Bargaining with the Bride

By: Allison Gatta

1





It was the first time Rachael Ford had come home early in a year, and still her head was reeling with all the numbers she'd have to crunch in the morning. Not that there was any way around it. Ever since her coworkers had found out about her upcoming nuptials, she couldn’t use her office like the oasis it was supposed to be, and now she had almost nowhere to hide.

Add to that the fact that the programs had finally come in from the printers, and she was beyond done with wedding planning. She kicked the box beside the coffee table, her stomach sinking at the thought of her name strung together with Lance’s in the curly cue font.

Linked. For eternity.

The very idea made her heart play dead in her chest.

With a deep breath, she realized a drink would be in order before she told him about the programs. After all, it was a quarter past noon. A half of a glass of wine was acceptable in Europe—hell, encouraged, even. And, okay, Connecticut wasn't exactly Europe, but that still kind of counted, right? It wasn’t like she lived in Pennsylvania anymore, and when in Rome...

She uncorked a bottle of her favorite, too-sweet red and poured a glass to the halfway mark. Perfect. Just the littlest bit to take the edge off. Enough to let the sharp urge to vomit fade at the very least, anyway.

Using the corkscrew in her hand, she slit the top of the box of programs and grasped the creamy card stock, tracing the raised edges of her name, then Lance's, as she read over the words.



Two Hearts Become One

On this day, the wedding of

Rachael Antoinette Ford and Lance Patrick Hatchback

May the twentieth, two thousand and fifteen

Beheld at

Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother



In one month, she would be Rachael Ford-Hatchback. Seriously. The name was like lemon in an open wound that already had sand and salt rubbed into it as deep as it could go. She closed her eyes and swigged her wine, reminding herself that this would all work out. Somehow.

Because, really, what choice did she have? If she canceled, her mother’s “I told you so” would be so loud that it would become the new shot heard round the world. And as for her father…her head spun with numbers again, but this time it was the cost of the wedding, the image of her father’s face as he pushed a pile of receipts toward her.

Then there was Lance…

No, she wasn’t willing to think about all that right now. This was her day off and she was going to enjoy it.

She tossed the program onto the coffee table and then leaned back into her couch with a deep sigh. Tilting her head, she stared at her wine glass. Was it her imagination, or did that tiny splash of liquid look lonely? Maybe a full glass wouldn't be so bad. What was the point in skipping half a day of work if she didn't get to relax?

She started to add wine to the glass, but stopped midway when she heard a gentle thud—once, then louder.

Shit.

Lance must have fallen out of his bed again. As if it was ever cause for alarm anymore. The first few times had been scary, sure, but now it was an eye-roll worthy offense. He'd probably been reaching for his remote control or he'd been masturbating a little too furiously for his bed to handle and he'd rolled off in the struggle. One or the other.

She'd begged him time and again to let the nurse handle it, that's all she was there to do. Take care of him on the bad days when he couldn't get around the way he had when they'd started dating. But he was so stubborn, refusing to listen to her advice, or really anything she had to say in general.

She didn't bother to set the glass down as she made her way to the back of the house.

His room was just off the kitchen, a special addition they'd added when they moved to be nearer his parents. Ultimately, it had been a futile move since the pair refused to see their son and still hadn’t RSVP’d to the wedding, but she believed it had been the right decision. After all the years of throwing money at the problem—special clinics, experimental drugs, private care—she’d thought being near family might have helped him. Anything, anything for him to get better.

And to give her a way out.

But nothing had worked. At least after moving, they could live separate lives, even if her life still required his constant care. Or listening to his rants about politics. Or catching him doing something else awful.

No matter what the case, though, she was sure he preferred their separate lives. After all, he had before he'd gotten sick. Back then, he’d told her he was big into charity, even going as far as traveling across the world to give to the needy. In all of her college naiveté, she’d believed him.

It wasn’t until they’d been together for a year that she’d learned the truth—that his version of giving to the needy half a world away was sitting in a strip club in Brazil, stuffing his father’s tuition check down someone’s G-string.

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