With This Ring: a story of lost ritual by: GF Willmetts.

May 31, 2014 | By | Reply More

‘Now tell me, why do you two people want to get married?’

The Judge looked down at the couple before him. As was his stature, he was entitled to be sat higher than them but put on the friendly air so they would open up to him. They looked barely past the age of consent but, then, it’s said that of anyone as you get older.

‘We’re in love,’ they said together. The girl blushed but the boy looked the Judge squarely in the eyes. Definant. He was less likely to give.

‘Marriage is a serious business. I see couples falling in and out of love all the time. It is my job to ensure that you two are truly in love. If it’s just a fling, all I have to do is give you a limited licence for a decade. Marriage isn’t just for now but a lifetime. That’s a long time to stay in the first bloom of love. What makes you think you want to be there till death do you part? That you can go the distance and don’t give me that twaddle you’re in love. What makes you think it will last? The notes say you’ve only been dating a year. Are you pregnant, girl? That alone isn’t an endorsement for marriage.’

‘The good book says love will conquer everything,’ she replied.

The Judge looked down at his fingers, resisting the urge to twiddle them. The girl, whatshername, was obviously the forthright speaker. The boy, whatshisname, was acting more like the pillar of support.

‘Good book? Are you religious? Do you go to church often?’

‘We read up on the subject,’ the boy offered. ‘Those early religions say marriage is for life. Is that wrong?’

The naivety of youth.

‘My boy, I’ve seen those who marry by religion and they forget all about it when they fall out of love. The difference between love and hate is marginal at most. If there’s a deity out there, whatever it is doesn’t care if you stayed married or not.’

‘We are soul mates’, the girl spoke up. ‘I have never met anyone who has set my heart a flutter like David.’

‘Are you sure you don’t have heart problems? Palpitations can cause that to happen, too.’

‘We thought you might ask that. We brought our medical records.’

The boy handed over some further documentation and the Judge browsed over the pages but only really paid attention to the end. Clean bill of health. They even had an unnecessary blood test to show they were compatible. Not even pregnant. Clearly they were mad. Oh for the days of annulling arranged marriages that should never have happened in the first place.

The Judge studied his fingers. ‘I have to examine the reasons you might have to consider for divorce and what you would do under these situations, so please don’t think carefully before your replies as I am after your emotional response not an intelligently thought reply.’

He paused and looked at them, waiting for them to nod agreement, even if they were bewildered. Why talk about divorce when they just wanted to be married? He could read that in their faces.

‘I have to look at things that might give rise to you divorcing. Just answer truthfully. Are you both financially secure? Is either of you depending on the other for money?’

They shook their heads.

‘Neither of you have presented a signed pre-nuptial arrangement which means you’ll be sharing your money. If you divorce, splitting your money may mean an uneven division,’ he explained. ‘This will not make you feel unfair over any settlement? Especially if one of you earns more than the other?’

‘We don’t intend to divorce.’

The Judge shrugged. ‘Never take anything for granted. Just as well that you know this. I would still suggest you read the documentation before signing the knot in case you change your minds. Money is one of the biggest factors in all divorces when, especially for the one who keeps least.’

The couple just gripped each others hands firmer. Anymore and they would be touching bone.

‘I take it you two have never been married before? So, is this your first romance?’

The girl blushed but the boy spoke up, ‘My third.’

‘Did you know about this?’

She shook her head, ‘I was just unlucky until now. I wouldn’t have expected David not to have a few ex-girl-friends. He’s very attractive.’

‘But he didn’t tell you you were his fourth?’

‘Please, sir. They didn’t mean anything to me as much as Emily. How else could I find my true love?’

The Judge scribbled a note, ‘Yet she found you on her first date.’

‘We had more than one date, sir. You yourself pointed out we’ve been dating a year.’

‘You were grooming her?’

‘We’ve been dating as much as anyone would, sir. We’re both adults.’

‘You have no children by your previous amours?’

‘No, sir.’

The boy was adamant about that so the Judge checked his notes. ‘You just look young for your early twenties, Emily.’

He looked at them both again. ‘I take it you both are planning a family. So you have your children, they grow up, marry and leave. They could also leave and marry and leave you alone. What will you do then?’

‘That’s a long way off, sir. Children as adults I mean.’

‘We would be hoping to be grandparents and help with the grandchildren.’

‘You wouldn’t see it an excuse to divorce? A means to find lovers? To swing? I have a long list here. Do either of you think you’ll commit adultery?’

‘Isn’t that the same as swinging?’

‘That’s consensual. It’s adultery when your partner doesn’t know. Infidelity is a key reason to divorce if one cannot forgive the other.’

The couple looked shocked this time.

Maybe they were monopolists.

‘You do realise that you’ll need a licence for children. How many do you propose having?’

‘We’re not sure yet, sir. We were thinking we’d pay for them as they come.’

‘You’ll be working day and night to pay for more than one. It will stretch that loving relationship you see now.’

‘It will be worth up. To have children will only re-ensure our love.’

Silently, the Judge wanted to throw up but thought better than expressing that thought.

‘You do realise that neither of you will stay this pretty as you get older. You, David, are likely to get male pattern baldness, a beer gut and need glasses. You, Emily, will gain weight and wider hips after pregnancies, forever on a diet and exercise regimes. You’ll also be dependent on make-up and hair dye to keep something like your current appearance. Will you like each other when you’re both ugly?’

The couple looked at each other. Were they finally seeing how the truth?

‘Even if it was true, it won’t happen overnight. We’ll change over a long time and accept the changes in each other.’

‘Wise words, David, but you still have to live up to them. What happens when either of you develop a medical condition, be infirmed, dementia or…oh, there are many aliments either of you can get. Do you think either of you will take a knife or other weapon and stab each other in those situations? Have a suicide pact if either of you can’t live without the other after a terminal illness’

Again, both of them looked shocked at the thought.

‘I have to ask. Marriages can end for all sorts of reasons. Never discount that murder can’t be a happy ending for either of you. I can give you a leaflet about never keeping sharp objects in the bedroom.’

‘We realise things could get tough, sir, but we think love will keep us together. Just like in the songs.’

‘Life is more than silly love songs. It depends on trust and faith in each other and…I think it’s time you made your own mistakes and stopped listening to me.’

The Judge nudged to the usher who presented the papers.

‘If we all sign these then everything will be legal and binding. My usher here will act as the witness. I see you’re keeping both your surnames so maintain that parity of sharing throughout your lives and I should never see you here for a divorce. Congratulations. Kiss each other and goodbye.’

The happy couple left after signing the papers and a few minutes later there was a mighty crash.

The Judge sighed and pointed to his usher to check outside while addressing the people in the room.

‘All that work and they jumped to the death do they part ending. Had they not come here this morning then they would probably be living, hale and hearty. Marriage is something you could all live to do without. I haven’t been with my wife for…

The usher returned and whispered in the Judge’s ear and then a little quiet conferring before looking up.

‘It appears that I spoke too soon. Both David and Emily are well and no one else was hurt in the crash. It looks like we have a happy ending for a change.’

The usher whispered in the Judge’s ear again as the next person, a well-dressed man entered.

‘Well nearly. Now, you sir, had better have a good reason why I don’t give you the death penalty for tax evasion.’

 

End

© GF Willmetts 2014

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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