The tin cans trailing behind the car made such a racket that after several miles on the main road Martine couldn’t stand it any longer. The pandemonium was enough to raise the dead. Letting out an explosive breath that did little to ease her annoyance, she pulled into a lay-by, cut the engine and climbed out.
The ‘Just Married’ sign had come unhitched from the bumper and had caught in the cans. No wonder it had made such a din. Her colleagues had gleefully decorated the car as tradition demanded. They might have found it hilarious, but she was not amused. It was just another in a series of unfortunate misadventures.
Dressed in her wedding gown, she had already attracted enough attention. As if to prove her point, a lorry driver coasting past rolled down his window and wolf whistled. She gave him the finger. Not to be outdone, the blast of his retreating horn rang out in reply.
Couldn’t she just marry her love in peace and savour their short time together? Why did everyone make such a fuss? As if he’d heard her complain, a second lorry driver screeched to a halt along side the car and wound down his window. “You need a hand missy?”
She contemplated giving him the finger too, but something stayed her hand. He genuinely looked concerned. She hugged herself and said with a sigh, “Na! I’m good.”
Misinterpreting her sigh, he asked, “Your new husband run off on you?”
Daft twit! Senseless male humour! Always about themselves. She turned her back on him, hoping he’d go away, hitched up her white dress in a vain attempt to keep it clean and set about untying the cans. Having been dragged along the road, the knots had been strained so tight they resisted her every attempt at undoing them. She swore when one of her nails snagged on a knot and broke. Typical.
“Here. Use my knife,” the driver said, his voice resounding close behind her. She rounded on him, her heart hammering in her chest, and blurted out, “You scared the blinkin’ daylights out of me!”
He raised his hands, as if to placate her, but the unsheathed knife clasped between his fingers gave the gesture a decidedly sinister air. “Sorry, ” he said, hastily folding away the knife. It was then he glanced into the car and spotted Carrie sprawled unconscious in her wedding gown on the back seat. Gasping, his eyes shot from Carrie to her and back again.
She had no wish to explain. It was far too complicated for a bloke like him. Anyway, such a marriage might have been legal, but society was still adjusting and it unnerved some people to the point where they got aggressive.
“Is she OK?” he asked, genuine concern in his voice.
She thought of retorting that Carrie had drunk too much and was sleeping it off. That might get rid of him, but it wasn’t sure. And anyway, putting the blame on drink seemed cowardly. Instead she opted for honesty. “No. She’s not.”
“If you are heading for the hospital,” he pointed out, “you’d do well to call an ambulance. They’re equipped for emergencies.”
She shook her head. “No use. We’ve already been to the hospital. Many times.” She remembered the long waits in unfriendly corridors, the gnawing despair punctuated by prayers for a miracle and finally the tense face of the doctor as he broke the bad news. She looked at Carry who’d rolled onto her back in her stupor. For all the blotchy paleness of her skin, there was a faint smile on her lips. Martine couldn’t help softening in response, a ghost of a smile forming on her own lips. “It’s incurable,” she said, forcing herself to look away. “These days she sleeps most of the time. They reckon she has only a few weeks to live.”
“I’m so sorry,” he said, bowing his head as he pulled off his cap and held it in both hands in front of him as if he were already at the funeral. “So you…” he paused as the extent of the story sank in. “… you got married?” His voice quavered as if he were about to cry.
A solitary tear formed in Martine’s eye and trickled down her cheek. She wondered why she bothered. The situation was weird. The lorry driver was a complete stranger, yet he was like a witness. More so than all her friends and colleagues back at the church. She glanced at Carrie who was still smiling in her coma, and said in a whisper, “We wanted a bond that would last.”