It was a drab start to the wedding. The earth was damp and the humid air was pungent with the smell of wet mud. The cloudy sky was a picture of gloom and a perfect background to the Priest's sombre voice as he cleared his throat and began.
"We are gathered here today to unite this man Andrew, and this woman Jane, in the bonds of holy matrimony which is an honourable estate. Into this, these two now come to be joined."
Besides the bride, groom and the priest, witnesses and three passing onlookers a stray black cat was the only sign of life around on that rainy morning on the church grounds. The priest, not making any effort to hide his boredom continued. "If anyone present can show just and legal cause why they may not be joined, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."
Andrew James White lunged forward, with his arm outstretched. He wanted to scream but no voice came out.
He woke up sweating. This had been a recurring dream for the past few months now and it always ended abruptly, right there.
He glanced at the clock on his bedside. It was a wedding gift from an old vagabond who had convinced him to get married to Jane when they were on the run twelve long years ago.
It was 8.00 a.m. Drat! He was going to be late for work again. He looked at his wife as she stirred in her sleep. She was a picture of discontentment. Her eyes had sunken and bore dark circles (from writing on her computer late into the night). Her work had taken its toll on their marital life, of course his had nothing to do with it at all.
He showered quickly, gritting his teeth against the icy blast of water. He remembered the time when there was always a warm bath, and ironed clothes waiting for him when he woke up. In those days when they were a newly married couple.
He recalled a pleasant Jane with a hot cuppa waiting for him in the doorway, but he pushed those thoughts out of his mind and hurried downstairs to fix himself some breakfast. As he started towards the front door, Jane staggered down the stairs without even as much as glancing at him. He brushed past her and banged the front door behind him.
And this was what their marriage had come to be.
Andrew drove to work with the radio turned up really loud in hopes of drowning out the voices in his head. He was unsuccessful in his attempt as he couldn't help but open rusty boxes of memories on his lone forty minute drive to work everyday.
She had looked so beautiful behind racks of moth-eaten books in the library, the first time they met. Almost like a wild lily blown across a field by a strong gust of wind. Delicate and pure, she was 18 and he was 20. It was love at first sight. Their families had condemned their love as being too young and without foundation, and so they had left their worlds behind and eloped after a hasty, juvenile decision.
It had been twelve summers since that fateful Saturday morning and sometimes he felt he had never really known her. Andrew had grown a lot over the years and somewhere along the way he had realised that getting married to her after a few weeks of acquaintance had been a foolish mistake. He had a copywriter's job with a pay adequate to support their lives, but he regretted that he had had to discontinue his education to support her. He had also been cut off from the family property. Jane had lost her youthful exquisiteness and had decided to pursue her hobby of writing, and was becoming slightly successful, but she was always under pressure and hence was never around when he needed her.
He locked the doors of his old car, trudged up into the office and to his cubicle and turned on the computer, drowning himself in self-pity along the way.
Suddenly, a message flashed across his computer screen. "Lonely? Depressed? Need a friend? Someone who understands you and respects you?" Andrew, who was used to receiving vague private messages on the Internet, closed the window without a second glance, as he usually did. Then a second message popped up "Someone who is fun to be with and will fill your day with excitement? I can be all that you want. Don't you want to know me?" He chose to ignore it, but couldn't help himself when he saw the third message flashing on the screen. "I'm an enthusiastic, open minded and attractive blonde. Instant message me if you think you can handle me."
This was too much for him and he decided to reply just for fun and to get his mind off Jane. He had heard of numerous horror stories online and chose to play it safe by making his identity vague. He typed out an instinctive "Hi I'm James. You got names?" and clicked enter with fingers trembling with excitement.
Back came the reply "Ah! A poet. You're my kind of man James. I'm Amy by the way, nice meeting you."
When he asked what she did, she answered "That's for me to keep secret" and when he enquired as to how old she was, she replied with a tongue in cheek "Old enough to think that that's a rude question coming from a gentleman like you."
She stroked his ego and her instant wit impressed Andrew. They chatted for hours and by the end of the day he had been won over by her girlish charm. He had a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach, just like that day in the library twelve years ago when he first saw Jane. Amy had chatted with him for so long that he felt like he had known her all his life, though she divulged so little about herself that they were still no better than strangers. He was exhilarated by the end of the day that he actually went home with a big smile playing on his lips.
He sat through the soccer game on television without knowing which teams were playing, he ate his stale supper without grumbling and he retired to bed next to a sleeping wife, contently, thinking about Amy.
Such were the powers of infatuation.
The weeks that passed flew by like a dream. He chatted with Amy throughout the day and when she wasn't on, he wrote long, giddy emails to her. He skipped back home every evening like a gay schoolboy. Every waking moment, he wondered what she did, whom she met, what she wore and where he'd take her when they met. At nights when he couldn't get some sleep, he would creep down to Jane's computer, log on to his office e-mail and write to Amy.
Amy was all that Jane wasn't. She was adventurous, witty, outgoing and sophisticated. Yet, she was so very feminine that it sent shivers up his spine when he thought of her.
Within a month Andrew was head over heels in love with Amy. It made him look at the world through rose tinted glasses and everything was perfect. Even his drives to work didn't seem do tedious anymore.
Then one fateful Friday night, a call was made to his office. There had been an emergency at his house and he was to rush back immediately. With beads of perspiration on his forehead he drove home, carefully rehearsing his shocked expression, which he had been practicing since the day he knew that this was coming.
Since he had found those neat racks of identical bottles containing the lethal white pills, behind Jane's dresser.
As he found his way through the paramedics, a wailing girlfriend of Jane's blurted out the reason behind his wife's suicide. She had always felt unwanted and unloved, but when she suspected Andrews involvement with another woman, it had driven her off the edge.
He listened to the accusations patiently without offering any trace of emotion, and now realised that he could now reveal himself to his beloved Amy and declare his undying love to her; He could tell her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, now that his wife wasn't around.
After he was done with all formalities concerning Jane, he poured himself a drink to toast this new beginning and he switched on the computer to write to Amy. As he logged in, an unread email from Amy flashed on the screen. He licked his lips and relished the alcohol as he opened the mail. It simply said:
"James, You are a wonderful man and I hope you find happiness in all that you do. I wish I had someone like you in my life, which seems to be going downhill steadily. I can't seem to find the strength to carry on anymore and I have decided to end my pain. Don't cry for me as even my husband wont. With love always.
Jane Amy White"