind me. I breathed in the Melbourne air. It felt so good to be home.

“Home,” I whispered, watching as two cars pulled up in front of us.

*

The first thing I did when we arrived home was dive into the bathroom, brushing my teeth at least five times and using half the toothpaste tube. Then I ducked under the shower, taking a long hot relaxing shower, not something I do too often.

It helped me relax my muscles from the long trip where I just spent the hours sitting in the bathroom not knowing when I was going to throw up. For a whole day, that was not fun.

I ran a hand through my hair, switching the taps off before the water went cold and wrapped fluffy towels around me. I peeked out the doorway to see the bedroom empty and ran to the walk-in closet and rummaged for some clothes.

I threw on some fluffy pants and wore a big warm jumper and tied my hair in a towel. I hated the feel of wet hair on my shoulders, just as much as I hated the after feel of a shower. I loved showers, just not the hot, sweaty feeling afterwards.

I shuddered. I hated that feel.

I opened the door and went downstairs. Was Ma back yet?

Somehow I was missing her presence.

I found Darius hunched over a table looking at papers scattered on the dining table.

“Do you ever take a break from work?”

Darius looked over his shoulder and smiled before doing a double take.

“To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“What?” I asked, looking down at myself. Pleasure for what?

He answered. “Is this the first time you took a shower and changed clothes willingly?”

I could feel my cheeks burning up but I ignored him and walked toward the kitchen. “You spend too much time with my dad,” I snapped.

Did dad have to tell him everything? I mean, sure he was my husband, but everything? Some things were better left unsaid, like my suspensions and bathing rituals.

I looked at the cupboard. Was there anything to eat?

“I’m hungry,” I said, sighing.

“Of course,” Darius said as he walked into the kitchen. And, unsurprisingly, he had the folder in his hand. “Are you ever not hungry?” He looked at me with knotted eyebrows, crossing his arms across his chest as he leaned back against the table.

“What?”

I opened the fridge and looked at the bread. Was it edible? How old was it? Only one way to find out.

“How do you pack it all away?”

“I don’t eat a lot. I just eat more times a day.” I shook my head. Fast metabolism, that’s what you call it. Did the guy ever go to a normal school? Probably not, just some business school.

Darius stayed for a few more minutes as I raided the cupboard and found a pack of instant pasta. Just add hot water.

“I’m going to take a shower.”

I nodded absently, waving a hand as I read the flavour. Chicken. Yea, I can live with that.

I grabbed all four sachets and placed them in a bowl and read the instructions at the back.

Pour 250mL of hot water into the bowl for five minutes, which meant one litre if you wanted all four packets.

I placed two bowls out, glad that Adrian went back to his place. I don’t want that pig eating my food. Plus, I have a reason to be hungry. I threw up everything I ate.

I grimaced, remembering it. Should I be eating this soon?

I’ll eat slow.

I ran the tap, turning it to hot water, and went up to check my phone. I used to be attached to this thing as a kid, now I barely use it. I laughed. How times have changed.

I grabbed my phone out of the carry bag and walked back downstairs as I switched it on.

Full battery. That was a surprise. Wait till dad heard about this.

I scrolled through the unread messages, wincing. Oh dear, I should call Rose.

I went back to the tap to test the water. Still lukewarm. I turned the tap fully to the left. Hurry up, I’m starving.

I opened a new message to reply to Rose, leaving my hand under the water that was gradually turning hot, but it was slower than a snail.

“Aluminium!”

I jumped and turned around, “Wha –?” The word got caught in my mouth as Darius stood glaring at me. Did someone turn on the ducted heating because it was suddenly hot in here?

“I can’t get hot water upstairs if you have the hot water turned on full here!”

“Aha,” I dumbly said with a nod, trying not to stare, but it was really hard when he was standing wearing a lime green towel in the middle of the kitchen, with one hand wrapped around holding it together and the other rubbing his forehead like he was frustrated.

Who has lime green towels? I was really expecting it to be white, or grey, or even black.

“Are you going to switch it off?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. I tried not to stare at the water droplets that were pretty much clinging to every part of his upper chest. Rose was right, he was –

I swore, taking my hand out of the water as it hit the hot level and then I closed the tap.

“I need hot water,” I said, looking at my red finger. Idiot, Ivory, only you would do something like this.

“Microwave it,” he said before turning around and walking away, leaving puddles of water wherever he went.

“Microwave it,” I mimicked, filling the bowl with cold water and doing what he said. I placed my finger in my mouth. That’s what I get for staring, karma. This was exactly why I didn’t stare last time. Muttering to myself, I looked around till I saw the microwave.

I pulled the bowl out after ten minutes and mixed the flavour, turning it into a strange mustard colour.

Was I doing this right?

It smelled amazing, on the other hand. I took two bowls out and filled them up, me getting the bigger portion, obviously, and placed them on the table.

Where was this man? Did he drown?

Can someone drown in a shower? Was that even possible? I saved this question to the back of my head, so I could Google it next time I used the computer. I looked at the time and sighed. Too late. I tried waiting for a minute, but he was late. I grabbed my bowl and walked to the sofa, switching the TV on. What was Melbourne up to?

It was just past eight at night and there was nothing interesting. I settled for some kids’ movie and huddled up on the sofa eating.

Was this meant to taste slightly watery? I shrugged. It was edible anyway.

It wasn’t till ten minutes later that Darius came down, and surprisingly without his folder, and looked at me.

“What are you watching?”

“The Hedge.”

It was boring, maybe good to watch once but definitely not twice. Why couldn’t they play Bolt or something? He sat on the couch and took out his phone. Ahhh, there it was, as usual.

“Which one is that?” I asked, shoving a forkful into my mouth. They all looked the ame to me. “You should stick stickers on them.”

“I know which one is which. This is family.”

Well, I don’t. “What’s that?” I said, pointing to the list of names that just said, oh Mum.

“Missed calls.”

I grimaced. If I got that many missed calls from mum, I’d be dead or buried alive in a coffin sixty feet under the ground. “Good luck,” I said as I leaned back in my cushion. He’ll need it.

“I’ll call her later,” he said, putting his phone back in his pocket. I raised an eyebrow questioningly. Was he really going to risk calling her later?

“I have to go in to drop something in the morning. Marge should be back by afternoon. You’ll be fine, right?”

I nodded. “I think I can manage not to burn the house down.”

“I mean it’s big. Do you want me to call Adrian?”

“No, he’ll eat all the food – Hey!”

Darius took my bowl and I glared as he took a bite. Adrian wasn’t the only who stole food. It seemed to run in the family.

“Yours is on the kitchen table,” I said.

“Too far to walk.”

I raised an eyebrow, quietly asking myself, since when did he become lazy? Was I finally rubbing off on him?

I focused my attention on the TV. I was feeling slightly bit full and I was meant to eat slowly anyway. I flipped through the channels. God, I was so bored.

“It’s boring,” I told him.

“We can get foxtel.”

“Watching TV all day?” I asked. Surely that wasn’t good for you and it was going to make me sick. Stuck at home with Marge while he was at work brought back boredom.

“Why don’t you take a part-time job? If you want, of course.”

My jaw fell open and I tried not to gawk. Did he just say what I was trying to ask? And here I thought, how can I approach the subject subtly? Thanks, Adrian, for a whole heap of nothing.

“Anything I want to do?”

“It’s your job.”

“What if I want to work in a cafe?”

“Bring back some cake. They make good cakes.”

“A dog walker?”

“Just have a shower afterwards.”

“A stripper?”

Darius looked at me, raising an eyebrow. “I think there are some limits.”

“Damn. I always wanted to be a stripper,” I joked, but there was no way I was freezing my ass off in the cold. I was sure they got huge tips though.

Darius shook his head beside me and lifted up the fork. “Want the last bite?”

I was full, but it was food and he was practically holding the fork in my face. Not my fault if I eat it, and that’s what I did. I leaned over and took the bite and stopped. Did he just feed me? The last time someone fed me was when I was five when I refused to eat. I was a strange child, never eating.

So I made up for it now.

Darius placed the bowl on the table and took the remote out of my hands, flicking through the channels.

“There’s nothing on,” I said, leaning back with a sigh.

“Want to play monopoly?”

* * * * *

“I give up,” I said, lying on the floor. We ended up playing monopoly in one of the drawing rooms beside the fireplace. I never even knew we have a drawing room.

The carpet felt softer than foam.

“But you have more cash than me.”

I leaned up on my elbows and raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?” I looked at my cash pile and his, then my eyes turned to the properties. “You own three-quarters of the damn board, Dairy. Soon you’ll be taking all my cash.”

It was a bit funny to see him on the floor lying on his stomach and playing with the dice, not something one would see very often. Darius the night away, live your life and stay young on the floor.

“Fine. Here, I’ll give you one of my properties,” he said, holding out a pink card. I raised an eyebrow, as though to say, like that was going to do anything. Unless I rolled a twenty from two dice I was never going to land safely.

Maybe I should go to jail.

“Two?” he asked, placing another card.

“No, thank you,” I said, sitting up. There has to be a way I can win this. All the properties were sold except one. Somehow I got to buy that. Even then I wouldn’t win but I can try. Giving up is not in my nature.

At the same time, I learned my lesson. Never play with a business man; he is going to win. But I must have some business genes in me. After all, my father is just as good as him. Come on, Ivory dig deep.

“Fine. Half,” I said. Why reject something you get free?

Darius raised an eyebrow. “Half?”

I nodded. I wanted half his pile. “And I get to pick the cards.”

“I won’t let you pick.”

“Fine. Give me half.” I held my hand out. He gave me an amused grin as he shook his head but started dividing his pile. Really? He was giving me the cards?

He held them out and pulled them back as I reached for them. “What do I get?”

I rolled my eyes. Of course. I divided half my money pile, making sure he got all the smaller notes. It was business. Business is cruel. “Here, three hundred and twenty five,” I said, making up the number. I was sure there was more in it.

Darius tapped his chin with the property cards and then shook his head. “No.”

My jaw dropped and I huffed. “Fine. Four hundred?”

“Fine. What do you want?”

“I’m thinking.”

I rolled my eyes in deep thought. I couldn’t give him all my money. If I landed on his property, I would be in debt, and I hated being in debt or owing someone. But then again I had more property so he could land on mine.

“Try to think before I get old.”

“I want a kiss,” he declared.

I looked up. Was he serious? “Fine,” I said, shrugging as though he asked for something insignificant.

“Fine?”

“It’s a kiss, not my money, at least.”

He raised an eyebrow as I half-crawled over. Couldn’t he move at least?

“Your loss, anyway,” I said and then realized I was actually going to go through with it. I hated losing.

“How is it my loss?” he said as he sat up and then suddenly I felt like I should have chucked something at him and said no. But it was just a kiss, right?

“I threw up this morning.”

He laughed and shook his head. “I did, too.”

“When?” I asked with interest. Does he get airsick, too?

“Ten years ago.”

And before I could roll my eyes and make some sarcastic statement, he wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. It was only meant to be a peck on the cheek. Peck him and take my damn properties. But as I felt his lips against mine, I felt something flip in my stomach, and it wasn’t the cheesy chicken pasta.

His fingers grazed along the side of my neck and it felt even harder to pull away. Against my better judgment, I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around his neck.

His fingers grazed the side of my hip just below my jumper and I shuddered as I felt his cold fingers against my warm body.

I pulled back, needing oxygen, and stared into his dark eyes.

“Jesus, I hope you don’t help your dad on business deals,” he said, holding out the property cards which I happily took from him.

“That’s for me to know and you to never find out.”

Darius leaned forward and I placed a card on his mouth then leaned back. “It was one kiss.”

“I want my rain-check one.”

“Only if you give me the rest of your properties,” I said. And when he didn’t reply, I smiled and scooted back to my spot.

“You drive a hard bargain, Mrs. Quartz,” he said, shaking his head and rubbing the back of his neck.

“I learn from the best, Mr. Quartz.” I silently laughed at the fact that I stole an extra two when he was busy.

It was just a business deal.

*

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