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'Til Death Do You Part
’Til death do you part.
These five words haunt my fatigued mind. It’s almost dawn and William is still not home. My concern on his whereabouts had boiled to a fury hours ago. I pause as I pass the window, checking if he happened to be walking towards our isolated country home. As it was approximately thirty minutes, the walkway is clear. Tugging my silk robe tighter around me, I resume my irritated pacing. He promised that he would return home at dusk, yet he broke his word. Again.
I delicately slump down onto our bed and clench my jaw. I don’t even love this man. My parents urged me to marry him since he was respectable and wealthy and handsome. They believed that he was the perfect match for me, the petite, blue-eyed, black-haired firecracker I was and still am. They hoped that William would tame me, that he would eliminate all of my stubbornness and strong will. I knew they had only the best intentions for me so, naturally, I obliged to their wishes. They said I would grow to love him. I’m still waiting for that day to happen. I’m fairly positive that day will never happen.
The entry door creaks open and shutters to a close. In a moment, I am no longer sitting dejectedly on the bed; I’m in the hallway with my hands firmly planted on my slender hips. To add to my annoyed posture, I tap my foot expectantly. Groans and grumbles emanate from the decomposing stair case. William appears at the opposite end of the hallway and his tall figure freezes at the sight of me. Even from afar, I can see his abashed expression and his nervous wringing of hands. Despite my lack of love for him, I know William is a good man. Rarely does he cross the line and he attends mass every Sunday and participates in charity events whenever they come around. He treats me well and I know he is very much in love with me, just as he knows that I do not return his affections.
Occasionally, sorrow and pity overwhelms me since he does not have the happy wife that is deeply in love with him, like most of his acquaintances. But I refuse to force myself to love someone that has contained me in an unhappy marriage and locks me away from the rest of the world. Simply thinking this sends me into a deeper rage and I shoot all of my anger out through my eyes. William approaches cautiously, opening his arms wide.
“I apologize, my dear Grace. Harry held me up at the junction. He needed courting advice,” he explains with a shaky grin.
I don’t respond. I’m fighting to keep my fury present due to the acceptance of the apology. Logic speaks to me in the far corners of my mind, repeating the same words over and over again. He didn’t mean to, he’s just trying to make you happy…he didn’t mean to, he’s just trying to make you happy. For the briefest moment, I nearly allow myself to believe that I am in love. Emotion shoves logic into oblivion and reminds me that I am trapped. That I am merely just another woman in this nineteenth century world. That my feelings and opinions aren’t worth any thing, not even a penny. I grind my teeth, a new fire conquering my soul.
William senses my renewed anger and takes another hesitant step forward. “Grace, dearest, I promise that I will never do this again. I know we’ve had some rough patches lately but I believe that we can get through this,” he attempts to soothe.
“You’ve said that before and now look where we are,” I hiss.
I see his heartache etched across his face and I bask in his pain. I know that this is evil thinking but in a sense, he is an evil man. He took away my life before I could even begin to live it. He expected me to be overjoyed to marry him, to drop my life and a start a brand new one, to be the mother to his children. Everything in his perfect little plan completely fell apart after the first three months of our marriage when we discovered that I was barren. From that moment on, I saw no reason for to continue our marriage if I couldn’t even bring him children. Also, around that same time,
“Grace, please don’t be like this,” he begs. “Please. Let’s just go to bed and sleep.”
“I can’t live like this any more, William,” I shout. “I can’t pretend that our marriage is perfectly fine when it’s clear that it’s not!”
He begins to make a sound of argument but he falls silent. Defeated, his shoulders drop and his head hangs down. He runs a hand through his dark curly hair. “I am sorry, my dear. What should we do?”
I am startled to hear this response. I’m not sure what kind of answer I was expecting but I know it wasn’t that one. Recomposing my surprised thoughts, I fold my arms across my chest.
“There’s always divorce,” I suggest.
He winces and sorrowfully raises his hazel eyes to mine. “We would be both looked down upon in society. You know as well as I, that divorce is completely unacceptable in these times we live in.” He hesitates before adding softly, “We would both be excommunicated.”
I toss my hands in the air, exasperated. “Then what!?”
“I don’t know. Can we please discuss this in the morning? I’m exhausted from my travels,” he says. “I’ll sleep in the parlor.”
I nod in agreement and without another word, I spin around to enter our room. I don’t see William reach out for me but suddenly I am in his arms, pressed against him. After the conversation that we just had, this is unexpected and slightly irksome. He is aware that I don’t love him. Why does he do this?
“Grace.” His voice is full of passion and regret. “Grace.”
A strange feeling creeps into my heart. The way he said my name… I don’t know why but it has sparked something inside of me. I cannot say any thing except a whisper. “Yes?”
“Please. I love you with all of my heart. I don’t want you to leave. I promise that I will never travel away again. I will do any thing that you wish. Please,” he says in hushed tones. “Please.”
“William, I am unhappy with you,” I say just as quietly. “I am trapped.”
Even as I say this, I feel as though I need to convince myself. A moment of realization strikes me and for the first time, I accept the fact that I am falling in love with him. I close my eyes, blocking out the world.
“You sound like a feminist,” he teases darkly. He sighs sadly and strokes a light finger across my cheek, sending pleasant shivers to crawl down my spine. He presses his forehead to mine and his eyelashes flutter against my closed eyes. “Grace.”
“Yes?” I answer shakily.
“Do you want to start over? We’ve gotten off on the wrong foot,” he asks.
My mind does not grasp his concept at first. I open my eyes, gazing up at him. “Start over?”
“Our marriage was arranged, correct? Even though we both played along happily at first, it was evident that our marriage was not one out of love,” he explains. “If we were to start again, we can truly be happy together. We can travel the world. Do whatever we like. Just us.” He pauses for a moment. “Only if you want.”
I fight to keep my feminist mindset. Logic returns in my mind, only this time, emotion is hand in hand with logic. They both tell me to take William’s offer. They both agree that by traveling the world and daring to do the unspoken would free me from my cage. The only thing from stopping me from saying yes to William is pride. It reminds me that if I said yes, I would allow myself to be defeated and that I was among the other women who fell weak to their husbands. My mouth forms the word “no” but instead, a teary, barely audible “yes” escapes my lips. I find myself crying and whispering “yes” into his shirt.
William lifts my chin up and kisses me softly. Warmth spreads throughout my body and I know that I am finally in love with him. We look into each others eyes as we break from the kiss. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth, reaching his eyes.
“Do I still have to sleep in the parlor?” he asks.
I smile too, and shake my head. “No, I suppose not.”
“Oh? Do I have to ask for your permission to do things now?” he chuckles.
“I wouldn’t mind,” I say, winking playfully.
He leaves to change into his pajamas and I reenter our room. Double checking that he is still gone, I pull out a secret wooden box from my closet and tuck it underneath my side of the bed. I crawl into bed, pulling the covers high above my head for a moment. Is this really the right choice? I don’t want to be in another situation similar to this one. Before I can do any thing, William flops onto the bed and appears under the covers beside me.
“What are you doing, dove?” he asks.
“Hiding,” I admit.
“Everything.” Me, I say inside my mind.
Though it is dark, I can see his grin. “Well, it’s time to come out from under the covers, darling, and see the world. We’ll leave tomorrow, if you like,” he says.
I nod and resurface from the blanket. William’s face is next to mine and he kisses me once again.
“Sweetest dreams, my love,” he says, a yawn creeping in.
Minutes pass before I hear his soft snoring. I reach down for the wooden box and silently open it. A shining dagger greets me, asking if I will carry out my evil deed. I glance over to William. My newfound love for him is plotting a life full of excitement and love and freedom with him. My old anger is scarcely a simmer compared to my love. As much as I had intended to murder my husband tonight, I’m not sure that I can do it. The plan runs through my head once more: kill William, bury the dagger in the forest, burn down the house, arrange myself among the ashen debris, and wait for public officials to come to discover what had happened.
His chest rises and falls slowly. He is very exposed to the potential danger of death: me. I bring the dagger to hover over his chest. My hand shakes and for a moment, I fear that I will drop the dagger into him. That fear confirms that I cannot, that I will not kill him. I place the knife back inside its case and hide it back under the bed. Snuggling towards William, I fold myself into his arms. Sleep invites me to it’s lulling, impossible world. I drift away, dreaming of the exotic lands that William and I will explore together.