“That’s all the party invitations delivered. Let’s see how many of our neighbours RSVP,” said Tom.
“I’m confident it will be a good turnout. I’ve never known the chance of free booze and food not to be taken up,” replied Jennifer, as she chopped an onion.
“Hmmm, that smells good,” said Tom, sidling over to give his wife a squeeze, “and so do you. New perfume?”
“Just a spray from a sample bottle in the department store. It’s £60 a bottle, so a complimentary spray is better than nothing.” Jennifer sighed and Tom detected from her tense body that something was not right.
“What’s up, Jen?” said Tom as he turned his wife round to face him. She did not make eye contact immediately but he held her chin gently and coaxed her to look at him. She was not crying but she seemed to be close to doing so.
“You know we promised to be totally honest with each other in our marriage, no matter how difficult it is to say things,” said Jennifer, her gaze drifting away from Tom, “well, I need to tell you how I feel about something.” Tom backed away from his wife, uncertain about what he was about to hear.
“Jen, you’re scaring me a bit. What’s the matter?”
Jennifer walked to the sink to get some water. She sipped a little, put the glass on the draining board and turned to Tom.
“I’m not sure I want to be married,” she said quickly, “there I’ve said it.” She put her hands up to her mouth as if to stop any more words from tumbling out. Tom looked horrified.
“Jen, we’re a newly married couple. There is still some confetti in our suitcases. What’s brought this on? Is there, is there someone…….?”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that. There’s no one else. It’s just a feeling I had last night, this morning, on the way to work, at work, at lunchtime, on the way home, right now in our kitchen making this spaghetti bolognese and I just can’t shake it off. It’s not about you. I adore you. It’s about marriage. The whole thing, the years, the decades ahead, I can’t get my head round losing the freedom to do what I want with my life. I can’t see how it is right for me, and you for that matter, to have to compromise on nearly everything we do.” Jennifer fished a tissue from the box and wiped some moisture from her eyes. Tom’s jaw had dropped and his brow was furrowed with surprise, no shock, at what he was hearing.
“For God’s sake, we’ve only been married a week. The wedding day, the reception was fantastic. I’ve never seen you so happy. You were, I mean you are beautiful. Is it the postponed honeymoon? I know money’s a bit tight what with getting this flat and all but we will get away later in the year. We’ve talked about that. We agreed.”
“Tom, it’s not about any of that,” said Jennifer as she moved towards him, holding out her hand. Tom backed away. He was staring at her outstretched hand and her wedding ring.
“What about all that ‘til death do us part stuff? What about all the things we said to each other about love and the future and kids? Was that all meaningless?” Tom was becoming agitated. Jennifer grabbed him by the shoulders and gradually moved her hands to his face to caress him.
“Tom, it’s about how I feel. I want to be honest with you but the truth hurts. I loved the wedding day and all the celebrations and seeing our family and friends there, but even amongst all that joy, every now and then I had these nagging thoughts in my head. I thought they would pass but they haven’t. I’m sorry but now I’ve said how I feel, I need to think things through a bit more realistically. Just be patient with me. Give me a couple of days to get my head round all of this but please don’t pressure me. I know it’s a horrible thing to ask.” She kissed him on the lips.
Tom poured himself some red wine. He gestured to Jennifer but she held up her glass of water.
“What about the party? Shall we cancel?” asked Tom in a whisper as he looked out of the window.
“I think we should carry on with it. I’m not saying anything’s over Tom. I just need to work this out. In the meantime, we should carry on as normal, at least as far as the neighbours are concerned. What do you think?” Tom turned to look at his wife.
“I suppose if we can play happy families at our wedding, doing it again at a party is no big deal,” said Tom, tight-lipped and clearly upset.
“I have no right to say don’t be like that, have I after what I have just blurted out,” said Jennifer.
Tom walked out of the kitchen and sat down in the lounge.
“Do you want parmesan or cheddar with the spaghetti?” shouted Jennifer.
“I’m not that hungry,” answered Tom. You have yours. I might have some later for supper, if I feel like it.”
Jennifer gripped the worktop and took a deep breath. She wasn’t hungry either. She had dropped a bombshell and caused more damage than she realized. She rattled many thoughts around in her head and concluded that honesty is perhaps not always the best policy, even though people think it is, even though she and Tom had spent hours during their engagement talking about loyalty, fidelity and complete and utter trust in their relationship, even though it might destroy their relationship.
They slept in the same bed but that night, unlike the previous nights in their short marriage, there was space between them. Whatever happened beyond this day in their lives, things could never be the same again. It would be trust up to a point followed by suspicion that they would withhold some degree of truth from each other. Tom was fairly comfortable with the thought of compromising to keep the peace in his marriage but Jennifer, lying awake for most of the night, could feel the urge to walk away much more strongly than the desire to stay for the sake of Tom and the expected conventions of matrimony.