Smile on her wedding day
She could barely manage a smile. It was her wedding day. She looked at the man she’d met only once before taking in his seemingly kind face, stocky frame, his steely blue eyes and silvery hair. She swallowed back saliva that she wanted to spit on the floor to express only a tiny bit of the disgust raging inside her like a simmering volcano, despite agreeing to the set-up. Instead she parted her lips and showed her teeth, smiling for her parents, her siblings and her friends. Her cousins and their friends. Oh, what a fabulous party. They were all happy for her. Married at last. AT LAST. All hope was just about lost.
There was nothing wrong with Nula – at 5ft 2in. with big brown eyes and bouncy golden curls, she was attractive in her own right. She just could not seem to attract the right man into her life. She was way past thirty – nobody wanted to say how many years. Suffice to say, enough of them to cause concern in the community. Eventually she agreed to an arranged married and today was the day. Nula would prove that marriage was indeed possible for her.
And so, she and Marcus walked down the aisle said their vows before God and the guests and broke into dance as soon as the band struck up its first note. A fitting affair for a fitting bridal couple.
The pair escaped just before midnight and drove away to start their new life. It was a boutique hotel perched in the fertile valley of the Drakensberg. Checking in was quite fun and Nula had to admit to herself that she was pleased to hear the ‘Mr and Mrs’ phrase and the confirmation of the honeymoon suite. She would just open her legs and let him do whatever he wanted. He would be none the wiser to her experience or lack of it. It was over soon enough, and they lay together holding hands. She said, she hoped he was happy. He said he was. Off to a good start. The happy couple.
After a week of honeymooning, life returned to the daily grind. A new grind for Nula. Marcus presented her with a house in the suburbs, lush with trees and removed from the hubbub of main roads and metropolitan bustle.
The house was white, very white with more accommodation than she was used to and it scared her a little bit. All those rooms. A large kitchen. A huge garden with a sparkling blue swimming pool. She thought she might swim.
She started in the kitchen familiarising herself with the layout, the contents of each cupboard, the gadgets. She wondered what she would have to cook to keep this man happy. Happy – that was her goal. Her own happiness no longer mattered. She had given-up on that, the day she agreed to this marriage.
She decided on a steak, chips and salad – something she would enjoy and hoped he would too. She had not checked with him before he left for work and she thought best not to bother him by phoning unnecessarily. These were rules she would learn as she went along. For today, she would proceed with the meat, starch and green vegetable meal – how wrong could she go.?
She had loved her mom’s homemade chips and knew how to make them perfectly. At 5.30pm she put on the oil and cut the potatoes into neat, almost equal strips and started with the salad while it heated up.
At 6.15pm he thundered through the door, threw his briefcase onto the couch and stormed into the kitchen. “What kind of mess is this? What’s for supper?” he growled.
Nula pinned herself against the fridge door, his calloused hand pitched threateningly above her head. Gasping in fear she attempted to answer. “I…I… I…steak and salad.”
“Salad. You stupid woman. I do not eat salad. Where did you get that dumb idea?”
She turned to throw away the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber thinking how wasteful it was and noting how much she enjoyed her greens. The oil had got too hot and the chips would no doubt burn.
Marcus had returned to the lounge and switched on the TV to escape from what had clearly been an incredibly stressful day.
Nula started with fresh oil and put on the delicately seasoned steak just before the chips were ready to come out of the pot. She served out two plates with a generous piece of meat and a portion of chips each. She placed each white dinner plate on the table.
“Marcus, dinner is ready,” she said as confidently as she could. Marcus seemed to have simmered down, but they ate in silence.
It had been two years and Marcus’ dinner performance was almost always the same. When she had suggested he employ a cook to prepare meals more to his liking he said it was a wife’s job to cook for her husband and it was a job she would have to learn. “Job,” Nula mulled over the word.
Besides the arranged marriage thing, she was a modern woman. She had been quite independent and always received glowing performance appraisals throughout her career as an executive secretary. Cooking supper was not a job she could relate to. As partner of a law firm, Marcus could afford a cook but if he was going to be stubborn then so would she.
If Marcus found her cooking lacking on most occasions, she would just have to put up with his dark moods. It was funny, Nula noticed how his mood always lifted when he came into the bedroom late at night. He would think nothing to wake her to have his needs met. She would lie back frustrated and annoyed. Thoughts of escape came to mind as she listened to his deep grunts and gnashing teeth keeping her awake. She began to review her marriage vows. “Love, honour and obey.” The only word in her reality right now was obey. She was expected to obey all his wishes and serve all his needs and desires. She realised she was getting nothing out of this marriage other than the label. She needed a way out. A cup of strong tea would help her think. She had to get away from her abuser. Slowly sipping the warm liquid, she had an idea.
Marcus drank whiskey every night. No-one would know. They had no friends anymore and a heart attack was quite possible given his diet of mainly read meat and starch, plus his highly stressed profession. There would be no further explanation needed.
She knew where he kept it. That poison that he referred to on the innumerable occasions when he spoke of his intended suicide. Nula had come to realise that depression was inverted anger. She would help him out since he kept telling her how miserable his life was. She had a way to end the misery for both of them. It would be an act of kindness.
It was a Monday evening. Marcus came home. He was in a dark mood as usual. This time his rage turned to depression a sign that he would have a few whiskeys tonight. She poured him the first, but with a little something extra. Marcus would not know he had consumed the suicide cocktail and would continue to drink. This time he would not wake up in a drunken state. He would not wake up at all.
Nula had already packed her clothes and a few essential items into a small suitcase. At the break of day, Nula ordered a taxi to take her to the airport. Without so much as a backward glance at the lifeless body strewn across the gaudy sofa, she shut the front door and locked the house.
Three hours later she boarded a plane bound for exotic Portugal and said goodbye to her life in lockdown with Mr Marcus Middleton. Her face broke into a broad grin, something that had not happened in a very long time. It was the best Tuesday ever.